From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"What happened to the Nihilist whose story is related by that profound thinker Dostoiewsky has quickly happened to the Positivists. Illumined one day by the light of reason he broke the images of divinities and saints that adorned the altar of a chapel, extinguished the candles, and, without losing a moment, replaced the destroyed objects by the works of atheistic philosophers such as Buchner and Moleschott, after which he piously relighted the candles. The object of his religious beliefs had been transformed, but can it be truthfully said that his religious sentiments had changed?"--The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895) by Gustave Le Bon
Positivism is an empiricist philosophical theory that holds that all genuine knowledge is either true by definition or positive—meaning a posteriori facts derived by reason and logic from sensory experience. Other ways of knowing, such as theology, metaphysics, intuition, or introspection, are rejected or considered meaningless.
Although the positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of western thought, modern positivism was first articulated in the early 19th century by Auguste Comte. His school of sociological positivism holds that society, like the physical world, operates according to general laws. After Comte, positivist schools arose in logic, psychology, economics, historiography, and other fields of thought. Generally, positivists attempted to introduce scientific methods to their respective fields. Since the turn of the 20th century, positivism has declined under criticism from antipositivists and critical theorists, among others, for its alleged scientism, reductionism, overgeneralizations, and methodological limitations.
Positivism is part of a more general ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry, notably laid out by Plato and later reformulated as a quarrel between the sciences and the humanities, Plato elaborates a critique of poetry from the point of view of philosophy in his dialogues Phaedrus 245a, Symposium 209a, Republic 398a, Laws 817 b-d and Ion. the distinction, popularized by Wilhelm Dilthey, between Geisteswissenschaft (humanities) and Naturwissenschaften (natural science),
The consideration that laws in physics may not be absolute but relative, and, if so, this might be more true of social sciences, was stated, in different terms, by G. B. Vico in 1725. Vico, in contrast to the positivist movement, asserted the superiority of the science of the human mind (the humanities, in other words), on the grounds that natural sciences tell us nothing about the inward aspects of things.
- Philosophy of social science
- Logical positivism
- Analytic philosophy
- Quarrel between philosophy and poetry
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