History and Theory 17 (3):323-326 (1978)

Abstract
Comte is best known for his law of three states. According to this law, history necessarily develops through three stages, the theological, the metaphysical, and the scientific. However, the notion of "development" takes on three meanings within his works. First, he describes it as the unfolding of an inherent principle of growth analogous to the individual life process. Second, development is a causal sequence for organic growth. The individual's life is not the fulfillment of an immanent purpose but is the outcome of past achievements. Finally, Comte considered change a progressive elaboration through a variety of environments. Though history had an end, events are not a contingent sequence of steps toward that end, but are rather anticipations of it. Comte's paradigms of the process of secularization demonstrate the importance of these distinctions
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DOI 10.2307/2504743
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