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The Cognitive Development of Sociology: The Contribution of John Stuart Mill

DOI: 10.4236/aasoci.2018.83011, PP. 189-198

Keywords: Sociology, Cognitive Sociology, Psychologism

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Abstract:

One may track the origin of sociology back to the work of individuals such as Auguste Comte among other prominent scholars in the nineteenth century. Comte work of a general way to deal with the investigation of society stands out as one of a major contribution towards the cognitive development of sociology. The development of cognitive sociology can also be attributed to the ancient publications in the sociology of knowledge, sociology of culture, and cognitive and cultural anthropology. Arguably, scholars strive to understand the cognitive processes in order to understand how individuals come up with meanings for various phenomena in the society. John Stuart Mill deserves credit for his profound contribution in as far as the development of the methodology of the social science is concerned. His addition of a psychological perspective was critical to the development of sociology. Mill also incorporated the knowledge of psychology to explain what drives individuals to act in the manner they do while interacting with each other. Other than the deduction of the laws, Mill emphasized on the necessity of using an experiment to understand the personal and interpersonal interaction of individuals. However, other individuals who also made contributions to the development of the discipline of sociology dismissed and criticized his stand on the necessity of conducting experiments and not relying on deductive reasoning. Scholars who were opposed to Mill’s position subscribed to the idea of anti-psychologism. Some of the profound authors and scholars include Karl Marx, Max Weber, Watkins, L. von Mises, Popper, Menger, von Hayek, Boudon, and Elster among others. Popper stands out as one of the scholars who were sternly opposed to Mill’s idea of psychologism, contributing to the reinstatement of the autonomy of sociology and social laws. However, Millian convention and ideologies of integrating the psychologism perspective into sociology was adopted by several scholars from 1970s onwards. The purpose of this work is precisely to offer a more in-depth understanding of John Stuart Mill’s contribution to the cognitive development of sociology.

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