CRIM 2653 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Jeremy Bentham, Crime Science, Alvin Risk

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16 Aug 2016
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Positivists believed that there was one best method to providing insight on various
phenomenons.. the highest form of knowing is knowledge of the natural world..if we understand
the nature of the phenomenon, we will understand it and be able to explain it..
In the early days of Criminology, most of the criminological research done was under the branch
of psychology or anthropology..
One thing all researchers had in common was some adherence to positivism; natural sciences
One of the things that is characteristic of positivism is that it is pragmatic..The early research of
criminology were experience..In some ways, it was an accidental and unsystematic study of
criminal behaviour..they took real world problems like crime and they examined a perennial
problem like habitual offending and they sought the best practical explanation for it..most of the
time, that explanation came down in an explanation that was rooted in physical nature..The
physical nature of criminals themselves..this comes from positivism which says that the highest
form of knowing is knowledge of the natural world..if we understand the nature of the
phenomenon, we will understand it and be able to explain it..
There was a certain amount of preoccupation with the body..There is a reason why Foucault
focuses so much with the body (preoccupied with the body)..the discourses of power and
knowledge work their way on the body of the accused..body and mind are joined..for Foucault
they are joined as an object of power, that is subjected to power..Foucault’s first book was the
History of the Asylum. His work originates from a historical, postmodern analysis of psychiatry..
That comes from the early positivists who were convinced that the best scientific knowledge and
explanations of why people did what they did was by looking at their nature..
Jeremy Bentham: Nature has placed man under the govern of two sovereigns, pain and
pleasure..You can control their behaviour..Their behaviours can be modified by increasing pain
or pleasure..
Pain and pleasure are the main springs of all human action..
Positivism presumes the malleability of nature. If you understand human nature, you can
change it.
The goal was not metaphysical speculations about human beings (the question about the
inherited corrupt souls of human beings), but it is physical, tangible, behavioural (what people
actually do in fact, how they are as human beings)
Because positivism was alleged to be scientific or the most scientific of doctrines, it made claims
that were universal.
The relationship between theory and method:
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-Do you start out with a theory and apply a method to the theory? or vise versa?
One of the things that positivists assume is that the exact same methods can be applied in the
social sciences as natural sciences.. Experimentation, however, means something totally
different in social sciences in comparison to natural sciences..
The social world requires different research methods
Positivists were unified theorists, ultimately they thought (took Newton as an example) all
sciences can be produced to something as analogous to physics..they believed in an absolute
truth (one truth about various issues such as the causes of crime)..a one best way to solve
problems..However, there are many different ways of studying phenomenons and addressing a
common social problem.
They also demonstrated great fanatic in empiricism, which they took to be
observation..everything that was knowable was measurable..(quantifiable)
Empiricism is the theory that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience. It emphasizes the
role of experience and evidence in the formation of ideas, and argues that the only knowledge
humans can have is one that is simply based on their experience.
The observations social scientists have about making meaningful observations about criminals
are positivist..Crime science, geographic profiling..these forms of the study of crime are the
areas of positivism..
One of the main problems of positivism is that it tended to lack criticality, in the sense that it was
not self-critical and that it was not open to criticisms from other perspectives..
Impact of Positivism:
-Empiricism:
The demand that one’s insights, observations, theories, can be expressed in a logical
framework..
-Priority of Logic:
Law of noncontradiction
Statistics are popular because they do not entail or run the risk of contradiction..
Logical coherence to mathematical coherence (2+2=4)
-Value-Free Science:
No social science is value-free..every concept that we employ is filled with value
We may not impute a value to something explicitly, but we know it is there based on the
meaning of the word and the phrase in which it is employed..
The politics of crime and criminal law is filled with value..
We need to ensure that our values as researchers, our prejudices, are taken into account..
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