Postpositivism subsumes a plurality of epistemological stances intended to supersede positivism without requiring objective knowledge to succumb to epistemological anarchy (i.e., “anything-goes” relativism). Postpositivists participate in two levels of debate: The first pits them against positivists, the second against relativists (e.g., postmodernists and certain constructivist approaches). In contrast to positivists, they are not classical foundationalists, who claim that knowledge needs a secure foundation. In contrast to relativists, they acknowledge that scientists put forth claims to truth that are warranted despite being fallible. Postpositivism thus offers researchers another choice besides positivism or relativism. This entry gives an overview of postpositivism and provides examples of postpositivist epistemologies.

Fallibility and Warrants

Positivists sought to ground science in an incorrigible (uncorrectable) source of knowledge (e.g., sense data and logical truths). They ...

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