Positivism in Late Tsarist Russia: Its Introduction, Penetration, and Diffusion

  • Thomas Nemeth


This chapter surveys the dissemination within Imperial Russia of positivism, principally of the French variety, which sought to dispel all traditional metaphysics associated with the quest for knowledge. With their focus on social science, Russian positivists favored the universal employment of natural-scientific methodology. Especially influential in this context was Comtean phenomenalism as a rejection of religious explanations of natural events and the call for a science of society. Although eclipsed by the rise of Marxism, positivism decisively influenced Russian theoreticians in psychology, legal theory, and philosophy. Some saw in positivism a conservative message, whereas others saw in it a call for the social scientist to be an active participant in the reformation of society.

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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Nemeth
    • 1
  1. 1.Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of RussiaNew YorkUSA

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