The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte

by Auguste Comte

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 149

Comte's Positive Philosophy is a text which develops an early notion of sociology: the analytical framework and methodology for understanding how societies evolve and organize. The main contribution of Comte's text is the concept of scientific positivism. Positivism represents a scrupulous commitment to empirical study, under the assumption that scientific observation will furnish progressively precise knowledge about the way the world works. Positivism is an epistemological concept, meaning that it tries to define the limits of what humans can "know" and "do."

The work's second biggest contribution is Comte's thesis that human knowledge-making will progress from the physical, mechanical realm to the social realm. He believed that most physical phenomena are strictly external to human bodies, minds, and societies, rendering them the starting point for empirical knowledge-seeking. He contends that, as science advances, it will gradually find tools for looking inward towards the ultimate object of science—humans themselves.

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