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The discussion of positivist theories centering on peculiarities

As a philosophical ideology and movement, positivism first assumed its distinctive features in the work of Comte, who also named and systematized the science of sociology. It then developed through several stages known by various names, such as empiriocriticism, logical positivism, and logical empiricism, finally merging, in the mid-20th century, into the already existing tradition known as analytic philosophy.

The basic affirmations of positivism are (1) that all knowledge regarding matters of fact is based on the “positive” data of experience and (2) that beyond the realm of fact is that of pure logic and pure mathematics. Those two disciplines were already recognized by the 18th-century Scottish empiricist and skeptic David Hume as concerned merely with the “relations of ideas,” and, in a later phase of positivism, they were classified as purely formal sciences. On the negative and critical side, the positivists became noted for their repudiation of metaphysics—i.e., of speculation regarding the nature of reality that radically goes beyond any possible evidence that could either support or refute such “transcendent” knowledge claims. In its basic ideological posture, positivism is thus worldly, secular, antitheological, and antimetaphysical. Strict adherence to the testimony of observation and experience is the all-important imperative of positivism. That imperative was reflected also in the contributions by positivists to ethics and moral philosophy, which were generally utilitarian to the extent that something like “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” was their ethical maxim. It is notable, in this connection, that Comte was the founder of a short-lived religion, in which the object of worship was not the deity of the monotheistic faiths but humanity.