Lesson 1ª







Positivism. Comte

Positivism, properly said

AUGUSTE COMTE (1798-1857)

According to the ‘law of three stages’ by Comte, each knowledge branch goes through 3 theoretical stages successively.

It is similar to a summarized version of Hegel's 'The Phenomenology of Spirit'. These 3 stages are:

  • THEOLOGICAL or FICTICIOUS STAGE (Childhood): It is characterized by the study of 'primary or final causes'- Phenomena are understood as a product of arbitrary intervention of Supernatural agents.

  • METAPHYSICAL or ABSTRACT STAGE (Youth): These Supernatural agents are substituted by abstract powers.

  • SCIENTIFIC or POSITIVISM STAGE (Maturity): The human spirit discovers the laws of the universe (invariable relations of succession and similarity).

Comte believed that this third stage of human maturity had come to be, given the great development of Natural Science. Science was classified into (basically, the same quoted by Hegel in his ‘philosophy of nature’):



  • EARTH SCIENCE (Geology)





Comte adds a new science of his own creation for the first time: SOCIAL PHYSICS. This new science, with the help of British Positivists, would latter be called as it is know today:  SOCIOLOGY.

According to Comte, there are at least  two point which should be studied by this discipline:

  • SOCIAL STATICS: Universal consent.

  • SOCIAL DYNAMICS: Progress.


In the Theory of science, Comte insists in the practical character of science:

SCIENCE  →  PREDICTION  →  ACTION suggests that ‘social physics’, being the only discipline that truly understands society, should become a guide for all the other sciences. Therefore, he proposes LIMITING SCIENCE to everything deemed as useful for society. For example:

ASTRONOMY should be limited to studying only one planet: Earth. Evidently, this is an idea which was created long time ago. It had been previously supported by ‘sophists’ and by Socrates. Moreover, we notice a more direct influence from 'English empirics', mainly Locke and Hume. This probably explains the reason why Positivism was so easily introduced in England.

Therefore, Comte (the same as Plato) suggests a ‘socio-cracy’: for sociologists to be allowed to rule the world.