Comte, Auguste

(1798-1857)
A French social theorist who coined the term ‘sociology’. After studying the natural sciences at the École Polytechnique in Paris, Comte became Henri Saint-Simon's secretary in 1817. In the course of what proved to be a somewhat fraught relationship (it ended acrimoniously in 1824 after a dispute over authorship credits), Comte was able to begin the development of what he described as his ‘positivist philosophy’. Many of those who have invoked Comte's name but not read his work have been misled by his use of this term. Although Comte took the natural sciences as his model, he intended the term to suggest that his approach was a positive rather than a negative one, and not (as is more commonly supposed) that he embraced any sort of empiricism .
For Comte, his Enlightenment predecessors had been too critical of the social conditions they confronted, and as a result they had failed to appreciate not simply the beneficent nature of certain institutions but also and more importantly the interrelated nature of all of them. On this basis, he came to define the object of his interest as the social whole, and to label the science of this new object initially ‘social physics’ and latterly sociology .
Between 1820 and 1826 Comte produced his first essays in this new discipline. He grounded his writings in a set of metaphysical and methodological protocols that, because of their antiscepticism as well as their appreciation of the necessity of theory, seem closer to what would be termed today scientific realism rather than empiricism. (See, for example, the collection entitled The Crisis of Industrial Civilisation, edited and translated by Raymond Fletcher.) In these essays, he sought to explain the instability of the Europe in which he lived as the product of an interrupted and therefore incomplete transition between social structures of a ‘theological’ or ‘military’ type, and those of a ‘scientific-industrial’ type. He referred to this transitional phase of social development as the ‘metaphysical stage’, and specified its overcoming as the purpose of sociology, which as the synthetic and therefore the most difficult of the sciences he dubbed ‘the queen of the sciences’. This ‘Law of the Three Stages’ inspired numerous attempts at evolutionary sociology in the nineteenth century. In his subsequent six-volumeCourse in Positivist Philosophy (1830-42) he identified the specific objects of sociological inquiry as economic life, ruling ideas, forms of individuality, family structure, the division of labour, language, and religion. He organized his discussion of these topics in terms of a highly influential distinction between ‘social statics’ (the requirements for social order ) and ‘social dynamics’ (the determinants of social change ).
Because of what we must assume were deep and unresolved psychological problems, as well as what appears to have been a rather tragic love-life, little of what Comte wrote thereafter has proved to be of much interest to subsequent generations of sociologists. However, this judgement may yet be revised, since at the core of his later interests were the emotions, the sociological study of which has recently attracted much attention in the United States. This said, the immediate result of this interest was Comte's formation of what would be termed today a love cult, and his declaration that he was the Pope. See also positivism.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Comte, Auguste — ▪ French philosopher Introduction in full  Isidore auguste marie françois xavier Comte  born January 19, 1798, Montpellier, France died September 5, 1857, Paris  French philosopher known as the founder of sociology and of Positivism. Comte gave… …   Universalium

  • Comte, Auguste — (1798–1857) French philosopher and social theorist. Born in Montpellier, France, Comte was educated at the École Polytechnique, and became Secretary to Saint Simon in 1817; after 1826 he supported himself by teaching mathematics and giving… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • COMTE, AUGUSTE —    a French philosopher, born at Montpellier, the founder of POSITIVISM (q.v.); enough to say here, it consisted of a new arrangement of the sciences into Abstract and Concrete, and a new law of historical evolution in science from a theological… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Comte, Auguste — ► (1798 1857) Filósofo y sociólogo francés, fundador del positivismo y creador de la sociología. Las bases de su filosofía proceden de su interés por el progreso y el desarrollo del conocimiento. Para explicarlo formuló la ley de los tres… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • COMTE, Auguste — (1798 1857)    French POSITIVIST philosopher and one of the founders of SOCIOLOGY. His major work is The System of Positive Policy (1875 1877 4 Vols.) …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Comte — Comte, Auguste …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Comte — Comte, Auguste …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Comte — Comte, Auguste …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Auguste Comte — Philosophe français XIXe siècle Lithographie de Comte par Tony Touillon …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Auguste Comte — Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte (* 19. Januar 1798 in Montpellier; † 5. September 1857 in Paris) war ein französischer Mathematiker, Philosoph und Religionskritiker. Vor allem ist er jedoch als einer der Mitbegründer der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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