You are here

Mathematical Treasure: Comte's Philosophy of Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Auguste Comte (1798-1857) was an influential French philosopher, the founder of the doctrine of positivism, and considered by many to be “the first modern philosopher of science.” Positivism holds that any rationally justifiable assertion is logically provable. It rejects metaphysics and theism. In 1848 Comte published Cours de Philosophie Positive in which he examined the physical sciences of mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology in light of his positivist theory. The Philosophy of Mathematics (1855), the first such work of its kind, is excerpted and translated from the Cours.

The diagram opposite the title page, shown above, together with the Table of Contents for this work, shown below, provides an outline of Comte’s structural organization for mathematics.

The images above were obtained from the Rare Book Collection at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Comte's Philosophy of Mathematics," Convergence (January 2016)