Philosophy:Course of Positive Philosophy

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Short description: Book by Auguste Comte
Course of Positive Philosophy
AuthorAuguste Comte
Original titleCours de Philosophie Positive

The Course of Positive Philosophy (Cours de Philosophie Positive) was a series of texts written by the French philosopher of science and founding sociologist, Auguste Comte, between 1830 and 1842. Within the work he unveiled the epistemological perspective of positivism. The works were translated into English by Harriet Martineau and condensed to form The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte (1853).


The first three volumes of the Course dealt chiefly with the physical sciences already in existence (mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology), whereas the latter two emphasised the inevitable coming of social science. It is in observing the circular dependence of theory and observation in science, and classifying the sciences in this way, that Comte may be regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term.[1] For him, the physical sciences, which were 'simple', had necessarily to arrive first, before humanity could adequately channel its efforts into the most challenging and complex "queen science" of human society itself. Comte believed that social harmony is possible only when there is intellectual harmony, which is in turn possible only when all social sciences have entered the phase of positivism, with Sociology being the last to arrive. Then everybody should be taught modern science so that they can internalize the new scientific values in their lives. His A General View of Positivism (published in English in 1865) would therefore set out to define, in more detail, the empirical goals of sociology.


  1. Bourdeau, Michel, "Auguste Comte", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition)