Notes on “The Course in Positive Philosophy”.

“The Course in Positive Philosophy” was written by Auguste Comte. Below are some thoughts found in his text.

  1. There are three kinds of philosophy, if we define philosophy as the pursuit for truth: theology, metaphysics and science.
  2. We can’t explain the universe using a single law.
  3. While theology and metaphysics try to seek the final causes of a phenomenon, science isn’t interested in final causes, but just particular causes in order to control that phenomenon and make use of it (“how” over “why”).
  4. The highest form of theology is monotheism, but science is always progressing, not having it’s goal in achieving a complete understanding of everything, as if it was possible to say “nothing needs explanation anymore”.
  5. Science, if it wants to work freely, must not mix with theology.
  6. As science works by validating or debunking a premise, it couldn’t have been born before theology or metaphysics, which provided premises.
  7. Observation (looking for something) isn’t the same as looking at something.
  8. Trial and error is unavoidable.
  9. Metaphysics is intermediate between theology and science.
  10. The author doesn’t care about the origins of a phenomenon nor what is it’s purpose: his goal is to understand how a phenomenon works and, unless the origin and role in nature are needed to understand it, that information is not important.
  11. Knowing how gravity works is more important than knowing what gravity is.
  12. We don’t need unsolveable questions like “where did we come from, what do we are and where are we going?” in order to find our path in life.
  13. When we start making science of an object, that does not mean that we can no longer make philosophy of that object.
  14. The shift from metaphysics to positive philosophy began with Descartes, Bacon and Galileo.
  15. Social studies need to become a science too (“social physics”, later renamed as “sociology”).
  16. Theology and metaphysics can not explain social phenomena.
  17. Our knowledge is separated in fields nowadays, but it wasn’t always like that.
  18. By separating knowledge in fields, we can study a field in depth.
  19. If different people work in different fields, science progresses faster.
  20. But we should not pull new fields from thin air.
  21. If you are good at many things, you likely only have a superficial knowledge on those things.
  22. The division of science in fields isn’t natural, because, in nature, biology isn’t separated from chemistry, for example.
  23. Scientists must work together and different fields must be able to have a dialogue.
  24. There should be a special class of scientists whose work is to organize the knowledge found in each field into an unified system.
  25. If a science is old, controversial and fruitless, what’s the point of persisting in it?
  26. A logical procedure is better explained by it’s application.
  27. A new field can be formed by the combination of different fields.
  28. A same object, when analyzed by different fields, can be much better explained.
  29. The disagreement between scientists may have social implications.
  30. Science is supposed to guide politics.
  31. Philosophy disagrees with itself due to methods that differ from thinker to thinker.
  32. If theology, metaphysics and science continue to try to kill each other, human thought won’t evolve.
  33. It’s impossible to come up with a single system that grasps and explains all human production.
  34. Science won’t be able to explain everything.
  35. If a single system is capable of explaining everything, that wouldn’t make much difference for us, as explaining each phenomenon through it’s particular laws works very well already, not to mention it’s much easier to do.
  36. You shouldn’t drop a task because you know you won’t be able to complete it within your lifespan, as the next generations can still continue from where you left.
  37. There’s a lot of useful lies.
  38. The division of science in fields isn’t natural, but rather a human need.
  39. If you fail several times at attaining a goal, that doesn’t mean that the goal is impossible to achieve.
  40. The essential difference between scientific fields is the objects that are studied.
  41. The goal in science is to understand and control a phenomenon of interest.
  42. Nothing wrong, however, in studying a phenomenon just for fun.
  43. The technical application of a science requires the usage of other sciences.
  44. When a science is too old and has gathered too much information, making a chronological exposition for students becomes nearly impossible.
  45. However, studying a science without studying it’s history is also incomplete.
  46. Science and technique improve each other.
  47. The sciences that have aspirations of universality are the strangest, because they bear little resemblance to our daily life.
  48. A “pure” phenomenon must be studied first, before we can study it’s modifications.
  49. A complete understanding of chemistry requires a basic understanding of physics, as chemical phenomena are conditioned by heat, electricity, movement and other physical phenomena.
  50. That doesn’t mean that chemistry is a branch of physics.
  51. Sociology (“social physics”) is submitted to the laws of all other sciences, but the “laws of sociology” do not affect the laws of nature.
  52. Some philosophies are still very theological or metaphysical, while others are completely scientific (reminder: the author considers theology, metaphysics and science different methods to philosophize).
  53. You can be accurate and still feel uncertain.
  54. Mathematics is present in every science, as a tool for validation.

Publicado por Yure

Quando eu me formei, minha turma teve que fazer um juramento coletivo. Como minha religião não me permite jurar nem prometer, eu só mexi os lábios, mas resolvi viver com os objetivos do juramento em mente de qualquer forma.

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