Positivism and neo-positivism, O. Kont. The law of...

Positivism and neopositivism

Oh. Cont. The law of three stages of history

(1798-1857) is a French philosopher and sociologist, one of the founders of positivism and the founder of sociology. He graduated from the Higher Polytechnic School in Paris, having received a systematic education in the field of natural sciences. At the same time he showed a growing interest and independently studied literature, philosophy and social issues. For seven years (1817-1824) was the secretary and disciple of Saint-Simon, which contributed to the expansion and deepening of knowledge in the social sciences.

Major Works: Course of Positive Philosophy (T. 1-2, 1899-1900) and "Spirit of Positive Philosophy" (1910), in which he developed the concept of the law of the three stages of the evolution of mankind.

Studying the entire course of the development of the human mind in various areas of its activity from its original manifestation to the present day, I, I think, discovered the great fundamental law to which this development, because of the constant necessity, is subordinated and which can be firmly established either by rational evidence delivered by the cognition of our body, or through historical data extracted by careful study of the past. This law consists in the fact that each of our main concepts, each branch of our knowledge, consistently passes three different theoretical states: a theological or fictitious state; the state is metaphysical or abstract; a scientific or positive state. In other words, human reason by its nature in each of its studies uses three methods of thinking, the nature of which is significantly different and even directly opposite: first the method of theological, then metaphysical and, finally, positive. Hence, there are three mutually exclusive types of philosophy, or three general systems of views on the totality of phenomena; the first is the necessary starting point of the human mind; the third is its definite and final state; the second is intended to serve only as a transition stage.

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In the theological state, the human mind, directing its research mainly to the inner nature of things, to the first and final causes of all phenomena that amaze him, striving, in a word, to absolute knowledge, considers phenomena as products of direct and continuous impact of more or less numerous supernatural factors, whose arbitrary interference explains all the apparent anomalies of the world.

In the metaphysical state, which in reality is nothing more than a general modification of the theological state, supernatural factors are replaced by abstract forces, real entities (impersonated abstractions), inseparably linked with various objects to which the ability to generate all the observed phenomena is attributed, and the explanation phenomena is reduced to the definition of the corresponding entity.

Finally, in a positive state, the human mind, recognizing the impossibility of achieving absolute knowledge, refuses to study the origin and purpose of the universe and the knowledge of the internal causes of phenomena and is completely focused, correctly combining reasoning and observation, on the study of their real laws, i.e. unchanging relations of consistency and similarity. The explanation of the facts, brought to its actual limits, is henceforth only the establishment of a connection between various particular phenomena and certain general facts, the number of which decreases more and more as the progress of science increases.

The theological system reached its highest perfection when it placed the providential action of a single being in the place of dissimilar interventions of numerous, divergent deities whose existence was originally intended. Similarly, the extreme limit of the metaphysical system is the replacement of various particular entities by one common great entity, nature, considered as the sole source of all phenomena. Equally, perfection, to which a positive system is always, although very likely, is seeking unsuccessfully, consists in the possibility of presenting all observed phenomena as particular cases of one common fact, like, for example, gravitation.

This general change in the human mind can now be easily established by a very tactile, albeit indirect, way, namely by considering the development of the individual mind. Since in the development of an individual and an entire species the starting point must be the same and the same, then the main phases of the first must represent the main epochs of the second. And will not each of us remember, looking back at his own past, that he in relation to his most important concepts was a theologian in childhood, a metaphysician in his youth, and a physicist in adulthood? Such a check is now available to all people standing at the level of the century.

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