Let me return to Comte's masterpiece, The Course on Positive Philosophy. I restrict myself to his best work, not so much to defend him, but because In his earlier work he's so much more interesting and relevant than in what he wrote later on in his life. In the hierarchy of the sciences, Comte makes an interesting division, a dichotomy, between two types of sciences. The sciences at the bottom of his scheme are the sciences that study objects that are completely separate from one another. But the two sciences on top of his list, biology and sociology, study objects that are interrelated, organized, structured. The cells of the biologist and the human beings of the sociologists can only be observed in large structures, and we have to study those structures if we want to understand small particles that compose them. Comte presents it as a methodological rule. If you want to be successful as a physicist, you begin with the smallest object you can find, the atoms. And from there, you try to construct larger and larger entities. You must start with the part in order to understand the whole. But it doesn't work well if you try to understand living bodies or social entities. The sciences of biology and sociology share the fact that they just work the other way around. In order to understand the part, one has to start with the whole. If you want to understand how the heart works in the human body, you begin by studying the entire body. And then, you try to find out what contribution the heart makes to the health of the body as a whole. If you want to understand the role of the church in a certain society or the role of the bishop in that church, you must begin by studying the entire society and then you can find out what contributions to that society come from the religious institutions and within that institution what the role of the bishop may be. So you always start with the whole and then you zoom in on the parts. Now that is an interesting idea. First of all we see here an early example of what is called organisism in social thought Comte places biology close to sociology because in both sciences we pay attention to what contribution the part makes to the whole. How does the heart pump our blood through our body transporting for example oxygen to the brain. In a similar fashion, the sociologist wants to know. What contribution, the economic institutions for example, the manufacturers of Adam Smith, make to the wealth of the nation as a whole. Later on in the 19th century, and especially in the work of Hubert Spencer, who we will not discuss here in this course but it's very interesting also in it's own right. This organists metaphor became more and more important and in Comte you can already feel that tendency when he isolates biology and sociology from all the other sciences because he says they work in the same way. They work from the whole to the part. But more importantly, Comte here is a precursor of functionalism. Because, in essence, these are typically questions of a functionalist sociologist, who wants to know what functions does the religion fulfill? What functions does the political subsystem fulfill? What functions does the family fulfill in contributing to the well being, to the equilibrium of the whole social system of which they are a part. In that terminology we can also rephrase what Comte had to say about religion himself. What functions does religion fulfill in modernity? And if the traditional religions fail to fulfill those functions today, can we then discover functional alternatives? Maybe in the form of a brand new religion. One could even say that Comte's own brand of religion, the religion of humanity, you know, the religion that he developed later on in his life was a kind of fictional alternative for the Catholic Church that according to Comte, could not fulfill it's functions anymore in modern society. The terminology of functionalism became a cornerstone in the theory of a famous French sociologist who admired Comte so much that he wanted a statue of Comte to be erected in front of the Sorbonne University. And that was of course Emile Durkheim, and he was successful, the statue can still be see in the heart of Paris not far away from where Comte lived, but more importantly it was Durkheim's functionalism that became so important for 20th century sociology. And that functionalism was through and through inspired by Comte's early insights.