pos·​i·​tiv·​ism ˈpä-zə-ti-ˌvi-zəm How to pronounce positivism (audio)
: a theory that theology and metaphysics are earlier imperfect modes of knowledge and that positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations as verified by the empirical sciences
: the quality or state of being positive
ˈpä-zə-ti-vist How to pronounce positivism (audio)
adjective or noun
positivistic adjective
positivistically adverb

Examples of positivism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This kind of biographical positivism—Eng stays close to the historical facts—has the effect of forestalling the most fertile element of the novel, its manner of layering the narratives. James Wood, The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2023 Alas, Jay shows, the self-experimental era ended with the ascendancy of 19th-century French philosopher Auguste Comte’s doctrine of positivism. Federico Perelmuter, Washington Post, 10 Aug. 2023 Ultimately what Nature's Oracle reminds us is that there are limits to positivism in understanding the history of science, while reiterating the value of positivism in science itself . Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 7 Apr. 2013 For contemporary conservatives, however, what should matter is that the constitutionalism of the Founding era and its emphasis on limiting arbitrary power wasn’t an exercise in legal positivism, let alone in promoting an open society untethered to any fixed moral, political, or economic principles. Samuel Gregg, National Review, 6 Feb. 2022 With a strong focus on positivism, purpose, resourcefulness and compassion, each retreat at the 14 participating Rosewood properties will incorporate practices reflective of local wellness traditions and natural surroundings, for guests to heal and re-balance overall well-being. Roger Sands, Forbes, 15 June 2021 Nominalism and positivism have deluged the world with vast quantities of little-read scholarship whose underlying rationale is often the confutation of the very possibility of the larger-scale intelligibility of the world. M. D. Aeschliman, National Review, 20 Feb. 2022 Though an innovation of the Post Modern cultural Left, this skepticism of scientific positivism, the progression of knowledge, has bled over to the cultural Right. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 21 Nov. 2012 This perspective better recalls late-19th-century positivism or the more dogmatic materialists of the Enlightenment. Jeffrey Collins, WSJ, 18 Mar. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'positivism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French positivisme, from positif positive + -isme -ism

First Known Use

1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of positivism was in 1842

Dictionary Entries Near positivism

Cite this Entry

“Positivism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/positivism. Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

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