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By John Stuart Mill

For it slow a lot has been stated, in England and at the Continent, pertaining to "Positivism" and "the optimistic Philosophy." these words, which through the lifetime of the eminent philosopher who brought them had made their means into no writings or discussions yet these of his only a few direct disciples, have emerged from the depths and manifested themselves at the floor of the philosophy of the age. it's not very well known what they signify, however it is known that they signify anything.

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In a social state the feelings and propensities cannot act with their full power, in a determinate direction, unless the speculative intellect places itself at their head. The passions are, in the individual man, a more energetic power than a mere intellectual conviction; but the passions tend to divide, not to unite, mankind: it is only by a common belief that passions are brought to work together, and become a collective force instead of forces neutralizing one another. Our intelligence is first awakened by the stimulus of our animal wants and of our stronger and coarser desires; and these for a long time almost exclusively determine the direction in which our intelligence shall work: but once roused to activity, it assumes more and more the management of the operations of which stronger impulses are the prompters, and constrains them to follow its lead, not by its own strength, but because in the play of antagonistic forces, the path it points out is (in scientific phraseology) the direction of least resistance.

If by this were only meant that egoism is bound, and should be taught, always to give way to the well-understood interests of enlarged altruism, no one who acknowledges any morality at all would object to the proposition. But M. Comte, taking his stand on the biological fact that organs are strengthened by exercise and atrophied by disuse, and firmly convinced that each of our elementary inclinations has its distinct cerebral organ, thinks it the grand duty of life not only to strengthen the social affections by constant habit and by referring all our actions to them, but, as far as possible, to deaden the personal passions and propensities by desuetude.

We do not think him equally successful in showing a natural connexion between the theological mode of thought and the military system of society: but since they both belong to the same age of the world--since each is, in itself, natural and inevitable, and they are together modified and together undermined by the same cause, the progress of science and industry, M. Comte is justified in considering them as linked together, and the movement by which mankind emerge from them as a single evolution.

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Auguste Comte And Positivism by John Stuart Mill


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