Advantages, Strengths, Disadvantages, and Weaknesses of a Positivist Approach to Social Sciences

Topics: Science, Scientific method, Social sciences Pages: 3 (773 words) Published: February 15, 2011
Discuss the advantages, strengths, disadvantages and weaknesses of a positivist approach to social sciences

The profusion of use and multifariousness of meaning of the word positivism results in a need for any essay on the subject to first give its own precise definition for its use of the term, distinguishing its particular context from its use in other contexts. The term positivism, first coined by the philosopher Auguste Comte in the nineteenth-century, was first originally confined to the boundaries of philosophy and natural science; by the present, the term has spread its meaning to cover fields as diverse as law, political theory, the social sciences, philosophy and even literature. In all of these fields the dictionary definition of positivism as ‘. . . a system recognizing only that which can be scientifically verified or logically proved, and therefore rejecting metaphysics and theism’ (Oxford, 1989: pp. 385-386) remains broadly true of most of its uses, though it does little to reveal the subtle distinctions of use of the word positivism in each of these disciplines. For instance, legal positivism is ‘. . . a view which, in contrast to the natural law view, claims that a legal system can be defined independently of evaluative terms or propositions is the view that in law’ (Hugh-Jones, S. & Laidlaw, J, 2000: p88); in literature positivism refers to a specific period of Polish literature where writers were inspired by the nascent achievements of science and technology; and in philosophy the term logical positivism meant the scientific investigation of the philosophy of language — as in writers such as Wittgenstein. All in all then, the term positivism has an umbrella use designated by the dictionary definition, but then has several further and more individualistic uses depending upon the context in which it appears. ‘Positivism is the view that serious scientific inquiry should not search for ultimate causes deriving from some outside source but must...
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