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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index C > Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte Quotes

Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte
(17 Jan 1798 - 5 Sep 1857)

French philosopher and mathematician who was founder of positivism, a system of thought and knowledge which avoided speculation and validated through strict scientific method. He was a founder of sociology as a systematic study, and coined the term 'altruism.'. His grounding in mathematics and science dated back to his undergraduate studies at École Polytechnique.


Science Quotes by Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte (7 quotes)

All good intellects have repeated, since Bacon's time, that there can be no real knowledge but that which is based on observed facts. This is incontestable, in our present advanced stage; but, if we look back to the primitive stage of human knowledge, we shall see that it must have been otherwise then. If it is true that every theory must be based upon observed facts, it is equally true that facts cannot be observed without the guidance of some theory. Without such guidance, our facts would be desultory and fruitless; we could not retain them: for the most part we could not even perceive them.
— Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte
The Positive Philosophy, trans. Harriet Martineau (1853), Vol. 1, 3-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Fact (311)  |  Theory (345)

In mathematics we find the primitive source of rationality; and to mathematics must the biologists resort for means to carry out their researches.
— Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte
The Positive Philosophy, trans. Harriet Martineau (1853), Vol. 1, 388.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematics (355)

In the final, the positive, state, the mind has given over the vain search after absolute notions, the origin and destination of the universe, and the causes of phenomena, and applies itself to the study of their laws—that is, their invariable relations of succession and resemblance. Reasoning and observation, duly combined, are the means of this knowledge. What is now understood when we speak of an explanation of facts is simply the establishment of a connection between single phenomena and some general facts.
— Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte
The Positive Philosophy, trans. Harriet Martineau (1853), Vol. 1, 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Fact (311)  |  Knowledge (662)  |  Law (269)

Induction for deduction, with a view to construction.
— Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte
Attributed in John Arthur Thomson, quote at heading of chapter 'Scientific Method', Introduction to Science (1911), 57, but without further citation. Webmaster has found no primary source for confirmation. Please contact if you can help.
Science quotes on:  |  Construction (34)  |  Deduction (38)  |  Induction (22)  |  Scientific Method (98)  |  View (48)

It needs scarcely be pointed out that in placing Mathematics at the head of Positive Philosophy, we are only extending the application of the principle which has governed our whole Classification. We are simply carrying back our principle to its first manifestation. Geometrical and Mechanical phenomena are the most general, the most simple, the most abstract of all,—the most irreducible to others, the most independent of them; serving, in fact, as a basis to all others. It follows that the study of them is an indispensable preliminary to that of all others. Therefore must Mathematics hold the first place in the hierarchy of the sciences, and be the point of departure of all Education whether general or special.
— Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte
The Positive Philosophy, trans. Harriet Martineau (1853), Vol.1, 33.
Science quotes on:  |  Mathematics (355)

The law is this: that each of our leading conceptions—each branch of our knowledge—passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological, or fictitious: the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive.
— Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte
The Positive Philosophy, trans. Harriet Martineau (1853), Vol. 1, 1-2.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (662)  |  Law (269)

The progress of the individual mind is not only an illustration, but an indirect evidence of that of the general mind. The point of departure of the individual and of the race being the same, the phases of the mind of a man correspond to the epochs of the mind of the race. Now, each of us is aware, if he looks back upon his own history, that he was a theologian in his childhood, a metaphysician in his youth, and a natural philosopher in his manhood. All men who are up to their age can verify this for themselves.
— Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte
The Positive Philosophy, trans. Harriet Martineau (1853), Vol. 1, 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Philosophy (128)



Quotes by others about Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte (2)

The scientist who recognizes God knows only the God of Newton. To him the God imagined by Laplace and Comte is wholly inadequate. He feels that God is in nature, that the orderly ways in which nature works are themselves the manifestations of God's will and purpose. Its laws are his orderly way of working.
The Human Meaning of Science (1940), 69.
Science quotes on:  |  God (229)  |  Pierre-Simon Laplace (45)  |  Nature (524)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (174)

The only occasion when Comte
Is known to have romped
Was when the multitude roared 'Vive La Philosophie Positive!'
E. C. Bentley, Biography for Beginners (1905). Collected in Complete Clerihews (2008), 32.


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  • todayinsci icon 17 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Comte's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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