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Comte on psychology

the criticism of “inner observation” and the constitution of the “systematic view of the soul”

Michel Bourdeau

pp. 31-44

The way Comte’s position on psychology is described is usually oversimplified. To be sure, he gave arguments deemed to prove the impossibility of psychology. But we must ask who exactly this criticism was aimed at. Once the target has been identified, it appears that there is room for another psychology, based on other principles, a psychology consistent with the principles of positive philosophy. The fact that psychology does not belong to the six fundamental sciences does not imply that there is no place for the study of psychological facts. The first part of the paper contextualizes Comte’s main argument, which is aimed at a philosopher now forgotten, Victor Cousin. The second part reminds us that Comte does not limit himself to criticism of inner observation. The psychologists’ program is based on the idea of self, which is an invention of metaphysicians. The last part then presents positive psychology, contained in a “systematic view of the soul.” It is based on three pairs: sociology and biology, anatomy and physiology, animality and humanity.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1515/9783110734645-004

Full citation:

Bourdeau, M. (2022)., Comte on psychology: the criticism of “inner observation” and the constitution of the “systematic view of the soul”, in I. Tănăsescu, A. Bejinariu, S. Krantz Gabriel & C. Stoenescu (eds.), Brentano and the positive philosophy of Comte and Mill, Berlin, de Gruyter, pp. 31-44.

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