Comte, Isidore-Auguste-Marie-François-Xavier (1798–1857)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC016-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved August 05, 2021, from

7. The complete positivism

Comte had persuaded his disciples that the active class should nourish the contemplative class. After 1852, thanks to an increase in the Positivist Subsidy, he was able to devote himself entirely to his writings and to represent the priesthood of the Religion of Humanity. He concentrated on asserting the ultimate importance of morality and politics, in this way inaugurating the ‘second part of the great revolution’. He affirmed the autonomy of the philosopher as well as that of the positivist movement. Since the appearance in July 1851 of the first volume of the Système de philosophie positive, Comte felt that he had completed the philosophical part of his work; he was now free to work on the religious part, which was basically a combination of morality and politics. The Système de philosophie positive was to conclude the French Revolution. Comte summed up his solution in the ideas ‘Order’ and ‘Progress’, which he combined in a unified and radical way. The positivist mission was to attain not a mixture but a ‘necessary harmony’ between the retrogression of Comte’s time and anarchy. Comte loudly claimed to have answered the needs of the people and satisfied the poor, at the same reassuring the rich. He recommended not intervening in the contemporary political scene, but contented himself with constructing a provisional programme which consisted mainly in the spiritual reorganization of the West, while denouncing the powerlessness and instability of the ‘incomplete positivists’.

It was impossible to conceive of an isolated people, far from the great human fraternity. Spiritual unity had to make the totality of human affairs prevail over parties and frontiers. Social positivism (the new religion) had to realize and complete intellectual positivism (the new epistemology). The prestige of progress explained the success that intellectual positivism had obtained. Social positivism would be able to achieve its goals only by reconstructing the spiritual order. As an opponent of theoretical materialism, which privileged the cosmological sciences, Comte believed that it was necessary to ensure the preeminence of the human and social sciences – for him, sociology and abstract morality. In 1856, he called attention to the great trilogy that consisted of his three most important works: Cours de philosophie positive, Système de philosophie positive and Synthèse subjective. According to Comte, the reign of solidarity had arrived – that of individuals and of peoples.

Citing this article:
Kremer-marietti, Angele. The complete positivism. Comte, Isidore-Auguste-Marie-François-Xavier (1798–1857), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC016-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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