THE LAW OF HUMAN PROGRESS
As early as 1822, when he was still an apprentice to Saint-Simon, Comte set himself the task "to discover through what fixed series of successive transformations the human race, starting from a state not superior to that of the great apes, gradually led to the point at which civilized Europe finds itself today." Applying what he conceived to be a method of scientific comparison through time, Comte emerged with his central conception, The Law of Human Progress or The Law of Three Stages.
Positivism is often described as "organic". It studies social evolution as biology studies organic evolution. Like the early evolutionists, it assumed that evolution was a process of continuing improvement. Comte regarded Rouseau's glorification of primitive man as regression. The more complex society became, the more liberated was man from prescriptive social norms based on false understanding.
A NEW MORAL ORDER
In his later years, Comte's faith in science as the means to improving man's way of life went far beyond even the optimism of the late nineteenth century. The belief was that positive knowledge would allow prediction; prediction would allow enactment of policies good for all of society. Positivist knowledge would give sociologists and scientists authority to overcome conflict and prescribe conditions for a healthy society. They should control things for the good of all - a new breed of philosopher kings. What Comte sought to do was develop a new secular religion, a basis for a new moral order, with intellectuals like himself as high priests - a modern equivalent of Plato's philosopher kings.
A NEW RELIGION
"My systematic condensation of the true philosophy of history is summed up in this fundamental aphorism - Man becomes more and more religious... For 20 centuries, the West has been seeking a universal religion, no more able to abandon it than to establish it... The final religion demands as a necessary basis of human order, the entire subordination of man to Humanity." The new positivist order, to quote some of Comte's favorite formulae, would have "Love as its Principle, Order as its Basis, and Progress at its Aim". Mankind's previous egoism would be replaced by altruism, by the command, Live for Others. Individual men would be filled with love for their fellows. Their priestly leaders would use their scientific knowledge of man's past and present to lead mankind on a lawfully determined path into a predictable future.