Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1993
  • Online publication date: January 2010

2 - The Life and Works of Saint-Simon up to 1817


The philosopher places himself at the summit of thought; from there he views what the world has been and what it must become. He is not just an observer, he is an actor; he is an actor of the highest kind in a moral world because it is his opinions of what the world must become that regulate society.

Saint-Simon, Mémoire sur la science de l'homme


The seven-year association of Comte and Saint-Simon, from 1817 to 1824, profoundly changed each man's intellectual development. Although the different strands of their thought seem tied together inextricably, an effort to disentangle them is required to understand Comte's evolution and the origins of positivism and sociology. Before these subjects can be addressed, however, it is necessary to review the life and thought of Saint-Simon up to the time of his first meeting with Comte in 1817. This examination will provide a closer look at the political, intellectual, and psychological world in which Comte found himself during his period of maturation. As a synthesizer of ideas, Saint-Simon not only introduced him to recent late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century developments, but also gave him a certain perspective on more general, long-range movements throughout history.