Sociological He laid the foundation for modernist philosophy.

Sociological contributions of Auguste
ComteBr. Ashton Pinto1st Year PhilosophyProfessor: Fr. Joseph GonsalvesSociology Assignment – January 2018   ContentsIntroduction            1.
Theory of positivism            2. Hierarchy of sciences            3. The law of human progress                        3.1.
Fictitious stage.                                    (a)
Abstract stage.3.3.
Scientific stage.            4.
Positive Polity            5.
The religion of humanity            Conclusion  Introduction: Auguste Comte is
considered as the founding father of sociology. He was the first person to coin
the term ‘social physics’ which was later known as sociology; the science of
society. He was a philosopher and a historian of science. He laid the
foundation for modernist philosophy. Comte’s aim was to create a science of
society by explaining both historical development and the future direction of
humanity. In this paper, we shall discuss some of his influential contributions
to sociology.             1. Theory of Positivism:                        The term
positivism was first coined by Auguste Comte in his books ‘The Course in Positive Philosophy’ and ‘A General View of Positivism’. The
theory of positivism states that scientific knowledge is the only authentic
knowledge since it comes from empirical observation and experimentation which
can be validated. Similarly, Comte argues that sociology should also concern
itself with what can be observed through the senses and the theories of social life should be built in a rigid, linear, and
methodical way on a base of verifiable fact. He formulated four methods for
sociology, namely, observation. experimentation, comparison and historical
analysis. His theory states that everything can be reduced and measured.
Because of its close association with reductionism, positivism and reductionism
involve the view that entities of one kind are reducible to entities of
another, such as societies to numbers, or mental events to chemical events.                        Sociological theory is concerned with the
laws that describe the basic and fundamental relations of properties in the
social world. Sociological theory rejects arguments by “final causes” that is,
analysis of the results of a particular phenomenon for the social whole.             2. Hierarchy of Sciences:Classification
of sciences is Comte’s second-best theory. Historically, many thinkers have
given their view of the ‘classification of knowledge’.  Comte made a distinction between abstract and
concrete sciences. According to him the sciences develop both logically and
historically from the abstract and the simple to the concrete and the complex.Each
science rest upon the one that precedes it; the higher depends on the lower. Mathematics,
the most general and simple of all natural sciences develops first followed by
astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology and sociology. As the complexity
increases, the generality decreases. Although hierarchical in structure, no
science is ‘superior’ to the other, rather they complement and are in relation
to each other because of their uniqueness. Sociology
has special methodological characteristics that differentiates it from its
antecedent in the hierarchy, yet it depends upon them especially on the science
that is nearest to it, namely, biology. Physics and chemistry proceeds from
isolating elements while biology proceeds from the study of organic whole. This
is what sociology has in common with biology. Sociology is a young science and
is gradually moving to be a definite science.              3. The law of human progress:Comte
looks back at society to see how humanity/society progressed from ‘mere beliefs’
to ‘hard facts’. He explains how the human thought has undergone development
and transformation, thus forming the society of today. He divides the
progression into three stages as will be discussed below. In each of these, religions
will play a lesser role as it progresses and science will play a greater role
as it successes. This theory would later influence Charles Darwin and his
‘Organic Evolution’.The
aim of this principle is to provide a basis of sociological thinking. According
to Comte, the evolution of human mind has paralleled the evolution of the
individual mind. Just as an individual tends to be a staunch believer in
childhood, a critical metaphysician in adolescence and a natural philosopher in
manhood, so also mankind in its growth has followed three major steps.                                     3.1. Fictitious Stage:                        The fictitious or
theological stage is the most primitive of all stages. People in the
theological stage explain all phenomena of natural events as the works of
supernatural powers. For instance, if there was a storm or volcano, it was seen
as purely the work of god(s). There was no ‘reason’ or ‘science’ to it. The
gods did it simply because they are gods and they can do it.                         Fictitious
thought can be divided into three sub-stages            (a) Fetishism                        It
is the primary stage of fictitious thinking wherein it was believed that
spirits were embedded in nature and every person had a spirit or a soul within
him. People worshipped inanimate objects such as trees, stones, stars etc.             (b) Polytheism                         It
was believed that different gods controlled different forces of nature as seen
in the Egyptian, Ancient Roman, Hindu, Greek religions. Once again, there was
no science. ‘Why did it rain?’, ‘Why did it flood?’ – simply because the gods
(of water, rain, flood, sky) were happy or angry.             (c) Monotheism                        In
this developed form of fictitious thinking, man believes in only one God, as
the governor of all existence. Christianity and Islam are great examples of
these religions. Let us take the example of the sacrifice of Issac. God
commands Abraham to sacrifice his son (through whom he had promised to give
descendants as many as the stars or heaven and as many as the grain of sand on
the seashore). Then all of a sudden, an angel stops Abraham. So why would God
command him? Well, simply because he is God and all powerful; if he wishes he
can test Abrahams faith by playing a cruel joke. For Comte, there is no real
reason here.            3.2. Abstract Stage:                        The Abstract or Metaphysical stage is an
improvement or extension of theological stage wherein rationality took charge
instead of imagination/fiction. God was believed to be abstract and not a
concrete reality that guided the world according to certain fixed principles.
In the abstract stage, the scientific and religious worldviews coexist in order
to make sense of the world. Some of the influential thinkers who were
scientific in their mindset but also believed in a higher power are Plato,
Aristotle, Issac Newton and Voltaire.            3.3. Scientific Stage:                        The
scientific or positive stage is the most advanced of all stages. Here, people
look at things based exclusively on scientific methods, observations and
experimentation, disregarding all metaphysical principles. Even if certain
things were not known at that time, people wouldn’t simply jump to a baseless
conclusion ‘the gods did it’. They would wait for a rational answer.  The scientific stage was the final stage
according to Comte’s philosophy to which all individuals must adhere.             4. Positive Polity:                        There are two principle
doctrines to positive politics – ‘There can exist no society without the
government’ and ‘The proper functioning of
society requires a spiritual power independent from the temporal power’. Comte asserted
that in order to understand why there must be a government, we need to know how
social life functions. The function of the government is ‘to check the
disorganizing and to foster the converging tendencies’. Comte saw science not
only as the rational basis for our action upon nature, but also as the
spiritual basis of social order. He found a way to get beyond not only the
religious categories of good and evil, but also the more metaphysical
categories elaborated by the metaphysicians in their doctrines of freedom,
liberalism, democracy, human justice and rights.                          5. The Religion of Humanity:            One
of Comte’s work on the system of positive politics is ‘Treatise on Sociology Instituting the Religion of
Humanity’. Comte defines religion as
‘a state of complete harmony
peculiar to human life – a state when all parts of human life were ordered in their natural relation to one
another. His construction of this secular religion had its own hierarchical
order, rituals, sacraments, liturgy or positive prayers, discipline and
iconolatry. The new ‘ethical’ Religion of Humanity would displace the dominance
of egoism with new social sympathies, in a cult driven by motives, that are
higher than those of any previous religion. For
Comte, religion has two functions, to govern and to unite all individuals. Religion also has three components: doctrine, worship, and discipline. Comte’s discussion is
mainly about the first two. He gave priority to worship over doctrine. In the
positivist religion, worship, doctrine and moral rule all have the same object,
namely Humanity, which must be loved, known, and served.   Conclusion:It is to no wonder that Auguste Comte was
a pioneer of sociology. His major works of contribution to sociology are theory
of positivism, hierarchy of sciences and the law of human progress which gave a
different perspective on our outlook at society. His theory of positive
politics had many weaknesses because of which John Stuart Mill and Emilie Littré put forward the idea that
‘there were a good Comte, the author of the Course, and a bad Comte,
the author of the System’. We however acknowledge his contributions
for the betterment of our human society.

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