Course of Positive Philosophy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

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 emphasized 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. For him, the physical sciences had necessarily to arrive first, before humanity could adequately channel its efforts into the most challenging and complex "queen science" of human society itself. 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.


The six volumes of the Course have the following titles:

  1. Les Préliminaires généraux et la philosophie mathématique (1830) ;
  2. La Philosophie astronomique et la philosophie de la physique (1835) ;
  3. La Philosophie chimique et la philosophie biologique (1838) ;
  4. La Philosophie sociale et les conclusions générales (1839) ;
  5. La Partie historique de la philosophie sociale (1841) ;
  6. Le Complément de la philosophie sociale, et les conclusions générales (1842).

See also

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