Sunday, May 7, 2017

Auguste Comte and positivism

Auguste Comte (1798-1857) is an influential philosopher best known as the father of positivism. Positivism states that reality is guided by general laws which can be learned through empiricism. Comte is also known for his contributions to praxeology (deductive analysis of human behavior). Writer Leo Tolstoy said,
The only true and scientific method according to Comte is therefore the inductive method and science is only such as is based on experiment. Secondly, the aim and apex of science is the new science of the imaginary organism of humanity or of the super-organic being-humanity: this new imaginary science being sociology. (What then must we do? 1886)
Comte's contributions are somewhat controversial. Chemist Louis Pasteur said,
Of M. Comte I have only read a few absurd passages. (The life of Pasteur, 1902)
 This post is a collection of quotes from Comte talking about the philosophy of science.


"It lays down, as is generally known, that our speculations upon all subjects whatsoever, pass necessarily through three successive stages: a Theological stage, in which free play is given to spontaneous fictions admitting of no proof; the Metaphysical stage, characterized by the prevalence of personified abstractions or entities; lastly, the Positive stage, based upon an exact view of the real facts of the case." (A General View of Positivism, 1848)

"Mathematical Analysis is... the true rational basis of the whole system of our positive knowledge." (System of positive polity, 1852)

"We may therefore define Astronomy as the science by which we discover the laws of the geometrical and mechanical phenomena presented by the heavenly bodies." (The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, 1853)

"Every attempt to refer chemical questions to mathematical doctrines must be considered, now and always, profoundly irrational, as being contrary to the nature of the phenomena. . . . but if the employment of mathematical analysis should ever become so preponderant in chemistry (an aberration which is happily almost impossible) it would occasion vast and rapid retrogradation....  (System of positive polity, 1852)

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