Short Biography of Auguste Comte

Comte received his primary education at the Im­perial Lycee and joined the famous “Ecole Poly technique” in Paris at the age of 16. Here he was taught by professors of physics and mathematics who had no interest in the study of human affairs and society. But unlike them, Comte developed great social and human concern.

As a youth, Comte was critical of Napoleon’s administration and disliked both parental and religious authority. He even led a group of students in demanding the resignation of one of his instructors at the school. Though Comte was a bright student he never received a college-level degree. This had a negative effect on his teaching career.

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In 1818, he became secretary to Saint Simon, [1760-1825] a philosopher, forty years senior to Comte. Saint Simon was a great socialist thinker of the day, and was often referred to as a socialist dreamer.

Comte became his secretary for which he was getting 300 francs per month as salary. In course of time, Comte became his co-worker, co-writer and co-thinker. The friendship between the two lasted only for a few years, that is, up to 1824 only.

They jointly published the work “Plan of the Scientific Operations Necessary for the Reorganisation of Society” – 1822; [also known as "The Prospectus of the Scientific Works Required for the Reorganisation of Society”] and thereafter their partnership dissolved. Comte believed that Saint Simon was not giving him adequate credit for his con­tributions.

Comte married in the year 1825 but within 17 years, that is, in 1842, his wife deserted him. He almost led an isolated life for a long time due to his personal disappointments and quarrels with others. He had to face economic crisis also.

A small group of his admirers invited him to deliver a series of private lectures on positive philosophy. Good number of learned men including scientists and economists were attending his lectures.

His lecture notes were later published (between 1830- 42) in six volumes running to 4800 pages which constituted his masterly work called “Course of Positive Philosophy”. This treatise fetched him a sizeable number of admirers even outside France. J.S. Mill of England, a famous philosopher, for example, was impressed by his work.

In 1826, Comte thought of a scheme of presenting a series of 72 lectures on his philosophy of life. The course drew a distinguished audience. It was, however, halted after three lectures when Comte suffered a nervous breakdown. He was unhappy with his .wife whom he had married in 1825 [a[and who deserted him in 1842]At one stage in 1827 he sought to commit suicide by throwing himself into the Seine river.

Comte had taken to teaching at the Ecole Polytechnique. During this period Comte worked on the famous six volumes work-running to 4800 pages, known as “Positive Philosophy” [["Cours de Philosophie Positive”]In that work Comte was the first to use the term “sociology”. He also outlined his view that sociology was the ultimate science. This book fetched him a sizeable number of admirers even outside France.

By 1851, Comte had completed the four Volume book entitled “System of Positive Politics” [“["Systeme de Polytique Positive”]is book proposed to offer a grand plan for the reorganisation of society. Here Comte tried to apply the findings of theoretical sociology to the solutions of social problems.

Comte had a series of bizarre ideas. He believed in “cerebral hygiene”, and to preserve his mental health he stopped reading the works of other writers. He wanted to suggest proposals for the improvement of society. But in his attempts to do so he deviated from the path and established the “religion of humanity” claiming himself to be its high priest.

Comte, whose life was beset with stresses and strains, conflicts and controversies, poverty and isolation, breathed his last on 5th Sept. 1857. The religion which he started died along with him but the science he set out continues to flourish.

Main Works of Auguste Comte:

1. “The Prospectus of the Scientific Works Required for the Reorganisation of Society”, 1822 – A joint work of Comte and Saint Simon.

2. “Positive Philosophy”, 1830-1842 – in six volumes.

3. “Positive Polity”, 1851-54 – in four volumes.