Existential Positivism
Overview
Existential positivism is positive practical philosophy. It builds from a base of pragmatic scepticism, and is closely related to, though not strictly dependent on existential expressionism. It bears on philosophical matters which depend in some way on subjective values, or upon some other kind of essential reference to our personal feelings and intutions.
The term "Existential Positivism" combines two terms which are normally poles apart, apparently an oxymoron.This represents a weakness in positivistic phlosophy which we seek here to remedy.
Introduction
The term "Existential Positivism" combines two terms which are normally poles apart, apparently an oxymoron.This represents a weakness in positivistic phlosophy which we seek here to remedy.
Why Existential?

There is a loose connection with existentialism here. Existential positivism is concerned in the first instance with matters of direct existential import, or for which our primary source of knowledge is introspective. The problem of being, problems of values and ethics. It is then concerned with matters to which such considerations may be relevant, e.g. politics and economics.

In this is may be contrasted with metaphysical positivism which is concerned only with those kinds of issue which can be addressed objectively.

Why Positivism?

The use of the term here, for matters which are excluded from or marginalised in most positivistic philosophy is by the following analogy.

In positivism:

  • Clarity of meaning is sought
  • Propositions are classified according to the kind of evidence which is relevant to their establishment
  • Rather than bald assertion of a proposition, the evidence supporting the proposition should be stated
The classification of propositions according to their evidential basis is:
  • analytic
  • synthetic
  • values
We may say that analytic propositions are known on the basis of evidence of a purely logical kind, and empirical observations are not relevant. Synthetic propositions depend upon empirical observation. For value judgements, empirical observation fails to determine truth value, they lack objectivity, possibly having subjective, expressive or emotive content.

Existential positivism is concerned with propositions whose meaning and truth depends essential upon evidence of an introspective character, or which are related to such propositions. It is concerned with propositions about what it is to be, about values, ethics, politics and economics. It is concerned with value judgements and with the various ways (not necessarily verbal) in which a person or group may reveal or express its identity. Existential positivism is predominantly concerned with practical rather than theoretical matters, i.e. with what we might do rather than how things might be. By analogy with the exposure of the support in empirical observation for a synthetic proposition, existential positivism seeks to lay bare the relationship between possible courses of action, ethical principles, political or economic schemes, and the insights into human nature which make them seem desirable.


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