Post-positivist perspectives on theory development (Chapter 3)

Post-positivist perspectives on theory development

(Chapter 3)

Classical positivism
The term positivism was developed by Auguste Comte who argued that branches of knowledge must pass through three intellectual stages, “the theological or fictitious state, the metaphysical or abstract state, and the scientific or positive state.” The foundation of knowledge was to be found in empirical or observable phenomena and understood through formal logic embodied in scientific laws. It is through a well-combined use of reasoning and observation that is possible to come to a knowledge.

Logical positivism
The logical positivists began by making a critical distinction between science and metaphysics via the verifiability principle of meaning. Scientific statements are analytical or empirically verifiable, and all other statements, those labeled by logical positivists and metaphysical statements are meaningless.

All statements were empirically verifiable, analytical or metaphysical. A rejection of the verifiability principle means in essence a rejection of the entire logical positivist. Logical positivists concentrated on the syntax and semantics of science, not its pragmatic. These scholars reject the notion absolute truth, reject the unassailable foundation of observation, and reject the assumption of an always steady and upward accumulation of knowledge.
There are three ontological positions: the realist, the nominalist, and the social constructionist. Post positivist ontology does not deny the notions inherent in approaches advocating a social construction of reality.

Epistemology and axiology bases:
1.    Knowledge can best be gained through a search of regularities and causal relationships among components of the social world.
2.    Regularities and causal relationships can best be discovered if there is a complete separation between the investigator and the subject of the investigation.
3.    This separation can be guaranteed through the use of the scientific method.

It is possible and necessary to have a complete distinction between the researcher conducting the investigation (the knower) and the phenomenon being investigated (the known)

The theories are abstractions. Theories must provide general explanations that go beyond the observation of individual events.

Dubin argues that a theory must start with:
1.  units- the concepts that make up the subject matter of the theory.
2.  Laws of interaction- among these units and must specify the conceptual,
3.  boundaries- within which the theory is expected to hold,
4.  propositions- of the model. All these are the abstract position of the theory.
A theory should also include empirical indicators. They define the operations through which each theorical unit is to be measured. Finally, the empirical indicators can be substituted for the theoretical units in the propositions, and this substitution will yield hypothesis that can be empirically tested to provide verification or falsification of the theory. Communicative responsiveness as the ability of an interactant to understand the needs of another and respond appropriately empathic concern as a nonparallel emotional response in which one person feels for another an emotional contagion as a parallel emotional response in which one person feels with another.

The function of theory have three functions:
1.    Explanation- suggests that theories answer questions of why things occur. Theories should provide an explanation of observed behavior.
2.    Prediction- provides an abstract explanation of a particular phenomenon.
3.    Control- explain a predict phenomena, and it is possible sometime to use that information to control future.

– A theory should be accurate.
– A theory should be consistent, both internally and externally.
– A theory should have broad scope.
– A theory should be simple, or in the term used by some theorists, parsimonious.
– A theory should be fruitful.

Post positivists accumulate knowledge about the world through the process of empirically testing theories


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