Positivism Doctrine

Positivism Doctrine

Positivism, the doctrine that all knowledge relates to observable facts and relationships about phenomena whose nature or origin can be accepted without questioning. The doctrine was first expressed by the French philosopher Comte in the nineteenth century; his aim was to observe historical phenomena and to infer from them scientific 'laws of motion' of society corresponding to those of the national sciences. This notion, and its corollary that from such 'laws' it is possible to predict the 'path' of social change have been extensively criticized in recent years, notably in the works of Professor Karl Popper.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, a Latin phrase meaning 'after it, therefore because of it'. Used by logicians and economists to draw attention to the fallacy of supposing that because B follows A, A is the cause of B. For example, if a fall in the price of a commodity follows the levy of a tariff on imports, it does not follow that the tariff caused the fall in price. The tendency is for a tariff to raise prices. If after a tariff the price fell, it would probably have fallen even more if the tariff had not been applied. The fallacy is a logical trap winch non-economists discussing economic aspects of social or industrial activity are apt to fail into.

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Since then his writings have in turn been increasingly reinterpreted as a special case both by some followers and by some economists who had not wholly accepted his writings. The content of economics is in a state of change, and this consumeraffairs.org.uk site is therefore not a final statement of economic doctrine.

Economics is in the last resort a technique of thinking. The reader will therefore need to make an intellectual effort, more substantial for some web entries than for others, to get the most interest and value out of this website.