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What Is Positivism?

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What Is Positivism? John Ryding In this essay, I will briefly discuss the origins of positivism, what it means, and why it is relevant today. In Western Philosophy, there are two main theories with which people ally themselves; one is Rationalism, this states that reason is the foundation of knowledge and only through thought and reason is knowledge gained about the world. Well known Rationalists were Plato (427 - 327) BC, Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650) and Baruch Spinoza (1632 -1677). One of the concerns of Philosophy is the structure and workings of society. Plato's "Republic" is concerned with the running of a successful state, and how the individual and the state interact. Through the dialogue in this work, Plato sets out his ideals for this perfect state. ...read more.


August Comte (1798 - 1857) was an empiricist who believed that by studying society you could find laws and apply them to all societies thus enabling a sociologist to predict how a society will develop. He coined the term sociology in 1830 and applied the empirical method to his study. The empirical method requires that facts should be quantative and, especially in sociology, internal emotions and points of view must be discounted. This belief in observational science is called the Positivist Approach. Positivism is an extension of the Empirical Theory. By rejecting the claims of rationalism and theology, it seeks to extend human knowledge thorough observation and scientific/empirical method. ...read more.


Scientists would be regarded as priests and the common people with no great scientific knowledge would be the clergy. In twenties and thirties Austria, the Vienna Circle was a group who brought philosophy, mathematics, and science together under the banner of Logical Positivism. They campaigned to use only logical and observable data as the basis of human knowledge. They were very much concerned with how we verify what is true, rejecting the unverifiable claims of theology and metaphysics. Their work is relevant today because they gave practical demonstrations of how we could reach conclusions about what is or is not relevant to positivist human knowledge. Sources Introduction to Political Philosophy - Geoffrey Thomas The Great Philosophers - Ray Monk and Frederic Raphael www.philosophypages.com www.hewett.norfolk.sch.uk/curric/soc/Comte.htm ...read more.

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