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Positivism, Russian

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E053-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Positivism in Russia was not a separate, well-defined philosophical school but, rather, a broad, multidisciplinary current of thought, characterized by a cult of ‘positive science’, commitment to scientific, empirical methods and rejection of the metaphysical tradition in philosophy. As a rule, Russian positivists sympathized with materialism, although distanced themselves from the metaphysical assumptions of materialist philosophy. Their philosophical aspirations were usually limited to the investigation of specific problems, but their optimistic belief in the power of science could push them in the direction of an all-embracing ‘scientific philosophy’.

In accordance with the naturalistic evolutionism of the second half of the nineteenth century, scientific philosophy involved the conception of objective laws of development and biological and/or sociological relativism – both incompatible with the ethicist standpoint. Many Russian thinkers, especially the so-called ‘subjective sociologists’, tried to combine positivist scientism with ethicism, claiming an independent status for moral values. Their efforts, however, could be successful only at the expense of abandoning the scientific rigour demanded by consistent positivists. Hence their views were semi-positivist rather than positivist. Through undermining the arrogant self-confidence and monopolistic claims of the crude forms of positivistic scientism, they paved the way for the outspoken revolt against positivism at the end of the 1890s.

Citing this article:
Walicki, Andrzej. Positivism, Russian, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E053-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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