Explain the significance of how August Comte’s ideas have influenced people’s thoughts/behavior.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I tend to think that one of Comte's major influences that can be seen today is a desire for unity and symmetry.  Comte was driven by the idea that there can be a theory that unifies and brings together different and discordant elements in European society.  This is an influencing element in what we see in today's setting.  I believe that the idea of unity, symmetry, and order is something that leaders do believe in today and seek to articulate today.  The Republican idea of "We Built This" is an affirmation of unity in which one can see the Comtian ideas of bringing together different elements in a social order.  Comte believed that in being able to stress the "positive sciences" such as mathematics, there can be answers provided to all social elements.  Politicians today seem to believe the same elements.  In focusing on the "positive" elements of economic growth, there can be all answers provided, one in which individuals can converge and come together.  This helps to bring out the political emphasis today that can find root in Comtian principles and elements.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte (1798 – 1857), usually known as Auguste Comte, was a French philosopher who was part of a broad nineteenth-century movement that addressed how to reconstruct philosophical and scientific beliefs on first principles independent of religion. His primary philosophical focus, like that of Kant, Hegel, Hume, and so on, was to create general assumptions that can form grounds for work in particular sciences, rather than advancing those sciences themselves. In other words, his major contribution was concerned with the assumptions on which we base our theories about our world and its inhabitants, rather than particular claims about planets, animals, or economic systems. 

His major contribution was a system know as "positivism." His work begins with an historical examination of the evolution of philosophy, which in his period encompassed science, under the term "natural philosophy." He argued that the history of philosophy could be divided into three phases, theological, metaphysical, and positive. This places him among the philosophers who contributed a theory of progress to modern thought, or, in other words, the belief that human thought and understanding are constantly improving as they move away from irrational superstition to empirical and rational understanding. He also created a hierarchy of sciences which influenced certain aspects of science pedagogy.

His emphasis on the use of a positive scientific method of reason and observation in social as well as physical sciences contributed to much of twentieth century political science, sociology, social work, and economics, as formulated to provide technocratic solutions to measurable problems, starting with observation rather than abstract values or belief systems. Such diverse modern phenomena as "scientifically-based philanthropy," "technocratic government," and "evidence-based medicine" all owe something to Comte's theories of positivism. 

His later work on how to address the human need for spiritual engagement independent of supernatural religion was interesting but less influential. 

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