Sociology undergraduate here, who is struggling to "see the wood for the trees", as the idiom goes. My two brief questions are the following: Is there anything unique within sociological theory, or is it just a spin-off of philosophy that lacks training on how to think? Additionally, is it the case that a philosophy degree can open doors into other fields, but sociology is more limiting to academic mobility?

This will be a very subjective response; others who have some acquaintance with the two fields will answer differently. Also I'm pretty out of date on sociology. One thing that has not changed much there, though, as far as I'm aware, is that like many social sciences, it is deeply split between two subfields, which differ so much from each other that they might as well be separate fields. On the one side, there is mathematical and quantitative sociology, which operates largely with rational-choice models, treated quasi-formally, and on the other side there is qualitative sociology, which is no less empirical, but relies more on participant observation and what Clifford Geertz called "thick description." I think the answers to your questions depend to some extent on which of these two you are primarily interested in. Or you might, as a third option, be one of those hopeless idealists like James Coleman, who thought the two mutually alienated sides belonged inseparably together and that the example given by the founders (Simmel, Weber, Durkheim, etc.) in this respect should go on being followed. Coleman was said by many (not only at the University of Chicago) to have been the last sociologist who successfully bridged that gap. (Which shouldn't intimidate you!)

To your first question: Sociologists of all three kinds are of a much more empirical cast of mind than philosophers, and that makes a big difference. They are also, in their very different ways, more empirically-minded than most other social scientists, especially economists. I think this is a big advantage, since one of the significant weaknesses of philosophy is that there is too much meta-stuff and not enough obect-stuff. Philosophy certainly does offer a certain kind of training in "how to think," but sociology gives a *different* kind of training in how to think, a more concrete and straightforward one less easily bamboozled by useless verbal gymnastics and endless hair-splitting. It gets more happily down to the business of addressing real and important, if sometimes rather ill-defined problems. However, there are differences in this respect among the three kinds of sociologists I've listed. The first kind is pretty narrow, at the extreme they're a bit like economists and don't think much at all; they just apply their models to large datasets. The second kind have to engage in a bit more thought just because the responsibility for processing and organizing the vast quantity of information they gather falls on themselves. But it's often not a very systematic or disciplined kind of thought. The third kind (and yes, I realize, the cardinality of this set may presently be zero, but that shouldn't prevent an undergraduate from striving to emulate the previous members of the set, from Weber to Coleman) is the best model for learning how to think. Especially because it's out of favor, and nearly all the members of any department (who will each be on one of the first two sides) will think you're daft, and you'll constantly be having to defend yourself -- which is in itself a good training in how to think.

However, I can see why you ask the question. If you look at the founders (who are still live figures in the field; their key texts are taught to undergraduates), and many sociologists since then (esp. those of the third sort listed above), it's certainly true that they were not only philosophically literate but often motivated by philosophical questions. In some cases, as in Alfred Schutz, the philosophical dimension seems almost dominant, and in those cases one can certainly sympathize with your question whether sociology is just an inferior spin-off of philosophy. However, even in Schutz the empirical dimension is much more high-profile than in Husserl (whose ideas he largely relied on in his sociological work). So I would say that it really depends on your tastes and sympathies. If you like thinking about stuff in the abstract, without being weighed down by facts or specific questions, then you might prefer philosophy. If you actually care about getting any sort of insight into real social questions, sticking with sociology may be the way to go.

Now to the second question: If your training is mostly in the first sort of sociology, you're probably better off switching to economics or political science, where you'll learn more about that sort of modelling than you will in sociology (and math would of course be best of all, since those tools will be useful anywhere). A degree focused mainly on the second sort of sociology might feed into a broader range of possible options, especially since that sort of skill has become pretty rare these days -- even anthropology, which used to turn out battalions of people trained in that skill, has backed away from it somewhat. But the best and most flexible degree, in terms of fields it could lead into eventually, is in the third sort of sociology -- i.e. in a sociology that still tries to bridge the gap between the formal and the qualitative. I really don't know whether anything remotely resembling that is still possible, but if it is at your university, then I'd definitely stick with sociology -- certainly over philosophy, anyway. It would have a better balance than philosophy between the abstract/theoretical and the concrete/empirical kinds of learning to think; probably even the first or second sorts of sociology could have that advantage if they weren't too one-sided.

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