Differences between Positivism and Post-Positivism

The central ideas of positivism and post-positivism  and the difference between them.

Positivism and post-positivism have to be seen as philosophies used in science for scientific research. They are two independent philosophies and different from each other. Positivism is the philosophy that emphasizes empiricism . He highlights the importance of objectivity and the need to study observable components. However, in the 20th century, there was a change that was brought about by post-positivism. Post-positivism is a philosophy that rejects positivism and presents new assumptions in order to unveil the truth. Through this article, we will examine the differences between these two philosophical positions.

What is Positivism?

Positivism stresses that scientific research must be based on observable and measurable facts rather than subjective experiences . According to this epistemological position, what counts as knowledge can be captured through sensory information. If knowledge goes beyond it in subjective limits, such information does not qualify as knowledge. Positivists believed that science was the means by which the truth could be unraveled. However, according to the positivists, only natural sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology would count as science.

Social sciences, like sociology and political science, do not fall within this positivist framework, mainly because the knowledge of social sciences was derived from the subjective experiences of individuals, which could not be measured and observed. Social scientists are not involved in laboratory research. His laboratory was the society where the movements and relationships of people cannot be controlled. Knowledge was acquired through the study of human attitudes, relationships, life stories, etc. Positivists believed that these have no objective basis.

What is post-positivism?

Post-positivism emerged in the 20th century. This was not a mere review of positivism, but a complete rejection of the core values ​​of positivism . Post-positivism points out that scientific reasoning is very similar to our common sense reasoning . This denotes that our individual understanding of everyday life is similar to that of the scientist. The only difference is that a scientist would use a procedure in order to reach conclusions, as opposed to a lay person.

Unlike positivists, post-positivists point out that our observations cannot always be invoked since they can also be subject to error. That is why post-positivists are considered critical realists, who are critical of the reality they study. Since they are critical of reality, post-positivists do not depend on a single method of scientific investigation. They believe that each method can have errors. These can only be avoided if more methods are used. This is referred to as triangulation.

Post-positivism also assumes that scientists are never objective and are biased due to their cultural beliefs. In this sense, pure objectivity cannot be achieved. This highlights that there are great differences between positivism and post-positivism , even if both are based on objectivity.

What is the difference between Positivism and Post-Positivism?

• Definitions of positivism and post-positivism:

  • Positivism is a philosophical posture that highlights the importance of objectivity and the need to study observable components.
  • Post-positivism is a philosophy that rejects positivism and presents new assumptions in order to unveil the truth.

• central idea:

  • Empiricism (which included observation and measurement) was the core of positivism.
  • Post-positivism pointed out that this central idea was defective.

• realistic and critical realists:

  • positivists are realistic.
  • Post-positivists are critical realists.

• science objective:

  • positivists believe that science aims to unveil the truth.
  • However, post-positivists believe that this is impossible, as there are errors in all scientific methods.

• The scientist’s objectivity:

  • In positivism, the scientist is considered as an objective.
  • Post-positivism highlights the existence of prejudices in the scientist as well.


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