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Positivism - Essay

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  • March 2011
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Positivism refers to a set of epistemological perspectives and philosophies of science which hold that the scientific method is the best approach to uncovering the processes by which both physical and human events occur. Though the positivist approach has been a 'recurrent theme in the history of western thought from the Ancient Greeks to the present day' [1] the concept was developed in the early 19th century by the philosopher and founding sociologist, Auguste Comte. |

Positivism was a method for studying society proposed by Auguste Comte, a French philosopher who founded the study of sociology.

Comte's bias was against metaphysics, a philosophy based largely on speculation about the nature of things. Comte believed that philosophy, at least in this sense, could not adequately study society. He proposed a new method of study, which he originally called positivism. Positivism would base all conclusions on observation. This removed positivism from the field of philosophy and placed it in the field of science, where knowledge is based on empirical facts.

Empirical facts are those that can be measured and tested. They are the basis of all science. This was the theme of his book, "Positivie Philosophy."

Unfortunately, toward the end of his life, Comte "invented" a religion of positivism. It was a religion that would have no god, but 20,000 positivistic priests. At this point, many of his supporters deserted him. Some asked him to delineate between the religion of positivism and the science of positivism.

Eventually, he revised "Positive Philosophy," renaming the science of positivism by taking the Latin root "Socius" (meaning "group" or "relationship") and coupling it with the Greek work "logos" (meaning "knowledge" or "study"). Hence, sociology.

After Comte's death, Emile Durkheim really developed the field of sociology by insisting that this "new" science concentrate on the study of "social facts." Later, this strict relience on positivism...