The emergence of social sciences and sociology are a distinctive thought of modern society. This is because one of the formative moments in the process of sociology came about around the eighteenth century. This is the time that a group of distinguished thinkers of the enlightenment philosophers and their successors started to rise. The development of the distinctively modern forms of thoughts about society and the realm of the social rose in this time. They do have roots in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This is indicated by the works of Locke, Hobbes, and Bacon. The ideas of these thinkers received the most effective expressions in the mid-eighteenth century. The writings of many enlightenment thinkers started to emerge. The thinkers are men like Baron de Montesquieu of 1689-1755 whose work “The Spirit of the Laws” gives the modern understanding of the relationship between sociology of politics and the structure of society.
Voltaire of 1694-1788 wrote on science, freedom of thought, and justice expresses in excitement generated by the critical rationalism and secularism that characterize Enlightenment. David Hume 1711-76 formulated the theory of human nature that sets the tone for modern empirical research in sociology and psychology. In addition, Adam Ferguson 1723-1816 wrote on “civil society” that prefigures modern comparative sociology (Hamilton 35). There are elements of the central mode of thinking of modern society that were established by the Enlightenment that were carried into the nineteenth century. The “classical sociology” that are indicated by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) and Henri de Saint Simon (1760-1825), who underpin the emergence of, the distinctive modern sociology.
The understanding of the modern societies is about the formation, invention, and reproduction of modern way of thinking on society. The theme is a reflection on the society that is a less tangible entity. It is a characteristic feature of the modern society that is in contrast to the earlier forms of thought. This reflection makes the society be conceived as something over an individual. This is indicated by Emile Durkheim who was an early sociologist in 1858-1917. He said society is something unique as a social fact. This gives the emergence of new groups of ideas about the society and the realm of the social. In addition, these ideas give a reflection of the evolving and changing society. They also helped people to think about the society in a different perspective of opening to transformation and change. The idea of new thinking about society happened shortly, before some significant changes began in ways the western societies were organized. This is symbolized by the French and American Revolutions on one side, and the Industrial and Agrarian Revolutions on the other side.
There is difficulty in outlining the sources of sociology. There is no history on the author and purpose of the writings. The connection between the disciplines practiced in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the writings of the European intellectuals in the eighteenth century. Adam Smith as a precursor of the modern economics shows how treating an eighteenth century text can be distorting. This is in the intellectual context of the contemporary issues, in the political economy. Crane Brinton exaggerated his argument that in latter stages of the eighteenth century more intellectual energy was on problems of the man in the society. This is in relation to the human mind in that time, in history. The time produced the emergence of “science of society.” In addition, “philosophe” described the main figures of Enlightenment. This in modern times is rendered as “sociologist” as the time was used during the period.
Understanding the impact of Enlightenment on modern sociology and emergent of social sciences requires the examination of Enlightenment ideas into the nineteenth century. Comte Saint Simon and constructed a “positive science” of the society. Sociology is a term that Comte coined in naming the new science. This is deferent to the mirrored image of Enlightenment program of the nineteenth century conservative version of the philosophies. This makes it difficult to break or jump from one mode of thinking of the society to another. The positive sociology of Enlightenment is a continuation of Comtean project. This is what prepared the emergence of the professionalized discipline of sociology in America, France, and Germany at the close of the nineteenth century.
The modern sociology is articulated by Emile Durkheim who prefigures the interests and concerns of Comte and Saint Simon. These are rooted on the Enlightenment preoccupations that are geared in given mode of thought. This is the critical rationalism, as it combines the application of political, economic, and social issues with concerns of the emancipation, progress, and improvement. In addition, it is critical of the status quo. This critical rationalism of Enlightenment is the precursor of the “positivism” of the Comte and Saint Simon (Black 68). This is understood as the striving of the universal science that is through the application of reasoning that is tempered by experiment and experience. This is to eliminate ignorance, intolerance, superstition, and prejudice. Marx work can be understood by connecting the critical version of rationalism and Enlightenment philosophers. This is the Young Hegelian that was in the period of 1850. The ideas of Marx were influenced by ideas of Enlightenment.
Enlightenment ideas according to sociologists are “paradigm” as they are a set of interconnected ideas, principles, facts, and values. This provides image of the social and the natural world and the way of thinking about the world. The paradigm of the world is Enlightenment of the philosophy. This is the combination of the several ideas that are joined together to form a tight cluster. This has elements that appear to be inconsistent, because of the many intellectual movements that united people with ideas that had many threads of common but different questions of detail. Philosophers agree that the ideas include; empiricism, science, reason, individualism, universalism, toleration, progress, freedom, secularism, and uniformity of nature. These ideas give the understanding of the complex movement. In addition, they give the connections between the emergence and characteristics concerns of sociology. The ideas give account of new social sciences that emerged in the nineteenth century.
Black, J. Eighteenth Century Europe 1700-1789. London: Macmillan, 1990. Print.
Hamilton Peter. The Enlightenment and the Birth of Social Science. Cambridge: Blackwell
Publishers Inc., 1996. Print.