Auguste Comte and the Religion of Humanity [book]

Andrew Wernick
2001 unpublished
This manuscri pt has been reproduced from the rniuofilm master. UMI films the text directly from the original or copy submitted. Thus, some thesis and dissertation copies are in typewriter face, while others may be from any type of computer printer. The quality of this mproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted. Broken or indistinct print, cobred or poor quality illustrations and photographs, print bleedthrough, substandard margins, and improper alignment can adversely
more » ... t reproduction. In the unlikely event that the author di d not send UMI a complete manuscr i pt and there am missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if unauthorized copyright material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion. Oversize materials (e.g., maps, drawings, charts) are reprodud by sectioning the original, beginning at the upper left-hand comer and continuing horn left to right in equal sections with small overlaps. Photographs included in the original manuscript have been reproduced xerographically in this copy. Higher quality 6' x gW black and white photographic prints are available for any photographs or illustrations appearing in this copy for an additional charge. Contact UMI diredly to order. The thesis aims to re-think the totalisation attempted by Auguste Comte, with particular attention to the post-theistic religious project taken to be its animating centre. Comte's work needs to be understood against the background, I argue, not only of its immediate context (the exigencies of reconstruction in post-Revolutionary France) but also of a longer term Western project to reconcile faith and reason. In the transposed, post-Baconian, terms of Comtean positivism, reason is rendered in terms of science, while faith focuses on Humanity as the 'positive' successor to God. Theology, demystified, is replaced by sociology, a crowning science whose epistemofogicai object is 'demonstrated' to be the proper object of worship for a Humanity finally entering its mature phase of development. An interrogation of Comte's thought in such terms, I suggest, aords a vantage point Erom which to examine the intellectual underpinnings of faith in the collective human subject as a progressive and non-nihilistic response to the 'death of God'. To that end, it fecilitates a non-sterile 'left-wing' engagement with French post-structuralism, by highlighting a complex of issues concerning the relation between social being, (transformist) politics and the transcendent which have persisted in French social theory even after the deconstmctive turn. The analysis proceeds through an examination of Comte's thought at three levels: (1) the overall logic of Comte's developing system of systems; (2) his sociological thematisation of the contemporary 'religious' crisis of industrialism; and (3) Comte's idea of Humanity as a Great Being evolving towards moral-affective perfection. The internal contradictions of this whole effort are identified and anatornised. Two conclusions are drawn: first, that Comte, who sought to replace God by a divinised idea of the human collectivity, is, unwittingly, the first thinker of the 'end of the social'; and secondly that by making explicit, and taking cognizance of, the 'second death of God' in which Comte's religious project founders, recent French thinkers like Althusser, Baudrillard and Nancy have revived, in a critically renewed theoretical and ideological register, a form of theorising which might address, in a post-theistic way, the transcendent dimension of a socially engaged politics.
doi:10.1017/cbo9781139175982 fatcat:jrj3uzrbhfc7rld3rkvr45hsvm