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  • 1/17/2004

August Comte

( 1/19/1798- 9/5/1857)

Auguste Comte-- full name Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte -- (February 17 (recorded February 19),1798,Montpellier -September 5,1857, Paris) was a founder of the discipline ofsociology.

His life

After school in Montpellier, Comte was allowed to learn at theÉcole Polytechnique inParis. The École Polytechnique was a place adhering to the Frenchrepublican ideals and toprogress. In1816, the École closed for re-organization. Students could apply for readmission at a later date. Thus Comte had to leave the École and continued his studies at the medical school in Montpellier. When the École was reopened, he did not try to gain readmission.
Soon he saw unbridgeable differences with hisCatholic andMonarchist family and left again for Paris, earning money by small jobs. Then he became a student and secretary forClaude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon, who brought Comte into intellectual society. In1824, Comte left Saint-Simon, again because of unbridgeable differences.
Comte now knew what he wanted to do: work out the philosophy ofpositivism. This plan he published asPlan de traveaux scientifiques nécessaires pour réorganiser la société (1822). But he failed to get an academic position. His day-to-day life depended on sponsors and financial help from friends.
He married Caroline Massin, but divorced in1842. In1826 he was brought into a mental health hospital, but left it without being cured -- only stabilized by Massin -- so that he could work again on his plan. In the time between this and their divorce, he published the six volumes of hisCours.
From1844, Comte lovedClotilde de Vaux, a relationship that remainedplatonic. After her death in1846 this love became quasi-religious, and Comte saw himself as founder and prophet of a new "religion of humanity". He published four volumes ofSystème de politique positive (1851 -1854).

His legacyComte saw two universallaws at work in allsciences, the 'law of three phases' and the 'encyclopedic law'. By combining these laws, Comte developed a systematic and hierarchical classification of all sciences, including inorganic physics (astronomy,earth science andchemistry) and organic physics (biology and for the first time,physique sociale, later renamendsociologie).
This idea of a special science - not the humanities, notmetaphysics - for the social was prominent in the19th century and not unique to Comte. The ambitious - many would say grandiose - way that Comte conceived of it, however, was unique.
Comte saw this new science,sociology, as the last and greatest of all sciences, one that would include all other sciences, and which would integrate and relate their findings into a cohesive whole.
Although influential within his own lifetime and for a short while afterwards, Comte's work fell into disrepute rapidly after that. Comte coined the term "sociology", is usually regarded as the first sociologist, and his emphasis on the interconnectedness of different social elements was a forerunner of modernfunctionalism. Nevertheless, with few exceptions, his work is now regarded as eccentric and unscientific, and his grand vision of sociology as the queen of all the sciences never came to fruition.

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For more information:

http://www.radicalacademy.com/philpositivists.htm http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/comte.html


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