Introduction to sociology – polytheism

Introduction to sociology – polytheism

These objects or fetishes were many. In due course, the multiplicity of fetishes were found to be confusing and this, some how, gave way to the birth of polytheism (worship of many gods). The resulting gods represented different aspects of life. There food of love, god of hate, god of wind etc. Later, according to Comet, the existence of too any gods produced contradictory interpretations among the believers. In this way, polytheism became mentally unsatisfactory and worship of only one god, the God Almighty, developed.

This worship which came to be known as monotheism marked the climax off the theological type of thinking. Augusta Comet argued that just as each sub-stage Of theological thinking grew out of the proceeding one, the rise of the metaphysical stage did not occur until the potentialities of the theological stage to explain phenomena were exhausted. In the process, people began to lose faith in religious explanations. Many of them started to feel that blind faith in those explanations was not appropriate for understanding social and natural phenomena.

So, they increasingly emphasized questioning and reasoning. It was the increasing emphasis on rationalism that brought about the metaphysical stage of thinking. Phenomena came to be explained in terms of non-religious forces which were assumed to exist in nature and humans society. Later, metaphysical thinking too became unsatisfactory. Reliance on pure reasoning appeared unsatisfactory’. More and more people called for concrete proof of support explanations arising out reasoning. The final result was birth of the scientific or positive stage of thinking.

Comet’s analysis of types of thinking was based on a biological analogy. This is particularly clear from his view that just as a person (a person being an organism) starts by being a believer in childhood, becomes a critical rationalist of metaphysical in adolescence, and a down to earth or realistic philosopher in adulthood, so does society to the global community as a whole pass through the three types of thinking. (ii) Social Organization Augusta Comet observed that each of the three types of thinking determines ND corresponds to a particular way in which society is organized.

Comet ‘declared that theological thinking leads to a military and monarchical social organization, with God at the head of the hierarchy as King of Kings and a might warrior, and with human beings arranged in a military organization’ (Boards, 1 960, IPPP). Guides to social behavior in this type of society are divine rules enforced by leaders believed to have been put in positions of leadership by God. Comet also declared that in the case of the metaphysical type of thinking, society is organized in a way that gives greater freedom to individuals.

Rulers are not monarchs and military people, but lawyers and religious leaders. Guides to social behavior change to what are perceived to be natural rights of the inhabitants. Comet declared further that positive thinking produces an industrial society. To him, this is a society in which the rulers are industrial managers and scientists. The main guides to social behavior become recommendations from scientists. According to Comet, scientific moral guides prevail in the industrial society. (iii) Normative Theory Augusta Comet became convinced that in the coming industrial era there loud be more positive thinking.

In view of this, he formulated a normative theory, as a plan for the coming era. According to this theory, society was to be directed by scientists, sociologists to be precise, as the new spiritual leaders and by leaders Of banks and industry. The spiritual leaders would be at the head off mere religion. They would all be sociologist-priests. Like their Catholic predecessors it he theological stage, the sociologist-priests would be the moral guides and censors of community life, for they would have acquired positive knowledge of what is good or bad.

In Comet’s view, the coming industrial society would be characterize by love, order and progress. Egoistic tendencies that has higher to daunted human beings would be replaced by altruism, the commandment of live for others. Human beings would have strong love for one another. (iv) Social Change Social change, as seen by Comet, does not take place smoothly. It was seen to proceed by alternating “organic” and “critical” periods. In organic periods, social stability and intellectual harmony prevail. In critical periods traditions are undermined and society moves into s fundamental disequilibrium.

Comet stressed that: “There is always a traditional stage of anarchy which lasts for some generations at least; and lasts the longer the more complete is the renovation to be wrought” (Quoted by Corer, 1971, pa). B. HIERARCHY OF THE SCIENCES (I) The Hierarchy The other basic proposition of the sociological theory of Augusta Comet is that theoretical sciences form a hierarchy in which sociology occupies the summit. What follows is an elaboration of this proposition and a presentation of his related ideas. As part of the proposition, Comet asserted that sciences are in two types: (a) theoretical; and b) practical.

Practical sciences apply theoretical principles to solving practical problems. Theological sciences are in two forms: descriptive and abstract. Descriptive theoretical sciences deal with concrete phenomena while abstract sciences are concerned with discovering scientific laws that govern these phenomena. Comet went on to say that abstract theoretical sciences form a hierarchy in which every higher science depends for its existence on the one below it. The reason is that a higher science deals with less general but more complex phenomena.

According to Comet, the order in which abstract theoretical sciences are arranged generally. The higher up in the hierarchy an abstract theoretical science is found, the more complex and less general is its subject matter. The term ‘general’ was used in the sense of being present everywhere. In all, Comet identified six abstract theoretical sciences: (a) mathematics; (b) mechanics, ‘which Comet almost identified with astronomy; (c) physics; (d) chemistry; (e) biology; and (f) social physics which he later called sociology.

Among these sciences mathematics was seen to occupy the base of the hierarchy, he explained that mathematics is at the base of the hierarchy because of its function of assuring precisely relations between objects and ideas. This function is basic to all the other sciences. Augusta Comet proceeded to indicate that natural phenomena fall into two classes: inorganic and organic. According to him, inorganic phenomena are more general than the organic Ones. Inorganic phenomena were classified as astronomical and terrestrial.

In this classification, astronomical phenomena are the most general of all phenomena known to human beings. Terrestrial phenomena are studied by what he referred to as terrestrial physics, which he believed is in two categories: physics proper and chemistry. To him, physics proper is more general than chemistry. In the case of phenomena, Comet believed that these occur as individual or group entities. In this regard, individual organic entities are studied by biology, since biology is concerned with the functioning and Structure Of an individual plant or animal.

He also felt tat group organic life is studied by social physics, to which (as indicated before) he later gave the name sociology. Using the principle of increasing complexity and decreasing generality, the hierarchy of theoretical sciences was seen to start with mathematics at the ease, followed by astronomy, physics, and chemistry is ascending order. The hierarchy was seen to be such a higher science depends on prior existence of all the lower ones. In particular, Comet argued that biology depends on all sciences that exist before it.

According to him, it depends on chemistry for acquisition Of knowledge of nutrition and secretion. Biology depends on physics for knowledge concerning the weight, temperature, etc, of living organisms. Further, biological laws are partially dependent on astronomy, for it, for example, the earth was to rotate faster than it does, the course of histological phenomena would e accelerated, and the span of life would be shortened. Besides, if there was no inclination of the earth’s axis, the seasons would be unknown, and the geographical distribution of living species would be very much different from what exists.

Biology also depends on mathematics, since all accurate work in biological studies use mathematics. On the whole then, Comet showed that biology is dependent on all the sciences that came into existence before it. Social physics or sociology was taken to be the most dependent of all theoretical sciences. Comet saw it dependent on biology, chemistry physics, astronomy, and mathematics. Biology was taken as the science closest to sociology. This science was said to be different from al the other sciences that emerged before, in what its methodological approach was holistic.

It studies organic wholes, not individual elements per see. According to Comet, this holistic approach is shared by sociology where investigations include ‘viewing each element in the light of the whole system… ‘ (Quoted in Corer, 1971, pa). The proposition that theoretical sciences form a hierarchy in which sociology occupies the summit was related to the law of three stages. Comet showed that each of the six sciences passed through the three stages of thought.

According to him, mathematics, which had advanced more than the other sciences into the positive stage, has traces of having passed through the theological and metaphysical stages. These traces include certain superstitions. In particular, there is a superstition that the number 13 is associated with bad luck. In Comet’s view, different sciences progress at different rates towards the positive stage. He explained that: ‘Any kind of knowledge reaches the positive stage early in proportion to its unreality, simplicity, and independence of other departments’ (Quoted by corer, 1971, PA). Ii) Sociology Timeshare and Tetrahedrons have noted that: “Very reluctantly Comet changed the name of new science from social physics to sociology. In the latter part of his Positive Philosophy he explained that he had invented a name because the old one has been usurped by a Belgian scientist who chose it as the title for a work devoted to so base a matter as simple statistics. The work to which he referred was Sextuplet’s An Essay on Social Physics, one of the most influential contributions made to the social sciences in the nineteenth century. Timeshare and Tetrahedrons, 1976, app) The new science of sociology as meant to occupy itself with the discovery of scientific laws behind social phenomena, in much the same way taxonomy’s, physics, chemistry, and biology discovers invariable laws behind natural phenomena. In particular, Comet saw that it was meant ‘to discover by what necessary chain of successive transformations the human race, starting from a condition barely superior to that of society of great apes, has been gradually led up to the present stage of European civilization’.

Quoted in Timeshare and Tetrahedrons, 1 976, app). Comet divided sociology into two branches: statistics and dynamics. Static was perceived as a study of factors that me the existence of society possible while dynamics was taken as a study of factors that explain social change. (a) Static Augusta Smote felt that what basically accounts for stability of society is consensus. He used a French term ‘consensus universalism’ which literary means universal consensus.

For social order to prevail in society, as seen by Comet, there must be consensus in the area of scientific knowledge, in the arts, within political institutions, in the area of traditional beliefs, etc. Although society was seen to comprise individuals, families, and social combinations (the highest of which being the entire humanity), Comet felt that this consensus must be al least at the level of the family. He excluded the individual from sociological analysis. To him, the basic social unit is the family, not the individual.

Hence, he wrote at some point that society, as a collective organism is essentially composed of families which are true elements, of classes and castes which form its true tissue and finally cities ND townships which are its true organs’. (Quoted in Corer, 1 971, plop). Apart from consensus, factors which were seen to hold society together were language division of labor, and religion. Language was seen as the medium through which the culture of the proceeding generation is transmitted to the present, thus making the people feel linked even to their remote ancestors.

Besides, by participating in a language, people are made to feel part of their current society. Language develops a sense of togetherness among people. Comet stressed that without a common language; people would never attain solidarity and nonsense; that without a common language, no social order is possible. A common religious belief is another important factor that binds people together in society. The reasons given were that religion: (I) permits individuals to overcome their egoistic tendencies and to be guided by love of their fellow members of society; and (ii) enables governments to rule.

Regarding the latter point, Comet wrote that: ‘Every government supposes a religion to consecrate and regulate commandment and obedience (Quoted in Corer, 1971 , Pl 1) The third factor that was seen t bind people together is division of labor. Comet showed that while the division of labor fosters the development of individual capabilities, it contributes to human solidarity by creating in each individual a sense of dependence on other individuals. B) Dynamics Augusta Comet maintain Ned that a factor that produces social change is intellectual progress which, in turn, is caused by factors such as bore down (which tends to produce an innovation) and fear of death. The idea that intellectual development produces social change led him to establish a number of correlations between stages of intellectual development and stages in the development of human material life, types of social units, types of social order, and prevailing sentiments’ (Timeshare and Tetrahedrons, 1976, app) See Table 1.

Table 1. 2. : Intellectual Development and Material Changes Intellectual Phosphate of Material Phase Type of Social Phase Prevailing Order Sentiment Theological Military The Familiarities Attachment Metaphysical Legalistic State Collective Veneration Positive Industrial Race (Humanity) universal Benevolence Source: Timeshare, N. S. And Tetrahedrons, G. A. Sociological Theory: its nature and growth. New York: Random House, 1976, app

Comet explained that ‘consensus universalism’ is usually absent on intellectual matters, the reason being that in early all ages there have been a mixture of sciences which have reached the positive stage and those which have only reached the metaphysical. In Comet’s view, there has been only one historical period with complete intellectual harmony. The period was that of pure fetishism, the original period when all phenomena were explained in terms of powers believed to be with objects of worship. Since then, there as been a mixed development of the sciences, giving rise to differences in ways f thinking during the various epochs.

The differences in ways of thinking, Content maintained, has been one of the forces behind social change. He held a view that social change would come to an end only when positivism becomes the accepted way of thinking throughout humanity. At that time there would be universal consensus on explanations of phenomena and consequent human actions, as was the case in the original period of pure fetishism. Fine, but why do contemporary societies develop differently? Is it because of different levels of thinking in these societies? Comet’s answer was that three actors account for the variation in development: race, climate, and political action.

Comet felt that each race of people has a characteristic predominance of certain attitudes or predispositions. According to him, different races have not development the same way because they do not have the same predispositions. While, for example, the black race was seen to have been characterized primarily by a predominance Of affectively, other races were seen not to be so endowed. Turning to climate, Augusta Comet saw that each society had to overcome a different set of natural climate conditions. While some societies had more or sees favorable conditions.

The different climatic conditions, he said, partly explained why some societies were more advanced than others. Regarding political action, Comet saw that this type of action might accelerate or retard progress. (iii) Methods of Sociology As to what the methods of the new science of sociology should be, Augusta Comet identified three methods: (a) observation, (b) experimentation; and (c) comparison. (a) Observation Comet felt that appropriate observation is that which is guided by theory. He emphasized that no social fact can have any significant meaning, if it is not unconnected by theory to some other social fact. B) Experimentation Comet held a view that although experimentation was not fully applicable in the sciences, it was nevertheless; appropriate for sociology, and as such it took place whenever the regular course of the phenomenon Was interrupted in a predetermined manner. (c) Comparison Comet identified two main types of comparisons that are applicable in sociology. Firstly, there is comparison of different co-existing societies at various levels of development and found in different parts of the earth. Through this type of comparison, different stages of evolution of humanity as hole could be discovered.

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