Believing in the capacity of science, Auguste Comte sought to develop the law of the three states , a theory that would allow an understanding of the evolutionary process of human societies, such as the one successfully inaugurated by the natural sciences.
Comte defined the existence of three states or stages of development of societies, in which they would abandon the old beliefs and forms of knowledge to slowly move towards a positive state dominated by scientific reason and progress, thus guaranteeing the satisfaction of society.
The first state would be the theological . In it, societies would still find themselves duly influenced by spiritual values and dominated by the dogmas that mask social reality in the name of divine mystery.
In this state, societies still do not value men and women or the nature around them, so that it is understood as a divine attribute to which humanity must be faithful, without ever questioning.
It is a stage of development in which one can perceive the centrality of myths and / or religion, which makes the scientific investigation of nature unfeasible due to its dogmatic relationship with knowledge.
The second state, the metaphysical , is a moment of transition. In this case, spiritual values are abandoned, but not fully, so that the first investigations on nature begin to be made, limiting themselves exclusively to intellectual and abstract questions, devoid of any practical proof.
In this respect, the metaphysical would correspond to the moment when philosophy replaces dogma and theology as forms of conceiving the world and begins to investigate it, albeit in a speculative, contemplative way.
This state would be the condition for the appearance of the third and last, the positive .
The positive state is characterized by the existence of a science that investigates nature and proves the discoveries made in order to guarantee their practical application, leading to technological development and more material comfort.
For Comte, this would be the last civilizational stage and would correspond, in general, to the situation of European countries that lived the urban-industrial modernization of the 19th century, starting to have an understanding and transformation of nature never reached by previous generations and civilizations.
Comte, however, was not satisfied with his theoretical conception of reality, not least because he began to perceive a factor that contrasted with his positivist theory: contemporary industrial society was undergoing profound transformations in customs, so that the moral and ethical sense was lost in the name of profit and the accumulation of wealth.
This made him dwell on the question of morals. It is the understanding that there would be a loss of part of the moral and ethical values during the 19th century that would lead Comte, at the end of his life, to dedicate himself to the creation of a “ religion of humanity ”, a doctrine, for Comte, devoid of the dogmatic character of traditional religions and having reason and a high moral character in the values of their support.
In this way, the “religion of humanity” was not guided by the existence of a divine Being – this concept continued to be denied by Comte -, but by the pure and simple realization of altruism among individuals: each one would start to worry about the next , so as to always do good.
Although marked by scientism, this religious conception led a significant part of intellectuals to distance themselves from Comte. His dedication to the construction of a “religion of humanity” would also signal a break with other thinkers of the period, including his disciple Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), one of the most responsible for the further development of sociology.