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  • Print publication year: 1993
  • Online publication date: January 2010

3 - Comte's First Works for Saint-Simon


I worked with Saint-Simon, an excellent man and a man of great merit. … He is over fifty years old; well, I can tell you that I have never known any young man as ardent or as generous as he: he is an original being in all respects.

Auguste Comte, 1818


Just before meeting Saint-Simon, Comte was in a “state of full negativity.” Condorcet had impressed him, but he was frustrated by the “inadequacy” of his “great effort” and did not know where to turn. He had learned the revolutionary discourse of the eighteenth century but was groping for a way to apply its critique to the new circumstances of the Restoration. Demoralized by his failures during the past year and intensely critical of material and intellectual conditions in France, Comte had turned for help largely to thinkers from the past, like Franklin. He felt, however, the youthful need to venerate a living figure, one capable of providing more active guidance. Saint-Simon would satisfy this need but would also make more demands on his mind and spirit.

It is not clear how they first made contact. One of Comte's friends or former professors may have introduced them when he noticed the similarity between their opinions.