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Theories and masculinities.

Anticipating some ideas of 20th-century behaviourism and physicalism, Comte assumed that psychology, such as it was in his day, should become a branch of biology (especially of brain neurophysiology), on the one hand, and of sociology, on the other. As the “father” of sociology, Comte maintained that the social sciences should proceed from observations to general laws, very much as (in his view) physics and chemistry do. He was skeptical of introspection in psychology, being convinced that in attending to one’s own mental states, these states would be irretrievably altered and distorted. In thus insisting on the necessity of objective observation, he was close to the basic principle of the methodology of 20th-century behaviourism.

Among Comte’s disciples or sympathizers were Cesare Lombroso, an Italian psychiatrist and criminologist, and Paul-Emile LittréJ.-E. Renan, and Louis Weber.

Despite some basic disagreements with Comte, the 19th-century English philosopher John Stuart Mill, also a logician and economist, must be regarded as one of the outstanding positivists of his century. In his System of Logic(1843), he developed a thoroughly empiricist theory of knowledge and of scientific reasoning, going even so far as to regard logic and mathematics as empirical (though very general) sciences. The broadly synthetic philosopher Herbert Spencer, author of a doctrine of the “unknowable” and of a general evolutionary philosophy, was, next to Mill, an outstanding exponent of a positivistic orientation.