Who coined ‘Positivism’? | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru


Question: Who coined ‘Positivism’?

  1. Auguste Comte
  2. Emile Durkheim
  3. Max Weber
  4. KR. Popper

Answer: (1)

Auguste Comte and the Origins of Positivism

The question in the MA CUET exam relates to the term “Positivism” and its originator. The correct answer is (a) Auguste Comte. To comprehend the significance of positivism, it is crucial to delve into the intellectual contributions of Auguste Comte, the founder of this philosophical and sociological framework.

1. Introduction to Positivism:

Positivism, as a philosophical and scientific outlook, emerged in the 19th century, and Auguste Comte is credited with its formulation. Positivism asserts that knowledge is derived from empirical observations, and scientific methods should be applied to understand natural and social phenomena. Comte sought to establish a scientific foundation for sociology and other social sciences.

2. Life and Works of Auguste Comte:

  • Early Life:

Auguste Comte was born in 1798 in Montpellier, France. He was deeply influenced by the intellectual and political currents of the time, including the French Revolution and the Enlightenment ideals.

  • Intellectual Development:

Comte’s intellectual journey was marked by a fascination with the scientific advancements of the era, particularly in the fields of physics and biology. He sought to apply the scientific method to the study of society, giving rise to what he termed “sociology.”

  • Philosophy of Positivism:

Comte’s major work, “Course of Positive Philosophy” (Cours de philosophie positive), published between 1830 and 1842, laid out the foundational principles of positivism. The term “positivism” itself reflects the emphasis on positive knowledge, derived from observable facts.

3. Key Tenets of Positivism:

  • Empirical Observation:

Positivism emphasizes the importance of empirical observation as the foundation of knowledge. Comte believed that scientific understanding should be based on observable and measurable phenomena.

  • Scientific Method:

The scientific method, characterized by systematic observation, experimentation, and verification, is central to positivism. Comte argued that the methods successfully applied in the natural sciences should be extended to the social sciences.

  • Hierarchy of Sciences:

Comte proposed a hierarchical classification of sciences, with mathematics at the base, followed by astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and sociology. Each science was seen as building upon the knowledge of the previous one.

  • Law of Three Stages:

One of Comte’s significant contributions is the Law of Three Stages, which outlines the historical development of human thought. These stages are the theological stage, the metaphysical stage, and the scientific or positive stage. According to Comte, societies and individuals progress from a religious and metaphysical understanding to a scientific and positive one.

4. Philosophy of Mathematics and Sciences:

Comte’s dedication to developing a philosophy of various sciences, starting with mathematics, distinguishes him as one of the pioneers of the philosophy of science. His meticulous examination of the principles underlying different scientific disciplines laid the groundwork for subsequent discussions on the philosophy of science.

5. Sociological Contributions:

  • Founding Sociology:

Comte is often regarded as the founder of sociology. He envisioned sociology as a science that could systematically study social phenomena, applying the same rigor as natural sciences.

  • Social Physics:

Comte referred to sociology as “social physics” and aimed to discover the laws governing social interactions. He believed that a scientific understanding of society could lead to social progress and stability.

  • Positivist Sociology:

Positivist sociology, influenced by Comte’s ideas, emphasizes empirical research, quantitative analysis, and the search for sociological laws. It contrasts with more speculative and philosophical approaches to understanding society.

6. Political Philosophy:

Comte’s positivism extended beyond the realms of science and sociology to encompass political philosophy. His ideas on societal organization and order influenced the development of what he termed “social physics.” Comte envisioned a hierarchical structure guided by scientific principles.

7. Legacy and Criticisms:

  • Legacy of Positivism:

Comte’s positivism had a profound impact on the development of sociology and the philosophy of science. It influenced subsequent thinkers, including Emile Durkheim, who further advanced sociological positivism.

  • Criticisms of Positivism:

While positivism made significant contributions to the scientific study of society, it has faced criticisms. Critics argue that it oversimplifies the complexity of social phenomena, neglecting qualitative aspects and subjective experiences.


Auguste Comte’s coinage of positivism and his contributions to the philosophy of science and sociology have left an enduring mark on intellectual history. Positivism, as a methodological and philosophical approach, has shaped the way researchers approach empirical inquiries and the study of society. Comte’s ambitious project to establish sociology as a science and his emphasis on the scientific method continue to influence contemporary discussions in the social sciences.

In summary, Auguste Comte’s positivism serves as a milestone in the evolution of scientific and sociological thought, underscoring the importance of empirical observation, the scientific method, and the pursuit of positive knowledge in understanding the natural and social world.


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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

Answer: An ethnic movement refers to a collective effort by a group sharing common cultural, linguistic, or religious traits, seeking to assert their identity and rights; an example from India is the Khalistan Movement in Punjab.

2. Question: Identify the main objectives behind the Gorkhaland ethnic movement.

Answer: The Gorkhaland ethnic movement primarily seeks to establish a separate state for India’s Nepali-speaking population in the Darjeeling region, advocating for linguistic and cultural recognition and political autonomy.

3. Question: What was the Operation Blue Star, and which ethnic movement was it related to?
Answer: Operation Blue Star was a military action in 1984, aiming to remove Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple in Amritsar; it is related to the Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh country.

4. Question: Mention a critical factor that triggered the emergence of ethnic movements in India, as discussed by Dipankar Gupta.
Answer: Dipankar Gupta emphasized that ethnicity is fundamentally a political process, wherein caste and religion, the key components of identity formation, are politicized by leaders for vested interests.

5. Question: What were the primary reasons for the Assam Ethnicity conflicts involving Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers?
Answer: The Assam Ethnicity conflicts primarily stemmed from issues related to immigration, land rights, and resource allocation, leading to clashes, riots, and evolving relationships among indigenous communities to address challenges.

6. Question: Briefly describe the role of the Dravidian Movement in terms of caste and societal structure.
Answer: The Dravidian Movement, led notably by E.V. Ramasamy, aimed to establish an egalitarian society, focusing on anti-Brahmanism and advocating for equal rights for backward castes, while also introducing reforms like self-respect marriages.

7. Question: Name the prominent ethnic movements in North-East India and specify one common objective.
Answer: Prominent ethnic movements in North-East India include the Nagas’ and Mizos’ struggles; a common objective was to gain autonomy and recognition for their distinct tribal identities and cultural uniqueness.

8. Question: What is the key argument of Gail Omveldt regarding traditional Indian society and multiculturalism?
Answer: Gail Omveldt opposed romanticizing traditional Indian society, arguing that hierarchy has always dominated it and dismissing the notion that multiculturalism is an intrinsic feature of Indian society as a myth.

9. Question: Briefly explain the social hierarchy factor as a contributing element to ethnic movements as suggested by Olzak.
Answer: Olzak suggests that the construction of hierarchies among ethnic communities, which often leads to the suppression of one group by another, is a key factor that can instigate social and ethnic movements.

10. Question: Identify one consequence of the unequal economic development factor within the context of ethnic movements in India.
Answer: One consequence of unequal economic development is the marginalization and underdevelopment of certain groups, leading to feelings of alienation and sometimes initiating ethnic movements as these groups strive for equality and recognition.

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