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Encyclopedia > Social positivism

This article describes the term 'positivism' as used in social sciences, especially within the science of sociology. For other meanings of this word, see positivism. Positivism can have several meanings. ...


In sociology, anthropology, and other social sciences, the term positivism is closely connected to naturalism and can be traced back to the philosophical thinking of Auguste Comte in the 19th century. In Comte's view, positivism is an approach to understanding the world based on science. Positivists believe that there is little if any difference between social sciences and natural sciences, as societies operate according to laws, as does nature. Structural anthropologist Edmund Leach described positivism during the 1966 Henry Myers Lecture as follows: Social interactions of people and their consequences are the subject of sociology studies. ... Anthropology (from the Greek word άνθρωπος, human) consists of the study of humankind (see genus Homo). ... Terms like SOSE (Studies of Society & the Environment) not only refer to social sciences but also studies of the environment. ... Sociological naturalism is a term used in sociology, for the view that natural world and social world are roughly identical and governed by similar principles. ... Auguste Comte Auguste Comte (full name Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte) (January 17 (recorded January 19), 1798 - September 5, 1857) was a positivist thinker and came up with the term of sociology to name the new science made by Saint-Simon. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... // What is science? There are different theories of what science is. ... Terms like SOSE (Studies of Society & the Environment) not only refer to social sciences but also studies of the environment. ... The lunar farside as seen from Apollo 11 Natural science is the study of the physical, nonhuman aspects of the Earth and the universe around us. ... For the song by the California punk band Pennywise, see Society (song). ... Critical legal studies Jurisprudence Law (principle) Legal research Letter versus Spirit List of legal abbreviations Legal code Pointless law Natural justice Natural law Philosophy of law Religious law External links Wikibooks Wikiversity has more about this subject: School of Law Look up law in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Structuralism is a general approach in various academic disciplines that seeks to explore the inter-relationships between some fundamental elements, upon which higher mental, linguistic, social, cultural etc structures are built, through which then meaning is produced within a particular person, system, culture. ... Sir Edmund Ronald Leach(November 7, 1910–January 6, 1989) was a British anthropologist. ... 1966 was a common year starting on Saturday (link goes to calendar) // Events January January 1 - In a coup, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa ousts president David Dacko and takes over the Central African Republic. ...

Positivism is the view that serious scientific inquiry should not search for ultimate causes deriving from some outside source but must confine itself to the study of relations existing between facts which are directly accessible to observation.

Positivists are guided by five principles:

  1. unity of scientific method - logic of inquiry is the same across all sciences (social and natural)
  2. the goal of inquiry is to explain and predict. Most positivists would also say that the ultimate goal is to develop the law of general understanding, by discovering necessary and sufficient conditions for any phenomenon (creating a perfect model of it). If the law is known, we can manipulate the conditions to produce the predicted result.
  3. scientific knowledge is testable. Research should be mostly deductive, i.e. deductive logic is used to develop statements that can be tested (theory leads to hypothesis which in turn leads to discovery and/or study of evidence). Research should be observable with human senses (arguments are not enough, belief is out of quuestion). Positivists should prove their research using logic of confirmation or logic of falsification.
  4. science does not equal common sense. Researchers must be careful not to let common sense bias their research.
  5. relation of theory to practice - science should be as value-free as possible, and the ultimate goal of science is to produce knowledge, regardless of politics, morals, values, etc. involved in the research. Science should be judged by logic:
  • universal conditionals -> for all condition x, if x has property p, then x has property q (i.e. for all men, if one belongs to the Klu Klux Klan he is a racist)
  • all statements must be true for all times and places
  • resarch can be proved only by empirical means, not argumentations

Positivistic assumptions about the real world: The characterization phase can require extended and extensive study, even centuries. ... Knowledge is understanding soemthing or being able to do something. ... Deductive reasoning is the process of reaching a conclusion that is guaranteed to follow, if the evidence provided is true and the reasoning used to reach the conclusion is correct. ... Theory has a number of distinct meanings, depending on the context. ... A hypothesis (assumption in ancient Greek) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. ... The term common sense (or as an adjective, commonsense) describes beliefs or propositions that seem, to most people, to be prudent and of sound judgment, without dependence upon esoteric knowledge. ... Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος (logos), originally meaning the word, or what is spoken, but coming to mean thought or reason) is most often said to be the study of arguments, although the exact definition of logic is a matter of controversy amongst philosophers (see below). ... Members of the second Ku Klux Klan at a rally during the 1920s. ... An African-American drinks out of a water fountain marked for colored in 1939 at a street car terminal in Oklahoma City. ... Empirical is an adjective often used in conjunction with science, both the natural and social sciences, which means an observation or experiment based upon experience that is capable of being verified or disproved. ...

  1. Nature is orderly, there is an underlying causality and pattern.
  2. We can know nature (discover and understand all causes, patterns, etc.).
  3. Knowledge is always preferable to ignorance.
  4. Natural phenomena have natural causes.
  5. Nothing is self-evident.
  6. Knowledge comes through sensory experience.

Positivists' self-critique: Positivists have themselves raised questions and doubts about positivism, questioning whether anyone can follow an ideal type such as that described above. The most often raised points are: The deepest visible-light image of the universe, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. ... Ideal type, also know as pure type, or idealtyp (in the original German), is an typological term invented by sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920). ...

  • forms of controlled inquiry - there is a narrower range of possibilities for social science study compared to natural science study. Issues of ethics, control and of experimenters involuntarly influencing their subjects limit how we can experiment on humans. It is also difficult to test some predictions other then in time.
  • knowledge is a social variable - knowing one is a subject of a study changes one's behaviour and results can modify the future (self-fulfilling prophecy).
  • generalisations are limited by the complexity of culture and history; i.e. it is difficult to create statements that are true for all times and places.
  • subjectivity and value orientation. Research is often subjective. Researchers always have their own motives, goals, ethics and values, some deeply unconscious, and it is thus nearly impossible to be a completly objective observer.

Today, although most sociologists would agree that scientific method is an important part of sociology, extreme positivism is rare. Social scientists realize that it is extremly hard to create a law that would hold true in all cases when human behaviour is concernet, and that often while behaviour of groups may be sometimes explained and predicted with some probability, it is much harder to explain the behaviour of each individuals. In some quarters of contemporary sociology, positivism has been replaced by a contrary view, antipositivism. Most sociologists today operate somewhere between positivism and antipositivism, arguing that human behavior is more complex than animal behavior or the movements of planets. Humans have free will, imagination and irrationality, so that our behavior is at best difficult to explain by rigid "laws of society". A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that, in being made, actually causes itself to become true. ... The characterization phase can require extended and extensive study, even centuries. ... The word probability derives from the Latin probare (to prove, or to test). ... Antipositivism is the view in sociology that social sciences need to create and use different scientific methods than those used in the field of natural sciences. ... Behavior (or behaviour) refers to the actions or reactions of an object or organism, usually in relation to the environment. ... Ethology is the scientific study of animal behaviour (particularly of social animals such as primates and canids), and is a branch of zoology. ... A planet in common parlance is a large object in orbit around a star that is not a star itself. ... Free will is the philosophical doctrine that holds that our choices are ultimately up to ourselves. ... Imagination is, in general, the power or process of producing mental images and ideas. ... Irrationality is talking or acting without regard of rationality. ...


See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
Positivism (philosophy) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (476 words)
Positivism is a philosophy developed by Auguste Comte in the beginning of the 19th century that stated that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge.
Positivism is also the most evolved stage of society in anthropological Evolutionism, the point where science and rational explanation for scientific phenomena develops.
Positivism is also depicted as "the view that all true knowledge is scientific," [Bullock and Trombley] and that all things are ultimately measurable.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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