Saturday, 6 April 2013

Are Humanists4Science Positivist-ish or Scientistic-ish or Naturalisic-ish? - Part 1 of 4 - Positivism

I was prompted by Brian Cox twitter profile @ProfBrianCox to investigate Positivism - wikipedia.
I've been mulling over Scientism - wikipedia for some time, especially since I organised for Prof. Alex Rosenberg - wikipedia to talk to Atheism UK about his book 'The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions'. Alex's talk on Youtube was recorded for Atheism UK by Mark Embleton at Conway Hall in London on 25th February 2012.

Alex Rosenberg (personal website) is very pro Scientism & describes himself as a Naturalist - NY Times blog (Naturalism - wikipedia).

Wikipedia reckons that Scientism is a pejorative term for Positivism. ref: wikipedia.

I'm interested to understand what are the similarities & differences between the philosophies of Positivism, Scientism and Naturalism, because they often seem to be used interchangeably. And what is Antipositivism?

What is Positivism?

Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that information derived from logical and mathematical treatments and reports of sensory experience is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge, that there is valid knowledge (truth) only in scientific knowledge. ... Verified data received from the senses is known as empirical evidence. Introspective and intuitive knowledge is rejected. ref: wikipedia

Auguste Comte
Positivism states that the only authentic knowledge is that which allows positive verification and assumes that there is valid knowledge only in scientific knowledge. Enlightenment thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon, Pierre-Simon Laplace and Auguste Comte believed the scientific method, the circular dependence of theory and observation, must replace metaphysics in the history of thought. ref: wikipedia

Logical positivism and postpositivism
Logical positivism, a descendant of Comte's basic thesis sprang up in Vienna in early 1900s. Logical positivists reject metaphysical speculation and attempt to reduce statements and propositions to pure logic. Critiques such as Karl Popper, Willard Van Orman Quine and Thomas Kuhn led to the development of postpositivism. ref: wikipedia 

Logical positivism combines empiricism, the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge of the world, with a version of rationalism, the idea that our knowledge includes a component that is not derived from observation. ref: wikipedia

Positivism in science today
Statements should be testable; amenable to being verified, confirmed, or falsified by the empirical observation of reality.  

Positivism is "the view that all true knowledge is scientific," and that all things are ultimately measurable. Positivism is related to Reductionism - wikipedia, in that both involve the view that "entities of one kind... are reducible to entities of another," such as mental events to neural phenomena. It also involves the contention that "processes are reducible to physiological, physical or chemical events," or that "biological organisms are reducible to physical systems." ref: wikipedia

What is Antipositivism?
Brian Cox' twitter profile, 'Ultra-naïve positivist-ish, although science can't explain the existence of antipositivists', prompted this blog.

Wikipedia explains what an Antipositivist is:-

Antipositivists rejects Empiricism - wikipedia and the scientific method - wikipedia in the conduct of social research. Antipositivism may be equated with qualitative research methods which rely on fieldwork or open-ended interviews. Positivists use quantitative research methods such as experiments and statistical surveys. Antipositivists reject 'scientism' or science as ideology.

Next blog post: Scientism

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