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Economists have long subdivided their discipline into two branches: positive economics and welfare economics. Positive economics aims to be scientifically descriptive (what is) and predictive (what will be) of objective facts. While positive economics emphasizes a purely scientific methodology, whether any social scientist can be truly unbiased with respect to facts or values is open to serious question. This approach to economics invokes the positivism associated with the French sociologist Auguste Comte (1798–1857). Comte advocated the application to social studies of the methodology of observation and experimentation then developing in the natural sciences (e.g., physics and chemistry). For Comte, positivism was the third and final stage of human reasoning, succeeding the previous metaphysical and theological stages for explaining causality (i.e., why reality is the ...

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