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Condorcet, Marquis de (1743–1794)

Robert H. Blackman


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Condorcet was known in his own life as a mathematician and political reformer. His lasting fame is as author of Equisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain (Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind), published in 1795, one of the best expressions of Enlightenment-era optimism. Condorcet felt that by using the mathematics of probability, one could create a science of human behavior much as Newton had made a science of astronomy and physics. Realizing that human behavior was not as susceptible to certainty as the movements of the planets, Condorcet supported democratic and liberal politics and public education. He defended women's rights and campaigned against slavery. Saint-Simon , Comte , and the nineteenth-century sociologists owed much to Condorcet's work. In the latter half of the twentieth century Condorcet's treatment of voting methods drew scholarly interest. Condorcet was born into an ancient noble family in Picardy. He showed promise as a mathematician while young and attracted the patronage of Jean Le Ronde d'Alembert, co-editor with Denis Diderot of the Encyclopedie. Though Condorcet's family wanted him to become an officer in the king's cavalry, he instead moved to Paris and studied mathematics. In time he became a member of the Academy of Sciences and of the French Academy. He corresponded with Voltaire , knew Franklin ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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