CLEP Humanities : Answering Other Questions About Nineteenth-Century Nonfiction and Philosophy

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for CLEP Humanities

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Example Questions

Example Question #31 : Nonfiction And Philosophy

What are the three stages of societal consciousness discussed in Auguste Comte's The Course of Positive Philosophy?

Possible Answers:

Logical, Rhetorical, and Historical

Polytheist, Monotheist, and Atheistic

Theological, Metaphysical, and Positive

Theistic, Agnostic, and Scientific

Supportive, Derivative, and Elevating

Correct answer:

Theological, Metaphysical, and Positive


In his The Course of Positive Philosophy, Auguste Comte famously divided the history of societies up into three main periods. These periods are said to be characterized by their manners of explaining the causes of human experience. The first is the theological phase. In this stage, causes are explained primarily in terms of gods or a god. Then, in the "metaphysical" stage, abstract notions are used to explain the causes of things. Finally, in the "positive" stage, only "positive" (or posited) facts and scientific observations are the primary mode of explanation. Comte thought the final type of society was the highest and most developed. By doing so, he set up his own time's philosophical conception of knowledge as the pinnacle of human thought.

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