The nature of explanation, and a little bragging

It’s been a while since I posted anything, but between college finals (working on my second degree) and tragic storms that have occurred locally, I’ve been busy. One of my finals was to write an essay on Auguste Comte, the French existentialist. While it was supposed to be a critique of him against a few of his predecessor/contemporaries, it quickly evolved into a critique of what is perceived to be his take on the levels of explanation.

Comte divides the levels of knowledge into three: theological, the most basic and least mature; metaphysical, a transitory state; and scientific, or as he calls it ‘positive’, where it is what can be acquired through the senses, and therefore it is the most mature level of knowledge. The problem I noticed as I read his work, and watched a few debates between William Lane Craig and several atheists, is that is the attitude that many take today.

“Oh, it’s okay to believe in God when you’re four, but when you’re twenty-four, not so much”, you might hear someone say. And that is the attitude that Comte seemed to want to put forward in describing his Positive philosophy, and that is just the reason why I took issue with his position.

The nature of explanation exists in three categories: agency, purpose, and substance. If all anyone ever leaves open to themselves is a what one can discover about substance, then one fully amputates themselves from two-thirds of the nature of explanation.

Even though what I wrote about Comte wasn’t the question, I still got an “A” because I took time to develop a coherent argument. Made my day.


  1. […] we often do not pay attention to what is being asked. (I have lightly touched on the question here) When we ask questions, they are essentially about one of three categories of knowledge, those […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s