Comte - Overview



  1. Member of the "pre-1850-60 generation of classical theorists
  2. Coined term "sociology"
  3. Considered "father of (scientific) sociology"
  4. Advocated for sociology as a "social physics"


The Course in Positive Philosophy

A General View of Positivism

Leading Questions

  1. What would it mean to say that Comte's goal was a "naturalistic" science of society? As opposed to what?
  2. Distinguish "statics" and "dynamics" in general, on the one hand, and in connection with the study of society, on the other.
  3. What is the relationship, for Comte, between "observed facts" and "theory"?
  4. Explain what it means to say that the basic goal of a "social physics" is to discover the laws that govern social behavior and evolution. How does prediction or "prevision" play into this?

References on the Net

Auguste Comte at Wikipedia
Auguste Comte at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
"Auguste Comte" at Jason Smith's "Six Sociologists"

Quotable Passages

Concepts and Terms

  1. social physics
  2. dynamics and statics
  3. Positivism
  4. Law of three stages (theological, metaphysical/abstract, positive/scientific)


  1. Henri de Saint-Simon (influenced by)
  2. French revolution (motivated by conditions in generations after)
  3. Karl Marx (contemporary, influenced)
  4. John Stuart Mill (contemporary, influenced)
  5. Harriet Martineau (contemporary, influenced, translated by)
  6. Herbert Spencer (contemporary, influenced)
  7. Émile Durkheim (next generation, influenced)


Harriet Martineau was the English translator for Comte's Positive Philosophy (1853).

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