<epistemology, philosophy of science, philosopphical movement> while positivism sounds like it should be synonymous with optimism (as in the power of positive thinking), it isn't. Sometimes the word positivism is equivalent to empiricism (as in logical positivism), since positivism in the philosophy of science holds that we should admit as knowledge only that about which we can be absolutely certain, i.e., what is immediately graspable or "empirical". The first thinker who is labeled a positivist was the nineteenth-century French philosopher August Comte. Comte put great stress on science and progress and was interested only in observable phenomena and the laws that determine how they act together, without any investigation of ultimate causes or metaphysics. Another aspect of his thought was a humanism that bordered on a "religion of humanity", in which the object of worship was taken to be humanity as a whole. In more recent usage, positivism usually refers to logical positivism. Recommended Reading: Auguste Comte, The Positive Philosophy (AMS, 1987); A. J. Ayer, Logical Positivism (Free Press, 1966); and Jonathan H. Turner, Classical Sociological Theory: A Positivist's Perspective (Burnham, 1993).
based on [The Ism Book], [A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
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