What is Positivism (and its characteristics)

Positivism is a philosophical current that asserts that all knowledge derives in some way from experience, which can be supported by the scientific method. Therefore, it rejects any knowledge prior to the experience.

Positivism, epistemologically speaking, means ‘worthless’ or ‘without prejudice’. That is to say, that he does not believe in previous ideas or a priori ideas because everything is open until it is objectively demonstrated through a scientific method.

The term positivism emerged in France in the mid-19th century. The first to mention positivism was the French philosopher Saint-Simon, precursor of social philosophy. However, he was the French sociologist and philosopher auguste comte (1798 – 1857) who popularized this philosophical current together with the British philosopher and politician, John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873).

Both Comte and Mill were based on the idea that all knowledge or philosophical or scientific activity should start from real facts and possible to verify through the scientific method, for which they rejected any type of knowledge prior to experience.

Positivism has its roots in the Enlightenment or French Enlightenment where there is an emphasis on rationalism and English empiricism of the eighteenth century represented by David Hume (1711 – 1776).

Likewise, it was one of the results produced by the French Revolution after the political, social and economic changes, which placed individuals and societies as objects of study based on their experiences.

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Therefore, positivism is a conjugation of empiricism, a philosophical current that is based on the fact that all knowledge is acquired through some type of experience or observation, in which logic and mathematics go beyond the facts through the application of scientific method.

The father of the scientific method René Descartes (1596 – 1650) stated that ideas were innate. Later, John Locke (1632 – 1704) refuted this idea by introducing experience as the catalyst for all knowledge.

In another order of ideas, the term positivism also refers to taking a more positive, comfortable and practical attitude to be happy and obtain better benefits. As one would say with the psychological analogy of the glass half full or the glass half empty, the one who practices positivism or, the one who is positive, always sees the glass as half full.

Characteristics of positivism

Below are the main characteristics that define the philosophical current called Positivism.

  • reject the notions a priori and concepts or beliefs of a universal type that have not been verified.
  • Positivism is based on the fact that empirical facts are the foundation of knowledge.
  • It promotes scientific knowledge supported by the scientific method as valid.
  • The scientific method must be applied to both scientific and humanistic investigations.
  • The knowledge obtained from positivism must be objective.
  • The documented evidence is the most important, not its interpretations.

logical positivism

Logical positivism or neopositivism is a philosophical current that includes the analysis of language in its scientific methodology and is limited to the analysis or study of everything that is empirical and verifiable. This derivation of positivism emerged in the 20th century and was developed by the members of the Vienna Circle.

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See also:

  • enlightenment
  • Empiricism
  • Experience
  • Logic
  • Positive thinking