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Positivism

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The early nineteenth century was marked by a broad new movement of thought called Positivism. Positivism is an ‘epistemological perspective’ and ‘philosophy of science’ which holds that the only authentic knowledge is that which is based on sense experience and positive verification (Louis, 2007). The term ‘epistemology’ comes from the Greek word ‘episteme’ which is simply the philosophy of knowledge or in other terms how we come to know and to describe the phenomena that we daily experience (Louis, 2007). The concept was developed between the 17th century and early 20th century for natural sciences and in the early 19th century for social sciences by philosophers and founding sociologists. It was mainly developed to solve philosophical problems which had arisen as a result of scientific developments that had taken place. This essay will critically discuss what positivism, its effects and how it has contributed to the study of society. The essay will also discuss the different types of positivism such as the French, English, German and Italian. The positivist approach has been a 'recurrent theme in the history of western thought from the Ancient Greeks to the present day' (Louis, 2007). It was initially influenced by the enlightenment goals to get knowledge and develop ‘universal laws’ (Smith, 2003). In a positivist view, science was seen as the way to get at truth, is to understand the world well enough so that we might predict and control it. The world operated by laws of causes and effects that could be differentiated if scientific method approaches were applied. Positivists believed in ‘empiricism’ which is simply the idea that observation and measurement was the core of scientific efforts (Trochim, 2006). Positivism first began in France, and it heavily influenced early sociologists like Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durrkheim and several others. Positivists are guided by five main principles. Firstly the unity of the scientific method which...

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