Positivism refers specifically the philosophy espoused by Auguste Comte and generally to later philosophies which are based on that. Comte argued that human thought proceeds through three stages: theological, metaphysical, and positivistic. The first, theological, involves trying to explain all phenomena through the direct operation of supernatural beings and divine forces. The second, metaphysical, is similar to the first, but those supernatural beings have become more abstract and less anthropomorphic. In the final, positivistic, both supernatural beings and metaphysical abstractions are abandoned in favor of naturalistic, empirical explanations. According to Positivism, sense perceptions are the only admissible basis for knowledge and thought. Everything outside of natural phenomena or properties of knowable things is excluded, and so highly speculative metaphysics and theology are rejected. Science forms the boundaries of human knowledge, and, as a consequence, positivism expresses great hope for the ability of science to solve human problems.
Explanations > Social Research > Philosophies of Social Research > Positivism Principle | Discussion | See also
All knowledge comes from 'positive' information of observable experience. Scientific methods are the best way of achieving this. All else is metaphysics. Discussion
The problem with social research is that it is not easy to get solid and repeatable results, as we are such a complex and variable species. In the history of social understanding, Positivism originated out of the French Enlightenment, with French philosopher Auguste Comte, who sought to the replace the 'brainpower approach' of Rationalism by leveraging the principles of the natural sciences (such as Physics, Chemistry and Biology). At the time of Comte, science was having a huge impact and was steadily replacing religion as the key authority for knowledge about what was true or false. Even today, when...