In the introduction of Contested Knowledge, Seidman first begins to argue the barriers and conflicts within the science of Sociology that restricts the growth and in the future may cease the existence of the science. Lastly, Seidman discussed the three conflicting views on social theory scientific, philosophical, and moral. He elaborates on tensions among the three approaches. Seidman argues strongly that the ultimate fate of sociology and the study thereof lies in the hand of its scientist.
He begins with the history of Sociology playing emphasis on the great role it played on society as a whole. In the past, the role of public educators was filled by sociology theorist. These theorist were looked to public codes and to represent the social world are now replaced by journalist, activist, ect. There is a big difference between them. The present intellectuals are pressured to conform to the ideas of society. In contrast to the sociological theorist of the past who based their social ideas on historical and conceptual depth not the status quo.
Through scientific, philosophical, and moral research these scientist influenced the society rather than having society influence their ideas. “Sociological theorists are in danger of loosing the attention of both researchers and the public. ” Seidmans greatest fear seemed to be the utter replaced of sociologist with “public intellectuals”. He argued that the only way Sociology could reclaim its role in society as “public educator” was for the science to focus on the major issues of the day. Seidman compared and contrasted the three conflicting views of social theory as scientific, philosophical, and moral.
Scientific social theory assumes that science is the only method capable of achieving reliable and sociable knowledge”. These theorists are only interested in “reliable knowledge”, science, proven by research to be true. “True knowledge requires observations, research and facts be organized as general principals or laws that are proven or falsified through repeated testing”. They believe that because their research is not influenced by social commentators, such as journalist, their work also lacks the prejudices and opinions that they share.
Philosophical and social scientists differ greatly. Scientific theorist get the information they need by the by the experiments and observations performed by researchers. They organized and study the facts that are produced by research and come up with sets of laws. Whereas, “philosophical scientist often spend considerable time thinking about the ideas of the other thinkers as they develop their own views about human behavior and social life”. Philosophical theorist focus on the timelessness of social attitudes and thinking.
They base their field on the ideas that have survived throughout time. Their philosophy uses conceptual thinking rather that physical research. “Before we can observe social life and accumulate the facts we must have certain ideas about the nature of social life”. These scientists acknowledge the position of social scientists but are aware that and idea must first be thought of in order to be scientifically tested and explored.
The last sociological theory to be discussed by Seidman is the moral approach. The aim of a morally inspired theory is to alert the public to a social danger in order to prompt or guide social and political action”. These theorists are prompted by the morality of social and political events that are arising during a period. They stress that they do not ignore the empirical knowledge or social truth going on in society during a period but the focus distinctly on the moral vision of Sociology. Unfortunately, moral hope is acknowledged by many scientists in the field but is not respected as one of the core principles of social research and theory.