Definition of positivism in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈpɒzɪtɪvɪz(ə)m/


[mass noun] Philosophy
1A philosophical system recognizing only that which can be scientifically verified or which is capable of logical or mathematical proof, and therefore rejecting metaphysics and theism.
From French positivisme, coined by the French philosopher Auguste Comte
Example sentences
  • In fact, the branch that he refers to as econ-art can be seen as following the recognised scientific methodology of positivism.
  • It relies on a rudimentary and thus unstated metaphysics, in much the same way as empiricism and positivism.
  • This approach is a close cousin of the pre-war philosophical movement called positivism, which argues that in our investigation of the world we only encounter particular instances, never universals.
1.1 another term for logical positivism.
2The theory that laws and their operation derive validity from the fact of having been enacted by authority or of deriving logically from existing decisions, rather than from any moral considerations (e.g. that a rule is unjust).
Example sentences
  • Legal positivism is a conceptual theory emphasizing the conventional nature of law.
  • Legal positivism does not deny that moral and political criticism of legal systems are important, but insists that a descriptive or conceptual approach to law is valuable, both on its own terms and as a necessary prelude to criticism.
  • All too often we see positivism written about as if it is a substantive theory (and a purely biological one at that) of human behavior, which it is not.



Pronunciation: /ˈpɒzɪtɪvɪst/
noun& adjective
Example sentences
  • In particular, his ‘mentalism’, that beliefs about one's own current mental state are epistemologically basic, went essentially unchallenged by the empiricists and positivists, until this century.
  • Heidegger doesn't even differ from the empiricists and positivists in thinking that it was the wrong idea.
  • I don't think I am doing him an injustice if I say that epistemologically he was essentially a logicist and positivist.


Pronunciation: /pɒzɪtɪˈvɪstɪk/
Example sentences
  • Some philosophers and philosophically-minded physicists may have been misled on this score by their allegiance to an excessively positivistic epistemology of science.
  • The numerous advocates of Comte's positivistic philosophy understood mathematics and physics as the source of rigorous laws and consequently the foundation on which other disciplines might be based.
  • This interpretation implies that irrationalism is blamed on the dark side of the positivistic Enlightenment, rather than arguing that German fascism arises out of lebensphilosophie as the other of reason.


Pronunciation: /pɒzɪtɪˈvɪstɪkli/

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: posi¦tiv|ism

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.