The given paper will primarily focus on the application of major philosophical perspectives or views of Popper and Kuhn on the theory of positivism in sociology. Positivism is one of the leading trends in sociology, which played an important role in its formation and development. It proceeds from the fact that genuine knowledge can be obtained only based on experience, as a result of describing and systematizing facts. Representatives of positivism advocated the creation of such a science, which should become as evidence-based, universally valid, and accurate as the natural sciences. Therefore, observation, comparison, and, to a certain extent, the mathematical methods used in natural science were recognized as the main methods of social research.
Popper’s early work aims at solving the demarcation dilemma and offers a simple criterion that differentiates practical ideas from philosophical or mythological arguments. Popper’s falsifying approach claims that scientific theory is characterized by assumptions that could be incorrect in future experiments (Maxwell, 2017, p. 16). Popper refused to give researchers any justification to think that the methodological regulations he promotes give scholars a much greater chance of achieving science’s objectives than any other group of norms (Conrad, 2018, p. 12). Kuhn claimed that paradigm-led research would be “irreconcilable” for science (Bird, 2018, p. 19).
Popper stressed the value of attempting to overturn the assumptions that both programmers and consumers understood could be wrong (Müller, 2018, p. 32). The suggested theory claims that society functions in accordance with the general laws (Ryan, 2018, p. 46). The post positivistic views regarded an increasingly influential role of researchers and their backgrounds, which constituted a value for the observations (Park, Konge, & Artino, 2020, p. 692). The proponents also claimed to use qualitative and quantitative methods in the experiments since they did not solely rely on sensory information.
Therefore, it is evident that both Popper and Kuhn had major disagreements in regard the science and scientific progress. Although Popper claimed that falsification is a key driver of progress, Kuhn did not believe in linear progression. Positivism in sociology wants it to adhere to the strictest norms of calculated and measured methodologies, which leave little to no room for speculations and brainstorming unverified ideas.
One should understand that sociology is a complex and intricate science, where experimentations are not easily accessible because they cannot be set up effortlessly. Thus, Popper’s ideas of falsification are highly applicable to the theory of positivism because it requires extensive resources and time to prove the proposed theoretical frameworks. In order to ensure the steady and gradual progression of sociological knowledge, it is critical to adopt Popper’s approach to science.
However, Kuhn’s ideas are also relevant in the case of the theory of positivism. The philosopher was a proponent of paradigm shift concepts, which meant that science was not static. It always needs to evolve and transform itself to ensure progress, and there is no linear progression, which is gained through knowledge accumulation. In other words, scientific methods themselves require constant corrective actions and changes to make them more adherent to key scientific principles. Positivism in sociology heavily relies on methodologies of science because they ensure that the given field is as scientific as possible. Therefore, from Kuhn’s perspective, sociology needs to undergo several paradigm shifts in order to make itself more scientific and accurate. Sociologists should strive for perfecting the in-field methodologies and revolutionize the ways of studying the societies of interest.
The main principles of positivism are naturalism, evolutionism, phenomenalism. In the case of naturalism, social phenomena are subject to laws common to all reality, such as natural and socio-historical. Society, like a biological organism, has a complex structure, and each element performs a specific function and functions interact with each other. Evolutionism means that social evolution is a continuation of biological and is viewed as a smooth, gradual, continuous process that does not allow revolutionary interference from the outside. In the case of phenomenalism, science can explain not the essence and cause of social phenomena, but only how they occur. Thus, positivism needs to develop an objective and rigorous system of social knowledge, defending the application of scientific research methods and had a significant impact on the development of empirical sociology.
In conclusion, the theory of positivism in sociology can be assessed and viewed through the perspectives of both Kuhn and Popper. Although the philosophers had many points of disagreement, their views can be useful in conjunction with regards to the selected theory. In Popper’s framework, any form of science needs to focus on falsification as the primary catalyzer of progress. It means that sociology should not try to verify its theory due to the high cost of resources and effort, and thus, the emphasis needs to be put on falsification. In Kuhn’s perspective, sociology needs to evolve and transform itself in order to be more scientific and accurate, which makes it necessary to undergo paradigm shifts.
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Maxwell, N. (2017). Karl Popper, science and enlightenment. UCL Press.
Müller, V. C. (Ed.). (2018). Philosophy and theory of artificial intelligence 2017. Springer.
Park, Y., Konge, L., & Artino, A. (2020). The positivism paradigm of research. Academic Medicine, 95(5), 690-694. Web.
Ryan, G. (2018). Introduction to positivism, interpretivism and critical theory. Nurse Researcher, 25(4), 41-49. Web.