The ''Course of Positive Philosophy'' (''Cours de Philosophie Positive'') was a series of texts written by the French
philosopher of science A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, ...
and founding sociologist,
Auguste Comte Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte (; 19 January 1798 – 5 September 1857) was a French philosophy, French philosopher and writer who formulated the doctrine of positivism. He is often regarded as the first Philosophy of science, phil ...

Auguste Comte
, between 1830 and 1842. Within the work he unveiled the
epistemological Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Justification (epistemology), justification, the Reason, rationality o ...
perspective of
positivism Positivism is a philosophical theory A philosophical theory or philosophical position''Dictionary of Theories'', Jennifer Bothamley is a view that attempts to explain or account for a particular problem in philosophy Philosophy (from ...
. The works were translated into English by
Harriet Martineau Harriet Martineau (; 12 June 1802 – 27 June 1876) was an English social theorist and Whig (British political party), Whig writer often seen as the first female sociologist.Hill, Michael R. (2002''Harriet Martineau: Theoretical and Methodologica ...
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.Bourdeau, Michel
"Auguste Comte"
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' (''SEP'') combines an online encyclopedia of philosophy with scholarly peer review, peer-reviewed publication of original papers in philosophy, freely accessible to Internet users. It is maintained by S ...
'' (Summer 2011 Edition)
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 ''A General View of Positivism'' (''Discours sur l'ensemble du positivisme'') was an 1844 book by a French philosopher Auguste Comte Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte (; 19 January 1798 – 5 September 1857) was a French philosophy, F ...
'' (published in English in 1865) would therefore set out to define, in more detail, the empirical goals of sociology.

Reception and analysis

According to Professor Bart van Heerikhuizen, it has been said that Comte may have been the last member of human species who could survey all scientific knowledge of his own time and write authoritatively about such fields of study as mathematics, physics, biology, in a way that the specialists of those days considered it as a good panoramic view of what was going on in their field of study. It was an extraordinarily difficult task even for those days, but Comte singlehandedly achieved it with his encyclopedic knowledge. Today it's impossible to do what Comte did in 19th century.


Positivism Modern philosophical literature 1842 non-fiction books Epistemology literature Philosophy of science literature Auguste Comte Works about philosophy of social sciences {{philo-book-stub