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[poz-i-tuh-viz-uh m] /ˈpɒz ɪ təˌvɪz əm/
the state or quality of being positive; definiteness; assurance.
a philosophical system founded by Auguste Comte, concerned with positive facts and phenomena, and excluding speculation upon ultimate causes or origins.
Origin of positivism
First recorded in 1850-55; positive + -ism
Related forms
positivist, adjective, noun
positivistic, adjective
positivistically, adverb
nonpositivistic, adjective
unpositivistic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for positivism
Historical Examples
  • Everybody in this room has, I suppose, heard of the "positive" sciences, or "positivism" in some shape or other.

    Modern Skepticism C. J. Ellicott
  • positivism also found some noted exponents in Italy and Germany.

  • But it does not for this reason bear any real resemblance to our modern Western positivism, nor give it any reason to be sanguine.

    Is Life Worth Living? William Hurrell Mallock
  • Israel is the most complete presentation of positivism in religion.

    The Essence of Christianity Ludwig Feuerbach
  • Their position is defended to-day by the advocates of positivism, who maintain the relativity of all truth.

    The Religious Sentiment Daniel G. Brinton
  • Metaphysic contains the reason of criticism, as criticism does that of positivism.

  • In this conception he saw a manifesto proclaiming the positivism of art—modern art, experimental and materialistic.

  • It is the common turnpike of material science—of "positivism."

  • He was a philosopher, imbued with the tenets of positivism; and she was naturally prone to be fascinated by abstract thought.

    The Age of Tennyson Hugh Walker
  • A belief in this kind of progress is not peculiar to positivism.

    Is Life Worth Living? William Hurrell Mallock
British Dictionary definitions for positivism


a strong form of empiricism, esp as established in the philosophical system of Auguste Comte, that rejects metaphysics and theology as seeking knowledge beyond the scope of experience, and holds that experimental investigation and observation are the only sources of substantial knowledge See also logical positivism
Also called legal positivism. the jurisprudential doctrine that the legitimacy of a law depends on its being enacted in proper form, rather than on its content Compare natural law (sense 3)
the quality of being definite, certain, etc
Derived Forms
positivist, noun, adjective
positivistic, adjective
positivistically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for positivism

1847, the philosophy of Auguste Comte (1798-1857), who published "Philosophie positive" in 1830; see positive (adj.) in the "just the facts" sense + -ism. Related: Positivist; Positivistic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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positivism in Culture

positivism definition

An approach to philosophy frequently found in the twentieth century. Positivists usually hold that all meaningful statements must be either logical inferences or sense descriptions, and they usually argue that the statements found in metaphysics, such as “Human beings are free” or “Human beings are not free,” are meaningless because they cannot possibly be verified by the senses.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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