AUGUSTE COMTE 1798 -
The French philosopher August Comte, founder of sociology, put forward his ideas on positivism in his Course de philosophie positive, begun in 1830. Influenced by the ideas of the French socialist Henri de Saint-
xxxxxThe French philosopher Auguste Comte is regarded as the founder of “sociology”, a term he himself introduced. In his six-
xxxxxComte was born in Montpellier, southern France, the son of a tax collector. A gifted child with a rebellious spirit, he rejected his parents’ Roman Catholic faith and their royalist views, and after two years studying science at the École Polytechnique in Paris, was expelled in 1816 for leading a student revolt. Two years later he began working as secretary to the noted French socialist Henri de Saint-
xxxxxIn 1826 he began a series of lectures to private audiences on what he called his "system of positive philosophy”, but his work was soon interrupted by a severe nervous breakdown. At one time he came near to taking his own life by attempting to drown in the river Seine. However, he recovered in 1827 and continued his lectures before taking up a teaching post at the École Polytechnique. It was then that he began writing his major work. True to form, however, he fell out with the school’s directors in 1842 and lost his post. From then onwards he was largely dependent upon the generosity of his disciples, among whom was the English social philosopher John Stuart Mill. In the last years of his life he suffered from a recurrence of his mental illness.
xxxxxThe main thrust of Comte’s philosophy was the contention that humanity developed in three stages. The first could be termed the Theological Phase when man naively explained his existence by accepting the presence and the will of fictitious gods or demons. Politically speaking, the idea of the divine right of kings was a legacy of this acceptance. The second was the Metaphysical Stage in which reality was explained in vague, abstract terms such as the will of the people, the social contract, and the equality of opportunity. The third and final evolutionary phase -
xxxxxLater, however, in his four-
xxxxxComte’s philosophy was not totally convincing in every detail, but he genuinely saw sociology as a tool to make the world a better place. And whilst his immediate disciples were few, his doctrines were later adapted or developed -
xxxxxIncidentally, in 1849 Comte put his mind to calendar reform. He proposed a calendar of 13 months, each with 28 days, and an extra day (a “Year Day”) inserted at the end of December and with an additional leap year day when required. He also suggested that each day should be dedicated to a champion of humanity, an idea he later put forward in his System of Positive Polity. ……
xxxxx…… Comte also created the French word altruisme (altruism in English). Made out of the Italian word altrui, meaning “of or to others”, it is used in philosophy to describe a theory or course of action that has as its ultimate moral aim the good of others. Selfishness is the opposite.
Comte: by the French artist Louis Jules Etex (1810-