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Please verify your birth date to continue. Month January February March April May June July August September October November December Day 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 Year I owe too much to the influence of Auguste Comte, guid- ing me through the toilsome active years, and giving the sustaining Faith which previous speculation had scattered, not to desire that others should likewise par- ticipate in it.
For ten years it has been with me, sur- viving all changes of opinion, and modifying my whole mental history ; and my debt of gratitude. If, after this recognition, I shall be found dissenting from some opinions energetically maintained by Comte and his unhesitating disciples, it is only necessary to remind the reader that reverence is not incompatible with independence.
Auguste Comte was born in His family was eminently catholic and monarchical — a detail not with- out its significance in considering his philosophic educa- tion. His collegiate education commenced in one of those institutions wherein Bonaparte vainly endeavoured to restore the antique preponderance of the theologico- metaphysical regime. It was at college, in his quick and eager youth, that Bacon rose up in scorn against the scholastic course of study, and planned the first sketch of the Novum Organum.
It was at college that Descartes became painfully conscious of the incompetence of the Aristotelian method, and the vanity of the reigning sciences.
It was at college that Locke grew impatient of the quibbling pedantries which passed current as philo- sophy, and learned to despise all education except self- education. Bacon was thirteen, Comte fourteen, when this reforming spirit awoke in each. He was still in this condition of mind when he became acquainted with the celebrated St. Simon, and worked under him as one of his most active disciples. In after- life he characterised St. Simon as u a very ingenious but very superficial writer, whose nature, more active than speculative, was assuredly not very philosophic, and was really moved by nothing but an immense per- sonal ambition.
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Simon seems to have subjugated Comte, who considers, however, that their intercourse only troubled and interrupted the genuine course of his own speculations, by directing them towards futile attempts at direct political action. His career was interrupted in another and more pain- ful manner in , when over-work and heart anxieties brought on a cerebral excitement, which, under the care of mad doctors, was fostered into decided insanity. After the doctors had declared him incurable, he was cured by domestic care and tenderness.
He has himself boldly stated this episode in his life, in anticipation of the perfidy of antagonists, who would not fail to fling it in derision at him. That this insanity was but a transient cerebral disorder, no reader of his volumes need be told ; for whatever opposition his opinions may excite, however false and absurd they may appear, they assuredly have nothing of that extravagance and flighti- ness to which the imputation of madness can be applied.
His life appears to have been a quiet scientific life, his daily bread earned by teaching mathematics, both in private and at the Ecole Poly technique, where he was 4 comte's philosophy of the sciences. His leisure was devoted to the slow elabora- tion of his philosophy. He has told us the story of his persecutions, in the preface to the sixth volume of the Philosophie Positive ; but, of course, he has only told us his view of the matter ; and we know that men writing the story of their wrongs are not always the most accurate of historians.
That he had offended Arago, and most of his brother professors, is quite clear ; and the fact of his gradual dismissal from one post after another is as indisputable as it is deplorable. The reader will learn with pain that Comte, in his fifty- seventh year, is thrown upon the world, with no other resources than such as his friends and admirers can col- lect for him. Besides his official teaching, Comte has for many years been accustomed to deliver gratuitous lectures on sections of the positive philosophy, every Sunday, for six months in the year ; by this means disseminating among the people general truths of the most important nature.
And these avocations may be said to have constituted his life, varied by two constant recreations — Poetry and Music. His writings, which already amount to twelve thick volumes, have been composed with a rapidity almost incredible. The whole of the first volume of the Philo- sophie Positive pages was written in three months! His works are as follows : — Cours de Philosophie Positive, 6 vols. Paris, — Traite Elementaire de Geometrie Analytique, 1 vol.
Paris, Discours sur V Ensemble du Positivisme, 1 vol. Paris, S a volume which is reprinted in the following work. Paris, — 2. There are two grand divisions in his life, correspond- ing with the two fundamental divisions of his philosophy. The lonely man of science, whose days were passed in meditation and the task-work of tuition, who led a purely intellectual life, was well fitted for the great mission of elaborating a philosophy of the Sciences, and thereby laying the immutable basis of a new Social Doctrine, — in other words, of elaborating a Philosophy as the indispensable preparation for a Religion; but this intellectual life, in proportion as it fitted him for the co-ordination of scientific principles, rendered him unfitted, by its exclusiveness, for that intense and en- larged conception of our emotional life, with which Religion and Morality are inseparably connected.
I am touching here upon a characteristic of the Positive Philosophy, which, for a long time to come, will be an obstacle to its acceptance; for men of Science will reject with a sneer the subordination of the Intel- lect to the Heart, — of Science to Emotion; and the un- scientific, feeling the deep and paramount importance of our Moral Nature, will be repelled from a philosophy which rests solely upon a scientific basis. Logic and Sentiment — to use popular generalizations — have long been at war, and men reject Comtek system, because it seeks to unite them.
That the Intellectual aspect is not the noblest aspect of man, is a heresy which I have long iterated with the constancy due to a conviction. There never will be a Philosophy capable of satisfying the demands of Huma- nity, until the truth be recognised that man is moved by his emotions, not by his ideas : using his Intellect only as an eye to see the way.
In other words, the Intellect is the servant, not the lord of the Heart; and Science is 6 comte's philosophy of the sciences. I say this without much fear of being misunderstood. My opinions on religion have been too often, and too unequivocally pro- nounced, to admit of the supposition, that in thus placing Science in subordination to Religion, there is any wish to countenance the current declarations of ortho- doxy. I agree with the spirit of those declarations, while totally disagreeing with the opinions they imply.
Although I do not owe to Auguste Comte the convic- tion of moral supremacy, I have been greatly strength- ened in the conviction by observing its growth in his mind. At the age of forty-five, Comte fell in love with an unhappy and remarkable woman, separated from her husband. One whole year of chaste and exquisite affec- tion changed his life. He had completed his great work on Positive Philosophy. His scientific elaboration was over. He was now to enter upon the great problems of Social Life ; and by a fortunate coincidence, it was at this moment that he fell in love.
It was then this Phi- losopher was to feel in all its intensity the truth which he before had perceived,— viz. A new influence, penetrating like sunshine into the very depths of his being, awakened there the feelings dormant since childhood, and by their light he saw the world under new aspects. He grew religious. He learned to appreciate the abiding and universal influence of the affections. He gained a new glimpse into man's destiny.
He aspired to become the founder of a new religion — the religion of Humanity. There is one very injurious, though very intelligible mis- take current on the subject of the Positive Philosophy. It is supposed to be a thing of dry, severe science, only interesting to scientific men — presenting only the scien- tific aspect of things, and leaving untouched the great questions of Emotion, of Art, of Morality, of Religion ; a philosophy which may amuse the intellect of the specu- lative few, but can never claim the submission of the mass.
The mistake is injurious, because the thinking world happens, unfortunately, to be divided into two classes — men of science destitute of a philosophy, because incompetent for the most part to the thorough grasp of those generalities which form a philosophy ; and meta- physicians, whose tendency towards generalities causes them to disdain the creeping specialities of physical science.
Thus, between Science which ignores Phi- losophy, and Philosophy which ignores Science, Comte is in danger of being set aside altogether. These pages will probably convince the reader, that the Positive Phi- losophy must necessarily reconcile these discrepancies, and that, while rendering due recognition to the speciali- ties of experimentalists, it gives full scope to the generalizing tendency of philosophers.
Speculation, as a mere display of intellectual energy, it denounces ; science, as commonly understood, it looks upon with something of the feeling which may move the moralist contemplating the routine of pin-makers. The half-repug- nant feeling about science, in the minds of literary men, artists, and moralists, is a natural and proper insurgence of the emotions against the domineering tendency of the intellect : men know that the moral life is larger and more intense than the intellectual life — they know that this moral life has its needs, which no science can pre- tend to regulate, and they reject a philosophy which speaks to them only of the Laboratory.
But in Comte, Science has no such position. It is the basis upon which the social superstructure may be raised. It gives Phi- losophy materials and a Method ; that is all. If the Positive Philosophy be anything, it is a doc- trine capable of embracing all that can regulate Hu- manity ; not a treatise on physical science, not a treatise on social science, but a system which absorbs all intel- lectual activity.
A social doctrine is the aim of Positivism, a scientific doctrine the means ; just as in man, intelligence is the minister and in- terpreter of life. Let me now call attention to Comte's initial conceptions ; and first, to the luminous 10 comte's philosophy of the sciences. To say that Science is one, and that the Method should be one, may, to the hasty reader, seem more like a truism than a discovery ; but on inquiry he will find, that before Comte, although a general idea of the connec- tion of the physical sciences was prevalent, yet, to judge from Mrs.
Somerville's work, or Herschers Discourse, it was neither very precise nor very pro- found; no one had thought of a Social Science issuing from the Physical Sciences, and investigated on the same method. In fact, to talk of moral questions being reduced to a positive science will even now be generally regarded as absurd.