How Does Auguste Comte Introduces Sociology as A Science?


This paper aims to examine Auguste Comte’s book chapter called “The Nature and Importance of Positive Philosophy” in which the term “Sociology” has been proposed as a new science after the identification of human mental knowledge organization through the observation of the scientific history. For the sake of clarity, his terms, his identifications of these terms might be reorganized in comparison to the original document. In its essence, he argues that, historically, human mind has evolved through three different way of thinking phases. This evolution has been brought the human being to their times. His defined phases co-exist simultaneously within the science but if the scientific community reorganize and regulate the explanations of all phenomena with the addition of a new branch of science, the philosophy and the science can show a character of universality. This new branch of science has been identified as “Sociology” which aims to study the social phenomena on the basis of positive philosophy.

The significance of his work is that he reshapes the cumulative human progress through the observation of division of labor within the intellectual history. In the light of this examination, he made a distinction of human mind as primitive and mature human mind. Depending on this distinction, he introduces the terms “theological, metaphysical and positive states” of human mind. These states represent methods of thinking. The plan of this essay is going to be in an order of the definition of primitive and mature human minds with their relation to three states. As a closure, it is going to be concluded with the highlighted necessity of Sociology.

Based on his argumentation, human mind is defined as historically primitive because it did not have any division of labor in terms of intellectual organization of the opinions they acquired for explaining the all phenomena within the scope of philosophy. This division of labor represents the type of work and of contribution of the scientific community as a specialization. In his argument, the scientific community, at that time, has diverse area of interests to explain the all phenomena. Moreover, in terms of the content, the primitive human mind tried to explain these phenomena towards an absolute knowledge. For this reason, he argues, the theological state of human mind represents the period which the human mind depended on the direct, continuous and spontaneous intervention of supernatural agents for the explanation of the anomalies of the universe. He highlights that this initial state was necessary because this confidence of man by overstating his limits in the past primitive days made a way for experimenting and estimating our abilities right.

Secondly, he defends the idea that there is a transition from the primitive to the mature human mind in time and this transitionary period has been defined as metaphysical state of mind. In his opinion, metaphysical state is the modification of the theological state in terms of replacement of the supernatural agents with the abstract forces, real entities or personified abstractions. In this phase according to him, the human mind acts with “the nature of pursuits”. This means, the mankind supposed that he had a strong pursuit to have an unlimited control over the exterior world. He supports the idea that this attraction is useful because all phenomena has close ties with man’s experience. On the other hand, he adds that these are also false hopes of exaggeration of man’s importance in the universe.

Finally, when human mind reaches to a mature level in his days, even this started two centuries ago. The reason for having such an opinion is that, the scientific researches of their times are not supported by a strong imagination as the desire of the control over nature or as the supernatural agents. Besides that, their intellectual activity is focused on the hope of discovering the laws of phenomena by a desire of verifying or disapproving a theory. Rationality and experience of human kind acts a stimulus. For supporting his argument, he uses the example of Kepler for Astronomy and Berthollet for Chemistry. Since the study of Francis Bacon, Decartes and Galileo, due to the fact their studies stood as an opposition to the metaphysical and theological spirits, the scientific community started to be evolved within the Positive state.

However, he discusses that because the scientific community had not specialization of the intellectual division of labor from the beginning, this division occurred by itself simultaneously. For this reason, the explanation of all phenomena is as diverse as that the three states of human mind co-exist purely or as a mixture at the different branches of science. Then he evaluates and ranks the existent scientific branches in terms of their level of positivity. Accordingly, Astronomy is the most positive science. Then Terrestrial Physics, Chemistry and Physiology is following the former in terms of having a degree of positive theories. Separate scientific systems evolved when they arrived to a state of explanation which is capable of constituting labor with a single and well framed focus.

Linked to the given argumentation above, he explains that the existent science branches are unable to explain the social phenomena. The discusses that the incidents of the social phenomena are still explained by the divine right and the sovereignty of people and then, he says, the scientific community is tired of these endless discussions. After this point, for concluding the studies of Physics he argues, the social phenomena should also be considered on the basis of reason and experience. Then he invents the term of “Sociology” as referring to designation of the social phenomena study according to the precepts of positive philosophy. Although he admits that he does not expect Sociology to reach a positive state of mind immediately, the regulation of the science branches in this manner and the reshaping of the scientific education may lead to a short cut. He suggests the specialization of the intellectual labor’s division under the five science categories he considered. Moreover, if they idealize the division of labor within the science, it will facilitate the process of the creation of universal laws for all the phenomena.

In conclusion, Comte argues that the existent branches of science are able to explain laws of phenomena in a mature manner but not the incident of the social phenomena. Modern organization of the scientific world should also consider to understand the social phenomena depending on the reason and experiment like the other science branches. He reorganized and categorized the science branches with the inclusion of Sociology for the first time and for this reason, he had a significant impact on the positive philosophy. His regulation of the division of labor in the intellectual world aimed to lessen the degree of generalization and contributed towards to the specialization in a specific field of the modern world. It has been admitted that Social Phenomena also has a knowledge of the general rules which can be investigated under the manifestations of experiences like a positive philosophy.

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