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Running Head: AUGUSTE COMTE (1798 – 1857) IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FOUNDER OF

SOCIOLOGY. EXAMINE HIS MAIN PROPOSITIONS AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE


DISCIPLINE.

Tutorial Paper

Question #7: Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857) is commonly known as the Founder of Sociology.

Examine his main propositions and contribution to the discipline.

Vanessa Shol (1026909) and Deniela Jamaicy (), Natasha Persaud (), Miriam Phillacey (),

Shauntelle Wright (), Aqueena Niblett ()

Introduction to Sociological Theory- SOC1200

Lecturer: Mr. Andrew Hicks

Tutorial Tutor: Mrs. Rebecca Persaud


AUGUSTE COMTE (1798 – 1857) IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FOUNDER OF SOCIOLOGY.
EXAMINE HIS MAIN PROPOSITIONS AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE DISCIPLINE.

INTRODUCTION

Auguste Comte was a product of Enlightenment Period carrying on the tradition of the

philosophers of progress of the late eighteenth century (Francis Abraham, 1982). Auguste

Comte (1798-1857) is widely known as the founder of “Positivism”, a political and philosophical

that enjoyed a wide spread the second half of the 19th century. However, it was completely

forgotten during the 20th century, when it was overshadowed by neopositivism-new positivism

(Bourdeau, Michel, 2015).

His experienced as a child was heavily influenced by the French Revolution. The French

Revolution was a horribly violent affair which took place in France between 1789 and 1799 and

the results were political and social change. One of the most noticeable establishments was the

First French Republic and the execution of King Louis XVI. It costed the lives of people and

came to a close when Napoleon Bonaparte ascended to power.

As a result of his experiences, Auguste rejected religion and royalty which led to the birth

to “SOCIOLOGY”. He once stated that “Sociology is the QUEEN of all sciences”. He divided

the scientific study of sociology into two components; social statics social dynamics (Henslin ,

J.M, 2010). He further went on to develop and study the Law of Three Stage. The theory is

formed on the principle that prove the evolution of human knowledge, thinking and

understanding can be categorized into three stages (Mustapha Nasser, 2013). Auguste Comte

proposed that Sociology is a Positivistic Science in which he contended that in order for the

study of society to be a science the invariant laws of nature must be applied to the social world.

These invariant laws/ the scientific method are: observation, experimentation, comparison and

historical research. Comte propositions and contributions to Sociology will be discussed further

in this paper.
AUGUSTE COMTE (1798 – 1857) IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FOUNDER OF SOCIOLOGY.
EXAMINE HIS MAIN PROPOSITIONS AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE DISCIPLINE.

AUGUSTE COMTE’S WRITINGS/ MAJOR WORKS

Comte's main works include: The Course on Positive Philosophy (1830-1842), this book

consisted of 6 volumes that were translated and summarized by Harriet Martineau as The

Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte. Secondly, Comte wrote the “The System of Positive

Polity, or Treatise on Sociology, Instituting the Religion of Humanity”, (1851-1854), this book

consisted of four volumes. Thirdly, he wrote The Early Writings (1820-1829), where it can be

seen how much influence Saint-Simon had on Comte. Comte served as secretary for St. Simon

for the period: 1817 to 1824.

COINING OF THE TERM “SOCIOLOGY”

Aguste Comte first called the new discipline “social physics”. He later altered this to

“sociology”. The words derives from the Greek (“soci” which means “society” and Latin

“ology” which means “study of”).

THE LAW OF THE THREE STAGES

Comte developed the Law of Three Stage to show the evolution of human knowledge,

thinking and understanding can be categorized into three stages (Mustapha Nasser, 2013). The

Law of Three Stages are: 1. Theological/Fictitious Stage (Fetishism, Monotheism, and

Polytheism), 2. The Metaphysical/Abstract Stage and the 3. Positive or Scientific Stage. It is

important to note that in each of these stages, religion plays a lesser role as they progresses as

Science/Positivism begin to plays a greater role.

In the Theological Stage (the dawn of man/1300), early men beliefs were founded on

supernatural powers, religious figures and that both social and physical world was produced by

god himself. This stage consists of three other substages which are: Fetishism, Polytheism and

Monotheism (Center for Innovative Lifelong Learning, 2010).


AUGUSTE COMTE (1798 – 1857) IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FOUNDER OF SOCIOLOGY.
EXAMINE HIS MAIN PROPOSITIONS AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE DISCIPLINE.

In Fetishism substage, people believed that spirits embodied in nature and attributed the

powers and causes of phenomena to special objects, often non-living. For example, people would

attribute occurrences to a rocks, trees, sun, moon, water. In Polytheism sub stage, people

believed in multiple God as well as natural and human forces. In the Monotheism sub stage, the

people believed that there is one God who is all powerful and supreme. This stage can be thought

of as Religion without Science/Positivism. Secondly, The Metaphysical Stage emerged between

the periods of 1300 and 1800 (Middle Ages) and is characterized by beliefs in abstract forces like

nature rather than personalized gods. Finally, the Positivism Stage emerged in the

Industrialization Period, 1800- onwards, where people started to give up the absolute causes to

gods and nature and instead focused on the search of laws governing the social and physical

world through more reliable knowledge and objective meaning. (Ritzer, 2002).

In this final stage, religion plays no role and science plays a greater role.

Figure 1 This table shows the Law of Three

Stages- Simplified

POSITIVISM AND USING THE METHODS OF SCIENCE MAKES RESEARCH

EMPIRICAL

Positivism is a philosophy developed by Aguste Comte at the beginning to the 19th

century that stated that the only valid knowledge gained is through the positive affirmation using
AUGUSTE COMTE (1798 – 1857) IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FOUNDER OF SOCIOLOGY.
EXAMINE HIS MAIN PROPOSITIONS AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE DISCIPLINE.

the scientific method. (Mustapha Nazzer, 2013). Aguste Comte believed that this new science

would provide the knowledge that would help to reform society. It would establish the natural

laws that govern human affairs, establish institutions that would help to maintain order and guide

to social change. The methodology of sociology is the same as for the natural sciences.

Comte identified four methods for discovering these invariant laws such as: 1.

Observation, 2. Experimentation and 3. Comparison. 4. Historical Research.

The first invariant law/method is known as “observation”. Observation is watching

people and listening to them in order to collect naturally occurring data about what they do and

say, guided by theory of what is to be observed.

The second scientific method of investigation is “experimentation”. Direct

experimentation takes place whenever the regular course of the phenomena is disturbed. Formal

experimentation is not applicable in the study of many social phenomena. For example, we

cannot study the effects of mother’s love by taking infants away from their mothers and

comparing this to infants that were held and comforted by the mother. Experimentation assesses

the impact of the change made to the situation. (Coser. L., Volume II, p.245)

The third scientific method of investigation is “comparison”. Comparison is done

between animals and other parts of the world to the society being looked at.

The fourth stage is the historical research. "The historical comparison of the consecutive

states of humanity is not only the chief scientific devices of the new political philosophy. It

constitutes the substratum of the sciences, in whatever is essential to it." Historical comparisons

throughout the time in which humanity has evolved are at the very core of sociological inquiry.

Coser. L (1997) once said that Sociology is nothing if it is not informed by a sense of historical

evolution. It is done through research and social change and dynamics.


AUGUSTE COMTE (1798 – 1857) IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FOUNDER OF SOCIOLOGY.
EXAMINE HIS MAIN PROPOSITIONS AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE DISCIPLINE.

To reiterate, the only valid knowledge gained is through positive affirmation/ using the

scientific method to study society.

SOCIAL STATIC AND SOCIAL DYNAMICS

Comte lived in the aftermath of the French Revolution. He was distressed by the disorder

of his time and by the material and cultural poverty of the people. Comte was concerned with

stability in the history of human civilizations. Hence, his study on social static and social

dynamics.

Social Static focuses on how order is maintained in the society and social dynamic

focuses on how society changes over time. Comte therefore focused his social statics on the

individual, as well as such collective phenomena as the family, religion, language, and the

division of labor (Schaefer, 2013). Comte placed greater emphasis on the study of social

dynamics (social change, his theory of social dynamics is founded on the law of the three stages,

that is, the evolution of society is based on the evolution of mind through the theological,

metaphysical, and positivist stages (Mustapha,2013). He saw social dynamics as a process of

progressive evolution in which people become cumulatively more intelligent and in which

altruism eventually triumphs over egoism.

HIERARCHY OF SCIENCES

Comte maintained that the development of numerous recognized sciences showed that

not only human thought passed through the law three stages, but that subjects had developed in

the very same way. However, it was possible to arrange the sciences in order with: “1. The order

of their historical emergence and development, 2. The order of their dependence upon each

other. 3. Their decreasing degree of generality and the increasing degree of complexity of their
AUGUSTE COMTE (1798 – 1857) IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FOUNDER OF SOCIOLOGY.
EXAMINE HIS MAIN PROPOSITIONS AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE DISCIPLINE.

subject matter” (Francis, Abraham, 1982). Comte’s arranged the sciences as: Mathematics,

Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Sociology. Mathematics was the first science as it

was the broadest of all sciences, while he viewed sociology as the most multifaceted of all

sciences. Sociology was the novel science of society with a distinctive subject matter called the

“social system”. Comte, in his own words, once said that “SOCIOLOGY IS THE QUEEN OF

ALL SCIENCES”.

Figure 2 Diagram showing the Hierarchy of all

Sciences

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Auguste Comte set the stage for the development and emergence of the

Science of Sociology. We see that Comte’s contribution was to mainly construct a positive

science of society. Comte’s science was geared towards resolving the crisis of the contemporary

world and to provide a system of scientific ideas which would assist to reorganize society and

bring about other thinkers to help solve the problems. Comte’s contribution to Sociology is long

lasting and effective. It is because of him, we are able to study “SOCIETY”/”SOCIOLOGY”.


AUGUSTE COMTE (1798 – 1857) IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FOUNDER OF SOCIOLOGY.
EXAMINE HIS MAIN PROPOSITIONS AND CONTRIBUTION TO THE DISCIPLINE.

REFERENCES

Abraham Francis, 1982, Modern Sociological Theory, Oxford University Press

Bourdeau, Michel, "Auguste Comte", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (winter 2015

Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

<https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2015/entries/comte/>.

August Comte 1798 - 1857. (2018). [ebook], Diobu area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria:

River State University, pp.5-10. Available at:

http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/users/f/felwell/www/Theorists/Comte/Presentation/Comte.pdf

[Accessed 7 Feb. 2018].

Mustapha Nasser. (2013) Sociology for Caribbean students.

Henslin , J.M(2010). Sociology a down to Earth Approach (10 edition). United States of

America.

Ritzer George, 1988, Sociological Theory (2nd ed.), New York, McGraw Hill Publication.

Schaefer Richard T. (2013), Sociology, A Brief Introduction

Coser, L. (1971/1977). Masters of Sociological Thought (2nd ed.). New York:

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.