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Positivism and Social Constructionism - Essay Example

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The rise of Industrial Revolution during the late 18th century1 throughout Europe brought about enormous changes in the way of living for the whole nation. Different industries were created that resulted on the creation of specialized jobs that led to the hierarchy in the society…
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Positivism and Social Constructionism

Download file to see previous pages... Positivism was introduced by the French philosopher August Comte which argued that "positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations as verified by empirical sciences."2 Positivism emerged due to the failure of speculative philosophy (e.g. Classical German Idealism) to unravel some philosophical problems, which had arisen as a result of scientific development. Positivist philosophers went to the opposite extreme and rejected theoretical assumptions as a means of acquiring knowledge. Positivism pronounced false and senseless every single problem, concepts and propositions of traditional philosophy on being, substances, causes, etc., that could not be explained or confirm by experience because of its high level of abstract nature. Positivism claim to be essentially new, non-metaphysical ("positive") philosophy, modeled on empirical sciences that provide certain methodology in finding answers to specific sociological questions. Positivism is basically empiricism brought to extreme rational consequences in certain respects: inasmuch as any knowledge is empirical knowledge in one form or another, no speculation can be knowledge. Positivism has not escaped the batch of traditional philosophy, since its own propositions such as dismissal of speculation and phenomenalism turned out to be unverifiable by experience and, therefore, metaphysical.3 Moreover, positivism believes that the main objective of knowledge is basically to explain the phenomena experienced and not to question whether it indeed exists or not.
As the primary mover of positivism, Comte sought to apply the methods of observation and experimentation that were initially used in the hard sciences, to the field that we come to know as sociology. He believed that the solution to some unrelenting social problems could be the application of certain hierarchical rules. Hence, he also believed in the development of mankind towards a more superior state of civilization with the help of the science of sociology itself. In his later years however, Comte became involved in theology, to the point where positivism became, despite of its earlier claims to its scientific approach, more of a religion, than anything else.
Another advocate of positivism and greatly influenced by Comte is an English philosopher named John Stuart Mill. In his book "System of Logi"c (1843), Mill attempted to provide an explanation not only of logic but also the different methods of science and their applicability to both social and natural phenomena. Mill's outset on logic was not totally that of modern logicians. In addition to formal logic which he identified as "the logic of consistency", he also believed that there exists a logic of proof that can show how evidence proved or tends to prove the conclusions humans draw from the evidence. This assumption led him to the analysis of causation and to a report on inductive reasoning which up to now remains as the starting point of most modern discussions.4
Traditionally, the development of positivism can be classified on three stages. The proponents of the first stage were Comte, E. Litre and P. Laffitte in France, John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer in England. Together with the problems of the theory of knowledge and logic, the foremost position in this stage was consigned with sociology that was rooted on Comte's objective of changing society on the basis of science. The emergences of the second stage of positivism ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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Compte himself regarded Francis Bacon, Descartes and Galileo as antecedents of his concept of human knowledge; he defined his version of ‘positive philosophy’ stating that the only existing knowledge is the one of phenomena, and that this knowledge is not absolute but relative, hence, what is known, as Mill describes it later, is neither the essence nor the real mode of production of any fact, but only its relations to other facts, which relations are constant – always the same in the same circumstances (1882).
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He further believed that this scientific study should be limited to only those pieces of data which can be objectively observed and explained on the basis of scientific methods because motives, feelings, emotions and other qualitative parameters can never be measured and hence should not be included in Sociology (Positivism, 2012).
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