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Auguste Comte and Positivism

Auguste Comte and Positivism

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize how Auguste Comte's theory of positivism contributed to the field of sociology.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Clock; Public Domain Auguste Comte; Public Domain:

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology, Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on the origins of sociology. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.


So sometimes to really understand a concept, you need to go back and look at how it started. And that's how we're doing today. We're looking at the origins of sociology. So how did sociology actually start?

Now it started with this man, Auguste Comte. He's a Frenchman. Around 200, almost 300 years ago, he was alive. And he is considered the founder of sociology.

Now, how he founded sociology, he actually just originally had this argument about three historical stages of how society was seen. So at first, it was a theological state. So life, society was just an expression of God's will. Everything that happened in society was what God wanted. That was the theological stage.

Next, society, maybe you could say evolved, the views changed, to a metaphysical stage. So life as nature. So society became viewed just like nature is viewed.

Lastly came the scientific stage. And in the scientific stage, life has scientific rules it follows. Society has different scientific rules it follows.

Now, what Comte did is he had this idea of positivism. And that was a scientific approach to knowledge based on scientific facts and empirical data. The way to remember that it's called positivism is that he's looking for positive effects. So things that are proven true. That's kind of a way that you can think of it. So positivism is facts that are proven true through the scientific method, rather than just speculation.

So the take-away message-- Auguste Comte was a French philosopher and truly considered the founder of sociology. And he hoped to find the laws of society, the laws similar to the laws of nature, the laws of gravity. He wanted to find those in society. And positivism is knowledge based on science.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know

​A scientific approach to knowledge based on observable facts.

People to Know
Auguste Comte

​French philosopher who founded sociology and looked for laws of society.