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

8 - Personal and Professional Disappointments

Summary

You know that no matter what the risk, I have always nobly told the truth to individuals, classes, and even nations.

Comte, June 1846

FRUSTRATION AS A TEACHER

While the Revolution of 1848 was overturning political structures in France and forcing Comte to rethink the way he presented his doctrine, he, like other Frenchmen and women, also had to work. He had been suffering from the reduction of his salary since losing his post of admissions examiner at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1844. His position continued to be tenuous as he tried the patience of his colleagues.

In the summer 1847, he had a serious argument with his old friend Duhamel, who was director of studies. Duhamel had requested that at the end of the course, répétiteurs lecture on the material that they intended to include in their final examinations. Comte objected that he was not given sufficient notice, that this review was absurd because it would give away the answers beforehand, and that it was not good for the students to “exercise [their] memory far more than [their] judgment.” Comte also objected to Duhamel's demand that all répétiteurs attend professors' classes, for it was a “waste of time” for him to do so. He claimed that “fifteen years of conscientious service” to his students and school exempted him from onerous duties that younger répétiteurs had to fulfill. Irritated, Duhamel responded by citing the rules that Comte was breaking.

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