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ANALYSIS OF AUGUSTE COMTE’S THEORY

By Akarsh Raj


·       INTRODUCTION –

The society evolved and thus the way of looking at it also evolved. Different theorist find gaps in the society and hence introduces different subjects of studies for understanding the society in a better way. Few such disciplines are psychology, ethics and sociology that enhance one’s understanding of mind, morality and society. But what affect the law in a greater sense is the inception of sociology in law. This part majorly deals with the study of the society, their interaction and their inter-relation with the law and vice-versa. It does it by examining the dynamics of the constituent parts of societies such as institutions, communities, populations, gender, racial or age group and how these contributes to the factor of law in making.  Sociology of law is the study of law and the legal institutions of a community. Understanding principles of law and how it helps in order to bring social reform in the society. The term sociology was first coined by a French philosopher named Auguste Comte. Earlier, sociologists developed their approach based on how the society evolve and on the progress of societies from stage of savagery to barbarism by virtue of survival of fittest (Darwinian concept) but after world war the approach changes to economics, geographic etc. One such theory in sociology is the positivism theory which was created by Auguste Comte, with the help of which he attempted to differentiate between various cultures, communities, and societies, promoting science as the highest aspect of the society. According to this theory, society is orderly and rational and social scientists through careful study of history and society around them, could develop understanding of social world. Comte also divided the sociology into two parts or branches: namely the social statics (study of forces that hold the society together) and social dynamics (study of the causes of social changes). He also gave the thesis on the hierarchy according to which the science developed from mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology to finally to the sociology. In the current world the contribution of him to understanding the development and stages of law and philosophy of science have decisively influenced positive methodology. According to him, sociology could unite all sciences and improve society, and the base of everything should be build on the ground of scientific studies and objectives.

·       BODY-

Auguste Comte not only contributed to the area of sociology but also contributed in understanding the development of law with the development of the societies. He also contributed in proposing the hierarchy of sciences with putting sociology at the top of all. He believed on social order and stability as a core ground for humanity. Different research workers  still uses the same rationality in looking to the society in order to study the social phenomena and human knowledge. He in his book “course of positive philosophy” emphasis about the idea of secularism and idea of “religion of humanity” which still acts as a source of all the nations across the globe in placing the humanity above all the religion. Even, in our scenario the concept of secularism applies which was inserted with the 42nd amendment of the 1976, placing the humanity above all. As the society evolving from the agrarian to the industrial, the idea of secularism is spreading focusing more at a individual level than on the societal level. But its not that all the theories given by the Comte can be applied in today’s scenario for example not everything in the society can be studied on the grounds of science, there are still certain believes in the society that cannot be reject on scientific grounds, like one that is attached to religion or theology.

For example one cannot reject pointing to this theory that there is a divine power and he is the supreme of all, certain guidelines even in the law books are inspired by these religious texts. On rejecting the grounds for religion, Comte’s theory also rejects the idea that develops through the custom and usage. He in his work also ignored the role of the cultural, historical, and socioeconomic factors in shaping human societies. He also rejected the spreading of the knowledge from that of religious schools, i.e of Madrasa, Gurukul , and parochial schools                  (schools under church). What matters most for that of a law student, in his thesis is the work of law of three stages as a resource in understanding the evolution of human thoughts and the progress of the society. He with these three stages, divides society into three distinct stages of intellectual development and these are the theological, the metaphysical and that of the positivist stage .

 

(i)              The Theological Stage- 

According to Comte, this stage is the earliest phase of human understanding and everything in this stage is anyhow related to that of the religion or that to the god. He in his thesis describes the human cognizance was least in use in this stage. In this stage people are more connected and the primary social unit is the family, relatives and the society, and everything in this stage is connect to the temple, church, and other religious places. And those who control these places control the whole societal structure. The whole source of knowledge and control is under the priests and the king. The kings were considered as the son of the god and whatever laws they make, is considered supreme. The term “Rex is lex” is used in those time describing the king as the law , the messenger of god and the supreme to all. The area of development according to Comte was bound during those time and thus the mind just follows the normal act of order and fear from doing anything different on their own. One can related more to his thesis by his one example where a falling of a rock and death of a person due to it is also associated to the god, they say that maybe one had done something wrong in his life and thus he having this repercussions. The theory of utilitarianism were also very prevalent during those period. This stage can be a topic of debate as certain belief still exist in this societies that still belief that whatever the actions are happing is happing due to the interference of god. One may claim also that the human intelligence was also there in previous civilisations and people were very creative during those time.

 For example in Indian context, during the Indus valley civilisation, and Harrapan civilisation deities were prayed and in the form of a structure but still there were no priests as such and schools were there, not of religious type but more based on human intelligence and cognizance. The research based on these civilisation shows that the structures of dams and proper roads and drainage was there during those periods which reject this thesis of theological stage. Even, after these lacuna in this theory it remains as a significant research thesis in understanding the human society and its nature of evolution and adaptability. Later, Comte divided this sections into three sub stages: the fetishistic (supernatural phase), the polytheistic (where multiples gods were worshipped) and the monotheistic stage (where single god was worshipped).

(ii)            The Metaphysical Stage-

This is middle stage of Comte’s division of law of three stage, also known as the abstract stage and represent the first transition from the Theological stage. In this stage god was replaced by natural forces and explains everything virtually. According to his thesis, people in this stage started building their own mindset and started questioning religious dogma and beliefs. The primary social unit of this stage was state and people started more socializing with each other. More scientific studies and inquires started to happen in this stage and people started believing on data rather than that of region and speculations. This stage was marked in the emergence of philosophical things and individual ideology that could explain the working of the society and the universe. The source of knowledge in this stage changes from that from the priest to the clergy. These were the people who got themself involved in the religious duties in the churches and hold the position of ordained ministers in the church. They conduct religious worships and perform other spiritual functions. The control in this stage shifted vastly to the people who advocacy their rights and questions over other things and thus increasing in there participations in the society.

Considering the same example as that of the rock falling from a high terrain, in this stage of societal development was associated with the nature of the slope or the effect of the nature rather than the relation to one’s deed or the god. There are very less criticism attached to this stage but one can question that how in this stage both the Clergy and the lawyer, where both having contradicting view exist in correlation with each other and maintain the status quo.

 

(iii)           The Positive Stage –

This stage was the last stage of his thesis and one of the most developed and advanced stage of these three all, also sometimes termed as the scientific stage. In this stage, the outcomes and results were based on the scientific theory and explanations. It marks the study of the social and physical world, with the inception of newer course of studies that could result in the one’s escalation and development in thinking. In this, people strived to uncover the underlying social and scientific theories. The primary unit in this stage was whole human race and knowledge could be transfer from one to another, not only by the means of priest or clergy but a common individual also and hence challenging the existing societal view. People were not divided on the basis of ‘varna’ but of ‘karma’ in Indian contexts and one ‘karma’ can be pursued and practice by anyone. The moral guidelines were introduced in this stage and hence all the functioning were controlled on the basis of morality and human sanctity. The inception and evolution of industries started thus challenging labour forces and increasing amount of productions significantly. The sources of knowledge where the schools and universities where scientific studies were performed and then diluted to the world. Religious practices become minimal in this stage and pre views were discarded.

 Considering the same example as that of in the metaphysical and theological stage, the falling the rock were associated with the Newton’s laws of motion and hence giving the proper reasoning of its falls and killing a person and rejecting the views of meta and theo stage. This stage can be criticise on two grounds, one on the ground that not all the practices in this phase is related to scientific study, considering the third stage as the stage going right now. The other criticism could be that according to the Emile’s theory of functionalism, this society or the modern part has industries but people live more on the individual basis rather than in a society, but the Comte’s third stage talked about the whole human race as the primary social unit.

 

·       CONCLUSION –

Auguste Comte’s contribution in the field of sociology and understanding the nature of development of societies is unmatchable. His works like hierarchy of science and divisions of branch of sociology is very significant in understanding the importance of sociology as a subject. His thesis on positivism and law of three stage’s provides a useful framework for understanding of human thought and societal evolution, from the theological to the metaphysical to positivist stage. While the theory had been appreciated on many grounds but also faces criticism and challenges in certain areas, discussed above for its application to the contemporary societies.

Philosopher and critics argues that the thesis of Comte oversimplifies the characteristics and complexities of human development, neglecting the role of the cultural, religion, and history on the development of societies. He also proposed this theory neglecting the that of the non-western countries and signifying the western scientific methods.

Despite these criticisms, the contribution of Comte to the study of sociology, intellectual history, and human progress is commendable. No one is perfect in this world and no one can predict and propose anything by identifying few gaps. His works in sociology forms a major part and also inspired other thinkers of sociology who were based on the theory of functionalism and evolutionism.  

 

 

                              

 

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