The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte

by Auguste Comte

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 258

The themes of Comte's The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte include his continued thoughts on positivism, or a system in which every claim can be scientifically validated. His theme is the development of society towards a more positivist approach. In this work, he develops a system of the progression of society into three phases.

In the first phase, society was ruled by the supernatural, and religion (or another prime force) was seen as the prime explanation for the world. In this phase, people relied on superstition and authority rather than using reason and observation. In the second phase, people began to question their reliance on religion or superstition and turned to another abstract idea (such as revolution) as their guiding force. This phase was short and prepared society to enter the third phase, in which people are guided by positivism and the reliance on observation and reason. People in this phase are no longer guided by a single idea but by the laws of nature. Therefore, one theme of this work is the evolution of human society along three phrases.

The other theme of this work is the place of sociology among the other sciences. Comte, who coined the term "sociology," defined sociology as the supreme science, or the branch of science that unifies and interacts with all the other sciences. By defining sociology as the last and the unifying science, Comte declared that human society and its functioning were also subject to the positivist approach, and could be studied in the same way as the natural sciences.

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