Positivism Notes

This posts is just the lecture notes over the same readings I used for my skeptisism of science debate. There’s more interesting stuff on this blog. Read that instead.


Positivism
– paleopositivism: “we can positively know the truth”
– postpositivism/neopositivism: “we can approximate the truth”

“brute facts” / “brute data” – things can be observed without interpretation
– acknowledged by paleopositivists
– denied by postpositivists

Basic Tenants of Positivism and Science
1. Explanation and Prediction
2. Induction (paleopositivism) or Hypothetico-Deducation (postpositivists)
3. Objectivity
4. Knowledge is Cumulative (no single study is definitive)
5. Approximation of Scientific Method (experimentation)

Popper on Pseudoscience (Marxism, Freudianism, Adlerism)
Pseudoscience lacks one of the following
1. Observable Facts
2. Risky Predictions
3. Refutability
4. Testability
5. No Conventionalist Twists (personal skepticism of this) — seems like a word game
6. Criterion of Demarcation – difference between right and wrong – so cannot be fuzzy???

discussion of proper popper procedure with theory, hypothesis, and data

Mertin’s (Famous Guy’s) arguments
– argues social sciences are younger, less mature than physical sciences
– supports hypothetico-deductive approach

Nagel’s Counter-Arguments
1. “social sciences face additional obstacles”
– but Nagel says, natural sciences face obstacles too
– (astronomy doesn’t experiment, quantum mechanists effect things with observations, etc)
2. “social sciences are unique; social sciences need more context”
– but Nagel says, even if there are differences, that wouldn’t itself prohibit laws
3. “knowledge of social science becomes a variable itself”
– but this doesn’t prevent laws, and research suggests this factor is slight
4. “social science needs to study internal subjective states”
– then view response as an observable indicator of an internal subjective states
5. “there’s a social influence on our selection of problems”
– topics in all fields are chosen for some reason — that’s not a an argument against subjectivity
6. “social science makes value judgements”
– characterizing value judgements can be scientific (“unstable platforms,” etc)

Fay’s Alternative Argument
Positivism…
1. Finds Causal Laws
2. Gives us the power necessary for control
so social science is ultimately purposed to control the social environment
“only positive social science has the ability to prevent certain events from happening”
3. only scientific arguments are scientifically acceptable (but this is tautological — tdaxp)
4. so we’d argue over means not ends (??????) – HUGE point of departure here
– we all want “good” education, economy, crime-rates — but how to get to “good” (??????)
5. so political leadership becomes meritocratic (????????)
6. efficiency is the best scientific means (???????????????)
7. but “efficiency” is a value
8. and anyway, means and ends can become blurry
9. Positivism is inherently conservative (pro-status-quo)

A Quick Overview of Behavioralism in Political Science
– positivist, but also assumes
1. believe in an individual-level analysis
2. emphasis on quantitative empirical tests
3. Accumulation of Knowledge is slow and painstaking (so research is “boring and tedious”)
4. Humans are naturally social animals, so social, “non-political,” explanations are common
5. All theory is testable and utilitarian
(most of Midwest Behavioralist)

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