1. Social Sciences: “Criticisms of positivism commonly focus


Positivism is not influential at Present: Positivism has had relatively little influence in contemporary sociology for several reasons. Current views argue that positivism encourages a misleading emphasis on superficial facts without any attention to underlying mechanisms that cannot be observed. For example, we cannot observe human motives or the meaning that people give to behaviour and other aspects of social life, but this does not mean that meaning and motive are nonexistent or irrelevant. Some argue that the nature of social life is such that the methods used in the physical sciences are simply inapplicable and must be replaced with a less rigid approach. 2. Methological Gulf between the Physical and Social Sciences: “Criticisms of positivism commonly focus on the inappropriateness of natural-scientific methods in the human or social sciences. Consciousness, cultural norms, symbolic meaning, and intentionality, etc.

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, are variously held to be distinctive human attributes which dictate a methodological gulf between natural science and the study of human social life.” 3. Problem of Verification: “Methodologically, a central problem of positivism arises from the so-called ‘problem of empiricism’; the lack of any conclusive basis for ‘verification’ in ‘inductive logic’. A further telling criticism – the so-called ‘paradox of positivism’ – is that the verification principle is itself unverifiable.’ In spite of the criticisms levelled against the term “positivism”, it is still used [more usually as logical positivism] to refer to the radical empiricism and scientisism advanced in the early decades of the 20th century by the “Vienna Circle.

” This is usually considered to be the major influence on modern 20th century sociological positivism.


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