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

12 - The Encounter between Two Luminaries: Comte and Mill

Summary

In the middle of the still more complete isolation that results from my new domestic situation, I attach more and more value to the intimate sympathy — both intellectual and affectionate — that has so happily developed between us.

Comte to Mill, 1842

WORK ON VOLUME 6 OF THE COURS AND PROBLEMS AT SCHOOL

Comte's recent battle with the scientists reaffirmed his tendency to view history as a struggle between specialists and generalists. He was eager to delineate this conflict in the Cours. As soon as the fifth volume appeared, he started lesson 56 of the next volume. Although this chapter came to 344 pages and was the longest of all, he completed it in a month, on June 17, 1841. It covered the development of the positive stage of history and demonstrated the provisional nature of the contemporary period, which he aptly named the “age of specialization.” During the following month, he wrote the first half of lesson 57, another 300-page chapter. It dealt with the organic tendencies of the positive age and the inevitable triumph of the “spirit of generalization.”

These reveries about the future were interrupted, however, by his examination tour, which began July 14. He found it more onerous than usual, for he and other examiners were given the additional task of evaluating almost fifty candidates for the Ecole Royale Forestière.