Sociological theorists Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) and Max Weber (1864-1920) are commonly regarded as two of the foremost comparative analysts in the history of sociology. Both theorists during the course of their careers produced major theoretical and methodological statements. Throughout this essay I will examine their methodology on social reality, how we can gain knowledge from their ontological position and their theory of knowledge, by focusing on their writings about religion.
Both Emile Durkheim?s and Max Weber?s writings began with a methodological perspectives that were fundamentally opposed to one another.
In Durkheim's time positivism was the predominant philosophy; the truth was considered to be out there waiting to be discovered. Consequently, positivism viewed goals of science as explanation and prediction, which can be achieved by identifying relations of cause and effect, and locating regular patterns of observable events in particular, which is illustrated by the very title ?Rules for the Observation of social Facts? from the ?The Rules of Sociological Method?(Durkheim, 1938). It is evident that Durkheim never doubts the objective existence of his subject ?social facts?, and insists that it has to be studied objectively as things. Durkheim states ?To treat phenomena as things is to treat them as data, and that constitutes the starting point for science? (Thompson, 2004, 64). He proceeds to formulate his method for objective study where investigator should free his mind of all preconceptions, take a more passive relationship to social reality, and deal with phenomena in terms of their inherent properties and common external characteristics that will yield objective results and render it scientific, just like Natural Sciences.
On the other hand Weber opposed positivism; he believed that social fact does not exist on its own unless it is interpreted as such. He insists that objectivity is not needed to do science; more over it is unsuitable because he regarded scientific knowledge of society and culture as selective, not objective, views of different aspects of cultural life. Weber believes that Sociology is a science which attempts to interpret social action in order to arrive at an explanation of its course and effect. Action is social by virtue of the subjective meaning attached to it by the acting individual and takes account of the behaviour of others and is thereby oriented in its course. Weber also discussed different types of understanding, the ways in which meaning can be accurately grasped and was less inclined to treat social phenomena as "things." These phenomena are psychological and intellectual and call for emotionally empathic understanding. Consequently, selection of meaningful social action, its understanding and interpretation constitute the method of interpretive sociology. Weber argued that in order to understand the individual and group behaviour, social scientists must see the world from the eyes of that individual or group. Weber generally focused on tension to individualistic autonomy in terms of ideas and desires vis-?-vis social regularity. These regularities in social and individualistic levels merge in social action. (Weber, 1968: 13-14)
On the other hand Weber opposed positivism; he believed that social fact does not exist on its own unless it is interpreted as such. He insists that objectivity is not needed to do science; more over it is unsuitable because he regarded scientific knowledge of society and culture as selective, not objective, views of different aspects of cultural life. Weber believes that Sociology is a science which attempts to interpret social action in order to arrive at an explanation of its course and effect. Action is social by virtue of the subjective meaning attached to it by the acting individual and takes account of the behaviour of others and is thereby oriented in its course. Accordingly, Weber discussed different types of understanding, the ways in which meaning can be accurately grasped and was less inclined to treat social phenomena as "things." These phenomena are psychological and intellectual and call for emotionally empathic understanding. Consequently, selection of meaningful social action, its understanding and interpretation constitute the method of interpretive sociology. Max Weber argued that in order to understand the individual and group behaviour, social scientists must see the world from the eyes of that individual or group. Weber generally focused on tension to individualistic autonomy in terms of ideas and desires vis-?-vis social regularity. These regularities in social and individualistic levels merge in social action. (Weber, 1968: 13-14)
Durkheim also sees religion as a prime factor in the life of individuals and groups, and Durkheim invests