Post positivist perspectives on Theory Development

September 14, 2008 at 12:12 am (Uncategorized)

Paulina Pérez Niño

14 de septiembre 2008

Universidad Ánahuac México Sur


Post positivist perspectives on Theory Development

During the 20th century, scholars embarked on the study of human and social behavior; those in the discipline of communication have often modeled themselves after the naturalistic ideas found in fields such as physics and biology, they take findings and concepts from the physical sciences and use them as basis for social research. These researches have maintained allegiance with meta-theorical assumptions from the physical sciences.

Positivism is now use as a term of derision in social research, it has been divided in to classical positivism and logical positivism; the first position was developed by August Compte and argues that theological and metaphysical explanations are less acceptable than those based on scientific evidence, in classic positivism the foundation of knowledge is empirical on the other hand, the logical positivism affirms via the “verifiability principle of meaning” that a statement is held to be meaningful if it is either analytic or empirically verifiable. This positivism embodied by the Vienna circle was accounting for an ideal of science, with these differences of opinion, after a while positivism came to and end leaving its place to the post-positivism era whose metaheorical aspects are:

Ontology, Epistemology and Axiology; Ontology with realistic foundations provides a basis for progress, it is a position taken by post-pessimists.

Post-positivist assumptions about the grounds of social Knowledge and the role of values in the production of social knowledge are based on the objectivist, with assumptions like “Knowledge can best be gained through a search for regularities among components of the social world”. Although no claims on absolute truth and value-free inquiry are made, its believed that progress can be made if researchers exercise care in their theorizing and research and critical of theorical assertions and empirical justifications.

Post positivists scholars believe that theories must provide general explanations that go beyond the observation of individual events; it must star wit units, specify the laws of interaction and the conceptual boundaries. Theories function to impose some kind of order on unordered experience, they answer questions of why things occur (function of explanation), one should also be able to use the abstract explanation to predict what will happen in a similar situation (prediction) and last comes the control, if one can explain and predict phenomena, it is also sometimes possible to use that information to control future events.

To evaluate a theory it must be accurate, consistent –both internally and externally-, it should have broad escape and simplicity and it must be fruitful; in order to test and develop theories we must use the scientific method because it imposes standards of control that reduce the influence of the researcher’ s values on the process of observation and interpretation.

Since absolute truth is not obtained to verify a theory, the community of scholars must work together; while one proposes a theory, the others should work to falsify it and develop alternatives this way, we enhance the quality of our explanations of social phenomena. Theories and thoughts evolve with time but all with one common objective, the search for the truth and our obligation as communication students is to continue this search to avoid confusions and controversy that could be cause y a lack of communication.


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