Condorcet Criticism - Essay

James George Frazer (lecture date 1933)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Frazer, James George. Condorcet on the Progress of the Human Mind: The Zaharoff Lecture for 1933, 23 p. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933.

[In this lecture, Frazer asserts the importance and value of Condorcet's philosophy.]

Of all the philosophers and economists of the eighteenth century who by their writings and personal influence prepared the minds of men for the French Revolution and cast the mould into which the burning lava of that tremendous eruption finally ran and solidified, Condorcet alone survived to reap in death the fruit—the bitter fruit—of which he had sowed the seeds by his life. He lived to witness the whole of the great drama from its...

(The entire section is 8347 words.)

K. M. Baker (essay date 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Baker, K. M. “Scientism, Elitism, and Liberalism: The Case of Condorcet.” In Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century: Transactions of the Second International Congress on the Enlightenment, edited by Theodore Besterman, pp. 129-65. Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire, 1967.

[In the following essay, Baker considers Condorcet's contribution to the development of the social sciences.]

If we are to believe La Harpe, Condorcet's reception speech at the Académie française in 1782 was not a striking success. ‘Il roule sur l'utilité des sciences et de l'esprit philosophique, sujet usé que le récipiendaire n'a pas rajeuni’, announced the...

(The entire section is 13385 words.)

Richard A. Brooks (essay date 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Brooks, Richard A. “Condorcet and Pascal.” In Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century: Transactions of the Second International Congress on the Enlightenment, edited by Theodore Besterman, pp. 297-307. Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire, 1967.

[In the essay below, Brooks traces the progress of Condorcet's evaluation of Pascal, which began as admiration and eventually deteriorated into dismissive contempt of Pascal's religious beliefs.]

One of the more remarkable critics of Pascal toward the end of the eighteenth century was the youthful mathematician and social philosopher Condorcet. The purpose of this paper is to trace the interesting evolution of...

(The entire section is 3637 words.)

David Williams (essay date 1976)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Williams, David. “Condorcet, Feminism, and the Egalitarian Principle.” In Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Vol. 5, pp. 151-63. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.

[In this essay, Williams maintains that Condorcet was among the first philosophers to link women's rights with the Enlightenment notion of natural rights.]

In the literature of feminism that forms a distinctive, if somewhat platitudinous, feature of dissident writing in eighteenth-century France, the work of the marquis de Condorcet still offers some challenging perspectives. Looking back upon the historical flow of ideas in this area, I would argue that Condorcet's attempts to...

(The entire section is 4455 words.)

Elizabeth J. Gardner (essay date 1979)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Gardner, Elizabeth J. “The Philosophes and Women: Sensationalism and Sentiment.” In Women and Society in Eighteenth-Century France: Essays in Honour of John Stephenson Spink, edited by Eva Jacobs et al., pp. 19-27. London: Athlone Press, 1979.

[In the following essay, Gardner distinguishes Condorcet's thoughts on women from those of other French philosophes, including Helvétius and Diderot.]

Feminism was not a cause espoused by the philosophes, with the obvious exception of Condorcet, who is anyway not always included in their ranks. It is not sufficient, however, merely to claim that women were naturally included in the general...

(The entire section is 3740 words.)

Barbara Brookes (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Brookes, Barbara. “The Feminism of Condorcet and Sophie de Grouchy.” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 189 (1980): 297-361.

[In this excerpt, Brookes addresses the development of Condorcet's feminism after his marriage to Sophie de Grouchy, linking his thoughts on government and natural rights to his beliefs about the rights of women.]


The debate on the equality of the sexes, which can be traced back through the centuries to Greek civilisation, arose at different times in the history of France.2 In the years preceding the French Revolution, the philosophes attacked the abuses of the old...

(The entire section is 10002 words.)

Colette Verger Michael (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Michael, Colette Verger. “Condorcet and the Inherent Contradiction in the American Affirmation of Natural Rights and Slaveholding.” Transactions on the Fifth International Congress on the Enlightenment 2 (1980): 768-74.

[In this essay, Michael surveys Condorcet's writings on slavery in America and his insistence of holding consistent standards of liberty for all.]

‘Profoundly influenced by the idea of progress, Condorcet strove to establish a system of government which provided, above all other things, for a peaceful mechanism of change.’1 Appraising the American political theory at its just value and impressed by it, he could not have failed...

(The entire section is 2249 words.)

Julie T. Andresen (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Andresen, Julie T. “From Condillac to Condorcet: The Algebra of History.” In Progress in Linguistic Historiography: Papers From the International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences, edited by Konrad Koerner, pp. 187-97. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1980.

[In the essay which follows, Andresen highlights the connection between Condorcet's idea of progress and his beliefs about language, including the language of mathematics as the reduction of natural language to its purest form.]

In the 18th century the theory of language intersects with the theory of history. The epistemological framework that unifies these theories, the linguistic and the...

(The entire section is 3804 words.)

Bernard Grofman and Scott L. Feld (essay date June 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Grofman, Bernard, and Scott L. Feld. “Rousseau's General Will: A Condorcetian Perspective.” American Political Science Review 82, no. 2 (June 1988): 567-76.

[In the essay below, Grofman and Feld compare Condorcet's idea of collective judgment with Rousseau's idea of the general will.]

Rousseau's seminal contributions to democratic theory are his views on the development of the social contract and his notion of the “general will.” Although the “general will” has been given various interpretations, there has been little understanding of how, in practice, political institutions might ascertain the general will for the purpose of effectuating public...

(The entire section is 5537 words.)

David R. Lachterman (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Lachterman, David R. “The Conquest of Nature and the Ambivalence of Man in the French Enlightenment: Reflections on Condorcet's Fragment Sur L'Atlantide.” In Man, God, and Nature in the Enlightenment, edited by Donald C. Mell, Jr. et al., pp. 19-27. Lansing, Mich.: Colleagues Press, 1988.

[In this essay, Lachterman discusses Condorcet's Fragment in terms of the conflict between technological progress—“the conquest of nature”—and individual liberty.]

Condorcet's Fragment sur l'Atlantide (1793) is the third in a sequence of “Atlantean” texts. First came Plato's apparently incomplete Critias: then Bacon's The New...

(The entire section is 5410 words.)

Max M. Mintz (essay date winter 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Mintz, Max M. “Condorcet's Reconsideration of America as a Model for Europe.” Journal of the Early Republic 11, no. 4 (winter 1991): 493-506.

[In the essay which follows, Mintz focuses on Condorcet's writings on the American Constitution.]

In 1783, the Marquis de Condorcet, an ardent advocate of natural rights, was concerned that the ideals of the American Revolution no longer exerted a strong influence among the political leaders he met in the salons of Paris. “Now that the independence of the United States is recognized and assured,” he observed, “they seem to regard it with indifference. …”1

His first career had been...

(The entire section is 5293 words.)

David Bates (essay date spring 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Bates, David. “Between Error and Enlightenment: Condorcet and the Political Decision.” Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 36, no. 1 (spring 1995): 55-74.

[In this essay, Bates attempts to define Condorcet's position on political decision-making and the public interest.]

In the Encyclopédie, a decision was defined briefly but significantly as a “resolution taken on some question that was controversial or in doubt.”1 The decision was made in a state of uncertainty and thus constituted a risk, and although this risk might be characterized in many different ways, depending on how this situation was understood, it would seem...

(The entire section is 8608 words.)

Emma Rothschild (essay date 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Rothschild, Emma. “Condorcet and the Conflict of Values.” In Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment, pp. 195-217. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

[In this essay, Rothschild contrasts the received perception of Condorcet as an advocate of uniformity and universalism with his thought on conflict and diversity.]


Condorcet has been seen, since his death in 1794, as the embodiment of the cold, oppressive enlightenment.1 He was for Sainte-Beuve “the extreme product and as it were the monstrous brain” of the “final school of the eighteenth century,”...

(The entire section is 13170 words.)