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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 188

Society is the main character in 19th century French philosopher Auguste Comte's The Positive Philosophy. Past and present civilizations are examined scientifically to show, in Comte's view, the eventual inevitable evolution of humankind. This will occur when a cooperative state is reached, where the people largely rule themselves. It can happen because they've accepted a level of duty to the greater whole, much like a soldier's every action is directed to the greater whole of the military.

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According to Comte, there are three stages of progress for civilizations. First is the theological stage, where people invent gods. Next is the metaphysical stage, where intellect and reason overturn the previous stage. The final stage is the positive stage, where unassailable truths or realities are generally accepted. The people will uphold these truths, governed by a managerial class and guided by a spiritual class: the positive philosophers.

As characters within Comte's philosophy, women and certain races are supposedly designed by nature to be subservient followers of the male managerial class. Originally published in 1830, these were generally accepted ideas of the time, but are obvious troublesome aspects of Comte's utopian vision.

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