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By Andrew Wernick

This e-book bargains an exhilarating reinterpretation of Auguste Comte, the founding father of French sociology. Andrew Wernick presents the 1st in-depth critique of Comte's notion of faith and its position in his considering on politics, sociology and philosophy of technology. He locations Comte's principles in the context of post-1789 French political and highbrow heritage, and of contemporary philosophy, specifically postmodernism. Wernick relates Comte to Marx and Nietzsche as seminal figures of modernity and examines key good points of contemporary and postmodern French social idea, tracing the inherent flaws and disintegration of Comte's approach.

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Additional resources for Auguste Comte and the Religion of Humanity: The Post-theistic Program of French Social Theory

Sample text

But whereas for Bacon systematic observation and experiment were the royal road to epistemological certitude, and could get behind phenomena to their true nature and causes, Comte rejected as inconsistent with such phenomenalism any clinging to it of an epistemologically `absolute' point of view. Thus, while scienti®c procedures were designed to engender knowledge about `objective' reality, that reality could not be known or understood in its essence, but only from without, in the form of its phenomenal appearance.

Thus the question of what it means to be scienti®c cannot be answered in the abstract, but only on the basis of the disparate methods which have actually been developed. Astronomy developed the method of observation, the physical±chemical sciences that of experiment, and biology the method of comparison. To which, as Comte explains in lecËon 48, sociology is now obliged by its subject matter to add la meÂthode historique. 24 To which must be added that the course of this complex occurrence comprises an order 23 24 `[By] `®rst philosophy' .

Here, though, Comte went beyond Bacon. For while Bacon certainly regarded the study of `Man' as a branch of natural philosophy, and even divided it into `human and civil philosophy, as it considers man separately or joined in society' (1901:176), the social part was purely practical ± it consisted of prudential maxims38 ± and the ®nal ends of action belonged not to natural but to divine philosophy, whose absolute character and revealed source in God were unquestioned. Knowledge of the human, moreover, whether qua individual or `as joined in society', was of a less certain sort than that which pertained to external nature.

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