Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Death of positivism

According to this book, positivism has been dead for 50 years. Apparently Logical positivism is in such disrepute that it is more commonly known by a pejorative term, scientism. They both mean adherence to a strictly scientifc worldview.

The Stanford Philosophy encyclopedia says:
In 1967 John Passmore reported that: “Logical positivism, then, is dead, or as dead as a philosophical movement ever becomes.” (1967, 57) Earlier in the same article he had equated logical positivism with logical empiricism, so presumably that was dead too. At that time few would have disagreed with Passmore, even though Carnap was still alive and active.
And yet many science advocates express such views, such as:
Carl Sagan: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Christopher Hitchens: Claims that are made without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.
These are positivist ideas, but it is hard to find someone who identifies himself as a positivist. It is easier to find an atheist.

I suspect that many of these skeptic-atheist-scientist types are not really positivists. If they were, then why wouldn't they say so?

I think the reason is that they have beliefs, ethics, and political views that they cannot substantiate, and they do not want to have to try. Complaining about someone else's lack of evidence is a rhetorical device for undermining an argument, and does not necessarily mean that all beliefs require evidence. Sagan believed in all sorts of things without good evidence, such as extraterrstial life, triune brain, and nuclear winter.

Einstein expressed anti-positivist views in his later life.

Positivism has been replaced by paradigm shift theory, which rejects objective reality and rationalism, and validates anything that can be interpreted within the appropriate paradigm.

I think that positivism is a much better philosophy of science than paradigm shift theory and its other modern replacements.

1 comment:

  1. Hi

    I read you entries here and there: http://blog.darkbuzz.com/2012/11/many-worlds-contrary-to-positivism.html

    ...with delight and wondered whether I could win you for a guest appeareance on our blog http://positivists.org/blog/ - probably on the question "is positivism dead" (or on the question you'd find mor appropriate...)

    best regards,