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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: January 2010

10 - The Development of the Positivist Movement


Thus true union depends far more on the heart than on the mind.

Comte, “Deuxième Circulaire annuelle,” March 24, 1851


Since the Revolution of 1848, Comte had pushed the Positivist Society to publish policy papers and to garner converts. He had also done much proselytizing, refining the religious contours of his doctrine and printing a chart of the brain, a calendar, and a positivist canon; he wished to express the gist of his ideas in a visible fashion to enable even those remotely curious to take them in at a glance. He seemed to understand that in the more urban, industrialized society, people were increasingly pressed for time and did not want to expend the effort to read tomes of philosophy such as the Cours. Aspiring to popularity and recognizing the force of public opinion in the new, more democratic age, Comte was influenced by both Girardin and Charpentier, who taught him the importance of reaching out to a mass audience with reading material presented in a simplified, compressed format. Yet, despite Comte's efforts, the positivist movement did not grow much. By November 1849, there were only thirty-five members in the Positivist Society; a year later there were forty-five. Comte's friend Claudel, who liked Joan of Arc, left for unknown reasons.

There was, however, one new member who pleased Comte: Joseph Lonchampt. Born in 1824, he had been one of Comte's students at the Ecole Polytechnique. After graduating, he became an artillery officer, farmer, and medical student.

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