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Critically Discuss the Contribution of Positivism to the Study of...

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Critically Discuss the Contribution of Positivism to the Study of Society

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  • June 28, 2010
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Critically discuss the contribution of positivism to the study of society

The positivist research method in the social sciences become more influential by August Comte, who tended to build a methodology based on facts rather than speculation. For Comte, the social sciences should concentrate on scientific laws rather than contemplation (Marcuse, 1941, p. 345). This theoretical perspective continues to be the present method of conducting research. This essay argues that positivism has accelerated the development of social science and sociology. The first part of this essay will analyse the historical background of positivism and then examine its contributions to social science research,which include creating methods of social research which are based on naturalism, giving the social sciences a high degree of authority and respectability and finally affording a ready means of comparison and exchange of knowledge between other disciplines such as law, philosophy and literature(Benton & Craib, 2001, pp. 13-27). However, this essay also argues that positivism has several significant shortcomings. First, its search for perfect standards of scientific methodology are too unrealistic when compares to the extreme complexity of social phenomenon; the second weakness, is positivism’s lack of consideration of the subjective, individual and hermeneutic aspects of social phenomenon (Popper, 1983, p. 12). The positivism originated in the 19th century,aiming at employing the methods of the natural sciences to social study (Smith, 1983, p. 12). In 1822, a French philosopher named Auguste Comte created the term sociologie and investigated social relations as natural science (Babbie, 1993). Comte believed that in order to analyse human world objectively, such religious beliefs should be replaced by scientific objectivity and empirical methods of investigation. Comte’s opinion of positivism was based on scientific objectivity and observation through the five senses instead of...