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philosophical vocabulary as Positive Philosophy,' unless it may be thought to have been very recently naturalised; and no ordinary Englishman, I think, for the first time hearing such a phrase, would be likely even to guess at its meaning; and yet the meaning of Comte, when we look into the work itself, is transparently clear, for there we find that his philosophy is, in substance and spirit, precisely the development of the true inductive idea, viz., the invariability of natural law, analysed up to its first principles, and extended in its application to every subject, including society and morals, of which the human reason can take cognizance, He there states himself that the founders of the philosophy he is expounding were especially Lord Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes, each of whom, he observes, was aware of its true character, understood its conditions, and foresåw its final supremacy;' and there can scarcely be a question that Comte's Philosophy, as much as, not to say even more than, Lord Bacon's, would be more accurately designated to English ears by our wellunderstood term 'Inductive Philosophy,' or by some clear equivalent.? . ??Bacon, Galilée, et Descartes, que la plus lointaine postérité proclamera toujours les premiers fondateurs immédiats de la philosophie positive; puisque chacun d'eux en a déjà dignement senti le vrai caractère, suffisamment compris les conditions nécessaires,' et convenablement prévu l'ascendant final.'-Comte, Leçon 57. . . . - ? The fundamental agreement between Bacon and Comte results in reality from the identity of their method, known amongst English thinkers: as the inductive or objective method. In Germany
realistic' is the term by which it is usually distinguished. (See Dr. Fischer's Realistic Philosophy and its Age.) The objective method seeks truth in the relation of objects. The subjective
It is to this work exclusively that my subsequent criticism on Comte is intended to apply. A work, indeed, which, under whatever title, and with all its defects, redundances, and errors, is regarded by nearly all who have studied it as one of the noblest contributions to the science of human progress that has ever emanated from a single pen..
The chief particulars in which, in this able treatise, the Inductive Philosophy has been verified and expanded on Lord Bacon's principles, may be briefly summarised as follows. Comte commences? what I may term his argument by pointing out, with remarkable originality, that the greater part of all our real knowledge, both in the progress of its own growth, as well as in its contact with the human mind, appears to pass through three distinct stages, corresponding with the divisions to which I alluded at the commencement of my discourse—viz., the theological, or supernatural, its earliest stage; the metaphysical, or abstract, its transition stage; and the scientific, or natural, its final stage; and that the human mind also
method seeks it in the relation of ideas. The weakness of the subjective method is its impossibility of applying verification; whereas the security of the objective method lies in its vigilant verification. According to the objective method, the successive steps of discovery being observation, hypothesis, verification, that is, confrontation with the facts of nature through sensual perception. See G. H. Lewes's. Hist. of Philosophy, 'The Objective and Subjective Methods,' vol. i. prolegom. . . 1 Première Leçon.—The general view of Comte's philosophy given in the text is, of course, very slight and cursory. It is condensed from a consideration of the whole of his treatise, and hardly admits of precise reference to particular portions.
passes from initial theological conceptions to final inductive conceptions, through the transition of metaphysical conceptions; he declaring that all men, up to their age, can verify this for themselves ; that each of us is aware, if he looks back upon his own history, that he was a theologian in his childhood, a métaphysician in his youth, and a natural philosopher in his manhood. Comte then proceeds to show, that the sciences, that is, those aggregates of methodised knowledge which have been gradually consolidated from the now long-continued exercise of man's intellectual powers in the observation, interrogation, and interpretation of Nature, and constituted of facts, the truth of which may be verified either by an appeal to experience or a resort to experiment, and being vastly more numerous and extensive than in Lord Bacon's time, when studied and co-ordinated in the order in which Comte has classified and explained them, a serial objective order, corresponding to the progressive complexity of their relative phenomena=viž., Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology, and, lastly, Social and Moral Science-do, in their chief methods and most important results, yield an amount of truth, and prove an almost boundless range of phenomena, all governed by natural law, essential to be known and regarded as the foundation of any just
1. Or, chacun de nous, en contemplant sa propre histoire, ne se souvient-il pas qu'il a été successivement, quant à ses notions les plus importantes, théologien dans son enfance, métaphysicien dans sa jeunesse, et physicien dans sa virilité ? Cette vérification est facile aujourd'hui pour tous les hommes au niveau de leur siècle.'--Comte, Première Leçon.
theory or true philosophy of human life.' He asserts that the fundamental principle of sound philosophy is the subjection of all phenomena to invariable laws; that the general laws of astronomical phenomena are the basis of all our real knowledge; and that, since Newton's time, the development of celestial mechanics had deprived the theological philosophy of its chief intellectual office, by proving that the order maintained throughout our system and the universe is owing to the simple gravitation of its parts. That it is the study, not of man from within, but of the universe, especially through astronomy, that has suggested and developed the great idea of the laws of nature 3 (the root of the Inductive Philosophy), and now capable, he contends, of extension to the whole of phenomena, including those of man and society. He lays down that science, as distinguished from learning, is essentially composed, not of facts, but of laws, and that its true end is to enable us to predict what will certainly happen at a future time; the business of science being to see in order to foresee, so that we may modify the phenomena by which we are affected. Hence his axiom, "from science, prevision; from prevision, action.' Observing that prevision disproves the notion that phenomena proceed from supernatural will (which, he remarks, is the same thing as calling them variable), and that our ability to modify them proves that the powers under which they proceed are subordinated to our own. He remarks that the proof which Franklin
áfforded of human control over the lightning, destroyed the theological terror of thunder as effectually as the superstition about comets was destroyed by the prevision of their return, and that, indeed, this rational prevision of phenomena, combined with the modification of them which science enables man to exercise, shows unquestionably that the events of this world aré not ruled by supernatural will, but by natural law.
It should be stated that Comte's philosophical application of the inductive theory, in order to explain the phenomena of society and morals, is an advance that it was greatly beyond the power of Lord Bacon to effect, in whose time no basis of scientific truth, broad enough for the foundation of such an extension, existed. Beyond the power, but not beyond the conception of Bacon, whose far-reaching mind enabled him to foresee, not the forms only, but the features of sciences which did not yet exist.? Some,' says Bacon,
1 Theological philosophy supposes everything to be governed by will, and that phenomena are therefore eminently variable and irregular, at least virtually. The inductive philosophy, on the con trary, conceives of them as subjected to invariable laws, which permit us to predict with absolute precision. The radical incompatibility of these two views is nowhere more marked than in regard to the phenomena of the heavens; since, in that direction, our prevision is proved to be perfect. The punctual arrival of comets and eclipses, with all their train of minute incidents, exactly foretold, long before, by the aid of ascertained laws, must lead the common mind to feel that •such events must be free from the control of any will, which could not be will, if it was thus subordinated to our astronomical decisions.' - Comte, vol. i. p. 175. .
2 • Such were the speculations of Bacon. The power and compass of a mind which could trace, not merely the outline, but the most minute ramifications, of sciences which did not yet exist, must be an object of admiration to all succeeding ages.'- Professor Playfair's Fourth Dissertation to Encyclopædia Britannica, 8th ed.