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Comte And Spencer Essay

2359 words - 10 pages

One might ask, “What is an evolutionary theory?” as I have asked myself several times whilst conducting research for this essay. My conclusion is that it is, quite simply, a theory of evolution. The online Oxford Dictionary defines evolution as, “The gradual development of something.” (2012) The dictionary defines a theory as, “A supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something…” Therefore, by using these two definitions, it can be said that a social evolutionary theory is a system of ideas intended to explain the gradual development of society. This question is vital in interpreting the purpose of this essay. The task at hand in completing this essay is to compare and ...view middle of the document...

We shall first examine Comte’s theory “The Law of the Three Stages.” (Ritzer 2011) Comte’s theory which was also known as, “The Law of Human Progress,” (Goodwin & Scimecca, 2005 p. 29) consisted of three stages that society goes through. (Goodwin & Scimecca, 2005 p. 29) These stages are, “…theological, or fictitious; metaphysical, or abstract; and positive, or scientific.” (Goodwin & Scimecca, 2005 p. 29) Goodwin and Scimecca give a concise explanation of his theory on page twenty-nine of their book. They explain that the theological phase is the beginning phase and continued until the year A.D. 1300. This phase consists of a collective belief in a godly being or beings in order to explain experiences. According to Goodwin and Scimecca, “The theological stage evolved through, three sub-phases: fetishism, polytheism, and monotheism, and its social form, was distinguished by military conquests and slavery.” (p.29) According to Ritzer, (2010)
Although Comte includes fetishism (the worship of an object such as a tree) and polytheism (the worship of many gods) in the theological stage, the ultimate development in this stage is monotheism, or the worship of a single deity that explains everything. (p.109)
After the Theological stage the Metaphysical or abstract stage took place and continued onto 1800 A.D. (Ritzer, 2011) This stage consisted of a central belief in conceptual powers such as, “nature” (p.18) as a justification for the happenings in the world. According to Ritzer, (2010) this stage was the, “least important of the three stages,” and just a, “transitional” stage. (p.109) The third and final stage of the theory is the Positivist stage. (Ritzer, 2010) This stage is the most vital of all the stages. During this phase, society stops looking for absolute truth or grand narratives in supernatural beings or forces and starts looking for empirical findings or scientific proof that rule and serve to explain experiences in their entirety. (Ritzer, 2010) “The positive stage was characterized by the ascendancy of ‘science’; its major social form was industrialism.” (Goodwin & Scimecca, p. 29) Comte argued that even though the three stages progressed throughout history in a linear pattern, all of the three can occur at the same time. (Ritzer, 2010) He put forward the notion that chaos in society occurs because of the existence of the first two stages during the third stage. (Ritzer, 2011 p.18) Comte predicted that eventually the Positivist stage will dominate and as a result, will abolish the other two stages. (Ritzer, 2010) Only when this happens, social and moral order in society will be achieved as their will now be homogeneity of ideas; that is, people will now share the same ideas so there will be no conflict in society. (Goodwin & Scimecca, 2005) Comte points out, “Thus, positivism is the only stage in the history of humankind that offers us both order and progress.” (Ritzer 2010, p. 111) Comte went further with his discussion of positivism...

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