Positivism vs. Interpretivism

Difference Between Positivism and Interpretivism Understanding of social behavior is the main purpose of sociologists and for helping…

Difference Between Positivism and Interpretivism

Understanding of social behavior is the main purpose of sociologists and for helping them in their efforts, many theories have been put forward. Two of the most popular theories are positivism and Interpretivism that are in sharp contrast to each other in spite of some similarities. This article attempts to discover the differences between these two theories emphasizing their characteristics.


Positivism was a result of dismissal to concepts that belonged to metaphysics, for instance God. As sociologists found explanation of things different from testing and proving them, they looked for new thoughts. They felt a strong need for the humanities to be more objective and verifiable as subjects of science. Positivism arose as an alternative to metaphysics in an attempt to describe the social phenomenon apart from what can’t be known or is away from the scope of social sciences. Positivists believed that we can analyze and draw conclusions only that we observe. We see and can measure comes under the scope of positivism. Two of the most influential positivists are Durkheim and Comte.


Interpretivism occurred as the scientists estimated that human beings are not puppets to respond to stimuli in a prescribed manner. They were active and focused and can respond to stimuli differently depending on their interpretation. Interpretivists describe human beings as having the intention and power to the draw inferences. They say that human beings have the ability to build their surroundings rather than being the pure spectator to what occurs around them. The scientists stressed on thinking, intentions and behavior of humans more than positivists thus taking the findings that were more realistic and perhaps more valid, too. Interpretivists speak of the shared awareness as the mastermind behind many concepts in a society.




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