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Module: Selection of the Research Paradigm and Methodology

What Is an Interpretivist Approach?

❶Antipositivism also known as interpretivism or interpretive sociology is the view in social science that the social realm may not be subject to the same methods of investigation as the natural world; that academics must reject empiricism and the scientific method in the conduct of social research.

Who Was the First Philosopher to Systematically Approach Ethics From a Scientific Standpoint?

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Methodology is focused on the specific ways -- the methods -- that we can use to try to understand our world better. Epistemology and methodology are intimately related: When most people in our society think about science, they think about some guy in a white lab coat working at a lab bench mixing up chemicals. They think of science as boring, cut-and-dry, and they think of the scientist as narrow-minded and esoteric the ultimate nerd -- think of the humorous but nonetheless mad scientist in the Back to the Future movies, for instance.

A lot of our stereotypes about science come from a period where science was dominated by a particular philosophy -- positivism -- that tended to support some of these views. Here, I want to suggest no matter what the movie industry may think that science has moved on in its thinking into an era of post-positivism where many of those stereotypes of the scientist no longer hold up. Let's begin by considering what positivism is. In its broadest sense, positivism is a rejection of metaphysics I leave it you to look up that term if you're not familiar with it.

It is a position that holds that the goal of knowledge is simply to describe the phenomena that we experience. The purpose of science is simply to stick to what we can observe and measure. Knowledge of anything beyond that, a positivist would hold, is impossible. When I think of positivism and the related philosophy of logical positivism I think of the behaviorists in midth Century psychology.

These were the mythical 'rat runners' who believed that psychology could only study what could be directly observed and measured. Since we can't directly observe emotions, thoughts, etc. Skinner argued that psychology needed to concentrate only on the positive and negative reinforcers of behavior in order to predict how people will behave -- everything else in between like what the person is thinking is irrelevant because it can't be measured.

In a positivist view of the world, science was seen as the way to get at truth, to understand the world well enough so that we might predict and control it. The world and the universe were deterministic -- they operated by laws of cause and effect that we could discern if we applied the unique approach of the scientific method.

Science was largely a mechanistic or mechanical affair. We use deductive reasoning to postulate theories that we can test. Based on the results of our studies, we may learn that our theory doesn't fit the facts well and so we need to revise our theory to better predict reality.

The positivist believed in empiricism -- the idea that observation and measurement was the core of the scientific endeavor. The key approach of the scientific method is the experiment, the attempt to discern natural laws through direct manipulation and observation. OK, I am exaggerating the positivist position although you may be amazed at how close to this some of them actually came in order to make a point. Things have changed in our views of science since the middle part of the 20th century.

Probably the most important has been our shift away from positivism into what we term post-positivism. By post-positivism, I don't mean a slight adjustment to or revision of the positivist position -- post-positivism is a wholesale rejection of the central tenets of positivism.

A post-positivist might begin by recognizing that the way scientists think and work and the way we think in our everyday life are not distinctly different. Scientific reasoning and common sense reasoning are essentially the same process. There is no difference in kind between the two, only a difference in degree. Scientists, for example, follow specific procedures to assure that observations are verifiable, accurate and consistent.

In everyday reasoning, we don't always proceed so carefully although, if you think about it, when the stakes are high, even in everyday life we become much more cautious about measurement. Think of the way most responsible parents keep continuous watch over their infants, noticing details that non-parents would never detect.

One of the most common forms of post-positivism is a philosophy called critical realism. A critical realist believes that there is a reality independent of our thinking about it that science can study.

This is in contrast with a subjectivist who would hold that there is no external reality -- we're each making this all up! The former is concerned with the nature of being, while the latter deals with the nature and scope of knowledge.

Your ontological position is decisive for the logic behind the methods scientists employ. There are two main scientific traditions, and you as a student of the social sciences choose one of these based on your ontological position. These are positivism and constructivism , and are decisive for the logic for which you base your choice of methods on this logic is called methodology.

Positivism in general refers to philosophical positions that emphasize empirical data and scientific methods. This tradition holds that the world consists of regularities, that these regularities are detectable, and, thus, that the researcher can infer knowledge about the real world by observing it.

The researcher should be more concerned with general rules than with explaining the particular. This tradition can be traced back to Galileo Galilei — In his work Siderius Nuncius The Starry Messenger he made systematic observations of the Moon, the stars, and the moons of Jupiter. His methods stood in contrast to the prevailing approach of that time, that advocated by Aristotle and the Church.

In the same century Francis Bacon introduced a combination of induction and experiment into science as he wished to combine experience with record keeping, and thus rejected the deductive method of the time. Francis Bacon, and later John Locke and David Hume, provided the basic framework for the modern naturalist tradition.

Based on their works theorists have found fuel to their claim that there exists a real world independent of our senses. Modern scientists following the naturalist tradition argue that the regularities of this real world can be experienced through systematic sense perceptions. Auguste Comte — is regarded as one of the founders of modern sociology.

He coined the term sociologie , derived from the Latin words socius companion and -ology science. He also drew a distinction between empirical and normative knowledge.


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Positivism often involves the use of existing theory to develop hypotheses to be tested during the research process. Science can be specified as a cornerstone in positivism research philosophy. Specifically, positivism relies on the following aspects of the science.

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Positivism and Interpretivism are the two basic approaches to research methods in Sociology. Positivist prefer scientific quantitative methods, while Interpretivists prefer humanistic qualitative methods. This post provides a very brief overview of the two.

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Positivism in general refers to philosophical positions that emphasize empirical data and scientific methods. This tradition holds that the world consists of regularities, that these regularities are detectable, and, thus, that the researcher can infer knowledge about the real world by observing it. Some researchers prefer a combination of quantitative and qualitative research for a post-positivist approach. This assumes that social research is value-laden, and a mix of methodologies creates a more holistic picture of research .

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Video: Positivism in Sociology: Definition, Theory & Examples This lesson highlights the theories of positivism and the impact this approach had on the development of a new social science - sociology. Home» Foundations» Philosophy of Research» Positivism & Post-Positivism. Let's start our very brief discussion of philosophy of science with a simple distinction between epistemology and methodology. The term epistemology comes from the Greek word epistêmê, their term for knowledge. In simple terms, epistemology is the philosophy of.