Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology - Vol. 3

Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology - Vol. 3

Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology - Vol. 3

Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology - Vol. 3

Excerpt

Though positivism is not a philosophic creation of the twentieth century, it has nevertheless had such radical reformulation and elaboration in our period as to make it almost a transmutation of the original doctrine propounded by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) in the nineteenth century. Hence, some members of this school have preferred to call their doctrine logical empiricism--to indicate it is an empiricism grounded on logical analysis rather than upon historical generalization as in the case of Comte. Yet it is the name positivism that sticks, both in common usage and in ordinary philosophical reference; and historically there would seem to be good sense in this usage that links up this contemporary philosophy, no matter how more precisely and differently elaborated, with its nineteenth-century progenitor.

Both in its nineteenth-century and its contemporary version, positivism is a school formed on the Continent. Yet it is not at all typical of the traditional spirit of Continental philosophy, since its provenance is in so many ways British. In this book it follows naturally and logically after British analysis since its point of departure, philosophically speaking, was Bertrand Russell in his middle period. This was the Russell who had given up his earlier Platonic Realism and turned to the empiricism of David Hume; above all, the Russell who had co-authored the Principia Mathematica with Alfred North Whitehead, for mathematical logic was to play a leading role in the formulation of modern positivism. And Russell himself has perhaps made the most succinct and incisive summation in a single sentence of the total attitude of positivism:

Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.