Clotilde de Vaux
When Comte first encountered the young Clotilde de Vaux, a 30-year-old author descended from an aristocratic family, his life changed. She had been married at the age of 20 to get away from a repressive father. When Clotilde was 25 years old, her husband, a small government employee, was discovered to have misappropriated government funds and vanished. As a result, Comte and de Vaux were already married when they first met. Two years after encountering Comte, Clotilde died due to tuberculosis in Paris.
Comte made a lifelong commitment to Clotilde’s remembrance and acknowledged that it was because of her affection that he was inspired to create his last outstanding achievement, the formation of a Religion of Humanity. After this encounter with love and intense emotion, Comte became obsessed with the idea that emotion should have precedence over reason and intellect. As a result, he started writing and speaking openly about his belief that “universal love” was the only effective remedy for all contemporary social issues. He began to create a religion of humanity in which he saw himself as the high priest.
Some interrelated occurrences altered the course of Comte’s philosophy in his latter career. The two factors that most likely led him away from the study of the social cosmos and toward the Religion of Humanity were his dissatisfaction at not being given an academic job and the death of his beloved Clothilde de Vaux. Comtean positivism thus turned towards a bad reputation. His return to religion, particularly one based on the medieval Catholic Church, shocked former supporters of his positivist sociology. Most of his previous supporters subsequently turned against him.