p.l.e. logophilosophy.lander.edu     

Ethics Homepage  >  Textbook  > Comte          

   
 

Site Map

Ethics Homepage

Quizzes
Tests
FAQ
Links
Search
Readings
Archives
Syllabus

 

 

August Comte (Thoemmes)Philosophy 302: Ethics
August Comte, "Positive Philosophy"

Abstract:  Societies and the sciences evolve in accordance with natural law through three stages: the theological-military, the metaphysical-transitional, and the scientific-industrial. Knowledge in any field of inquiry involves finding the laws of phenomena.

1. Explain Comte's three laws of development.

2. According to the law of the three stages, how does the metaphysical state differ from the religious state of understanding? Is it possible for a person to understand the world two different ways?

3. Clarify as precisely as possible Comte's description of the third stage of knowledge. Do you think Comte would endorse "the quest for certainty"?

1. Explain Comte's three laws of development.

That each branch of knowledge historically progresses through three mutually exclusive kinds of thinking:  (1) the theological (based on supernatural absolute knowledge of final causes), (2) the metaphysical (based on abstract principles or forces of origin), and (3) the positive (based on reason and observation for discovery of laws of phenomena).

Top of Page

2. According to the law of the three stages, how does the metaphysical state differ from the religious state of understanding? Is it possible for a person to understand the world two different ways?

The metaphysical stage uses abstract entities structurally replacing the supernatural agents of the theological state. In the first, metaphysical entities account for the phenomena of the world; in the second, supernatural agent(s) produce the phenomena of the world.  Comte suggests they are mutually exclusive ways of understanding--the first is teleological and the second is ontological.

Top of Page

3. Clarify as precisely as possible Comte's description of the third stage of knowledge. Do you think Comte would endorse "the quest for certainty"?

In the third stage, the positive stage, science progresses by the explanation of increasing number of facts by decreasing number of laws of phenomena. Since the positive stage recognizes the impossibility of final causes and absolute truth, there would be no expectation of finding "absolute certainty" about phenomena and their variable relations.

Top of Page


Recommended Sources

Comte, AugustThe 1911 Encyclopædia. Discussion of Comte's life and work from the classic edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Paper Topics

1. Does Comte's explanation of the Positive Philosophy commit the genetic fallacy?
2. Are the three stages of the progressive growth of the human mind functionally equivalent structurally?  Claude Leví-Strauss, for example, explains how primitive societies and civilized societies both have similarities in concept formation based on the natural world.

Ethics Homepage     

 
Varieties of Determinism   Top of Page   Engles, "The Scence of Natural Processes"
Send corrections or suggestions to webmaster at philosophy.lander.edu
Read the disclaimer concerning this page.
09.10.09        2003-9 GFDL

Problems  |  Egoistic Theories  |  The Good  |  Duty Ethics  |  Utilitarianism  |  Rights  |

.