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November 28, 2014 / C H Thompson

Positivism verses Interpretivism

What interpretivists are arguing is best explained by looking at a simple experiment. If as a scientist you want to boiling waterdiscover what the boiling point of water is you’ll conduct a simple experiment (positivism).

You’ll heat up a container of water, stick a thermometer into the water and when the water boils observe what temperature the water boiled at. From these findings you can safely assume that if you conducted the experiment on a Monday; Tuesday; Wednesday etc the boiling point of water would remain 100 centigrade.

What the above shows is through is the unity of the scientific method (as long as it’s reliable) the truth – the temperature at which water boils (validity) is discovered (that’s why scientists want their scientific method to be reliable because they can repeat the same experiment to obtain the same result).

What interpretivists argue is people’s behaviours are not like that (water molecules behaviour is predictable, when heated up they jump about). In contrast people never are predictable in their behaviour  For example if someone gave a person a £100 to do what they wanted with on a Monday they might put it in a bank. The trouble is if the same event occurred on a Wedesnsday they might spend it all on alcohol because they’re going to a party that evening. In this way people don’t behave like water molecules, they behaviour isn’t predictable even if the research method is reliable (that’s why interpretivists aren’t to bothered about reliability, unlike positivists).

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