"Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that information derived from logical and mathematical treatments and reports of sensory experience is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge, that there is valid knowledge (truth) only in scientific knowledge. Verified data received from the senses is known as empirical evidence. This view, when applied to the social as to the natural sciences, holds that society operates according to general laws like the physical world. Introspective and intuitive knowledge is rejected.
Though the positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of Western thought, modern sense of the approach was developed by the philosopher and founding sociologist Auguste Comte in the early 19th century. Comte argued that, much as the physical world operates according to gravity and other absolute laws, so also does society.
Positivism states that the only authentic knowledge is that which allows positive verification and assumes that there is valid knowledge only in scientific knowledge. Enlightenment thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon, Pierre-Simon Laplace and Auguste Comte believed the scientific method, the circular dependence of theory and observation, must replace metaphysics in the history of thought. Sociological positivism was reformulated by Émile Durkheim as a foundation to social research.
In the early 20th century, logical positivism — a descendant of Comte's basic thesis but an independent movement — sprang up in Vienna and grew to become one of the dominant schools in Anglo-American philosophy and the analytic tradition. Logical positivists (or 'neopositivists') reject metaphysical speculation and attempted to reduce statements and propositions to pure logic. Critiques of this approach by philosophers such as Karl Popper, Willard Van Orman Quine and Thomas Kuhn have been highly influential, and led to the development of postpositivism."