Positivism in Geography Study Material by NETSET CORNER

Positivism in Geography Full Notes

[1] Positivism

Positivism is a set of philosophical approaches that seeks to apply scientific principles and methods, drawn from the natural and hard sciences, to social phenomena in order to explain them. So in this way it is logical system that bases knowledge on direct, systematic observation. Positivism is a Philosophical movement that emphasized on science and scientific method as the only source of knowledge and which stood in sharp contrast to religion and metaphysics.

Positivism came into existence after the French revolution (1789) and is developed by Auguste Comte (1798-1857). Positivism rejects those philosophical thoughts which are based on emotions and imagination.

Positivism is a philosophical movement. It recognises science and scientific method as the only source of knowledge. It has a strong hostility towards religion and traditional philosophy, especially metaphysics.

According to Comte – Social development took place in three stages

[a] Theological

[b] Metaphysical

[c] Positive

[a] Theological: In this first stage, initially, society believe that each and every natural event is done by God. Each event happening in society is pre-decided by god.

[b] Metaphysical: In the second stage, historical facts, Karma philosophy, etc. are used to validate the event. In Indian society, it has a strong belief that people suffered or gained because of his/her previous life karma.

[c] Positive: In the third stage, research is being done on the finding of the event cause. Scientific methods like experience, inspection, test, and classification are used to validate the events like day-night, seasonal changes, rainfall, solar, and lunar eclipse, tsunamis, tides, and earthquakes.

Positivism is an anti-idealistic philosophy. Tastes, traditions, likings, attitudes and aesthetic satisfactions cannot be justified scientifically. Science is value-free, neutral, impartial and objective. Thus, positivism excluded normative questions.

          In Geography, positivism was introduced in the 1950’s. Before that time Geography had very much been a descriptive science but many argued geography should be more scientific and focus on finding laws to explain processes. The Quantitative revolution (1950’s) changed Geography from an ideographic to a nomothetic science.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s positivist methodology received more and more criticism.

Criticism of Positivism Approach:

In this approach, human feelings, emotions, and beliefs these are not acceptable; the positivist approach emphasized that observation should be value-free and based on mathematical analysis. However, it is very difficult to implement the positivism approach. So, the positivist approach in geography is an idealistic approach that is far away from a practical and realistic approach. In our life, human values, human feelings, subjective nature of humans place important roles in decision making which is not as per the positivist approach.

All the events and facts can not be proved by logic and maths, so positivism though is not applicable to all subject matters.

Key Points on Positivism –

[1] Positivism is a philosophical thought, where assertions are validated by the use of logic, science, maths, facts, etc.

[2] Origin: The origin of Positivism go back to 19th Century French Social Philosopher August Comte in 1820s.

[3] According to Comte – Social development took place in three stages

[a] Theological

[b] Metaphysical

[c] Positive


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