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In general, what was Auguste Comte to do with?

Evolutionism and Science


What is Comte's Overview?

o Greatly advanced the field of social science
o First coined the term ‘sociology’ to describe the study of social behaviour
o Coined ‘altruism’
o Made sociology a science
o Founded positivism
o Broke sociology into 2 categories – Social Statics and Social Dynamics


When did Auguste Comte coin the term "sociology"?


Although in only in this context, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyés introduced it in 1780


Who originally coined the term "sociology", and when?

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyés introduced it in 1780


What is meant by "Altruism" ?

Altruism: disinterested and selfless concern for others’ well-being


What is meant by 'Social Statics' ?

Social Statics – The forces holding society together


What is meant by 'Social Dynamics' ?

Social Dynamics – The forces driving social change


Comte’s main work/ contribution to positivist philosophy falls in 5 parts. What are they?

1) His rigorous adoption of the scientific method
2) Law of 3 stages
3) Classification of the sciences
4) His conception of the incomplete philosophy of each of these sciences anterior to sociology
5) His synthesis of a positivist social philosophy in a unified form


What was Comte's life like?

• 1798-1857 (post French Revolution)
• Comte’s father (Louis) and mother (Rosalie) were both monarchists and devout Roman Catholics.
• 1817: secretary to CHSS
• 1824: ‘catastrophic’ spat with CHSS over authorship – ‘I owed nothing to his personage’
• 1826: was hospitalised, had a breakdown
o 1827: Attempts suicide
• 1838: embarks on a program of ‘cerebral hygiene’ – a mind detox where he doesn’t read for a while
• 1857: Comte dies of cancer, at the age of 59.


What was Comte's lifespan?

1798-1857 (post French Revolution)


What was Comte's lovelife like?

• Comte was in an unhappy marriage with Caroline Massin, and they separated after 17 years (1825-1842)

• In 1845 Comte had a profound romantic and emotional experience with Clotilde de Vaux. Because she wasn’t divorced from her philandering husband, her relationship with Comte remained platonic, thought the two were deeply in love. She died the following year of tuberculosis. She helped inspire the 'Religion of Humanity'


What was Comte's character like?

• Frail, short stature, nervous, but bonkers
• Quite antisocial, quite nervous
• Lecturer somewhat compared his personality & troubled character to Trump
• “Comte was a rather sombre, ungrateful, self-centred, and egocentric personality, but he compensated for this by his zeal for the welfare of humanity”


What was Comte's Intelligence like?

• Very good memory, good intelligence
• ‘Comte’s prodigious memory is famous. Endowed with a photographic memory he could recite backwards the words of any page he had read but once. His powers of concentration were such that he could sketch out an entire book without putting pen to paper. His lectures were all delivered without notes. … he wrote everything from memory’ (Schweber).


What was Comte's early work ?

• Looked more at social dynamics
• Discusses how the European system should be harmonious where everyone appreciates everyone’s contribution – utopian
• Believed in this rise in significance of science & laboratory methods
• Religion & metaphysics displaced by positivism
• Stages of progressions are steady & inevitable
• Believed that the industry should be a united harmonious workshop


What was Comte's later work?

• Looked more at social statics
• Disaffection with the inevitability of progression
• Recognises that the extent of how original things found important are baseless
• Abandons of evolution & positivistic method
• Has a conservative reaction in 1789
• In science, there’s very little scope in looking at aesthetics


What did Comte believe sociology to be, and why?

• He believes sociology to be a science; in fact the ultimate, most important science

• Looks at positivism; looking at theories, observations and their relationships
o ‘If it is true that every theory must be based upon observed facts, it is equally true that facts cannot be observed without the guidance of some theories. Without such guidance, our facts would be desultory and fruitless…’

• Society, like nature, operates under its own set of laws, and should be studied in the same way we study nature; with science


What is Comte's 'Classification of Sciences'?

The Classification of Sciences

o Based upon the hypothesis that the sciences had developed from the understanding of simple and abstract principles to the understanding of complex and concrete phenomena.

o Ordered disciplines, dealing with degrees of complexity. Sociology would integrate the less complex sciences

o (in order) Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and finally Sociology

o Simpler sciences as a precondition for integrative sociology


Why did Comte, in his early work, view the social as Dynamic?
What was the Paradox of studying sociology?

• Saw the social as dynamic – something ‘forever proceeding before our eyes in which we are a part’
• “Modern science and technology and the Industrial Revolution had begun transforming the societies of Europe in directions no one yet understood”

The paradoxical problem of being outside of the social in order to study it


In his early thinking, what did Comte say was the object of political science?

The proper object of political science… is a general determination of society’s future


In which work did Auguste Comte come up with The Law of Three Stages, and when?

'The Course in Positive Philosophy'

A series of texts written between 1830 and 1842. The works were translated into English by Harriet Martineau and condensed to form The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte (1853).


What are the names of the 3 stages in 'The Law of Three Stages', in order?

1. Theological Stage
2. Metaphysical Stage
3. Positive Stage


When was the Theological Stage?

< 1300 AD


What is the Theological Stage also known as?

Fictitious Stage


How did Comte describe the Theological Stage?

All theoretical conceptions bear a supernatural impress. There is a lack of logical & orderly thinking

Implies belief in supernatural power

Found more among the primitive races

Theology means discourse in religion. Religion dominated in this state of development.

This stage is dominated by priests, and ruled by military men (“Priests were endowed with intellectual and spiritual power, while military exercised temporal authority.)

Broken down into 3 stages


The Theological Stage is broken down into three stages. What are they, in order?

1. Fetishism
2. Polytheism
3. Monotheism


What is Fetishism? Why did it shift to the next stage?

Believes that supernatural power dwells in inanimate object.

Too many fetishes created confusion for people. Hence they started believing in many Gods (Polytheism)


What is Polytheism? Why did it shift to the next stage?

Belief in many Gods

The presence of too many Gods also created mental contradiction for them. So they develop the idea of one God (Monotheism)


What is Monotheism? Why was it successful?

Belief in one single God.

The climax of the theological stage of thinking. It symbolises victory of human intellect & reason over non-intellectual & irrational thinking.


When was the Metaphysical Stage?

1300 - 1800 AD


What is the Metaphysical Stage also known as?

Abstract Stage