Comte: An Intellectual Biography by Mary Pickering
This book constitutes the first volume of a projected
two-volume intellectual biography of Auguste Comte, the founder of
modern sociology and a philosophical movement called positivism. Volume
One offers a reinterpretation of Comte's "first career,"
(1798-1842) when he completed the scientific foundation of his
philosophy. It describes the interplay between Comte's ideas and the
historical context of post-revolutionary France, his struggles with
poverty and mental illness, and his volatile relationships with friends,
family, and colleagues, including such famous contemporaries as
Saint-Simon, the Saint-Simonians, Guizot, and John Stuart Mill.
Pickering shows that the man who called for a new social philosophy
based on the sciences was not only ill at ease in the most basic human
relationships, but also profoundly questioned the ability of the purely
scientific spirit to regenerate the political and social world.
here to learn more about this book
Online biography by Peter Landry at blupete.com.
Comte, a French philosopher, was the founder of Positivism. Positivism is a
philosophical system of thought maintaining that the goal of knowledge is simply to
describe the phenomena experienced, not to question whether it exists or not. Comte sought
to apply the methods of observation and experimentation, as was beginning to be used in
the hard sciences, to a field that we now know as sociology. He believed that the solution
of persistent social problems might be had by the application of certain hierarchical
rules; he believed in the progress of mankind toward a superior state of civilization by
means of the science of sociology, itself. (Marx and
Hitler had similar notions.) In his later years Comte became involved in mysticism, to the
point where Positivism became, in spite of its earlier claims to its scientific approach,
more of a religion, than anything else.
"M. Comte, in particular, whose social system, as unfolded in his Systeme de
Politique Positive, aims at establishing (though by moral more than by legal
appliances) a despotism of society over the individual, surpassing anything contemplated
in the political ideal of the most rigid disciplinarian among the ancient
philosophers." (John Stuart Mill,