Antipositivism
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In
social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociol ...

social science
, antipositivism (also interpretivism, negativism or antinaturalism) is a theoretical stance that proposes that the social realm cannot be studied with the
scientific method The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what ...

scientific method
of investigation utilized within the
natural science Natural science is a Branches of science, branch of science concerned with the description, understanding and prediction of Phenomenon, natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer r ...

natural science
s, and that investigation of the social realm requires a different
epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Justification (epistemology), justification, the Reason, rationality of ...

epistemology
. Fundamental to that antipositivist epistemology is the belief that the concepts and language that researchers use in their research shape their perceptions of the social world they are investigating, studying, and defining. Interpretivism (anti-positivism) developed among researchers dissatisfied with post-positivism, the theories of which they considered too general and ill-suited to reflect the nuance and variability found in human interaction. Because the values and beliefs of researchers cannot fully be removed from their inquiry, interpretivists believe research ''on'' human beings ''by'' human beings cannot yield objective results. Thus, rather than seeking an objective perspective, interpretivists look for meaning in the subjective experiences of individuals engaging in social interaction. Many interpretivist researchers immerse themselves in the social context they are studying, seeking to understand and formulate theories about a community or group of individuals by observing them from the inside. Interpretivism is an inductive practice influenced by philosophical frameworks such as
hermeneutics Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choice ...
,
phenomenology Phenomenology may refer to: * Empirical research, when used to describe measurement methods in some sciences * An empirical relationship or phenomenological model * Phenomenology (architecture), based on the experience of building materials and the ...
, and
symbolic interactionism Symbolic interactionism is a sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial ...
. Interpretive methods are used in many fields of the social sciences, including history, sociology, political science, anthropology, and others.


History

Beginning with
Giambattista Vico Giambattista Vico (born Giovan Battista Vico ; ; 23 June 1668 – 23 January 1744) was an Italian political philosopher and rhetorician, historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest hi ...

Giambattista Vico
, in the early eighteenth century, and later with
Montesquieu Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, Lot-et-Garonne, Montesquieu (; ; 18 January 168910 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, intellectual, man of letters, historian, and po ...

Montesquieu
, the study of natural history and human history were separate fields of intellectual enquiry. Natural history is not under human control, whereas human history is a human creation. As such, antipositivism is informed by an
epistemological Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, ...

epistemological
distinction between the natural world and the social realm. The natural world can only be understood by its external characteristics, whereas the social realm can be understood externally and internally, and thus can be known. In the early nineteenth century, intellectuals, led by the
Hegelian Hegelianism is the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, G. W. F. Hegel in which reality has a conceptual structure. Pure Concepts are not subjectively applied to sense-impressions but rather things exist for actualizing their A priori and ...
s, questioned the prospect of empirical social analysis.
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wis ...

Karl Marx
died before the establishment of formal social science, but nonetheless rejected the
sociological positivism Positivism is a philosophical theory that states that "genuine" knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts ( descriptive knowledge), skills (procedural knowledge), or objects ( ...
of
Auguste Comte Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte (; 19 January 1798 – 5 September 1857) was a French philosophy, French philosopher and writer who formulated the doctrine of positivism. He is often regarded as the first Philosophy of science, phil ...

Auguste Comte
—despite his attempt to establish an
historical materialist Historical materialism is a methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choices res ...
science of society. The enhanced positivism of
Émile Durkheim David Émile Durkheim ( or ; 15 April 1858 – 15 November 1917) was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline of sociology and, with Max Weber Maximilian Karl Emil Weber (; ; 21 April 186414 June 1920) was a Ge ...

Émile Durkheim
served as foundation of modern academic
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly ...
and
social research Social research is a research Research is "creativity, creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization and analysis of information to increase understanding of a topi ...

social research
, yet retained many mechanical elements of its predecessor.
Hermeneutic Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of Biblical hermeneutics, biblical texts, wisdom literature, and Philosophy, philosophical texts. Hermeneutics is more than interpretative principles ...
ians such as
Wilhelm Dilthey Wilhelm Dilthey (; ; 19 November 1833 – 1 October 1911) was a German historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who studies ...

Wilhelm Dilthey
theorized in detail on the distinction between natural and social science ('
Geisteswissenschaft ''Geisteswissenschaften'' (, "sciences of mind") is a set of human science Human science (or human sciences in the plural) studies the philosophical, biological, social, and cultural aspects of human life. Human science aims to expand our under ...
'), whilst
neo-Kantian In late modern continental philosophy Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...
philosophers such as
Heinrich Rickert Heinrich John Rickert (; 25 May 1863 – 25 July 1936) was a Germany, German philosopher, one of the leading neo-Kantians. Life Rickert was born in Danzig, Kingdom of Prussia, Prussia (now Gdańsk, Poland) to the journalist and later politician H ...
maintained that the social realm, with its abstract meanings and symbolisms, is inconsistent with scientific methods of analysis.
Edmund Husserl , thesis1_title = Beiträge zur Variationsrechnung (Contributions to the Calculus of Variations) , thesis1_url = https://fedora.phaidra.univie.ac.at/fedora/get/o:58535/bdef:Book/view , thesis1_year = 1883 , thesis2_title ...

Edmund Husserl
, meanwhile, negated positivism through the rubric of
phenomenology Phenomenology may refer to: * Empirical research, when used to describe measurement methods in some sciences * An empirical relationship or phenomenological model * Phenomenology (architecture), based on the experience of building materials and the ...
. At the turn of the twentieth century, the first wave of German sociologists formally introduced ''verstehende'' (interpretive) sociological antipositivism, proposing research should concentrate on human cultural
norm Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic disciplines * Norm (geology), an estimate of the idealised mineral content of a rock * Norm (philosophy) Norms are concepts ( sentences) of practical import, oriented to effecting an action, rat ...
s,
values In ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'"Ethics"/ref> The field of ...
,
symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meanin ...

symbols
, and social processes viewed from a resolutely
subjective Subjective may refer to: * Subjectivity, a subject's personal perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires or discovery, as opposed to those made from an independent, objective, point of view ** Subjective experience, the subjective quality of consciou ...
perspective. As an antipositivist, however, one seeks relationships that are not as "ahistorical, invariant, or generalizable" as those pursued by natural scientists. The interaction between theory (or constructed
concept Concepts are defined as abstract ideas A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology and nature of the mind and its relationship with the bod ...

concept
s) and data is always fundamental in
social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociol ...

social science
and this subjection distinguishes it from physical science. Durkheim himself noted the importance of constructing concepts in the abstract (e.g. "
collective consciousness Collective consciousness, collective conscience, or collective conscious (french: conscience collective) is the set of shared beliefs, ideas, and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society.''Collins Dictionary of Sociology ...
" and " social anomie") in order to form workable categories for experimentation. Both Weber and
Georg Simmel Georg Simmel (; ; 1 March 1858 – 26 September 1918) was a German sociologist, philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning ' ...

Georg Simmel
pioneered the
verstehen ''Verstehen'' (, ), in the context of German philosophy and social sciences in general, has been used since the late 19th century – in English as in German – with the particular sense of the "interpretive or participatory" examination of socia ...

verstehen
(or 'interpretative') approach toward social science; a systematic process in which an outside observer attempts to relate to a particular cultural group, or indigenous people, on their own terms and from their own point of view. Through the work of Simmel, in particular, sociology acquired a possible character beyond positivist data-collection or grand, deterministic systems of structural law. Relatively isolated from the sociological academy throughout his lifetime, Simmel presented idiosyncratic analyses of modernity more reminiscent of the phenomenological and
existential Existentialism ( or ) is a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence and centers on the lived experience of the thinking, feeling, acting individual. In the view of the existentialist, the individual's starting ...
writers than of Comte or Durkheim, paying particular concern to the forms of, and possibilities for, social individuality. His sociology engaged in a
neo-Kantian In late modern continental philosophy Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...
critique of the limits of human perception. Antipositivism thus holds there is no methodological unity of the sciences: the three goals of positivism - ''description, control, and prediction'' - are incomplete, since they lack any ''understanding''. Science aims at understanding causality so control can be exerted. If this succeeded in sociology, those with knowledge would be able to control the ignorant and this could lead to social engineering. This perspective has led to controversy over how one can draw the line between
subjective Subjective may refer to: * Subjectivity, a subject's personal perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires or discovery, as opposed to those made from an independent, objective, point of view ** Subjective experience, the subjective quality of consciou ...
and
objective Objective may refer to: * Objective (optics), an element in a camera or microscope * ''The Objective'', a 2008 science fiction horror film * Objective pronoun, a personal pronoun that is used as a grammatical object * Objective Productions, a Briti ...
research, much less draw an artificial line between environment and human organization (see
environmental sociology A biophysical environment is a biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology, ...
), and influenced the study of
hermeneutics Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choice ...
. The base concepts of antipositivism have expanded beyond the scope of
social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociol ...

social science
, in fact,
phenomenology Phenomenology may refer to: * Empirical research, when used to describe measurement methods in some sciences * An empirical relationship or phenomenological model * Phenomenology (architecture), based on the experience of building materials and the ...
has the same basic principles at its core. Simply put, positivists see sociology as a science, while anti-positivists do not.


Frankfurt School

The antipositivist tradition continued in the establishment of critical theory, particularly the work associated with the
Frankfurt School The Frankfurt School (german: Frankfurter Schule) was a school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt. Founded in the Weimar Republic (1918–33), during the ...
of social research. Antipositivism would be further facilitated by rejections of '
scientismScientism is the promotion of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable exp ...
'; or science ''as ideology''.
Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wisdom'. The coi ...
argues, in his ''On the Logic of the Social Sciences'' (1967), that "the positivist thesis of unified science, which assimilates all the sciences to a natural-scientific model, fails because of the intimate relationship between the social sciences and history, and the fact that they are based on a situation-specific understanding of meaning that can be explicated only hermeneutically ... access to a symbolically prestructured reality cannot be gained by observation alone." The sociologist
Zygmunt Bauman Zygmunt Bauman (; 19 November 1925 – 9 January 2017) was a Polish sociologist and philosopher. He was driven out of the Polish People's Republic during the 1968 Polish political crisis and forced to give up his Polish citizenship. He emigrated ...

Zygmunt Bauman
argued that "our innate tendency to express moral concern and identify with the Other's wants is stifled in modernity by positivistic science and dogmatic bureaucracy. If the Other does not 'fit in' to modernity's approved classifications, it is liable to be extinguished."John Scott. ''Fifty Key Sociologists: The Contemporary Theorists.'' Routledge. 2006. p. 19


See also

*
Grounded theory Grounded theory is a systematic methodology that has been largely, but not exclusively, applied to qualitative research conducted by social science, social scientists. The methodology involves the construction of hypotheses and theories through the ...
*
Holism Holism (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as ...
*
Humanistic sociology Humanistic sociology is a domain of sociology which originated mainly from the work of the University of Chicago The University of Chicago (UChicago, U of C, or Chicago) is a private research university in Chicago (''City in a Garden ...
* Philosophy of social science * Poststructuralism * Social action * Symbolic interactionism


References

{{Use British English Oxford spelling, date=August 2016 Philosophy of science Sociological theories History of sociology Philosophy of social science Politics of science Symbolic interactionism