Comte believed that human history is propelled forward by human ideas, for example, by new scientific inventions, intellectual breakthroughs, more generally speaking, a series of radical changes in how we interpret the world around us. When you compare Comte to Marx the difference is striking. Marx, who was often called a materialist thinker, starts from the premise that human history is moved forward by changes in the way we produce the goods that we need in order to survive, like food, shelter and the clothes we wear. Comte could be called an idealist in the sense that he thinks that humans' history Is pushed forward by the transformations in the realm of human ideas. A fundamental change in how we interpret reality. But on closer inspection, the oppositions between these two grades of sociological history are less clear. Because Comte was aware of the social conditions underlying the intellectual changes, positivism could not develop without the rise of the industrial society. Never the less, the way Comte looks at the social world is in many ways the negative of what we see from the position where Marx is standing. For Comte, societies are integrated first and foremost, not by the mode of production as Marx would have it, but by their position in the long term development of human ideas, a process that he describes as the law of the three stages, or the law of the three states of mind. [FOREIGN] I suppose that you have already heard about that famous piece of Comteian theory. First stage, people interpret the world around them in a religious way, which is why Comte calls it the theological stage. Then the human mind develops into the philosophical stage, Comte called the metaphysical stage. And finally we witness the rise of the scientific way to interpret the world and that is what he calls the positive stage or the age of positivism. This is a little bit of classical theory that sociology students all over the world have to learn by heart, and should be able to reproduce in their exams. But what exactly does it mean? Comte belongs to that type of theorist who loves three-fold divisions. Everywhere in his book he divides phenomena into a model of three different classes. But I do have the feeling that the theory about the three stages is in its essence a theory about two stages only. The religious way of looking at the world and the scientific way of looking at the world with his metaphysical phase as a kind of you know transitional period. The important point here is that in phase one, people hope to find answers for their deep metaphysical questions. Why are we here? Who made the universe? Where do we come from? Where do we go to? Is there a life after death? Religious doctrines answer those questions. And the priests repeat those answers again and again in their sermons, and the children have to learn them by heart in catechism classes. But in the third and final stage, where the scientific spirit begins to dominate our intellectual quest, people, according to Comte, simply accept the fact that many of those broad questions simply cannot be answered. And that we should content ourselves by finding answers to questions that can be put into a testable, researchable form. The metaphysical second phase can then be seen as a transitional phase because in that period people still want to have their very general questions answered, but they do not refer to the intervention of one or more gods anymore. They try to come with what you could call, prescientific conjectures, for example, the hypothesis that certain substance that human senses cannot resist, glues the whole universe together. You could say that Comte law of the three stages through which all human knowledge has to pass is a movement into the direction of intellectual modesty. The human race discovers that many of their most pressing questions cannot be answered, and may never be answered. But then again, there are a lot of very important questions, and interesting questions, that we can, and we'll try to answer with the help of science. Comte believes that we should found our knowledge on rock bottom. The absolutely certainty of tested, doubly tested, triply tested, hard scientific evidence. Uncontested facts. And that is why he used the word positive. You know when you ask an English speaking person whether they are really, really, really sure. They may say, I am positive. And that means something like, there's not the slightest doubt in my mind. I am 100% certain of this, I am positive. That is what Comte believed was the case with contemporary scientific generalizations. They are not based upon religious revelations, unfounded belief. They are built upon rock solid empirical evidence, knowledge that can be checked and checked again. Positive knowledge. We, today, post-modern relativists as we are, may have our doubts, and our hesitations about those certainties of Comteian positivism. But if you want to understand Comtei, if you really want to enter his world, forget those subtleties. And try to accept, albeit for the time being, his proud claim that science offers us interpretations that are based on facts, facts beyond reasonable doubt.