Chance, Free Will and the Social Sciences

Philosophy 18 (71):231 - 239 (1943)
Auguste Comte, writing of one of his forerunners, Montesquieu, said that the great merit of the latter's memorable work L'Esprit des Lois appeared to him to be in its tendency to regard political phenomena as subject to invariable laws like all other phenomena. Comte himself writes with regard to sociology: “the philosophical principle of the science being that social phenomena are subject to natural laws, admitting of rational prevision, we have to ascertain what is the precise subject, and what the peculiar character of those laws.” “Such prevision,” says Comte in another place, “is a necessary consequence of the discovery of constant relations between phenomena, and it is the unfailing test which distinguishes real science from that erudition which mechanically accumulates facts without aspiring to deduce them one from another.” Elsewhere he speaks of “rational prevision, the principal characteristic of true science.” And Branford and Geddes quote his saying: “Savoir pour prévoir, prévoir pour pourvoir.”
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