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Auguste Comte and Modern Science: The denial of the Metaphysical Dimension


Today many views “modern science” and “empiricism” – the practice of basing theories on testing of data derived from human experiences – as if these are infallible entities.

Auguste Comte and Modern Science: Yet, one hardly remembers that for example lobotomy – drilling holes into a patient’s skull – was considered “scientific” only a few years ago. Modern science is often much more influenced by the current social-political narrative than many are aware of.  

In the 1940s and 50s, based on what was felt to be observable evidence at the time, drilling into the skull was thought to cure various mental illnesses. This “scientific practice” was kept until new theories emerged that suggested other methods, writes historian of comparative religions and author, Hanne Nabintu Herland.

This is but one example of how science is not always accurate although it professes to be, being dependent on current trends regarding what may be considered appropriate or not.


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Auguste Comte and Modern Science: Empiricism is based on experience and experiences are in constant change, also dependent on which elements that the scientist is willing to examine. As human experience tends to be flawed, empirical studies often end up reflecting that same bias.

In social sciences, new ideas and approaches have regularly overturned old paradigms. It has not happened without ongoing intellectual battles that often lasted for decades before new world-views won the fight.

For example, as when the philosopher and early sociologist, Auguste Comte developed positivism early in the 1800s – the philosophical method that only recognized that which can be empirically verified through human experience or mathematical logic, therefore rejecting metaphysics and the supernatural.




Auguste Comte and Modern Science: Comte declared that the only matter we may know as “facts” are those derived from human experience.

All authoritative knowledge had to be based on the experiences of human senses, interpreted through “reason” and “logic,” denying any metaphysical reality that was not observable in the physical world. Knowledge was only attainable through empirical, testable hypothesis, which through the gathering of measurable evidence than could be called a “fact.”

Everything else should be denied as “non-fact.” His thesis followed along the lines of empiricism, which may be defined as the theory that all knowledge should be based on experience derived from the senses.

In the 1800s, empiricism became a popular way of examining the observable evidence. It spread like wildfire. Now, everything was to be explained empirically, according to the observable by the human eye. It was a good method in natural science, mathematics and within other disciplines, helping the scientist to determine, with mathematical certainty, the probability of this or that.

The original idea was to establish methods by which testable hypothesis may examine the evidence in order to determine how the world works – the object of science itself.

Yet, when applied to philosophy and religion, empiricism seemed unable to describe the metaphysical reality and the subtle inner rooms of the human mind. Comte’s positivism ruled out the metaphysical dimension in a new and starkly atheist way.

His definition of “fact” denied every other reality outside the purely observable. If empiricism is to be based on human experience and knowledge, and knowledge is subjective, empiricism is actually subjectively tainted.

Auguste Comte and Modern Science:  “Positivism” – hoping to represent that which was “positively” certain – clearly should have been renamed “negativism”, taking into account how it incorporates only one part of the driving forces in man, – the observable by the naked eye – explaining only approximately half of the evidence, and omitting the complex inner psychological and metaphysical elements in the human.

Positivism nonetheless became a major philosophical fashion in the West – it dominated the intellectuals, formed the basis for debates. It became the politically correct paradigm. “Everybody” agreed.

Melanie Phillips states in The World Turned Upside Down that scientific materialism, the ideology that aims at destroying religion by claiming to be able to explain everything scientifically leaves no role for any other kind of inquiry of the universe. None whatsoever.

Comte became the popular founder of this kind of “materialist dictatorship,” with the doctrine of positivism which hoped to replace Christianity with science.

The idea was that “irrational religion” was to be replaced by “rational science,” making the scientifically provable the only truth. If it was not empirically provable, it did not exist.

Comte actually went very far in presenting empiricism as a religion and scientists as its new clergy – he boasted of this, as Phillips points out, saying he would preach positivism in Notre Dame as the only real and complete religion.

As we see, positivism was not as scientifically objective as it professed to be. Human experience is terribly subjective. Two people may be at the same gathering, yet later refer to it totally differently. Even time itself fluctuates depending on where you position yourself, as stated by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Even what you hear is not an objective observable fact, neither what you observe, for example a kilometer away from where you are standing.

The attempt to understand reality, solely in terms of material law, has ended up failing us as a comprehensive method of understanding the complexity of our multi-dimensioned reality.


About the author

The level of censorship in social media and search engines is all-time high. Do like thousands of others, subscribe to The Herland Report newsletter here!

Hanne Nabintu Herland is a historian of religions and bestselling author. She is the founder of The Herland Report Scandinavian news site, TV channel on YouTube and Podcasts which have millions of readers/viewers. This is a great place to watch interviews with leading intellectuals, thought leaders from across the political spectrum. Herland’s books include Alarm, Respect, Det Nye Babylon (2018), Tyranni (2020) and in English – The Culture War. How the West lost its Greatness (2017)Trump. The Battle for America (2020) as well as  New Left Tyranny. The Authoritarian Destruction of Our Way of Life (2020), available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, across the USA and in 60 countries world-wide. New Left Tyranny shows how the neo-Marxist New Left turned their back on historical Western principles and became a destructive authoritarian force.

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