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.
This isn't really my field, then again, since I'm still a student, I don't really have a field.
But just for the sake of sounding smart: Comte hypothesized that the cultures in the positive stage are more advanced as apposed to the first two stages. But how are we to distinguish advancement? Are we advancing towards a more perfect society? Societies that are less advanced have to deal with problems that we think are easily fixable, while we deal with some problems we can't even fathom. As society 'advances' so does it's problems. We aren't advancing at all, we're simply making things more complicated and are forever fixed in place.
A third world citizen worries of food, water, shelter, disease, et cetra. The average American worries about of taxes, politics, war, bills, et cetra. (Notice how I left religion out of this. I'm Christian, and even though I don't pray every day, I'm pro choice, and whatever else, I'm still Christian.)
Don't get angry over my ignorance. I just wanted to sound smart. XD Also just throwing my opinion out there.
No, your argument is a very well presented point. You feel he is giving an estheticly judged "advanced" status to these stages where none should be. You do not see the positivity stage as being necessarily better than the theological one from a moral perspective(unless I am getting this wrong?).
Essentially, from the "moral" perspective this progression, if qualitatively correct, does not change anything.
I may not agree entirely, but I am not sure I could easily refute such an idea, and it is a very coherent criticism.
But my own statement confuses me. Doesn't 'evolving' mean to advance?
My idea of something that evolves is something that changes, or refines itself, in order to adapt. (And that's another thing. I don't think humans can adapt. We change things to our liking, but we do not change ourselves. That is a different topic, though)
Maybe I'm not thinking about this the right way. Maybe we're advancing towards perfection like a line tries to advance towards an asymptote in an algebraic graph. It will never ever reach it, but it can get very close.
hey! i just wrote a reply on this subject in a different thread. well this is how i believe an atheist should be. the part of religion and philosophy cant be replaced in the human evolution. many people these days that run around calling themselves atheists are just confused and rebellious.
why i disagree with the last stage of this process is because of two things: i believe that religion came before philosophy. the religious findings in human history are older than, lets say schools or educative materials. for example the iceman was believed to be a shaman or priest amongst his people because of the certain figures and items that were found with his body. of course one doesnt need to build a school to think in his own head but to put it on the social mass level one definitely needs a settled life. well not definitely. nomads did it too, even better than settled ones. but yeah we dont have proof on that.
the second reason is that i believe technology not to be a part of "final stage" and that older civilizations also used it. science too. look at mayans, only in 20th century we have enough knowledge about astrology to match their own. and for example the metal tip of icemans spear was a complex metal alloy. when we reached to the "technology" stage we barely knew enough deal about steels. and there are other reasons as well.
the third reason is that i dont believe scientific advancement as moral development. technology brought all the moral corruption to society. i wont start on this last subject in this reply that is already excessively long already because this is a whole seperate subject to discuss.
anyway.. at least its comforting that not once again i didnt come to a place when i start mentioning things that people in other parts of the wrold know by heart are not recieved with blind fury and excessive reaction full of curses and ethnicity insults simply because they dont know about the thing i was talking about.
The very point of this theory is that religion came before philosophy. Basic explanations are of a religious nature rather than a philosophical one. That is what the first stage is at it`s start.
Technological development has followed scientific development fairly closely throughout history. This has(less closely) usually been observable as following philosophical and societal development. And I severely dispute that our knowledge of Astronomy was only equal to that of the mayans in the 20th century. I would say much closer to the 17th century at the latest. Galileo went further in some areas for chrissakes.
Your third reason is what I am looking for.
Also I not your 2 primary reasons are more contestations of the entire progressional model rather that just the last stage.
Snother reason is that Kuran, something thats supposed to be in the meta stage, contains things from scientific stage. It talks about tanks, planes, bullets, radiation, atom, astrology (very precisely there), osmotic pressure etc. Also in many ancient religions science and religion went together. A priest was the magician (scientist) etc.
About technology.. Im pretty sure its the corrupting main. When you get the moral values of an average person from 5000 years ago, the average is much higher than today. Doesnt even have to be today. Its much higher than a person from 2000 years ago as well. What changed all these years? Only technology.
What would happen if a man was immortal but could age? You know how old people start to become like babies again when they get really old. He would enter in a sort of going-back thing. Even if not biologically (maybe that too) it would occur psychologically, even if not perfect. Maybe thats what happens with humanity after the scientific maturity as well. Mankind simply reverts back. Maybe what we know as ancient tribes are nothing but leftovers from the previous civ. and there is no such thing as "starting as tribals".
I recognize the name and recognize the stages. No wonder, he's considered the father of sociology. Derp. Oddly, I'm more familiar with Durkheim.
The stages seem somewhat reminiscent of Marx's stages, which I guess isn't surprising since Wikipedia cites Marx as being influenced by his work. Much like Marx, it's hard to argue against the development of civilizations tending to work like that, based on observation. I think the main criticism would be the assumption that society is progressing toward some "higher" secular/positivist state, the myth of progress and all that. A criticism lodged both by post-modernist/post-structuralist and traditionalist factions. And I'm not sure how I feel about that, because while there are problems with idea of progress and positivism in general, it's something I also benefit from and prefer to some of my other options.
I had to refresh my memory on the designations, bleh. They seem to make sense to me, though some explanation is necessary. Another hurtle for some is understanding that he's speaking in context of society. A lot of people come in with the preconception that suicide should be viewed on a more personal, psychological level. Of course, I also read Rules of the Sociological Method, where Durkheim advises against presumptions and "common sense." What I get for taking 2 classes with a professor who had a hard-on for the guy.
Oh they make sense, they are just almost deliberately confusing.
Oh I remember, in my sociology UECG we spent 10 of our 22 hours that semestre on him and Auguste Comte. Only 3 hours were trumped up for the rest of the history of sociology, outside of the great experiments. Social psychology was no better.
Both seem incredibly vital. Though now I think it's weird that my professor didn't cover Comte. It may not have fit into the focus of the classes. One did involve a unit that was almost Soc 101 to give a grounding in methodology, but it was about purity within religious societies and how out-groups are demonized. Fun class.
Society adapts, or stagnates, or dies, but it doesn't go in a linear fashion, it's not pre-set. Rome, for instance, had science, knowledge, and even steam engines, but they never got rid of the gods, in spite knowing that the earth might as well be round and that it went around the sun, not the other way around. China, which has existed for over 4000 years in some form, has barely moved from the "first" stage until very recently, and that's the rich cities, if even that. More bigger lies Africa, or even the modern day west : society advances, but never as one singular whole.
If anything, it's more of a "ranking" than a real "evolution stage graph" thing.
You doubt what? The validity of the theory or that I have correctly summarized it?
You must understand that this is supposed to be a very general model from virtually the highest sociological view one can take in a particular society. Therefore majorly observable proportional variations are supposed to be observable, he just believes that society and EXPLANATIONS(technology being seperate) for phenomena would evolve along these lines. Other factors could keep a society primitive for thousands of years. But if it grew then it would, according to him, head towards a "positive" stage if it did not die or stagnate first.
It requires a set amount of variables to favour 'evolution' to begin with - variables only our modern society has known and used, and could had set us on a different path many times over. I doubt his idea that it will "head" towards a positive stage, as history has shown that, even with the variables of Education, Learning, and Sciences, societies didn't go ahead with it. Again - Rome, China, Japan, Sumer - societies which had schools, learning, sciences - they didn't go into secularism, as nice as it would had been.
Thus, it doesn't serve as a model, general or not, for a theory that society, given the variables, will advance - it works more as a nice ranking system, in which this theory will excel at - being a ranking system.
I would wish it that we actually strove forward with our inert curiousness, to actually go towards secularism and advancement, but it rarely goes that way. Most of our advances are from war, or things turned to war and then turned back to the populace, for example, or how much of society, western, eastern, and southern, can still boost of hundreds of millions of non-sexulars. It just doesn't advance, not that linearly, in that way.
I see your point. And various uncomfirmed(and slightly unpopular for the implications) theories nowadays state that we may be(in the majority at the very least) predispositioned to be some form of religious. Which would make such a state rather difficult/virtually impossible to reach on the scale we are talking about.
According to Wikipedia, Comte didn't necessarily conceive of the stages as successive, cancelling out previous modes of thinking/organization. That is, Ancient Greece reached the metaphysical phase through its schools of philosophy, while much of the society retained polytheistic beliefs and practices. China, likewise, retained animism and ancestor worship while developing Taoism, Confucianism, and Zen. Same thing in India society, where you also had polytheism and theism, along with more metaphysical Vedic philosophy and Buddhism.
Well if I remember, his reasoning was that sociology would help drag general society into positivism which would, by knock on effect, generally drag all sciences as a whole through the same door. Virtually everything he did in his life seemed to be motivated towards this goal of transforming society into a "positivist" one.
Got to admire his resolve in that though. He loses his job and his home. What does he do? He teaches people for free to educate the lowest levels of society so that his social change will be universal.(It wasn`t as simple as that of course, he was getting paid as a tutor elsewhere, but still)
Sure, always the issue of reductionism. But that is the method of science. Like I said, his system does hold some validity as far as the way in which societies tend to develop, it just carries the implication of moving out of a stage into another, which is not exactly how cultural shifts work. For instance, US society could largely be said to be positivist, but there's still a large segment of society that holds a more theological view, others who could be called metaphysical.