I had to freshen up my memory on this since it's been a while I've busied myself with the history of sociology. Comte's positivism has a number of problems, mostly with reductionism and the fact he viewed any "unscientific" knowledge as pointless and trivial. Now, of course, this thread is about the process of evolutionary stages of society, and not only about the 3rd proposed stage. When looking at history, it can be reduced to contain these stages, but it would be more accurate to say these stages are not equal throughout society as a whole, even within a single culture. The Greeks, which Comte used as an example of the Metaphysical stage, were still highly religious despite the fact they also had great philosophers thinking further about things. Most of the common people of that age didn't care, they were religious down to their bones. Ultimately, that same pattern holds true up to today. There still are a lot of people, even in our society, who believe based on faith alone. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with that, but it does throw a wrench in Compte's theory of societal evolution. As a society, I doubt we'll ever get rid of religion, philosophy, or science.
Hence, I've always found it more suiting to look at the 3 stages as mutual statistics. For example, at the time of the Greeks, phase 1 had a greater share than the other two, but not as great a share as after the fall of the Roman empire. Likewise, right now phase 1 has a smaller share compared to the other two, with scientific reasoning having taken a large share for itself instead. As we, as a society, focus more on one, the other two will shrink. However, I doubt any of these phases can ever be eradicated. There have been attempts to, historically speaking, and they never succeeded.
Blah, you did a better job expanding on the point I was trying to condense down to the "myth of progress." I was also unclear on whether Comte did think the previous stages could be eradicated. But I agree with you that the likelihood of this happening is unlikely.
Wikipedia said that Comte didn't necessarily think previous stages would be eradicated, but I didn't check the source. In general, I think the stages do implicitly support a progressive narrative in which science would take over, etc. Like others of the period, I think he was sort of right on the one hand, while on the other hand overreaching and not considering potential repercussions of that narrative.
I dunno, like I told the OP, I mainly studied Durkheim, who had many issues with Comte's approach.
Well, you have to take the time he lived into consideration. It was the right kind of environment to propagate ideas like positivism.
Durkheim wasn't the only one in that either. Especially positivism and Compte's idea of sociology received a lot of criticism. Ultimately, those disagreements are what formed modern sociology as we know it today.
Of course! I think that's pretty much where I'm coming from. It's easier for us 100-150 years later to see that science isn't going to fix all our problems or even eradicate/replace religion when we reach a more secular society.
And yeah, I can see where Durkheim was trying to remove assumptions and use more hard science in the gathering/interpretation of data. I don't know the history of sociology too well, but that's kinda where a lot of it went, i.e. gathering of statistical data, right?
Yes, as demonstrated by Europe, being a secular society does not exclude religion, though many of the extremer cults do say we're spiritually dead.
Compte was one the first to use the word sociology, I believe, but he didn't mean what sociology means today. He is seen as one of the forefathers of sociology. It was Durkheim, among others, who defined modern sociology as a science. The gathering of data happened way before as well, though it was never used in a context we'd call sociological research today. In fact, data gathering about society is as old as the ancient Greeks, and perhaps even older than that. The data certainly plays a big role, as it does in every science really. You can't work without data.
I just looked it up and wikipedia even has an article on this: [link]
Durr. You're right, anything that claims to be a science is going to gather data. I worded that rather badly. I just recalled reading some stuff ages ago about greater emphasis being placed on statistical analysis within sociology at some point. I'm assuming what I read was talking primarily about Lazarsfeld. I'm a little more familiar with the post-modern/post-structural analysis, which has had a big influence as well but seems more theoretical.