Sociological contributions from Flanders 1969-1970. pages:141-165
The necessity with which the sociologist is confronted of defining his object does not imply that he can do this completely independently of all social-scientific tradition. On the contrary, the sociologist must take the intersubjectivity of his science just as much into account as the researcher into any other scientific discipline. We shall thus begin this study with the confrontation of several recent investigations into the various definitions of the object and their methodological consequences in order, by so doing, not to break the link with the past.
In fact the most recent discussions have been about a question which is very old and which already occupied a central position in social philosophy, namely « from which angle must the relationship of the individual to the community be approached » 2),In sociological writings various solutions have been put forward to this problem. One school considers the group as a reality which can be studieti in se. Another tendency does not allow the group any existential value and considers that the individual is the only existing reality. Now there is a tendency to accept neither the first nor the second solution but to place both in a dialectical relationship. G. Gurvitch is one of the pioneers of this. Our attention will thus go in the first place to his work and to that of writers following the same lines. In opposition to Gurvitch, A. Schütz rejects this dialectic at a methodological level. His arguments seem important to us for a comparison of the significance of both schools of thought. On the basis of this comparison an option for one or other school of thought will be justified. This will in the end boil down to a choice which will take Alfred Schutz's sociology as a guideline. In the second section we shall evaluate « understanding » (« verstehen ») and give a definition of sociology with the methodological consequences of this.