Neopositivism and its Notion of the Human Being

Neopositivism arises from the analogy between physical and social phenomena. Neopositivism takes phenomena of the physical world as models for social events and uses the laws of the former to explain the latter.

In his Studies in the Theory of Human Society, Giddings offered a qualified defense of behaviorism, arguing that “psychology has become experimental and objective. It has discriminated between reflex and conditioning.” He also insisted that “sociology is a scientific, statistical method” and that “a true and complete description of anything must include measurement of it.” Similarly, Lundberg argued that sociology could be modeled on the natural sciences and should observe the behavior of human beings in social situations, but without reference to concepts such as feelings, ends, motives, values, and will. Like Giddings, Lundberg argued that science was concerned with exact descriptions and generalization, which required a “quantitative statement.”

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To the extent that Neopositivism had a lasting influence on the development of American sociology, this is best seen in later mathematical sociology.

Neopositivists regard sound scientific methodology as the first principle of sociological analysis. For them, the sound scientific methodology involves mathematical and other formal models that incorporate the formalization of variables: computer techniques and language, experimental logic, laboratory experiments, and computer simulation of human behavior. Among early thinkers, Pareto and Giddings emphasized the scientific nature of sociology and recommended using methods commonly adopted in the natural sciences. Dodd, Ogburn, and Zipf are considered the leading exponents of Neopositivism.

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