Hobhouse, though influenced by both Comte and Spencer, worked out his theory of social change in a much more rigorous way. His use of historical and anthropological ideas was more scholarly and more critical. Hobhouse distinguished (borrowing Comte’s approach of intellectual growth) five stages in the intellectual history of mankind, and set out to demonstrate, the growth of rationality in all spheres of thought rather than accept Comte’s too simple contrast between theology, metaphysics and science.
His conception of science was that the development of mind brings about scientific development. Furthermore, since this mental development included a development of moral ideas towards the ideal of a rational ethic, which transformed major social institutions, it could be regarded as progressive.