Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is a great social scientist and French Sociologist. He combined empirical research theory with sociological theory. He is often regarded as founder of French school of Sociology and an architect of modern sociology.

Emile Durkheim - A Social Scientist

The areas of society Emile Durkheim majorly focused and researched are theory of suicide, theory of Religion, social facts, structural functionalism, social stratification, social deviance, and study of society. ”Collective conciseness” is term popularly known as Durkheim term given by him.

Some of the famous books written by him are Division of labor in society, Rules of sociological method, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.

Emile Durkheim - A Social Scientist - quotes

“Faith is not uprooted by dialectic proof; it must already be deeply shaken by other causes to be unable to withstand the shock of argument.”

“Man seeks to learn, and man kills himself because of the loss of cohesion in his religious society; he does not kill himself because of his learning. It is certainly not the learning he acquires that disorganizes religion; but the desire for knowledge wakens because religion becomes disorganized.”

“Men have been obliged to make for themselves a notion of what religion is, long before the science of religions started its methodical comparisons”.

“Whoever makes an attempt on a man’s life, on a man’s liberty, on a man’s honour inspires us with a feeling of horror in every way analogous to that which the believer experiences when he sees his idol profaned.”

“The roles of art, morality, religion, political faith, science itself are not to repair organic exhaustion nor to provide sound functioning of the organs. All this supraphysical life is built and expanded not because of the demands of the cosmic environment but because of the demands of the social environment.”

“One cannot long remain so absorbed in contemplation of emptiness without being increasingly attracted to it. In vain, one bestows on it the name of infinity; this does not change its nature.”

“A monomaniac is a sick person whose mentality is perfectly healthy in all respects but one; he has a single flaw, clearly localized. At times, for example, he has an unreasonable and absurd desire to drink or steal or use abusive language; but all his other acts and all his other thoughts are strictly correct.”

“From the physical point of view, a man is nothing more than a system of cells, or from the mental point of view, than a system of representations; in either case, he differs only in degree from animals.”

“There is a collective as well as an individual humor inclining peoples to sadness or cheerfulness, making them see things in bright or somber lights. In fact, only society can pass a collective opinion on the value of human life; for this the individual is incompetent.”

“That man have an interest in knowing the world which surrounds them, and consequently that their reflection should have been applied to it at an early date, is something that everyone will readily admit.”

“Whoever makes an attempt on a man’s life, on a man’s liberty, on a man’s honour inspires us with a feeling of horror in every way analogous to that which the believer experiences when he sees his idol profaned.”

“The human person, whose definition serves as the touchstone according to which good must be distinguished from evil, is considered as sacred, in what one might call the ritual sense of the word. It has something of that transcendental majesty which the churches of all times have given to their Gods.”

“Religious phenomena are naturally arranged in two fundamental categories: beliefs and rites. The first are states of opinion, and consist in representations; the second are determined modes of action.”

“The fundamental proposition of the apriorist theory is that knowledge is made up of two sorts of elements, which cannot be reduced into one another, and which are like two distinct layers superimposed one upon the other.”

“It is too great comfort which turns a man against himself. Life is most readily renounced at the time and among the classes where it is least harsh.”

“By definition, sacred beings are separated beings. That which characterizes them is that there is a break of continuity between them and the profane beings.”

“The liberal professions, and in a wider sense the well-to-do classes, are certainly those with the liveliest taste for knowledge and the most active intellectual life.”

“Each new generation is reared by its predecessor; the latter must therefore improve in order to improve its successor. The movement is circular.”

“If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion.”

“Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned.”

“To pursue a goal which is by definition unattainable is to condemn oneself to a state of perpetual unhappiness.”

“Each victim of suicide gives his act a personal stamp which expresses his temperament, the special conditions in which he is involved, and which, consequently, cannot be explained by the social and general causes of the phenomenon.”

“Religious representations are collective representations which express collective realities.”

“Our whole social environment seems to us to be filled with forces which really exist only in our own minds.”

“There are two types of men: the great and the small.”

“Sadness does not inhere in things; it does not reach us from the world and through mere contemplation of the world. It is a product of our own thought. We create it out of whole cloth.”

“A person is not merely a single subject distinguished from all the others. It is especially a being to which is attributed a relative autonomy in relation to the environment with which it is most immediately in contact.”

“It is science, and not religion, which has taught men that things are complex and difficult to understand”.

“It is inadmissible that systems of ideas like religions, which have held so considerable a place in history, and to which, in all times, men have come to receive the energy which they must have to live, should be made up of a tissue of illusions”.

Emile Durkheim – Religion Thoughts

“Religion is in a word the system of symbols by means of which society becomes conscious of itself.”

“If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion.”

“…sacred things are simply collective ideals that have fixed themselves on material objects.”

“This system of conceptions is not purely imaginary and hallucinatory, for the moral forces that these things awaken in us are quite real — as real as the ideas that words recall to us after they have served to form the ideas.”

“Since it is in spiritual ways that social pressure exercises itself, it could not fail to give men the idea that outside themselves there exist one or several powers, both moral and, at the same time, efficacious, upon which they depend.”

“Since religious force is nothing other than the collective and anonymous force of the clan, and since this can be represented in the mind only in the form of the totem, the totemic emblem is like the visible body the god.”

“But from the fact that a ‘religious experience,’ if we choose it this, does exist and that it has a certain foundation … it does not follow that the reality which is its foundation conforms objectively to the idea which believers have of it.”

“That which science refuses to grant to religion is not its right to exist, but its right to dogmatize upon the nature of things and the special competence which it claims for itself for knowing man and the world. As a matter of fact, it does not know itself. It does not even know what it is made of, nor to what need it answers.”


Suicide: A Study in Sociology

“When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.”

“Man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free him from all social pressure is to abandon him to himself and demoralize him.”

“Maniacal suicide. —This is due to hallucinations or delirious conceptions. The patient kills himself to escape from an imaginary danger or disgrace, or to obey a mysterious order from on high, etc.”

“One does not advance when one walks toward no goal, or – which is the same thing – when his goal is infinity.”

“It is society which, fashioning us in its image, fills us with religious, political and moral beliefs that control our actions.”

“Hence we are the victims of an illusion which leads us to believe we have ourselves produced what has been imposed upon us externally.”

“Just as reflection disappears to the extent that thought and action take the form of automatic habits, it awakes only when accepted habits become disorganized.”

“Things perceived as real become real in their consequences.”

“Methodological rules are for science what rules of law and custom are for conduct.”

“It is true that we take it as evident that social life depends upon its material foundation and bears its mark, just as the mental life of an individual depends upon his nervous system and in fact his whole organism. But collective consciousness is something more than a mere epiphenomenon of its morphological basis, just as individual consciousness is something more than a simple efflorescence of the nervous system.”

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