Maharashtra State BoardHSC Science (General) 11th
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Law of Three Stages

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notes

THE THREE STAGES:

Comte believed that the evolution of the human mind had taken place along with the evolution of the individual mind. In other words, he says that just as each individual develops from the stage of a devout believer in childhood to a critical metaphysician in adolescence to a natural philosopher in adulthood, so also human beings and their system of thought have evolved in three major stages.

Auguste Comte’s philosophy is based on three stages of human thought. He was of the view that human knowledge passes through three stages of evolution:

  1. Theological stage

  2. Metaphysical stage

  3. Positive/Scientific Stage

1. Theological Stage:

Let us understand this with an example :

When you are a toddler or young and dependent on your parents, you are too gullible and tend to follow or believe in everything that your elders say to you. Because you lack the knowledge and therefore this state of being naïve makes you unable to derive your own conclusions.

Theoretically speaking:

Comte describes this as the first stage where ideas and views were influenced by spiritual and supernatural factors. It was the monopoly of God over all events of the world. In simple words, Blind faith or belief over scientific approach was the mindset back then. For example, all-natural calamities were the expressions of God’s anger.

Human beings at this level supposed that all phenomena were produced by the immediate action of supernatural beings.

2. Metaphysical stage:

Let us understand this with a very relatable example:

During adolescence or teenage, we start questioning everything around us. We feel everything is against us or the theories are conspiring and the truth deserves to be revealed. We need reasons to believe in every aspect related to us.

Theoretically speaking:

This stage is also known as the abstract age of thinking. In this stage explanations based on faith in supernatural beings were replaced by abstract power. Again, there was no scientific approach but human thinking was in a developing stage. This abstract power was considered responsible for guiding and controlling the human as well as natural factors. Comte has characterised this stage as an amended and improved form of theological thinking. The conception of ‘One God’ was replaced.

3. Positive/scientific stage:

Let us understand this with a futuristic example:

This is the age where you have passed through childhood, adolescence, and have entered or are living your adulthood. Now you have answers for most of your questions. Now you take your decisions, independency is an aspect of your life. You are mature and so is your approach towards life.

Theoretically speaking:

This is an improved and scientific form of human thinking. Now, instead of imagination, we turn to observation. Reason and examination were basic planks of knowledge at this stage. Here, one seeks to establish laws which link facts and which govern social life. Here blind faith is replaced by a scientific approach.

Table for quick understanding:

Theological stage Metaphysical stage Positive/scientific stage
The monopoly of god and supernatural beings. ’One God’ conception replaced by abstract power. Scientific form of human thinking.

Comte wanted Sociology to develop through these stages. That is why he applied the ‘law of three stages’ of development, in regard to knowledge, social organisation, and other matters.

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