Auguste Comte had the gift of synthesizing diverse intellectual currents. Writing after the French Revolution, his ideas came from writers of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

From Hume and Kant he adopted his conception of positivism: the theory that metaphysics and theology are imperfect modes of knowledge and that positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena verified by the empirical sciences.

From clerical thinkers he took the notion of hierarchical and disciplined social organization as in the Catholic Church.From the Enlightenment philosophers he incorporated the idea of ​​historical progress, a sociology. Comte believed that social phenomena could be reduced to laws just as Newton had explained heavenly bodies by the law of gravity.

"The heavens proclaim the glory of Kepler and Newton."  Auguste Comte

Comte structured his Cours de philosophie positive (6 volumes between 1830 and 1842) around a 3-level law. He explains that humanity evolves on these levels: the theological, the metaphysical and the positive. The first is the starting point of the human mind; the second is a transitory state; the last one is normal.

At the theological level the mind searches for the primary and final causes of phenomena and explains the apparent anomalies in the universe as interventions by supernatural agents.

In the intermediate state the questions are the same but the supernatural agents are replaced by abstract entities.

The positive level does not seek causes, but merely knows the laws that govern phenomena. The above absolute notions are changed to relative.

From the material point of view the theological state can be called the military; the metaphysical the supremacy of lawyers and jurists; the positive would correspond to the industrial one.

For Comte science is "une connaissance approchée" (an approximate knowledge) because it approaches the truth without reaching it. There is no place in positivism for absolute truth. Science sets the standards for the credible.

Ortega y Gasset



Émile Durkheim‎ 

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon‎


Eugeni D'Ors


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