Positivism

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Positivism is a philosophy developed by Auguste Comte (widely regarded as the first true sociologist) in the middle of the 19th century that stated that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only come from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method. This view is sometimes referred to as a scientist ideology, and is often shared by technocrats who believe in the necessary progress through scientific progress. As an approach to the philosophy of science deriving from Enlightenment thinkers like Pierre-Simon Laplace (and many others), positivism was first systematically theorized by Comte, who saw the scientific method as replacing metaphysics in the history of thought, and who observed the circular dependence of theory and observation in science. Comte was thus one of the leading thinkers of the social evolutionism thought. Brazil's national motto, Ordem e Progresso ("Order and Progress") was taken from Comte's positivism, also influential in Poland. Positivism is the most evolved stage of society in anthropological Evolutionism, the point where science and rational explanation for scientific phenomena develops. Marxism and predictive dialectics is a highly positivist system of theory. However Marxism rejects positivism and views it as subjective idealism, because it limits itself only to facts and does not examine the underlying causes of things.

The key features of positivism as of the 1950s, as defined in the "received view"<ref>Hacking, I. (ed.) 1981. Scientific revolutions. - Oxford Univ. Press, New York.</ref>, are:

  1. A focus on science as a product, a linguistic or numerical set of statements;
  2. A concern with axiomatization, that is, with demonstrating the logical structure and coherence of these statements;
  3. An insistence on at least some of these statements being testable, that is amenable to being verified, confirmed, or falsified by the empirical observation of reality; statements that would, by their nature, be regarded as untestable included the teleological; (Thus positivism rejects much of classical metaphysics.)
  4. The belief that science is markedly cumulative;
  5. The belief that science is predominantly transcultural;
  6. The belief that science rests on specific results that are dissociated from the personality and social position of the investigator;
  7. The belief that science contains theories or research traditions that are largely commensurable;
  8. The belief that science sometimes incorporates new ideas that are discontinuous from old ones;
  9. The belief that science involves the idea of the unity of science, that there is, underlying the various scientific disciplines, basically one science about one real world.

Positivism is also depicted as "the view that all true knowledge is scientific,"<ref name="bullock">Alan Bullock and Stephen Trombley, [Eds] The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, London: Harper-Collins, 1999, pp.669-737</ref> and that all things are ultimately measurable. Because of its "close association with reductionism,"<ref name="bullock"/> positivism and reductionism involve the view that "entities of one kind... are reducible to entities of another,"<ref name="bullock"/> such as societies to numbers, or mental events to chemical events. It also involves the contention that "processes are reducible to physiological, physical or chemical events,"<ref name="bullock"/> and even that "social processes are reducible to relationships between and actions of individuals,"<ref name="bullock"/> or that "biological organisms are reducible to physical systems."<ref name="bullock"/>

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