Condorcet’s Perfection

In his Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, Condorcet expounds on mankind’s struggle for perfection. Although Condorcet determines the quest to be “indefinite”, he also acknowledges its irreversibility “as long as the earth occupies its present place in the system of the universe, and as long as the general laws of the system produce neither a general cataclysm nor such changes as will deprive the human race of its present faculties and its present resources…” During the European enlightenment, mankind was just beginning to identify the unalienable rights possessed by all humans. Condorcet recognized that mankind was on the right track to attaining “perfection” but still had a long way to go. The elimination of prejudice and injustice is paramount to the progression of the human race.

Much progress has been made in the area of human rights since 1795, but we are still striving for the “perfection” Condorcet alluded to. Condorcet was ahead of his time in recognizing the rights of all humans and in advocating for tolerance and acceptance. Mankind must refer to back to Condorcet’s principles to finally realize the perfection that has eluded us. Provided we do not regress into the ideology of those who cam before us, the human race will continue to push forward in its quest for perfection.

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.