n Acta Academica - 'Nature', 'law', 'humanity' - the rise of Positivism, with reference to Quesnay, Turgot and Comte

Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0587-2405


The positivist expansion of the metaphorical conception of (natural) law over all aspects of human life (ending in technicism) dialectically denies the supposedly autonomous rational control of humankind (modernity, Kant, Marx). The two meanings of natural law - the moral and the physical - were unified by the physiocrat Quesnay in a single formula stressing both the advantage of humankind and humanity's dependence upon the subhuman environment. Another physiocrat, Turgot, understood human history in terms of inevitable laws of progress, and stressed the fundamental role of natural necessity in human social formations. Auguste Comte, attempting, like Quesnay, to unify the moral and the physical, completed the natural science approach to human life, which forced him to find a natural divinity in Humanity in order to give meaning to human life, but the course towards naturalism had already been set.

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