The Positive Mind

Its Development and Impact on Modernity and Postmodernity
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382 pages

This book is a radical reappraisal of positivism as a major movement in philosophy, science and culture. In examining positivist movement and its contemporary impact, the author had six goals.

First, to provide a more precise and systematic definition of the notion of positivism. Second, to describe positivism as a trend of thought concerned not only with the theory of knowledge and philosophy of science, but also with problems of ethics, social, and political philosophy. Third, to examine the development of positivism as a movement: it was born in the 18th century during the Enlightenment, took the form of social positivism in the 19th century, was transformed at the turn of the 20th century with the emergence of empirio-criticism, and became logical positivism (or logical empiricism) in the 20th century. Fourth, to reveal the external and internal factors of this evolution. Fifth, to disclose the relation of positivism to other trends of philosophy. Sixth, to determine the influence the positive mind had upon other cultural phenomena, such as the natural and social sciences, law, politics, arts, religion, and everyday life.



Introduction: The Notion of Positivism

Part I: Development

Chapter 1. Early Positivism

The Divorce between Philosophy and Science, Hume’s Positivism
Hume and Newton
Impressions, Ideas, and Metaphysics
Two Kinds of Knowledge
Critical Analysis of Causality
Certainty and Probability
“Is” and “Ought”
Moral Principles and Social Progress

The Idea of Progress in the French Enlightenment

Chapter 2. Classical or Social Positivism

France after the Revolution

Auguste Comte
Plan of Positive Labors
The Theological, Metaphysical, and Positive Mind
The Hierarchy of Sciences
Social Order and Social Progress
Positive Polity and Positive Morality

John Stuart Mill
Mill and Comte: Allies and Opponents
Logic and Methodology of Science
Social and Natural Sciences
Utility and Liberty

The Positivist Movement in the 19th Century

Chapter 3. From Classical to Modern Positivism

Reappraisal of Positivism at the End of the 19th Century

Mach’s Empiriocriticism

Poincaré’s Conventionalism

Duhem’s Hypothetism

Chapter 4. Modern or Logical Positivism

Revolution in Science and Philosophy                                                                

The Vienna Circle and the Unity of Science Movement                                    

Moritz Schlick
Philosophy as the Pursuit of Meaning
Positivism and Realism
Foundation of Knowledge
Philosophy of Life and Ethics    

Rudolf Carnap
Philosophy as Logical Analysis
Formal and Empirical Sciences
The Criterion of Empirical Significance
The Structure of Scientific Knowledge
The Probabilistic Appraisal of Hypotheses
Scientific Humanism and Socialism

Part II: Impact

Chapter 5. Positivism: Its Critics and Rivals

Positivism and Two of Its Adversaries: Nietzsche and Heidegger

Positivism, Marxism, and Critical Theory

Positivism and Pragmatism

Positivism and Critical Rationalism

Positivism and the Analytic Tradition

Positivism, Kuhn, and Postmodernism

Chapter 6. The Impact of the Positive Mind Outside Philosophy

Positivism’s Impact on the Natural and Social Sciences
Positivism, Mathematics, and Physics
Positivism’s Effect on Psychology
A Positive Economics
Positivism’s Influence on Sociology
Positivism’s Impact on Political Science

Positivism—the Postpositivism Debate. Constructivism

The Positive Mind and Law                                                                                    

Positivism and Politics                                                                                            

Positivism’s Impact upon Literature, the Visual Arts, and Architecture           

The Positive Mind in Everyday Life

Positivism and Religion



"The author does not want to confine positivism to an intellectual category but rather wants to expand the word’s application to include any kind of what he calls positive thinking and behavior. He speaks, for instance, of the reification and materialization of the positive mind in the artifacts of contemporary technological civilization. Cars, computers, skyscrapers, etc., which have been built using scientific knowledge, are the embodiments of the positive mind. The span of the project, from philosophy to material culture, shows how ambitious the book is. It begins with a definition of positivism, moves to the narration of particular expressions of positivism in the history of thought, from Hume to Logical Positivism, considers positivism in juxtaposition to other philosophical schools and traditions (e.g., Marxism, pragmatism, critical theory, critical rationalism, analytic philosophy, historical philosophy of science, Nietzsche and Heidegger, postmodern authors) and... more
"The fundamental virtue of Nekrašas’s work is his clear realization that positivism is far more influential than all disavowals would make it seem. Indeed, as Nekrašas rightly argues, positivism silently continues to color research programs and theories across the social sciences and humanities. What Nekrašas dubs the 'positive mind' (or the philosophical attitude of positivism) is still far more relevant and influential than many would like to admit. Nekrašas is at his best lucidly reconstructing numerous philosophies within the larger stream of the positivist tradition and drawing interesting distinctions between the many varieties of positivism (including socially progressive nineteenthcentury forms versus more logically technical forms in the twentieth). He also is admirably aware of the fact that positivism has always been a deeply political movement, with strong ambitions to either radically change or substantively reform major features of human social and... more