In the philosophy of science, I wanted to know what is the exact opposite point of the positivist epistemology?

Actually I'm not from the philosophy area and thus not familiar with different epistemologies.

If there is more than one opposite epistemology, I'd be glad if you could name all of them. And if you know the answer in some philosophy other than science, it also helps.

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    By "opposite", do you mean "opposing"? As in "what positions would be opposed to the positivist view of epistemology?"
    – Paul Ross
    May 29 '15 at 10:20
  • @PaulRoss Yes, exactly. May 29 '15 at 10:38
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    It could be any position that would accept that we have a direct intuitive access to truth about the world: mysticism, rationalism... May 29 '15 at 11:41
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    An exact opposition would require a scale of some sort. I don't think there is such thing in this case. There are varieties of positions. May 29 '15 at 11:43
  • @quen_tin Arguably no: a protocol sentence might be understood as a sentence we have direct intuitive access to the truth of. May 29 '15 at 18:45

Positivism is a form of empiricism, and as such, is antithetical to rationalism and Plato's theory of forms, and eventually with any system that asserts the existence of a reality independent of and beyond the senses.

More recently, in the 20th century, several schools, such as phenomenology, existentialism, sturcturalism, postmodernism, and (unsurprisingly) anti-positivism, were all seen as having positions in opposition to those of positivism in general and logical positivism in particular.


Outside the philosophy of science, there are, as Alexander points out more than can be easily named.

In the philosophy of science, I would say the position farthest from Positivism is the strong Kuhnian position on incompatibility of paradigms. It maintains that during certain periods of science, when the community of practice in general is unhappy with their ability to make progress with the dominant paradigm, alternatives arise and one of those is selected as a basis for further progress.

In the strongest version of Kuhn's view, the new material in those alternative replacement paradigms is completely incomparable. There is no strictly logical basis for comparison between the alternatives. Each has a hard core that basically captures what it can from the existing system, and so can be comprehended in its terms. But beyond that, they inject vocabulary and concepts that are outside the system and cannot be clearly stated in its terms. (The primary progress the new paradigm is offering will be accomplished by nailing those down, reducing them from conceptual imagery to well-founded science.)

This means (to the degree it is true) that the choice of a new paradigm cannot be made in logical positivist terms, but must be made on the new paradigm's appeal to intuition or clarity.


'Jobermark' got it right when the question is answered within philosophy of science. Kuhn's revolutionary view of scientific progress is the opposite to the linear view of logical positivists (or logical empiricists).

Logical positivist theories (e.g., Carnap's confirmationism and Popper's falsificationism) shared the idea that science progresses in a logically-structured piecemeal way to the direction of truth (called verisimilitude). Scientific revolutionists (e.g., Kuhn and Feyerabend), however, argued that science progresses serendipitously, which happens when scientific communities, puzzled and bothered by anomalies in normal sciences, try to explain the anomalies.

PS. Evolutionary (or naturalized) epistemology is espoused by Quine, who argued that problems of knowledge can be answered better by natural sciences. So evolutionary epistemology is not an appropriate answer to the given question.


Finally, I found what I was looking for.

That's Evolutionary Epistemology.

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    Hmm. If any one epistemology is directly opposite positivism, it is definitely NOT evolutionary epistemology. Jun 30 '15 at 19:42
  • @ChristopherE Maybe you're right. Maybe my question was wrong! You know, I'm new to epistemologies. Now the only thing I know is that what I was looking for is evolutionary epistemology :) Jun 30 '15 at 22:54

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