Differences between Positivism and Constructivism

Positivism and Constructivism are two very different philosophical positions. Both are seen as epistemologies that present a different idea of ​​what constitutes knowledge.

Positivism can be understood as a philosophical posture that emphasizes that knowledge must be acquired through observable and measurable facts. In this sense, this is considered as a rigid scientific investigation. On the other hand, Constructivism claims that reality is socially constructed. This emphasizes that these are two different philosophies. Through this article, we will examine the differences between the two positions; positivism and constructivism.

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What is Positivism?

Positivism can be understood as a philosophical posture that emphasizes that knowledge must be acquired through observable and measurable facts . This is also referred to as empiricism . Positivists do not have subjective experiences. In this sense, positivism can be seen as an epistemological stance in which sensory information counts as true knowledge.

Only natural sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology are counted as true sciences according to the positivists. This is because they believed that the social sciences did not have observable and measurable data that could be considered as true sciences. Unlike the natural scientist, who had objects that could be controlled by a laboratory environment, the social scientist has his laboratory in society. People, life experiences, attitudes, social processes were studied by social scientists. These presented difficulties to be observed and measured.

For example, Auguste Comte believed that in sociology, positivist methods must be used in order to understand human behavior. He stated that positivism should not be limited to the natural sciences, but should be applied to the social sciences. However, later on, the idea was rejected with the introduction of other epistemological positions, such as constructivism.

What is Constructivism?


Jean Piaget – a constructivist

Constructivism, or social constructivism, states that reality is socially constructed . Unlike positivists, who firmly believe in a single objective truth and reality, constructivism points out that there is no single reality. According to constructivists, reality is a subjective creation. As human beings, we all create our worldview. This is usually based on our individual perception. Concepts such as gender, culture and race are social constructions.


For example, we will elaborate on the concept of gender. Gender is different from sex. It does not refer to the biological difference between males and females. It is a social construction. The assignment of specific tasks for women and expectations for the female sex as a delicate, feminine, and dependent creature is a social construct. The male’s expectation of masculinity is also a social construct. In this sense, constructivism points out that reality is a social reality that is subjective and built by consensus. This shows that positivism and constructivism are two very different epistemological positions.

What are the differences between positivism and constructivism?

• Definitions of positivism and constructivism:

  • Positivism can be understood as a philosophical posture that emphasizes that knowledge must be acquired through observable and measurable facts.
  • Constructivism states that reality is socially constructed.

• Dependency:

  • Positivists are based on measurable and observable data.
  • Constructivism is based on social constructions.

• Objectivity and Subjectivity

  • Objectivity is a key feature of positivism.
  • Constructivism focuses more on subjectivity, as individuals creating their perception.

• Natural Sciences and Social Sciences:

  • Positivism is more suitable for the natural sciences.
  • Constructivism is more suitable for the social sciences.

• Reality:

  • According to positivists, there is only one reality.
  • According to constructivism, there is no single reality.


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