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Comte, Auguste (1798–1857)

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


French philosopher, the founder of positivism, born in Montpellier. Comte maintained that the progress of human mind goes through three stages: the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive or scientific. These three stages offer explanations respectively in terms of gods, abstractions, and observations. He held that sociology is the crowning empirical science and applied his law of three stages to social and political development. He was a pioneer of methodological individualism, the idea that social scientific explanation of collective behavior is ultimately based on the explanation of individual behavior. In his later years he also sought to establish a universal religion of humanity, based on his positivism. His main works are: Course on the Positive Philosophy (6 vols. 1830–42), System of Positive Polity (4 vols. 1851–4), Catechism of Positivism (1852), and The Subjective Synthesis (1856). ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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