"THE PERFECTIBILITY OF MAN."
Condorcet, Jean-Antoine-Nicolas, Marquis de. Esquisse d’un Tableau Historique des Progres de L’Esprit Humain
Paris: Agasse, 1795
8vo. Early half red morocco. Near fine.
FIRST EDITION. A distinguished mathematician and friend of Voltaire, d Alembert, and Turgot, Condorcet played a major role in promoting the Revolution s democratic principles. In the Esquisse (An Historical Outline of the Progress of the Human Mind), he traces the history of man through ten epochs, moving from savagery through the development of civilization and knowledge up to Descartes in the eighth epoch. The ninth epoch spans the Enlightenment from Descartes to the Revolution. For the tenth epoch, Condorcet predicts that equality of opportunity will prevail among all classes and nations and that man will improve intellectually, morally, and physically.
“A belief in the ultimate perfectibility of man lies at the root of all progressive thinking about the human condition. The philosophes and Godwin had familiarized the reading public with this notion, but it was left to Condorcet to give it its finest and most durable expression. . . . Unlike Godwin, he does not preach absolute equality, but equality of opportunity” (Printing and the Mind of Man 246).