The term 'Sociology' was coined by Auguste Comte, a French philosopher, in 1839. Therefore, he is regarded as the father of Sociology. Sociology is the combination of the Latin word 'Societus' meaning 'society' and the Greek word 'logos' meaning 'study or science'. Thus, the etymological meaning of Sociology is the science of society.
Ogburn and Nimkoff define Sociology as "the scientific study of social life" Famous sociologist Emile Durkheim defines Sociology as "the science of social institution." In the view of Alex Inkles "Sociology is the study of systems of social actions and of their interrelations"
Nature of Sociology
Before discussing the nature of Sociology, it is better to know about the nature of a subject. The nature of a subject refers to its internal characteristics which help one to understand what kind of science it is.
Every branch of knowledge has its own nature. Thus, Sociology as a branch of knowledge had its own nature or characteristic which distinguishes it from other social sciences and helps to understand what kind of science it is.
The nature of Sociology is as follows:
(1) Sociology is an independent science:
Sociology is not treated and studied as a branch of any other science like philosophy, history. Now it has emerged into an independent science. As an independent science it has its own field of study.
(2) Sociology is a social science and not a physical science:
All the sciences are divided into two categories: natural sciences and social sciences. Natural sciences study physical phenomena where as social sciences study social phenomena. Social sciences include Economics, Political Science, and Anthropology etc. Sociology belongs to the family of social sciences. As a social science it concentrates its attention on man, his social behaviour, activities and social life. In other words, it studies man as a social being.
(3) Sociology is a pure science and not an applied science:
The aim of applied science is to apply the acquired knowledge into life and to put it to use. But the aim of pure sciences is the acquisition of knowledge and it is not bothered whether the acquired knowledge is useful or can be put to use. Sociology is a pure science, because it aims at the acquisition of knowledge about human society, hot the utilisation of the knowledge.
(4) Sociology is an abstract science and not a concrete science:
This doesn't mean that Sociology, is an art and not a science. It only refers that Sociology is not interested in concrete manifestations of human events. It is more concerned with the form of human events and their patterns. Similarly, Sociology does not confine itself to the study of this society or that particular society. It simply means that Sociology is an abstract science, not a concrete science.
(5) Sociology is a categorical and not a normative discipline:
Sociology "confines itself about what is, not what should be or ought to be." As a science it is silent about questions of value. It does not make any kind of value judgment. It only means Sociology as a discipline cannot deal with problems of good and evil, right and wrong.
(6) Sociology is a generalising and not a particularising science:
Sociology does not study each and every event that takes place in society. It makes generalization on the basis of some selected events. For example, not by studying or examining all the secondary groups but by observing a few secondary groups, a sociologist makes generalization of secondary groups.
(7) Sociology is a general science and not a special social science:
The area of inquiry of Sociology is general and not specialised. Social sciences like Political Science, History, Economics, etc. study human interaction but not all about human interactions. But Sociology does not investigate special kind of phenomena in relation to human life, and activities but it only studies human activities in a general way.
(8) Sociology is both a rational and empirical science:
Empiricism is the approach that emphasizes experiences and the facts that result from observation and experimentation. On the other hand, rationalism stresses reason and theories that result from logical inference. The empiricist collects facts, the rationalist co-ordinates and arranges them. In sociological theory both are significant. Thus, Sociology is both a rational and empirical science.
Thus, from the above discussion we come to know that the nature of Sociology is independent, social, a categorical, pure, abstract, and generalizing; both are a rational and an empirical social science.