[ poz-i-tuh-viz-uhm ]
See synonyms for positivism on Thesaurus.com
  1. the state or quality of being positive; definiteness; assurance.

  2. 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

Other words from positivism

  • pos·i·tiv·ist, adjective, noun
  • pos·i·tiv·is·tic, adjective
  • pos·i·tiv·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
  • non·pos·i·tiv·is·tic, adjective
  • un·pos·i·tiv·is·tic, adjective

Words Nearby positivism

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use positivism in a sentence

  • Hegelianism had closed the eyes of human understanding; positivism had mutilated and crippled its activities.

    The War Upon Religion | Rev. Francis A. Cunningham
  • He was an absolute positivist; his positivism did not make him self-assertive nor peremptory; on the contrary, it oppressed him.

  • One of them is that on which we have just commented, the assimilation between positivism and Fetishism.

    August Comte and Positivism | John-Stuart Mill
  • The Pontiff of positivism informs us what problem, in his opinion, should be selected before all others for this united pursuit.

    August Comte and Positivism | John-Stuart Mill
  • Let us turn now to positivism, and consider what is its position.

    Is Life Worth Living? | William Hurrell Mallock

British Dictionary definitions for positivism


/ (ˈpɒzɪtɪˌvɪzəm) /

  1. 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

  2. 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 (def. 3)

  1. the quality of being definite, certain, etc

Derived forms of positivism

  • 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

Cultural definitions for positivism


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 New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.