Chapter

Sociology: Comte and His Successors

Edited by Bruce Caldwell

in Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780226321097
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226321127 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226321127.003.0018
Sociology: Comte and His Successors

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This chapter recalls a few facts of Comte's life to understand his views and the extent and limits of his influence. The most important feature of his career is perhaps that he trained as a mathematician and remained one by profession. Through the greater part of his life, Comte derived his income from coaching and examining in mathematics for the Ecole polytechnique—but the professorship at the institution that he coveted remained denied to him. Eight years after the first Système de politique positive there began to appear that work of Comte to which his fame is mainly due. The Cours de philosophie positive, the literary version of the series of lectures that he had first started in 1826, and then, after recovery from his mental illness, delivered in 1829, extended to six volumes, which appeared between 1830 and 1842. In devoting the best years of his manhood to this theoretical task, Comte remained faithful to the conviction that had led to his break with Saint-Simon: that the political reorganization of society could be achieved only after the spiritual foundation had been laid by a reorganization of all knowledge. But he never lost sight of the political task. The main philosophical work was duly followed by the definitive Système de politique positive (4 vols., 1851–54) which, in spite of all its bizarre excrescences, is a consistent execution of the plans of Comte's youth.

Keywords: Saint-Simon; Auguste Comte; social phenomena; social interactions; positivists; social behavior; human behavior

Chapter.  13893 words. 

Subjects: History of Economic Thought

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