chapter  4
Exploring Assumptions Behind Educational Research: Defining Positivism in a Neo-Positivist Era
Pages 20

Equipped with an understanding of the Cartesian tradition, we are prepared to understand its epistemological extension-positivism. Few epistemological orientations have exerted so much influence or have been so little understood. An historical overview is in order to begin our exploration of positivism. The Enlightenment (Age of Reason) of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries realized its rational self-fulfillment with the advent of modern science. True reality, the Enlightenment thinkers posited, was founded upon scientific understanding-the world could be comprehended only via science and scientific methodology. This form of science was universal in the sense that it applied to all subjects of study and was based on mathematics. With the realization of this type of scientific enterprise during the Enlightenment, Western thought was prepared for the advent of what many have called ‘the era of positivism’ (Held, 1980; Giroux, 1997; Kincheloe, 2001).