Comte's Scheme of Sciences

Builds to the last and most complex science which, according to the early Comte, is social science. Social science includes:

An ideal of humanity [definitive stage is positive] Antidote to misgovernment is public opinion [he was against representative government] A theory of history

Progress to the ideal Ethics

Later in his career Comte adds ethics as the seventh and highest science:

Feelings and practice paramount Subjective method [A progression in his view over his positivism.]


We have seen the origin of utilitarianism in Comte's ideas utilitarianism must share with positivism the idea of a positive calculation: that a positive calculation of utility is possible and meaningful

4.12.1 Jeremy Bentham [1748-1832]:

An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1789. The utility principle based on pleasure and pain [sources of pleasure and pain: physical, political, social, religious]

The Hedonistic Calculus: a quantitative measure of pleasures and pains is to be used in determining actions. Factors or dimension are:

  1. Intensity, 2. Duration, 3. Degree of certainty, 4. Remoteness, 5. Fecundity [chance of being followed by a similar sensation], 6. Purity [opposite of fecundity], 7. Extent [number of persons affected]

Precursor of utility theory, optimization theory as a tool.

4.12.2 John Stuart Mill [1806 1873]

Mill threads together empiricism and positivism [Mill's philosophy is significantly positivist even when it is not overtly so]: Later day British Empiricism [this includes Mill] has much in common with positivism [and herein lies the weakness of Mill's method of empirical logic and inductive inference, his law of causation, and rejection of a priori truthsdespite his great prolificacy and practical influence].

Mill's interest in science, like Saint-Simon's and Comte's, is motivated by his interest in social reform The external world and the self

Mill holds that we can know only phenomena [though he admits the thing-in-itself]Mill's metaphysics is too limited to hold present interest Mental and moral sciences

For social reform Mill calls for a reform of the mental and moral sciences