August Comte is one of the most interesting thinkers in this course. That, at least, is my conviction, but I'm afraid that I'm in a minority position here. All sociologists admire Durkheim and Weber, but many think that Comte is a bit of a maverick, although, of course, we owe him our gratitude for coming up with the word sociology. But there are at least three reasons why I believe that Comte can still teach us important things. First of all, he theorizes about something that we all experience today. We live in an age where the scientific view of the world becomes more important every day and where religious interpretations are more and more contested, often because of what modern science teaches us. And Comte wondered what the sociological consequences might be of this development, this process of, as it is called today, secularization. That can be noticed already, and he did notice already, 200 years ago. Comte developed different ideas about this and sometimes he seems to be not very consistent, but his suggestions are always interesting and thought-provoking. Comte sometimes seems to be a real descendant of the Enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century. One is reminded of them when one reads, for example, that we live today in a period where the positivists, and he means with that the scientific way of interpreting the world around us, has become dominant. And that the theological, he means the religious way of understanding the world, has become old-fashioned, outdated, outmoded. But when you begin to think that this is the view of an atheist thinker, you come across another argument where he suggests, for example, that the Catholic religious worldview produced in medieval France a kind of intellectual consensus that also worked as social cement. And that we cannot be certain whether modern science will fulfill that integrative function for contemporary society. Those arguments are not outdated at all. They are, of course, about French society in the 30s of the 19th century, but we still struggle with them today. The stressful relationship between, on the one hand, religious knowledge and, on the other hand, scientific knowledge that has not become less interesting or less important. You could even say this is one of the most important issues in the world today. It's not a very risky prediction to say that it will remain an important topic for a very long time to come. The second reason why I think that Comte is worthwhile is that he tries to understand how scientific knowledge slowly but surely emerged out of preexisting religious knowledge, which implies that the religious imagination is a necessary precondition for scientific knowledge to develop. Our contemporary scientific insights are constructed upon ideas that started off their life as religious worldviews, without empirical proof, unfounded conjectures. And that is a sociological observation that is far removed from the world of, for example, Voltaire. Comte believes that scientists do not develop their ideas in a fight against religious delusions, but by extending and amending and throughly testing ideas that came into the world as religious revelations. My third reason to believe that Comte is still so relevant for us today is that this philosopher recognized, for the first time, that the division of labor between the different sciences, although it has its advantages, of course, also has important disadvantages. The ongoing differentiation between the sciences makes it hard to keep an eye on the relationship between the sciences. We tend to lose sight of the whole. And if we want the sciences to fulfill functions that once were fulfilled by the well-integrated religious vision of the Holy Church, then we should try to construct a well-rounded scientific vision integrating all the different scientific discoveries in the different scientific specializations. But what actually happens, Comte believes, is just the opposite. Science seems to fall apart in unrelated branches and disciplines. What we need, according to Comte, in the first place is a kind of model that helps us to understand how all these sciences are related to each other. Comte set himself the task to do just that.