Skip to main content Accesibility Help
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Editors’ introduction


‘Long since convinced that the human race is infinitely perfectible, and that this process, a necessary consequence of the present state of knowledge and societies, can only be arrested by global physical setbacks, I viewed the task of hastening this progress as one of the most precious occupations, one of the first duties of one who has fortified his reason by study and reflection’ (O.C. I: 574). These words were written in July 1793 by the marquis de Condorcet while in hiding under sentence of death from the Jacobin Terror, separated from his wife and small daughter, and engaged in preparing a grand work entitled Tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain, of which he intended the Esquisse, meaning ‘sketch’, here presented in translation, as a ‘prospectus’. Of the projected work there are only fragments and notes (such as the definitions of ‘liberty’ and ‘revolutionary’ included here), for within months he was found dead in a country prison at the age of fifty.

Denounced by Robespierre as ‘a timid conspirator, viewed with contempt by all parties, ceaselessly working to obscure the light of philosophy with the perfidious hodgepodge of his mercenary rhapsodies’, he was the last of the great French Enlightenment philosophes: at once academician, encyclopedist and revolutionary. He was a mathematician and one of the leading statisticians of his day, an economist, a philosopher and a politician. He made profound and lasting contributions to the analysis of voting and the paradoxes of social choice and thereby to understanding deep and still unsolved problems for the practice of democracy – how to ascertain ‘the will of the people’ – contributions that are still debated and built upon today. As an economist he was both a critic of the stifling, corrupt and arbitrary economic regulations of his time and a proponent of detailed reforms for the constitution of a competitive economic order. As a philosopher he held distinctive and still controversial views about the probabilistic character of human knowledge, about the relations between reason and moral sentiments, and about both the conflict and connectedness of values. He identified the distinctive features of modern despotism before Alexis de Tocqueville and the contrast between ancient and modern liberty before Benjamin Constant.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Condorcet: Political Writings
  • Online ISBN: 9781139108119
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
Alengry, Franck 1973 Condorcet: Guide de la Révolution française, théoricien du droit constitutionnel, et précurseur de la science socialeParisV. Giard et E. Brière.
Badinter, ElisabethBadinter, Robert 1988 Condorcet. Un intellectuel en politiqueParisFayard
Baker, Keith Michael 2004 On Condorcet’s Sketch’,Daedalus56
Berlin, Isaiah 1969 Four Essays on LibertyOxford University Press
Berlin, Isaiah 1998 My Intellectual PathNew York Review of Books53
Buisson, Ferdinand 1929 CondorcetParisAlcan
Cahen, Léon 1906 La société des Amis des Noirs et CondorcetLa Révolution française 50 481
Cahen, Léon 1914 Un fragment inédit de CondorcetRevue de métaphysique et de morale 22 581
Condorcet, 2004 Tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain. Projets, Esquisse, Fragments et Notes (1772–1794)Schandeler, Jean-PierreCrépel, PierreParisInstitut national d’études dèmographiques
Crépel, PierreGilain, 1989 Condorcet mathématicien, économiste, philosophe, homme politiqueParisMinerve
Estlund, David M.Waldron, JeremyGrofman, BernardFeld, Scott L. 1989 Democratic Theory and the Public Interest: Condorcet and Rousseau RevisitedAmerican Political Science Review 83 1317
Frazer, Sir James 1933 Condorcet on the Progress of the Human MindThe 1933 Zaharoff Lecture. OxfordClarendon Press
Gay, Peter 1969 The Enlightenment: An InterpretationNew YorkKnopf
Grofman, Bernard N.Feld, Scott L. 1988 Rousseau’s General Will: A Condorcetian PerspectiveAmerican Political Science Review 82 567
Julien, Charles-André 1955 La politique coloniale de la France (1789–1815); Le Moyen-Âge; Doubles; Cours sur la colonisation française; Cours à l’ENA sur l’Europe, le Proche-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord (1947–1948)ParisCentre de documentation universitaire
Koyré, Alexandre 1948 CondorcetJournal of the History of Ideas 9 131
Manuel, Frank E. 1962 The Prophets of ParisCambridge, MAHarvard University Press
Montesquieu, Charles Louis de SecondatBaron de, 1989 The Spirit of the LawsCholer, Anne M.Miller, Basia CarolynStone, Harold SamuelCambridge University Press
Rosenfeld, Leonora Cohen 1984 Condorcet Studies 1Atlantic Highlands, NJHumanities Press
Saint-Simon, Henri de 1865 Œuvres de Saint-Simon et d’EnfantinParis
Schlegel, Friedrich 1988 Kritixche Schriften und Fragmente (1794–1797)Behler, ErnstEichner, HansPaderbornFerdinand Schöningh
Sen, Amartya 2009 The Idea of JusticeLondonAllen Lane
Turgot, Anne-Robert-JacquesLaune, Baron de 1913 ŒuvresSchelle, GustaveParisFélix Alcan
Williams, David 1930 French Opinion Concerning the English Constitution in the Eighteenth CenturyEconomica 30 295
Williams, David 2004 Condorcet and ModernityCambridge University Press