The main difference between positivism and realism is that positivism is the philosophical theory that claims that whatever exists can be verified through observation, experiments, and mathematical/logical evidence whereas realism is the philosophical view that claims that the external world exists independent of our conceptual scheme or perceptions.
Positivism and realism are two prominent philosophical theories. Realism is the philosophy about the reality of the world around us while positivism is a philosophical doctrine that is deeply entrenched in science and mathematics.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Positivism
– Definition, Characteristics, Focus
2. What is Realism
– Definition, Characteristics, Focus
3. What is the Difference Between Positivism and Realism
– Comparison of Key Differences
Philosophy, Positivism, Realism
What is Positivism
Positivism is the philosophical view that all knowledge must be verified through scientific methods such as experiments, observations and logical/mathematical proof. All these scientific methods are able to provide empirical, observable and measurable evidence, which are subject to principles of logic and reasoning. Thus, according to positivism, only scientifically and empirically verifiable facts are knowledge – everything else is nonexistence.
The nineteenth-century French Philosopher Auguste Comte is attributed to the development of the doctrine of positivism. According to him, “each branch of our knowledge passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the theological, or fictitious; the metaphysical, or abstract; and the scientific, or positive.” He believed this last stage, which is positivism, to be the ideal state.
According to positivism, we first gain information from sensory experience. Then this information is interpreted through reason and logic. Furthermore, positivism describes that valid knowledge is found only in posterior knowledge (knowledge based on experience). In addition, positivists are of the view that all problems we face will be eradicated with scientific progress.
What is Realism
Realism is the philosophy about the reality of material objects. According to realists, there exists a real external world, or sensory objects, independent of our minds and perception. In simple words, the object you see in front of you is real; you can see it with your eyes, touch with your hands, etc. Basically, you can sense it with your sensory organs. So, this is how most of us view the world. We can use our senses to gather information about the objects around us. These objects are really out there, and they have physical properties (sight, smell, sound, etc.) we can sense. Then our minds directly connect these objects through thinking, memory, etc. Thus, the reality is a collection of objects we sense around us.
However, idealists directly oppose this view. In fact, realism is often contrasted with idealism. According to idealists, the world is not a collection of objects that human minds can perceive; it’s a collection of ideas that human minds can grasp.
Difference Between Positivism and Realism
Positivism is the philosophical theory that claims that whatever exists can be verified through observation, experiments, and mathematical/logical evidence whereas realism is the philosophical view that claims that the world exists independent of the mind.
Positivism only accepts those that can be scientifically verified or are capable of logical or mathematical proof, while rejecting metaphysics and theism. Realism, on the other hand, describes the nature of reality in general – it claims that the world exists independent of the mind.
While positivism is epistemological, realism is mainly metaphysical.
Nonscientific Sources of Knowledge
Besides, positivism rejects subjects like metaphysics and theism as they cannot be scientifically or logically proven. Realism may, however, allow nonscientific sources of knowledge, depending on whether reality is understood to be independent.
Basically, positivism and realism are two prominent philosophical theories. Positivism only accepts those which can be scientifically verified or are capable of logical or mathematical proof, while rejecting metaphysics and theism. Realism, on the other hand, describes the nature of reality in general – it claims that the world exists independent of the mind. Thus, this is the main difference between positivism and realism.
1. “Realism.” Philosophy Terms, 25 Oct. 2018, Available here.
2. “Philosophical Realism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Sept. 2019, Available here.
3. “Positivism.” Philosophy Terms, 25 Oct. 2018, Available here.
4. “Positivism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Oct. 2019, Available here.
1. “Auguste Comte” (Gemeinfrei) via Commons Wikimedia