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Intellectual influence on Sociology

Enlightenment as a European intellectual movement in 17-18thcentury led by Montesquieu and Rousseau emphasized reason and individualism. They had a great influence on emergence of sociology. Early sociology has seen the enlightenment and counter enlightenment ideas. Enlightenment put individual at center stage, on the other hand for counter enlightenment proponents, society was the most important unit of analysis. The ideas of rationalism, empiricism and change orientation also affected early sociological thought. The earliest form of sociological investigations had much to do with the enlightenment ideas of rationality and scientific investigation. Darwin’s idea about organic evolution was another dominant influence on early sociological influence and many of the early social thinkers started to believe that society too evolves in a similar fashion as the organisms do. They were also convinced that progress in knowledge of society on lines of natural sciences promised the solution to all social ills. Auguste Comte considered to be the founder of sociology believed that sociology would contribute to the welfare of humanity and it has to be approached as a scientific discipline. These ideas were further refined in France which ultimately became the birth place of sociology and Alexis De Tocqueville, Claude Saint- Simon, Auguste Comte, Spencer and Emile Durkheim became the face of French sociology with their seminal formative work. Comte was the first to use the term sociology and he believed that study of sociology would be scientific. He developed his scientific view of the discipline in form of Positivism or positive philosophy. He developed social physics initially and in 1839, he called it sociology.