Review Of "Love, Order, And Progress: The Science, Philosophy, And Politics Of Auguste" Edited By M. Bourdeau, M. Pickering, And W. Schmaus

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The influence of Auguste Comte (1798–1857) in the history of the natural and the social sciences is immense, yet he is seldom read today. These excellent essays—all by leading scholars of 19th-century intellectual history—discuss all aspects of Comte's thought, including his advancement of progressive if authoritarian politics. Comte was a positivist in that he argued that natural and social science should play a positive role in building a new society after the destruction of the ancien régime as a consequence of the French Revolution. As used by Comte, positive implied useful, certain, precise, organic, sympathetic, real, and relative (i.e., relative to human needs). His motto—"Order and progress"—reflected his twin concerns: namely, only through science can there be true human progress, yet social solidarity requires symbols and rituals. Comte called for a secular religion of humanity to replace the Catholicism and statism that had been demolished. To this end, he urged celebration of secular saints and "priesthood" of industrialists and scientists. Though much of this is both wrongheaded and distasteful, one cannot and should not ignore other facets of Comte’s thought, e.g., the indispensable role of the passions in the social and natural sciences. Though he was difficult and complicated, Comte's enormous intellect is still felt today in the sciences. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


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