Auguste Comte 1848

Report to the Positivist Society
Paris, Tuesday August 8, 1848

Source: Rapport a la Societé Positiviste par la commission chargée d’examiner la nature et le plan du nouveau gouvernement révolutionnaire de la Republique francaise. Paris, La Librairie Scientifique-Industrielle de L Matthias. 1848;
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2006.

The irrevocable coming of the French Republic submits the positive philosophy to a new test by imposing on it a new duty. Under the preceding regime this universal doctrine, emanating from the first part of the revolution, systematically inaugurated its second part by determining, in keeping with the whole of the past, the general character of the social future. But as long as the oppressive lie prevailed that held up the constitutional monarchy as the necessary term of the modern movement we couldn’t proclaim the provisional policy most apt to guide us towards the normal order indicated by history. All artificial barriers having finally ceased to stand in the way of reforming concepts, each system that aspires to preside over of the future must henceforth confirm its competency by also regulating the current transition.

The more we perceive the true nature of the final regeneration, the more we recognize the impossibility of today founding governments in the Occident that will not be purely provisional as long as the intellectual and moral interregnum lasts. Until such time as the reconstruction of principles and morals furnishes a solid base for the re-forging of institutions, any attempt to organize a definitive regime can only arrive at retrograde tendencies resting on backward or worn out doctrines. Since the beginning of the great crisis the revolutionary government of the Convention was the only one that was truly progressive, given its spontaneous conformity with the corresponding situation.

Even though the final state can be scientifically foreseen, its direct organization must be prepared through an immense philosophical elaboration, which will require another generation. During this long interval we must today institute a new revolutionary government, wisely adapted to the future order and the present situation. Its concept must emanate from the same historical theory that assigns the general issue of the modern evolution. In irresistible circumstances the Convention was solely inspired by its admirable practical instinct, thus rectifying a disappointing doctrine. This empirical wisdom will henceforth be built on a rational appreciation, where the present constitutes a necessary connection between the entirety of the future and the past, both of them equally reduced to the same fundamental law.

Such a determination of the regenerating impulse, the indispensable complement of the regenerating impulse, was suited to the summary exposition I have just published under the title Discours sur l’ensemble du postivisme. Aimed above all at characterizing the final regime, that work also indicates the provisional order that can best assist in its spontaneous arrival. This indication will then be developed and completed in the great treatise of which this Discours is only the systematic prelude.

The urgency of our situation has made me forestall that dogmatic exposition by proclaiming its principal results before the Positivist Society. My public course of 1847 had already explained the dual general character that will profoundly distinguish between the transitory regime appropriate to the positive part of the revolution and its negative part. On the one hand, the full freedom of exposition and discussion appropriate to the philosophical movement, and on the other the continued preponderance of a central power which, properly regenerated, will – under the control of true public opinion – maintain material order in the midst of spiritual disorder. The salutary shake-up of February led me to spell out more clearly this important application of my historical theory in order to better guarantee the true character, both practical and progressive, of this new central power by transferring it directly to eminent proletarians. This is the sole truly exceptional condition of the second revolutionary government which, in every other sense, allows us to see a sketch of the normal state, insofar as our philosophical anarchy permits this.

Before the publication of my Discours on April 26 I read to the Positivist Society the passage concerning the arrival of proletarians at supreme political authority while local power, reduced to its financial attributes, was being consolidated among the rich. In our meetings of June 7 and 14 I directly explained the whole of the new revolutionary government, including the modes of election adapted to the generality of its primary element and the special nature of its second. At that time I confided the examination of the total project to three of our confreres, one eminently practical, another essentially theoretical, the third fortunately gifted with the two aptitudes...

The entire value of this new revolutionary policy flows from its reality and its timeliness, spontaneously guaranteed by a philosophy that, setting aside abstract constructs, always conceives of the artificial order as a wise extension of the natural order. This openly provisional regime, destined to assist in a final transition whose object and term are clearly fixed, will last longer than any of the definitive governments that we have attempted to substitute for the happy creation of the Convention. The philosophy that conceived it has even more right to recommend its adoption, in France at first and then in the rest of the Occident, because it is itself politically disinterested, for the priests of Humanity can only obtain their legitimate spiritual ascendancy as a result of fundamental renunciation of all temporal authority, local or central.