Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Positivists, the followers - not very numerous in France, and less so in England - of the philosophical principles enunciated by Auguste Comte, whose Cours de Phllosophie Positive was published 1830-42. He was comparatively little known in England till G. H. Lewes, in 1846, in his History of Philosophy, declared his adhesion to the views of Comte, whom he called the "Bacon of the 19th century." Comte's view of metaphysics was that they were only a stage, and that a faulty one, in the development of human thought. He held that there were three stages in this development: (1) a "theological" stage, in which all phenomena were looked on as the results of the intervention of supernatural agents; (2) the metaphysical, in which they were referred to abstract powers as a cause; and (3) the positive, or scientific stage, in which nothing was looked for beneath uniformity of nature and a universal orderly succession of phenomena. Knowledge he divides into inorganic physics and organic physics. Inorganic physics he subdivides into celestial and terrestrial, the latter' further subdividing into mechanics and kindred branches on the one hand, and chemistry on the other; while organic physics includes biology and a new science of sociology, which looks on the individual as a kind of cell or monad in an organic whole, called humanity. All these sciences imply mathematics as a pre-condition, and so the chief divisions fall into a progressive scale, each division implying all the preceding, but taking up a new set of phenomena. The scale is at once a classification of the sciences and the order (on the whole) of their historical development, and is to be their order in education - viz. mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, sociology. Humanity,. to whose service all knowledge is to be devoted, is the one supreme being, for the worship of which Comte established a religion and a new calendar of saints or benefactors of the human race, to whose' commemoration different days were to be dedicated. Among his English critics are Harriet Martineau,. Congreve, his chief English disciple and translator,. Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and Professor Huxley. Neither of the last three accepts his dogmas, though Mill found something attractive in the idea of a religion of humanity ; as also did George Eliot, who, no doubt, was much influenced by Q. H. Lewes. The English Positivist school, however, of which the best-known members are Mr. F. Harrison, Mr. Beesly. and Dr. Congreve, has influenced English political thought considerably. Many include, under the term Positivist, Spencer, Bain, and all who direct scientific attention solely to phenomena and their sequences; but the Positivism of this school of thinkers is not identical with that of Comte, though they, with him, eschew metaphysics as fiction.