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Auguste Comte and the Religion of Humanity: The by Andrew Wernick

By Andrew Wernick

This booklet deals an exhilarating reinterpretation of Auguste Comte, the founding father of French sociology. Andrew Wernick offers the 1st in-depth critique of Comte's proposal of faith and its position in his pondering on politics, sociology and philosophy of technological know-how. He areas Comte's principles in the context of post-1789 French political and highbrow background, and of contemporary philosophy, in particular postmodernism. Wernick relates Comte to Marx and Nietzsche as seminal figures of modernity and examines key positive factors of contemporary and postmodern French social idea, tracing the inherent flaws and disintegration of Comte's method.

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E. the dependence of Positive Philosophy on positivised knowledge about the social ± we have only to consider what, for Comte, is the nature of the scienti®c principles the former establishes, and whence they derive. These principles are not arrived at a priori, by rational intuition. They are induced from what at least purports to be the actual history of human knowledge. 21 Together, these generalisations make up what Comte, following Francis Bacon's `confused attempt' to provide the natural sciences with a unifying capstone, calls `®rst philosophy', which, `being destined to serve henceforth as a permanent basis for all human speculations, should be carefully reduced to the simplest possible expression' (i:61).

The system and its logic (1) 27 account of the implications of having made that would-be completing move. Positive philosophy and social science The order in which Comte's ®rst synthesis, the SysteÁme (or Cours) de philosophie positive, presents its materials is deceptively linear. 16 Each is treated historically, as a process of cumulative development, and arranged in an order which moves through the sciences according to the decreasing degree of generality, and increasing degrees of complexity and speci®city, of the range of phenomena with which they deal (i:47±95).

Clearing a theoretical path for a science of society, then, necessitated the establishment of a third camp, free from the sterile antagonism between metaphysicians of progress and theologians of order: a camp, Comte argued, which could only arise ± and in the Comtean project was actually doing so ± from the emerging episteme of science itself. `This general revolution of the human spirit is today entirely accomplished: it only remains . . to complete positive philosophy by including in it the study of social phenomena, and then to summarise it in a single body of homogeneous doctrine.

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