The Positivist and Interpositivist Approaches To Sociology

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The goal of the study of sociology is to understand human behaviours and the relationship between biological, social and cultural influences on human personalities. However, looking at the ways and methods of studying human behaviours employed in sociology, shows variations and diversity in the understanding of the nature of people, their relationship to society and how best to investigate human behaviour.


Positivism was popularised by sociologist of the 19th and 20th century, such as Compt and Durkheim. These sociologists experienced the increasing ability of the natural sciences to understand, explain and predict events and occurrences of the natural world. They therefore believed that if there were basic laws or relationships between phenomena in the natural world, similar laws and relationship should be present in the social world.
The essence of the positivist approach is readily conveyed in Durkheim's idea that "The first and most fundamental rule is to consider social facts as things." This means that, essentially, people's actions and behaviours are basically controlled or influenced by external stimuli/factors, their ideas and feelings not relevant. Therefore, such behaviour can be objectively observed and measured in the same way that natural science involves the construction of theory and the measuring of findings.
Positivist sociologists claim that it possible, and desirable to study humans in approximately the same way that natural science investigates the physical world. Positivism, in its analysis, seeks to hypothesize and then evaluate causal inferences about social phenomena that will be generalisable beyond the specic data analysed. ...
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