Positivism (lat. positivus – positive) represents a philosophical trend that produce as a source of true knowledge empirical science. Cognitive value of philosophical study in this case is denied. The founder of the positivist currents is French philosopher and sociologist Auguste Comte.
Positivism is

The history of positivism

This direction got its start in the XIX century, in the period of the collapse of natural philosophy. Its emergence was due primarily to the crisis of the so-called speculative philosophy, including German classical idealism (I. Kant, F. Hegel, I. Fichte, F. Schelling, etc.). Positivism is a kind of response to the inconsistency of the philosophical thought of that time. Philosophy has ceased to satisfy the needs of society and should have been radically revised. Meanwhile, the theory of positivism was based on the idea of ​​the inability of speculative philosophy to solve problems that arise before society in the process of scientific discoveries in the field of biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and others. Science has become increasingly popular and significant, influencing the public consciousness. It should also be noted that in this period science is singled out as a new specific social institution. After being released from the care of the church, her ideas become more daring and extensive, which also could not but affect the increased public interest in scientific discoveries.

In turn, Auguste Comte stands for the transfer of thinking from the metaphysical stage to the scientific one. Thus, positivism was aimed at finding a new rationale for philosophy by analogy with natural science methods. However, the positivist trend in itself also did not escape the fate of speculative philosophy. His own propositions regarding the rejection of speculation, phenomenal ideas and other ideas did not have empirical verification, and, therefore, also acquired the character of metaphysics.

Main ideas

If we talk about positivism briefly, then among his main ideological ideas can highlight the following:

  • elimination of (elimination of) traditional intractable problems of philosophy (in view of the limitations of the human mind)
  • reducing the activity of science to a descriptive function, and not to an explanatory function (descriptivism);
  • focus on empirical testing of theoretical knowledge (methodological empiricism);
  • search for a universal method for obtaining objective knowledge and a universal scientific language;
  • the reduction of scientific knowledge to aggregate sensitive data and the complete elimination of the "unobservable" of science (epistemological phenomenalism).

The objective development of positivism should have led to a global transformation of science. As already mentioned, the teaching saw its main task in the “purification” of scientific knowledge from metaphysical.

In the historical context, it is customary to single out the following stages in the development of positivism:

  • The first positivism.
  • Empirio-criticism (Machism).
  • Logical positivism (logical empiricism, neopositivism).

In some sources they are also called the first, second and third. At the same time, from the point of view of fundamental ideas, the stages of positivism are rather conditional. For example, the second, unlike the first, was distinguished by great psychologism. In turn, the third stage presented its own view on the role of such disciplines as mathematics and logic, proposing to consider them separately from empirical science.

The first positivism. Representatives

It refers to the first half of the XIX century. It is commonly associated with the names of Auguste Comte (1798-1857), John Stuart Mill (1806-1878), Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), and others.

At this stage Comte formulates the idea of the three historical stages of development of knowledge and three General philosophical systems (the law of dual evolution). So, the first stage (theological) is characterized by the human desire to interpret all the phenomena of the environment from the testing of the supernatural (divine) powers. While these forces are presented to the man by analogy with himself – gods, angels, spirits, souls and characters. That is, have some human characteristics.  The second, metaphysical, stage is characterized by a similar method of thinking: trying to explain the world around at the expense of various invented primal essences and the root causes that are allegedly located behind the world of phenomena, behind what is perceived in experience.

In turn, the third, positive, stage, according to Comte, should be aimed at describing the external side of objects, speculation is no longer seen as a means of obtaining knowledge, and metaphysics - as a theory of essence.

Accordingly, the science acts as an indicator of objective factors and empirical laws. The main problem at this stage is to study the inductive-logical and psychological procedures for empirical knowledge. The process of science is considered by Comte as the accumulation of acquired knowledge (primarily laws). Knowledge, therefore, appear as a descriptive characteristics and tendencies opposed to the explanation.

Empirio-criticism (Machism). Second positivism

This stage of development of the positivist direction falls on the second half of the nineteenth century. The most prominent representatives are Ernst Mach (1838-1916) and Richard Avenarius (1843-1896).

At this stage we introduce the concept of the elements of the world, which are directly observable objects. A collection of data objects represents the human experience. In this case we are talking about "undisputed primary" material of knowledge, which should be kept all scientific concepts. Those concepts which do not correspond to this material, should not be considered science. Formed the idea that the object of study of science should be above all feelings.

The development of logical positivism (logical empiricism, neopositivism)

Neopositivism is the third stage in the development of the positivist direction (the 1920s). It is based primarily on private logical-methodological research, as well as on the analysis of the language of science. Also defined as philosophical positivism. Representatives - Moritz Shpik (1882-1936), Hans Reichenbach (1891-1953), Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970).

Neopositivism (logical positivism) is based on the ideas of David Hume, including the idea of the rejection of the knowledge of the scientific way of such metaphysical things as the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, etc., the Representatives of logical positivism have come to believe that philosophy can not in principle be the subject of research, as it is not meaningful science on any reality. Actually, philosophy is seen as a specific way of theorizing or occupation, but no more.

The following key ideas on which neopositivism rests can be distinguished It:

  • naturalism is a socio-political phenomena obey the laws that is common to the natural and socio-historical reality
  • social research methods must meet the criteria of accuracy and objectivity, as well as natural science methods;
  • behaviorism – the subjective aspects of human behavior are studied directly through his open behavior
  • the truth of scientific concepts is established on the basis of empirical methods;
  • all social phenomena must be described quantitatively;
  • sociology as a science should be freed from the connection with ideology.

The key ideas of neopositivism, despite the scientific crisis (the 60s of the 20th century), began to act as the main sociological base in the Western scientific school. Since the end of the 1980s. Neopositivism is gaining its popularity in the East.

Cognition methods

As already mentioned, the main task of the positivist direction was to differentiate assertions that make sense from those that are scientifically deprived of it (the so-called pseudo-questions). Positivism methods also had corresponding specificity. So, in order to clarify the scientific meaning of a statement in positivism, a method such as verification was used (Latin verificatio - “confirmation”, “proof”). Verification involves the determination of the truth of a scientific statement through its empirical verification. Thus, truth serves as a coincidence of scientific knowledge and direct human experience.

In turn, the follower of Comte’s ideas Stuart Mill suggests using induction as the main method of positivism. Induction (lat. Inductio - “guidance”) is an inference in which a general judgment is formulated on the basis of single or private premises. In induction itself, Mill distinguishes four types:

  • method of agreement (similarity);
  • residual method;
  • difference method;
  • method of attendant changes.

Method of consent (similarity)

It is used when we begin to compare individual cases with each other. In all these cases, the phenomena studied by us take place, as well as the events (parts) that are present before and after. For example, a person may get burned by a hot iron, pans on a fire, steam in a bathroom, etc. The conclusion that the burn was caused by the effects of electricity will be erroneous, since in all cases except the first, there was no electricity. involved. It can also be assumed that the cause of the burn is water: in the second case, it could be in the pan, and in the third - transform into steam. However, water was not present in the first case. Consequently, there must be some other factor characteristic of all three cases. As such, there is an effect on the skin of high temperatures.

Residual method

This method is to establish the cause, which causes a certain part of a complex action, provided that the causes that cause other parts of this action have already been identified.

For example, let ABC are planets that influence together the process of deviation of the orbit of Uranus from the calculated orbit. A defines an unknown planet (Neptune); Sun determine the known planet; in turn, abc are the actual deviations of the orbit of Uranus from the calculated orbit. Suppose that we have exact data, according to which planet B is the cause of the observed deviation b, whereas planet C is the cause of the observed deviation c. What, in this case, will cause a deviation of a, not explained by calculations? We will need to subtract the simple causal consequences of B → b and C → c, known from experience, from the complex ABC → abc relation. Accordingly, what will be in the balance will be the answer. In the rest we get: A → a.

Thus, we get the following conclusion: if the planets ABC together cause the abc of Uranus to deviate from the calculated orbit, it is known that B causes the deviation b, and C causes the deviation c, then in this case the planet A becomes the cause of the deviation but. The following induction is legitimate: Planet A (Neptune) is the cause of the deviation in the orbit of Uranus.

Difference method

It is used when comparing two cases, in one of which the occurrence of the phenomenon under investigation takes place, and in the other, respectively, it does not. In this case, both cases have similar circumstances, except for one. This method can be used both in the framework of observation and in the process of laboratory (production) experiment. For example, it was used in chemical experiments, in the process of discovering substances such as reaction accelerators (catalysts).

In agriculture using the method of differences is the verification of the effectiveness of various fertilizers

Method of attendant changes

Unlike the previous method, in this case it is not necessary that all changes that are not related to the compared variables be completely excluded. Establishing parallel changes is sufficient to prove causal relationships in two phenomena. Using this method determines the internal nature of the causal relationship (and not external, as in previous cases). It is about finding a permanent match between two facts. To match the development processes of two phenomena with each other, it is necessary that the properties they manifest be consistent. If two phenomena are characterized by regular changes parallel to each other, this relationship between them should be accepted even if one of the phenomena has arisen without the other. Perhaps the action of a hostile cause takes place, its effect, or the effect takes on a different form than the one observed before.

Criticism of the positivist ideas of Auguste Comte

From the point of view of L. Humplovich, the essence of positivism as a true science begins when "we overcome our desire to know the beginning of things and are satisfied with the fruits of their development." This is a special form of social development, when we accept the idea of ​​the limitations of our consciousness in knowing the root causes of certain things. Instead of a single approach to facts and phenomena, we can observe their overall development process, characteristic of different time periods and geographic space. For example, in the situation with the ancient custom of marriage by abduction of wives, we are dealing with a holistic process related to the organization of domination, the right to private property, etc., which characterizes humanity as a whole. In this regard, we can observe some remnants of this custom in modern society.

Differentiation and succession of positivist ideas

Modern neokazanii positivism is widespread and differentiation. For example, a separate line is legal positivism. Its main idea lies in the negation of non-public origin of human rights. Right is presented as something valuable in itself, independent of socio-economic conditions. Legal positivism defines the state as the source and guarantor of rights. The right and the law are considered as synonymous concepts. Personal rights cannot be above the state. They can also vary in accordance with state capabilities.

In turn, sociological positivism is primarily focused on the interaction of society and law, on the process of the implementation of norms, etc. It is one of the main trends in world sociological knowledge. The development of sociology as a science is directly related to the evolution of this direction. In this context, the contribution to the development of sociological positivism of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) should be noted. Sharing Comte's ideas on social statics and dynamics, Spencer draws an analogy between society and the human body. Thus, society includes such social “organs” as law, family, religion, and others. In the same way as an organism — the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. Accordingly, each of these elements performs a special function and therefore is irreplaceable. . Spencer also introduces the concepts of military (compulsory association of subjects) and industrial (at the basis of creation - the idea of ​​equality) societies.

A separate question represents the significance of the research on which positivism is based in philosophy. This question is currently open. There are different opinions on this subject. From the point of view of some representatives of scientific thought, philosophical positivism, as mentioned above, is one of the most progressive forms of public knowledge. In other works, a different idea is expressed. In accordance with them, positivism in philosophy is a world outlook that has lost its leading role and is nourished by science’s claim to truth. Be that as it may, the role of the positivist trend in the development of philosophical thought is evaluated by modern researchers extremely high.