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Marquis de Condorcet

(1743—1794)


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(1743–94)

French mathematician and social theorist. Condorcet was educated by Jesuits, and became the permanent Secretary of the Académie des Sciences, for which he was qualified by his mathematical writings, in 1776. The eulogies (Éloges) for dead members that he composed are quintessential documents of the French Enlightenment. Condorcet believed in the progress and perfectibility of mankind, aided by the application of mathematical methods to the moral and political sciences. His Essai sur l'application de l'analyse à la probabilité des décisions (‘Essay on the Application of Analysis to the Probability of Majority Decisions’, 1785) was an early example of a long French tradition of mathematical treatment of the social sciences (see also inverse methods, Laplace, rule of succession, voters' paradox). His other major work is the optimistic, indeed visionary, Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain (1795, trs. as Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, 1795), often cited as being one of the targets of Malthus.


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