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Auguste Comte

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Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte
Full name Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Sociology
Notable ideas Law of three stages,
Encyclopedic law

Auguste Comte (full name: Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte; January 17, 1798 – September 5, 1857) was a French thinker who was one from founders of sociology (from the Latin: socius, "companion"; and the suffix -ology, "the study of", from Greek λόγος, lógos, "knowledge" [1]) and positivism. It was recently discovered that the term 'sociology' had already been introduced in 1780, but with a different meaning, by the French essayist Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès (1748-1836).[2]


Comte was born at Montpellier, in southern France. After attending the University of Montpellier, one of the oldest European universities, Comte was admitted to the École Polytechnique in Paris.

He married Caroline Massin, but divorced in 1842.

He died in Paris on September 5th, 1857 and is buried at the famous Cimetière du Père Lachaise. His apartment from 1841-1857 is now conserved as the Maison d'Auguste Comte.

Law of three stages

The law of three stages is a socio-historical idea of Auguste Comte. Comte said that knowledge developed in three stages. The first stage is the "theological" stage, in which Comte says that people use religion or gods to explain why things happen or where things came from. The second stage is the "metaphysical" or "abstract" stage, where people use philosophy and abstract ideas to think about their beliefs and explain things. The last stage is the "scientific", where people explain things and beliefs with science. Comte said that society could shift into a positivist society if the sciences, including sociology, are all used to explain things.


  • Comte, A.; A general view of positivism [Discours sur l'Esprit positif 1844] London, 1856 Google books
  • Comte, A.; Bridges, J.H. (tr.); A General View of Positivism; Trubner and Co., 1865 (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00064-2)
  • Comte, A.; Congrev, R. (tr.); The Catechism of Positive Religion; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co., 1891 (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00087-1)
  • Comte, A; Martineau, H. (tr.); The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte; 2 volumes; Chapman, 1853 (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00118-2) (but note that C.U.P. say "Martineau's abridged and more easily digestible version of Comte's work was intended to be readily accessible to a wide general readership, particularly those she felt to be morally and intellectually adrift", so this is not really Comte's own writings)
  • Comte, A.; Jones, H.S. (ed.); Comte: Early Political Writings; Cambridge University Press, 1998; ISBN 978-0-521-46923-4
  • Comte, A.; System of Positive Polity; various publishers
  • Comte, A.; Cours de Philosophie Positive, Tome II; Bachelier, Paris, 1835,; scans of the six volumes are at Projet Gallica


  1. "Sociology" in Dictionary of the Social Sciences, Craig Calhoun (ed), Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 978-0195123715
  2. Des Manuscrits de Sieyès. 1773-1799, Volumes I and II, published by Christine Fauré, Jacques Guilhaumou, Jacques Vallier et Françoise Weil, Paris, Champion, 1999 and 2007. See also Jacques Guilhaumou, Sieyès et le non-dit de la sociologie : du mot à la chose, in Revue d’histoire des sciences humaines, Numéro 15, novembre 2006 : Naissances de la science sociale.

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