It is often heard in this advanced technological era the phrase: “Back then people actually believed…” This is said in a way that tries to demean our ancestors as if they were so much more ignorant than us about life because they didn’t have the scientific and technological advancements that we have. Now it may be true that they did not know as much about certain things then we do today. But people seem to mix up wisdom about life with discoveries that advance knowledge about certain things. Continue reading
In Part 1 of this post I discussed briefly the beginning of Comte’s life and the philosophy of one of his main influences, Henri de Saint-Simon. In this post, I will expound on Comte’s own thought and then comment on how his thought has influenced the world ever since.
Comte would soon break away from his teacher Saint-Simon and would develop a much more systematic philosophy that would outline how this vision of a new society would be founded on what he called a “positive philosophy”. It was this philosophy, which is now known as positivism, in which Comte would have his greatest influence on those who would come after him.
Before we begin to look at what positivism is and how Comte thought it should be used to reshape society, we must understand something very important. For a philosophy to have any sway or power it must be able to explain history in such a way that fits with its own self-identity. Thus it must place an interpretation on history so as to show how this new philosophy fits into history and will work to create the future world to come.
Comte knew this very well, and this is why throughout his work he spends much time detailing and explaining why history was the way it was, why the problems that brought the French Revolution came to be, and how positivism would work to finally create a better world then what was before. This teaches us that there is a battle for the interpretation of history. Whoever gets to place their interpretation on history will be the one who gets to write the future. Continue reading
Karl Barth points out very sharply in his Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century that the charateristic trait of man from the 17th and 18th century is the Will for Form. What this means is that man had come to realize that he has the ability to form and shape his world into what he desires.
For centuries man had lived in preordained boundaries and roles. The king or some monarch ruled and the people were his subjects. The church said what was right and wrong and man obeyed, for the most part. Everyone had their roles and their economic and social place was decided at their birth. But suddenly, with the Reformation and the Enlightenment, all that had begun to change. And with these old structures and boundaries changing it was as if man had woke up to a new world and the old world seemed nothing but a dream. Suddenly man realized he could build his own system, create his own law, and make his own rules concerning reality. It is not as if these things had never been attempted and accomplished, but never had there been such opportunity to systematically re-shape the world as the opportunity that presented itself to the men of the 18th century.
Man was awake and he felt truly alive for the first time (so he thought), alive to build a new world after his own desires and not after forced boundaries that he had be forced to live under for so long. New theologies, philosophies, and belief systems were formed. New economic systems and ways of living were being tried and promoted throughout the western world. And all this would culminate in the American and French revolutions, which show an attempt to form and shape a completely new nation with a new political, legal, and social structure.
It was into this climate that Augste Comte was born and he would take part in this reshaping of the new world in his own way. His part would be to reshape society and the way people think about how to build and form a functioning society. His approach would be fairly novel and his influence on those who would come after him is clear. Many have called him the father of sociology because of his influence and thought. By taking a brief look into Comte and his philosophy, we catch a glimpse behind the curtain of our modern world as we see one of the wizards of Oz who has taken part in building the world in which we live. Continue reading