The Positive Mind: Its Development and Impact on Modernity and Postmodernity

The Positive Mind: Its Development and Impact on Modernity and Postmodernity

The Positive Mind: Its Development and Impact on Modernity and Postmodernity

The Positive Mind: Its Development and Impact on Modernity and Postmodernity


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.


This book is an intellectual adventure story, a history of ideas, and a rigorous reappraisal of a major movement in philosophy, science, and culture that many have pronounced irrelevant, passé, even dead. Yet upon closer consideration, we may find that what we have come to call positivism has profoundly influenced our thought and practice in numerous ways. It would be difficult to find another philosophy that has been more influential, and at least by that measure, we may say that positivism not only survives, but thrives.

We aim here to investigate the positive mind, a term which astute readers would associate with the scientific mind, though it is often confused with the pop psychology of Norman Vincent Peale (1996 [1959]) presented in his perennial bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking. Here, we examine positivist philosophy, its significance and its legacy. We can treat it as a history of the ventures, achievements, and failures of the positive mind. The words “impact on modernity and postmodernity” in the subtitle indicate that, for many reasons discussed in this book, positivism, although no longer cultivated as a distinct current of philosophy, still continues to exert a profound influence on modern and postmodern developments inside and outside philosophy.

I embarked on writing this book many years ago. The project began in earnest while I was a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. There I had an outstanding opportunity to discuss its main ideas and first sections with W. V. O. Quine and Hilary Putnam—philosophers who have significantly influenced the development of positivism and twentieth-century philosophy in general. We’ll encounter their work in this book. I was encouraged to hear from Putnam that he had always wanted to have such a book at hand.

The Harvard experience was clearly useful for this book, although the idea to write it originated a few years earlier. While developing a course on positivist philosophy for my students at Vilnius University, I was un-

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