Course:SOCI1110/Auguste Comte

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'Auguste Comte' by Tanya Chandna
Isidore Auguste Marie FranÇois Xavier Comte, better known as Auguste Comte.
Birth :- January 19th 1798, Montpellier, France.
Death :- September 5th, 1857 Paris, France (aged 59)
Mother:- Rosalie Bayer
Father :- Louis Comte
Spouse :- 1 : Caroline Massin (divorced) (1825 - 1842)
2 : Clotilde de Vaux - (1844) .
Famous for :- Founder of Positive Philosophy, a disciplne of study within Sociology

Isidore Auguste Marie FranÇois Xavier Comte, better known as 'Auguste Comte' was born on January 19th 1798 during the late French Revolution and early Industrial Revolution, in the city of Montpellier, France.

In his beliefs he would reject religion and royalism. He would grow up to be a French philosopher and later on be the founder of sociology and positivism. Comte died on September 7th 1857 in the city of Paris, France.


Early Life

Comte was born in the family of Roman Catholic devotees. His father Louis Comte, a government tax official and mother Rosalie Bayer were strong royalist.

During his early life he attended the University of Montpellier where he rejected these ideas in favor of the French Revolution. Being skilled in the field of mathematics and science, Auguste left school and moved to Paris, where he taught Mathematics and journalism while studying economics, history, and philosophy being specially interested in people who started to trace some kind of order in the history of human society. People like Montesquieu, A.R.J Turgot, and Joseph de Maistre strongly influenced him later on.

At the age of 19 Comte met Henri de Saint-Simon, a social theorist who believed in economic organization in modern society and later on founder of European socialism. Being strongly inspired by him, Comte became his collaborator, but later on this partnership was broken by an authorship argument. Comte continued to be influenced by Simon throughout his life.

Mid Life

With the experience of working with Simon, in 1924 Comte began to share his system of positive philosophy with private audiences. Soon after this, Auguste had a mental breakdown. A year after Comte almost recovered fully and retook his lecture project, being so successful that he gave a lecture at the royal athenaeum. Comte used the next 12 years writing six books about his philosophy entitled as Cours de philosophie positive.

He argued in his books that, like the physical world, society operated under its own set of laws. In the next years he became a tutor at an engineer school called Ecole Polytechnique, but later on due to arguments with the directors, Comte was fired in 1842. The same year August divorced his wife, Caroline Massin (1825-1842) due to financial problems. In the year 1844 Comte got emotionally involved with Clotilde de Vaux, who died of tuberculosis a year after.


Comte was influenced by Clotilde´s death and spend several years writing his next big book called “System of positive policy”, where he attempted to promote his new world order where history, economics and psychology unifies. His books became popular around Europe, and several people including English intellectuals like Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and George Eliot were influenced by Comte's writings.

His work emphasized on moral progress in society. Later on Comte died of stomach Cancer on September 5, 1857. He was buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. The apartment he lived from 1841 to 1857, has been preserved as the Maison d’Auguste Comte, a private Museum.

Work Contributed

Comte starting delivering lectures as a part of Positive Philosophy in April 1826. During his lectures well- known scientists Fourier and Poinsot were included in his audience. Later, Comte has to interrupt his course due to his poor health conditions and resumed it in 1829.

Comte, also published six volumes of “ Course of Positive Philosophy”, from 1830 to 1842.

From 1832, he also taught and mechanics at Ecole Polytechnique but later in 1942 he lost his job due to clash with administration. His book on mathematics Elementary Treatise on Analytic Geometry, appeared in the following year.

Comte finished working on Philosophical Treatise on Popular Astronomy and Discourse on the Positive Spirit in 1844, but at the same time he was busy writing the “System of Positive Polity”.

Comte also opened the Positive Society by getting inspired from the Club of Jacobians. At the same time, his book “General View of Positivism” also appeared.

For three consecutive years since 1851 to 1854, Comte was occupied with his work on four volumes of “System of Positive Polity.” in between the same time phase (1852), Comte remained busy with “Catechism of Positive Religion.”

Comte after publishing Appeal to Conservatives in 1855, he published his first volume on Philosophy of Mathematics, titled “Subjective Synthesis” or Universal System of the Conceptions Adapted to the Normal State of Humanity.

Major works

Auguste Comte published six volumes of Course in Positive Philosophy between 1830 and 1842. In his series of publications, Comte presented view of Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. Comte also showed the historical and the theoretical link between them for better understanding.

He also published four volumes of System of Positive Policy- A treatise of Sociology, Instituting the Religion of Humanity, from 1851 to 1854. In his work he viewed over the uniqueness of democracy.


Positivist Thought

Positivism is a term used for thinking in a particular way, but for Comte, Positivism is the method of a systematic re-classification of sciences and the general conception of the development of man in his history. Comte believed only in terms of their origin, function and significance in the relation to human history.

The Law of Three Stages

Comte proposed that the society undergoes three phases to conquer the quest for the real truth. According to Comte, these three stages were Theology stage, Metaphysical Stage and the Positive Stage.

The Theology stages deals with the general perspective of the 19th century where man’s place in the society and restrictions of the society was referred to God. During this stage, men believed in their ancestors teaching and followed it blindly. Man during this time led a simple life and was not curious about the happening in and around the society.

The metaphysical stage involved justification of the universal rights placed higher than the authority of a human ruler. Comte also called this stage as investigation stage as during this time people started reasoning and questioned about the things happening in the society.

In the final stage, Positive Stage, people could finally find a solution to their problems, specially the social ones, where humans can come up with human rights and find solutions to their problems.

Religion of Humanity

Comte, in his later years came up with the Religion of Humanity, which means that for the positivist societies to fulfill the function of traditional worship. Comte, in 1849 also proposed a calendar of reform, but the system was unsuccessful later.