Distinguishing Positivism & Constructivism

Positivism vs Constructivism

Positivism and constructivism are two distinct philosophical stances, each presenting a different idea of what constitutes knowledge. Positivism is a philosophy that emphasizes knowledge should be gained through observable and measurable facts, while constructivism states that reality is socially constructed. Let’s examine the differences between these two philosophical stances.

What is Positivism?

Positivism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the importance of gaining knowledge through observable and measurable facts. This is also referred to as empiricism. Positivists do not rely on subjective experiences and view positivism as an epistemological stance in which sensory information counts as true knowledge. According to positivists, only the natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology, are counted as true sciences because social sciences lack observable and measurable data. For example, Auguste Comte believed that positivist methods should be used in sociology to understand human behavior, but this idea was later rejected with the introduction of other epistemological stances such as constructivism.

What is Constructivism?

Constructivism, or social constructivism, states that reality is socially constructed. Unlike positivists, who firmly believe in a single truth and reality, constructivism points out there is no single reality. According to constructivists, reality is a subjective creation based on individual perception. Concepts such as gender, culture, and race are all social constructs. For example, gender is a social construction that allocates specific duties to women and expectations of femininity and dependence. The expectation of masculinity from males is also a social construct. Constructivism highlights that reality is a social reality that is subjective and built through consensus, making it different from positivism.

Key Takeaways

  • Positivism emphasizes gaining knowledge through observable and measurable facts, while constructivism states that reality is socially constructed.
  • Positivism is more suitable for the natural sciences, and constructivism is more suitable for the social sciences.
  • According to positivists, there is a single reality, while constructivists believe there is no single reality.
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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