Thus, there can be no room for any mystical abstractions in explaining phenomena. In the second wave of positivist thought, a second form of positivism, i.e. logical positivism took place, and “took advantage of the further progress made in the hard sciences to insist on purging all metaphysics from the scientific method” (Jordan, 2004, p.28). “Logical positivist views about science and knowledge were based on a general theory of language. …This theory of language featured two main ideas, the analytic-synthetic distinction and the verifiability theory of meaning” (Godfrey-Smith, 2003, p.25). I will discuss these ideas in detail in the next section. The third wave of positivism is generally attributed to a group called the Vienna Circle. “The Vienna Circle was established by Moritz Schlick and Otto Neurath. …But from the early days through the end, a central intellectual figure here was Rudolf Carnap” (Godfrey-Smith, 2003, p.22). In this stage, positivism was carried in its logical form. However, some positivists prefer to regard this latter period as logical or scientific empiricism (Greetham, 2006, p.121), to distinguish it from the previous logical positivist movement. In this essay, I shall use the term logical positivism to refer to the whole of 20th century positivism, to distinguish it from Comte’s 19th century positivism. Positivism as Epistemology From a general perspective, positivism is considered to be an epistemological system through its advocacy of attaining empirical knowledge through sense perception, and its adherence to the scientific method i.e. induction. However when logical positivism stepped into the picture, it was made clear that “logical positivism had other roots...
The first part of the paper consists of an historical analysis of 19th century positivism, logical positivism, up until the period of the Vienna Circle. The second part covers the epistemological implications of positivism. Here,the main tenets of logical positivism and its adherence to epistemology are discussed. A main figure that it will be discussed here is Karl Popper. Finally, this paper is concluded by discussing the fall of positivism.
The paper stresses that progress and development in knowledge is an endless endeavor. Since the birth of positivism up until its downfall, positivism nevertheless shaped the manner by which we do science. The authod talks that one is the breakdown of the view of language that formed the basis of many logical positivist and logical empiricist ideas. Another is pressure from holistic arguments. A third is the frustrating history of attempts to develop an inductive logic. A fourth is the development of a new role for fields like history and psychology in the philosophy of science.
The report makes a conclusion that positivism succeeded in developing a systematic method of approaching reality. And scientific knowledge was the very basis for reconstructing reality, with scientific laws as central in research. If epistemology is the study of knowledge, then positivism is a valid epistemological system. For if there is one thing that positivism established, it is no other than a coherent reconstruction of human knowledge based on the methods and principles of science itself. It is in this regard that positivism, despite its fall, proved to be influential throughout history.