Through a study of the history of human progress, the Marquis of Condorcet, better known as Nicolas de Condorcet, speculates on the future development of. Condorcet's Sketch for an Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind was written in the last few months of his life when on the run, having been. For a time he was able to hide, but soon after the completion of this Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, he was arrrested. He killed.


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Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind

All these causes of the improvement of the human species, all these means that assure it, will by their nature act continuously and acquire a constantly growing momentum. We have explained the proofs of this.


What then would be the certainty and extent of our hopes if we could believe that these natural faculties themselves and this organization are also susceptible of improvement? This is the last question remaining for us to examine. The organic perfectibility or degeneration of races in plants and animals may be regarded as one of the general laws of nature.


This law extends to the human species; and certainly no one will doubt that progress in medical conservation [of life], in the use of healthier food and housing, a way of living that would the progress of the human mind strength through exercise without impairing it by excess, and finally the destruction of the two most active causes of degradation-misery and too great wealth-will prolong the extent of life and assure people more constant health as well as a more robust constitution.

We feel that the progress of preventive medicine as a preservative, made more effective by the progress of reason and social order, will eventually banish communicable or contagious illnesses and those diseases in general that originate in climate, food, and the nature of work.

Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind - Wikipedia

It would not be difficult to prove that this hope should extend to almost all other diseases, whose more remote causes will eventually be recognized. Would it be absurd now to suppose that the improvement of the human race should be regarded as capable of unlimited progress?

That a time will come when death would result only from extraordinary accidents or the more and more gradual wearing out of the progress of the human mind, and that, finally, the duration of the average interval between birth and wearing out has itself no specific limit whatsoever?

Through this accumulation and sharing of knowledge he believed it was possible for any man to comprehend all the known facts of the natural world.

The enlightenment of the natural world spurred the desire for enlightenment of the social and political world. Condorcet believed that there was no definition of the perfect human existence and thus believed that the progression of the human race the progress of the human mind inevitably continue throughout the course of our existence.

The Enlightenment is the foundation for humanism, and I think everyone should celebrate the myriad brilliant works of the revolutionary minds who contributed to it.

While his history of human growth through the progress of the human mind lens of a rational scientific mind is remarkably insightful, it is actually the final chapter, where he takes the then-unique step of projecting human progress into the distant future that makes the book stand out from its contemporaries.

He wrote these wonderfully optimistic predictions while awaiting execution at the hands of his political enemies.


After establishing himself as a ground-breaking mathematician and scientist in his 20s, he turned his mind to politics and rational philosophy in his early 30s. From keeping these animals as a simple supply against a time of need, it was observed that they might be made to multiply, and thus furnish a more durable provision.

Sketch of Condorcet's Sketch for an Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind

Their milk afforded a farther resource: Accordingly the the progress of the human mind ceased to be considered as the principal of these resources, and soon as any resource at all; it was pursued only as a pleasure, or as a necessary precaution for keeping beasts Edition: A more sedentary and less fatiguing life afforded leisure favourable to the development of the mind.

Secure of subsistence, no longer anxious respecting their first and indispensable wants, men sought, in the means of providing for those wants, new sensations.

The arts made some progress: Wool was used for apparel, and cloth substituted in the place of skins. Family societies became more urbane, without being less intimate. As the flocks of each could not multiply in the same proportion, a difference of wealth was established.

Then was suggested the idea of one man sharing the produce of his flocks with another who had no flocks, and who was to devote his time and strength to the care they require. Then it was found that the labour of a young and able individual was of more value than the expence of his bare subsistence; and the custom was introduced of retaining prisoners of war as slaves, instead of putting them to death.

Hospitality, which is the progress of the human mind also among savages, assumes in the pastoral state a more decided and important character, even among those wandering hordes Edition: More frequent occasions occur for the reciprocal exercise of this act of humanity the progress of the human mind man and man, between one people and another.

It becomes a social duty, and is subjected to laws.

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As some families possessed not only a sure subsistence, but a constant superfluity, while others were destitute of the necessaries of life, natural compassion for the sufferings of the latter gave birth to the sentiment and practice of the progress of the human mind.

Manners of course must have softened. The slavery of women became less severe, and the wives of the rich were no longer condemned to fatiguing labours.