Indefinite Perfection

Condorcet, in his Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, argued that mankind progressed at a continuous rate toward perfection. His philosophy for perfection was guided by his own reason and science. Condorcet was adverse toward religion and believed that reason was the sole basis for man’s ability to progress, become virtuous, and better society. He saw man’s ability to be limitless and unconstrained by nature, and concluded, “that this perfectibility of man is truly indefinite.” He observed that society had gone through many stages and periods of error and false theories regarding the rights of man. This resulted from the constraints of tyranny from monarchs and hypocrisy from priests and the church. However, Condorcet revealed the single truth, “that man is a sentient being, capable of reasoning of acquiring moral ideas.” In other words, man has the ability to reason, think on his own, and become enlightened. From the single truth, Condorcet advocated liberalism where man possessed inalienable rights of liberty. He believed the future condition would be determined by, “the abolition of inequality between nations, the progress of equality within each nation, and the true perfection of mankind.” Condorcet had a very practical and scientific view of the future of the human condition, a society shaped by history that would reflect the progress of the human mind.

Condorcet’s views on human progress and liberalism reflect many of the past readings we studied this year, such as Locke, Kant, and Smith, who agree that man is inherently good. Condorcet’s philosophy is still held in society today. It is amazing that Condorcet published his thoughts as a liberal activist during the French Revolution, and today, our society still strives for the same basic tenets of equality of nations, equality of class, and perfection of mankind. It is clear to me that Condorcet was correct when he said that continual progress toward perfection is indefinite.

3 thoughts on “Indefinite Perfection

  1. It is interesting how extreme the theories of various philosophers can be. As you stated, Condorcet along with Locke, Kant, and Smith, believed that man is inherently good. However, one of the most notable philosophers viewed mankind in a very different and dismal light.

  2. Keeping in mind the fact that he wrote just before the french revolution, it may have come to pass that this work would have been suppressed had the nobility retained its status. His definition of good may have differed when compared to the nobility’s definition, and had the revolutionaries failed, this work may have been for naught. A quote by Winston Churchill comes to mind: “History is written by the victors.” Should we consider Condorcet’s truth as THE truth, or would the nobility have something different to say?

  3. I think it is important to note on how almost every philosopher we read has taken something from a different one we have looked at. Not so much to look at it and see a coincidence but to see a pattern. If all of these philosophers are taking from each other we can trace different ideas to see how they developed. So in the case of Condorcet, we have the ability to see where his ideas began and follow them to their current state because of others we have read.

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