Auguste Comte

Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte ( born January 19, 1798 in Montpellier, † September 5, 1857 in Paris) was a French mathematician, philosopher and critic of religion. But above all he is known as one of the founders of sociology, whose designation goes back to Comte.


His father was the tax officials Louis -Auguste -Xavier Comte, his mother Rosalie Félicité - Comte. Auguste had three younger siblings.

After visiting the school in Montpellier Auguste Comte studied at the elite École Polytechnique Institute in Paris. The École Polytechnique was dedicated to the French and republican ideals, especially the idea of ​​progress. 1816, there was a student revolt, the École closed temporarily. The students could apply for a new registration at a later date. So Comte had to leave the École and continued his studies at the medical school in Montpellier continued. When the École was reopened later, Comte did not try to enroll again.

Soon he saw irreconcilable differences with his Catholic- monarchist embossed family and moved to Paris, where he among other things, his living by doing odd jobs, denied as a private tutor for mathematics. As a partial self-taught, he was very well read, studied vast fields of historical and philosophical literature, suggestions brought in writers as different as the Physiocrats, Turgot, Condorcet, Montesquieu, at leading philosophical Enlightenment thinkers such as David Hume and Immanuel Kant, but also for die-hards like Joseph de Maistre. In addition, he also dealt with clerical thinkers of Scholasticism.

He was a student, friend and secretary of the important industrial and social theorist Count Claude -Henri Comte de Saint- Simon, who brought his students into intellectual society. In Saint -Simon's magazines Comte published his first journalistic work. In 1824 he left Saint -Simon because not fair disagreements.

1822 Comte published the font Plan de traveaux nécessaires scientifiques pour la société réorganiser as a fundamental business philosophy of positivism. He tried in vain to obtain an academic job. A chair was denied him "because of his immoral falsehood mathematicizing materialism." Even a modest job as a math tutor he later lost because of his controversial writings. His livelihood depended on sponsors and financial help of his friends. In his private apartment he gave lectures, which were attended by well-known scientists of his time.

Comte was known as arrogant, energetic and engaging personality. In 1826 he fell ill and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, which, however, he left again, without having been cured. In April 1827 he failed in a suicide attempt.

Since April 1826 until his divorce in 1842 he published his major work, the six volumes of his Cours de philosophie positive, based on his lectures as a private scholar. From 1841 he lived in the Rue Monsieur -le -Prince No. 10, now the seat of a Comte Museum. Here he lectured on astronomy among others.

From 1844 to Comte worshiped the upper middle class wife Clotilde de Vaux, a relationship that remained platonic. After her death in 1846 this love became quasi- religious, and Comte saw himself as founder and prophet of a new " religion of humanity ". The former in particular the strict " factual science " pendant Comte so called practically a new theocracy. Critics saw his endeavors a "godless Catholicism ". He has published four editions of the Système de politique positive ( 1851-1854 ).

As one of the few scientists in the 19th century Auguste Comte argued for the emancipation of women - but carried his ideas a partially very traditional picture: The man had to prove themselves in the " struggle for survival " and in the " professions ," the woman would have from the domestic circle out morally and ethically act into society.

It formed single " comtistische " Communities in France, Great Britain, Sweden and the USA. Comte left a 500 -page " Testament".

His scientific theories

Comte distinguished two universal laws in all sciences:

  • The law of three phases (" childish " religion, " boyish " metaphysics, eventually "male" positive science )
  • The encyclopedic law.

By combined these theorems, Comte developed a systematic and hierarchical classification of all sciences, including inorganic physics (astronomy, earth science and chemistry), organic physics (biology), but especially the new " social physics ", which he later called sociology has. According to Comte, this science also included proto- behaviorist psychology and ethics.

This idea of ​​a special science - neither spiritual science nor metaphysics - the Social was widespread in the 19th century and was not specifically from the Comte from. The ambitious - many would say excessive - manner in which Comte imagined this, but it was unique.

Comte saw this new branch of research, sociology, as the last and the greatest of all sciences, a discipline that would include all other sciences and that would integrate and relate their findings in a coherent and complete whole. Sociology is, according to Comte, the science that studies the methods of all the others - used sciences, namely, observation, experiment, classification and comparison as well as additionally the historical method - less complex. The historical method is " [ t] he historical comparison of the successive states of humanity" ( Sociology, 1974, p 109). This comparison is for Comte "the most important scientific tools of sociology " (ibid.).

Comte's approach barg quite contradictions: on the one hand, the focus on " hard facts" and proven scientific knowledge ( " immutable laws of nature ", see positivism ), on the other hand, the requirement of almost mystical colored community spirit ( esprit d'ensemble ) that " skepticism " selfish individualism should replace and liberalism of the previous " metaphysical " age by altruism.


Although his theories during his lifetime and even after that were very influential, they are been controversial soon. Comte coined in 1838 the term " sociology "; Research on " sociological " field but there were certainly earlier, only existed until Comte no mandatory term for it. Comte specifically emphasizing the interconnectedness of the different social elements is now regarded as an anticipation of modern functionalism. Nevertheless, with few exceptions, his work is now viewed as eccentric, mechanistic and scientifically obsolete. The partially naive epistemology of positivism, his verificationism has been criticized for example by the physicist Max Planck.

Nevertheless, you should Comtes lasting impact, especially in France and other nations with industrial and Catholic tendencies (Poland, Brazil, and others) not be underestimated. Emile Durkheim's objective method of "social facts " which is very different from Max Weber's methodological individualism, Comte's positivism owes probably a lot. The Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie scientist and enthusiastic about aspects of positivism.

The early scientific criminology Italy has also been greatly influenced by the " positive philosophy ," including the criminologist Cesare Lombroso and physiognomist, Nietzsche rezipierte eagerly. Even with Albert Camus is still a distinction between the more abstract, idealistic, the Absolute committed German thought " of eternal youth " and the " Mediterranean tradition [ ... ] masculine strength ", which is rather of the nature and concrete experience as the philosophy of history feels committed. Comte's law of three stages here sounds to be ignored, although it is actually self- teleological and falls into the philosophy of history. And also a noted sociologist Pierre Bourdieu as yet not always quoted in 1968 in a specialist textbook several times Auguste Comte, where just as critical intent. The Sociology of Norbert Elias Comte praised as a classic which has not yet posed the essential question of long -term social development, although Elias Comte's answers to this question holds for stimulating, but insufficient.

Comte's idea of sociology as the queen of all sciences was never realized. In contrast, Comte considered by many today as a typical representative of the unbroken and exaggerated belief in progress of the 19th century and the early modern period.

Furthermore Comtes coinage " positivism " of critics has since been used to describe unquestioned faith in science and rampant social technology, the term has been partially inflationary use: Already Karl Marx used the term " positivism " in a very general, critical intent, and not just based on the original "real " positivists such as Comte. The later so-called "logical positivism " has no direct references to Auguste Comte (see positivism dispute ).

In addition to his theories Comte has also designed various calendar systems, such as the positivist calendar.

Comte's motto " Savoir pour prévoir, prévoir pour pouvoir " ("knowledge to foresee, to foresee in order to act " ) could still serve as a motto of Sciences, and the survey and market research; However, it would be to Comte's strong determinism, his instrumentalism ( so it seemed to the study of distant galaxies irrelevant, since this is irrelevant to human interests and simple laws of nature unnecessarily complicate ) or his idea of ​​a rule of the experts think.

Comte's motto " Order and Progress " appears in the flag of Brazil ( see above).


  • Lettres d' Auguste Comte à M Valat, professeur de mathématique, ancien de l' Académie de recteur Rhodez. From 1815 to 1844. Dunot, Paris 1870.
  • Lettres d' Auguste Comte à John Stuart Mill 1841-1846. Leroux, Paris, 1877.
  • Jorge Lagarrigue (ed.): Lettres d' Auguste Comte, fondateur de la religion et universal premier grand- prêtre de l' Humanité, à Henry Edger et à M John Metcalf. Paris 1889.
  • Lettres d' Auguste Comte à Henry Dix Hutton. Ponson & Weldrick, Dublin 1890.
  • Lucien Lévy -Bruhl (ed.): Lettres de inedites John Stuart Mill Auguste Comte à, avec les publiées réponses de Comte. Édition Alcan, Paris 1899 (along with John Stuart Mill ).
  • Lettres d' Auguste Comte à divers, publiées par ses exécuteurs testament aires. Fund typographiques, Paris 1902/ 05 ( 3 vols ).
  • Correspondance d' Auguste Comte inédite. ( 4 volumes, 1903-1904 )
  • Émile Corra (ed.): Lettres d' Auguste Comte au docteur Robinet, but médecin et l' un de ses exécuteurs testament aires et à sa famille. Société positiviste international 1926.
  • Fabio Germano Medeiros (Ed.): Lettres et Fragments de lettres. Positive Centro Paulista, São Paulo, 1926.
  • Paul Arbousse -Bastide (eds.): Lettres à Célestin de inedites Blignieres. Éditions Vrin, Paris 1932.
  • Paulo E. de Berredo - Carneiro (eds.): Nouvelles lettres inedites. Archives positivistes, Paris, 1939.
  • Paulo E. de Berredo Carneiro, Pierre Arnaud, Paul Arbousse -Bastide, Angèle Kremer - Marietti (ed.): Correspondance générale et confessions. Paris 1973/90 (8 vols ).
  • Appeal to the conservatives ( " Appel aux conservateurs "). Lippmann Verlag, Neufeld / Leitha 1929.
  • Calendrier positiviste, ou Système général de commémoration publique destiné surtout à la transition de la grande finale république occidentale composée de cinq populations Avancées, française, italienne, germanique, britannique et espagnole composée. Édition mirage, Fonfroide -le-Haut 1993, ISBN 2-85194-084-8 ( Nachdr ed d Paris, 1849).
  • Toutes les contenant théories générales de géometrie accessibles à l' ordinaire analysis. Cœury & Dalmont, Paris 1843.
  • Paulo E. de Berredo Carneiro and Pierre Arnaud (ed.): Écrits de jeunesse. From 1816 to 1826. Mémoire sur la Suivis you Cosmogonie de Laplace. Mouton, Paris, 1970 ( Nachdr d ed Paris 1835).
  • Catechism of positive religion ( " Catéchisme positiviste, ou Sommaire exposition de la religion universelle, en onze entretiens systématiques entre une femme et un de l' Humanité prêtre "). Publisher Wigand, Leipzig 1891.
  • Opuscules de philosophie sociale. From 1819 to 1828. Leroux, Paris 1883.
  • Angèle Kremer - Marietti (ed.): Plan of the scientific work that is necessary to reform the society. ("Plan des travaux scientifiques nécessaires pour la société réorganiser "). Hanser, Munich 1973, ISBN 3-446-11789- X ( number Hanser; 131).
  • Positivism in its essence and its meaning ( " Discours sur l'ensemble du positivisme "). Publisher rice land, Leipzig 1894.
  • Le dans la société modern proletariat. Archives positivistes, Paris, 1946 ( with an introduction by Rudolfo Paula Lopes ).
  • Iring Fetscherplatz (eds.): Speech about the spirit of positivism ( " Discours sur l' esprit positif "). Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1994, ISBN 978-3-7873-1148-4.
  • République occidentale. Ordre et progrès. Matthias, Paris 1848.
  • Angèle Kremer - Marietti (ed.): La Science sociale. Gallimard, Paris, 1972 ( Collection Idées; 261).
  • Angèle Kremer - Marietti (ed.): Sommaire appréciation de l'ensemble du passé modern. Harmattan, Paris 2001, ISBN 2-296-01621-9 ( Nachdr d ed Paris 1971).
  • The sociology. The positive philosophy in the abstract. ( " Cours de philosophie positive "). Kröner, Stuttgart 1974, ISBN 3-520-10702-4 (formally wrong ISBN ) ( Kroner pocket edition, 107 ).
  • System of positive policy ( " Système de politique positive "). Edition Turia & Kant, Vienna 2004 ( translated by Jürgen Brankel ).
  • Traité Philosophique d' astronomy populaire. Fayard, Paris, 1985, ISBN 2-213-01585-6 ( Nachdr d ed Paris 1844).
  • Testament d' Auguste Comte, avec les documents qui s'y rapportent. Pièces justificatives, prières quotidiennes, confessions annuelles, correspondance avec Mme de Vaux. 2nd edition Édition Pierre Laffitte, Paris 1884.
  • Traité élémentaire de géométrie analytique à deux et trois dimensions. (1843 )
  • Œuvre d' Auguste Comte. ( 12 volumes, 1968-1971 )