Positivism in Psychology: Historical and Contemporary Problems

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The redundancy of positivism as a paradigm for nursing research

Tolman, for example, examines the implications of neopositivism for perception theory. Mills traces the historical development of operational definitions, and by doing so, he also elaborates the principle of "arithromorphizing of data" which has become part of the grammar of measurement in psychology. The legacy of operationalism is reviewed by Rogers in his discussion of testing.

The redundancy of positivism as a paradigm for nursing research

When the chapters by Mills and Rogers are viewed together, the reader is forced to evaluate why pre - determination of measures, although problematic from a theoretical stance, continues to cloud psychology's view of alternative methodologies. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. Read preview. Nickerson Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Read preview Overview.

Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts. Beall and Robert J. Sternberg By Sollie, Donna L. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. Clair, David S. Karp and William C. Yoels By Roberto, Karen A. Family Relations, Vol. Rape, Sex and the Srsearch of Evolutionary Psychology. National Forum, Vol.

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We use cookies to deliver a better user experience and to show you ads based on your interests. It provides a way to do justice to the diversity of the sciences without thereby losing sight of their unity. This classification also makes Comte the founder of the philosophy of science in the modern sense. From Plato to Kant, reflection on science had always occupied a central place in philosophy, but the sciences had to be sufficiently developed for their diversity to manifest itself. Thanks to it, the sciences are related to one another in an encyclopedic scale that goes from the general to the particular, and from the simple to the complex: moving from mathematics to sociology, generality decreases and complexity increases.

The law of classification of the sciences also has a historical aspect: it gives us the order in which the sciences develop. For example, astronomy requires mathematics, and chemistry requires physics. Each science thus rests upon the one that precedes it. As Comte puts it, the higher depends on the lower, but is not its result. The positivist clearly sees that the tendency towards reductionism is fed by the development of scientific knowledge itself, where each science participates in the evolution of the next; but history also teaches us that each science, in order to secure its own subject matter, has to fight invasions by the preceding one.

Each science tended to absorb the one next to it, on the grounds of having reached the positive stage earlier and more thoroughly. While philosophers of science have always recognized the place of Comte in the history of their discipline, the philosophy of science presented in the Course , and a fortiori the one in the System , have hardly been studied Laudan These are, to use Comtean terminology, opposed to one another, as the logical point of view and the scientific point of view. At the level of doctrine, mathematics has a status of its own, well indicated in the second lesson, where it is presented last, and as if to make up for something forgotten.

Among the remaining sciences, leaving sociology aside for the moment, two occupy a pre-eminent place:. The positive method comes in different forms, according to the science where it is applied: in astronomy it is observation, in physics experimentation, in biology comparison. The same point of view is also behind the general theory of hypotheses in the 28th lesson, a centerpiece of the positive philosophy of science.

Finally, classification is the key to a theory of technology. The reason is that there exists a systematic connection between complexity and modifiability: the more complex a phenomenon is, the more modifiable it is. The order of nature is a modifiable order. Human action takes place within the limits fixed by nature and consists in replacing the natural order by an artificial one. Only death prevented him from writing the System of Positive Industry, or Treatise on the Total Action of Humanity on the Planet , announced as early as Sociology has a double status.

It is not just one science among the others, as though there is the science of society just as there is a science of living beings. Rather, sociology is the science that comes after all the others; and as the final science, it must assume the task of coordinating the development of the whole of knowledge. With sociology, positivity takes possession of the last domain that had heretofore escaped it and had been considered forever inaccessible to it. Many people thought that social phenomena are so complex that there can be no science of them.

On the contrary, according to Comte, this distinction, introduced by the Greeks, is abolished by the existence of sociology, and the unity that was lost with the birth of metaphysics restored 58 , v. Founding social science therefore constitutes a turn in the history of humanity. Until then, the positive spirit was characterized by the objective method, which works its way from the world to man; but as this goal has now been reached, it becomes possible to invert that direction and go from man to world, to adopt, in other words, the subjective method, which so far had been associated with the anthropomorphism of theology.


  1. Positivism in the Study of Sociology.
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  3. Positivism in the Study of Sociology.

In the first case, to say that God need us is blasphemy: it would be denying his perfection. The second case is in some respects a mere consequence of the classification of sciences, if we agree to consider humanity as the proper object of sociology. Each science depends on the precedent; as the final science, sociology is the most dependent one.

Human life depends for instance on astronomical conditions.

Positivism - Sociology - Chegg Tutors

To bring out this eminent place of sociology is the principal aim of the General Conclusions of the Course. The 58th lesson raises the question of which science presides over the others on the encyclopedic scale.

To guarantee the harmonious development of the various sciences taken together, the dominance of one among them has to be assumed. One should distinguish the first blossoming of the positive spirit from its systematic development. The human point of view, that is to say, the social point of view, is the only one that is truly universal; now that sociology is born, it is up to it to be in charge of the development of knowledge. To ensure the positivity of their discipline, sociologists have been quick to renounce its coordinating function, also known as encyclopedic or architectonic function, which characterizes philosophy.

With its place at the top of the scale, the sociology of the Course recapitulates the whole of knowledge, while the sciences that precede it are but one immense introduction to this final science. As a consequence, no one can become a sociologist without having had a solid encyclopedic education, one that has no place for economics or social mathematics, but, on the contrary, emphasizes biology, the first science that deals with organized beings.

If sociology merges at places with philosophy, it is also closely related to history. Comte was thus led to take a stand on a question that deeply divides us today: how should the relations among philosophy of science, history of science, and sociology of science be seen?


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  • In the Course , history is at once everywhere and nowhere: it is not a discipline, but the method of sociology. It is easy to understand, then, that positivism has always refused to separate the philosophy of science from the history of science. The criticism is only partly legitimate: from the second lesson in the Course , Comte carefully distinguishes between the doctrinal and the historical study of science, opting for the first while leaving the second for the lessons in sociology. Each science is therefore examined twice in the Course : for its own sake, in the first three volumes; in its relations to the general development of society, in the final three.

    In this way, Comte succeeds in reconciling the internalist and externalist points of view, usually considered to be incompatible.

    Defining What This Theory Means

    A reading of the first volumes made enough of an impression on Mill to induce him to write to their author. The correspondence that followed, which lasted from to , is of considerable philosophical interest. After , Mill quickly distanced himself from his correspondent. Such judgments, and there are many, represent one extreme in a much more balanced global assessment. Conversely, Mill contributed much to the spreading of positivism.

    His book on Comte Mill enjoyed a considerable success, and he [Mill] himself was sometimes considered a positivist. Soon after finishing the Course , Comte returned to his initial project and began outlining the System of Positive Polity. The Discourse on the Positive Spirit , which had served as the preface to the Philosophical Treatise on Popular Astronomy , had already emphasized the social purpose of positivism and its aptitude to replace theology in politics and morality.

    Positivism transformed science into philosophy; complete positivism now transforms philosophy into religion. The transformation of philosophy into religion does not yield a religion of science because, having overcome modern prejudices, Comte now unhesitatingly ranks art above science.

    Now that the break-up with the academic world was complete, the positivists placed their hopes on an alliance with women and proletarians. However, this aspect of his work is difficult to accept for a contemporary reader, in particular because it involves the utopian idea of the virgin mother, which means parthenogenesis for human beings. As for the proletarians, he saw them as spontaneous positivists, just as the positivists were systematic proletarians!

    The mind, then, is not destined to rule but to serve, not, however, as the slave of the heart, but as its servant Bourdeau Science thus retains an essential function. The cerebral table distinguishes ten affective forces, five intellectual functions, and three practical qualities; these correspond to the heart, mind, and character, respectively. The functions being ordered according to increasing energy and decreasing dignity, the dominance of the heart can be considered a datum from positive biology.

    This classification is indispensable for an understanding of the System. Historically, the conception of the System began with this table, of which different versions were elaborated in succession from Conceptually, it is the first application of the subjective method, understood as feedback from sociology to the sciences that precede it, starting with the nearest.

    In this way, the sociologist helps the biologist define the cerebral functions, a task in which, most often, the biologist simply takes up again the divisions of folk psychology.

    Positivism & Post-Positivism

    Today, we are no longer used to associate positivism and politics. However, the later was present from the outset, when Comte served as secretary of Saint-Simon, and it was quite influential at the end of the nineteenth century. The two main tenets of positive politics are : there is no society without government; the proper functioning of society requires a spiritual power independent from the temporal power.

    The first principle has two sides.

    Auguste Comte (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    A positive one : in order to understand why there must be a government, we have to consider how social life works. The title of the fiftieth lesson of the Course reads: Social statics, or theory of spontaneous order of human society. But, for positivism, spontaneous order covers all natural phenomena and is moreover neither perfect nor immutable. In general, human action aims to substitute for this natural order an artificial one, more in line with our desires.

    Government action is only a special case, applied to the spontaneous order intrinsic to human society, which is determined by division of labor. The increasing specialization which accompanied it, even if it is the sine qua non condition of progress, threatens the cohesion of society.

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