ISIDORE MARIE AUGUSTE FRANçOIS XAVIER COMTE (/ˈɪzədɔːr oʊˈɡuːst məˈriː frænˈsweɪ seɪvi.ər kɒəmˈteɪ/ ; 19 January 1798 – 5 September 1857) was a French philosopher who founded the discipline of praxeology and the doctrine of positivism . He is sometimes regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term.
Influenced by the utopian socialist
Henri Saint-Simon , Comte
developed the positive philosophy in an attempt to remedy the social
malaise of the
Comte's social theories culminated in his "
Religion of Humanity
* 1 Life
* 2 Thought
* 2.1 Comte\'s positivism * 2.2 The religion of humanity * 2.3 Law of three stages
* 3 Bibliography * 4 Notes * 5 Sources * 6 Further reading * 7 External links
Following his return to Montpellier, Comte soon came to see unbridgeable differences with his Catholic and monarchist family and set off again for Paris, earning money by small jobs. In August 1817 he found an apartment at 36 rue Bonaparte in Paris' 6ème (where he lived until 1822) and later that year he became a student and secretary to Henri de Saint-Simon , who brought Comte into contact with intellectual society and greatly influenced his thought therefrom. During that time Comte published his first essays in the various publications headed by Saint-Simon, L'Industrie, Le Politique, and L\'Organisateur ( Charles Dunoyer and Charles Comte 's Le Censeur Européen ), although he would not publish under his own name until 1819's "La séparation générale entre les opinions et les désirs" ("The general separation of opinions and desires"). In 1824, Comte left Saint-Simon, again because of unbridgeable differences. Comte published a Plan de travaux scientifiques nécessaires pour réorganiser la société (1822) (Plan of scientific studies necessary for the reorganization of society). But he failed to get an academic post. His day-to-day life depended on sponsors and financial help from friends. Debates rage as to how much Comte appropriated the work of Saint-Simon.
Comte married Caroline Massin in 1825. In 1826, he was taken to a mental health hospital, but left without being cured – only stabilized by French alienist Jean-Étienne Dominique Esquirol – so that he could work again on his plan (he would later attempt suicide in 1827 by jumping off the Pont des Arts ). In the time between this and their divorce in 1842, he published the six volumes of his Cours.
Comte developed a close friendship with
John Stuart Mill
He published four volumes of Système de politique positive (1851–1854). His final work, the first volume of La Synthèse Subjective ("The Subjective Synthesis"), was published in 1856.
Comte died in Paris on 5 September 1857 from stomach cancer and was
buried in the famous
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Comte first described the epistemological perspective of positivism
The Course in Positive Philosophy , a series of texts published
between 1830 and 1842. These texts were followed by the 1848 work, A
General View of
Comte offered an account of social evolution , proposing that society undergoes three phases in its quest for the truth according to a general 'law of three stages'. The idea bears some similarity to Karl Marx 's view that human society would progress toward a communist peak. This is perhaps unsurprising as both were profoundly influenced by the early utopian socialist , Henri de Saint-Simon , who was at one time Comte's teacher and mentor. Both Comte and Marx intended to develop, scientifically, a new secular ideology in the wake of European secularisation .
Comte's stages were (1) the theological stage, (2) the metaphysical
stage, and (3) the positive stage. (1) The
Theological stage was seen
from the perspective of 19th century
The other universal law he called the "encyclopedic law". By combining these laws, Comte developed a systematic and hierarchical classification of all sciences, including inorganic physics (astronomy , earth science and chemistry ) and organic physics (biology and, for the first time, physique sociale, later renamed sociologie). Independently from Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès 's introduction of the term in 1780, Comte re-invented "sociologie", and introduced the term as a neologism, in 1838. Comte had earlier used the term "social physics", but that term had been appropriated by others, notably by Adolphe Quetelet .
"The most important thing to determine was the natural order in which
the sciences stand — not how they can be made to stand, but how they
must stand, irrespective of the wishes of any one....This Comte
accomplished by taking as the criterion of the position of each the
degree of what he called "positivity", which is simply the degree to
which the phenomena can be exactly determined. This, as may be readily
seen, is also a measure of their relative complexity, since the
exactness of a science is in inverse proportion to its complexity. The
degree of exactness or positivity is, moreover, that to which it can
be subjected to mathematical demonstration, and therefore mathematics,
which is not itself a concrete science, is the general gauge by which
the position of every science is to be determined. Generalizing thus,
Comte found that there were five great groups of phenomena of equal
classificatory value but of successively decreasing positivity. To
these he gave the names: astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and
Lester F. Ward
This idea of a special science (not the humanities, not metaphysics )
for the social was prominent in the 19th century and not unique to
Comte. It has recently been discovered that the term "sociology" (as a
term considered coined by Comte) had already been introduced in 1780,
albeit with a different meaning, by the French essayist Emmanuel
Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836). The ambitious (or many would say
'grandiose') way that Comte conceived of this special science of the
social, however, was unique. Comte saw this new science, sociology, as
the last and greatest of all sciences, one which would include all
other sciences and integrate and relate their findings into a cohesive
whole. It has to be pointed out, however, that he noted a seventh
science, one even greater than sociology. Namely, Comte considered
Comte's explanation of the Positive philosophy introduced the important relationship between theory, practice and human understanding of the world. On page 27 of the 1855 printing of Harriet Martineau 's translation of The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, we see his observation that, "If it is true that every theory must be based upon observed facts, it is equally true that facts can not be observed without the guidance of some theories. Without such guidance, our facts would be desultory and fruitless; we could not retain them: for the most part we could not even perceive them."
Comte's emphasis on the interconnectedness of social elements was a forerunner of modern functionalism . Nevertheless, as with many others of Comte's time, certain elements of his work are now viewed as eccentric and unscientific, and his grand vision of sociology as the centerpiece of all the sciences has not come to fruition.
His emphasis on a quantitative, mathematical basis for
decision-making remains with us today. It is a foundation of the
modern notion of Positivism, modern quantitative statistical analysis
, and business decision-making. His description of the continuing
cyclical relationship between theory and practice is seen in modern
business systems of
Total Quality Management (TQM) and Continuous
Quality Improvement where advocates describe a continuous cycle of
theory and practice through the four-part cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act
The early sociology of
Comte's fame today owes in part to
Comte influenced the Young Turks political movement.
THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY
Positivist temple in Porto Alegre
In later years, Comte developed the 'religion of humanity ' for
positivist societies in order to fulfil the cohesive function once
held by traditional worship. In 1849, he proposed a calendar reform
called the 'positivist calendar '. For close associate John Stuart
Mill , it was possible to distinguish between a "good Comte" (the
author of the Course in Positive Philosophy) and a "bad Comte" (the
author of the secular-religious system). The system was unsuccessful
but met with the publication of Darwin 's On the Origin of Species
(1859) to influence the proliferation of various Secular Humanist
organizations in the 19th century, especially through the work of
secularists such as
George Holyoake and
Richard Congreve . Although
Comte's English followers, including
LAW OF THREE STAGES
Main article: Law of three stages
Comte was agitated by the fact that no one had synthesized physics, chemistry, and biology into a coherent system of ideas, so he began an attempt to reasonably deduce facts about the social world from the use of the sciences. Through his studies, he concluded that the growth of the human mind progresses in stages, and so must societies. He claimed the history of society could be divided into three different stages: theological, metaphysical, and positive. The Law of three Stages, an evolutionary theory, describes how history of societies is split into three sections due to new thoughts on philosophy. Comte believed that evolution was the growth of the human mind, splitting into stages and evolving through these stages. Comte concluded that society acts similarly to the mind.
"The law is this: that each of our leading conceptions – each branch of our knowledge – passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive." — A. Comte
The Law of Three Stages is the evolution of society in which the stages have already occurred or are currently developing. The reason why there are newly developed stages after a certain time period is that the system “has lost its power” and is preventing the progression of civilization, causing complicated situations in society. 10. The only way to escape the situation is for people within the civilized nations to turn towards an “organic” new social system. Comte refers to kings to show the complications of re-establishment on society. Kings feel the need to reorganize their kingdom, but many fail to succeed because they do not consider that the progress of civilization needs reform, not perceiving that there is nothing more perfect than inserting a new, more harmonious system. Kings fail to see the effectiveness of abandoning old systems because they do not understand the nature of the present crisis. But in order to progress, there needs to be the necessary consequences that come with it, which is caused by a “series of modifications, independent of the human will, to which all classes of society contributed, and of which kings themselves have often been the first agents and most eager promoters”. The people themselves have the ability to produce a new system. This pattern is shown through the theological stage, metaphysical stage, and positive stage.
* Theological Stage
* The first stage, the theological stage, relies on supernatural or religious explanations of the phenomena of human behavior because “the human mind, in its search for the primary and final causes of phenomena, explains the apparent anomalies in the universe as interventions of supernatural agents”. The Theological Stage is the “necessary starting point of human intelligence”, when humans turn to supernatural agents as the cause of all phenomena. In this stage, humans focus on discovering absolute knowledge. Comte disapproved this stage because it turned to simple explanation humans created in their minds that all phenomena was caused by supernatural agents, rather than human reason and experience. Comte refers to Bacon’s philosophy that “there can be no real knowledge except that which rests upon observed facts”, but he observes that the primitive mind could not have thought that way because it would have only created a vicious circle between observations and theories. “For if, on the one hand, every positive theory must necessarily be founded upon observations, it is, on the other hand, no less true that, in order to observe, our mind has need of some theory or other". Because the human mind could not have thought in that way in the origin of human knowledge, Comte claims that humans would have been “incapable of remembering facts”, and would not have escaped the circle if it were not for theological conceptions, which were less complicated explanations to human life. Although Comte disliked this stage, he explains that theology was necessary in the beginning of the developing primitive mind. * Fetishism * Polytheism * Monotheism
* Metaphysical or Abstract Stage
* The second stage, the metaphysical stage, is merely a modification of the first because a supernatural cause is replaced by an “abstract entity”; it is meant to be a transitional stage, where there is the belief that abstract forces control the behavior of human beings. Because it is a transitional stage between the theological stage and the positive stage, Comte deemed it the least important of the three stages and was only necessary because the human mind cannot make the jump from the theological to the positive stage on its own.
The metaphysical stage is the transitional stage. Because “Theology and physics are so profoundly incompatible”, and their “conceptions are so radically opposed in character”, human intelligence must have a gradual transition. Other than this, Comte says that there is no other use for this stage. Although it is the least important stage, it is necessary because humans could not handle the significant change in thought from theological to positivity. The metaphysical stage is just a slight modification of the previous stage, when people believed in the abstract forces rather than the supernatural. The mind begins to notice the facts themselves, caused by the emptiness of the metaphysical agents through “over subtle qualification that all right-minded persons considered them to be only the abstract names of the phenomena in question”. The mind becomes familiar with concepts, wanting to seek more, and therefore is prepared to move into the positive stage. 3. Positive stage
* The last stage – the positive stage – is when the mind stops searching for the cause of phenomena and realizes that laws exist to govern human behavior, and that this stage can be explained rationally with the use of reason and observation, both of which are used to study the social world. This stage relies on science, rational thought, and empirical laws. Comte believed that this study of sociology he created was “the science that after all the others; and as the final science, it must assume the task of coordinating the development of the whole of knowledge” because it organized all of human behavior.
The final, most evolved stage is the positivist stage, the stage when
humans give up on discovering absolute truth, and turn towards
discovering, through reasoning and observation, actual laws of
phenomena. Humans realize that laws exist, and that the world can be
rationally explained through science, rational thought, laws, and
observation. Comte was a positivist, believing in the natural rather
than the supernatural, and so he claimed that his time period, the
1800s, was in the positivist stage. He believed that within this
stage, there is a hierarchy of sciences: mathematics, astronomy,
terrestrial physics, chemistry, and physiology. Mathematics, the
“science that relates to the measurement of magnitudes”, is the
most perfect science of all, and is applied to the most important laws
of the universe.
* Comte, A.; A general view of positivism London, 1856 Internet
* Comte, A.; Bridges, J.H. (tr.); A General View of Positivism;
Trubner and Co., 1865 (reissued by
Cambridge University Press
* ^ A B Pickering (2006), p. 192ff.
* ^ Pickering (2009b), pp. 216 and 304.
* ^ Sutton, Michael (1982). Nationalism, Positivism, and
Catholicism. The Politics of
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