Positivism vs Anti-Positivism

1328 Words6 Pages
“the realist while rejecting the positivist approach of testing theory against data, acknowledges that there are underlying and unobservable cause to explain social phenomena and that testing theories against each other is the way to proceed with methodology” Outline the main principles of positivism and anti-positivism and explain with reference to the quote how realism adds to and challenges the traditional methodological discussion in sociology The merits of positivism and anti-positivism in defining social phenomena have been debated over many years. Positivists such as August Comte (1978 - 1857) believed that the accumulation of scientific knowledge and statistics could reveal sociological laws which would help to explain various functions of society. Anti-positivists counter this and instead claim, that because human beings individually act on a variety of influences, a scientific approach is insufficient in defining sociological theory. Realism challenges both theories by conceding that, although there are underlying causes that affect society, these causes cannot be understood by scientific methods alone. Instead they try to understand social phenomena by testing existing theory against new theory. In 19th Century Comte began to theorise that the methods used in the natural sciences could also be applied to the research of social science and by doing this you could improve human existence in general. The application of scientific method to attempt to reveal social laws came to be known as ‘Positivism.’ Positivists not only assume that human behaviour can be objectively measured, but that objectivity is the only reliable method of sociological measurement. This objective approach becomes problematic as it is difficult to ignore your own values even when analysing impartial research data. In this sense it can be argued that the positivist approach is
Open Document