“Que’est-ce que les sciences sociales” (Je moque)

“Every society is a moral society.” ~Emile Durkheim

In Durkheim’s mountain of a work “The Division of Labor in Society,” he comes to some interesting conclusions about the various laws governing society and the typical functions that hold it all together. But for me, one of the most interesting aspects of this text lies in his methodological approach to the study of social phenomena.

That he could write a sentence like the one above means he was able to draw out the deep-seated phenomenological implications of Kant’s epistemology. He knew that there was a fundamental distinction between the the world out there- the noumena- and the world-as-perceived by each individual- the phenomena. He understood the metaphysical implications of this distinction: namely, that the noumenal world is radically Other- alien- and that we as perceiving beings are barred from experiencing it.

Thus, he premeditates Sartre by 30 years and brackets the metaphysical question of whether there stands some hypostasis, some ground or foundation,  for morality. Rather, he focuses on the social fact of reality, applying methodological non-realism to his quarry: the moral foundation of society.

A commonly-held set of moral beliefs is the foundation for the collective consciousness, as well as its emanations in the form of repressive and restitutory laws. Without these social institutions, social solidarity fails to function properly. Without morals, there is no social order, and without this order there is no society.

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