The “false” debate between positivism and Verstehen in the origins of sociology

Human Affairs 27 (3):344-362 (2017)
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Abstract

The article revisits the debate between the positivists and non-positivists currents in sociology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, concluding that it is actually a false debate, due to the fact that, beyond their differences, both shared some of the basic principles of the paradigm of modernity. From this historical analysis the article seeks to draw lessons for the social sciences in the present, at a time when these seem to have reached a certain synthesis between the modern and postmodern epistemologies. The article shows us that such a synthesis was already prefigured in the writing of classical theorists as it is, in fact, an ineluctable structural law of science itself if it wants to escape from the trap of skepticism and epistemological nihilism. The article also explores how, as a consequence of the pervasiveness of the modern paradigm, a common ethnocentric bias can be traced in all the fathers of sociology and wonders whether sociology today has actually got rid of this problem.

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