Condorcet, from Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics

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Condorcet, from Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics

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CONDORCET

CONDORCET From Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics W’k

KEITH MICHAEL BAKER

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS Chicago and London

H Si • CU £>V/ For Terry

Keith Michael Baker is associate professor of European history at the University of Chicago.

Title-page illustration of Condorcet courtesy of the Biblioth£que Nationale, Paris. THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, CHICAGO

60637

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, LTD., LONDON

© 1975 by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. Published 1975 Printed in tlie United States of America International Standard Book Number: 0-226-03532-8 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 74-5725

CONTENTS

Preface

vii

Acknowledgments

xiii

1. Introduction: The Passion for the Public Good

1

Early Years: A Scientific Profession 2 The Salon on the rue de Belle Chasse 16 “Le bon Condorcet”: In Search of the Philosophe’s Role The Fight for the Academy of Sciences 35 Towards the New Atlantis 47 “Benissons le ministre” 55 Science and Society 72

23

Part I The Scientific Model 2. The Language of Science

85

The Limitations of Science 87 The Structure of Science 95 Scientific Method: Scientific Language 3. Positivism and Probabilities

109

129

Knowledge and Probability: Newton to Hume 130 The Logic of Belief: Hume 138 The Science of the Probable: Bernoulli to Laplace 155 Condorcet: Towards a Science of Conduct 171 The Scientific Model 189 Part II The Social Field 4. The Moral and Political Sciences

197

The Regeneration of the Monarchy: Turgot 202 The “Science” of Citizenship 214 The Calculus of Consent 225 The Regeneration of the Monarchy: Condorcet 244 Scientific Model and Social Field 260

£490£0

CONTENTS

VI

5.

The Politics of Social Science

264

The Society of 1789 272 Citizenship Education in the New State The Failure of Representation 303 Rational Politics Repudiated 317 Social Mathematics: A Democratic Art 6. The Esquisse:

285

330

History and Social Science

343

The Genesis and Development of the Tableau historique The Power of the Social Art 352 The Fate of an Idea 371 Conclusion

383

Appendix A

388

Appendix B

391

Notes

397

Bibliography

Index

525

485

344

PREFACE

This is Neither a New

Biography of Condorcet Nor an Attempt to

analyze exhaustively all aspects of his thinking. In the following pages I have concentrated on a single theme in his thought —albeit, I think, the central one —his conception of social science. I have tried to analyze historically the nature and development of this conception as it took shape in the general context of Enlightenment thought and the particular social and political milieu that was eighteenth-century France. My subtitle, From Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics, is therefore meant to suggest both the particular course of Condorcet’s intellectual development and a more general evolution of ideas within the Enlightenment to which he contributed. In recent years, the achievement of the Enlightenment in the develop¬ ment of the modern social sciences has once again been emphasized. Peter Gay has synthesized much of the work in this field, incorporating it into his stimulating general interpretation of the Enlightenment. The creation of the social sciences, he has argued, was one of the most characteristic accomplishments of the philosophes. In this domain, they “laid the foundations and wrote the classics.”1 The same conviction is evident in Georges Gusdorfs Introduction aux sciences humaines (1960) much of which is devoted to an analysis of the approaches to the science of man in the eighteenth century.2 Such views have not gone unchallenged, particularly in Michel Fou¬ cault’s Les mots et les choses (1966).3 Where Gay sees the philosophes as working essentially within our mental universe, Foucault argues that there is a profound epistemological rift between the mind of the Enlightenment and our own. This rift is such that it is impossible to trace a history of the social sciences as a linear disciplinary development from the eighteenth century to our own day. Where Gusdorf credits the eighteenth century with the “rise of the science of man,” Foucault argues that such a science was literally inconceivable at that time. Man simply did not exist as an object of knowledge before the profound epistemological revolution of the early nineteenth century that brought the human sciences into being. To my mind, Foucault’s analysis of the underlying epistemological vii

Vlll

PREFACE

procedures of Enlightenment thought is as brilliantly suggestive as his characterization of the nature of this episteme is confusing. In many ways, the view of Condorcet’s thought set forth here corresponds closely to Foucault’s analysis of the fundamental mode of Enlightenment thinking. His argument that a human science was simply unthinkable in this period, on the other hand, seems to be sheer intellectual provocation. Logically, it rests on an ironclad definition of the human sciences that simply refuses the name to other possible conceptions. Historically, it flies in the face of the evidence of all those writers, great and small, for whom the attempt to create a science of man represented the opportunity to become the Newton of the moral world. Yet Foucault’s work underlines the lack of definition implied, for example, in the characterizations of the idea of social science in the Enlightenment suggested by Gay and Gusdorf; and it prompts a more critical consideration of the terms in which the history of the idea during this period should be written. Enlightenment thinkers approached what they often called the moral and/or political sciences in diverse ways; there were many competing conceptions of the science of man. Above all, we need to characterize these approaches more clearly, analyze their nature and development, and clarify their relationship to the more general evolution of Enlightenment thought. This book is an attempt to analyze one such conception in this way. But why Condorcet? To this question, I might at this stage suggest several preliminary answers. First, he was a central figure in that wide¬ spread attempt to apply scientific thinking to all aspects of social affairs that was so marked a feature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, particularly in France. Saint-Simon and Comte claimed him as the principal precursor of their positive sociology; Quetelet fulfilled his program for a social mathematics; Laplace, Poisson, and Cournot took seriously his dream of a rational science of decision-making. The early history of the term “social science” is in this respect very revealing: indeed, it was in an attempt to investigate that history that I first became interested in Condorc as a central figure for a study such as this. It cannot be said with any cert, nty that Condorcet actually coined the term (though he may well have done so): the first usage I have discovered appears in an open letter to him from another member of his circle.4 Nor can it be said that he first used the term to refer to the empirical study of man in society: in fact, as we shall see, he restricted its usage in a rather curious way to that aspect of his social thought that we would now regard as least scientific. But it was clearly Condorcet s use of the term “social science” that first gave it wide currency; and it was clearly through his influential schemes for public instruction that its usage was institutionalized in France in the educational system established in 1795. Cultivated within the context of that educa¬ tional system by the Ideologues —whose comprehensive efforts to establish a science of man are now receiving the study they deserve in the work of Sergio Moravia5— the term passed in translations of their writings not only to America (where it was probably introduced by Jefferson) but also to Spain, whence it was imported into England by Bentham from his Spanish translator. It was from Condorcet, then, that the term “social science”

PREFACE

IX

passed, via the Ideologues, not only to Fourier, Saint-Simon and others who made its use familiar in France, but also to those in other countries whose aim it was to create a systematic science of society. Furthermore, Condorcet was remarkable, even in an encyclopedic age, in the range of his interests and activities. Among the would-be Newtons of the moral sciences who scrambled for space on eighteenth-century book¬ shelves, he was unique in the extent to which he combined active involvement in social and political affairs with an institutional commit¬ ment to science and a professional acquaintance with its methodology. For this prophet of social mathematics —whose utopian vision extended to a universal mathematical science theoretically capable of embracing all aspects of human life and conduct — himself came of age as a mathemati¬ cian in the period of French scientific life which saw the confirmation and elaboration of Newton’s mathematical principles of natural philosophy. Condorcet’s conception of scientific method, his view of the model that the physical sciences held out to those in search of a science of man, was therefore not only an informed one. It was also in large measure typical of the most advanced scientific thought of the time. Similarly, this disciple of Voltaire, d’Alembert, and Turgot —this philosophe, whose ambition it became to guide the French Revolution by transforming societal choice into the rational decision-making of the idealized republic of science —was also permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences at one of the most vigorous periods of its existence. It was in the institutional context of the academy (now very effectively illuminated by Roger Hahn’s important book6), as in the more general context of the philosophe movement, that he developed his views regarding the social organization of science and its relationship to the scientific organization of society. These views are no less revealing of the values and tensions implied in the development of scientific organization in his time than they are of the more general problems of the Old Regime to which they were intended to serve as a response. Yet although he was one of the most significant and influential of the last generation of the philosophes and the only prominent one to play an active role in the French Revolution, although there are literally dozens of older books and articles on aspects of his life and ideas, Condorcet has not, on the whole, been well served in recent years by historians or students of po¬ litical and social ideas. Our understanding of the evolution of the philo¬ sophe movement, of the role of science in the Enlightenment, and of the political and social context of the French Revolution has been considerably extended by modern scholarship. But no attempt has yet been made to reinterpret Condorcet in this new light. While he has been the subject of a brilliantly stimulating recent essay by Frank Manuel in The Prophets of Paris (1962), there has been no extensive treatment of his thought in English since J. Salwyn Shapiro’s Condorcet and the Rise of Liberalism (1934), a badly dated work that now seems naive in its approach and limited in its sole reliance on printed sources. In French, the semipopular biography by Janine Bouissounouse, Condorcet. Le philosophe dans la Revolution (1962), is a useful piece of work. But the standard studies —

X

PREFACE

Leon Cahen, Condorcet et la Revolution frangaise (1904), and Franck Alengry, Condorcet. Guide de la Revolution frangaise, theoricien du droit constitutionnel et pre'curseur de la science sociale (1903) —are now almost seventy years old; and subsequent works (at least those by historians) have added little of substance. In Germany, an important study of Condorcet’s political ideas as they developed in the years before the Revolution has only recently appeared.7 I regret that I was unable to see Rolf Reichardt’s Reform und Revolution bei Condorcet (1973) before completing my own work. But I trust that our two books, taken together, will do something to restore Condorcet to his place at the heart of the Enlightenment. Finally, if Condorcet has in recent years been largely neglected by historians, fresh and stimulating attention has nevertheless come from other directions, from writers interested in the most advanced problems of methodology in the social sciences. Concentrating their analysis on the mathematical writings usually left aside by historians (for obvious reasons), such authors as G. Th. Guilbaud (“Les theories de l’interet general et le probleme logique de l’agregation,” Economie appliquee 5 [1952]: 501-84),8 Gilles-Gaston Granger (La mathematique sociale du marquis de Condorcet [1956]), and Duncan Black (The Theory of Committees and Elections [1958]) have discovered in Condorcet’s thinking a remarkably modern approach to some of the fundamental problems of contemporary social science. These works have been fundamental in prompting the rein¬ terpretation of Condorcet that I have tried to further in the following chap¬ ters. Yet their analysis has lacked historical dimension. One aim of the pre¬ sent book is to account historically for the ideas they have found. In the most general terms, the concept of social science seems to involve two principal components. The first of these is a model of science: one which allows for the conviction that the methods of science are applicable to human affairs, and issues in a definition of the methods of studying social phenomena which meets the epistemological claims of “science” however defined. The second is a definition of the social field, a specific view of society and of the nature of social processes to which the scientific model is to be applied. Clearly, all models of science need not (and do not) fit all definitions of the social field. Many commentators have noted, for example, that Montesquieu’s De Vesprit des lois is a book at war with itself. One of the main reasons for this would seem to be that Montesquieu’s scientific model came to restrict his developing conception of the social field: his conception of science seemed to imply a mechanistic determinism at odds with his concern to elaborate the sociological “spirit” of the laws. Comte and Condorcet, to give another example, were both mathemati¬ cians by training. But while Condorcet found a mathematical model perfectly appropriate to his view of social science, Comte was obliged to reject as chimerical all his predecessor’s hopes for a social mathematics. Thus the problem for the theorist of social science is to find a scientific model appropriate to his definition of the social field, and vice versa; and the problem for the historian of the idea of social science is to analyze and account for the interrelationship between scientific models and definitions of the social field at various stages in the history of that idea.

PREFACE

XI

In accordance with this analysis, this book is divided into two main parts, one dealing with the scientific model and the other with the social field. My method has been to present Condorcet in as broad a framework as possible, relating aspects of the history of science and society in the Enlightenment that rarely share the same covers in our relatively special¬ ized historical literature. I have tried to elucidate Condorcet’s thinking by reconstructing what I take to be the main outlines of his mental universe, the problems posed for him by scientific and social developments, and the intellectual tools at his disposal to answer them. Conversely, I have attempted to use his thought as a guide to a more general movement of ideas within the Enlightenment as a whole, and to characterize broadly the more general intellectual developments underlying his particular transi¬ tion from natural philosophy to social mathematics. As the reader will soon become aware, such an approach presents several problems. The most obvious has involved the range of Condorcet’s interests and activities. Historians and philosophers of science will probably wish that I had extended my analysis of the scientific model; social and political historians that I had gone further in my consideration of the social field. Historians of mathematics, should they read this book, will have particular cause for disappointment. As a nonmathematician, I have often been conscious of treading on unsteady ground. I have made no attempt to present the technical aspects of Condorcet’s mathematics (on this, see Granger, La mathematique sociale du marquis de Condorcet) or the strictly mathematical ideas of other thinkers with whom I have been obliged to deal. Where Condorcet’s philosophical or political arguments rest on particular mathematical demonstrations, I have accepted the latter as given and proceeded from there. I hope that I have been saved from grievous error in this respect. But if I have not, I trust the example will not deter others from approaching the philosophes as they lived and thought, rather than parcelling them out into the specialized categories of which they were only barely beginning to be aware. My second major problem has been that of maintaining an effective balance between my analysis of Condorcet’s thought and of the back¬ ground to it. The extent to which I have achieved such a balance, the reader must naturally be left to judge for himself. I should, however, emphasize that this book is not intended to characterize the Enlightenment as a whole. I have tried to suggest those aspects of the history of scientific thought and of the history of social and political ideas in France which seem to me to make sense of (and to be illuminated by) the study of Condorcet’s conception of social science. I have tried, in other words, to discover the Enlightenment he knew. It is indicative of his significance that I have been obliged on occasion to wander so far afield. It is also, in a rather curious way, revealing of the limitations of his thought. It can hardly be said that Condorcet wrestled with philosophical problems in a way that fundamentally redefined them for his successors. He has neither the Herculean persistence of a Hume nor the Promethean genius of a Kant. He tends to think somewhat telegraphically: sent as a scout into philosophical territory, he is inclined to signal back answers rather than carefully surveying the problems. In a sense, indeed, his work

Xll

PREFACE

is richer in answers than it is in problems. The answers never lack fascination; but they often wait for their full significance until the problems to which they respond have been mapped out historically. For the philosopher interested in the technical treatment of philosophical issues as such, this would be something of a disappointment. For the historian more interested in the development and interrelationship of ideas in a wider context it is perhaps an advantage. What Condorcet lacks in philosophical profundity he more than repays in the breadth of his views and the subtlety of the insights he offers into the complex historical relationship between science, philosophy, and politics in the Enlighten¬ ment. Converse with him, read what he has written; talk to him of philoso¬ phy, belles-lettres, science, the arts, government, jurisprudence, and when you have heard him, you will tell yourself a hundred times a day that this is the most astonishing man you have ever heard; he is ignorant of nothing, not even the things most alien to his tastes and occupations: he will know the formulae of the Palais [de Justice] and the genealogies of the courtiers, the details of the police and the names of the hats in fashion: in fact, nothing is beneath his attention and his memory is so prodigious that he has never forgotten any¬ thing. 9 Unlike Julie de Lespinasse, whose appreciation of Condorcet this is, I have been unable to converse with him on all these subjects. But I have tried to ask him about many of them. If the results of these conversations sometimes fall short of what Mile de Lespinasse has promised, the fault is probably mine. The best native informant is only as good as the anthropo¬ logist to whom he talks. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. In citing eighteenthcentury French works, I have taken the liberty of modernizing the spelling.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This Book Has Been a Long Time in the Making. Like Most First Books,

it must bear the weight of many obligations. It therefore gives me great pleasure to be able to express my gratitude to those on both sides of the Atlantic who have helped make it possible. In their various ways T. S. T urner, E. A. Wrigley, B. G. A. Wormald, and Mario Einaudi all fostered my early interest in this topic. With a warmth and intelligence I now feel I took too much for granted, the late Alfred Cobban supervised the writing of the dissertation from which this book has grown. J. H. Burns gave me much help and guidance, generously sharing his interest in the history of the idea of social science. My work at this early stage was supported by a Ministry of Education State Studentship (UK), a Research Fellowship of the Institute for Historical Research (University of London) and a grant from the University of London Central Research Fund for research in Paris. That this book now appears in the form it does, however, is principally the result of a fellowship I received from the National Endowment for the Humanities for research and writing in Paris during the year 1967-68, a fellowship generously supplemented by the Social Science Divisional Research Fund of the University of Chicago. In that year, in the pleasant atmosphere of the Centre Universitaire International, the present work took shape and the First part was largely written. During that year, too, I was made especially welcome by M. Rene Taton and the group of researchers at the Centre d’Histoire des Sciences (Centre AlexandreKoyre), rue Colbert. Since that time, I have benefitted from the advice and encouragement of many friends and colleagues. Hanna Gray, William McNeill, and Karl Weintraub have been constant in their support. Joseph Ben-David, Stephen Stigler, and Richard Flathman offered very useful criticism of the manuscript at strategic points; and I also benefitted from the sympathetic readings of Rodney Kilcup and Thomas Hankins. To Roger Hahn, who in the years I have been working on this subject has been an unfailing source of encouragement, criticism, and information, generously sharing his knowledge of the Paris Academy of Sciences and its members in a spirit xiii

XIV

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

worthy of the aspirations of the eighteenth-century republic of science, I owe a special debt of gratitude. Finally, I wish to thank Emile Karafiol, with whom over the years I have discovered and discussed many aspects of the eighteenth century. His close critical reading of this book was as valuable as his friendship has been stimulating. I should add that a study fellowship awarded me by the American Council of Learned Societies for a rather different project also gave me a chance, during the year 1972-73, to reflect upon some of the more general issues of this book before the final revisions were made. Nor would these acknowledgments be complete without the grateful mention of Joel Seigle, Cynthia Truant, and John Cash, who at various times acted as my research assistants; and of John Roller and Bob Smith, who did much of the typing. To my wife, Therese, this book is dedicated.



1

&

INTRODUCTION: THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD You are very fortunate to combine the passion for the public good with the position to achieve it.

Condorcet to Turgot, 31 May 1772

In the 125 Years of its Existence, the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris produced two permanent secretaries whose influence extended far beyond the confines of its official meeting-place in the Louvre. Both brought encyclopedic interests and literary skill to their position as public spokesman for organized science; both dreamed of the rationalizing influence that science could exercise on human affairs: both, in short, were philosophes. Yet there were significant differences between the two figures, which while they stemmed in part from the very different positions of the two men in the evolution of the philosophe movement also reflected the changed institutional context in which they came to organized science. In 1697, when Fontenelle became permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences, its organization was still rudimentary. While individual academicians received stipends from the king, under whose patronage they had been meeting since 1666, the academy as a body had neither a fundamental constitution nor formal corporate existence. “This Aca¬ demy had indeed been formed on the King’s orders,” Fontenelle later wrote, “but without any formal act of Royal authority. Love of the sciences alone prescribed almost all its laws.”1 The Fontenelle recruited for his literary skill to be the academy’s public apologist was equally innocent of organizational discipline. A man of letters rather than a practicing scientist, his great achievement in such early works as the celebrated Entretiens sur la plurality des mondes had been to capture the “organized skepticism” of the new science for a very different tradition, the skeptical literary tradition of the seventeenth-century libertins. Faithful to this background, his views of the effect of science on society focused largely on its negative aspects as the solvent of superstition and error, and even these ideas were overlaid by the aristocratic pessimism inherent in the older tradition in which he was formed. Yet when the king decided in 1699 that “more precise and severe rules”2 were necessary to direct the activities of the academy towards a greater utility, Fontenelle the litterateur was bent to the organizational yoke. As the academy developed a professional life and norms of its own, the man of letters gradually gave way to the spokesman for organized science: defining the developing role of the scientist in the

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THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

official Eloges of deceased academicians; defending science in his antiNewtonian campaign against what he saw as a new scholasticism threaten¬ ing its still barely institutionalized methods and values; demonstrating its utility in his annual account of the academy’s activities. When he resigned as permanent secretary in 1741, after almost half a century in that position, it was as “the dean, the father and model of all secretaries of academies of science.”3 Enthusiastic contemporaries laid it chiefly to his door that “the taste for the sciences being more generally widespread, savants were more esteemed, more highly considered, more sought after.”4 Organized science in France had developed a professional life and been given a literary model of its own. If in Fontenelle the philosophe was father to the man of science, in Condorcet —who succeeded him as permanent secretary of the Aca¬ demy of Sciences thirty years later —it was the reverse. Fontenelle be¬ came permanent secretary at the age of forty with literary fame already behind him. Condorcet was nominated to the position at the age of thirty, as a young man launched on a promising career within the academy but still comparatively little known outside it. If he owed the position of permanent secretary as much to the political maneuvers of the reforming party as to his own scientific qualifications, if he used it for increasingly frequent reforming sorties as a philosophe, economist, and political actor, it was nevertheless as a practicing scientist that his career was first made. “One of the most serious ornaments of the old regime,”5 he became official spokesman for institutional science in France at one of the most vigorous and fertile periods of its existence. In this position, he found a sense of the power of science to conquer the realm of human affairs going far beyond Fontenelle’s intimations; and he discovered a passion to bind the broken fragments of the moral and political sciences into a single, potent science of man that lay at the very basis of his reforming views and later political career. It is to the development of this science of social and political action in Condorcet’s thinking that this study is devoted. Before turning to an analysis of this conception, however, I shall try in this introductory chapter to suggest the milieu in which Condorcet’s interests and ambitions were formed and the manner in which the idea of social science came to lie at the heart of this thinking. Early Years:

A

Scientific Profession

There was little in the family background of the child baptized Marie-JeanAntoine-Nicolas Caritat de Condorcet on 17 September 1743 to suggest the possibility of a future scientific career.6 His father, the chevalier Antoine Caritat de Condorcet, bore the name of one of the most ancient noble families of the principality of Orange, established in the Dauphine since the early sixteenth century. The record of a vigorous defense of Protes¬ tantism during the wars of religion —an affiliation terminated by the reconversion of a Condorcet imprisoned during Fouis XIV’s campaign against the Huguenots —did not, of course, bar the family from an occasional ecclesiastical career. 4 he child’s uncle, successively bishop of Gap, Auxerre, and Fisieux, defended the rights of the episcopacy within

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

3

the ecclesiastical hierarchy with as much determination as his predecessors had denied them. For the most part, however, the family still held to the traditional military calling of the nobility. It was the exercise of this calling, as captain of a cavalry regiment, that brought Antoine de Condorcet to garrison near Ribemont in Picardy, where in 1740 he married the widowed Marie-Madeleine-Catherine de Saint-Felix, daughter of Claude-Nicolas Gaudry “ecuyer, president tresorier de France en la generality de Soissons.” It was in the exercise of this same calling that Antoine met his death at Neuf-Brisach in 1743, scarcely more than a month after the birth of his son. Twice widowed, the mother sought to preserve herself from further loss by smothering the child in a mantle of piety. Dedicated for his protection to the virgin (so the tradition goes), he was kept in white dresses until the age of eight. When he reached his majority in 1757 he was nevertheless placed under the guardianship of his maternal grandfather, whose position on the margin of the officeholding nobility was still uncomfortably close to the non-noble wealth that had purchased it. Was it in reaction to this environment that Condorcet was later to insist on the title of marquis, while his father appears with the more ambiguous title of chevalier in all the documents relating to the child’s birth? First steps away from cramped provincialism and hysterical piety passed by way of the Jesuits, still for a few years the schoolmasters of France and of Europe, to whom Condorcet’s episcopal uncle directed that he be sent for schooling at Reims at the age of eleven. Although there is no direct evidence of Condorcet’s feelings at the time, it seems likely that his experience of Jesuit education did little to alleviate the nervous introspec¬ tion of the child kept in skirts and much to harden his resentment of misplaced piety into the rabid anticlericalism that marked his mature years. “I have experienced no other education than my own, but I am perfectly aware of the good and bad qualities with which it has left me,” he wrote in a fragmentary memoir on education in 1773, the year in which the Jesuit order was dissolved by Clement XIV.7 He was moved to elaborate more passionately on the vicious aspects of that education in 1774, when he got wind of a plan to restore the Jesuits to France —in fact if not in name — by creating a new clerical teaching order to be largely composed of ex-members of the Society of Jesus. In a polemical fragment denouncing this scheme, drafted but never completed for publication, Condorcet warmed to an outspoken anthropological theme. Among the Caribs, he insisted, it was the customary practice to render newborn children completely stupid by flattening their heads between two boards. The mongols relieved themselves of the fear that a prince of the blood might foment trouble by the application of a narcotic potion producing imbe¬ cility by degrees, while the Turks employed a milder method utilizing a heavily perfumed turban to produce the same effect. Of all the known methods for reducing man to the intellectual level of the beast, however, Condorcet regarded as the surest that discovered by the mayors of the palace when they first charged monks with the education of the unfortu¬ nate descendants of Clovis. A moral education fit to make debauched and

4

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

hypocritical atheists or fanatically bigoted imbeciles; a philosophical education comprised of scholastic jargon and theological dreams; a closed educational environment calculated to foster and perpetuate the adoles¬ cent tendency to homosexuality: these were the principal aspects of his education at the hands of the Jesuits that Condorcet remembered at the age of thirty.8 Nevertheless, there were compensations. Although he later decried the spirit of competition fostered by Jesuit education, it had operated effectively enough in his own case for him to win a college prize at Reims in 1756 and to escape in 1758 to the University of Paris, where he prepared the final two years of the traditional curriculum at the College of Navarre. At this time, the College of Navarre was among the foremost in Paris for its scientific reputation. It was here that the king had founded an important chair of experimental physics in 1752 to which he appointed the abbe Nollet, protagonist of the Newtonian physics, who dared in his inaugural oration to abandon the Latin still common in the university and lecture his audience in French on the qualities of mind necessary in the study of the natural sciences.9 It was here that Nollet continued until 1770 to give his influential lectures on Newtonian philosophy, which Condorcet quite possibly attended. It was here, too, after a year devoted to logic, ethics, and metaphysics, that Condorcet came to the final year of schooling that was to decide his vocation: the second year of philosophy, devoted to mathematics and physics. His final year at the College of Navarre was the only exception that Condorcet was later to allow in his bitter indictment of the traditional education that he had experienced; and even then he was to attribute the benefits of this year less to the workings of the educational system itself than to the enlightenment and scientific zeal of a single professor. “In some colleges of the University of Paris,” he wrote in 1774, “extremely learned and very zealous professors begin this second year [of philosophy] by teaching the elements of geometry and algebra, an abridged theory of conic sections and series, the first principles of the new calculus. Then they explain the general principles of movement and apply them to the system of the world, i.e. they show how the principal planets describe an elliptical path around the sun by virtue of its attractive force.”10 The model indicated in this passage was Georges Girault de Keroudou, regent in philosophy, charged with the teaching of mathematics and physics at the College of Navarre. Later the author of several mathe¬ matical papers and of a textbook on calculus for which Lagrange at least had some enthusiasm, the abbe Girault de Keroudou was a stimulating teacher with serious scientific ambitions, critical of the university and its teaching of science. In addition to an extensive mathematical knowledge, he offered the young Condorcet- perhaps for the first time —friendship, encouragement, and support in the pursuit of a scientific career.11 Nor was his friendship forgotten as his teaching bore fruit. Once established in the Academy of Sciences, Condorcet was influential, with d’Alembert, in securing his former teacher’s appointment as professor at the College royal

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

5

in 1773; and he doubtless encouraged Girault de Keroudou in his ambitions to enter the scientific academies of Berlin and Paris.12 In 1760, however, there was still but a remote possibility that Condorcet would ever find himself in the position to repay his gratitude to Girault de Keroudou by holding out hope of academic advancement. His education over, the young nobleman returned to Ribemont to decide upon a career. While he may already have conceived of no other glory and no other happiness than that of belonging to the Academy of Sciences —as did his contemporary, Lalande, after reading Fontenelle’s Eloges at the same age13 —family tradition nevertheless dictated that Condorcet follow his father into the military. In fact, there was less of a contradiction between a military career and scientific ambitions than might at first appear to be the case: many scientifically inclined officers found themselves eventually admitted to the academy for their work on problems relating to military technology, and even Condorcet was later to admit that the discipline of the officer had now become the intellectual one of despatching men more efficiently to a remote and calculated death rather than the physical one of disemboweling them in cold blood.14 From this point of view, then, Condorcet’s refusal to accept a military career was not only a choice for science but a choice for pure science rather than the physicaille, or applied science, that he was later to denounce as taking too much of the academy’s time. It was also a decision against his family, whose opposition was slow to subside. Family objections later delayed his entry into the Academy of Sciences for at least a year; and even after he had been designated as the next secretary of the academy, Condorcet could recommend a relative to Turgot for preferment on the grounds that he was “the only one who has yet forgiven me for not being a cavalry captain.”15 As for his tyrannical uncle, the bishop of Lisieux, Mile de Lespinasse could quip in 1775 that this senior member of the family had finally found some consolation for having a nephew in the scientific academy, but only in learning that this same nephew was also the intimate friend of Turgot, then in power as minister.16 This protracted struggle with his family over the value of a scientific career and its fitness for a young man of noble birth was clearly of the utmost importance in the development of Condorcet’s conception of science as a vocation. “The true forbears of a man of genius are the masters who have preceded him in his career; and his true descendants are the disciples worthy of him, Condorcet later insisted in a telling passage of his eloge of d’Alembert, when he came to discuss the circumstances of the great mathematician’s birth.17 This passage is revealing, not only in the implied intimacy of its definition of the master-disciple relationship that was to bind Condorcet to d’Alembert for many years, but also in its clear insistence upon the primacy of the scientific role. In the case of d Alem¬ bert, deposited as an infant bastard on the steps of the church of Saint-Jean-le-Rond, the primacy of the professional claims of science over the social claims of family was epitomized in this clearest and most brutal of family repudiations. For Condorcet, the severance of family claims to

6

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

dictate his profession was less dramatic, more complex, but no less effective. Psychologically, the mutual recriminations arising from the young aristocrat’s rejection of family plans for his career were of funda¬ mental importance in the process by which he came to define his primary view of himself as a member of the professional community of science, a community he learned to regard with d’Alembert as among “the most useful and most noble that a thinking man can desire.’’18 According to the traditional account of his early life, Condorcet made a notable advance in his fight for a scientific career in 1762, when after two tense years in Ribemont he took up lodgings in Paris with his former teacher, Girault de Keroudou, devoting his attention to the crucial problems of the integral calculus. New light is thrown on this period of his life by evidence in the registers of the Academy of Sciences which has so far escaped the attention of biographers. On this evidence, it would seem that Condorcet had already returned to Paris in 1761, for it was on 23 October of that year that he presented for the academy’s examination the firstfruits of his mathematical researches: a paper on the problem of developing a general method of integration for differential equations involving two variables.19 Unfortunately, he had gone too fast. While admitting that the paper showed some mathematical knowledge, Clairaut and Fontaine —the two distinguished mathematicians charged by the academy to examine Condorcet’s work —condemned its sloppiness and its lack of clarity and sent the young hopeful back to his homework. As charged by the academy, we have examined a paper of M. de Condorcet entitled Essai d’une methode generate pour integrer les Equations differentielles a deux variables. The method set out by the author is only a method of approximation by infinite series known to every mathematician. Yet since we have had great difficulty in following it on account of the lack of care the author has taken to make himself clear, and since he seems wellversed in these matters, we would like him to examine the different procedures of the mathematicians and then tell us whether he claims to be presenting something new. If he does, then he should take great care to explain himself clearly and to establish where he differs from other mathematicians, to make his calculations exact and clearly written, to illustrate his method by examples. . . . There is nothing today more important and more worthy of the re¬ searches of the greatest mathematicians than methods of approxima¬ tion, without which all their work will be useless.20 Doubtless stung by this sharp reproof, Condorcet did his exercises well. In January and February 1764, he read a further paper on this same problem before the Academy of Sciences, in which he simplified and Teneralized an equation of the Swiss mathematician Euler.21 D’Alembert and Fontaine were able to report to the academy, on 14 March 1764, that “in our view, this paper of M. le marquis de Condorcet reveals much knowledge and insight into the infinitesimal calculus, and we regard it as worthy of publication in the collection of papers by nonmembers of the

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

7

academy.”22 In fact, the paper did not appear in the next volume of the academy’s Memoires des savants etrangers, probably because Condorcet had in the meantime published a more extensive work on the integral calculus. Appearing with the approbation of the Academy of Sciences in 1765 after d’Alembert and Bezout had submitted an enthusiastic report of “the elegance and profundity of the views implied in the methods used by the author, which are for the most part original to him”23 —the Calcul integral was considered of sufficient importance to merit a section in the annual Histoire de VAcademie des sciences for 1765, even though Condor¬ cet was not yet a member. Echoing the report of d’Alembert and Bezout, this first public account of Condorcet’s work concluded that “it reveals a knowledge of the calculus, and talents rarely found to such a degree at so early an age as his, which cannot be given too much encouragement.”24 In Lalande’s estimation, the publication of the Calcul integral placed Condorcet — at twenty-one years of age —among the ten foremost mathe¬ maticians in Europe.25 It also placed him at the heart of some of the most fundamental scientific questions of his day. In order to appreciate the significance of his decision to devote his mathematical attention to the crucial problems of the integral calculus, it is necessary to recall that while Newton may have employed his method of “fluxions” in his most difficult mathematical researches, he presented his discoveries in the Principia in geometric form. Barely effective as a means of expressing the Newtonian theories, however, these traditional geometric methods showed themselves totally inadequate for the research still necessary to develop and perfect his system of the world. Thus the first task of continental scientists in checking, verifying, and extending the Newtonian philosophy was to translate its obscure and outdated mathematics into the more effective calculus of his rival, Leibniz. Pope to the contrary, after Newton all was not light. While English scientists, reluctant to participate in developments based on a mathematical language they neither accepted nor under¬ stood, tended to excavate the rich experimental mine mapped out in the Opticks, it was left chiefly to continental scientists to explore the mathe¬ matical physics of the Principia-. translating its language, clarifying its problems, ironing out its obscurities, extending its theorems; in short, transposing what at first seemed merely the system of one great mind among others into the general and usable form of “normal science.”26 In this endeavor, the French school was preeminent. If England had the advantage of contributing the discovery of gravity, Laplace later insisted in the Exposition du systeme du monde, the development of this discovery was principally the result of the efforts of French scientists and of the prize essays proposed by the Paris Academy of Sciences.27 Condorcet’s life span corresponds almost exactly with the most active period of this process. In 1743 the year in which he was born, d’Alembert was able to refer to the Car¬ tesians as “a sect that is today very much weakened.”28 That same year his great mathematical rival, Clairaut, published the Theone de la figure de la terre. Perhaps no single work marks more clearly the transition in the reception of Newtonianism from the period of its initial introduction, discussion, and acceptance in France, to that of its development, amplifi-

8

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

cation, and codification on the basis of new research. Its appearance opened a period of intense competition to resolve the outstanding mathe¬ matical problems of the Newtonian world system so intense and so productive that fifteen years later (in 1758, the year in which Condorcet commenced his studies at the College of Navarre) d’Alembert could announce that the Cartesian sect “scarcely exists any more today.’’29 Before Condorcet had come of scientific age, then, the Newtonian battle was over. But the peacetime work of development and codification —to which Clairaut, d’Alembert, and Euler made important initial contributions, and which Laplace and Lagrange were to complete fifty years later —this had barely begun. As Condorcet later insisted in his mathematical articles for the Supplement to the Encyclopedic, the essential key to this task lay in the development and applications of the integral calculus. In the year 1686 Newton published his theory of the movement of the planets in elliptical orbits, and sketched the calculation of the per¬ turbations and variations that could be produced in these orbits by their nonsphericity. From that time until 1747, when MM. d’Alem¬ bert, Euler, and Clairaut found their analytical solutions of the three-body problem, knowledge of the system of the world made very little progress. Jean Bernoulli was concerned only to attack: he had no wish to be the disciple of Newton in philosophy, while he was his equal in mathematics. . . . Happily his successors have made up for that loss: the movement of the tides and of the satellites, the mutual action of the principal planets and the movement of the comets which approach them; the effects of the resistance of the ether on all bodies, the shape of the earth and the planets, the precession of the equinoxes, the nutation of the earth’s axis and the moon’s libration; the vibration of strings, the oscillation of the air to produce sound and the causes of the winds, have all been treated on new and more certain principles and by direct methods of integration by approxi¬ mation that are more exact and less subject to error. . . . Such is the immense work achieved and daily perfected through the integral calculus by the mathematicians who have succeeded Newton and restored to the continent of Europe, and especially to France, the superiority that Newton had bestowed upon England.30 Although his contributions are not now regarded as preeminent, Condorcet’s scientific work earned him a place at the center of this mathematical revolution, at its height in the twenty-five years that separated the first volume of the Encyclopedic from the Supplement. His Calcul integral was followed in 1766 by a study of the three-body problem, in 1768 by a more general essay on the applications of the integral calculus to Newtonian physics, in 1769 and succeeding years by mathematical papers published in the periodical collections of the academies of Paris and Turin. On the basis of this work, he achieved an established position in the international world of the great scientific academies, a position which is vividly reflected in the triangular correspondence that developed during these years between Condorcet, Lagrange, and d’Alembert.

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

9

It is not entirely clear from this correspondence when Condorcet first met d’Alembert, the mathematician and encyclopedist whose influence was to be of such importance not only in the development of his scientific interests but in the formation of his philosophical views and in his rapid advancement towards positions of power and influence. The traditional account, apparently launched by Lalande — that Condorcet concluded his scientific studies at the College of Navarre by publicly defending a brilliant mathematical thesis before Clairaut, Fontaine, and d’Alembert, the three foremost mathematicians of his day —has not so far been con¬ firmed by direct evidence.31 It may well be, then, that the young mathematician initially came to d’Alembert’s attention in a rather less favorable light at the time of his unfortunate first encounter with the Academy of Sciences in 1761; and it is possible that his improved performance in 1764 had at least something to do with the encouragement received in the meantime from that source. Certainly, d’Alembert was already exercising his role as Condorcet’s patron in 1765, when he announced to Lagrange that he would soon be receiving a copy of the Calcul integral—“an excellent work in my opinion, and one with which I think you will be very satisfied”32 —and it was probably he who also introduced Condorcet to Lagrange during 1763-64, when the latter’s visit to Paris was forcibly extended by illness. We have more positive indication of the extent of d’Alembert’s scientific influence on Condorcet during these early years in a brief paper, Le marquis de Condorcet a M. d’Alembert, sur le systeme du monde et sur le calcul integral (1768), which will be discussed more fully in a later chapter. This essay, Condorcet’s first statement of his scientific philosophy, is dominated by the formulations given to the problems of the world system by d’Alembert, resounding in d’Alembert’s praise and clearly written under his watchful eye. In one of the few letters from Condorcet to d’Alembert that have survived, the young mathemati¬ cian wrote as pupil to mentor to announce that his essay was about to appear, expressing his “infinite thanks for the trouble that you have been willing to take on this occasion,” claiming the indulgence of friendship for “the misuse that I have dared to make of time as precious as yours,” and trying out a new formula before promising another paper “on which I would be delighted to have your opinion before making any use of it.”33 In fact, d’Alembert’s evaluation of Condorcet’s early mathematical work was somewhat more enthusiastic than that of Lagrange, who qualified his general approval of the Calcul integral with criticism of a certain lack of detail in the development of some of its equations.34 Yet Lagrange was nevertheless sufficiently impressed by Condorcet’s abilities to enquire in 1768 whether the young mathematician’s turn had not yet come to fill a vacancy in the Academy of Sciences left by the death of the mathematician Camus; and d’Alembert was confident enough of the growing reputation of his protege —and perhaps of the power of his own influence within the academy —to reply that Condorcet would easily have been elected to the vacant place had he been officially resident in Paris and free from family objections to his candidacy.35 Despite these obstacles, Condorcet did not

10

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

have much longer to wait. Nominated on 25 February 1769 from among five candidates for the place of adjoint mecanicien left vacant by the promotion of Bezout, he received royal approval of his election to the academy on 8 March.36 D’Alembert was able to inform Lagrange in Berlin that the claims of professional science had finally obtained over the antiquated prejudices of aristocratic caste. You have perhaps already learned from the press that we have finally admitted M. de Condorcet, his family having acquiesced in placing no further obstacles in the way of his membership in the Academy, for many of our nobles regard the title and profession of scientist [le titre et metier de savant] as beneath the dignity of the nobility.37 D’Alembert’s phrase —“le titre et metier de savant” —is worth under¬ lining in this context, since the implications of the scientific role in eighteenth-century France will be a frequent theme of our discussion. To understand these implications, it is necessary to recognize that the academy to which Condorcet now found himself admitted was the most powerful and professional scientific institution in Europe. Unlike the Royal Society in England, incorporated by royal charter but organized as a private society, the Academy of Sciences had been developed as an institution of state with the scientific and technical needs of the state clearly and directly in mind. The differences in organization between the two leading scientific societies during the eighteenth century are clearly reflected in the contrast between their two periodical publications. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society —originally founded by its enterprising secretary, Henry Oldenburg, but not until 1752 the official organ and responsibility of the society and its council — remained a haphazard collection, for the most part containing letters and brief communications, often from the landed gentry of the provinces and on a wide variety of subjects. In essence, it was a journal for scientific amateurs. The strictly organized Histoire et Memoires of the Academy of Sciences, on the other hand, came prefaced (until 1786) with an analysis by the secretary of the year’s most important papers, and containing only professional communications from working scientists. Differences in orga¬ nization were also reflected in the scientific productivity of the two institutions. The Royal Society declined in prestige during the eighteenth century, as it became more and more the domain of amateurs within the established ruling class. On the other hand, the prestige of the increasingly specialized scientists of the Academy of Sciences mounted throughout the century, as the French model of the central scientific academy was imitated by absolutist rulers everywhere.38 It was the unique institutional characteristic of the Academy of Sciences that it was at one and the same time a privileged corporate body in a hierarchical society of orders and estates, a proto-bureaucratic government agency in the service of the crown, and a proto-professional scientific organization representative of the republic of science.39 The importance in its constitution of honorary academicians drawn from the church, nobility, and government; the public assemblies at Easter and Martinmas, executed

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

11

with the ceremony appropriate to such an elevated institution of the monarchy; the apartments at the Louvre provided for its meetings; the ceremonial celebration of the Mass: all of these aspects of the regular life of the academy illustrate its importance in the concert of glory surrounding the absolute monarchy. But this was only one facet of its existence. The Academy of Sciences was also an elevated civil service strictly organized in its pattern of recruitment and rewards, often called upon to investigate matters of importance to the royal administration. Residence requirements and legal privileges, reinforced by stipends for senior academicians and payment for attendance at meetings, were designed to induce scientists to regard their academic role as their primary occupation. By the fundamental regulations in terms of which the academy was reorganized in 1699, members were divided according to an internal hierarchy of rank depend¬ ing upon seniority and merit, and separated into sections according to scientific specialization.40 Claims to priority in the matter of discoveries were regulated by a system of sealed and dated envelopes deposited with the permanent secretary; and works published by members of the academy were subject to collective approval after examination by appointed com¬ mittees. As a result of this quasi-bureaucratic organization, the academy had fostered a strong sense of scientific professionalism by the end of the eighteenth century. “Professionalism” is a difficult word, all the more difficult in this context since sociologists have come to give the term “profession” an increasingly rigorous definition more applicable in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries than in the eighteenth.41 Since the present usage will flout that definition in some crucial respects, it is necessary to make clear the nature of the scientific professionalism that the Academy of Sciences was foster¬ ing. It will not be argued that academic science was fully professional in the way in which sociologists now use the term. The academy offered no formal pattern of training for research; it neither conferred nor required educational certification as the prerequisite for entry into the profession; it provided no regular paid careers in which scientific research was organized as a full-time occupation. All of these aspects of scientific professionalism belong to a later period in the development of the scientific role: the period in which scientific research became largely institutionalized in centers of higher education.42 The Academy of Sciences, on the other hand, was neither a university nor a professional guild: indeed, it is crucial for an understanding of its position in the old regime to recognize that it was established in clear contradistinction to such institutions. It had no formal teaching functions; it gave no courses; it granted no degrees. If it offered its junior members the opportunity to develop their talents through association with the more senior (these junior members were indeed originally called eleves), it was careful to avoid any notion of corporate induction into a closed craft. For the academicians, science was an open activity never to be restricted to a group of initiates; they recruited their fellow-members not on the principle of any formal criterion of eligibility but on the basis of demonstrated competence alone. Indeed, it was this idea of demonstrated competence, or expertise, that was the key to their

12

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

understanding of their role. The Academy of Sciences was, first and foremost, a body of experts. Academic science, then, was expert science. But how did the expert academician differ from the gifted amateur? There were perhaps three essential differences that can be suggested here. The academician was different, first, in the sense that he had a social and legal status in the old regime —and, to some extent, an income —that derived from recognition of his scientific achievements. Income was not the crucial factor, though one should not underestimate the extent to which particular academicians such as d’Alembert and Condorcet depended upon their academic sti¬ pends.43 Nor was the pattern of work critical. The academicians did not work collectively; nor did they conduct their individual work differently, or necessarily allot it more time, than could a gifted and enthusiastic amateur. Often, indeed, they claimed that their responsibilities as mem¬ bers of the academy interfered with their scientific research.44 What was crucial, howevef, was the social and legal status that membership of the academy conferred as recognition and reward for outstanding scientific achievement. This recognition — and here lies the second difference between the academician and the amateur— rested upon the collective judgment of the academy as a whole. None of the corporate rights of the Academy of Sciences was more jealously guarded than that of its members to determine the eligibility of candidates for admission. No aspect of the academician’s role was more important than the conviction that the exercise of that role must depend upon expert evaluation of scientific achievement, rather than upon any individual influence or royal favoritism.45 Finally, and perhaps most important in the developing sense of professionalism among aca¬ demic scientists, the academician exercised a public function as servant of the crown. It was his function in the Academy of Sciences, and its committees, to examine machines and inventions submitted to the govern¬ ment for patent rights. It was his function —and it became an increasingly important one in the last decades of the old regime —to supply the technical information necessary for the formulation and application of government policies. It was his function to evaluate scientific works submitted to the academy for official approbation, exercising the responsi¬ bility for the distinction between science and nonsense that was deemed essential for public enlightenment and social order. As we shall see, many influences combined to turn Condorcet’s mathematical interests from natural philosophy to social science. Of these, the official social responsi¬ bilities of the Academy of Sciences in the old regime were not the least important. Thus when Condorcet was admitted to the Academy of Sciences in 1769, he was embracing “an honorable estate and almost a public function” at the heart of the old regime.46 Such an estate was not without its ambigui¬ ties, as d’Alembert made clear in his influential Essaisur la societe des gens de lettres et des grands, sur la reputation, sur les Mecenes, et sur les recompenses litteraires, first published in 1753. To understand these ambiguities —and to appreciate the logic that led the young mathemati-

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

13

cian who became his disciple from an academic career to a social role as a philosophe — it will be useful to investigate briefly the argument of d'Alembert’s work, which Condorcet later credited with no small share of the responsibility for the changed public role of the intellectuals in mid-eighteenth century France.47 It is immediately clear from its title that the Essai sur la societe des gens de lettres et des grands is concerned not with the social role of scientists alone but with that of "men of letters” or "savants” more generally. This does not mean that d’Alembert made no distinction between the scientific intellectual and other “men of letters,” for he constantly distinguished the exact sciences from other intellectual pursuits in his Essai and continuously held up the more highly developed norms of the former as a model for the latter. This, indeed, was one of his major purposes: for d’Alembert, as for Fontenelle before him, the scientific intellectual was the model intellec¬ tual; the community of science the model for the republic of letters more generally.48 What it does mean, however, is that he regarded the scientist as occupying a common social position with other intellectuals, a position in fact involving considerable dissonance with existing society. In other words, d’Alembert placed scientists in the common reforming stance developed for the intellectuals in the Encyclopedic, upon which his essay is in effect an extended commentary. D’Alembert began the Essai sur la societe des gens de lettres et des grands with a brief historical introduction, in some ways paralleling that of the preliminary discourse to the Encyclopedic. Fostered by kings for the close connection between public culture and social order —for it was an essential tactic of the philosophes to insist that public dissension was the work of fanaticism, to be soothed only by the healing breath of enlighten¬ ment—the germs of knowledge grew with the benevolent increase of royal power until they burst into full vigor under the rule of Louis XIV. As the esteem of the Sun King for knowledge gradually conquered the traditional predilection of the nobility for ignorance, intellectuals found themselves fasionable among "the great,” whom d’Alembert defined as all those who by birth, personal resourcefulness, or wealth enjoyed a considerable position within society. "Snatched from their solitude, men of letters were swept up in a new social whirl in which they frequently found themselves out of place.”49 It was this experience as a fashionable man of letters, d’Alembert insisted, that had prompted him to consider more fully the social role of the intellectual: a role which he described as the most difficult in the world after that of the clergy, “one of these two estates vacillating constantly between hypocrisy and scandal, the other between pride and grovelling.”50 At the heart of d’Alembert’s concern, then, was the need to define the position of the man of letters in the social order of the old regime, transformed as it had been by Louis XIV s centralization of cultural patronage in a system of great academies. T he cure for the pride and grovelling with which men of letters were by turns afflicted lay in their conscious acceptance of the independent public role their new institutional position offered them. No longer clients or courtiers, d’Alembert insisted,

14

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

men of letters must exercise their public responsibility to “legislate for the rest of the nation in matters of philosophy and taste.”51 To perform this role, they must above all be independent. D’Alembert’s first concern was therefore to stress the autonomy of true intellectual activity, as contrasted with the slavishness of seeking to satisfy the desire for glory by winning the approval of those with prestige outside the intellectual community. This temptation to court the approval of the great, he argued, was strongest where the internal norms of the discipline were weakest: in literature, for example, as opposed to the stricter discipline of the mathematicians.52 The natural corollary of this argument was to contrast the empty flattery of nonprofessionals with the true meaning and value of professional recogni¬ tion within the community of men of letters; and to claim for members of that community an independent position within society that would secure the benefits of the free exchange of professional recognition among them by emancipating them from dependence upon the great. In order for the intellectual community to function effectively, however, certain internal norms and external conditions were also necessary. “LIBERTY, TRUTH, POVERTY (for if one fears the last, one is very far from the others), these are three words that men of letters must have constantly before their eyes, as kings the word POSTERITY. '53 Externally, this liberty meant freedom of the press, freedom from the attempts of would-be protectors to direct the work of men of letters, and the independence of intellectual institutions from outside interference. Inter¬ nally, it meant freedom to make judgments of a professional nature on the basis of no other criterion than that of the value of individual contributions to knowledge. “Anarchy, which destroys states,” d’Alembert insisted, “on the contrary supports and maintains the republic of letters.”54 Together with this requirement of liberty, commitment to knowledge also involved a strong bias towards equality: not as a goal in itself, but because only initial equality between men of knowledge —a willingness to dissociate a man’s personal characteristics from the evaluation of his work —could make possible their ranking and reward in terms of a hierarchy of merit based on their contribution to truth. Finally there came the acceptance of poverty. While the man of letters is not obliged to be poor, d’Alembert maintained, he must nevertheless have no fear of poverty and no passion for wealth.For neither of these passions can be legitimately relieved without appealing beyond the intellectual community to the unprofessional world outside. On all three of these cardinal points, d’Alembert found a clear contradiction between the norms of the intellectual community and those of the society of the old regime. But the most profound dissonance between his conception of the role of the man of knowledge and that of the society in which he found himself appears in his discussion of the relationship between equality and merit. All men, d’Alembert argued, are equal by natural right, that is, by their equal need of the society of their fellows. This natural equality gives way in society to a conventional inequality, which derives from the necessary division of labor among the different ranks of society. Three principal characteristics distinguish men in society: birth, wealth, and talent, of which only the latter is in effect a true or

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

15

natural difference among men. Why then, d’Alembert demanded, if talent is the only true source of distinction among men, does it rank far behind birth and wealth in terms of external consideration? Bizarre and unjust as it is, he replied, there are perhaps reasons for this. If men cannot be equal, it is better that inequality be based on advantages that cannot be disputed or denied by the common run of men. And since it is much easier to decide the status of titles and incomes than to evaluate merit correctly, “it was therefore accepted that birth and fortune would be the most palpable criteria of inequality among men, for the same reason that collective decisions are made by a majority vote, although the opinion of the majority is often not the best one.”55 It follows, then, that the man of knowledge, conscious that his position in the natural hierarchy of merit is freely accorded by his fellows, finds his own evaluation of his role constantly at odds with the prevailing values of a society that attributes more importance to the factitious qualities of birth and wealth. In rendering to birth and wealth the obligations that society imposes upon him, the wise man is in a sense niggardly with these duties; he limits them to external forms, for the philosopher deals carefully with the prejudices of his nation without burning incense to them, and he salutes the idols of the people when necessary without seeking to do so of his own accord. What if he finds himself in the very rare situation, which powerful and laudable reasons sometimes make necessary—in which he is obliged to pay his court? Secure in his tal¬ ents and his virtue, he laughs without anger and without contempt at the role that he is then obliged to play. . . . Above all, the sage never forgets that if there is an external homage that talent owes to title, there is another and more real respect that title owes to talent.56 For d’Alembert, therefore, there was clearly a profound dissonance between the values of the intellectual (particularly the scientific intellec¬ tual) and those of eighteenth-century French society at large. How then was the man of knowledge to react? He was to withdraw from the humiliating posture he had assumed before the great, acknowledging that the true values of his profession are to be found in the independent functioning of the intellectual community. He was to realize that the idea of a philosopher-king is a myth, that the true philosopher flees the court, where he either forgets his profession or finds himself constantly out of place. But this acceptance of a professional role within an independent community of men of letters was by no means a passive one in d’Alembert’s view. That community was still far from independent and its professional norms were far from being fully institutionalized in the academies which had fostered its growth. It was necessary, then, to close this gap between professional norms and institutional practice, which d’Alembert bitterly denounced in the passages of his Essai describing “the spirit of despotism” that prevailed in some of the academies of Europe.57 He made an important but unsuccessful attempt to achieve this aim in the Academy of Sciences in 1769 (the year in which Condorcet entered the academy) when he presented a project of reform that would give the academicians greater equality, especially in decisions affecting their immediate scientific con-

16

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

cerns. Despite the failure of this scheme, d’Alembert remained an academic reformer: a statesman of organized science to whom Lagrange appealed (unsuccessfully) from Berlin “as the only person who can re-establish [our academy] on a sound basis and serve the sciences and those who cultivate them at the same time.”58 To close the gap between intellectual norms and institutional practice, however, it was also necessary to narrow that between intellectual values and those of existing society by exercising the independent function of the man of letters: that of criticism and definition. If science required freedom of the press at a time when the power to control the censorship was at the heart of the political and institutional struggles of eighteenth-century France; if science required academic reform at a time when the academies were closely bound to the hierarchical structure of the old regime; if science valued a hierarchy of merit profoundly at odds with the existing social structure; then to accept the norms of the scientific profession as d’Alembert defined them was at the same time to adopt an orientation toward social reform. The reforming stance developed for men of letters in the Encyclopedic was an essential concomitant of the definition of the intellectual’s role elaborated by d’Alembert in the Essai sur la societe des gens de lettres et des grands. Such was the conception of the role of the scientific intellectual that Condorcet found propounded by his most influential scientific mentor. It would be ridiculous to argue that it was common to all scientists in eighteenth-century France or that it was a necessary consequence of a scientific profession in eighteenth-century conditions. In itself, d’Alem¬ bert’s Essai constitutes a bitter indictment of the intellectuals willing to betray their profession for social aggrandizement. Many scientists found no immutable logic leading them from the academy to the social arena, un¬ less it was to defend the privileges of the academician in a hierarchical social order. Many doubtless found no friction within the academy that could not be resolved on a personal level by renewed application to work. Yet it is clear that to the extent that Condorcet embraced d’Alembert’s conception of the scientific role, the young aristocrat at the same time embraced an implicitly reforming stance. Under d’Alembert's guidance the new academician was rapidly transformed into a philosophe. To understand the nature and implications of that transformation, we must move across Paris from the Academy of Sciences to a salon on the rue de Belle Chasse. The Salon on the rue de Belle Chasse While d’Alembert was introducing his young protege into the world of the great scientific academies, he was also initiating him into the very different social world of the salons. Here the education of the young mathematician in the social graces was largely entrusted by the philosophe to Julie de Lespinasse, “sister Lespinasse,” as Grimm not very tenderly called her. Like d'Alembert a bastard, victim of a society in which aristocratic morals were perpetually at odds with the laws of inheritance, Julie de Lespinasse had been acquired by Mme du Deffand as a companion in 1754 and brought to decorate her salon in the convent of Saint Joseph. She broke with this

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

17

protectress ten years later, when it was discovered that she was entertaining Mme du Deffand’s choicest guests at a “pre-salon” of her own while the old lady slept. Established by her friends in a house at the corner of the rue Saint Dominique and the rue de Belle Chasse (where she was joined in 1765 by the infatuated d Alembert, who moved in more as nursemaid than as lover), she there opened the salon that was to be the center of Condorcet’s social universe until her death in 1776.59 Since the "muse of the Encyclopedic” was too poor to stand the cost of a fashionable dinner, her circle met daily from five until nine in the evening. There the admirers from the “pre-salon” —d’Alembert, Chastellux, Marmontel, and Turgot when he could get away from Limoges —were soon joined as assiduous guests by such men of letters as Morellet, SaintLambert, Watelet, La Harpe, Suard, and the abbe Arnaud; by those enlightened pillars of the church Lomenie de Brienne, archbishop of Toulouse, and Boisgelin, archbishop of Aix; by liberal magistrates like president Henault and Malesherbes, and grands seigneurs such as the comte de Crillon, the due de la Rochefoucauld and his mother, the duchesse d’Enville, all friends and allies of the philosophes. Somewhat less frequently came a wider group: Diderot, Grimm, Holbach, Condillac, Duclos, Gaillard, Thomas, Chamfort, Gretry, Raynal, Damilaville, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, the comte d’Anlezy and the comte de Schomberg, as well as distinguished foreigners such as the abbe Galiani (most ac¬ complished of antiphysiocratic writers), the marquis Caraccioli, the baron de Gleichen and, greatest catch of all, David Hume. In this gathering —less frivolous than that of Mme du Deffand, now deserted by the leading men of letters; less timorous than that of Mme Geoffrin, where Grimm quipped that every subject was taboo; less radical in its prevailing views than that of Holbach, where Hume’s denial of the existence of true atheists was simply and surely refuted around the dinner table—Julie de Lespinasse orchestrated the conversation of her guests as only the most accomplished hostess could. “She had discovered them here and there in the world,” Marmontel recalled, “but so well assorted that they there found themselves in harmony, as the strings of an instrument tuned by a skillful hand. Extending the comparison, I could say that she played this instrument with an art that amounted to genius. She seemed to know exactly the sound that would come forth from the string that she was about to touch: our minds and our characters were so well known to her that she had only to say a word to bring them into play. Nowhere was conversation more lively, more brilliant, or better regulated than in her salon. . . . And remember that the minds that she played off to her pleasure were neither feeble nor frivolous: figures like Condillac and Turgot were among them; in her company, d’Alembert was as simple and docile as a child. ”60 “There was nothing apparently beyond her compass,” wrote Grimm, “nothing that did not seem to please her and that she did not make agreeable to others. Politics, religion, philosophy, stories, news: nothing was excluded from her conversation. Thanks to her talents, the most trivial anecdote found the place and the attention it deserved, in the most natural way in the world.”61 To appreciate the situation of the salon of Mile de Lespinasse in the

18

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

economy of enlightened ideas —and the importance it played in Condorcet’s orientation as a philosophe —it must be recognized that by the late 1760s the reforming movement in France was made up of at least four distinct though often overlapping groups. Taken together, the first two of these groups comprised the important men of letters of the philosophe movement as usually defined, now seriously divided on matters of tactics and doctrine between the more radical wing of Diderot and Holbach and the moderates led by d’Alembert under the aegis of Voltaire.62 Closely related to this latter group in friendship, reforming interests, and some of the institutions through which they worked, was a third group of enlight¬ ened and reforming administrators who had been in the habit of meeting at the house of Vincent de Gournay until his death in 1759 and now tended to congregate in that of Trudaine de Montigny.63 Although they welcomed the cooperation of such publicists as Morellet, the most prominent among this group, men like Turgot and Trudaine de Montigny, came from dynasties with a tradition of public service and an exalted conception of administrative office. Established in power, imbued with the ethic of public service, conscious of their responsibilities as an enlightened adminis¬ trative elite, avid to introduce scientific and reforming principles into the administration, these men were natural targets for the propaganda not only of the philosophes but of the fourth major group within the reforming constellation of the 1760s: the Physiocrats, who began meeting in Quesnay’s rooms on a regular basis after 1757 and managed to attract the interest of a number of the followers of Gournay after his death. Although they shared many of the basic assumptions of the reforming adminis¬ trators—the same elitist attitude to government responsibility, the same ideal of rational and scientific administration — the physiocrats differed from them in position, doctrine, and experience. With the principal exception of Le Mercier de la Riviere, former intendant of Martinique, they were without direct administrative experience. The complex figure of the marquis de Mirabeau defies brief description, but he remained a literary frondeur very different in temperament from the public officials he sought to influence; Quesnay’s position as court doctor gave him greater hope (and impression) of influencing affairs than consistent power to do so; Baudeau, Dupont, and Le Trosne were recruited as propagandists. Thus it was as a theoretical pressure-group —more dogmatic in embracing the principles outlined by Quesnay; more doctrinaire in its approach to the problems of administration —that the physiocrats wooed and influ¬ enced the reforming officials.64 While all these groups were represented, to a greater or lesser extent, in the salon on the rue de Belle Chasse, it was naturally dominated by members of the Voltaire-d’Alembert party. Indeed, for the ten years of its existence, the salon of Mile de Lespinasse became the unofficial campaign headquarters for the execution of d’Alembert’s reforming strategy, in which Condorcet was to become intimately involved. To understand the nature of this strategy and the extent to which it differed from and interacted with that of other reforming groups, it is necessary to refer briefly to the stormy political history of the Encyclopedic, which had by the

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

19

1760s become the touchstone by which the different groups within the reforming movement defined themselves. The Encyclopedists conceived of their task, and defined their public role, primarily as men of letters. No matter where they directed their atten¬ tion, Jacques Proust has reminded us, their work bore witness to the fact that in eighteenth-century France ideas, words, and things had ceased to correspond. In politics as in philosophy, in the sciences as in the mechanical arts, the philosophes were constantly insisting that men speak without understanding the terms they use, they quarrel over words, they deal lin¬ guistically in a debased currency. “We are constantly finding that the ex¬ pressions we least understand are also the ones that we use most frequently,” Diderot argued.65 In part, this insistence reflected the philosophes’ concern with the theory of language. Negatively, it was their chief critical weapon against the “spirit of system,” which substituted words for things and the unintelligible jargon of the schools for philosophical definition. Positively, it was the epistemological key to their own particular fusion of Cartesianism and English empiricism. But the concern of the philosophes with the theory of language also reflected the more profound problem of a society in structural disarray and their developing conception of the public role of the man of letters within such a society. For there can be few more basic indications of social dislocation than this reiterated complaint of the dis¬ cordance between words and things: this admission that the accepted value of words, and the accepted words of value, no longer correspond to the social realities which it is their function to integrate. The example that Diderot gave in his definition of the encyclopedic task is in this context extremely suggestive. “Without in any way abusing the common acceptation of the term, we say of an infinite number of articles of all kinds that they are luxuries,” he argued in the article “Encyclope¬ dic.” But what is this luxury that we so infallibly attribute to so many ob¬ jects? This question can only be answered with any accuracy on the basis of discussion among those who show the most discrimination in their use of the term luxury: a discussion which has yet to take place, and which even they may be incapable of bringing to a satisfactory conclusion.66 Few words had a deeper social resonance or more widely spanned the spectrum of political and social problems facing eighteenth-century France than the term luxury. The authenticity of the Christian virtues and the privileged role of the church charged to enforce them; the validity of the military vocation of the nobility and the concomitant privileges of an aristocracy which seemed to many to be losing itself in conspicuous consumption or mindless reaction; the organization of trade and the contribution of the commercial classes to society; the state of agriculture and the condition of the peasantry: at all points the debate over luxury merged with a larger and more fundamental debate over the nature and values of traditional society. And it was in terms of this debate, which reached crisis proportions as a result of the protracted constitutional

20

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

conflict of the 1750s and 1760s, that the philosophes came to define their role. The fabric of French absolutism had been achieved, in effect, by a series of accommodations between the crown and the separate constituted bodies within a traditional, corporate society. As a result, its politics had retained a character that may be described as still “semiprivate” rather than fully “public”: semiprivate, in the sense that government dealt with the various social bodies as individual entities within corporate society, and governed by reaching (or imposing) separate accommodations in each case; rather than fully public, in the sense that acceptable and legitimate political decisions were taken in the interests and on behalf of a citizen body as a political whole, and held to apply to individuals as members of that citizen body without differentiation of rank or estate. By the mid-eighteenth century, however, this traditional pattern of politics was already breaking down as French absolutism reached the limits to which it could mobilize the resources of society without a profound transformation of its tradi¬ tional fabric. Forced by military and administrative needs to demand changes in the structure of taxation that threatened the very privileges defining traditional society, the government of Louis XV found itself un¬ able to achieve a political accommodation and powerless to impose one in the face of a counteroffensive which came to include not only fiscal matters but those of religion, administration, and police generally. In such a situation, when neither side of the traditional political equation —the crown, on the one hand, negotiating with the traditional parts and portions of the kingdom on the other —was able to impose its will, politics broke out of the narrow circle of traditional politics and became a matter of public interest in several senses. It became public, first, in the sense that this political conflict (like every political conflict) raised the issue of the exact nature of the res publica: in this case, the nature of the relationship of the corporate interests involved to that of society as a whole. It became public, second, in the sense that the conflict took place before an educated audience denied active participation in politics but by no means indifferent to the issues involved. In many ways, this was no new phenomenon: pamphlet literature that appealed beyond the narrow circle of the immediate political actors was a common feature of crises in the traditional body politic. What was new in the 1750s and 1760s was the existence outside the traditional political system of a group that claimed as its independent public function the power to define the language of this political debate. For who was to lay down the terms of a political discussion which raised fundamental questions concerning the nature of man in society, if not the men of letters whose professional function it was (in the words of d’Alembert) to “fix the use of language” and to “legislate for the rest of the nation in matters of philosophy and taste”?67 And what more fitting place to lay down these terms than in an encyclopedic dictionary: a public instrument of definition in which (as Diderot insisted) “everything must be scrutinized, everything examined, without exception and without evasion.”68 Just as the Encyclopedists regarded it as their function to go into the

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

21

workshops, observe artisans at their benches, and arrive at clear and precise definitions that would advance technology by forming what Diderot called “a grammar of the [mechanical] arts,”69 so by implication was it their function to arrive at a grammar of the public good. In order to perform this work of definition — as d’Alembert insisted in his Essai sur la societe des gem de lettres et des grands and Diderot emphasized in his article “Encyclopedic” — the man of letters had to be free and indepen¬ dent: independent of the craftsmen and artisans who, by keeping their technological secrets hidden, threatened to deprive the mechanical arts of the benefits of public discussion; independent of political powers whose patronage could only divert the work from its true purpose. A dictionary is not made to order, insisted Diderot in a celebrated phrase. “A monarch may, by a single word, cause a palace to spring up from the grass; but a society of men of letters is not the same thing as a gang of navvies.”70 The Encyclopedic was to be the work of a free, independent, and essentially self-recruiting association— scientists, doctors, economists, administrators, those with a knowledge of trade and industry, men of letters —men united not on the basis of their social position or membership in academies hampered by official patronage, but by their intellectual expertise alone. It was this new awareness of their independent public role as word technicians, their power as professional men of letters or as experts who had mastered the language of particular scientific disciplines, that gave this group their homogeneity as Encyclopedists. It was in their self-definition as publicists, whatever their social position, that they discovered that dedoublement de la personnalite recently described by Proust in his important study.71 The Encyclopedists were soon to find, however, that if all politics is a matter of definition, then the work of definition is itself very much a political act. As successive volumes were caught in the crossfire between crown, parlement, and church that resulted in the official suppression of the enterprise in 1759, it became clear that this definition of the independent public role of the intellectuals was still politically premature. Harrassed in the exercise of their role as Encyclopedists, as originally conceived, members of the reforming movement began to reassess their positions and their respective strategies. Having developed his theories in several articles in the Encyclopedie, Quesnay founded the physiocratic group with Mirabeau in 1757, dissociating it from the irreligious views the Encyclopedie had been censured for and focusing on the aim of winning administrative recruits from a less exposed position. Turgot, too, having completed articles on “Foires et Marches,” “Fondations,” “Etymologie,” “Existence,” and “Expansibilite” (a fair indication of the breadth of his interests), abandoned further contributions on metaphysics and socioadministrative problems rather than jeopardize his administrative chances of doing good for the sake of a publication drifting ever further from his own religious ideas. But the most notable instance of this enforced reassessment —and the one which most damaged the whole Encyclopedic enterprise —was that of d’Alembert, who abandoned his editorial responsi¬ bilities in the wake of the outcry over his article on Geneva, although he

22

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

was later prevailed upon to complete his mathematical contributions. Followed in this defection by Voltaire, the two were soon debating the fundamental questions raised by the suppression of the Encyclopedic: the direction now to be taken by the reforming movement and the political tactics to be employed.72 Voltaire favored a return to the more traditional position for the man of letters —that of seeking the patronage of those in power —while at the same time launching polemical undercover attacks on I’inf&me. In effect, this position had already been rejected by d’Alembert in the Eissai sur la societe des gens de lettres et des grands, which he now published in a revised edition in 1759. Consistent with the argument of this earlier work, d’Alembert looked to a more cautious approach that would substitute an institutional locus for the more exposed commercial vehicle of the Encyclopedic, aiming at long-term investment in the philosophe cause rather than the more risky immediate gains of polemical attack, while at the same time preserving a policy of professional independence towards those in power. His task was therefore to infiltrate and recruit support within the enemy camp, by capturing and using the existing academies. “It is necessary, my good master, that each of us serve the good cause according to what little means he has,” he wrote to Voltaire in 1763, announcing the first major success of this policy, the election of Marmontel to the French Academy. “You serve it with your pen, and I—who wouldn’t be left with so much as a pen in my hand, if I did as much —I am trying to win partisans in enemy territory. These partisans must never be compromised, nor will they be; but they will receive from me and all my friends, and they must also receive from you, the tribute of gratitude owed them by all thinking beings.”73 The stages by which d’Alembert gradually won Voltaire over to his policy and assumed the leadership of this branch of the philosophe party have been very well described in a recent study.74 Though d’Alembert allowed himself a frontal attack on the Jesuits at a time when the attitude of the parlements seemed to make direct tactics on this front less dangerous, the repercussions of this pamphlet only served to confirm the validity of his more cautious position. The retaliatory action of the court party in threatening his pension at the Academy of Sciences in 1765 showed the power of the opposition, while the public support he received until the pension was finally granted vindicated his policy of working through the academies. From Voltaire’s point of view, two factors were of particular importance in his eventual capitulation to d’Alembert’s lead: the extent of the antiphilosophe reaction that followed the La Barre case and the increasingly radical position of the Diderot-Holbach group in the later 1760s. This latter group reacted to the persecution of the Encyclo¬ pedic with literary guerilla tactics for the propagation of atheism (which they saw as the only foundation for a secular political ethic) and the denunciation of kings as the allies or the dupes of priests. As such, their campaign, opened in earnest with the clandestine publication of Le christianisme devoile in 1766, used Voltaire’s own literary tactics to undercut his more moderate politico-religious beliefs, while at the same

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

23

time threatening the success of d’Alembert’s policy of infiltration with the prospect of a renewed witch-hunt. When the rift between the two groups became unbridgeable with the publication of the Systeme de la nature in 1770, Voltaire capitulated completely to d’Alembert’s policy and leader¬ ship, accepting his strategy of capturing the academies for the philosophe cause. D'Alembert was far from neglecting the Academy of Sciences in this strategy of infiltrating the academic establishment. He nevertheless re¬ garded the French Academy as its more central, more prestigious, and more vulnerable target. Gradually, then, as his tactics unfolded, the salon of Mile de Lespinasse came to operate as a kind of antechamber to the French Academy, a base from which the philosophes picked likely candidates and attempted to influence elections. Between 1767 and 1770, d'Alembert’s party captured each of the four places that became vacant, securing them for Thomas in 1767, Condillac in 1768, Saint-Lambert and Lomenie de Brienne in 1770. Then came the counteroffensive. The combined forces of the court and clerical groups quashed the double election of Delille and Suard and threatened d’Alembert’s own election as permanent secretary. Once confirmed in this position, however, d’Alem¬ bert used his additional influence to secure the reelection of Delille and Suard in 1774, and the election of Malesherbes in 1775, Boisgelin and the unfaithful La Harpe in 1776. By the time of the death of Mile de Lespinasse in May 1776, this policy had been so successful that d’Alembert could name only one other candidate worthy to enter the French Aca¬ demy: his disciple Condorcet, now trained for leadership of the Voltaired’Alembert group. Delayed by the hostility of Maurepas, Condorcet’s election was only secured in 1782, after a bitterly disputed and closely fought battle that brought d’Alembert a victory which delighted him more fully (so he claimed) than if he had discovered a method of squaring the circle.75 When Condorcet was elected to the French Academy, the memory of the salon on the rue de Belle Chasse was already six years old. But the meaning of that election, and the sensibility he brought to it, had been shaped in the seven vital years during which the salon of Mile de Lespinasse formed the center of his social existence. It was during these years that le bon Condorcet emerged as the great hope of the reforming cause. “Le bon Condorcet”: in Search of the Philosophes Role

The young mathematician whom d’Alembert introduced to the salon on the rue de Belle Chasse in 1769 was awkward, shy, and introverted. Since the first qualification of the philosophe was to be at home in the world, the initial concern of “sister Lespinasse” was to repair the defects of Jesuit education by schooling the new recruit in the social graces. In tender letters which she dictated to d’Alembert from her sickbed during 1769, Condorcet was admonished to leave off biting his nails and gnawing his lips in company; to refrain from folding himself in two while talking, like a priest before the altar (this was d’Alembert’s contribution); to keep his ears free of chalk and his hair cut less close to his head; to leaven the madness of his long days of study with some cultivation of the science of love.76 In

24

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

fact, this branch of the young mathematician’s education seems to have had relatively little effect: he remained painfully ill at ease in the company of all but a small circle of very close friends; and as for the gentle arts of love, he made such a fool of himself in 1771 that Mile de Lespinasse was forced to expostulate that in matters of experience he was still as naive as the day he left the college.1'’ Yet despite these social inadequacies, or perhaps because of them, Condorcet was treasured by the small circle of intimate friends whom he found in the salon on the rue de Belle Chasse. To these friends —d’Alembert and Julie de Lespinasse; Turgot, whose long absences in Limoges were repaired by an epistolary communion upon which Condorcet came increasingly to depend; the gentle Suard and his wife Amelie, in whose philosophical household he was to live for two intimate years before moving to the Hotel des monnaies at the end of 1774 —to these friends the young mathematician gradually revealed a passion for humanity that was the essential characteristic of the philosophe, an unselfish devotion to the public good which earned him the title le bon Condorcet, and an unrelenting rage in pursuit of this goal that threatened to rob him of his sobriquet almost as soon as he had earned it. The portrait of le bon Condorcet, “one of the most original and most extraordinary products of nature,”78 has been skillfully drawn by the two women who knew him most intimately during this period. The unfortunate Mile de Lespinasse sketched a well-known portrait in 1775, shortly before she succumbed to an illness even more consuming than her successive passions. Mme Suard, more robust but no less afflicted with sensibilite, lived to lament the part played by Condorcet during the French Revolution and to reflect upon his tragic flaw. Her annotations of her correspondence with the philosophe give considerable insight into his complex, introverted, and passionate nature.79 In spite of the gulf of time and temper that separates them, these portraits of Condorcet agree in the most crucial respects. For both, the man was a study in contrasts: the “snow-capped volcano,” the “enraged lamb,” whose lightning ambivalences his friends were constantly trying to compass in a single, potent phrase. For both women, he remained ultimately an enigma. “The appearance of M. de Condorcet announces the most distinctive and most absolute quality of his soul, its goodness,” wrote Mile de Lespinasse. “His physiognomy is sweet and calm; simplicity and negligence mark his bearing. . . . He has received from nature the loftiest mind, the most considerable talent and the fairest of souls; his talent would have been enough to make him famous, his mind to make him sought after; but his soul wins him the friendship of all who come to know him at all well.”80 Evaluation of Condorcet’s mathematical talent Mile de Lespinasse left to more instructed heads. The attributes of his mind she felt competent to compare to the Divine: infinite and all-embracing, if not omnipresent; profound yet simple; exact yet free; with the facility and grace of a Voltaire, the humor of a Fontenelle, the absurdity of a Pascal, the profundity and perspicacity of a Newton. Converse with him, read what he has written; talk to him of philoso¬ phy, belles-lettres, science, the arts, government, jurisprudence, and

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

25

when you have heard him, you will tell yourself a hundred times a day that this is the most astonishing man you have ever heard; he is ignorant of nothing, not even the things most alien to his tastes and occupations: he will know the formulae of the Palais [de Justice] and the genealogies of the courtiers, the details of the police and the names of the hats in fashion; in fact, nothing is beneath his attention and his memory is so prodigious that he has never forgotten any¬ thing.81 Converse with him, but how? For this paragon among encyclopedic minds was far from the model sociability of the philosophe. “He doesn’t converse in society; he speaks sometimes, but infrequently, and says nothing more than is necessary... he almost always seems distracted or profoundly occupied. But the extraordinary thing is that nothing escapes him; he has seen everything, heard everything, and he has the surest and most wide-ranging ability to seize upon the ridiculous and discern all the nuances of vanity; he even has a sort of maliciousness in depicting them, which is in striking contrast with that air of goodness which never abandons him.”82 That air of goodness, that universal goodness the description of which drove Mile de Lespinasse to a veritable typology of goodnesses, was constantly shadowed by a certain malicious turn of mind. The good Condorcet, as Julie de Lespinasse remarked, could be as malevolent as the Pascal of the Provincial Letters,83 Mme Suard also dwelt on the contrast. “Between the malice of his mind and the goodness of his heart, there was a contrast that I always found singularly striking,” she recalled, remem¬ bering the bitter fury with which Condorcet had defended the economic reforms of Turgot by dismantling the book of her friend and protector, Necker. “His intolerance in matters of political opinion was incredible.”84 There was yet another ambivalence behind that calm and universal air of goodness. Le bon Condorcet was profoundly afflicted with sensibilite. “He is unhappy in the unhappiness of his friends, he suffers their ills, and this is so true that his rest and his health are often impaired,” wrotejulie de Lespinasse: “he loves much and there are many objects of his love. This is not merely a feeling of interest and benevolence that he has for a few people; it is a profound sentiment, a sentiment to which he will make sacrifices, a sentiment which fills his soul and occupies his life, a sentiment which at every instant satisfies the heart of those of his friends who live with him.”85 He loves much, commented Mile de Lespinasse. He loved too much, Mme Suard might almost have added. Stricken with love, as his friends saw him in 1771 and 1772, Condorcet was deranged. Perhaps not accidentally, the object of his passion —Mme de Meulun, wife of a receiver-general of finances in the generality of Paris — showed little capacity and less disposition to play Julie to the academician’s Saint-Preux in the manner of Rousseau’s novel. Offered civility rather than rapture, a parlor game rather than all-consuming fire, Condorcet was free to minister to his own passion. Convulsions and faintings were his most welcome sacraments; the very idea of love his Paraclete. “It was necessary that he be covered with all his virtues,” recalled Mme Suard, architect of an all too

26

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

philosophical marriage, “for the excesses of his feebleness not to debase him in [his friends’] sight.”86 Anxiously, his friends encouraged him to exorcise this passion by embracing his mathematical vocation.“There is a sort of feebleness which sullies the soul in attaching one’s happiness to an object that will be nothing to you unless you reconcile yourself to simple friendship,” wrote Mile de Lespinasse. “Yes, go home, work on your mathematics.”87 Unable in the world of love to translate pure passion into the polite performances of society, the divine idea into human reality, Condorcet was desolate. Tout le consume et Vamour seul Vemploie, Julie de Lespinasse had exhorted the young mathematician in 1769, quoting Voltaire’s bon mot on the uses of time, in an effort to temper his geometrizing zeal.88 Now Condorcet found that his mathematics could fill his time but could not fulfill the passion of his soul. “You are very fortunate to combine the passion for the public good with the position to achieve it,” he lamented to Turgot at the end of May 1772. “You have something to fill your soul and your time, while as for me, I just stay here to torture them both.” The sentiment recurred barely two weeks later: “You are very fortunate to have the passion for the public good and to be able to satisfy it; that is a great consolation, of an order superior to study.”89 There was, then, a world in which passion and performance, bonte and sensibilite, goodness of soul and malice of mind, could find fulfillment. If love of humanity risked no ridiculous rebuff, malice in pursuit of liberty could hardly be called vice. “This soul, calm and moderate in the ordinary course of life, becomes ardent and full of fire when it is a question of defending the oppressed or protecting that which is even more precious, the liberty of men and the virtue of the unfortunate,” wrote Mile de Lespinasse. “Then his zeal mounts to the heat and torrent of passion; he suffers, he acts, he speaks, he writes, with all the energy of an active and impassioned soul.”90 Ultimately, his friends saw le bon Condorcet reconcile the contrasts of his sensitive and troubled nature in the passion for the public good and the search for the power to achieve it, attempting to close the gap between passion and performance in politics. Perhaps gaining insight from the political rift that came to divide them in later years, as Condorcet became more radical in his revolutionary politics, Amelie Suard insisted in several ways on the passionate roots of Condorcet’s political involvement. The same emotional extremism, the same feebleness of soul that had prostrated Condorcet before the altar of his love for Mme de Meulun in 1771 and 1772, she argued, lay at the heart of his unreasoning hatred for Necker.91 Lacking any sympathy with Con¬ dorcet’s revolutionary career, Mme Suard even concluded that this feeble¬ ness, which made him a slave to love, led the academician to his death as a martyr of the Revolution. For the time-serving Amelie, this tragic fact was incarnate in the figure of Condorcet’s second great passion, Sophie de Grouchy, who became marquise de Condorcet in 1786. This “intriguing and ambitious woman,” she insisted, exploited the mathematician’s fatal flaw for her own purposes and drove the demented Condorcet headlong into the storms of the Revolution.92 Put this way, the suggestion served only

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

27

Mme Suard's private fantasies; it was her own way of reconciling the philosophe she had loved with the revolutionary whose politics she detested. But was it altogether coincidental that the philosophe found consummation of his passion for love in Sophie de Grouchy, whose zeal for liberty and constancy in political turmoil proved no less firm than his own? Michelet may only have been too literal when he suggested that the daughter of this short-lived marriage was conceived the very night of the fall of the Bastille. Le bon Condorcet: as viewed by his friends, such a one was ripe for the philosophe cause. His initiation came in 1770, at a moment of crisis among the philosophes and near-revolution in France. In the early months of that year. d’Alembert suffered something approaching a nervous collapse. To aid his recovery, he was dispatched in September on a convalescent trip financed by Frederick the Great, with Condorcet drafted by Julie de Lespinasse as nursemaid-companion. In fact, the two travelers advanced no further than Ferney, where they were received as “true philosophes” by a Voltaire whom Condorcet found “so lively and full of activity that one would be tempted to believe him immortal, were it not that an occasional injustice against Rousseau and an excessive sensitivity to Freron’s stupidi¬ ties reveal him as human.”93 From Ferney, after a two-week parley on the state of the reforming cause, they made a brief excursion into Languedoc — where the admirable state of the roads in this province free of the forced labor of the corvee caused them to cry out against an iniquity that was elsewhere ruining the countryside, and bless men such as Turgot with the courage to abolish it.94 In this mood, the philosophe travelers returned to the capital, with d’Alembert somewhat improved in health and Condorcet enhanced in stature by the approval of the patriarch of Ferney. “You will see good days, you will make them: this idea brightens the end of mine,” Voltaire wrote to his visitors on the morrow of their departure.95 Within six months of their meeting, impressed by Condorcet’s passion for humanity and his zeal for truth, the patriarch was seeking to hasten those days by proposing the latest recruit to the good cause as candidate for a vacancy in the French Academy. “People will say that he hasn’t done any¬ thing; so much the better: we have more need of men who think clearly than of those who produce.”96 This was a rash evaluation, not only because it overlooked Condorcet’s published mathematical work, but because when the young mathematician did turn his hand to work of a more polemical nature, as in the Lettres d’un theologien of 1773, it was often with a vigor and a venom that did little to advance his candidacy for the French Academy and much to leave Voltaire in fear of a pen so resembling his own that its most outspoken productions were often attributed to him. More than once, the patriarch was to regret the zeal with which the new recruit cultivated the reforming vineyard to which he was so enthusiastically welcomed in 1770. Yet more was at stake at the Ferney meeting than the status of the youngest philosophe. The stocktaking found the good cause in full crisis, threatened with persecution from without and rupture from within. I hey

28

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

told me (what I already knew) the extent to which the Welches are aroused against philosophy,” Voltaire wrote to Grimm shortly after the departure of d’Alembert and Condorcet. “This is the time to give the philosophes the warning usually reserved for sergeants and to tell them what St. John told the Christians: My children, love one another, for who the devil would love you?”97 Behind this gentle appeal for unity there lay one brutally divisive fact: “This damned Systeme de la nature [which] has done irreparable harm.”98 Whether or not the servants were sent from the room to save them from talk that might incite them to murder their less than pious master in his bed —as Mallet du Pan recounts99 —the subject of atheism, and particularly the atheism of the Systeme de la nature, was undoubtedly an important topic of discussion during those two weeks at Ferney. Nor was it only the existence of Voltaire’s God that was at issue. Holbach’s latest and most uncompromising production endangered d'Alembert’s reforming strategy as dramatically as it threatened the patriarch’s philosophical and religious convictions. Its publication, despite Voltaire’s last-minute appeal for unity, marked the definitive break between the two wings of the philosophe movement and Voltaire’s final capitulation to d'Alembert's lead. The latter returned to Paris to prosecute the “commerce between literature and kings,”100 his position vis-a-vis Voltaire strengthened in a relationship for which the patriarch found a happy terminology at the beginning of 1773 in the Raton-Bertrand theme of La Fontaine’s fable. The theme was barely elaborated before “Bertrand-d’Alembert,” now secretary of the French Academy, was joined at the heart of the reforming cause in Paris by his lieutenant, “Bertrand-Condorcet,” whose appoint¬ ment as assistant secretary of the Academy of Sciences in 1773 gave the philosophes “two true secretaries of state in the realm of thought.”101 If the Ferney meeting consolidated d’Alembert’s position at the head of the moderate wing of the philosophes and marked out Condorcet as his prospective successor, it could not thereby stop the leaven of the Systeme de la nature from doing its work. “This book has made all the philosophes execrable in the eyes of the King and the whole court,” Voltaire wrote to d’Alembert on 24 November 1770. “The publisher of this fatal work has destroyed philosophy forever in the minds of all the magistrates and all the heads of families who sense how dangerous atheism can be for society.”102 In fact, like Helvetius’s De I’esprit in 1759, Holbach’s Systeme de la nature provided the perfect target for a growing antiphilosophe temper. The tocsin was sounded by the Assembly of the Clergy, which met in March of 1770 to vote a don gratuit of sixteen million livres and to denounce the disastrous consequences of unbelief and freedom of the press. The two acts were not unconnected, at least in the eyes of the government, which expressed its gratitude for the don gratuit by directing the Parlement of Paris to take action against the books denounced by the clergy. As a result, seven works (most of them by Holbach) were ordered burned by the public hangman on 18 August 1770, although their real presence was dispensed with in this sacrament since the parlementaires were reluctant to deprive their library of the requisite copies.103 Carried out on the orders of the king by the avocat-general, Seguier —

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

29

who filled his indictment with such lengthy summaries of the arguments of Holbach s latest work that the Parlement refused to print the indictment for fear that it would give currency to the very ideas it purported to condemn104— this act of censorship was but the symptom of a changing balance of power at Versailles, as Choiseul lost ground to chancellor Maupeou and the de'vot party at court. The fall of Choiseul in December 1770, overture to Maupeou’s attack upon the parlements, boded little better for their enemies, the philosophes. “It’s somewhat sweet to see the assassins of La Barre humiliated,” confessed Voltaire to d’Alembert in December 1770; “but it doesn’t matter by whom we are crushed, we always will be." “I am very afraid that philosophy will fare no better than the former Parlement of Paris,” he was writing in April. “The faithful do well to lie quiet.”105 Logically, the counteroffensive of the de'vot party was focused on the French Academy, at the heart of d’Alembert’s reforming strategy, where the line between devots and “encyclopedists” was becoming clearly drawn.106 The first victim was Thomas, who had the misfortune to deliver a discourse in praise of men of letters at the public ceremony of reception for Lomenie de Brienne, on 6 September 1770. Interpreted as a rebuttal to Seguier’s indictment and as an attack upon the government’s policy, the speech was barred from publication (together with an Eloge de MarcAurele delivered by Thomas a few days earlier) and its author placed under royal order to maintain public silence. The order was only lifted in May 1771, after it had been established (on 7 February) that a committee of the academy would in future examine the pieces to be delivered in public session.107 The next philosophe casualty was La Harpe, who was still trying to prepare his candidacy for the academy by entering its prize-essay competi¬ tion for eloquence. His Eloge de Fenelon, awarded the prize in 1771, was more enthusiastically received by the academy than by the archbishop of Paris, who found it subversive of respect for religion and dangerous to the reputation of that pillar of the church, Bishop Bossuet of Meaux. Thus condemned by the archbishop, together with another such essay praised by the academy, the Eloge de Fenelon was suppressed on 21 September by an arret de conseil. At the same time, the council ordered the French Academy to return to a more dutiful observance of article six of its regulations of 1671, allowed to fall into disuse by Duclos, which required that all entries submitted for the prize-essay competition for eloquence receive the prior approval of two doctors of the Sorbonne.108 This abridgement of the freedom of the man of letters had a profound effect on Condorcet. “How. . .in the eighteenth century, in the capital of France, does a man in power have the patience to listen seriously to the archbishops of Paris and Reims?” he demanded indignantly in a letter to Mme Suard. “How could one have drawn up for royal pronouncement the eloge of the Bishop of Meaux, the vile flatterer of kings, the apologist of tyranny, the persecutor of Fenelon his friend, this man who was born with the greatest talents but knew only how to make contemptuous use of them, who alone among men of genius was base enough to disdain glory and follow mere

30

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

ambition?. . .Let them damn us, but leave us free to live; let them be satisfied with being tiresome or ridiculous, without wishing to be vicious. ”109 But these were nothing more than pious hopes. ‘‘This event contributes not a little confirmation to the sentiment of those who think that the system of the present government is to extend even to the realm of the mind, by returning us gently to the happy darkness from which we have emerged to our misfortune,” commented Bachaumont. “Witness these different humil¬ iations of the Academy, well calculated to temper the pride of beaux-esprits, while other, more effective, means are being taken to discourage them and make them turn to other objects than the profession of letters.”110 Thus humiliated, the French Academy found itself even more deeply divided between the philosophe party led by d’Alembert and the antiphilosophe party headed by the due de Richelieu and Seguier. Elections were more bitterly fought; recriminations more savagely thrown.111 After preliminary skirmishes, pitched battle was fought over d’Alembert’s election to succeed Duclos as permanent secretary in 1772. Although he was the natural successor to this post —indeed, he was already serving as the academy’s acting secretary —the government’s attitude towards the prospect of d’Alembert’s election was made clear in a royal letter of April 6, which the director of the academy was ordered to communicate and have formally recorded in its registers.112 Calculated to remind the academicians of the humiliations they had suffered as a result of philosophic indiscretions in recent years, and of those they might yet suffer if the influence of the philosophes was extended by the election of d’Alembert as permanent secretary, the letter underlined the regulations pertaining to the examination of all pieces destined to be read at public assemblies and cautioned the academy that failure to inspect essays entered for its prize competitions more thoroughly might lead to further mortifi¬ cation. Leaving the philosophes in the academy thus muzzled, the royal letter came to the subject of elections: My intention is also that, if this is possible, [the members of the aca¬ demy] pay still greater attention to principles and morals in the choice of candidates proposed for admission to the Academy, in order to avoid the experience of a veto that could only be disagreeable to them.... I charge you also to inform Sieurs Foncemagne and the abbe Batteux that I grant each of them a pension of two thousand francs as a mark of my satisfaction with their wise and moderate con¬ duct, which has merited general esteem. I hope often to find occa¬ sion in the Academy to confer similar distinction upon those who have followed such good examples.113 The point was clear: if “principles and morals” were important in the choice of the humblest academicians, how much more so in the election of the permanent secretary? Furthermore, it so happened that the abbe Batteux —now distinguished by so palpable a mark of royal favor —was also d’Alembert’s antiphilosophe rival for the secretariat of the academy. There could be no better way of earning royal favor and avoiding the threat of a humiliating royal veto than by electing him secretary. Yet despite these heavy-handed tactics, d’Alembert triumphed over his rival by

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31

seven votes. “The enemies of philosophy have waged a fine defense,” Condorcet wrote exultantly to Voltaire, “but the soldiers of Gideon will always conquer the Midianites by dazzling them with light.”114 Dazzled by light, the Midianites could always resort to the darker acts of subterfuge. They did so in the case of one of the most notorious contested elections of the period, the double election of Delille and Suard on 7 May 1772. Suard had already fallen victim to the antiphilosophe temper of the new ministry in 1771, when he and the abbe Arnaud were relieved by the due d'Aiguillon of their position as editors of the Gazette de France. The spectacle of the Suards thus robbed of their livelihood brought despair to the intimate circle of the rue de Belle Chasse and rage to its youngest member. “I have never felt as I have today the misfortune of being poor, without place, without credit,” Condorcet burst out in his letters to Turgot. “I hated the persecutors and the legal assassins: but we must also hate the chefs de bureau! Up until now, I had limited myself to despising them."115 But more was to come in 1772 when the two philosophe candidates, Delille and Suard, were elected to the French Academy on the same day. Although there were precedents for this action, it was in technical violation of the statutes of the academy: a violation which Bachaumont insisted was engineered by the presiding due de Richelieu, who allowed both elections in order to see them quashed by the king on the technicality.116 The academy was informed not only that the elections were null and void, but that the king disapproved of the two candidates: of Delille on the grounds of his youth: of Suard “for having been discharged from the editorship of the Gazette on account of the disapproval of the court.117 Delille and Suard survived to win other elections, but the episode left the philosophes no less alarmed at the growing influence of the devot party. “The philosophers of the day, vulgarly called Encyclopedists, are much alarmed at the prepon¬ derance which the devot party seems constantly to be gaining,” wrote Bachaumont in January 1773. “They are all the more inclined to fear this attack, since the favor which the government accords to their adversaries is evident at every hand.”118 Thus divided by the Systeme de la nature and harassed by a crescendo of official opposition, the philosophe movement was further disoriented by Maupeou’s revolutionary suppression of the parlements in January 1771. For when Choiseul, protector of the philosophes, also proved to be the last defender of the parlementary boeufs-tigres; when Maupeou, one of the legal assassins of La Barre, dispatched the persecutors of the philosophes only to see the latter delivered over the more effectively to the devot party, which was busily scheming to reintroduce the Jesuits; when corporate privilege masquerading as popular sovereignty was swept away by minis¬ terial despotism purporting to serve the public good: what, then, was a philosophe to think? “This is an event,” commented Condorcet, “that gives pause for many reflections and conjectures.”119 As usual, Voltaire needed little time for reflection and hardly more to serve up the substance of his Histoire du Parlement de Paris in vigorous pamphlets in praise of chancellor Maupeou, and probably written at his

32

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

instigation.120 Others were less sure. Diderot regarded Maupeou’s policy as nothing less than tyranny; Turgot, bitterly hostile to the parlements, found himself in approval of the minister’s actions, dubious of his prospects for success, and detesting his motives and intentions.121 Condorcet’s response was similar. “I confess that parlementary hatred is as cruel as ministerial despotism,” he had written to Turgot in June 1770, in comment upon the conflict between the due d’Aiguillon and the parlement of Brittany: And if the one is more terrible for men of position or power, the other is much more so for private individuals, and it is the latter who must be taken into account most in a monarchy where the number of men in place is necessarily small. I do not believe that a minister without per¬ sonal hatred would have been determined to secure the condemnation of the chevalier de la Barre by a commission. Acts of this kind and the way in which I see justice being rendered in the provinces convince me that the pretensions of the parlementaires, their prejudices, their con¬ duct and the laws that they follow are the principal cause of the troubles of France, a curse upon the countryside, the firmest support of fanaticism and the greatest obstacle to the good that might be done.122 Evidently Condorcet was not about to mourn the Parlement of Paris, though he regretted the exile of those few of its members whom he claimed as his friends and became increasingly pessimistic about the utility of a reform which replaced the former magistrates with ones who were no better. Nor would he praise the face of ministerial despotism in Maupeou: he was privately critical of Voltaire for lauding a chancellor guilty of complicity in the death of La Barre.123 Nonetheless, he was outraged in June 1771 by the reception speech of the abbe Arnaud at the French Academy, which he interpreted as an attempt by the men of letters to disown Voltaire for his defense of Maupeou and to rally support on behalf of the parlements. Arnaud’s discourse was harmless enough. His one sin was to compare the moderns favorably with the ancients without specifically including Voltaire among the literary champions of the modern age. Where others might have seen a question of literary form, however, Condorcet sensed a political issue. He was convinced that Voltaire had been omitted from a list that included only dead authors, not because he was still living, but because he was temporarily unpopular with men of letters (and with the public) as a result of his vociferous approval of Maupeou’s policy. “I will not forgive the men of letters for abandoning a great genius, the implacable foe of tyranny and superstition, to admire the crooked prose of [parlementary] remonstrances and mourn for assassins,” he expostulated in an explosive letter to Mme Suard. “Those like Voltaire and myself who live in the provinces know how fatal the justice of the Parlement was for the people, with what impunity they allowed their underlings to plunder, what complaisance they showed towards the agents of princes and magnates. They know, too, that it is to this alone that the parlements owe the zeal of their subordinates and the regrets of the powerful.”124 Voltaire’s fault, Condorcet concluded, did not lie in his praise of the chancellor for implementing “a policy which he [Voltaire] believes useful in

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

33

itself, and that everyone believed useful before these recent times, when we learned that it was very advantageous for the people not to be able to obtain justice nor to defend its property without spending more than it has.”125 Nor did it lie in his abandoning Choiseul, who had become the timid protector of the philosophes only because he found their literary incense more delicate than that of their enemies. His fault —the failing of a man whose judgment of the parlements had not changed since the publication of his earliest work, La Henriade — lay in a simple lack of foresight: a failure to anticipate “the zeal of men of letters who cry out in favor of the Parlement with the same zeal with which they denounced it a year ago. I don’t know how to explain this change, unless one says that they are seized with a zeal for martyrdom and that, convinced of the Parlement’s desire to persecute them, they yearn for its re-establishment as the early Christians yearned for persecution.”126 Vivid in its personal defense of Voltaire, this fiery letter also had a more fundamental implication for the philosophe cause, as Mme Suard recog¬ nized in her reply. Whether right or wrong, Voltaire had publicly supported an opinion which he had held throughout his life. He had pursued the function of the man of letters to direct and form public opinion, even when this opinion proved particularly hostile to his views, while his critics had abdicated their responsibility by following public opinion rather than seeking to direct it.127 “I would have wished that in the present affairs the men of letters had been less of the people,” Condorcet continued in a subsequent letter, “that they had seen that it was not a question of the rights of the people, but of knowing whom it would have for master, the King or the Parlements . . . that they had considered that the bourgeoisie of Paris and the court do not make up the nation, that a few lines by an enlightened publicist could destroy everything that the Parlements and the princes are writing, or will write.”128 Weakly following the opinion of “the merchants of the rue Saint-Denis,” who had been whipped up by propaganda in favor of the parlements, men of letters had lost sight of the public interest. Critical of the government for suppressing their own most bitter enemies, they had needlessly robbed themselves of possible allies, should the parlementaires return more fanatical and intolerant than before. Most fundamentally, the men of letters had feebly abandoned their independent role as legislators of the public mind by bowing before the immediate political passions of the people. For those in the habit of selling their pen, Condorcet insisted, this would be of little consequence. “But those men of letters who are more noble, more enlightened, more firm in their opinions, will long be reproaching themselves for what they have recently done; and if they submit in this way to public opinion, then, to be consistent, they must march in procession and chant litanies.”129 For Condorcet the choice facing the man of letters was clear. He could direct opinion in the public interest or sell his pen in service to the popular whim of the moment. He could join the party of humanity or march in superstitious procession with everyone else. He could fight tyranny and superstition, or weave with his pen the garlands that decorate men’s chains. In 1772, with this affirmation, the young mathematician prepared to enter the lists in the reforming cause.

34

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

His first chance came at the end of that year when a further blast of the clerical trumpet was sounded against the Encyclopedists by the abbe Antoine Sabatier. Denouncing the philosophes as a monstrous cabal with a subversive stranglehold on French letters, Sabatier’s Trots siecles de notre literature turned the form of the philosophical dictionary against its most successful practitioners. The work was not slow to draw blood. In vain, Diderot and d’Alembert forgot their mutual grievances to go together to Sartine, head of the Paris police and director of the book trade, to demand the suppression of this slanderous work. When they were politely turned away with the exhortation to justify themselves and defend their doctrine before the public, Condorcet saw his opportunity to call the miserable Sabatier to “public vengeance” and defend the party of humanity from the calumnies of fanaticism.130 Not published until the middle of 1774, when it did more to embarrass the reforming party than it did to defend it, Condorcet’s anonymous Lettres d’un theologien a I’auteur du Dictionnaire des trots siecles deployed a heavily satirical wit, a bitterly anticlerical pen, and a disdainful scientific expertise in defense of the men of letters attacked by Sabatier. Above all, it was a radical statement of the philosophes’ reforming goals and an open declaration of war against the party of litanies and processions. “What crimes have they committed, these philosophes against whom you wish to incite the vengeance of Kings and the hatred of peoples?” Condorcet demanded of his clerical author in a savage peroration which already betrayed the Manichean vision of the Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progres de Vesprit humatn. Accustomed to seduce the people, you wish to arm them against the philosophes. The philosophes, you say, don’t go into the alms-houses. No, but they would wish there to be no more alms-houses, and for that it would be enough to destroy the feast-days, suppress the tithes, no longer oblige the people to nourish with its substance the vanity and incontinence of the clergy. While you permit Kings to oppress their peoples, provided they let you share in the spoils, the philosophes have made known to Kings the cries of the people and have not been afraid to speak to them of its rights.131 The political dynamite, as Voltaire sensed all too clearly, lay in the latter part of this statement, in the insistence upon the philosophes’ role in serving notice of men’s natural rights at the very foot of the throne. Sabatier had denounced the philosophes as the natural enemies of princes. But were they enemies, who dared to remind rulers that it is from the people alone that they have received their authority and for the advantage of the people alone that they must employ it? Were they enemies, who dared remind them of those natural rights of which men can never be deprived? Were they enemies, who reminded kings of their obligation to be just? No, the true enemies of Kings are those who mislead them, who subject them to the yoke of superstition and dictate bloody laws to them, who instead of exhorting them to repair the evils they have done command them to expiate these evils by massacring the enemies

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

35

of the faith. The true enemies of Kings are those who tell them that their authority comes from God only in order to arrogate to themselves the right to seize it from them in the name of God.132 These were dangerous words, not entirely welcome to the moderate wing of the philosophe party when they appeared belatedly in 1774 to cloud the benevolent atmosphere of the new reign with their savage denunciation of kings as the dupes of priests. “The author takes my defense; I would rather be slandered than defended like this,” wrote Voltaire, fearful of the consequences of the common conviction that the Lettres d ’un theologien was the work of his pen. “This is the declaration of a hideous war. . . .1 want neither the glory of having penned it nor the punishment that will follow.”133 Voltaire was right: it was a declaration of war. The Lettres d’un theologien was the first fruit of an anticlerical rebellion conceived in the mind of the child dedicated to the virgin, warmed in the harsh environment of a Jesuit college, fostered by commitment to the search for scientific truth, brought to a passionate consummation by conversion to the cause of humanity. “Hope for no more peace. A terrible cry has been raised against you, it has echoed from one end of Europe to another. . . your fall approaches and the human race which you have so long infected with fables, will finally breathe again.”134 In 1773, with this declaration of war upon I’inf&me, Condorcet found his identity in the philosophe’s role. The Fight for the Academy of Sciences In the early 1770s there was a crisis in the secretariat of the Academy of Sciences. Left in the hands of the ailing Grandjean de Fouchy since 1743, the position of permanent secretary had lost much of its earlier prestige and a great deal of its power to cope with official business. One very tangible result of this development was the lengthy delay in the publication of the academy’s periodical collections: a situation which gave rise to considerable dissatisfaction among the academicians, not least vividly expressed in d'Alembert’s complaints to Lagrange of the “negligence and ineptitude” of “our imbecile Fouchy.”135 In fact, it was not entirely Fouchy’s fault that so much scientific material was lost for years (as Malesherbes put it) in “the bottomless pit of the secretariat.” Indeed, Malesherbes was probably much closer to a true evaluation of the situation when he argued that delays in the academy’s publications were less the result of secretarial sloth than of the overwhelming increase of academic business beyond the power of a single man to deal with it.136 Although he formulated impressive plans for speeding up these publications when he became permanent secretary, Condorcet was also to find the reality more intractable than he had expected. Nevertheless, the more d’Alembert was able to attribute this delay in the academy’s publications to the incapacity of Fouchy, the stronger became the case for choosing an early successor. By 1772, he was in no doubt as to who that successor should be. He disclosed his plans when he wrote to Lagrange on 23 April 1772 to state his satisfaction at his own appointment as permanent secretary of the French Academy, a position he described as

36

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

matching its small recompense with little demand for work. “The same can hardly be said of the secretariat of our Academy of Sciences,” d’Alembert added. “It will probably fall vacant before long, and I am working to capture it for our friend Condorcet, who will fulfill its functions with distinction. If I can succeed in this goal. . . then I shall say my nunc dimittis with great pleasure, for I have strong doubts that I shall vegetate much longer in this best of all possible worlds.”137 Although there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of d’Alembert’s estimate of Condorcet’s qualifications, there was clearly more at stake in these plans than the good of the sciences, or even of d’Alembert’s own constant urge to control things. To capture for Condorcet the secretariat of the academie des choses (as Voltaire liked to call it) immediately after his own appointment to that of the academie des paroles, would be a resounding success for d’Alembert’s policy of infiltrating the royal academies for the philosophe cause at a time when it was meeting with increased resistance in the French Academy. It would also have important effects on the internal balance of power within the Academy of Sciences. For one further result of Fouchy’s weakness as permanent secretary, and a result particularly distasteful to d’Alembert, had been the increased authority of the other permanent officer of the academy, the treasurer Buffon.138 In his connections with the court and his pose as a grand seigneur, in his philosophy of science and his cautious political views, above all in the rival influence which he exercised within the academy, a great gulf divided Buffon from d’Alembert. Thus there was much that was appealing to d’Alembert in the prospect of placing a vigorous young man of his own scientific and reforming views in the secretariat of the scientific academy. The reforming goals of the philosophes, the needs of organized science, personal delight in the exercise of power, antipathy towards Buffon: all of these factors were doubtless at work in 1772, when d’Alembert set out to secure the secretariat of the Academy of Sciences for Condorcet. Nor did he lack powerful allies. As reforming administrators, Turgot and Trudaine de Montigny (the latter of whom filled the registers of the academy with reports on the applications of science to important projects of public works) were extremely conscious of the relevance of scientific expertise to enlightened administration. It is not surprising that they were receptive to arguments for seeing a scientist of reforming temper as permanent secretary. “The business of the secretariat is going well,” Condorcet wrote to Turgot on 19 May 1772. “M. de Trudaine has taken it up with interest, for which I think I am principally obliged to you.”139 Evidently d’Alembert and Trudaine met with greater reluctance within the academy than they had expected, however, for Condorcet was writing a week later to say that nothing would probably be decided before November, if at all. “This business of mine is still in the air,” he wrote again on 31 May. “You are very fortunate to combine the passion for the public good with the position to achieve it. You have something to fill your soul and your time, while as for me, I just stay here to torture them both. ”140 Another week later, and it seemed apparent that nothing could be done until Trudaine succeeded the hostile marquis de Paulmy as president of the academy in 1773. “Adieu, Monsieur, my secretariat is put off until next year, when M. de Trudaine will be president. I am leaving Thursday for Ribemont.”141

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37

Once in Ribemont, however, Condorcet continued to work for a position that would give him the power to satisfy his passion for the public good. And since one of the objections to his candidacy for the secretariat was his lack of apparent qualification for the literary tasks involved, he set about pro¬ ducing a demonstration of his abilities in this domain. “You will have heard that your fellow academicians, full of foresight, would like to know whether you have enough talent to replace M. Grandjean [de Fouchy],” Julie de Lespinasse wrote on 24 June; “and for this purpose you should write a few pieces to be published before Saint Martin’s Day. I hear that you have something on printing. You would do well to go over it and get it published: that would take care of these stupid objections.”142 True to this advice, Condorcet spent the following weeks working on some literary exercises intended to give his fellow academicians an idea of his style. The first of these exercises, a brief biographical essay on the deceased mathematician, Fon¬ taine, was apparently intended to capture the enthusiasm of Grandjean de Fouchy for Condorcet’s candidacy. Finished by mid-July, it was despatched to Paris whence Mile de Lespinasse was writing on 26 July 1772 that “M. d’Alembert will attempt to make use of it to your utmost satisfaction.”143 In this attempt, it seems that d’Alembert was soon successful. Probably by using the essay on the life of Fontaine to demonstrate Condorcet’s talents for the genre of secretarial e'loges, he was able to persuade Grandjean de Fouchy to entrust Condorcet with the task of writing the official eloge of Fontaine as a first claim on the succession to the secretariat. Fouchy once won over, it was still necessary to convince members of the academy in general of Condorcet’s literary talents. For this purpose, he followed the advice of Julie de Lespinasse (and doubtless d’Alembert) in preparing for publication an essay on the effects of printing on the development of the sciences. As he worked on it, his plans for this essay were gradually transformed into an outline for a history of the Academy of Sciences that would begin with a preliminary discourse on the progress of the sciences from their birth in antiquity until the invention of printing, continue with an exposition of their development up to the time of the academy’s foundation, culminate in a history of the academy from 1660 to 1760, and conclude with a collection of the biographies of its members.144 The details of these plans (which still remain among Condorcet’s papers) would be unimportant in themselves were it not that they make it possible to assign a precise date and an exact context to the earliest origins of the Esquisse d’un tableau historique des pr ogres de I’espnt humain. It has often been pointed out in a general way that the work which Condorcet completed in hiding in the winter of 1793-94 owed much to his experience as secretary of the Academy of Sciences. It now appears clear that the connection is so close (and so practical) that the germs of Condorcet’s celebrated work were laid in 1772, when he was casting about for a literary means of securing the secretariat for the reforming cause. Conceived as a history of the sciences, first in France and then beyond, growing by way of a consideration of the impact of science upon society, it finally formed itself into the philosophy of history which has often been regarded as the philosophical testament of the eighteenth century. Yet in the manner of its origin, as in that of its ultimate composition, the Esquisse remained essentially a livre de circonstance.

38

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Not surprisingly, work on this ambitious literary plan was not completed in November when the academy returned from vacation, and Condorcet was soon writing to Turgot to say that the whole business of the secretariat had again been postponed until the new year.145 The reason for this delay was simple: Condorcet had a rival for the position of permanent secretary in the astronomer Bailly, to whom a number of academicians were com¬ mitted; and it was therefore necessary to give them good grounds for changing their loyalties.146 In fact, the situation was largely of d’Alembert’s making. Before deciding that Condorcet was a more promising recruit for the position of permanent secretary, he had fixed his hopes on another young academician, Jean-Sylvain Bailly, encouraging him in the same hope of succeeding Grandjean de Fouchy and suggesting that he lay claim to the succession by composing eloges-147 Now deserted by d’Alembert in favor of Condorcet, Bailly had attached himself to the mathematician’s great rival, Buffon, with the result that there were two candidates laying claim to the secretaryship and two parties within the academy ready to support them. Indeed, the rivalry between the two groups seems to have been so intense that it prompted a serious proposal that the functions of the secretariat be divided between the two candidates, a suggestion vigorously condemned by members of the academy disgusted by this internal factionalism.148 In order to counter Bailly’s claims, Fouchy agreed to give Condorcet the additional task of helping in the composition of the Histone de VAcademie for the year 1771.149 But since it was still necessary to have something tangible in print as soon as possible, Condorcet whittled down his ambitious plan for a history of the academy to the more manageable project of a volume of biographies of some of its members who had died before 1699, the date after which Fontenelle had been charged as secretary with the solemn duty of celebrating the lives of deceased academicians. Writing at top speed during November and December, Condorcet had completed the lives of eleven academicians in time for publication by the end of 1772 as Eloges des academiciens de VAcademie royale des sciences morts depuis Van 1666 jusqu’en 1699. Although it received a lukewarm reception from Grimm, who for the benefit of the young aspirant delivered himself of a brief discourse on the qualities of mind necessary to a secretary of the Academy of Sciences,150 the work was enthusiastically cheered by Condorcet’s friends. “Justice, correctness, knowledge, clarity, precision, taste, elegance and nobility,” was d’Alembert’s summary judgment.151 “This is a king treating the history of his subjects,” exclaimed Voltaire on receipt of the volume.152 “I read your Eloges with the most lively satisfaction,” wrote Lagrange from Berlin. “I already have a lofty concep¬ tion of the history of the sciences upon which you propose to work. I urge you with all my heart not to lose this subject from sight: you are more qualified than anyone to carry it out well since you combine the enthus¬ iasm of youth with great resources of intellect and knowledge.”153 With this volume off the presses, Fouchy’s cooperation secured, and Trudaine de Montigny in the presidency of the academy for 1773, d’Alembert and Condorcet were ready for the execution of their academic coup. On 10 February, d’Alembert and Bossut, charged by the academy to

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

39

examine Condorcet’s volume of Eloges, presented a report which praised the work enthusiastically for possessing “the discerning judgments and noble elegance that are the essential qualities of academic eloges” and recommended that it be accorded “not only the approval of the academy, but the gratitude of all those interested in the history and the progress of the sciences.’154 At about the same time, Grandjean de Fouchy addressed to the due de la Vrilliere, the minister who as secretary of state for the Maison du Roi was responsible for the affairs of the academy, a request for Condorcet's appointment as assistant secretary, in which capacity he would help with the work of the secretariat and prepare under Fouchy’s guidance to succeed one day to the position of permanent secretary. The reasons Fouchy gave for this choice, the grounds for ministerial approval of it, and the financial arrangements envisaged were outlined by La Vrilliere in a letter read to the academy by its director, Le Roi, on 27 February 1773.155 Despite its praise for Condorcet’s work and its acknowledgment that he possessed “the gentle, impartial character necessary to the secretary of a learned society,” the letter was clearly not well received. There were immediate protestations that this was a directive that departed from the established pattern of elections in depriving the academy of all choice in the matter; and a deputation was appointed to present these objections to the minister.156 Its representations dismissed by the minister, the academy at its next meeting charged Grandjean de Fouchy to report on the procedures followed in the appointment of previous secretaries, as well as on the manner in which Buache had been chosen to fill the place of adjoint-geographe in 1730. According to these precedents, the manner in which Condorcet’s candidacy was being handled was quite clearly irregular. The letter from La Vrilliere directed the academicians neither to elect a single nominee (as in the case of previous appointments to the secretariat) nor to follow the normal procedure of electing two candidates (also followed in the com¬ parable case of Buache) but to decide only “whether M. de Condorcet is indeed qualified for this position.” In other words, the academy was being given no choice but to endorse or reject an official candidate whose demands had already received the prior approval of the minister in the name and with the authority of the king. It is not surprising that it seemed to some academicians, especially those who favored Bailly, that the question was being put to the academy in a way which effectively precluded its suggesting any other candidate than Condorcet. “The academicians were disgusted,” wrote an apologist of Bailly. “D’Alembert was accused openly in full session of the academy of manipulating the King’s orders.”157 There was clearly much substance in the later charges of Metra and La Harpe that Condorcet was appointed assistant secretary “by order of the Minister” and as the result of “an act of authority.”158 We know nothing of the discussions of this matter at the next meeting of the academy (6 March 1773), or of the letter from Condorcet read to the assembly by Trudaine as president. The registers tell us only that the academy proceeded to comply with the royal will by deliberating on Condorcet’s capacity for the position of assistant secretary and that a

40

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

majority was in favor of accepting this nomination. By chance, the autograph minute on which Fouchy recorded this decision still remains in the separate dossier for this meeting to provide the further information that the voting in favor of Condorcet was fifteen out of twenty-one.159 In view of his heavy royal endorsement, the fact that almost a third of those voting were prepared to reject the official candidate is perhaps indicative of substantial dissatisfaction within the academy. Nor did this dissatisfaction cease with Condorcet’s appointment. With these maneuvers, Condorcet was set on the road to power in the most powerful scientific body in Europe. The young mathematician announced his success to Voltaire on 16 May 1773. “When one is not fortunate enough to live on Mount Crupak [Ferney] and be able to say all that one thinks, when one has not been endowed with a voice powerful enough to make oneself heard from the depths of one’s retreat to tyrants of all stripes, then one can regard a position of this kind as a means of doing secretly the little good of which one is capable.”160 Yet Condorcet’s election was more than just another victory of infiltration for the moderate wing of the philosophes. In effect, it marked the genesis of a reforming scientific-administrative alliance under the aegis of Turgot, which was led in the academy by d’Alembert, Condorcet, and the powerful administrator Trudaine de Montigny. In 1774, with the accession of Louis XVI and Turgot’s appointment first as minister of the marine and then as ControllerGeneral, this group came into its own. “It seems to me that the sciences have much to hope for from the ministers just chosen by the new king,” wrote d’Alembert to Lagrange on 12 September 1774. “May God grant that our hopes are realized.”161 If science had much to hope for from the new government, the new government had no less to hope for from science. Successive generations of reforming administrators in Lrance had been well aware of the importance of basic science as the foundation for a successful technology. The Academy of Sciences established by Colbert in 1666; the Royal Society of Agriculture, which emerged as principal survivor of the agricultural societies founded by Bertin in 1761; the Ecole des ponts et chausse'es (School of Civil Engineering), creation of Daniel Trudaine and Perronet, its organization codified by Turgot in 1775; the Academy of Medicine, which grew from Turgot’s mobilization of scientists against the great cattle plague of 1774-1776; French scientific institutions at the end of the old regime (to mention only the most important civil institutions) stood as a monument to the efforts of royal administrators to press science and scientists into the service of the state. Of these officials, none were more convinced of the importance of scientific expertise than Turgot —whose sometimes misplaced enthusiasm for technical inventions earned him the nickname “machine Turgot” —and his closest administrative colleague, Trudaine de Montigny. Indeed, no period before the Revolution saw activity in the mobilization of scientists comparable to that of the twenty brief months during which Turgot served as Controller-General. From the earliest moments of their correspondence, Condorcet had

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

41

placed his scientific expertise at the disposal of the intendant of Limoges. Now, with Turgot translated to Versailles, the mathematician became unofficial scientific attache to the minister —part technical adviser, part liaison-man with the Academy of Sciences, part scientific public-relations officer. Suddenly, the man was everywhere. It was Condorcet who urged the new minister of the marine to authorize the printing of two technical handbooks of Euler on artillery and naval science for use in naval and military schools, revising Euler’s inelegant French in the more important of these, the Theorie complete de la construction et de la manoeuvre des vaisseaux, and seeing them through the press.162 It was Condorcet who arranged for a committee of academicians to examine the naval instru¬ ments developed by J. H. de Magellan, as he organized the detailed arrangements for testing the machine for desalinating seawater perfected by Lavoisier.163 It was Condorcet who was appointed Inspecteur des monnaies with the academician, Tillet, and charged with work relative to the reform of weights and measures. It was he who arranged in 1775 for his appointment (with his friends, d’Alembert and the abbe Bossut) as Inspecteur de navigation, with responsibility for research in hydrody¬ namics relevant to the improvement of France’s internal waterways.164 It was to Condorcet, too, bypassing Grandjean de Fouchy, that Turgot wrote as Controller-General when he needed the advice of a committee of the Academy of Sciences on his most pressing scientific problem, the control of the cattle plague that ravaged southern France throughout the period of his ministry.165 In this mobilization of science and scientists, the position of permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences was of course critical. No sooner was Turgot established as Controller-General, than d’Alembert launched a renewed campaign for Fouchy’s retirement and Condorcet’s immediate succession to this key position. This time the problem was largely financial. More interested in the potential of its capture for the reforming cause than in its possible financial benefits, the young philosophe had taken the position of assistant secretary without emolument in 1773, with the right to succeed Grandjean de Fouchy when he retired at some time in the indefinite future. While the aging permanent secretary was ready to quit his functions, however, he was understandably reluctant to part with the stipend that went with them. It was therefore necessary to find some financial arrangement that would provide Fouchy with an incentive to retire, while liberating his stipend for the new permanent secretary. Condorcet could then enter materially and spiritually into the inheritance of Fontenelle. “I hope that [Turgot] is concerning himself with you in a solid manner,” wrote Julie de Lespinasse on 29 September 1774. ‘‘It is imperative that the good Condorcet have a pot-au-feu and some cutlets at home every day, and that he have a carriage to go see his friends and to serve them, and all that is possible with an income of two-thousand crowns, the salary which must naturally be attached to the position of secretary of the Academy.”166 The reformers were not slow to find funds that might be appropriated for this purpose. From the time of its foundation, the Academy of Sciences

42

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

had received the sum of 12,000 livres annually for general expenses and secretarial costs. The sum had long been regarded as inadequate; and when in 1721 Reaumur received a special annual grant of 12,000 livres for his own personal experiments and to cover the cost of preparing the great description des arts et metiers, it was provided that on his death this income would revert to the academy to be used to defray the cost of experiments. Reaumur had died in 1757 and his 12,000 livres had accordingly reverted to the academy; but since that time, despite the protest of the academicians, the original 12,000 livres enjoyed by the academy had been withheld. When Turgot came to power as ControllerGeneral, it was still petitioning for the return of a sum which it regarded as rightfully its own.167 In these circumstances, d’Alembert and Turgot conceived of an arrangement that would secure the 12,000 livres de¬ manded by the academy, while diverting some of these funds to make it possible for Condorcet to replace Grandjean de Fouchy immediately in the functions of the secretariat. The means d’Alembert proposed to achieve this end were quite simple. In essence, he suggested that Turgot grant the academy its 12,000 livres, with the provision that half of this sum be reserved exclusively for the secretariat. Of this half, a thousand livres would initially be added to Fouchy’s stipend to enable him to retire quickly and comfortably from his post. The remainder would constitute Condorcet’s independent stipend as the new permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences.168 According to Lalande, the 12,000 livres was requested by Trudaine on behalf of the academy in December 1774, but the announcement of Turgot’s intention to divert almost half of this sum for Condorcet's pension was received with vigorous protests.169 Once again, there was more involved than Condorcet’s personal position alone. The 12,000 livres had originally been intended (and was now demanded by Trudaine on behalf of the academy) to finance experimental research. To propose diverting half of this sum to other uses was to raise in the most brutal way the question of the importance of experimentation in the scientific life of the academy. It was surely no accident, then, that this proposal came to divide the academy into two camps, with the two mathematicians, Condorcet and d’Alembert, opposed by the naturalist Buffon and two experimentalists, d’Arcy and Borda, whom Condorcet denounced as having abandoned mathematics for petty applied science (physicaille). “I took the liberty of telling M. de Trudaine that the idea of giving 12,000 livres for experiments seems to me to promise little advantage for the sciences,” Condorcet confessed to Turgot in a bitter denunciation of the academy and its scientific activities. With the exception of mathematics, which M. d’Alembert’s name defends in the Academy, there are no profound papers read on any science. If someone wants to go more thoroughly into his subject, he is not listened to. All the meetings and the volumes are taken up with physicaille, which is ridiculed by the whole of Europe; and if one adds a financial incentive to engage in it, there will no longer be any room for useful researches. Neither Newton, nor Franklin, nor

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

43

Galileo, nor Stahl were paid for their experiments. A scientist must be given enough to live on and to follow his genius, and be left to do what he wishes. A man of genius will never submit a plan of experi¬ ments to an academy. Such a thing is good only for the men of projects, who are always big with discoveries that they are never able to deliver. They say they are ruined by the cost of experiments; let them say it, and ask what they have found out.170 With the academy thus divided, d’Alembert’s plan was shelved for the moment. Always a realistic counselor, the abbe de Veri argued that a reforming ministry should in any case avoid the appearance of adding to government expenses when not absolutely necessary.171 The cynical public reaction to the appointment of Condorcet, Bossut, and d’Alembert as inspectors of navigation early in 1775 —it was widely rumored, despite denials, that the “reign of philosophy” was costing the public a pension of 6,000 livres for each of the three academicians in this position172 —showed that this advice was good. “They are saying that money costs you nothing when it is a question of obliging your friends,” Condorcet wrote to the Controller-General, probably on 16 March 1775. I would be in despair if I were to give any appearance of founda¬ tion to these ridiculous suggestions. I beg you then to do nothing for me at the moment; although hardly rich, I can wait for a while. Leave me in M. Forbonnais’ position; charge me with the important work of the reduction of measures, and wait until my labor has deserved some recompense. I have no scruples about receiving from the State an income that would put me in the position to work more, and I have enough vanity to believe that the expense would not exceed the utility of my work. I only ask then to wait a year, or two if that is necessary. . . .The Aca¬ demy would wait with me, or you could give it 2,000 crowns and merely postpone that which concerns me.173 The next day, the assistant secretary was writing again to underline the sense of this position. Turgot could give the academy its 12,000 livres, setting aside a thousand to supplement Fouchy’s stipend and allow him to retire, while Condorcet could serve as permanent secretary without emolument for two or three years. “If this procedure seems too much to my disadvantage, bear in mind that three years from now I shall be better known, public affairs in better order, and you could then pay me for the years in which I received nothing.”174 There the matter rested. The administrative reorganization that fol¬ lowed the grain riots of 1775 liberated funds to pay Condorcet for his work as Inspecteur des monnaies, but no further action was taken on d’Alem¬ bert’s project to hasten Fouchy’s retirement. It was unfortunate, then, that d’Alembert apparently left a draft of his scheme in a book he returned in the fall of 1775 to the permanent secretary, who was incensed enough by his critic’s all too frank evaluation of his capabilities to denounce the scheme before the academy as yet another underhand plot of a cabal con¬ tinually intriguing in ministerial circles for Condorcet s advancement.175

44

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Dramatic as it was, this revelation served only to confirm the long-standing antagonism within the academy against Condorcet and his supporters. The circumstances of his election as assistant secretary; the maneuvers by which d’Alembert, Bossut, and Condorcet were appointed as inspectors of navigation; this final attempt to precipitate Fouchy’s retirement: while they may have been motivated by a partisan zeal for the public good, these actions were rightly seen by many academicians as the work of a cabal that was manipulating ministerial connections in an attempt to dominate the academy, threatening its very independence by their activities. As in the French Academy, the philosophies’ assault upon the Academy of Sciences was met with resistance; as in that academy, too, the battle came to revolve largely around the issue of censorship. Led by Buffon, the natural leader of any opposition to d’Alembert —this time supported by Patrick d’Arcy, director of the academy in 1775 and champion of its liberties, and the chevalier de Borda, for whom Condorcet savored a special resentment —the counterattack began early in 1775, almost imme¬ diately after the launching of the scheme for the 12,000 livres.176 It opened on 14 January when Grandjean de Fouchy, stressing the importance of the literary work of the secretary to the life of the academy as a whole, appealed for the appointment of a committee of academicians to review and approve his secretarial productions before their publication or an¬ nouncement.177 The academy immediately accepted this proposal and decided that in future all the writings of the secretary would be subject to such approval. In accordance with this decision, when on 24 March 1775 Fouchy asked for the election of a committee to join with the officers of the academy in examining his writings, it was further decided that there should be a permanent committee of four to be elected in future at the beginning of each year.178 These deliberations clearly went beyond the letter of Fouchy’s initial demands to establish the rule that successive secretaries would automatically be subject to the supervision that he had requested only for his own work. As a result, they were bitterly resented by Condorcet, who regarded them as placing insupportable limitations on the liberty to advance the good cause he had expected to enjoy once he himself succeeded to the position of permanent secretary. Throughout 1775, Condorcet and his supporters bent strenuous efforts to reverse these decisions insofar as they affected his future activities as secretary. “My head is never very capable of being occupied with serious study,” complained d’Alembert to Lagrange on 14 April 1775, “without counting the fact that Condorcet and I are experiencing petty harassment at the Academy of Sciences which disgusts us with it.”179 The intensity of Condorcet’s feelings and the elements of his protests are vividly revealed in his letters to Turgot, to whom he appealed to influence La Vrilli£re, Maurepas, and later Malesherbes to reverse a decision that he denounced as irregular and invalid, the work of supporters of his rival, Bailly, who had seized upon Fouchy’s request as a perfect opportunity to harass Condorcet and force him to resign from his position as assistant secretary.180 At first, with the ministers apparently on his side, the prospects of an early issue from his difficulties seemed bright: the due de la Vrillidre agreed that the

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deliberation was irregular; and Maurepas expressed support for the assistant secretary, though counseling him to do nothing to aggravate the issue. But Condorcet’s hopes for the early intervention of the first minister quickly evaporated as the opposition pressed the attack. “Now they have had the courtesy to tell him that I only wish to be free to introduce the venom of the Encyclopedic into the academy, and all his goodwill toward me has disappeared as if by magic,” he complained to Turgot. “Tell him that it is the interest he showed on my behalf in the affair of Fouchy’s retirement which has prompted this cabal, that it is not true that the manner in which I was made secretary has nothing to do with it, that the petty hatred of each of them stems from very well-known, very trifling, and very base motives, that I am no more of an Encyclopedist than those who accuse me of it.”181 Despite the faithful intervention of the Controller-General and Condorcet's not very convincing protestations of his innocence of the encyclopedic taint, fear of “the venom of the Encyclopedic” seems to have had its effect in reminding the ministers that, whatever the status of this particular decision or the established practice of the academy, the principle that the writings of all academicians (including the secretary) be subject in some way to the approval of the academy had in fact been laid down in the fundamental regulations of 16 9 9.182 Thus nothing had been decided to Condorcet’s satisfaction by July 1775, when La Vrilliere resigned from office and his position was taken by the reluctant Malesherbes. With the advent of a new and enlightened minister, drawn from among Turgot’s warmest supporters, Condorcet renewed his attempts to reverse the decision of the academy insofar as it affected him.183 Finally, by the end of 1775, even the diffident Malesherbes, still pestered by the importunate assistant secretary and doubtless tiring of the political ways of academi¬ cians, was prepared to take action. According to Lalande, a compromise was worked out by which the academy would receive its 12,000 livres (Condorcet being granted a stipend of 3,000 livres from “extraordinary funds” on 11 November 1775) and regulations were drafted by d’Alembert to govern the question of censorship without appearing to single out the secretary for special treatment.184 The proposed regulations were pre¬ sented to the academy for its views at the very first session of 1776, on 10 January; and a slightly revised version, making more explicit the arrange¬ ment for the secretary’s writings, was submitted by Malesherbes a week later, after consultation with representatives of the academy.185 The essence of this proposal lay in the annual election of a committee of six censors, whose principal task was to go over the page proofs of everything published in the academy’s name before it went finally to press, ensure that the printed version conformed to the text originally presented or subsequently approved, and excise anything that might prove objectionable. The censors were also to be charged frequently to inspect and report on the state of the academy’s registers, which Fouchy had been unable to keep current, and to make sure that proceedings were recorded in full and at the appropriate date. While hardly gratified by the thought of such close inspection of the secretarial functions in future, Condorcet

46

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

was at least mollified by the prospect that the offensive committee for the secretariat would be replaced by a body charged with examining all the work of the academy destined for publication and not only that of the secretary. The arrangement, he told Turgot, “put the works of the secretary absolutely on a par with those of other academicians, which is at least just.”186 Although these proposals were well received by the academy, Condorcet’s opponents were not yet ready to capitulate. Persuading the indecisive Malesherbes to withdraw the regulation he had submitted, they secured his approval of an alternative proposal that would allow the academy to make any arrangements it wished to censor the secretary’s writings. With this new proposal pushed through the academy on 31 January, Condorcet found himself “delivered over by M. de Malesherbes to the cabal which wants to disgust me with the Academy, despite the promises to the contrary he has been willing to make.”187 Despite further remonstrations and accusations of betrayal, he was unable to forestall ratification of this abrupt decision. By definitive expression of the royal will received on 3 February, the academy was ordered to adhere strictly to the regulations of 1699, allowing nothing to be published or delivered in public session without prior examination and approval.188 It was further decided that until the academy had drafted its own self-policing regulation on this mat¬ ter, as it was authorized to do, the secretary’s writings would be examined by its regular officers.189 There the matter rested. No new regulation was forthcoming, nor is there any record of a committee appointed to draw one up, though the academy continued to appoint a committee at the beginning of each year to examine the secretary’s writings. If Condorcet was to be permanent secretary of the academy, it was not to be without restrictions on the power to do good he so desperately desired. On 24July 1776, satisfactory financial arrangements having been made for Fouchy’s retirement, the academy unanimously approved the secretary’s belated request to resign from a position which ill health made it no longer possible for him to fulfill. This deliberation over, Condorcet immediately rose to read a communication renouncing the decision of March 1773 and waiving the right to succeed Grandjean de Fouchy then conferred upon him.190 He was convinced that the harassment of the preceding years sprang from the discontent of a group of academicians with the manner of his appointment as assistant secretary and their desire to force him to give way to Bailly. Vexed by the attempts to subject his work to the censorship of a committee, and no longer able to rely on the good offices of Turgot, who had fallen from power in May, he was perhaps no longer sure that he enjoyed enough of the academicians’ confidence. In any case it was clearly necessary for him to seek the renewed approval of the academy in an open election if he was to be entirely sure of enjoying tranquil possession of the coveted position of permanent secretary. The academy was only too willing to put an end to the disputes of past months by holding a new election. It immediately resolved to ask the royal permission to proceed to the election of a secretary without taking into

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

47

account Condorcet’s right of succession. With royal approval, the day of the election was set for 7 August 1776. It was on that date, then, that the marquis de Condorcet was finally elected permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences by the unanimous vote of his colleagues. “My dear fellow-academicians have absolutely insisted on formally reelecting me. That is stupid and ridiculous; but they have said many gratifying things to me and I don’t think I shall have any more trouble, at least for a while,” wrote Condorcet to Turgot, announcing the news of his succession.191 “The Academy of Sciences has finally fixed its choice on M. de Condorcet for the position of permanent secretary, which M. Fouchy’s age no longer permits him to exercise,” announced Metra somewhat cynically in his Correspondance. “Named last year as his assistant by order of the Minister, M. de Condorcet sensed how many obstacles he might find to his now enjoying what was only the result of an act of authority. He again submitted his fate to the chance of a free election, and this proceeding was so agreeable to the academy that it elected him unanimously.”192 Condorcet’s troubled period of office as assistant secretary had finally come to an end on a victorious and strangely harmonious note. Though not without the surveillance of a committee, the institutional heart of the Academy of Sciences had been captured for the reforming cause. Yet Condorcet finally achieved the position he had coveted for the public good in a very different mood and in a very different context than that in which he had first sought it four years earlier. Already, the political tide was changing. For two years, while fighting off the rearguard action of his opponents within the academy, Condorcet had pressed his scientific expertise and his political passion into the service of Turgot’s reforming plans. By the time he eventually succeeded to the position of permanent secretary, however, the hopes and strategies of the reforming movement had been dashed between parlementary opposition, popular riot, and court intrigue. With the fall of Turgot a technocratic dream came to an end. It was a bitter irony that the first eloge Condorcet was called upon to compose as permanent secretary was that of the administrator who had been so instrumental in securing his claim to that position, Trudaine de Montigny, Turgot’s closest administrative subordinate during his twenty months as Controller-General.193 In a sense, the Eloge de M. Trudaine celebrated more than a man: it glorified an administrative ethic —a conception of the relationship between power and enlightenment that lay at the heart of Turgot’s reforms —and it bore witness to the shattering of a brief moment in which everything had seemed possible. It is to the crucial days of this reforming ministry, and Condorcet’s hopes for the reorganiza¬ tion of science and society in that context that we must now turn. Towards the New Atlantis

“One can regard a position of this kind as a means of doing secretly the little good of which one is capable,” Condorcet had written to Voltaire in 1773, announcing his election as assistant secretary of the academy.194 The fight to retain the promise of the secretariat for the reforming cause occupied much of his attention during the following years. But he did not

48

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

for that reason neglect the efforts to use the power of his position to do good. No sooner was he appointed assistant secretary than he embarked upon a scheme for the direction of scientific activity and the rejuvenation of civic life throughout the realm. Probably during the summer of 1774, Condorcet prepared a private memorandum for the principal minister, Maurepas, on the subject of the scientific researches to be executed in France. There were some sciences, he argued —astronomy and meteoro¬ logy, for example, as well as natural history and physical geography — that had need of extended and systematically organized observations by scientists throughout the country for their advancement. As a result, meteorology was still in its infancy; and even astronomy lacked observa¬ tions from many different parts of the earth, especially from locations where observers could be sure of clear skies. “All the astronomers of Europe are in foggy regions. For the Italians and the Spanish are more concerned to get to Heaven than to observe it.”195 Yet these subjects, Condorcet maintained, were scarcely cultivated in France outside Paris.196 This inactivity in the provinces was less the result of a dearth of talent than of a lack of stimulation. Those provincials who cultivated the sciences did so as a pastime rather than as a profession, for pleasure rather than recognition. While the more vigorous provincial minds were attracted to the capital, where more often than not the fight for subsistence absorbed their time and stifled their talents, there remained many others whom no circumstances had awakened to genius. The stimulation of scientific activity in the provinces would therefore bind the more vigorous to their locality and awaken the intellectually dormant to the advancement of science. Nor would the consequences of such activity be limited to its purely scientific objectives: for those who cultivated the sciences would also fulfill administrative and judicial functions and refurbish civic life.197 Always anxious to stress the close connection between the scientific attitude and the rational conduct of politics, Condorcet was also clearly aware of the potential power of the academies for the diffusion of enlightened ideas. “With the exception of a small number accustomed to regard as true only the result of their observations and calculations,” he maintained in the Histoire de VAcademie royale des sciences for the year 1771, “men judge only on external authority; and, docile to popular opinion, they only escape prejudices when the judgment of learned soci¬ eties dictates what they must think. This is perhaps the greatest advantage of academies.”198 Thus Condorcet insisted that the renovation of scientific activity, and consequently of civic life, could be achieved by the simple measure of associating the provincial academies with the Academy of Sciences in Paris. In order to foster scientific enthusiasm among members of the provincial academies, they would be entitled to assist in sessions of the Paris academy during visits to the capital. The provincial secretaries would send papers, observations, and other materials to the secretary of the Academy of Sciences, the best of which would be published in its Memoires des savants etrangers. For his part, the secretary of the Paris academy would direct the endeavors of the provincial academies by compiling and circulating among

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

49

them a list of the most important observations to be made and of useful research projects to be carried out, and by keeping them informed of the latest discoveries in Europe.199 In short, Condorcet proposed that the Academy of Sciences in the capital be granted full responsibility for the direction and coordination of scientific activity in France. "I do not think that this project can harm the Paris academy, to which it grants a kind of Inspectorship,” he wrote to Maurepas: 'only the secretary could complain of an increase in work but there are two of them, one of whom fears nothing so much as having nothing to do.”200 This was, of course, a significant admission. For to enlarge the responsi¬ bilities of the Paris academy for the organization and direction of science in France was also to enlarge the power of its secretary. While the circum¬ stances leading to his initial appointment as assistant secretary were prompting attempts to limit his power and independence in that capacity, Condorcet was already proposing to the minister a scheme that would extend his responsibilties to the whole of France. “Since this arrangement changes nothing in the constitution of the Academy of Sciences,” he intimated privately to Maurepas, “I think it would be useless to consult it on the essentials of this project. Only the article granting the right to participate in its meetings would have to be established in accordance with a decision of the academy, or at least have to appear to have been granted by it.”201 Clearly the corporate rights and liberties of the academy were of less importance to Condorcet than the power to effect the rapid implementation of his scheme for the general advancement of science. Though he hoped to circumscribe the power of the Academy of Sciences to decide on this issue as far as possible, Condorcet could not avoid the need for consultation with the provincial academies. In the summer of 1774, hoping to canvass support, he wrote privately to some of their officials, outlining his proposal to make the organization of scientific activity in France “similar, as it were, to Bacon’s Atlantis."202 The first to reply —the chemist Guyton de Morveau, then vice-chancellor of the Academy of Dijon — responded enthusiastically on behalf of the colleagues whom he had consulted.203 Other secretaries to reply were far from sharing Guyton’s enthusiasm. In a testy letter to Condorcet, the secretary of the Academy of Nimes, Jean-Frangois Seguier, outlined a number of objections to this scheme.204 We know more of the arguments raised in the Academy of Lyon, for in addition to the long and detailed letter which Condorcet received from its secretary, La Tourrette, we can rely on the frank and private notes prepared for him on this subject by two of the academicians he consulted the litterateurs, Charles Bordes (most famous for his defense of the arts and sciences against Rousseau) and Louis Bollioud-Mermet.205 In the first place, argued these critics of the project, Condorcet was wrong in regarding the provincial academies as modeled upon the Academy of Sciences and uniformly concerned with the same object. The Academy of Lyon was divided into separate classes for the sciences, belles-lettres, and so on. The Academy of Nimes had from its institution been concerned with belleslettres, only recently turning a part of its attention to the natural sciences. But there were other academies devoted solely to literary activities; and still

50

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

others which did not divide members into classes according to their preoccupations. It followed that the project of association would either be hampered by the variations in the constitutions and goals of these mixed institutions; or (as La Tourrette and Bordes maintained) its implementa¬ tion would cause dissidence and conflict between the classes and members of the provincial academies. In neither case would it succeed in stimulating the scientific activity Condorcet had in mind. The second objection, put forcefully by Seguier, was that the meetings of the provincial academies generated much of the heat of enthusiasm but rarely saw the light of achievement. The duties of their estate, the cares of their occupation, and the burdens of family left few academicians free to perform the academic obligations they imposed upon themselves. Thus work accomplished came only from a small nucleus within each academy. The aging Seguier himself looked coldly upon a project which would increase the burden placed upon the secretaries of the academies, many of whom were not free to devote all their energies to the sciences. Nor was he alone in this: the same consideration was clearly very much in La Tourrette’s mind. Thus Seguier argued that the activity of the provincial academies was such that one could not count on receiving the articles promised for each volume. In any case, those academies which published their own Memories would wish to retain the best of their work for their own publications. The Academy of Sciences would therefore receive for publica¬ tion either nothing at all, or papers which the provincial academies did not regard as worth publishing themselves. Condorcet had argued in his letter to the academies that association with the Academy of Sciences would draw the provincial academies closer to the central administration in Paris, freeing them from dependence upon the favors of local dignitaries. Together they will all form a common bloc [une masse commune], be¬ come a part of the general Administration, and not depend upon the greater or lesser enthusiasm that the intendant or governor of a pro¬ vince has for the sciences.206 In perhaps his most interesting objection, Charles Bordes admitted his doubts as to whether the creation of such a collective organization would be acceptable on political grounds to the government itself. Recalling the claims of the parlements to constitute a single body for the whole nation, claims that the government had been quick to quash, he expressed the fear “that this association of all the academies might perhaps incur the disapproval of the government; it might seem similar to the pretensions of the parlements, who wished to form only a single body divided into different classes.”20’’ This consideration weighed heavily enough on La Tourrette for him to suggest that such an association might even harm the provincial academies rather than bring them under the eye of a benevolent govern¬ ment: the government might itself look with anxious eye upon the formation of this kind of general league, although purely literary; very far from guaranteeing new protection for the academies on the part of the ad-

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51

ministration, might we not offend it in thus forming together in a sin¬ gle body whose members could close ranks in an emergency?208 But if the provincial critics of Condorcet’s scheme were concerned with the political effects of such a proposal on the attitude of the central administration, they feared still more for the position of their academies in their own localities. The argument that mutual association would free the provincial academies from reliance on local dignitaries was both rash and unwise, Seguier insisted. Since there were members of the Academy of Nimes in close association with such dignitaries, Condorcet’s language could only quicken their opposition to the scheme as a whole. The implications of Seguier's objection can be elaborated from the notes prepared by Bollioud and Bordes. It is clear from these frank private notes that the centralized control which this scheme implied —the subservience of the local academies to Paris and to the Academy of Sciences —lay at the very root of provincial objections to the project. The provincial academicians were prepared to encourage the association of individual members of the local academies with the Academy of Sciences in the capital; and to allow members to submit papers for publication in a general collection. Bordes even suggested a scheme which would entitle any provincial scientist to become an associate member of the Academy of Sciences after the publication of three of his papers in such a volume. But they would not admit a formal association implying the subordination of the provincial academies to the Parisian. “Every kind of association involves obligation and bondage,” insisted Bollioud-Mermet, “especially of a provincial academy with that in the capital. The one necessarily becomes dependent upon the other.”209 The same point was made by Charles Bordes. In agreeing to the association proposed by Condorcet, he argued, the provincial academies would be forfeiting their liberty and independence. Works officially approved by the provincial academies for inclusion in a general collection might be rejected by the Paris academy; failure to approve any such works, on the other hand, might call down reproaches from the capital. In either case, the provincial academy would find itself in the humiliating position of having all its activities, opinions, and publications judged by appeal to Paris, and the provincial secretary would find his stature reduced to that of deputy of the permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences. “From all these considerations,” Bordes maintained, “I feel justified in concluding that the project of association must be abandoned.”210 This view was faithfully reflected in La Tourrette’s reply to Condorcet, which proposed an alternative form of association with the Paris academy on a voluntary and individual basis. This plan, La Tourrette argued, would enable individual scientists and their academies to share in the glory of having contributed to the advancement of the sciences, without thereby sacrificing their indepen¬ dence. More impressed by the strength and extent of these objections to his scheme than he was by the solidity of La Tourrette’s alternative proposal, Condorcet set himself to reply to them immediately. In the first flush of enthusiasm at the new dawn of Louis XVI’s reign, he rejected the fears of the

52

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

provincial academicians that the government might for political reasons look harshly upon an association of academies throughout the nation. “The government is too enlightened to be offended by a literary association. Virtue surrounds the throne. Moreover, M. de Maurepas knows my project. He approves of it, and would like to support it without there being any question of giving it legal sanction.”211 Since the Academy of Sciences would judge the merits of papers submitted for publication by members of the provincial academies just as it judged those of its own members, Condorcet argued, the provincial authors would be treated in exactly the same way as those of the capital. And falling back on an analogy which doubtless irritated the fears of the provincials far more effectively than his protesta¬ tions of the virtue of the government had been able to assuage them, he set aside the objection that the proposed association would involve the supremacy of the Academy of Sciences over those in the provinces by citing the example of the parlements. There will be no dependence. This is an association like that of the for¬ mer parlements. You will be masters of your own house; we shall never have any right to give you orders; we shall be outsiders admitted to your meetings without the right to vote, just as you will be to ours; and if we send you projects of research it will remain up to you to follow them or refuse them.212 La Tourrette’s reply, not written until 16 November 1774, contained little modification of his previous arguments. He was prepared to see his alternative proposals strengthened by a formal accord dignified by royal authority, that would regularize and institutionalize the cooperation between the academies. But on the essential point of Condorcet’s project — the right of the Academy of Sciences to exercise powers of censorship over the publication of papers written by provincial scientists and approved by their academies —he was still unwilling to accept the supremacy of the Paris academy he found thereby implied.213 Condorcet’s initiative had clearly been blocked. In January 1775 he was forced to admit to the lone supporters of the scheme in the Dijon academy that the time was apparently not yet ripe for such a project of voluntary association.214 Yet Condorcet had no intention of abandoning his idea for the reorgani¬ zation of scientific activity throughout France under the aegis of the Academy of Sciences. Scarcely a year later, he was beseiging Malesherbes with another project of association with the provincial academies, far more radical in its arguments and implications than anything previously suggested.215 The replies of the provincial secretaries had convinced him that the constitutions of the local academies were inadequate and even harmful to the progress of the sciences. Although they had not produced a good mathematician or a good astronomer since their institution, he argued, some of the provincial academies had nevertheless divided them¬ selves into separate classes for each subject in imitation of the Academy of Sciences, fixing the size of each class far higher than the number of qualified members the locality could furnish, or failing to fix any limit to their numbers at all. As a result, “the title of academician, instead of being

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53

honored, had fallen into a kind of ridicule”; 216 and the academies had remained largely inactive or concerned with frivolities. The societies of agriculture, founded by Bertin in an attempt to remedy this situation and to encourage the progress of the useful arts, had achieved a no more significant result. Their only success, Condorcet insisted, had been that of making the scientific study of agricultural questions seem ridiculous.217 Yet the aspects of the provincial scene most destructive of scientific activity, in Condorcet’s view, derived from the effects of social pressures on the composition of the local academies. Founded by private institution, he argued, they had sought their protectors on a local level. One had chosen the governor of the province; another the local bishop; a third, some grand seigneur of the district. Wishing to curry favor with those in power in the locality, academicians had acquiesced in the institution of ex officio members; seeking to honor local dignitaries, they had elected honorary members from among the ranks of the nobility and the magistracy of the province. Thus entrenched in the traditional social structure, in the rights and privileges of a corporate society, the provincial academies had come to mirror in their internal arrangements the hierarchy of social rank in the world around them.218 All of this, Condorcet insisted, downgraded the position of the ordinary academician, who was interested primarily in scientific activity, and operated to the clear detriment of scientific research. Thus one has had to be clearly bourgeois to accept the position of ordinary academician; and it is easy to see what a humiliating role a savant must play in this crowd of patrons, academiciens nes, honorary academicians; how far these academies must be given over to baseness and intrigue; what authority the powerful personages who have entered them must exercise.219 It followed that the progress of science required the rationalization and reorganization of its pattern of recruitment and rewards. The first step toward scientific advance had to be the liberation of scientific organization itself from the social bondage of the old regime. In accordance with these views, and doubtless confirmed in them by Turgot’s insistence that corporate bodies be ever subject to the supreme law of public utility, Condorcet proposed a radical reorganization of the provincial academies throughout the realm. Where there were separate literary and scientific academies, or academies and agricultural societies existing in the same town, these were to be merged into a single institution. Where there were literary or scientific academies alone, or merely agricultural societies, these were to form the nucleus of new academies. Each of these reorganized academies throughout France was to be subject to the immediate protection of the crown and administered, together with the Paris academies, by the secretary of state in charge of the Maison du Roi. Each was to have the same number of members, the same two classes —one for the natural, one for the historical sciences —and the same constitutional organization. For each class, there was to be a secretary, twelve resident academiciens ordinaires, and twelve academiciens litres (at least eight of whom could not be resident in the provincial capital). Each of

54

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

these academicians would have the right to vote equally in the affairs of his academy. Provision was also made for an unlimited number of corres¬ ponding members, and for honorary members (six for each class) chosen exclusively from among foreign scholars or members of the central Parisian academies. But there was to be no place in Condorcet’s scheme for honorary members drawn from among the notables of the province. During the period of transition from the old academic regime to the new, Condorcet gave existing honorary academicians —“if they consider it appropriate to remain academicians” — the option of being considered academiciens litres. But the implications of this constitutional organiza¬ tion were clear: freedom from the influence of social hierarchy, equality among the academicians, uniform organization. For Condorcet, the rational organization of science in France could only be achieved by eliminating the antiquated corporatism and stifling provincialism of existing scientific organization. As in the uniform constitution of the new provincial academies, so in their activities. Each was to be issued with standardized apparatus and instructions for accurate meteorological observation prepared by the Academy of Sciences. Each was to be charged with the duty of communi¬ cating important observations (particularly in agronomy, mineralogy, and medicine), innovations in the useful arts, or notable historical discoveries to a general correspondent in Paris (Condorcet himself).220 Each would receive information concerning scientific developments elsewhere, and proposals for fruitful research. Each academy, finally, was to be required to submit at least one paper annually from each of its classes, to be published in a yearly collection of scientific work. By these means, Condorcet hoped to achieve the common direction and administrative coordination of all scientific activity in France, to be mobilized for the “progress of science” and the “welfare of the nation.”221 The immediate fate of this extraordinary proposal is not entirely clear. Malesherbes probably did not remain in office long enough to give the plan more than superficial attention; and Condorcet himself almost certainly felt disinclined to press it upon the ministers who came to power after the fall of Turgot. As a result, the projected reformation of the provincial academies proved abortive. In scientific organization, as in so many other areas of administration, only the Revolution was able to sweep away the barriers to reform projects already fully conceived under the old regime. Yet this should not blind us to the radical, even revolutionary, character of Condorcet’s plan. It was no less important in its implications for scientific activity than was Turgot’s fundamental Memoire sur les municipalites in its implications for social organization. Indeed, it is clearly no accident that while Dupont de Nemours was drafting Turgot’s mighty plan for the regeneration of French government and society, Condorcet was proposing a parallel plan for the reorganization of its scientific activity. These two proposals, it might be suggested, were but different aspects of a single conception of social organization and of the relationship between science and society shared by Turgot and his closest collaborators. And what was this conception of science and society, in essence, if not the theme of

55

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Bacon’s New Atlantis, to which Condorcet was constantly to return:

the

rationalization of both political and scientific organization; the direction of scientific

activity

towards

the

greatest

public

utility

and

human

well-being; the diffusion of enlightenment? “It is easy to establish assemblies,” Condorcet remarked of the Memoire sur les municipalites in his biography of Turgot: “but their utility depends entirely upon the education of their members and the intelligence that inspires them; and it was a question in France of giving a new education to a whole people, of stimulating new ideas within it at the same time as it was being called to new functions.”222 In the diffusion of ideas and the creation of enlightened citizens, upon which the realization of Turgot’s dreams for the resuscitation of political life in France would have depended, Condorcet's scheme for the reorganization of the provincial academies would doubtless have played an important part. When he later came to prepare a plan for public instruction —during the Revolution which swept away the academies with the old regime in which they were so deeply embedded — Condorcet refurbished his plan for the reorganization and rationalization of scientific activity in France, proposing a unified National Society for the Arts and Sciences with members in Paris and throughout the nation. This reformed and revitalized system of scientific academies, the true realization of Bacon’s New Atlantis, became the very linchpin of an educational system intended to transform subjects into citizens. Abortive though it was, then, Condorcet’s project for the reorganiza¬ tion of the provincial academies underlines the leavening effect that he was convinced science must have upon society. The advancement of science was intimately associated in his thought with the rational organization of society, for scientific advance produced citizens capable of cultivating the moral and political sciences that were the basis of rational social and political conduct. At the same time, to advance scientific activity as “an honorable estate and almost a public function,” it was also necessary to rationalize its organization and to free it from the social bondage of the old regime. Scientific advance, in other words, meant social reform. Caught in the provinces between the claims of social hierarchy and the strength of local particularism, institutionalized science required from Condorcet, its official spokesman, just as it inspired in Condorcet, the social theorist, a demand for the rational reorganization of things. “Benissons le Ministre”

By 1774, Condorcet had established himself as a mathematician, academi¬ cian, philosophe, and pamphleteer. For a moment in 1775, in the course of a reshuffle of the departments under Turgot’s control, he almost became a bureaucrat.

Since

he

lacked

the

appropriate

qualifications

for

high

administrative office (to say nothing of his temperament) and was too useful to enter the bureaucracy in a more menial capacity, the moment was a passing one.223 But it underlies the extent to which the scientist had come to embrace the goals of the reforming administrator whose influence gradually came to eclipse that of d’Alembert in his political and intellec¬ tual formation. D’Alembert had offered his young protege the model of a

56

THE PASSION FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

scientific career and the vision of an independent role for the man of letters to legislate in matters of philosophy and taste. Turgot presented him with a tougher, more technocratic version of the relationship between power and enlightenment, together with a political theory in which the commerce of philosophy and kings was given a more direct institutional significance. “To do good one must have at least as much power as goodwill,” Condorcet had written to Turgot in one of his earliest letters to the royal intendant of Limoges.224 It was as simple as that. Bureaucrats born to the tradition of high office, the very type of the grands commis of royal absolutism— men like Turgot and Trudaine, displayed little ambivalence toward power. In an age that had not yet learned to be neurotic about this commodity, it was naturally the very stuff of their reforming schemes. Ultimately, Turgot envisaged a reformation of French government and society which would transform the exercise of monarchical power through the creation of representative assemblies. In the meantime, power existed to be held in one hand or divided among many, to be abused by the unenlightened or utilized by the enlightened, to be the instrument of arbitrary authority or the vehicle of rational reform. The best form of government, Turgot had concluded, was that provided by the constitution of an enlightened republic “in which all property owners have an equal right to participate in legislation, regulate the assemblies that draw up and promulgate the laws, give them sanction by their suffrage, and change the form of all public institutions by a formal decision.”225 Such a republic had never truly existed, nor could it be achieved quickly, if at all. In the meantime, Condorcet maintained in his Vie de M. Turgot, the monarchi¬ cal regime had the great advantage of offering a clear locus of power to be captured for the public good by men of reason and goodwill. For if those who exercise power surpass other men in enlightenment as they do in authority, then the political order will approximate to the natural; and men, obeying reason rather than power, will seem to have lost none of their rights.226 This view of the redemption of monarchical power by reason, this eighteenth-century version of the withering away of the state, was the administrative ethic sketched by Condorcet in his life of Trudaine and more systematically amplified in his biography of Turgot. The title to an equal voice in the formation of the laws is the essential, inalienable, and imprescriptible right of all property-owners, he argued in the latter work. Yet in the existing unenlightened state of society, implementation of this right would be the most illusory for the greatest proportion of the people and the least important for the achievement of their happiness and welfare. Essential, inalienable, and imprescriptible, the right to direct political participation is nevertheless the most expendable of rights. Moreover, this right no longer has the same importance, if the laws are regarded not as the expression of the arbitrary will of the greatest number, but as truths deduced by reason from the principles of natural law and adopted as such by the majority. The only difference then [between a monarchical and republican constitution] is that consent to these truths is passive in one constitution, while it is public

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and subject to regular, legal forms in another. Thus, instead of the very great interest in not being subjected to the arbitrary will of ano¬ ther, one has that of being subjected only to an enlightened reason which imposes no laws but those useful to the general happiness, and of living under a constitution which can give a well-founded hope of seeing such laws established.227 Law, then, must express the authority of reason or the reason of authority. Where it is impossible to achieve the former by the establish¬ ment of an enlightened republic, it is necessary to exercise the latter through the bureaucratic institutions of the monarchy. This formulation of the relationship between power and enlightenment, authority and reason, lies at the heart of the political theory Condorcet learned from Turgot, a political theory that was to dominate his conception of social science. It was, in effect, a technocratic creed: the creed of men confident in their expertise, easy in the tradition of power, convinced that the problems of politics are susceptible of rational answers and systematic solutions. For such men, as Condorcet insisted in his biography of Turgot, a monarchical regime had three principal virtues. 228 In the first place, the monarch had and could have no interest in making bad laws, an advantage that did not exist in any aristocracy or in any republic, ancient or modern. In the second place, he could attack bad laws with less circumspection, following a more regular and systematic plan. Finally, he could act in accordance with the opinions of enlightened men without waiting for public opinion —the principal advantage of a monarchy, Condorcet insisted, and the main reason why Turgot proposed to give his projected provincial assemblies only administrative functions. “He knew that even in states with the most popular constitutions. . public affairs. . are almost always decided by the dictates of prejudice.... But in a monarchy where an institution of this kind would be novel, what could one expect from an assembly of men almost all foreign to public affairs, not amenable to the voice of truth, quick to allow themselves to be led astray by the first charlatan who tried to seduce them?”229 The misplaced generosity that would grant such men the power to formulate policy would be the crudest of hypocrisies. “It would be to write off as pure loss the greatest advantage of monarchies, that of being able to destroy the edifice of prejudices before it collapses under its own weight, and of carrying out useful reforms, even when the crowd of rich and powerful men protect abuses; that, finally, of following a regular system without being obliged to sacrifice part of it to the necessity of winning votes.”230 The most dramatic test of this philosophy came over the grain trade, the liberty of which was the foundation of Turgot’s program as of physiocratic doctrine. In the popular mind, it was a primary responsibility of the government to regulate the grain trade in the localities in such a way as to maintain the just price and avert disaster in the times of dearth never far away in a traditional economy. In other words, in the language of the time, the regulation of the grain trade was a matter not simply of commerce but of police, which is to say governmental responsibility for social welfare. According to the economic reformers, however, the complex governmental

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regulations instituted for such traditional purposes were self-defeating: they aggravated short-term crises of subsistence by preventing the free movement of grain and inhibited long-term adjustment to the growing demand of the market. Where police was bound to fail, commerce would inevitably succeed.231 The prosperity of agriculture, the leading sector of the economy; the wealth and welfare of the people, the indispensable tax-base of a flourishing state; the fiscal recovery of the monarchy: all of these depended upon the freedom of the grain trade. Such had been Turgot’s Euclidean conviction in 1770, when he had tried to dissuade the abbe Terray from reintroducing the internal regulation of the grain trade abolished by Bertin in 1763.232 Such was his argument now, as ControllerGeneral, when on 13 September 1774 he reenacted Bertin’s free-trade legislation. With the exception of Paris, the provisioning of which the royal council continued to regard as too important to abandon to the contingen¬ cies of the market, all governmental restrictions on the sale of grain within the realm were removed and the traditional practice of stockpiling grain as a means of guaranteeing subsistence in times of shortage was abandoned. Advised to move cautiously by Bertin, and under pressure to do so from his ministerial colleagues, Turgot nevertheless maintained restrictions on grain exports and, on the heels of a less than propitious harvest, moved to cushion the effects of establishing internal freedom by offering bounties on imports of grain.233 One novelty of Turgot’s edict of 13 September was that its preamble amounted to a minor treatise on the principles of free trade in grain. “You will find it platitudinous and long-winded,” he confessed to the abbe de Veri, indicating that he wished “to make it so clear that every village lawyer can explain it to the peasants.”234 In a monarchy, one could indeed dispense with the formality of counting votes. But it was a cardinal point of Turgot’s political philosophy that the reasons for legislation be explained in such a way that each enactment was in itself a lesson in the political education of the people: a lesson intended to render its truth so common¬ place in the popular mind that none of his successors would dare reverse this legislation. “This is truly the tone of a father who explains to his children the measures he has taken for their welfare and who desires that their submission be as enlightened as it is willing,” reflected Metra. “Finally, the nation has read with delight in this edict the words ‘property’ and ‘liberty,’ terms long suppressed in the dictionary of our kings.”235 Whether or not these terms had been eliminated from the lexicon of kings, they had become a fixed part of the political vocabulary of the parlements before their suppression by Maupeou. It was ironic, therefore, that the edict establishing the freedom of the grain trade was registered on 19 December 1774 by the restored Parlement of Paris, virtually the last regular act of which had been to register Terray’s contrary edict of 1770.236 Nothing indicates better than these reversals the inability of the monarchy to shape a general consensus on matters of social policy, and the consequent vacillation of royal edicts as successive ministers captured the momentary confidence of the crown. Nothing was ultimately more dan¬ gerous for the success of Turgot’s policy and the eventual fate of the

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monarchy than this recall of the parlements, a decision which the new Controller-General was probably powerless to prevent and could only attempt to mitigate by supporting restrictions on the initiative of the Parlement of Paris that were ineffectual from the first confrontation.237 Condorcet was by 1774 no friend of the Maupeou parlements, their corruption flamboyantly demonstrated by Beaumarchais, their hatred of philosophy systematically revealed, their principal achievement the main¬ tenance of the prohibitive system clamped on the grain trade by Terray. Yet however corrupt the Maupeou magistrates, they were preferable to the unchecked power of the assassins of La Barre, whose condemnation the philosophes were even then working to reverse. “It is said that the former Parlement will return without conditions, that is to say with its insolence, its pretensions and its prejudices,’’ Condorcet wrote to Turgot in the fall of 1774. “I cannot bear the idea that while you are minister the good might become impossible; the more I hope for from you, the more this idea grieves me.”238 His checklist of the consequences of such a decision, which amounted to the nullification of Turgot’s program, is worth quoting at length. 1. All legal reforms will become impossible, for our laws are excel¬ lent for those who judge and execrable for those who are judged .... 3. Any sound financial operation will become impossible and any unsound one more ruinous, since it will be necessary to add the sum necessary to buy the silence of these gentlemen. For what minister will dare to stand up to this body to whom the king will have sacrificed all those who have defended his authority? 4. Since these gentlemen are ignorant of opinion or despise it, their constant concern will be only to gain the favor of the populace; they will defend all the tyrannies of the prohibitive system, oppose any measure of liberty [of the grain trade] and provoke seditions against any minister who wishes to establish it. 5. Not to have the strength to establish a new tribunal will demon¬ strate a feebleness that will have its effects in all parts of the govern¬ ment. So will the appearance of believing in the impossibility of jus¬ tice being well administered in France without these five hundred magistrates, half of whom are imbeciles, the other half fanatics, and among whom one cannot cite six with common sense. 6. Since these gentlemen share the benighted opinions of the four¬ teenth century. . .since they despise all enlightenment and all philo¬ sophy and are puffed up with the pride worthy of their ignorance, they will be the enemies and persecutors of all enlightenment, trying to plunge us back into the barbarism which in their remonstrances they call the simplicity of ancient manners.239 In the main, allowance made for the rhetoric of the moment, Condorcet’s sketch of the consequences of restoring the parlements was substantially correct. For the moment, however, the Parlement of Paris raised no objections to the liberty of the grain trade — perhaps (as Veri suggested) because the magistrates had learned during their exile that opinion was increasingly favorable to free trade in grain; perhaps because they were not ready for a test of strength on the issue, before they had registered their

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protest against the provisions of the edict of restoration.240 Yet even as the Parlement of Paris registered the edict establishing the internal freedom of the grain trade, the paucity of the harvest of 1774 was becoming clear. The scarcity of bread in Paris during December already necessitated crash measures for provisioning the capital. By the spring, as scarcity became exacerbated by speculation and panic-buying, prices had risen dramati¬ cally and reports from local authorities were informing the ControllerGeneral of increasing unrest in the provinces.241 Sustained misery, a sharp aggravation of prices, and the record of vacillating royal policy which disoriented local officials and encouraged the populace to take the law into its own hands: these had their effects in the chain reaction of bread riots that swept through the Paris region and neighboring provinces in April and May 1775.242 It started on 27 April in the market town of Beaumont-sur-Oise, twenty miles from Paris, where having unsuccessfully appealed to the magistrates to reduce the price of bread, a mob of townspeople and peasants invaded the market and compelled the dealers to sell their wheat at a “just” price later sanctioned by the magistrates. From Beaumont, the riots spread in all directions, north and west into Picardy and Normandy, south and east through the lie de France, sweeping through Versailles and Paris into the Brie and Champagne. The essential features were everywhere the same. Distur¬ bances in the markets were prompted by news that in the next village or town bread prices had been lowered, either by officials or by the populace itself, sometimes wdth the rumor that such action had been authorized by the king. Local mobs demanded that the disoriented officials take administrative measures to regulate the sale of bread, and many of them did so. Where they did not, the populace took the law into its own hands, storming markets and bakeries, carrying off wheat or bread at a price that it considered just —a price that was sometimes paid and sometimes not. Yet pillage, pure and simple, was relatively infrequent. Everywhere the mob invoked the “just price” which it was the government’s traditional obliga¬ tion to maintain, against the “just and natural price” of Turgot’s edict, impersonally following the vicissitudes of the seasons and the inhuman law of supply and demand. The chain reaction of riots reached Versailles on 2 May, while Turgot was in Paris preparing stricter police measures for the capital. In Versailles, as elsewhere, villagers joined townspeople in storming the flour market and laying seige to bakers’ shops, while the flustered authorities only fed the reaction. The military commander charged with guarding the Versailles markets instead ordered the bakers to sell bread at the reduced prices required by the rioters. Turgot’s hasty reversal of this decision never caught up with the rumor that reduction of bread prices had been ordered in the name of the king. This rumor swept the mob into Paris the following day, even as a police order was posted requiring bakers to sell bread at current prices, which that day reached fourteen sous for a four-pound loaf. By midday, a four-pound loaf was not to be found at any price. While the troops stood by, ostensibly for lack of orders, bread markets had been sacked and bakers’ shops pillaged. It was not until the evening that troops were

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brought into action and order restored in the capital; and it was more than a week before the riots were finally brought under control in the Brie. For Turgot, the proponent of rational authority and an enlightened social order, nothing was more to be feared and repressed than the irrational disposition of the inflamed and ignorant mob. “The seditious rioting of the people, and the tyranny it exercises on such occasions, seems to me to be one of the most dreadful of scourges and one of the crimes most destructive of public tranquility,” he had written to Condorcet from Limoges in 1771; “it is consequently one of those to be most harshly repressed.”243 With the success of his most crucial reform now at stake, the Controller-General was far from abandoning the sentiment. The reformers had not counted votes, but they could now count arrests: 145 in Paris, 260 in the Brie and the lie de France, 183 at Beaumont, Pontoise, and in the Beauvaisis.244 Turgot’s enlightened preamble to the people had proved less powerful and less necessary than hundreds of arrests, two public execu¬ tions, the mobilization of troops on a massive scale, the orchestration of village pulpits into a unison blast of propaganda, and a hasty lit de justice overruling the Parlement of Paris. For this failure of rational persuasion an explanation was necessary. “Brigands” had been organized and paid; professional ringleaders mobilized; the people misled. Voltaire accused the clergy; the physiocrat abbe Baudeau accused Sartine; Dupont accused the prince de Conti, who had much to lose from Turgot’s announced intention to abolish the guilds.245 None of these charges has ever been substantiated; nor are they likely to be, since recent research has established beyond reasonable doubt the spontaneous character of the riots and the complete absence of evidence for a plot of any kind. Nevertheless, Condorcet had his own scapegoat in the unfortunate Necker, whose powerful repudiation of free trade, La legislation et le commerce des grains, went on sale barely a week before the outbreak of the bread riots. Although the work had been completed several months earlier, there is no real evidence to suggest that its publication was in any way synchronized with the organization of the riots, either at the direction of the prince de Conti or anyone else. Yet in the supercharged atmosphere of the guerre desfarines any suspicions took on the air of authenticity. Necker had been intimate with Maupeou’s right-hand man (the future consul, Lebrun) and the confidant of the notorious abbe Terray, Condorcet charged in his outraged letters to Suard. Rioters were rumored going into action with the cry “long live Necker,” while it was reported that several copies of his work had been found in the ravaged Parisian grain markets.246 Together with this circumstantial evidence, there went the undeniable testimony of Necker’s writing. “What is certain is that his principles on property lead to the legitimation of pillage, just as the Jesuit principles on compensation lead to the legitimation of theft. The charming thing is that his reasons are the same as those of the Jesuits.”247 Whatever the truth of Necker’s involvement, all Condorcet’s frustrations were vented on “the Genevan money-lender.” Condorcet was an aristocrat still lacking the wherewithall for a pot au feu and some cutlets, while Necker was a wealthy parvenu, a moneychanger whose insolence could not

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be allowed to go unpunished. Condorcet had sacrificed the hope of private wealth to his passion for the public good; Necker was “a foreigner enriched at the expense of my country, who has profited from five years of public distress to double his fortune.”248 Condorcet was the convinced disciple of the virtuous Turgot, whose power to do good was daily being frustrated, while Necker had for three years been the confidant of a powerful criminal,” the abbe Terray. Above all, for this was a matter of science and not of opinion, Condorcet was right and Necker was wrong. “You make me understand all the furor of theological persecutions,” wrote the unhappy Suard, whose gratitude to Necker perversely made him the recipient of much of Condorcet’s pent-up bile. “I see that tolerance is only the virtue of the indifferent and the cry of the oppressed.”249 For three months, the mathematician remained in Picardy stalking his literary prey with a hostility so venomous that his friends feared for his title as le bon Condorcet. “I scribble incessantly, I am totally occupied with this affair,” he wrote to Turgot in May.250 “Good Condorcet, put moderation in your tone and vigor in your substance,” appealed Julie de Lespinasse from Paris. “It is the cause of reason and humanity that you are defending. Beware of utilizing so common and so feeble a means of rebuttal as to answer with insults; the subject you are dealing with is no laughing matter, and it is necessary that malice and ignorance be combatted with reason and virtue.”251 Despite the appeals of Mile de Lespinasse, Condorcet decreed character assassination by ridicule as the capital punishment for those who write against free trade. 252 Plaving announced the punishment, he proceeded to the trial, conviction, and summary execution of the sentence upon Necker in a series of polemics each more vicious, insulting, and splenetic than the last.253 At the heart of his concern to refute Necker was the issue of the relationship between power and enlightenment, social science and political action. “I have not presented as doubtful things about which I have no doubts,” Condorcet insisted in the most extensive of his replies to Necker, the Reflexions sur le commerce des bles. “The first man to propose doubting everything was the creator of philosophy; those who wish now to spread doubts about that which is proven would be its destroyers.”254 For not only did Necker deny the demonstrable truth of the arguments for free trade. Not only did he reject the validity of the scientific method of analysis that had accounted for all the scientific discoveries from Hippocrates and Pythagoras to Locke and d’Alembert. 255 He did so in the name of respect for the prejudices of the people. Necker’s argument starts from the great truth announced by Rousseau and claimed for the antiphysiocratic cause by Linguet: that civil institu¬ tions have been created for the benefit of the rich against the poor.256 Oppressed by the laws in the name of justice, property, and liberty; exploited by the rich, from whom they can demand nothing but the minimum for their day’s labor, the poor are concerned only for the hread which sustains and the religion that consoles. In the midst of its indigence and travail, the oppressed people tranquilly supports the spectacle of the idle happiness of the rich, whom, childlike, it regards as a different species of man. But this childlike people, docile in the midst of rank inequalities of property and passive in the face of daily privation, becomes a raging lion

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when its subsistence appears to be threatened by the rising prices caused by schemes for free trade in grain.257 This prejudice can be conquered by education, the physiocrats would insist: with the spread of enlightenment the groundless fears of the people would disappear. But this is impossible, Necker replied. From the inequality of fortunes necessarily springs the inequality of education. The ignorance and prejudices of the people are the inevitable consequence of a social order which exists to protect the interest of the property owners. “Its ignorance is of our making; for this reason we must humor it and not be upset when by chance the only sentiment that this people can have, and the only interest which we have left it, is not to our convenience.”258 To the property owners, Necker concluded, the government owes liberty and justice. The poor have need only of its humanity, its compassion, and of laws that temper the harshness of property with a wise policy for guaranteeing their subsistence. 259 To abandon such a policy in the name of liberty and justice, Necker insisted, was to follow an abstract system incompatible with the structure of society, to sacrifice the poor to the inhuman workings of the market, and to abandon the only means of preserving public order and social tranquility. This was by no means an unsophisticated argument. Indeed, it was a patiently undogmatic appeal for a more pragmatic approach to matters of social legislation than Turgot’s rational convictions would allow. Neverthe¬ less, La legislation et le commerce des grains was denounced by Condorcet as an eloquent defense of the interests of the rich against the poor, intended to sanctify the status quo by declaring it an ineluctable social necessity. “Prohibitive laws are demanded in the name of the people,” he maintained in his Reflexions sur le commerce des ble's; “but it is under the pretext of defending the people that the rights of citizens have always been violated.”260 The people need more than the momentary comforts of bread and religion laid out for them in Necker’s treatise, Condorcet insisted. From a benevolent Controller-General they demand a complete reforming program. A reform of taxation that would place the burden on the pro¬ perty owner; civil laws that would not set the poor at the mercy of the rich ; a criminal jurisprudence in which the fate of men depends on the unambi¬ guous force of the laws and not on the arbitrary whim of the judges; the suppression of the forced labor of the corvees, the construction of a system of inland waterways giving ready access to commerce, and the abolition of all obstacles to free trade; a system of public education “truly worthy of the name”: these were measures that would give the lie to the argument that this misery of the people is as irremediable as its ignorance. Is it then certain that the hope of perfecting the human species and of improving its lot must be regarded as chimerical? Ah! Far from us the men who amuse themselves by repeating that there is nothing to be done for the happiness of humanity; let them be content with ex¬ cusing themselves from working for it, without bringing discourage¬ ment to the souls of those who still dare to hope for this happiness or intend to work for it! If hoping for the happiness of the people is an error, it is the only useful one, and the only one that must not be taken from the human race.261 Behind Necker’s benevolent arguments for respecting the eternal preju-

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dices of the people, then, Condorcet discovered the plutocratic conviction that it was in the interests of the rich to keep the poor under the sway of prejudice and ignorance. The arguments for prohibition were the ration¬ alizations of those with windows to break, dictated by fear of popular riot. In their panic, the men of property failed to realize that it was exactly these arguments that encouraged the people to take the law into its own hands with impunity, by convincing it that the government’s responsibility was to maintain a good price.262 The arguments for respecting the ignorant passions of the masses betrayed the property owners’ fear that the people, once delivered from its prejudices by enlightenment, would discover the trick by which civil society served only the interests of the rich. But the more enlightened men become, Condorcet insisted, the better they will know their interests and their rights; and the more they will respect the laws of property, which exist not only to defend the haves against the have-nots but to protect those who have little against those who have much.263 They who would serve the people, therefore, are not those who would give them bad laws when they mistakenly demand them; nor are they those who would sacrifice the public good to outmoded prejudices. “It is not a question of pleasing the people, but of doing what is good for them; it is necessary to know how to serve them without flattery and without fear.”264 It was this enlightened but determined use of power, exemplified by Turgot in the dark days of the guerre des farines, that Condorcet was called upon to defend. The executions, the arrests, the mobilization of troops: if necessary to convince the people that an enlightened government would intervene in the grain trade to prevent pillage, these measures had to be invoked. It was not without reason that Condorcet later insisted that the truths of social science must sometimes literally force themselves into men’s minds!265 Condorcet’s response to Necker was characteristic of an attitude to social and political affairs that manifested itself ever more clearly as Turgot’s ministry ran its course. Necker saw freedom of the grain trade principally as a practical economic and social issue: he was concerned to establish that in existing conditions the actual effects of free trade in grain would be to worsen the economic and social status of the mass of the people. Condorcet saw freedom of the grain trade above all as an issue of reason and morality. Since economic regulation was contrary to the principle of liberty, the responsibility of an enlightened government was to abolish it. The principal advantage of monarchy was that it made such an enlightened use of power possible, even when the populace did not recognize the ultimate benefits of the policy instituted on their behalf. Since these beneficial effects were rationally demonstrable, those among the educated classes who opposed free trade were not merely mistaken but corrupt and self-interested. For it was of the character of science that its arguments could not rationally be refused. And since Condorcet spoke in the name of science, his opponents were necessarily speaking on behalf of prejudice and vested interest. It is hardly surprising, in the light of this debate, that Mme Suard, torn as she was between her friendship for Condorcet and her gratitude to Necker, found the philosophe’s intolerance in matters political simply incredible.

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For the moment, Turgot could maintain the limited freedom of the grain trade by force of arms, trusting in the experience of its beneficial effects on the economy to enlighten the people and ease resistance. But there were other, more technical, obstacles to the economic miracle the Controller-General expected from free trade. Freedom of commerce depended on the ready movement and exchange of goods in a national economy. A national economy, in turn, required an extensive system of transport and communications to link local markets and a unified system of weights and measures to standardize the basis of exchange. It has been said that the idea of establishing a uniform system of weights and measures in France was as old as the monarchy.266 Certainly, it was dear to generations of royal administrators who saw its advantages for the development of trade, the codification of taxes, and the unification of the kingdom. Turgot was no exception in this, nor did he wish to neglect another means of enlightening the people. If weights and measures were everywhere codified on the basis of a simple, convenient system, Condorcet remarked in his Vie de M. Turgot, the advantages would not be limited to commerce. For “the ease of acquiring clear and exact ideas about a subject important in the whole conduct of life would have more than one kind of utility."267 The unification of weights and measures was therefore the first problem to which Condorcet was directed to apply his scientific expertise as Inspecteur des monnaies. This was at once a political and a scientific problem, the concern of administrators aiming at national unity and of scientists seeking a natural and universal language of measurement for the international community of science.268 It was typical of the scientism of Turgot and Condorcet that solution of the scientific problem merged in their thought with solution of the political problem. Early administrative attempts to unify weights and measures by mere act of authority had foundered. The establishment of a natural and universal measure, on the other hand, would put science in the place of arbitrary authority, providing a natural standard against which to set the competing measures hallowed by provincial custom. Once again power would give way to reason. The idea of a natural and universal measure for scientific purposes had been proposed by Picard in 1671 and Huyghens in 1673. It was taken up again in 1747 by La Condamine, whose eloge Condorcet delivered in 1774. La Condamine had suggested as a universal standard the length of a pendu¬ lum beating seconds at the equator: “a constant, unalterable measure, verifiable at all times, which must by its advantages compel the consent of all peoples and unite all opinions in its favor.”269 For practical reasons, perhaps sacrificing long-term needs of the international community of science to the more immediate goal of national unity, Condorcet and Turgot preferred to use the length of a second pendulum at the forty-fifth parallel, which passed near Bordeaux. Arrangements were therefore made in 1775 to dispatch the astronomer Messier to Bordeaux to carry out the necessary experiments. Scientific instructions for the expedition were drawn up by Condorcet, who was also preparing to gather material for a table of equivalences of the existing weights and measures in France. 270 But delayed by accidents to the scientific instruments required, Messier had not

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yet left for Bordeaux when Turgot fell from power. The project was abandoned by his successors. “If the ministry of Turgot had lasted six months longer,’’ Dupont later recalled rather optimistically, “the metric system would have been fixed thirty years earlier.”271 Dupont doubtless exaggerated. Even had the measure been arrived at, it is unlikely that it could have been established in the face of the habit, tradition, and vested interests that frustrated Turgot’s other reforming schemes. Condorcet had some foretaste of what might have been involved in such an attempt with his other project relative to weights and measures during this period, a scheme for the introduction of a new method of measuring liquid content of barrels and other containers. In addition to its importance for standardizing weights and measures, such a method had an immediate administrative significance. In a country which drew no mean revenue from taxes on wine and spirits, Condorcet insisted, an accurate means of measuring liquid content was as important for the administration as it was for the people. It was all the more important in Condorcet’s eyes, since it would free the people from the fraud and arbitrary exactions he denounced as the daily practice of the agents of the General Farm of Taxes. In 1775, Condorcet therefore proposed that Turgot establish a method of measuring liquid content developed and presented to the Academy of Sciences by Dez, professor of mathematics at the Ecole royale miiitaire, forbidding the Farmers-General from utilizing any other. At the same time, he suggested the establishment of a commission of inspectors to ensure that the agents of the General Farm used the new method and to arbitrate in disputes over the measurement of taxable liquids.272 Such a scheme was unlikely to pass without opposition. The FarmersGeneral found little enthusiasm for the new method of measurement —and Condorcet (again equating opposition to scientific reform with corruption or vested interest) strongly suspected his fellow-academician Favoisier, also one of the Farmers-General, of sacrificing science to more base financial motives by attempting to discredit or delay the method’s adoption. 273 If guilty, Favoisier was not alone. The magistrates of the Cours des Aides, whose function it was to arbitrate disputes arising from the collection of indirect taxes, were hostile to the proposed creation of a body of technical inspectors infringing upon their own official responsibilities.274 The resis¬ tance of these two groups, together with Turgot’s caution in the face of Condorcet’s ever-passionate demands for immediate action, combined to delay this project until it was too late. “Your ministry has made me know men in a way that has disgusted me with them,” wrote Condorcet to Turgot, as obstacles in the way of this simple scientific reform mounted. “There is only the little people with whose happiness one can occupy oneself, as with that of a herd of animals susceptible of pleasures and pains. The others are but rampant and venomous beasts.”275 It was not until the upheavals of the Revolution that Condorcet again found himself in the position to work for the reform of weights and measures with some prospect of success. In the meantime, he could only use this example in defense of the nascent social sciences to show that even “mathematical demonstrations themselves can be met with objections, when they are

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judged without being understood and there are those with an interest in combatting them.”276 If reform of weights and measures remained an administrative dream, much more had been accomplished in the field of transportation and communications. Here the carrot of prospective benefits to trade was complemented by the stick of strategic military requirements. Under its great administrator, Daniel Trudaine, the reorganized Department of Bridges and Roads had planned a mighty system of roads throughout the country, the building of which was prosecuted vigorously until the eve of the Revolution.277 But while Trudaine concentrated the energy of his department on road-building, the construction of canals lagged. The early eighteenth century saw nothing comparable to the completion of the mighty Languedoc canal which had been the greatest achievement of Colbert’s administration in the realm of public works. After the middle of the century, however, government interest in canal-building once again quickened. By the time Turgot became Controller-General, work was under way on two major projects: a system of three canals in Picardy that would open up internal waterways from Paris to the Atlantic coast and the Flemish frontier; and a lengthy canal in Burgundy that would link Paris and Lyon, the waterways of the Seine and Loire with those of the Saone and Rhone. Taken together, these projects were intended to create a system of internal navigation of considerable economic and military significance, extending from the northern frontiers of France to the Mediterranean.278 Promising though they were, these schemes were not without their critics. The Burgundy canal, involving numerous locks and a difficult terrain, was assailed as impracticable and uneconomic by advocates of an easier but less direct route. The most ambitious of the three Picardy canals required a highly debatable seven-mile stretch underground which critics claimed would either cave in if it were not vaulted, or be prohibitively expensive to construct if it were vaulted. Faced with a considerable investment of public funds and little unanimity as to the feasibility of these projects, Trudaine de Montigny and Turgot again turned to Condorcet for counsel. The latter’s response was characteristic —of the man, his temper, and his way of operating. ‘‘Beware of the men of glory, who want to make monuments worthy of the ancient Romans,” he had written to Turgot soon after his friend’s appointment as Controller-General. ‘‘Beware also of those who, seeing two rivers separated on the map of France by a little scrap of white paper, propose to join these rivers and call that their project. Trust only in men who, had they joined the Loire to the Yellow River, would have no more vanity for that and would believe that they needed only zeal and some knowledge.”279 But where was the Controller-General to find such men? A natural response to the problems of canal-building would have been to suggest the establishment of a commission of the Academy of Sciences charged to advise the administration on scientific matters relating to internal naviga¬ tion. Condorcet came up with a more intimate arrangement, designed to

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circumvent the appointment of a commission by the academy. In effect, he proposed the establishment of a three-man commission composed of himself, d’Alembert, and the abbe Bossut, three friends who would work together without salary and with none of the friction that might afflict a committee of the academy on which Bossut’s scientific rival in hydrody¬ namics, the chevalier de Borda, would naturally serve.280 D’Alembert would thereby receive recognition for his pioneering work in hydrody¬ namics, although it was clearly understood that he would contribute nothing but his prestige to this commission. The abbe Bossut would be free to assume principal responsibility for the experimental work, without the competition of his rival. And Condorcet would once again be the indispensable scientific attache. “The essential thing for my colleagues and myself is that no one else be added,” Condorcet was anxious to press upon Turgot. “If we alone are not adequate, we will be even less so with those who might be attached to us, and who would disturb our mutual confidence, whoever they were.”281 Whatever Turgot’s view of this rather obvious piece of maneuvering, early in 1775 d’Alembert, Bossut, and Condorcet were named inspectors of navigation and charged with theoretical and experimental researches relative to canal-building. Their first task was to reexamine the feasibility of the underground Picardy canal, work on which was suspended in April by Trudaine pending their investigation. Their researches focused on the problem of the resistance of liquids to bodies passing through them. The design of the underground Picardy canal allowed for a width of sixteen feet of water, which was intended to take barges up to fifteen feet wide. While it was known that water resistance increased with the narrowness of the channel, the extent of this increase under given conditions had never been established by exact experiments.282 It was this problem that Condorcet, Bossut, and d’Alembert identified as critical in establishing the feasibility of the underground Picardy canal. In a series of “elegant and important experiments” designed by Bossut and carried out on a lake in the grounds of the Ecole militaire during the summer of 1775, the inspectors of navigation measured the water resistance for channels of different widths and boats of various designs. On. the basis of their results, as set forth by Bossut in the Nouvelles experiences sur la resistance des fluides in 1777, they argued that water resistance increased with the narrowness of the channel to such an extent that it made the underground Picardy canal impracticable.283 These experimental researches established a new era in hydrodynamics. They also underlined the extent to which canal engineering lacked theoretical foundations. To remedy this situation and avoid costly errors in public works, Turgot determined with Condorcet’s encouragement to establish a chair of hydrodynamics at the Louvre for the instruction of engineers in the new science. Appointed to this chair on 1 October 1775, the abbe Bossut was charged with an annual series of lectures “to teach the theory and practice of hydrodynamics by developing among the theories existing to date, or the rules derived from experience, those most certain and most applicable to the construction of canals and works of navigation,

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to the prevention of the ills that rivers can cause by flooding or stagnation, or to the construction of mills.”284 The problems of navigation thereby gave significant impetus to teaching and research in the physical sciences. They also launched Condorcet on a tour of Flanders and Picardy which prompted what was probably his first direct piece of social-scientific research. One of the Picardy canals was to be laid out high up in the marshy Somme valley in such a way that Condorcet and other critics suspected that water would seep from the canal and increase the marshiness of the general area. To prove the danger of this plan to human life, Condorcet collected data concerning mortality rates in eight parishes situated in marshy land and eight in dry land, taking care to control for the wealth of the inhabitants, their mode of life, occupation, provision for medical care, administration, and taxation. His results, made public in 1780, showed that the average expectation of life for inhabitants of marshy areas was 20 percent less than that for inhabitants of dry areas. 285 Condorcet’s recommendation on his return from this tour was to stop all work on the Picardy canals, which he considered not only inadequate in themselves but a threat to the ultimate success of more satisfactory projects. At the same time, he recommended that work on the Burgundy canal be suspended until the three inspectors of navigation were able to reexamine the scientific validity of the two competing projects, “for it is necessary to leave nothing to chance, when it is a question of using funds levied on the people.”286 There was more venom in this remark than might at first appear to be the case. It was directed against those whom Condorcet found so prodigal with the time and money levied on the people, the engineers of the Department of Bridges and Roads, his antipathy towards whom was brought to the boiling point by this tour of inspection through Flanders and Picardy. Tension with the corps of engineers had already mounted with the establishment of Bossut’s chair of hydrodynamics, which implied a direct criticism of the scientific education given at the School of Civil Engineering (Ecole des ponts et chaussees). When Bossut’s lectures opened in November, the engineering students proved so rowdy that he was forced to protest to Perronet, head of the corps of engineers, who withdrew them from the course. “These gentlemen think themselves knowledgeable enough,” expostulated Condorcet, who was bitterly critical of the scientific education of Perronet’s school and interpreted this disruption as a move in a plan to sabotage the new chair of hydrodynamics. From now on, he remarked acidly to Turgot, sheer ignorance of hydrodynamics would be the major qualification for work on canal-building.287 Yet it was not primarily their lack of scientific knowledge that fed Condorcet’s antipathy towards the corps of engineers. Nor was it merely the natural resentment of the intellectual in the face of a bureaucratic organization that showed greater attachment to its institutional routines than responsiveness to the reforming dictates of pure science. For Condor¬ cet, the engineers of the Department of Bridges and Roads bore an ineffaceable stigma: they were the men of the corvee, brutalized by their involvement in the system of forced labor organized to build the mighty

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system of roads planned and undertaken during the reign of Louis XV. From his first days as Controller-General, Turgot had been urged by an impassioned Condorcet to establish on a national scale the reform of the corvee he had instituted as intendant of Limoges. “I am awaiting an edict or royal order on the corvees with great impatience, ” Condorcet was writing on 23 September. “This is perhaps the only general, prompt, and palpable good that you can do at the moment. All the provinces await at your hands the same benefits that you accomplished in the Limousin.”288 The mathematician had already prepared a project for abolition of the corvee in September 1774, before leaving to spend the academic vacation in Picardy. “The abolition of the corvees alone would do inestimable good,” he wrote to Turgot. “One can calculate how much money this suppression will save the people; but how much they will be spared of the harsh sentiment of oppression and injustice is beyond our methods of calculation. You will be told that nothing is more mild than this administration of the corvees; but I am certain that you will not believe a word of it.”289 As if to bolster this certainty, Condorcet bombarded the Controller-General from “the countryside which you are going to make happy” with evidence of the harshness, the inefficiency, and the injustice of the engineers who were pillaging the land with their system of forced labor.290 Turgot was no less committed than his disciple to the abolition of the corvee. But he met with considerable reluctance from none other than Trudaine de Montigny, the head of the Department of Bridges and Roads. For Trudaine, as for his father before him, the forced labor of the corvee, admittedly unjust as it was, had several advantages. First and foremost, it gave his department independence to carry out its task of building and maintaining the roads. Developed, like so many other institutions of the old regime, by the gradual extension and more systematic exploitation of traditional expedients, the levying of the corvee had been established on a purely administrative basis, free of judicial control.291 Financial imposi¬ tions required the registrations of the parlements or the Cours des Aides. The levy of forced labor, however, was exacted without such consent, with the result that the road-building program was not dependent upon the vicissitudes of the relations between the crown and these constituted bodies. Thus freed from political pressures, the Department of Bridges and Roads was also freed by the corvee from immediate budgetary pressures within the administration. A money tax voted for road-building could always be diverted by a Controller-General to meet short-term military or civil needs, at the cost of the long-term program for public works. Forced labor involved no such risks. Thus while free labor paid by government funds would have been more efficient, the corvee provided the engineers with a regular labor supply to meet their construction program, which was thereby insulated from the political and budgetary uncertainties that afflicted so many departments of the royal administration.292 Enlightened as he was, Trudaine was reluctant to divest his department of such advan¬ tages and suspicious of any reforming scheme that would not protect its independence to fulfill its functions. Throughout 1775, Turgot was seeking for a proposal that would elude

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these administrative objections. Against Trudaine’s advice, the lev)' of the corvees was suspended in May, ostensibly to provide relief from the hard¬ ships of the grain shortage, but with no system for its replacement yet agreed upon. It was not until July that a draft edict was sent to the intendants; and in the meantime Trudaine continued to press the objections of his depart¬ ment.293 In this situation, Condorcet became increasingly convinced that the corps of engineers was not only opposed to reform of the corvees but would sabotage the system designed to replace them. “Bear in mind that you have to deal not only with their greed but with their pride, which has been fed by the kind of power over the people the administration of the corvees allowed them to exercise,” he wrote to Turgot from Picardy on 10 October 1775. “Monsieur T[rudaine] can be of no help to you in this matter; he does not permit himself the least defiance of his premiers commis. Peronnet, who is at the head of this whole party, is an extremely ignorant and vain man, who has instituted the corps of Bridges and Roads and would rather let the whole realm perish than harm so fine an establishment’.’294 A few weeks later, while Trudaine was assuring Turgot that he would receive the loyal cooperation of the corps of engineers, Condorcet was urging upon the Controller-General the thorough reform of that institution. “I don’t know whether the corps of Bridges and Roads is as old as the monarchy, but it is treating you in absolutely the same way as do the parlements and I am very afraid it will harm your action over the corvees if you don’t hasten to reform it. This reform would be a very natural extension of your action [in abolishing the corvees], and in breaking a few particularly culpable and ignorant individuals, in destroying the esprit de corps which gives these men a credit superior to Intendants who don’t have your character, you will give the people great pleasure.” 295 Whatever Turgot’s personal reaction to this inflammatory advice, he chose to ignore it. By January 1776 the Controller-General had drafted his ill-fated Six Edicts, which included a reform of the corvees that Trudaine was prepared to accept even though it did not meet all his objections. This reform ordered the abolition of the corvees and their replacement by free labor to be paid for by the proceeds of a tax on all property owners including the nobility, although under last-minute pressure the clergy were once again allowed exemption. The reaction of the parlementaires to this, as to Turgot’s other reforms, was predictable. Early in January, Trudaine re¬ ported a conversation with a leading magistrate in which he had learned that the prince de Conti would direct the opposition to this system of oriental despotism, which aimed at protecting the poor at the expense of the rich. It is indicative of his ambivalent attitude that Trudaine had replied as a mere bureaucrat, that he could only “wait patiently for someone to provide the money with which to work.”296 Trudaine’s report was confirmed on 29 January when the prince de Conti rose from his sick bed, ignoring “the signs of death which were visible on his face” to denounce in the Parlement of Paris an anonymous pamphlet on the abolition of the corvees, Benissons le ministre.297 Tired of the long negotia¬ tions, distrustful of sabotage from within the bureaucracy, anticipating the resistance of the privileged, Condorcet had once again been unable to

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control his undisciplined pen —much to the disgust of Turgot, who did everything he could to prevent the circulation of this pamphlet. The work gave a young magistrate, d’Epremesnil, later one of the leaders of the parlementary revolt of 1787-88, the chance to denounce the economists as more dangerous than the Jesuits, calling down vitriol upon the head of a Controller-General for whom no property was sacred. 298 Even at this late date, Turgot had as much to fear from the enthusiasm of his friends as from the intrigues of his enemies. Undaunted by this act of censorship and by the subsequent condemnation of Boncerfs treatise, Inconvenients des droits feodaux, Condorcet fanned the flames of the debate over the Six Edicts with yet another vitriolic pamphlet, this time demanding the suppression (with compensation) of all seigneurial dues. 299 Its publication was to be his last act of bravado in the drama of Turgot’s waning ministry. The Six Edicts were submitted to the Parlement of Paris for registration on 7 February 1776, after a month of stormy debate in the royal council. As expected, the edict abolishing the corvees, together with that suppressing the guilds, called forth a vigorous defense of a traditional corporate order justified by divine authority and historical precedent, against “a project stemming from an inadmissible system of equality, the first effect of which is to throw all the orders of the State into confusion by imposing upon them the uniform yoke of a land tax.”300 The Controller-General could rouse the feeble king to a momentary defense of absolute authority in a lit de justice imposing the registration of the Six Edicts upon an intransigent parlement. But caught between parle¬ mentary opposition and ministerial intrigue, he could not long survive the tenuous position in which the struggle for the Six Edicts had placed him. Outmaneuvered in the corridors of Versailles, Turgot was informed on 12 May of the necessity for his resignation. The “reign of philosophy” was over. Science and Society

The years from 1773 to 1776 were crucial in Condorcet’s career. They saw the crystallization and first public expression of many of his fundamental views in politics, philosophy, and economics. They saw his accession to positions of power and influence. They saw his emergence as one of a relatively new type in French public life: the professional scientist whose technical abilities were increasingly required and rewarded in the com¬ mittees of the last decades of the old regime, though often not without a certain friction with the bureaucracy. Above all, however, these years saw the reforming party briefly in power. As assistant secretary of the Academy of Sciences; as scientific adviser to Turgot on a host of subjects and author of the virulent pamphlets in the Controller-General’s defense that often earned more enemies than converts; as the most passionate and possessive member of an intimate, exclusive, and frequently intolerant circle that claimed the minister as its own: during two of the most momentous years in the history of the old regime, Condorcet came of age in the reforming cause. Yet in 1776, with Turgot’s dismissal, everything was transformed. “If it is impossible for him to do good we shall be a thousand times more miserable than we were before, because we shall have lost the hope that alone sustains

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the wretched," Julie de Lespinasse had written to Condorcet at the begin¬ ning of this brief experiment in the politics of enlightenment.301 With Turgot's fall there came the moment of truth. “This event has changed the whole of nature for me,” wrote Condorcet to Voltaire. “I no longer take the same pleasure in this beautiful countryside, where he would have brought forth happiness. . . . How far we are fallen, my dear and illustrious master, and from such a height.”302 Julie de Lespinasse barely lived to experience this particular misery. Her long agony ended on 16 May 1776, leaving d’Alembert distracted by her death and overwhelmed by the evidence of successive infidelities he found among her papers. As the grieving mathematician moved into the apart¬ ment in the Louvre to which he was entitled as permanent secretary of the French Academy, the salon that had for seven years been the focal point of Condorcet's social and intellectual existence disappeared. With it went the close intimacy of those early years. Rumors of a rift between d’Alembert and his protege were denied.303 But there was now a distance between the two mathematicians that had not existed during the years in which they had constituted an informal secretariat to Mile de Lespinasse. The period of discipleship was over. Over, too, was the period of confrontation in the Academy of Sciences. With Turgot dismissed and d’Alembert enfeebled by grief, with his position as permanent secretary regularized by the new election in 1776, Condorcet ceased to be the center of a controversial cabal and became the recognized official spokesman for the academy, fulfilling the annual routine of eloges and institutional history with a characteristic mixture of professional exper¬ tise and malicious wit.304 Indeed, in the years following Turgot’s fall, it was increasingly in the exercise of his role as academician that Condorcet sought to fulfill his passion for the public good. In a monarchical regime, he argued in a memorandum drafted about this time for one of the crowned heads of Europe, the institution of academies has one particular advantage. Men born with a need to act for the public good and an independence too proud to beg for places — men who in a republic would find themselves in politics — are condemned in a monarchy to uselessness or rebellion, unless they can fulfill themselves in science. Thus an academy which offers scientists a position in the political order, which exposes them to public view, which puts them in a position to develop their powers, has the advantage of employing in a manner useful to a monarchical government men who might other¬ wise be harmful to it. 305 As an argument for the establishment of scientific academies, this is somewhat disingenuous. As an indication of the reorientation of Condorcet’s activities in the wake of Turgot’s fall, it is most revealing. Deprived by Turgot’s failure of the hope of direct influence upon government policy, his capacity to guide public opinion as a man of letters impaired as the force of the philosophe movement evaporated, Condorcet came to focus his passion for the public good on his power to advance the progress of science as a mathematician and as permanent secretary of the academy. Pamphlets did

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not entirely cease to flow from his fertile pen; they were demanded by the cause of legal reform, the institution of civil rights for Protestants, and the abolition of slavery. Nevertheless, it was in the Academy of Sciences that Condorcet found his chief concerns in the dozen years that separated the fall of Turgot from the political crisis that heralded the French Revolution. It was in the advancement of science that he found his greatest hopes for the ultimate rationalization of the social order. As secretary of the Academy of Sciences, Condorcet had few doubts concerning the extent of scientific advance or its ultimate impact on social organization. In this respect, a minor episode in the history of the academy is quite revealing. As we have seen, it was traditionally the secretary’s task, in writing the annual account of the academy’s activities, to summarize the papers printed in the Memoires and analyze their general significance. In 1786, Condorcet announced that this practice —first instituted by Fontenelle in the heroic age of scientific advance —would be discontinued.306 One reason for the different format was doubtless to alleviate the burden of work this summary imposed, thereby reducing the aggravating delay in publication. But to justify the change, Condorcet found more fundamental reasons in the state of scientific development and the emergence of the scientific role. When Fontenelle established the format of the Histone, he argued, Europe was barely emerging from an age in which all scientific work was written in the Latin of the schoolmen. The terminology of the physical sciences was vague and obscure, foreign to the common run of educated men. It was necessary to forge a precise scientific language from the vulgar tongue, banishing scientific terms that were merely useless pedantry while retaining those necessary for terminological exactness. At the same time, while the true method for interrogating nature had been finally discovered, it had entered into the formal education of none of the scientists then at work. All of their research bore the stigma of scholastic pedagogy. “They needed an interpreter who would separate in their works that which was properly their own from the tribute they still paid to the errors of their first education.”307 Such an interpreter had also been needed in the mathematical sciences, where the partisans of Euclidean geometry, of the Cartesian analytical geometry and of the newly discovered calculus of Newton and Leibniz were still at war. The concepts necessary to apply the new mathematics to physics had been even more obscure and more contested than the mathematics it¬ self. It had been essential for the progress of the sciences, then, that the fundamental implications of these various approaches to nature be aired and examined. Finally, too, the sciences had been isolated from one another, their interrelationship barely known even among the most success¬ ful of scientists. “It was in the Histoire of the Academy that one could learn to grasp these relationships, which could not escape the comprehensive and luminous intellect of Fontenelle.”308 It was in part a tribute to Fontenelle's greatness, Condorcet now insisted, in part a measure of the development and consolidation of the scientific profession, that such conditions no longer obtained in the 1780s. The language of science had been formed, and the debate over the nature and

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implications of the calculus laid to rest. Elementary scientific education now included the principles once known only to the academic elite; the study of the sciences had touched all classes of society; and intelligent laymen no longer needed a brief resume to aid their scientific under¬ standing. In any case, the mathematical language of science had been so advanced by the technical development of the calculus that new researches could hardly be reduced to a simple nontechnical abstract. As the scientific world had been consolidated by these advances, so too had the utility of the sciences been established beyond doubt. It was no longer necessary, Condorcet therefore concluded, to use the Histone of the Academy of Sciences to demonstrate the contribution of science to the good of mankind, as Fontenelle had done with such success. Science and scientists had finally come of age. “There is no more need to tell princes that they have an interest in protecting the sciences, or the public that scientists have a right to their gratitude.”309 What Condorcet did not state here —but what is clearly revealed in his manuscripts —was his conviction that the relationship between scientific advance and social and political organization was a dialectical one. Princes and powers are led to favor the advancement of the sciences for their utility. Once regarded as an essential part of education, knowledge of the physical sciences forms in the people the habit of accurate, methodical, critical reasoning. Errors in morals and politics, which are in turn based on errors in physics, are thereby demolished; and the rejection of traditional authority in science leads to a critical attitude towards authority in all its forms. “One of the greatest sources of error in the moral sciences being submission to authority, once this submission has become ridiculous in the physical sciences it no longer has its basis in the others and cannot reestablish itself in them.”310 Governments may use their power to perpetuate error. But at the same time their own interests oblige them to favor the progress of the physical sciences, which in turn serves to demolish superstition and error in moral and political matters. Experience also proves that in all countries where the physical sciences have been cultivated, barbarism in the moral sciences has been more or less dissipated and at least error and prejudice have disappeared.311 Thus Condorcet not only posited a relationship between scientific advance and social welfare. He also insisted that scientific progress necessarily entailed the rationalization of the whole social order. I his was true because the physical sciences spread the habit of critical thought, sub¬ verting the authority of tradition and custom. It was also true, more fundamentally, because science demonstrated the power of reason as an alternative source of authority in human affairs, requiring for itself, and inspiring in the conduct of everyday life, the rational organization of things. Yet, paradoxically, it was precisely the rational authority of science — and the power of the Academy of Sciences to further it —that Condorcet now found himself called upon to defend. It is indicative of the changed

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social context of science in France that while the great scientific issue of the 1720s and 1730s (the debate over the occult forces that some found implied in Newtonianism) took the form largely of a debate between academicians, that of the 1780s set academicians against nonacademicians, the experts against the quacks. At the center of this debate were the German doctor Franz Anton Mesmer, who in 1778 introduced Paris to the healing power of the occult forces of animal magnetism, and the French doctor Jean-Paul Marat (the future ami du peuple), who in 1779 began to besiege the Academy of Sciences with experiments on electricity, heat, and optics designed to render prevailing theories obsolete. Ridiculed and rejected by the academicians, Mesmer and Marat appealed to the public against the scientific establishment, to the popular cult of science against the authority of its definition by the professionals. Its healing power welcomed by Parisian society but distrusted and denounced by the authorities, scientific and civil, mesmerism became the cause celdbre of the early 1780s. Government threats to suppress it were met by the counterthreat of an appeal to the Parlement of Paris; the authority of the academicians on a prestigious royal commission was defied by a volley of pamphlets challenging the power of the academies to define science.312 The same cry against academic tyranny was raised in the case of Marat, whose optical theories were rejected by the Academy of Sciences in 1780 on the grounds that his experiments ran counter to the most elementary notions in optics established by Newton, and whose hopes for academic advancement in Spain were apparently frustrated by the professional judgments (or, as Marat would have it, the personal intrigues) of the powerful Parisian academicians.313 The issues raised in the cases of Marat and Mesmer (as in other such cases) were fundamental. Repudiating the power of the academicians to define scientific truth, their defenders questioned the very nature of authority in science. “The moderns have introduced into the empire of the sciences a kind of elective aristocracy,” protested the most accomplished of antiacademic pamphleteers, the future Girondin leader Jacques-Pierre Brissot, who in the course of the 1780s moved from a campaign for Marat to a defense of Mesmer, from a repudiation of the authority of the academies to an indictment of the political and social order of which they formed a part. The empire of the sciences must know no despots, no aristocrats, no electors. It presents the image of a perfect republic, in which the most useful of merits constitute the sole title to honor. To admit a despot, or aristocrats, or electors officially empowered to set the seal on the production of genius, is to violate the nature of things and the liberty of the human mind. It is a crime against public opinion, which alone has the right to crown genius; it introduces a revolting despotism, making each elector a tyrant and turning all other savants into slaves.314 To the professional in the academies, nothing was more ridiculous than this assertion that public opinion should adjudicate questions of scientific merit. The extraordinary claims of mesmerism could only be reliably

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assessed by competent experts of an established reputation, Condorcet insisted. There had been no true discoveries not acclaimed in a very short time by the majority of savants, no pretended discoveries rejected by them not ultimately recognized as chimerical.315 The authority of scientists was the authority of reason itself. Accused of esprit de corps in the case of Marat, the academy had in Condorcet’s view been professionally lax rather than despotically harsh. Its real crime had been that of even considering old experiments decked out by an ambitious Marat in the new dress of an obscure, fanciful jargon. For the secretary of the Academy of Sciences, as for his colleagues, the institution of academies meant precisely the authority of qualified scientists to define science, to free it from the constraints of public opinion, to reward true practitioners and to exclude quacks. “Academies have two incontestable functions,” he maintained, enthusiastically finding yet a third function in the course of his argument: the first is that of forming a barrier constantly opposed to all kinds of charlatanism, which is why so many people rail against them; the second is that of maintaining good methods in the sciences and pre¬ venting any scientific field from being absolutely abandoned. They have a third very important function, as long as scientists do not dis¬ dain public opinion; namely that of rendering them independent of it. A chemist, an anatomist, a mathematician who is a member of an academy has no need to perform the tricks of the charlatan in order to enjoy the reputation of savant in the eyes of the ignorant. It is in his works that he finds his title to celebrity and glory.316 The true advancement of science, Condorcet therefore insisted, depended as much upon the vigilance of scientists in the professional suppression of error as on their vigor in the professional cultivation of truth. Criticism of the academies that were so intimately a part of the corporate structure of the old regime could be brusquely set aside by the academicians in the 1780s. The critics were to become more dangerous with the revolu¬ tionary tide that overwhelmed France in 1789. In that context, Condorcet was forced to return to his arguments for scientific authority, now more des¬ perately, in a work that offered a blueprint for the reorganization of scienti¬ fic activity in revolutionary France, together with a vigorous defense of the authority of the Academy of Sciences against a growing number of detrac¬ tors, not least vociferous among them the now-powerful Marat.317 As we shall see in a later chapter, the Memoires sur Vinstruction publique are crucial to an understanding of Condorcet’s conception of the rational social order and the role of the man of knowledge in it. They also contain his most sustained effort to analyze the nature of rational authority in sci¬ ence.318 He began by restating and developing the arguments he had used in the earlier debates over Mesmer and Marat almost a decade before. The critics charged that the academies recruited mediocrities, excluding independent men of talent who threatened their monopoly of the truth. Condorcet was prepared to admit that the need to fill a fixed number of places occasionally resulted in the election of a mediocrity when there appeared to be no candidate of established merit; he even allowed the

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possibility that personal considerations might delay the election of a man of outstanding talent. But in fact, he reiterated, no scientist of recognized merit had long remained excluded from the scientific academies of Europe. In logic, indeed, no academy could survive if it countenanced such exclusions. The prestige of the institution depending upon the glory of its members, and vice-versa, each member has an interest in making the best choice, since bad choices destroy an academy’s prestige (and that of its members) and subvert its institutional goals in the search for truth. In academic decisions (as in Rousseau’s conception of the general will), the common reason outweighs particular interests, which cancel one another out. There is therefore an ever-present cause acting in all their elections in favor of justice, which ensures it the advantage in the midst of pas¬ sions which balance out. This force could only be vanquished by the envy that rises up against a truly superior man. I will not deny the existence of this sentiment, nor its shameful influence; but to admit a scientist into an academy is not to recognize in him a superiority humiliating for those who already have this honor. The man most jealous of Newton’s genius would not have had the madness of main¬ taining that he did not deserve a place in a learned society.319 The second charge of antiacademic critics maintained that the learned societies exercised a monopoly of scientific authority to the advantage of their members, refusing to accept discoveries and inventions made by nonacademicians and thereby robbing them of the just reward for their talents. The academies had indeed been cautious in their judgments, Condorcet argued, but such caution was evidence of the reliability of their decisions. It was also evidence of the institutional gravity of such judg¬ ments. In scientific questions, academies and academicians are responsible to a supreme tribunal: the common consensus of enlightened opinion. The scientist who pronounces an opinion upon a new discovery or invention is less judge than judged, for his own verdict is subject to the public evaluation of his peers. The self-interest of scientists —their concern for their very “scientific existence” — therefore insures the integrity of scientific judgment: at every moment, the error of a decision can be proven; and the judge, caught between the reproach of partiality or of ignorance, cannot escape both. Whatever credit an academician has in his insti¬ tution, whatever the authority of the academy itself over opinion, the voice of the savants of all nations would soon silence his own. This tribunal, which can be neither seduced nor corrupted, guarantees the impartiality of all others; it is this tribunal that distributes shame or glory.320 The third, most general, and most damaging charge of revolutionary critics —the charge that was eventually to cost the academies their existence —was that they were the privileged creation of monarchical authority, an intellectual aristocracy possessed of a usurped power in the republic of learning. But learned societies did not depend upon public power for their existence, Condorcet now insisted, citing the example of

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the private societies that had become the nuclei of the Royal Society and the Academy of Sciences. Recognized by monarchical authority, they were not its creation; they were, as they continued to be, assemblies of the most celebrated men of each nation. Adopted by kings, they have continued to be what they were, what they would have remained without them. The regulations imposed on some of these societies, often contrary to liberty, have not changed their spirit, which will endure as long as their motivation remains the same; as long as it is not a particular view of public utility, not the encouragement of some necessary art, but the natural need of men born for truth to advance, without halting, wherever it leads them.321 This was clearly an argument for the moment, an adroit attempt to turn the tables on revolutionary critics who attacked the Academy of Sciences in the name of free scientific association. But it was also more than that, for it represented the full and logical expression of Condorcet’s view of the academy as an independent organization, the true expression and natural representative body of the republic of science. Nurtured by monarchical authority, swaddled in a corporate organization that had become increas¬ ingly restrictive to the vigorous young infant, institutional science — in the eyes of its official spokesman —was ready for independence. As the true and natural expression of the republic of science, Condorcet argued, learned societies would continue to exist as long as the sciences themselves. Delivered by the Revolution from the yoke of monarchical power, they must nevertheless remain independent of all public authority. For science is the natural enemy of power; the scientist, a natural threat to those who grasp for domination. In general, any power, whatever its nature, to whatever hands it is entrusted, in whatever way it is conferred, is naturally the enemy of enlightenment. It will sometimes be seen to flatter talents, if they abase themselves to become the instruments of its projects or its van¬ ity: but any man who makes a profession of seeking and announcing the truth, will always be odious to those who exercise authority. . . . Such must be, in effect, the order of nature. The more men are en¬ lightened, the less those with authority can abuse it, and the less nec¬ essary it will be to give social powers energy and extent. Thus truth is the enemy of power, as of those who exercise it. The more it spreads, the less they will be able to mislead men; the more force it acquires, the less societies need to be governed.322 The more truth spreads, the less societies need to be governed. Here Condorcet reached the heart of his conception of the relationship between science and society, and the foundation of his faith in a rational (or positive) social science. Science, he insisted, is public knowledge: it is openly discussed and publicly validated by the consensus of the republic of science. Acknowledging no other source than the free and rational consensus of scientists, the authority of science exemplifies the public authority of reason itself. Applied to politics, it offers a rational alternative to the chaos of private jurisdictions and traditional authorities in the old

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regime, a peaceful alternative to the revolutionary threat of unruly domination by the popular will. It offers a model of constant progress and orderly change.323 It also offers a rational model of decision-making that it was Condorcet’s constant goal to apply to social and political life. In scientific decision-making, the equality of scientists does not preclude the greater weight of superior ability, representative bodies give expression to a rational consensus, particular preferences yield to the common reason. For Condorcet, the academician, the goal of a positive social science was to transform social decision-making in the same manner: to turn a truly public politics into the rational decision-making of the idealized republic of science. But how was such a transformation to be accomplished? This question lay at the heart of the second great reorientation in Condorcet’s thinking that occurred in the period following Turgot’s fall: the reorientation of his mathematical interests. While Turgot, the professional administrator, accepted without reluctance this enforced resolution of their intermittent debate over the relative merits of thought and action —giving himself over to the leisurely, bookish retirement he described as the only produit net of his twenty months in office324 —Condorcet, sixteen years his junior, found it less easy to exchange the public fruits offered by the active life for the personal fruits held out by the contemplative. “We have had a fine dream but it was too short,” he wrote to Voltaire. “I am going to apply myself again to mathematics and philosophy. But it is comfortless only to be able to work for one’s own petty glory, when one has imagined for a while that one was working for the public good.”325 Frustrated in his hopes for direct and immediate reform through the direct capture of power, abruptly returned to the cultivation of his mathematical talents, Condorcet did not long imagine himself working for his own petty glory. “I am completely disgusted with everything that is said and everything that is done, except in physics,” he wrote in 1780, in one of his last letters to Turgot. “I believe that you have discovered the true reason for the tenacity of popular opinion in the moral sciences and that it comes down to the fact that everyone thinks he understands them and therefore wishes to be the judge of their truth. But I don’t think this reason is adequate to explain the prejudices of educated men. It seems rather that these derive from the fact that the method of studying the moral sciences is not as well known as that of studying the physical sciences.”326 If everything was to go as well in the moral world as it did in physics, it was necessary to develop and popularize the methods that would give the moral sciences all the precision and certainty of the physical. It was necessary, in short, to create the social science that was to be the essential condition of a rational and enlightened social order. Thrown back in 1776 upon his mathematics, Condorcet found work lagging on his long-planned treatise on the integral calculus, the work that was meant to fulfill the glory of his early promise as a mathematician. Although a committee was appointed by the Academy of Sciences in 1778 to examine this work, it remained still unfinished at his death sixteen years

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later. With the exception of two papers in the proceedings of the Academy of Saint Petersburg and a brief note in those of the Academy of Bologna, the series of papers on this subject interrupted in 1772 was not resumed. For twelve years, Condorcet presented no scientific paper to the Academy of Sciences for publication in its Memories. When he finally did so, it was in an urgent spurt of activity on a new subject, the calculus of probabilities, the instrument by which he sought to cast the contingencies of human life and conduct into the ideal world of mathematics, where all would go well. Before the drama of Turgot’s ministry, Condorcet’s interest in the theory of probability was still but secondary. “Hasn’t M. Laplace presented you with the project of a work on probabilities?’’ he was writing to Turgot in 1774. “I have a little work on this subject, too, but more philosophical than mathematical. I should have the honor of sending it to you this winter, if I have time to finish it, for it only concerns this little globe of ours and I have felt it appropriate to give precedence to the comets, which are infinitely larger.’’327 After Turgot’s abortive ministry, “this little globe of ours” could hardly wait. Seizing upon the implications of Laplace’s pioneering work in the calculus of probabilities, Condorcet turned to it as the foundation of a science of human conduct that would make the truths of the moral sciences as certain as those of the physical sciences. Announc¬ ing this conviction in his reception speech at the French Academy in 1782, he inaugurated a period of intense personal activity in this field which came to a close only when the demands of more direct political action drew him away from philosophy and mathematics in 1789 as they had in 1774. A long Memorie sur le calcul des probabilites, the first parts of which were rushed into print in 1784, dealt not only with some of the classic problems in the theory of probabilities but with its applications to legal reform and to the assessment of historical evidence.328 This general exploration of the potentialities of the calculus of probabilities was accompanied in 1785 by the monumental Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse a la probability des decisions rendues a la pluralite des voix, the work that Condorcet valued perhaps more highly than any other of his scientific writings as establishing the truth of the contention that the moral and political sciences are susceptible of mathematical treatment. Finally, there followed a general introduction to the calculus of probabilities (intended as a textbook for the course in mathematics at the reestablished Lycee) in which Condorcet attempted to sketch out for a lay audience the implications of the theory of probabilities for human life and conduct. 329 Published posthumously in 1805, the Elements du calcul des probabilites contains perhaps the clearest statement of the philosophy of probable belief that Condorcet attempted to build upon these mathematical foundations. This was a sizable production and a considerable investment of interest. Yet perhaps the clearest measure of this reorientation of Condorcet’s scientific activity in which the mathematics of social science had become “almost the sole object of my research” —as he wrote to the marquis Jerome (Girolamo) Lucchesini in 1785 —is to be found in a comparison of his contributions to the Supplement to the Encyclopedic, published in 1776 and 1777, with those to the mathematical volumes of the Encyclopedic

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methodique, published between 1784 and 1789. In the Supplement, Condorcet’s task had been to summarize the mathematical development of the integral calculus in the fertile years since the original publication of the Encyclopedic. In the Encyclopedic methodique, published as a revised and topically reorganized edition of the original, he set himself a very different aim. Alongside the articles on the applications of the integral calculus to the physical sciences reprinted from the Supplement, he placed new articles reflecting his developing interest in the mathematicization of the science of man.330 The little that had been achieved in political arithmetic, Condorcet argued in these articles, was to be regarded as the smallest part of “one of the most extensive of the sciences.”331 In general, he insisted, those mathematicians who had concerned themselves with the subject had been more preoccupied with the methods of calculation than the principles involved in the application of these methods. They had treated only those subjects in which the necessity and possibility of applying mathematical treatment was evident, without attempting to apply their methods to those objects which seemed recalcitrant to mathematical technique. Finally, they had not even extended those principles and methods that had been developed to many questions to which they were applicable. They had been more concerned, in short, with the progress of their own mathemati¬ cal techniques than with that of the political sciences. It was Condorcet’s professed purpose in the mathematical section of the Encyclopedic meth¬ odique to remedy this situation by revealing “the great importance and extent of a science that must still be regarded as almost new, and which can only make any great progress to the extent that it is cultivated by men who combine a profound knowledge of the political sciences with mathe¬ matical abilities.”332 With this call to a mathematical assault upon the political sciences, Condorcet’s definition of his fundamental intellectual aim came into final focus. In the elaboration of the science that he was eventually to call social mathematics, he was able to reconcile the satisfaction of his mathematical abilities with the imperatives of his passion for the public good; the dictates of thought with the requirements of action; the frustrating record of Turgot’s abortive ministry with the heady promise of an enlightened politics; his mathematical inheritance from d’Alembert with the political inspiration of Turgot. It is the development of this conception of social science, and its fate in the great social experiment of the French Revolution, that will form the subject of the following chapters.

THE SCIENTIFIC MODEL

^

2&

THE LANGUAGE OF SCIENCE This advance of the physical sciences. . . could not be observed without enlightened men seeking to follow it up in the other sciences; at each step it held out to them the model to be followed.

Condorcet, Esquisse

If We Are to Believe La Harpe,Condorcet’s Reception Speech at the French Academy in 1782 was hardly a resounding success. “It deals with the utility of the sciences and of the philosophical spirit, a worn-out subject that the speaker has in no way rejuvenated,” announced the Correspondance litteraire. “It is a succession of commonplaces given out in a style that is coldly grave, often abstract, difficult, obscure, devoid of movement, of grace, and of interest.”1 Not surprisingly, Condorcet was of a somewhat different opinion. While perhaps willing to accept La Harpe’s evaluation of the literary merits of his discourse as an unwitting testimony to its “clear, simple, and grave style, free of neologism and meretricious shows of brilliance,”2 he had no doubts as to the importance of its philosophical substance. Indeed, some measure of the significance Condorcet attached to this speech may be derived from the fact that he prepared extensive notes for a revised edition which still remain among his papers. “The discourse of M. le marquis de Condorcet at the French Academy is among those that have caused the greatest stir,” Condorcet announced in the introduction he sketched out for this new edition. “The author has set himself to prove that enlightenment must always increase and spread among mankind, that the progress of humanity towards happiness and civilization will follow that of enlightenment. . . .Since the fate of human¬ ity depends in large part upon the truth or falsehood of this view, and even on the greater or lesser speed with which it is adopted or rejected by the mass of mankind, we have judged it useful to reprint this discourse with notes in which we shall develop and sometimes even take issue with the views of the author.”3 This discourse, with its hitherto neglected notes, forms an important source of evidence for his philosophical views at this time and especially for the development of his conception of social science. Taking as his theme the union between the sciences and letters exemplified in the scientific popularizations of Fontenelle, Condorcet argued in his discourse that the great creative minds of the scientific revolution had left two fundamental tasks to be fulfilled by the eighteenth century. The first of these had been to extend the applications of the scientific method to the whole range of human knowledge, spreading the

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truths thereby obtained. The second had been that of codifying the scientific method itself—reducing it pour ainsi dire, en formules4 — as a means of popularizing the scientific manner of looking at things. In fulfilling these essential tasks, Condorcet argued, the eighteenth century had ensured that the truths of the sciences would never be lost. The advance of scientific methods would necessarily keep pace with the expansion of scientific knowledge. Enlightenment would necessarily entail moral improvement. The siecle des lumieres had therefore inaugurated the epoch of the indefinite progress of science and civilization, the age in which man was to be finally extricated from the oscillations between enlighten¬ ment and ignorance, progress and retrogression, to which nature had seemed inevitably to condemn him. “Each century will add new enlighten¬ ment to that of the century preceding it; and this progress, which nothing from now on can stop or suspend, will have no other limits than those of the duration of the universe.”5 This idea of progress, while not perhaps the worn-out subject that La Harpe dismissed so contemptuously, was not of course entirely novel. Human progress had become an increasingly common theme in public academic exercises since the early 1750s when Turgot had presented it to the Sorbonne and d’Alembert to the readers of the Encyclopedic. When Condorcet insisted that he was merely furnishing the proofs of an opinion already announced by “several celebrated men,” it was doubtless these two mentors whom he had chiefly in mind. But in paying his tribute to the views of these mentors, Condorcet found himself in a very good position to furnish the necessary proofs of scientific progress. As permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences, he maintained in his discourse to the French Academy, he was witness of the yearly, monthly, even daily advance of the sciences. In his manuscript notes for the revised edition of that discourse, he sketched a section intended to supply his readers with the evidence of the advances made by the natural sciences during the century: in mathematics, mechanics, dynamics, and astronomy; in the study of electricity and optics; in chemistry, physiology, and natural history.6 But in delivering his speech to the French Academy, he drew the attention of his audience not to the natural sciences, but to those sciences which he regarded as the peculiar achievement of his age and the essential link between scientific advance and moral and social progress: “those sciences, almost created in our own day, the object of which is man himself, the direct goal of which is the happiness of man.”7 These sciences of man, Condorcet insisted, would follow the same methods and enjoy a progress no less sure than that of the physical sciences. In meditating on the nature of the moral sciences, one cannot in¬ deed help seeing that, based like the physical sciences upon the observation of facts, they must follow the same method, acquire an equally exact and precise language, attain the same degree of cer¬ tainty.8 Human progress could not be rationally directed or assured until the broken elements of the moral and political sciences had been welded into the social science that was the essential condition for the creation of a

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rational political and social order. It was necessary for mankind to conquer the problems of human destiny, as it had mastered the enigma of the universe, by bringing to moral and political questions the attitudes and methods found valid in the physical sciences. Here Condorcet announced his conception of the fundamental task of the eighteenth century and his own constant aim: the establishment of a science of man as sure in its methods and as certain in its results as the science of nature. But what were the attitudes and methods of the physical sciences and what degree of certainty did they yield? Condorcet’s answers to such questions are clearly of the utmost importance to his conception of social science, and thus to our whole enquiry. It is with these questions that the study of the development of his conception of social science must begin. The Limitations of Science

Condorcet insisted first on the importance of the positive, factual basis of the natural sciences. While other philosophers lost themselves in vague systems and useless metaphysics, he maintained in his eloge of Frenicle, Newton had discovered the system of the world merely by observing and calculating.9 As permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences, Condor¬ cet therefore added his official voice to the eighteenth-century chorus in denunciation of the “spirit of system” and in praise of a “systematic spirit” founded on epistemological modesty. “It was necessary to replace all these systems with general facts established on the basis of observation and experience,” he insisted in praise of Haller, whom he regarded as having introduced the systematic spirit into the study of physiology: “to have the prudence to stop at the facts and accept ignorance of their causes; to know that in every science there exist limits beyond which it is doubtful that the human mind can ever penetrate, but which it surely cannot penetrate without the help of time and a long series of researches.”10 In 1777, this was not a particularly novel view of scientific method. It was one that had been hammered out in the course of the great debate over Newtonianism in the first half of the century; one that was dictated, indeed, by the very battle for Newton’s acceptance. For the French debate over Newtonianism involved more than issues of national pride, more than the empty dispute over words that Voltaire wrote off in the Lettres philosophiques. It involved, and was conducted in terms of, basic issues of scientific method; and it issued ultimately in a new conception of science and a new view of the relationship between man and nature, which was to have unsuspected implications for the science of man.11 Newton discovered the principle of gravity by demonstrating its effects mathematically. However, he was unwilling to commit himself to a mechanical explanation of its cause. Like his continental critics, he found the very idea of action at a distance absurd. It is inconceivable that inanimate brute Matter should, without the Mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon, and affect other Matter without mutual Contact. . . .That Gravity should be innate, inherent and essential to Matter, so that one Body may act upon another at a Distance thro’ a Vacuum, without the

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Mediation of anything else. . . is to me so great an Absurdity, that I believe no Man who has in philosophical Matters a competent Faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it.12 In fact, Newton’s views on the causes of gravity were complex and somewhat unstable. “Monsieur Newton is still undetermined as between. . two sentiments,” his friend, Fatio du Duillier, wrote to Leibniz in 1694, with his usual sense of self-importance. “The first [is] that the cause of gravity is inherent in matter according to an immediate law of the Creator of the Universe; and the other that gravity is produced by the mechanical cause I have discovered for it.”13 By and large, in the years immediately following the publication of the Prmcipia, Newton tended to favor the first opinion, regarding the force of gravity through the void as depending directly upon the exercise of divine fiat. After 1707, however, he tended to favor the idea that God might act in this matter through a secondary, more material (though not, strictly speaking, mechanical) cause, specifically through the operation of an all-pervading aether.14 Yet whatever his views regarding the ultimate nature of gravity, Newton never wavered in his insistence that his mathematical demonstration of its effects did not depend for its validity upon physical (or metaphysical) explanations of its cause. It was by no means necessary, he insisted, to “feign hypotheses” to explain gravity mechanically as a “physical” force in order to guarantee the validity of the demonstration of its effects as a “mathematical” force.15 This was the stance that offended Newton’s opponents and led them to the assertion that to posit a phenomenon without assigning it a cause was tantamount to the reintroduction of the occult qualities of the scholastics so recently banished by Descartes. The points at issue were most effectively stated in the celebrated correspondence between Leibniz and Samuel Clarke, which circulated widely in the eighteenth century. For contemporaries, as its most recent editor has remarked, this correspondence was the final, full-dress confron¬ tation between the “mathematical philosophy” and the “metaphysical philosophy.”16 In effect, it was a debate between the two great scientific minds of the age, and the confrontation of two great scientific philoso¬ phies—for behind Clarke stood Newton, unwilling himself to engage in epistolary debate with his great rival but happy to do so through the agency of his disciple.17 In order for Newtonianism to be entirely acceptable to Leibniz, as to its Cartesian critics in France, it was not enough that it furnished an adequate and satisfactory description of phenomena. It was also necessary that it be explained in accordance with the rational and intelligible laws, grounded in the nature of things, that were the hallmark of true science as the rationalists defined it. Yet such laws seemed to exclude the very notion of action at a distance. “Tis also a supernatural thing,” Leibniz insisted in his fourth letter to Clarke, “that bodies should attract one another at a distance, without any intermediate means; and that a body should move round, without receding in the tangent, though nothing hinder it from so receding. For these effects cannot be explained by the nature of things.”18 Until gravity could be shown to have a rational and intelligible mechanical cause, he therefore concluded, it should be

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rejected as an occult scholastic quality or a perpetual miracle.19 For Clarke on the contrary, whatever cause (mechanical or nonmechanical) might ultimately be assigned to gravity, its existence as a regular and constant phenomenon of nature had been proven beyond doubt on the basis of observation of fact and by the mathematical demonstration of its effects. That the sun attracts the earth, through the intermediate void space, that is, that the earth and sun gravitate towards each other, or tend (whatever be the cause of that tendency) towards each other, with a force which is in a direct proportion to their masses, or magnitudes and densities together, and in an inverse duplicate proportion of their distances. . .all this is nothing but a phenomenon, or actual matter of fact, found by experience. That this phenomenon is not produced sans moyen, that is without some cause capable of produc¬ ing such an effect; is undoubtedly true. Philosophers therefore may search after and discover that cause, if they can; be it mechanical, or not mechanical. But if they cannot discover the cause; is therefore the effect itself, the phenomenon, or the matter of fact discovered by experience, (which is all that is meant by the words attraction and gra¬ vitation,) ever the less true? Or is a manifest quality to be called occult, because the immediate efficient cause of it (perhaps) is occult, or not yet discovered?20 So the debate continued. What was at issue here was more than the fate of a specific hypothesis or a given set of calculations. The Newtonians claimed that the effects of gravity (however explained) were proven by observation and experience and demonstrated by the most precise mathe¬ matical calculations. Their opponents maintained that until it could be explained rationally in material terms rather than merely stated as a description of observed phenomena, the principle of gravity—no matter how precise its mathematical formulations —would nevertheless fall short of true scientific knowledge. It is not enough to have made a precise calculation upon the results of which one can always count, insisted Fontenelle. “It is also necessary, to satisfy reason, to understand this result and know why it is as it is.’’21 Thus the debate over Newtonianism involved the essential question of the extent and limits of the inductive method. The Newtonians were at least provisionally content to accept a science of description as the first step towards a science of explanation, and in the meantime valid in its own right. The anti-Newtonians insisted that description without explanation was, at best, no science at all; and, at worst, subversive of all that scientific rationalism had achieved since Descartes. The point was put with brutal clarity by one of the leading French Cartesians of the early eighteenth century, Etienne Simon de Gamaches. The data of experience are always limited. . . .The principles drawn from experience, pushed beyond the facts from which they are drawn, almost always lead to error; physics [i.e. rational physics] alone can set the appropriate limits to these principles; but M. Newton nowhere consults it; and what happens as a result? Since he pretends to relate nothing in his system to the laws of mechanics as

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generally understood, the majority of his followers have thought themselves authorized to transform the hidden principles of the laws that he supposes, sometimes into primordial laws, sometimes into occult qualities.22 As an introduction to the eighteenth-century development of Newtonianism this statement is instructive. Some Newtonians, following Roger Cotes in his preface to the second edition of the Principia, did make gravity into a “primordial law,” or an essential property of matter. Others preferred to see it remain as an unexplained phenomenon (an “occult quality” in the eyes of its critics). Yet whatever their stance as to the nature of gravity, all the Newtonians agreed that its cause remained hidden. They all, in effect, agreed with their critics that “the data of experience are always limited.” Thus, by the alchemy of protracted debate, the “provi¬ sional positivism” of Newton’s mathematical philosophy was gradually transmuted into the “prepositivism” of the philosophies.23 Turning the tables on their opponents, the Newtonians insisted that the very limitations of the Newtonian theory as a system of explanation were the essential condition of its success in describing or accounting for the observed phenomena of experience. Not only was the inductive method limited, but acceptance of its limits was the essential prerequisite of its successful use. Here the lead was taken by the influential Dutch physicists. We must regard gravity as a law of nature, remarked ’sGravesande, whose Physices elementa mathematica became one of the most influential expositions of Newtonian philosophy, not because we know its cause, but because we are entirely ignorant of it; not because it accords with the rational and intelligible laws of physics as accepted by the Cartesians, but precisely because it is impossible to deduce the phenomenon of gravity from the laws of physics as already known to us.24 Newton, the Prince of Philosophers, was only successful because he was “the first who excluded all hypotheses from physics and who admitted nothing which could not be known mathematically to be a result of the phenomena observed.”25 “Physics do not meddle with the first Foundation of things.”26 This was a cry that the philosophes— led by Voltaire in the Lettres philosophiques — never tired of taking up. Newton had rejected metaphysical explanations and questions of final causes, insisted d’Alembert in his Essai sur les elements de philosophic. He had been modest enough to beware of “that mania for explaining everything, which Descartes had introduced into physics, which has accustomed the majority of his followers to satisfy themselves with vague principles and reasonings equally fit to support either side of any question.”27 Descartes had undertaken to form a world, maintained Condillac in the Traite des systemes. Newton, on the contrary, was content to observe, to seek among phenomena one which could be considered sufficient to account for all others. In doing so he found a system certainly less extensive than nature itself, but as extensive as human knowledge for the moment could be.28 For the philosophes, then, the first lesson to be drawn from Newtonian science was the lesson of epistemo¬ logical modesty: man succeeds best in discovering the truths of nature when he first recognizes the limits of his own knowledge. They found in the

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discoveries of Newton a remarkable confirmation of Locke’s insistence that reason was a potent instrument, provided man refrained from using it to plumb the “Ocean of Being" and turned his back upon questions of final causes that he could never answer. Man’s understanding can go no further than his observation of phenomena will lead him, insisted Condillac in the Traite des systernes; it cannot penetrate the first causes beyond phenome¬ nal existence.29 We must confess that the causes of things are forever hidden from us, maintained Buffon in the introduction to his Histoire naturelle. “Our senses being themselves the effects of causes that we know nothing of, they can lead us to ideas only of effects and never of causes; we are necessarily reduced to using the term ‘cause’ for a general effect, and giving up the hope of knowledge beyond that.” Newton’s very success therefore demonstrated the essentially limited, positive basis of human knowledge. “As far as we are concerned,” Buffon insisted, “these general effects are the true laws of Nature.”30 This was to renounce any claim to know the essential nature of the universe. Natural philosophy, d’Alembert insisted, is not destined to lose itself in the general properties of Being and Substance, in useless questions concerning abstract notions, in arbitrary distinctions and eternal disputes about words: “it is the science of facts, or else that of fantasy.”31 But based only on experience, science could only remain relative to man. The law of attraction accords more fully with our experience, Condillac maintained, but we cannot be sure that it is the true system of the universe.32 “Nature is not obliged to conform to our ideas,” insisted d’Alembert.33 The principles of the sciences can only be regarded as principles relative to us; our definitions of things explain their nature as we know them, but not as they are in themselves. All that is possible for the human mind, concluded Buffon, is to combine particular effects into “an order relative to our own nature, rather than in accordance with the existence of the phenomena that we consider.”34 This was not a particularly exalted or flattering view of human knowledge. Indeed, its most dismal implications had been drawn once and for all by a writer with whom the philosophes were all very well acquainted; an enemy, whose conclusions they fought so bitterly because his premises were often so uncomfortably close to their own. This writer, of course, was Pascal: the “sublime misanthrope” from whom Voltaire tried so desperately to disengage himself in the Lettres philosophiques; the scientific rebel with whom Condorcet attempted to come to terms in his Eloge et Pensees de Pascal.35 Throughout the Pensees, Pascal lamented the inability of the human mind to penetrate beyond its own confines to the essence of the universe, its essential relations and ultimate purposes. “If man began by studying himself, he would see how incapable he is of going beyond himself. How could a part comprehend the whole? He will hope perhaps to know at least the parts to which he bears some proportion. But the parts of the world are all so closely connected and linked one with another that I believe it impossible to know one without the other and without the whole.”36 In their views of the limited nature and extent of scientific knowledge,

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Pascal and the philosophes were virtually at one. In their response to these limits, they could hardly have been more opposed. Rebelling against the limitations of human knowledge, Pascal cast himself upon the Absolute. His pessimistic acceptance of the miseries of man’s lot was part-and-parcel with his fundamental rebellion against the human condition. For the philosophes it was quite the reverse. Their rebellion against human conditions derived from their fundamental conviction that man could do nothing but accept his human lot, and with it the limitations of his own human knowledge. The essential arguments were presented by Voltaire in the Lettres philosophiques: arguments that Condorcet was careful to reprint as notes to his edition of the Pensees in 1776. It was Voltaire who had first insisted against this scientific renegade that not to know everything is not the same as knowing nothing. It was Voltaire who had maintained that man can find compensation for his acceptance of partial knowledge in its utility in changing his lot. Man should not be turned aside from his search for what is useful to him through any consideration that he is unable to know every¬ thing. . . .We know many truths; we have made many useful inven¬ tions. Let us console ourselves for not knowing the possible connec¬ tions between a spider and the rings of Saturn, and continue to exa¬ mine what is within our reach.37 This was the language of common sense. It was also the language of Enlightenment humanism. Diderot drew the appropriate conclusion in his article defining the aims of the Encyclopedic. Man must limit himself to what he can know; and all that he can know is himself—his sensations and experiences —and the world around him only insofar as he is able to infer it by an always uncertain analysis from these sensations and experiences. Man, then, must be the measure of all things. Since there is no way of overcoming the deficiencies arising from the weakness of our understand¬ ing; since the general book of the universe is forever closed to us, we should take firm hold of those things “bound up with our human condition.”38 If one banishes from the face of the earth that thinking and contemplating being, man, Diderot maintained in Pascalian mood, “then the sublimely moving spectacle of nature will be but a sad and silent scene. The universe will be hushed; darkness and silence will fall upon it. Everything will be changed into a vast solitude where unobserved phenomena come to pass unseen and unheard.” But once again there was an alternative to this Pascalian vision: It is the presence of men that gives significance to the existence of other beings. What better way is there to write the history of these beings than to submit to this consideration? Why should we not give man the same place in our work that he occupies in the universe? Why should we not make him the common center of all that exists?39 With this cry, the philosophes answered the limitations of their human knowledge by celebrating its avowedly anthropocentric character. Know¬ ledge is always relative to the human condition: it must therefore be relevant to that condition. Several consequences flowed from this conclu-

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sion. In the physical sciences, as Voltaire had already insisted in the Lettres philosophiques, relevance implied utility. “Why affect so great a disdain for the physical sciences, when they have given man such resources to oppose the rigors of nature?” demanded Condorcet of Pascal in his edition of the Pensees.40 Knowledge of the facts of nature is one of the chief goals of philosophy, d’Alembert maintained in the Essai sur les elements de philosophic: not to penetrate to its ultimate causes, but to combine facts, compare them and classify them, to explain their natural relations, and finally to “put them to palpable use.”41 Thus the utility of the sciences became one compensation for the drastic limitations on human knowledge that the philosophes were prepared to accept. Another was put most forcefully, and reinforced with the authority of Newton himself, by the Scottish mathematician Colin Maclaurin. In his influential Account of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophical Discoveries, Maclaurin reserved the final chapter for an exposition of Newton’s religious views. Here he argued that the very incompleteness of human knowledge provided strong grounds for believing in its further advance. Man is undoubtedly the chief creature on this globe, which in its turn cannot be regarded as less considerable than any other in the universe. If we suppose man to perish without ever arriving at a more complete knowledge of nature, Maclaurin insisted, then there is no reason why the same should not be true of the inhabitants of other planets. Yet could God have willed that the beautiful order of knowledge should never be unfolded to intelligent beings? Such a conclusion is unthinkable. We must therefore “consider our present state as only the dawn or beginning of our existence, and as a state of preparation or probation for farther advancement.”42 The argument might have been tortuous, but the point was clear. For Maclaurin, the very limitations of human knowledge were earnest of the further advancement —even the accelerating advancement —that must surely be in store. Conversely, this progress was assured only if man accepted the limitations on human knowledge. Should we forget the lesson of epistemological modesty and fall once again into the passion for systems, Maclaurin argued, further progress “may be retarded by our rash and ill-grounded anticipations.”43 In this sense, the idea of progress not only compensated for the requirement of epistemological modesty; it also provided a measure of sanction for its observation. By proceeding with due care, every age will add to the common stock of knowledge; the mysteries that still lie concealed in nature may be gradually opened, arts will flourish and increase, mankind will improve, and appear more worthy of their situation in the universe, as they approach more towards a perfect knowledge of nature.44 Few philosophes put the point so positively and with such theological ebullience as Maclaurin. Yet the underlying connection was there. Opti¬ mistic belief in progress was only one side of the coin; pessimism and insecurity —to which it was the response —formed the other.45 Condorcet has often been seen as the most optimistic of the philosophes in his hopes for human progress. It has not been sufficiently appreciated that this optimism went together with one of the most restricted views of the certainty

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and extent of human knowledge. Such is the human condition, he lamented in his eloges of Lieutad in 1780, that we can never be certain of the truths of the sciences. “It is fortunate for the progress of the sciences, as for our happiness, to forget in work, as in the conduct of life, the terrifying uncertainty to which we are condemned.”46 For Condorcet in this mood, the idea of scientific progress not only supplied a compensation for the limitations of human knowledge. Only in working for such progress could he find refuge from the Pascalian vision of man lost, unknowing, in the silence of infinite space. There was a further, final, and (for our purposes) more fundamental consequence of the limitations upon scientific knowledge that the philo¬ sophies came to accept: one that had been stated categorically by Locke, whom they regarded as the founder of their program of epistemological modesty. “Our business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct,” Locke insisted in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding.47 He returned to this theme later, in his influential discussion of the nature and extent of human knowledge. In the physical sciences, he argued, our knowledge must always be limited “since our faculties are not fitted to penetrate into the internal fabric and real essence of bodies.” It follows, then, that we should focus our scientific attention on what we can know best and what concerns us most: the moral sciences. It will become us, as rational creatures, to employ those faculties we have about what they are most adapted to, and follow the direction of nature where it seems to point us out the way. For it is rational to conclude that our proper employment lies in those inquiries, and in that sort of knowledge which is most suited to our natural capacities and carries in it our greatest interest, i.e. the condition of our eternal estate. Hence I think I may conclude that morality is the proper science and business of mankind in general.48 While the philosophes were reluctant to accept Locke’s definition of the ultimate concern of the moral sciences with “the condition of our eternal estate,” they were at one with him in concluding from the limitations of the physical sciences “that morality is the proper science and business of mankind.” If, as Condorcet put it, man could only forget “in work, as in the conduct of life” the uncertainty of human knowledge, what better way of compensating for this uncertainty than in following the encyclopedic program of making man the center of all that is? What better way, indeed, than that of cultivating “those sciences, almost created in our own day, the object of which is man himself, the direct goal of which is the happiness of man”? Thus the implications of the limited, positive basis of the physical sciences for the progress of the moral sciences were twofold. By their success, the physical sciences provided an essential epistemological model. The advance that physical scientists had achieved by limiting their concerns “could not be observed without enlightened men seeking to follow it up in the other sciences,” Condorcet later maintained in the Esquisse: “at each stage it held out to them a model to be followed.”49 At the same time, the very limitations imposed upon the physical sciences spurred the

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philosophe to make mankind the proper study of men. For Condorcet, the point was clearly stated in the sketch for a history of the sciences he drafted in 1772. Having dealt with the effects of printing on the physical sciences, he passed “to the more important sciences that have man himself for their object and can affect whole societies, while the most real utility of the other sciences is limited to the happiness of those who cultivate them.”50 Condorcet was here concerned only with the order of his argument: but the passage can also be given a biographical significance. As we have seen, after 1772 he did give increasing attention to the moral sciences. In seeking to apply the methods of the physical sciences to the science of man, he not only sought a further demonstration of their power when founded on the limited basis of positive fact. He also found some compensation for their failure to penetrate the essence of the physical universe. The Structure of Science

A victory for self-professed Newtonians was not necessarily a victory for Newton. On the basis of his defensive insistence that he “feigned no hypotheses” Newton was refashioned in the course of debate into the father of a view of science far more limited than he would ultimately have allowed. But this was only one aspect of a more general pattern in the reception of Newtonianism in the Enlightenment. In the same way, Newton’s principal discoveries were gradually assimilated by continental scientists into a scientific structure very different from his own. Nowhere is this process more clearly revealed than in the debate over the necessity or contingency of the laws of motion, a problem that lay at the very heart of the controversy between Leibniz and Clarke over the Newtonian system of the world and which continued to exercise the leading scientific minds of the eighteenth century. In the eyes of Newton and his immediate followers, one of the chief advantages of his natural philosophy was that it overthrew the mechanistic theories of the universe, establishing the nature of the world as the voluntary effect of a divine will rather than as the necessary result of the attributes of matter in motion. “That there are some in England, as well as in other countries, who deny or very much corrupt even natural religion itself, is very true, and much to be lamented,” Clarke confessed to Leibniz. “But (next to the vicious characteristics of men) this is to be principally ascribed to the false philosophy of the materialists, to which the mathema¬ tical principles of philosophy are the most directly repugnant.”51 The particular nature of the universe as revealed by the Principia, Newton insisted, could not be explained on the basis simply of rational or mechanical principles. There was no particular reason why the planets revolved around the sun in one direction rather than another; there was no particular reason why the gravitational force of two mutually attracting bodies should be in direct proportion to their masses and in inverse proportion to the square of their distance. These were observed facts; but they could logically have been otherwise. Here Newton’s empiricism provided a powerful bastion to his theism. It was a truth of fact that the universe had been created in a particular way to follow particular laws.

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That it was not created otherwise was explicable not as the result of “meer natural Causes,” but as the effect of “the Counsel and Contrivance of a voluntary Agent.”52 Or, as Clarke put it to Leibniz, “there can be no other reason, but the mere will of God.”53 However, Newton not only insisted that the nature of the created world depended upon the voluntary choice of a divine will. He also maintained that the further operation of that creation depended upon the continued intervention of the Creator. God, Newton suggested in his Letters to Bentley, must intervene constantly to preserve the frame of the universe by preventing the fixed stars from falling inwards one upon the other. It also seemed from the Opttcks that the Creator was expected to intervene periodically to effect the “reforma¬ tion” necessary to correct the disturbances in the planetary orbits caused by their mutual action and to conserve the amount of motion in the universe.54 It was this point that prompted the discussion of the philosophi¬ cal implications of Newtonian science that took shape in the course of the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence. The two positions were quickly staked out. According to Leibniz, the Newtonian universe was a poor thing if its Author had to wind it from time to time to restore its lost motion. This was not the way to defeat the materialists. If anything, it was likely to lead the unwitting philosopher right into their clutches. The materialists, Leibniz insisted, would be defeated not by mere mathematical principles but by metaphysical ones, the foremost of which was the principle of sufficient reason. In the light of this principle, it seemed to Leibniz that Clarke had emphasized the nature of the universe as the effect of God’s power (that is, his will) at the cost of neglecting his wisdom. Yet the created universe could not be the effect of mere will, because mere will would have no grounds for action or choice. God did not create the universe as he did without sufficient reason; among all possible worlds he could not but have created the best. It followed that to admit the need for God to intervene to remedy defects in the working of the universe was to advance the impossible position that God had created a universe that was less than perfect. For Leibniz, the nature of the created universe was the effect not only of the divine will but of the rational principles that directed that will. These rational principles of the natural order were the proper concern of science and the only true defense against the blind fatality of the atheists. Newton had done nothing to illuminate them and a great deal to threaten the whole philosophical structure on which they rested. For if God were obliged to reform the operations of nature from time to time, Leibniz insisted, this would have to be done either supernaturally or naturally. To assert that God did so supernaturally would be absurd: it would reduce nature to a perpetual miracle and destroy the very foundations of scientific rationalism. To maintain that he did so naturally would issue in materialism, for it would make God the soul of the world.55 Between absurdity and Spinozism, Clarke was happy to choose the former. God’s wisdom, he replied to Leibniz, was shown not by his creating a machine that needed no further intervention, but by his “framing originally the perfect and complete idea of a work, which begun and

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continues, according to that original perfect idea, by the continual uninterrupted exercise of his power and government.”56 The world was not a perfect machine left to run of its own accord by a distant clockmaker God: such a view, Clarke insisted, was “the notion of materialism and fate.”57 Nor, in fact, was the world an imperfect machine to be set to rights from time to time either by natural or by supernatural means. The ideas of “correction" or “amendment,” of “natural” or “supernatural,” were relevant not to God but only to human conceptions of his handiwork. All phenomena depended upon the direct and immediate will of the Creator. “To cause the sun (or earth) to move regularly, is a thing we call natural: to stop its motion for a day, we call supernatural: but the one is the effect of no greater power, than the other; nor is the one with respect to God, more or less natural or supernatural than the other.”58 Here Clarke was approaching a radical position that he was forced to make even more explicit in later letters under the logical pressure of the Leibnizian arguments. The remainder of the debate centered around two problems —the nature of the principle of sufficient reason and the nature of miracles —both of which led ultimately to the question of the necessity or contingency of the laws of nature. In effect, this question combined important ontological and epistemological aspects.59 In its first aspect, it demanded whether the laws of nature were necessary or contingent in respect of God: that is, whether they were such that God could or could not have chosen to impose other laws upon matter. Closely linked to this problem was the question of whether the laws of nature were necessary or contingent in respect of phenomena: that is, whether or not the phenomena of nature were determined by necessary and invariable physical laws. This question involved a further definition of what exactly was known when man claimed to know a scientific law: that is, whether the laws of nature embodied certain rational and necessary laws of matter, intelligible to man; or whether they merely provided a systematic description of its contingent (that is, rationally inexplicable) behavior, based on the mere observation of fact. Ultimately the distinction between necessary and contingent laws came to rest epistemologically on the distinction between truths of reason and truths of fact. The rationalist definition of science demanded certain knowledge achieved by demonstrative reasoning from the nature of things on the basis of clear and distinct ideas. The essential definition was laid down by Descartes in the Regulae ad directionem ingenii and given wide currency in the influential Logique de Port-Royal. “All science is clear and evident knowledge,” asserted Descartes in the Regulae.™ This definition was expanded in the Logique de Port-Royal into a distinction between two kinds of truths: those which deal only with the nature of things and their immutable essence, independent of their existence; and those which deal with phenomena as they exist, and especially with human phenomena and contingent events. The first truths yield the clear and evident demonstra¬ tive knowledge that is the hallmark of the rationalist definition of science strictly defined; the second yield truths of fact which fall short of this scientific certainty, issuing only in probability.61 It followed that insofar as

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Newtonian science claimed to provide truths of fact without producing demonstrable explanations of these facts in terms of the rational nature of things, it placed itself entirely outside the rationalist definition of science. As we have seen, Clarke held first to the view that the laws of nature are directly contingent on God’s will, which is therefore the sufficient reason for their existence. He saw Leibniz’s insistence that there must have been a rational principle directing the divine will as destroying God’s freedom: for to say that God cannot act without sufficient reason for acting is to say that he is determined in his choice by necessary laws.62 Leibniz answered this charge with a discussion of the problem of the necessity of the laws of nature that defined the terms of the debate until Kant. It is first essential, he argued, to distinguish between hypothetical necessity and absolute necessity. The laws of nature are hypothetically necessary if we suppose that they are preordained by God according to his will. They are absolutely necessary, if we suppose the impossibility that God could have chosen to impose other laws on matter. This latter necessity Leibniz vigorously rejected. God has chosen among a number of possible systems; therefore, the laws of nature are not absolutely necessary. But God had also chosen the best among a number of possibilities: being God, he could not have chosen otherwise. It was on this point that Clarke accused Leibniz of removing God’s freedom. Yet this necessity was not an absolute necessity, Leibniz replied, but a moral necessity. “For when God (for instance) chooses the best; what he does not choose, and is inferior in perfection, is nevertheless possible. But if what he chooses, was absolutely necessary; any other way would be impossible: which is against the hypothesis. . . . But to say, that God can only choose what is best; and to infer from thence, that what he does not choose, is impossible; this, I say, is confounding of terms: ’tis blending power and will, metaphysical necessity and moral necessity, essences and existences.”63 Not surprisingly, Clarke was unimpressed by this statement of the Leibnizian metaphysics and continued to regard the principle of sufficient reason as a flimsy disguise for determinism. In order to bolster his arguments against this doctrine, he went on to argue a position that implied that the laws of nature are not only contingent in respect to God but also contingent in respect to man’s knowledge of them. As we have seen, Clarke claimed that the distinction between natural and superna¬ tural is relative only to man and not to God. Leibniz insisted that this position subverted the entire concept of nature and deprived science of its central concern with the rational demonstration of necessary scientific laws “explicable by the natures and powers of creatures.”64 In his final letter — to which Leibniz was prevented by death from replying —Clarke pushed this position to its most radical epistemological limits. I affirmed, that, with regard to God, no one possible thing is more miraculous than another; and that therefore a miracle does not con¬ sist in any difficulty in the nature of the thing to be done, but merely in the unusualness of God’s doing it. The terms, nature, and powers of nature, and course of nature, and the like, are nothing but empty words; and signify merely, that a thing usually or frequently comes to pass. . . .Does he [Leibniz] think there are in God two different

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and really distinct principles or powers of acting, and that one thing is more difficult to God than another? If not: then either a natural and a supernatural action of God, are terms whose simplification is only relative to us; we calling an usual effect of God’s power, natural; and an unusual one, supernatural, the force of nature being, in truth, nothing but an empty word: or else, by the one must be meant that which God does immediately himself; and by the other, that which he does mediately by the instrumentality of second causes. The former of these distinctions, is what this learned author is here professedly opposing: the latter is what he expressly dis¬ claims, where he allows that angels may work true miracles. And yet besides these two, I think no other distinction can possibly be imagined.65 Since Leibniz had already specifically excluded the second alternative, Clarke apparently meant to leave him no choice but that of the first and most extreme position which he here presented. This amounted to a kind of radical theological positivism. For it not only made the laws of nature contingent in respect to God; it also came close to making them contingent in respect to phenomena. While there was a determinate order in the universe, there was no determined order: the order of events depended not on necessary and invariable physical laws but on the direct and immediate will of the Creator.66 Strictly speaking, this reduced scientific laws to contingent truths, to mere generalizations concerning the more or less frequent recurrence of phenomena. The idea of nature was emptied of its normative content; and man was reduced to such knowledge of its rationally inexplicable behavior as could be derived from the observation of fact and sustained by belief in the direct and immediate action of the divine will.67 No more frontal challenge to the rationalist definition of science could possibly be imagined. If Newtonian natural philosophy was to be accepted by continental philosophers, therefore, its entire philo¬ sophical structure had to be revised in order to incorporate it into the rationalist definition of science. Or, failing that, it was necessary radically to revise the rationalist definition of science in order to accommodate Newtonianism. Such was the challenge of Newtonian science for continen¬ tal thinkers. Nowhere, perhaps, are the complexities involved in the digestion of Newtonianism by continental scientists better illustrated —and nowhere were they more influentially presented to the young Condorcet —than in the scientific work of d’Alembert. In 1756, the Academy of Berlin revived debate concerning the necessity or contingency of the laws of motion by proposing this question as a prize-essay subject for 1758. Turning his attention to this problem in the second edition of his Traite de dynamique, published in that year, d’Alembert’s initial concern was to give it an important redefinition. He first insisted that, if we admit a being capable of acting upon matter, it is evident that such a being can direct it according to his will at any instant. It is therefore unreasonable to discuss whether the Author of nature could have given other laws to matter than those which we actually observe. The real point of the question is not

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whether a supreme being could have chosen other laws for nature, had he so willed; but whether the observed laws of nature are in fact different from those which nature would have followed if abandoned to itself.68 This hardly sounds very different in its formulation from the question as previously debated. But as d’Alembert developed his argument, the implications became clear. Certain effects are rationally implied in supposing the existence of matter and movement as we know them. Certain further effects are equally to be observed from experience. The problem, then, as d’Alembert posed it, is to discover by reason what the laws of mechanics would be in matter abandoned to itself—that is, to discover the rational laws of mechanics as implied in the nature of matter as we know it —and to establish from experience the observed laws of the universe. If these two sets of laws differ, then it is necessary to conclude that the laws of mechanics as given to us by experience are contingent truths, since they have to be the effect of the express will of a supreme being. If, on the other hand, the laws of experience are in accordance with those arrived at by reason, then it is to be concluded that they are necessary, not in the sense that the Creator could not have chosen other ones, but that he chose not to. Having redefined the question in this way, d’Alembert concluded that in this sense the laws of mechanics and dynamics are indeed necessary truths, implied in the existence of matter and motion.69 D’Alembert’s discussion of this problem is remarkable from several points of view. It is clear, first, that he was attempting to reduce an ontological question to a purely epistemological one. A metaphysician would have proved the same conclusion by arguing from the nature of God, he maintained; but the nature of God is too far hidden from us to admit such argument, except from direct observation of the laws of nature. Thus d’Alembert was concerned not with the ontological relation¬ ship of the divine will to the operation of the universe, but with the epistemological relationship between the rational and empirical elements in our knowledge of that universe.70 Our knowledge of the laws of nature is contingent insofar as it is derived merely from sense experience; but it is necessary insofar as sense experience can be shown to be in accordance with the laws rationally implied in our conception of matter and motion. The effect of this conclusion was to bypass the theological arguments of Clarke-Newton and Leibniz alike. On the one hand, it aimed at fitting the Newtonian world picture —based on the observed facts of experience —into the rationalistic structure of continental natural philosophy. On the other, while it accepted as a scientific postulate the determinism implied in Leibnizianism, it rejected the metaphysics of the principle of sufficient reason. D’Alembert dismissed the ontological aspects of the question of the necessity or contingency of the laws of nature as beyond man’s epistemo¬ logical confines. But he was no less concerned to bring the laws of motion within the rationalist definition of science as clear, demonstrable know¬ ledge based upon rational explanations. The certainty of the mathematical sciences (in which he also included the physico-mathematical sciences) is the result principally of the simplicity of their object, d’Alembert insisted.

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But since all the parts of these sciences do not have equally simple objects, they do not share equally in “that certainty, properly so called, which is founded on principles necessarily true and evident in themselves.”71 Those based on merely physical principles —on truths of experience, or on simple hypotheses —only enjoy “a certainty of experience, or even of pure supposition.-'72 The aim of scientific endeavor, in whatever science, is to generate as much of the science as possible from the most general and the most abstract ideas, admitting only those properties rationally implied in the science which one is treating. In accordance with this methodological program, d’Alembert announced his intention to treat the problems of mechanics without reference to the concept of force that was so troublesome a feature of Newtonian science. All that we understand clearly concerning the nature of movement, d Alembert insisted, is that a body travels a certain distance in a certain time. Thus it is from this idea alone that the ideas of Mechanics must be derived, if we wish to demonstrate them in a clear and precise man¬ ner. It should come as no surprise, then, that as a consequence of this reflexion I have turned my back on the consideration of motive causes, to deal only with the movement which they produce; that I have entirely banished [the concept of] forces inherent in bodies in motion, obscure and metaphysical entities which can only spread darkness in a science clear in itself.73 Having thus cleared the ground, d’Alembert outlined in the Traite de dynamique three basic laws of motion. These three laws (together with the principle that bears his name, which he deduced from them) he regarded as necessary truths founded on certain and evident demonstrative reasoning. What gave these laws their certainty? In d’Alembert’s view, they could be reached by a priori reasoning from the notion of impact between impenetrable bodies. Since he regarded impenetrability as implicit in our very concept of matter and motion, it followed that these laws were rationally and necessarily implied in supposing the mere existence of matter and motion as we know them. D’Alembert presented his essential reasoning on this point in the preliminary discourse to the Encyclopedic. Using the analytical method of reduction to the clearest, most distinct, and most general ideas possible “by successive abstractions of mind,” he reached a property of matter upon which all others seemed to depend: that of impenetrability. Impenetrability is the principal property by which we distinguish bodies themselves from the parts of indefinite space in which we con¬ ceive them as placed. At least, this is the judgment that our senses im¬ pose upon us; and if they deceive on this point, it is an error so meta¬ physical that our existence and our preservation are not threatened by it and we continually return to it, almost despite ourselves, in our ordinary manner of thinking.74 Beyond this notion of impenetrability there lay only the mathematical world of pure extension, the realm of pure geometry which Descartes had

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revolutionized by making it possible to envisage it even more abstractly in algebraic terms. By continually generalizing our ideas in this way, d’Alembert insisted, we arrive at the “principal part of mathematics and of all the natural sciences”: the science cies grandeurs en general. This is “the most distant term to which contemplation of the properties of matter can lead us, and we can go no further without leaving the material world entirely.”75 This abstract mathematical world once mastered, the human mind is in a position to apply the certain demonstration of mathematical truths to the material world to which it returns by successive intellectual steps. It first restores to that “fantom” of matter which is the subject of geometry the essential characteristic of impenetrability, which “constitutes the physical body and was the last sensible quality of which we stripped it.” At this moment, the science of mechanics is born. “This new consideration necessarily implies that of the action of bodies one upon another, for bodies only act insofar as they are impenetrable; and it is from this that we deduce the laws of equilibrium and movement, the object of Mechanics.”76 For d’Alembert the laws of mechanics were certain and necessary truths to the extent that the phenomena observed in that science could be given a rationally demonstrable explanation in terms of the abstract model of impact between impenetrable bodies. In deducing his three laws of motion from the notion of impact, he therefore gave them (in the words of Lalande) “a necessity as rigorous as the first elementary truths of geo¬ metry.”77 Yet not all the observed phenomena of matter in motion could be rationally explained in terms of this notion, the most important exception being that of the action at a distance involved in gravitational effects. In d’Alembert’s view, the Newtonian law of gravity was based on the most exact observations and the most precise calculations, but it still remained a merely experimental truth rather than a rationally demonstrable one. He made this point clear in his article on attraction in the Encyclopedic. All philosophers have agreed that there is a force which draws the planets towards the sun, d’Alembert argued there. Since it is important not to multiply principles needlessly, and since impulsion is the best known and least contested principle of the movement of bodies, the first idea of the philosophers was naturally to explain this force in terms of impulsion. This was the aim of the Cartesians in developing the theory of tourbillons: a theory that it was necessary to renounce when it no longer fitted the facts, “however agreeable the picture it presented.”78 Since the explanation of gravitational effects in terms of impulsion had been shown to be “chimeri¬ cal and contrary to the most simple principles of mechanics,” d’Alembert therefore concluded, “there is nothing wiser and more conformable to the true Philosophy, than to suspend our judgment on the nature of the force which produces these effects.”79 All that the true philosopher could do was to accept gravitation as an occult quality (that is, an effect the cause of which is hidden from us), reducing the observed phenomena as far as possible to mathematical laws. Let us conclude, then, that when the phenomena are sufficiently es¬ tablished, the other kinds of effects in which impulsion is not dis-

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coverable, have the same right to pass from mathematics into phy¬ sics, without its being necessary to search further for causes which are perhaps beyond our understanding. It is permitted to regard them as occult causes (because all causes are occult, if we are speaking rigor¬ ously) and to consider only the effects, which are the only things immediately within our grasp.80 In this sense, then, the Newtonian laws of gravitation were accepted by d’Alembert as valid. Until the phenomena which they described could be explained in terms that were as rationally demonstrable as those of direct impact between impenetrable bodies, however, it was clear that these laws could not be regarded as necessary truths.81 They could indeed be given precise mathematical form as systematic generalizations. But they did not share in that “certainty, properly so called, which is founded on principles necessarily true and evident in themselves.”82 Thus d’Alembert was obliged, in effect, to distinguish between two kinds of scientific law. Both were based on exact observation of the phenomena of experience; both were presented as entirely free from such obscure, metaphysical notions as the concept of force. In the first kind of law, however, it had been possible to arrive at a rational understanding of these phenomena in terms of certain principles, grounded in the nature of things. In the second kind of law —although arrived at “by the thoughtful study of phenomena, by comparing them one with another, by the art of reducing (as far as possible) a great number of phenomena to a single one that can be regarded as their principle”83 — our knowledge still lacked the evident certainty of such rational demonstration. All phenomena stand in ordered relation one to another, d’Alembert insisted in a fundamental statement of his philosophical position soon to be taken up by Condorcet. “For whoever could seize hold of it from a single point of view, the universe would (so to speak) be but a single fact and a great truth.”84 If phenomena presented themselves to us in an uninter¬ rupted series, if we were able to establish in its totality the rational chain of relations that links them, then the universe would be for man, as for God, one great, rational truth. But this chain of relations is hidden from our sight in a thousand places; we see only a few syllables in the enigma of the world. At one extreme of our knowledge, we have been able to establish relationships between certain facts which can indeed be rationally expressed in terms of necessary scientific laws. These relationships, in effect, already constitute links in that greater chain of relations comprising the single, great truth of the world system. At the other extreme of our knowledge, there remain facts that have not yet been reduced to any systematic relationship: “isolated” and “floating,” these phenomena have still to be integrated by scientists into a “systematic collection of experiments and observations.”85 Between these rational and empirical extremes, there are other facts that have been organized systematically by experimental scientists. Indeed, they may even have been reduced —like the phenomena of gravitation — to precise mathematical description. Such facts are no longer “isolated” and “floating” in the strict sense: their relations have been reduced to generalized laws. But these laws still lack the evident

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certainty that comes with reduction to an abstract, rational model of explanation. They remain in effect contingent truths: precise descriptions of observed phenomena, but still outside the domain of the rational and necessary scientific laws of the rationalist definition of science which d’Alembert was so anxious to preserve. Self-professed Newtonian though he was, d’Alembert grafted aspects of Newtonian philosophy on to a very different scientific structure than that suggested by the English philosopher. He first of all stripped natural philosophy of the theological concerns so central to Newton’s conception of the physical universe. He postulated the rationally determined world order of Leibniz, and he retained the rationalist definition of science as certain and evident knowledge of the principles necessarily embodied in that order. If he insisted on the principle of epistemological modesty; if he maintained a fundamental positivism in terms of the extent of man’s knowledge; if he rejected the introduction into physics of such obscure metaphysical notions as the concept of force, he nevertheless did so as the only means of preserving the essentially rationalist structure of science. At the same time, d’Alembert was able to admit certain mechanical laws deriving in a general way from Newtonian physics into this essentially anti-Newtonian structure, by rewriting them in terms of the Cartesian model of impact. Where he was unable to do this —notably, in the case of the phenomena of gravitation —he preferred to safeguard the traditional definition of science by placing the laws of attraction in the category of provisional truths: exact and precise descriptions of phenomena, but contingent truths until they could be given rationally demonstrable explanations in terms of the essential nature of matter and motion. It was this rationalist model of science that Condorcet, the young mathematician, embraced in his earliest statement of his scientific philoso¬ phy, Le marquis de Condorcet a M. d’Alembert, sur le systeme du monde et sur le calcul integral, published in 1768. In this essay, clearly written under the influence of d’Alembert in whose praise the work reverberates, Condorcet took as his theme the master’s celebrated statement of the rationalist postulate of the unity of the sciences: “for whoever could seize hold of it from a single point of view, the universe would be (so to speak) but a single fact and a great truth.”86 He began his work by reiterating, in much the same terms as d’Alembert had used, the distinction between necessary and contingent laws. The movement of bodies seems to be subject to two essentially dif¬ ferent kinds of law: the first are the necessary consequences of the idea that we have of matter; the second seem to be the effect of the free will of an Intelligent Being who has willed that the World be as it is rather than any other way. The result of these necessary laws, taken together, is [the science of] mechanics; while the net result of the other laws, which cannot be completely known to us until we ar¬ rive at the laws governing all particular phenomena, is called the System of the World.*1 Having established the distinction between necessary and contingent laws in these terms, Condorcet started almost immediately to erase it. If the

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second group of laws offered themselves to us as constantly and insensibly as the first, he insisted, they would indeed enter equally into the very idea we have of matter. As proof of this position, he argued that it was now as impossible to conceive of matter without gravitation as it was to conceive of it without extension, even though it had not been until the advent of Newton that men had known that bodies attract one another in inverse ratio to the square of their distances. Perhaps there is only a distinction between these laws because, according to the present relationship between the phenomena and ourselves, more or less sagacity is necessary to know them; with the result that, provided that the law of continuity were not violated in the universe, one could regard its state at each moment as the neces¬ sary result of what must happen to matter that has been set in a cer¬ tain order once and for all and then abandoned to itself. An Intelli¬ gence that knew the state of all phenomena at any given moment, the laws governing matter and the effect of these laws after any given period of time, would have a perfect knowledge of the System of the World. Such knowledge is beyond our power: but it is the goal to¬ wards which all the efforts of philosophical Mathematicians must be directed, and toward which they will draw closer and closer, without ever being able to hope to attain it.88 Condorcet was here developing an initial statement of the scientific philosophy to which he held throughout his life. Making more explicit the epistemological assumption of determinism implied in d’Alembert’s scien¬ tific views, he postulated an order in the universe that can be regarded as the necessary and determined result of matter once set in regular motion and then abandoned to itself. In setting out to advance the work that Newton had commenced with such success, Condorcet was no less con¬ cerned than d’Alembert to integrate the Newtonian philosophy into the framework of a rationally determined world order. Like Laplace —for whom the perfect knowledge of a hypothetical omniscient intelligence also remained the epistemological model for philosophical mathematicians — he was to have no need of the interfering God of the Newtonian hypothesis.89 Thus there is a determined order in the physical universe; and according to its laws phenomena occur. For the hypothetical omniscient intelligence, this order is “but a single fact and one of great truth.” For man, it can only be known imperfectly to the extent that he can reduce the observed facts of experience to their abstract expression in a mathematical formula. Condorcet also insisted on this point: Since all the phenomena that nature presents to us have a deter¬ mined law, it is clear that (provided the law of continuity is observed) the above expressions will serve in all cases.... This investigation of the forces which are involved in the various phenomena, and which can be deduced from observation, is the only means of making real progress in the knowledge of the laws in virtue of which the universe is as we see it at each moment. Attraction, in

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inverse proportion to the square of the distances and inherent in all the particles of matter, which we suppose homogeneous, is the only one that we know and it is sufficient to explain the theory of the celes¬ tial movements and of the smallest variations that arise from the shape of the planets [la figure des planetes]. But this agreement be¬ tween theory and the phenomena does not entitle us to conclude either that this attraction follows the same law for small distances, or that it affects the elements of all bodies uniformly, or that it is the only one operating in the universe. Theory and observations can com¬ pletely resolve the first doubt; the second can be resolved for all the bodies that we know; and the third for all phenomena the laws of which we can determine. But their complete solution is impracti¬ cable for the human mind; and experimental scientists will always find more phenomena than the mathematicians can explain or express mathematically.90 Several points should be noted in this passage, first among them Condorcet’s use of the term “force.” Like d’Alembert, he regarded this term as obscure in its metaphysical aspects; but he insisted that it in no way compromised the evident clarity of mathematics, since it implied no more than a simple mathematical relationship between effects.91 It is in this sense, then, that the investigation of the forces involved in the phenomena of the world can lead to knowledge of the laws determining the universe. And it is in the sense of a mass of phenomena reduced to a mathematical relationship that Condorcet presented the law of attraction as the only such law that we know, even though “this agreement between theory and the phenomena” does not yet entitle us to conclude that it operates in all cases. So far, Condorcet’s discussion of gravity is in general accord with d’Alembert’s views. It is therefore somewhat surprising to find him hinting, in his discussion of the distinction between necessary and contingent truths, that gravity must now be regarded as a necessary law. As we have seen, Condorcet maintained that the distinction between these two kinds of law is by no means an absolute one: it is relative only to the state of human knowledge at any given time. In this statement d’Alembert would have concurred. But he is unlikely to have been entirely happy with the example that Condorcet gave to prove this point. It is now no more possible to conceive of matter divorced of gravitation, the latter insisted, than to conceive of it divorced of extension. What Condorcet seems to be arguing here, by implication, is that Newton had shown gravity to be an essential quality of matter on the basis of observation and calculation. Gravity should consequently be regarded as a necessary law, thereby proving that the gap between necessary and contingent laws is not absolute. Yet if Condorcet meant to argue here that gravitation should be regarded as a necessary law, he was undercutting the very definition of such a law as his mentor had attempted to sustain it. D’Alembert had set out to preserve the traditional definition of science as certain and necessary truth by excluding the law of gravity on the grounds that it could not be reduced to a demonstrable cause in terms of the rational model of impact between impenetrable bodies. In other words, for d’Alembert the criterion of a necessary law was twofold: a

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rationally demonstrable explanation; an explanation in terms of a quality necessarily implied in our concept of matter. Condorcet, on the other hand, was already beginning to claim gravitation as an essential quality of matter in this early work, a point that he made explicit later in a definition of attraction for a projected dictionary. I am asked for a mechanical explanation of attraction: 1 don’t know one. But this is to ask whether a more simple general fact than this one will be found. All the particles of matter attract one another mu¬ tually in inverse proportion to the square of the distance. . . . As to the metaphysical objections against attraction, metaphysics is a science of experience and I have only my own. My senses have in¬ formed me at the same time of the weight of all solid bodies and of the force of inertia; I have learned the laws of gravity at the same time as those of movement, and I have never had any more difficulty in retaining one than the other as essential qualities of bodies. For their essential qualities are those which we see them all possessing all the time.92 Yet while he came to regard gravity as an essential quality of matter — indeed because of this very point —Condorcet also insisted that it lacked a mechanical explanation of the kind that d’Alembert had found in the impact of impenetrable bodies. To furnish a mechanical explanation, he insisted, would be simply to find a more general fact which would in turn lack an explanation. Ultimately, then, gravity, like impenetrability, must be regarded as an essential quality of bodies for the simple reason that it lacks an explanation in any prior concept. And it must be regarded as an essential quality of bodies because, and to the extent that, it provides an accurate description of the effects to be expected from them. In effect, Condorcet’s discussion marks the beginning of the end of d’Alembert’s attempt to rework the distinction between necessary and contingent laws. D’Alembert had insisted that the laws of mechanics were necessary to the extent that the laws observed in bodies could be shown to be in accordance with those that rationally result from the very existence of matter and motion. Condorcet, on the other hand, appeared to insist that the law of gravity is necessary because observation shows it to be an essential (that is, universally observed) property of matter. These were very different definitions of the term “necessary.” If d’Alembert defended the integrity of the traditional definition of science by excluding the law of gravity, then Condorcet implicitly overthrew it by giving the observed laws of gravity the same status as d’Alembert’s three laws of mechanics. The laws of nature remained clear and distinct: but for Condorcet, their clearness and distinctness derived from their mathematical expression alone, rather than from their validation in accordance with the rational implications of our very concept of matter and motion. In fact, this was a position that d’Alembert was already fighting hard to resist in the article on attraction in the Encyclopedic, an article which shows how difficult it was becoming for him to sustain his distinction between necessary and contingent laws. D’Alembert first argued that while he was unwilling to affirm that impulsion was the necessary principle

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of the movement of the planets — indeed, he regarded the impossibility of its being so as already demonstrated — he did not yet wish to commit himself entirely to the view that attraction was a primordial quality of matter. Nevertheless, he made it clear that he inclined towards this position, which he characterized as Newton’s real view, and proceeded to argue that no metaphysical objections could be sustained against it, once mathemati¬ cians had been obliged by observation and calculation to recognize gravity as “primordial and inherent in matter.”93 D’Alembert’s argument in this respect rested on a critical evaluation of the concept of impulsion which he had evidently derived from Malebranche. We take it for granted that, as a consequence of the impenetrability of matter, a collision between two bodies must result in a change in the state of one or both of these bodies: “but we do not know, and apparently we shall never know, by what virtue this change takes place, and why for example a body which strikes another does not always remain stationary after the collision without communicating a part of its movement to the body that it struck.’’94 Since our ideas on a phenomenon which we all accept are so inadequate, d’Alembert main¬ tained, the argument that the idea of action at a distance is repugnant to our conception of matter holds little weight. For the distinction between necessary and contingent laws, this was a potentially disastrous argument. In the article on the communication of movement, d’Alembert rejected Malebranche’s definition of the laws of mechanics as contingent truths, on the grounds that “the impenetrability of bodies, which is one of their essential properties, necessarily demands that the collision of two bodies produce some change in their position.”95 But how could it be argued on the one hand that impact is a rationally necessary consequence of the impenetrability of bodies, while on the other admitting that we can provide no rational explanation as to why this should be so? D’Alembert ran into similar problems when he argued that, although we should eventually accept the existence of the force of attraction in celestial bodies, we should regard it as a primordial quality of matter and not an essential one. To illustrate the difference between these two qualities, he argued that impenetrability, divisibility, mobility are essential qualities; the “impulsive quality” (la vertu impulsive) a primor¬ dial one. “When we conceive of a body, we conceive of it as necessarily divisible, extended, impenetrable: but we do not necessarily conceive that it will communicate movement to another body.”96 But this distinction posed several difficulties. For either primordial qualities were rationally implied in essential qualities or they were not. If they were so implied (Malebranche’s criticism notwithstanding), then impulsion remained a primordial quality (because implied in impenetrability) in a way that attraction could not be. If, on the other hand, primordial qualities were not rationally implied in essential qualities (which is what Malebranche’s criticism suggested), then impulsion and (eventually) attraction might both be regarded as primordial qualities. But in such a case, it would be hard to sustain the argument that the laws of impetus were rationally demonstrable laws because they were necessarily implied in the concept of impenetrability. Thus d’Alembert’s suggestion that impulsion and attrac-

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tion might both ultimately be regarded as primordial qualities inherent in matter seemed to entail an entirely different definition of the phrase “inherent in matter.” Logically, it implied that the laws he had once regarded as rationally necessary were truths of fact, given abstract expression in mathematical terms, but lacking the demonstrative reason of the traditional definition of science. D'Alembert was not yet prepared to make such an admission altogether explicit. But it is evident that his distinction hetween necessary and contingent laws was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain. As Condorcet came to accept gravity simply as an essential quality of matter— and as he came to take more seriously the skeptical aspects of Malebranche reiterated by Berkeley and Hume —the disciple simply dropped the distinction his master had tried so hard to retain. Much of his final view is only faintly implicit in Le marquis de Condorcet a M. d’Alembert. His discussion of these questions there was relatively brief, although he recognized that it was perhaps long enough to bother d’Alembert,97 and we shall return later to a fuller discussion of his mature views. It should be emphasized here that while he later diverged from d’Alembert in his views regarding the epistemological status of the laws of nature, Condorcet remained entirely faithful to his mentor’s conception of the essentially rational structure of the universe. Leibniz had insisted in defense of the rationalist definition of science that the laws of nature were ontologically necessary (at least in terms of a “hypothetical necessity”) in respect to God and rationally necessary in respect to man’s knowledge of them. Clarke had maintained, to the contrary, that they were both ontologically contingent (because dependent directly upon God’s will) and epistemologically contin¬ gent (that is, mere truths of fact). Accepting Newton’s theory of gravitation but reluctant to abandon the traditional rationalist structure of science defended by his critics, continental Newtonians were pushed to a view that combined elements of both positions. The Leibnizian God gave way to the hypothetical intelligence for whom the universe was but one great fact and one great truth, with the principle of sufficient reason yielding to the postulate of determinism. Where an infinite mind would proceed to grasp the whole analytically as a series of rationally necessary truths, however, continental Newtonians were ultimately forced to conclude that man could only proceed empirically from the parts, ordering contingent truths of fact into a logical series of relationships that would have the form of the rational knowledge that is beyond man’s grasp, but none of its certainty. Ultimately, they retained the rationalist postulate of a determined universe only at the cost of admitting that man’s knowledge of its laws could only be contingent. Scientific Method: Scientific Language

At the beginning of the early modern period, it has been suggested in a provocative recent work, European thought underwent a profound trans¬ mutation, the effect of which was to place the relationship between method and language at the heart of epistemological concern.98 For the philoso¬ phers of the Renaissance, Foucault has argued, words and things were

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necessarily intertwined. Language was a thing in the sense that it existed in the world to be understood and interpreted by men, rather than being fashioned as their intellectual creation; things had a language in the sense that they exhibited external characteristics (or signatures) which consti¬ tuted the mark of an essential quality or signified their relationship to other things. As a result, the basic epistemological procedure could be defined as the divination or interpretation that made possible the ordering of phenomena in an analogical hierarchy. For European thought as it took form in the Enlightenment, however, this intimate relationship between words and things was broken. In the structure and organization of thought, signatures gave way to signs, interpretation of the language of things to the representation of things in language. As a result of this new binary relationship between words, as signs, and the things that they represent, the essential epistemological procedure became one of struc¬ turing the world of phenomena by ordering a system of signs from simple to complex. Accordingly, the model of science became that of classifica¬ tion: the decomposition of the sense data of the phenomenal world into the simplest elements, the denotation of these elements by the creation of signs, and the ordering and reordering of signs into systematic logical collections. It was this fundamental procedure that the philosophes came to understand as the fundamental scientific method vindicated in Newton’s Principia. “Let us make an exact analysis of things,” proclaimed Voltaire in the Traite de metaphysique.99 It was the methodological cry of the century. The abbe Yvon provided a good working definition of the method to be followed in the appropriate article of the Encyclopedie. The “analysis” he presented is essentially Locke’s “historical plain method” cast into the Cartesian mold of mathematics. It consists in going back to the origins of our ideas, generating them from their simplest components in sense experience and constantly creating different combinations of ideas in an attempt to reveal their relations from all points of view. Understood in this sense, Yvon argued, analysis is the secret of all scientific discovery; it proceeds always by the simplest steps; it is the enemy of all vague principles and everything contrary to exactness and precision. It seeks truth not by arbitrary definition but by explaining the generation of each idea; not by reference to general propositions but by “a kind of calculus,” decomposing and recomposing ideas from the simplest components. It is the only method that can bring to the other sciences the certainty and precision of mathematics. For all the knowledge that man can attain, Yvon empha¬ sized, derives ultimately from the simple ideas that come from sensation and reflexion. To arrive at more complex ideas we have only to bring these simple ideas together into different “collections," as in mathematics, to follow the same order in proceeding from the most simple to the most complex, and to employ the same caution in the choice of language. In thus reasoning on the basis of simple ideas, Yvon maintained, man will never lose himself in vague abstractions, nor will he lose sight of the true limits of his knowledge. In destroying the myth of innate ideas, Locke had

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demonstrated that since man forms ideas on the basis of sensations he can make and remake them. As in mathematics, what it is in man’s power to make, it is also in his power to make clearly and precisely.100 Yet to make our ideas clear and precise is to make our system of signs clear and precise. Exact methods of analysis, Condorcet pointed out in the notes to his reception speech at the French Academy, would necessarily issue in an exact language; nor were they possible without it. In this, as in so many other things, the philosophes looked first to Locke. In the course of his anatomy of the understanding, the English philosopher had confessed in the Essay, he was surprised to discover so close a connection between words and the ideas they represent that it was impossible to appreciate the nature of the human mind without examining the nature and function of language. “The consideration then, of ideas and words as the great instruments of knowledge,” he added in conclusion to his work, “makes no despicable part of their contemplation who would take a view of human knowledge in the whole extent of it. And perhaps, if they were distinctly weighed and duly considered, they would afford us another sort of logic and critic, than that we have hitherto been acquainted with.”101 Locke emphasized the importance of a clear, well-defined language in the combination and communication of our thoughts and ideas. Condillac, in an important development of Locke’s thinking on this point, maintained that our very thoughts and ideas are themselves only made possible by means of signs; that there is no thought independent of language. Thinking is only possible by means of signs. It follows, Condillac main¬ tained in his textbook on logic, that the method of analysis allows us to reason correctly only to the extent that, in teaching us to decompose our ideas and discover general relations among them, it also leads us to constitute a well-made language. The art of reasoning is only reduced to a well-made language because the order in our ideas is itself nothing but the order in the hierarchy of names given to genuses and species; and since we only have new ideas because we form new classes, it is clear that we will only determine these ideas inasmuch as we determine the classes themselves.102 Knowledge, then, is classification. Yet we cannot assume that our general categories actually exist in nature, Condillac maintained. If we recognize that they are simply a method of ordering phenomena in terms of the relation they have to us and appear to have among themselves, if we admit that they are necessary only because we need them to arrive at distinct ideas by analyzing the objects we wish to study, then we shall recog¬ nize the limits of the human mind and arrive at an exact understanding of the ideas that are within our capacities, without losing ourselves in vain questions that we can never understand. It follows that the process of establishing the terminology of a science as a precise language is identical with the analytical procedure of creating a systematic science by reducing the data of sense experience to its components. A language, therefore, is essentially an analytical system; or, as Condillac summed up his thinking

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on this point in his last work, the posthumous La langue des calculs, a science is nothing but a well-made language. “Thus the creation of a science is nothing else than the establishment of a language, and to study a science is to do nothing else than to learn a well-made language.”103 Condillac’s dictum, penned shortly before his death in 1780 and published only in 1798, not only recapitulated the development of his own views but summed up a period of philosophical investigation in France in which this conclusion had become a commonplace. Given currency in the Encyclopedic, the stress upon language as an analytical system became increasingly emphatic in the second half of the eighteenth century. The article on “Etymologie” by Turgot —the only part of a far more general work on this subject that was to see the light of printed day—underlined the view that language was really a kind of calculus, a logic bearing the same relationship to philosophy as mathematics to physics. The article on “Anatomie” maintained that a science is only fully constituted when it has succeeded in making its own language, a conviction enthusiastically embraced by Lavoisier and gloriously demonstrated by the revolution in chemistry.104 The idea that a successful science is primarily a well-made language became the watchword of the Ideologues —in this, as in many other things, the true heirs of the Enlightenment —who regarded ideology, the philosophy of signs, as the only means of reducing the moral and political sciences to positive truths as certain of those of the physical sciences.105 “The relationship of language to philosophy is similar to the application of mathematics to physics,” Turgot had concluded in his plans for a universal history of the human mind.106 The same conclusion —that the importance of language as an analytical system found its chief demonstra¬ tion in mathematics, the very type of a well-made language —was under¬ lined in the very title of Condillac’s posthumous work, La langue des calculs. Yet although the application of mathematics to physics was the supreme illustration of the view that a successful science is dependent upon the establishment of such a language, the conviction that mathematics was purely a language to be applied to experience was not lightly arrived at. Once again, it became clear only in the great debate over the acceptance of Newtonianism. The author of the Principia prefaced his work with the announcement that he had “in this treatise cultivated mathematics as far as it relates to philosophy.”107 But in presenting his critics with a mathematical formulation of the force of gravity, while denying them a phy¬ sical explanation of the nature of that force, he raised in acute form precisely the question of the extent to which mathematics did in fact relate to natural philosophy. “A phenomenon analyzed mathematically became a phenomenon explained for him,” complained one of Newton’s most powerful French critics, Gamaches. “Thus this illustrious rival of M. Descartes soon had the singular pleasure of fancying himself a great philosopher merely on the grounds that he was a great mathematician.”108 The Newtonians claimed in their master’s defense that he had arrived at a mathematical description of phenomena without thereby attempting to penetrate to the very nature of things. It followed as a necessary

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corollary of that view that mathematics was a precise instrument — indeed, the only precise instrument — for expressing the relations of things; but that it offered no means of dealing with the nature of the measured.109 It followed that the Book of Nature might still be written in mathemati¬ cal characters: not because a Supreme Geometer had created an essen¬ tially mathematical universe, but only to the extent that philosophers could find in mathematics a satisfactory instrument to describe and analyze phenomena. From this point of view, the Newtonian debate involved a confrontation between the “experimental mathematicism” of the Newtonians and the “metaphysical mathematicism” of their Cartesian and Leibnizian critics.110 For the latter, mathematical statements of the observed behavior of physical phenomena were an expression of a deeper reality in the universe. The development of mathematics is certainly achieved by generating the relations of certain ideas in the mind, argued Leibniz. But these ideas are not at all chimerical: “they are relations that embody certain eternal truths, according to which the phenomena of nature are governed.”111 For the majority of the Newtonians, quite the reverse was true. The relations of mathematics “are purely the ideas of our own minds,” insisted Pemberton in A View of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy. “They may be represented to our senses by material objects, but they are themselves the arbitrary productions of our own thoughts.”112 The same view was put most influentially in France by the translator of Newton’s work on fluxions, the great naturalist Buffon. Mathematical propositions, Buffon argued in the introduction to his Histoire naturelle, are nothing but different ways of expressing the same thing: man finds nothing in mathematics but the ramifications of the definitions he himself has posed. For this reason, mathematical truths “have the advantage of always being exact and demonstrative, but [they are] abstract, intellectual and arbitrary.”113 Indeed for Buffon (as for Pemberton) it was exactly the artificial character of mathematics that made it a precise instrument of reasoning, for man can only perfect what he creates. Mathematics, then, was a language: an instrument of analysis. This conclusion was reinforced during a century in which contemporaries witnessed the advances made by Newtonian science as it was translated, in effect, from one mathematical language into another. Although he may have employed his method of fluxions to deal with the most difficult aspects of his researches, Newton presented his conclusions in the Principia geometrically. Barely adequate to express his discoveries, the traditional geometrical methods were incapable of solving the further questions raised by them. It was only by means of the application of the Leibnizian calculus, as perfected by continental mathematicians, that such critical problems as the precession of the equinoxes or the perturbation of the planets could be approached. Leibniz and his disciples may have refused to accept the principle of gravity at the time of its discovery, Laplace argued in the Mecanique celeste, looking back on this century of achievement, but it was only on the basis of their mathematical researches that this discovery had been brought by their successors “to the highest point of perfection and certainty.”114 Like Daedalus, the moderns had created wings to mount

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to the most sublime regions of the human understanding, wrote the mathematician Castillon in the Supplement to the Encyclopedie. Those who had perfected analysis — the term here being used in its mathematical sense to refer to algebra, or the calculus, as opposed to synthesis, or geometry —merited the admiration and gratitude of the century. For Castillon, the calculus was for science what metal was for commerce: it unambiguously represented and painlessly created true wealth.115 By the end of the century, in the preface to the Mecanique analytique, Lagrange could take pride in the fact that his readers would nowhere find a line or a circle in his text. The task of translating mechanics from the geometric to the algebraic language had been completed. Thus, in the philosophical vocabulary of the eighteenth century, the term “analysis” received yet another signification. Locke’s “historical, plain method,” Newton’s method of “analysis” and “composition,” were assimilated under this rubric to the algebraic methods first applied to geometry by Descartes but supremely illustrated in the integral and differential calculus of Leibniz. The method of analysis is the same in all the exact sciences, argued Condillac in La logique. “I well know that it is customary to distinguish different kinds of analysis: logical analysis, philosophical analysis, mathematical analysis: but there is only one kind; and it is the same in all the sciences, because in all of them it leads from the known to the unknown by reasoning, i.e., by a series of judgments that are implied the one in the other.”116 In this way, Cassirer has remarked, the concept of “calculus” became coextensive with that of science itself.117 In a fundamental sense, this is true. Analysis seeks truth, the abbe Yvon maintained in the Encyclopedie, by a “kind of calculus.” “Clearly calcula¬ tion is reasoning, and reasoning calculation,” insisted Condillac. Yet the concept of calculus became coextensive with that of science itself only to the extent that the analytical methods of mathematics were assimilated to the more general model of ordering signs through classification. For the mathematician operates, Yvon insisted, by bringing simple ideas into different combinations or “collections” of complex ideas. We only have new ideas, maintained Condillac, because we form new classes. Classifica¬ tion and mathematicization — taxonomia and mathesis — were therefore to be one in a universal science of order. As the well-made language of algebra had made possible the ordering of simple phenomena through mathematicization, so must a more elaborate analytical language order the world of complex phenomena through a philosophical calculus.118 Nowhere is this intimate relationship between method and language, mathematicization and classification, more clearly revealed than in the scientific thinking of Condorcet. We owe it largely to Condillac that Condorcet left a systematic (if brief) statement of what he meant by “analysis.” The former died early in August 1780 from a “putrid bilious fever,” which he attributed to a cup of chocolate served to him by Condorcet in Paris several days before. This explanation of his malady has a certain pathos, the more so since (as his biographer added in relating this account of the death) “it is true that Condillac had always detested Condorcet.”119 In any case, shortly after

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Condillac’s death, the Journal de Paris published in its issue of 25 September 1780 an anonymous notice on Condillac of which Condorcet was certainly the author. After a brief account of the philosopher’s principal early works, the notice turned to the general question of his originality. These works are remarkable chiefly for the development of the way in which our understanding is formed by the succession of our sensations, the analysis of language, the observation of its influence on the progress of the human mind, and the principle of the associa¬ tion of ideas, by which M. l’abbe de C*** explains a part of the phenomena offered by the human mind to the small number of men who reflect upon themselves. It is true that Bacon had long ago recommended the analysis of all our ideas as the only means of arriving at knowledge of the truth, that Locke had carried out what Bacon had prescribed for a great number of abstract ideas; that the absolute necessity of the invention of signs in order for the human mind to make progress had been observed by all philosophers; that Locke had very ably developed the relations between ideas and words, between language and the operations of the mind. . . .We do not make these observations in order to diminish the glory of M. de C***. He knew better than anyone that no man discovers a complete science single-handed. The motto prolem sine matre creatam will never be adopted by a philosopher who has made true discoveries.120 This somewhat lukewarm evaluation of the importance of Condillac’s philosophical contribution in general was followed by more pointed criticism of two of his later works in particular: of Le commerce et le gouvernement, on the grounds that Condillac had neglected the work of earlier writers who had anticipated much of his discussion: of La logique in terms of Condillac’s rather strange charge that French mathematicians had been reluctant to employ the mathematical instrument of analysis. This latter assertion, the notice insisted, was completely devoid of mean¬ ing. Condillac had not studied mathematics and therefore did not know what he was talking about. This barb once delivered, the critical part of the notice ended with the comment that the works of few philosophers contain more truth and fewer errors; that the abbe Condillac had always been willing to retract an opinion when convinced of error; that he would therefore have corrected himself on a number of points had he lived to complete the revised edition of his works that he was preparing at the time of his death. Such, then, was Condorcet’s unofficial eloge of Condillac: not exactly hostile, but by no means enthusiastic; an estimate of the writer as useful in the development of Lockean philosophy, even though he had revealed a lack of acquaintance with the works of political economy and an ignorance of mathematics all the more crippling in an age in which scientific philosophy was moving ever further beyond the range of those without a mathematical understanding. Yet prolem sine matre creatam: if no author who had made true discoveries would claim this epigraph, then the

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abbe Condillac could rest in peace. There was, however, a hidden bomb in this remark. The half line of Ovid was in this case more than the casual literary allusion so fashionable in an age saturated in the classics. It had also been chosen by Montesquieu to be placed at the head of De I’espnt des lots. The implication was clear to all who recognized the reference : it meant that Montesquieu, too, had made no true discoveries. It is difficult to be certain which aspect of this notice —the slight treatment of Condillac or the implied attack on Montesquieu —most outraged the young litterateur and future Ideologue, Dominique-Joseph Garat, at this time a close friend of M. and Mme Suard and thus related through them in friendship to Condorcet. For it was Garat who delivered himself with his customary eloquence of an anonymous letter to the editors of the Journal de Paris, published in the issue of 5 October 1780: a letter in which he praised Condillac as the “rival and perhaps the conqueror of Locke,” launched into the defense of Montesquieu against insidious attacks, and gave the author of the notice on Condillac a short lecture (apparently not without tongue in cheek) on the unwritten laws regarding the composition of eloges.121 “I have read the Paris journal in which M. Garat tells me my business. I shall not reply,” wrote Condorcet to Mme Suard during October 1780. To Turgot, he gave two reasons for this decision. Since he felt no personal aversion towards Condillac, whose works could still be useful, he had no wish to engage in a public quarrel that would only end by reducing them to their just value. In any case, he argued, the censorship of the Journal de Paris made it impossible to explain oneself, without the liberty to say all.122 Having declined a public debate, however, Condorcet was nevertheless pressed by his friends to defend his estimate of Condillac in private. “I confess that I scarcely skimmed through his Logique, ” he wrote to Mme Suard. “The pride he reveals there is so revolting. He announces in such an elevated tone things that everyone has known for a long time, he speaks with such disdain of all other men, that I did not have, and probably never will have, the courage to read this work which is far inferior, it might be added, to what he has done previously.” Thus Condorcet had no doubts as to the relative merits of Condillac and Locke. Although he was prepared to admit that Condillac’s works were useful and to rate him high among the disciples of Locke, he repudiated the pretensions of the author of La logique to usurp the title of his English master. Locke was the first to penetrate the “way of ideas”: to him alone belonged the creation of the science of the human mind. Garat’s claim that Condillac was “the conqueror of Locke” was therefore an unqualified exaggeration, Condorcet insisted, “because Locke revolutionized philosophy throughout Europe while the abbe de Condillac has done nothing of the kind.”123 Condillac’s thinking has been frequently cited in this discussion as evidence for more general developments in eighteenth-century thought. Nowhere more clearly than in his systematic pages is the structure of Enlightenment thought in France revealed. His achievement was to combine, digest, and put into systematic form, views often found scattered elsewhere in the philosophical and scientific thought of the period. Yet if

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Condillac by his very typicality may be regarded as “philosopher to the philosophies,”124 his direct influence upon them remains problematic. If Condorcet is representative in this respect, we must beware of the assumption that the philosophes automatically or uncritically found their philosophical themes in Condillac’s writing. Yet Condorcet’s skimming through La logique was not without its results. Perhaps for his own purposes, perhaps with an eye to further publication, he turned to an examination of the various meanings of the term “analysis" in mathematics in order to show the extent to which Condillac had misled his readers.125 In its most general signification, he argued in this draft essay, analysis signifies the decomposition of a whole into its parts; the analytical method, that of discovering the truth by such a process of decomposition. In a great number of questions in philosophy, morals, and politics, this analysis of ideas is identical with the method of discovering truth because the truths involved are so simple that they need only to be stated to be accepted. But one should not therefore conclude in general, Condorcet insisted, that the method of making a discovery and the analysis of ideas in the abstract sciences are one and the same thing. As a method of discovery, mathematical analysis consists less in analyzing the ideas contained in the question proposed than in searching in all the possible combinations of ideas that which gives the answer one is seeking. In this sense, Condorcet maintained, there is no real difference between the methods of algebra, usually called analytic, and those of geometry, usually called synthetic. “If one asks the nature of this analytical method, we shall say that it is precisely the same by which one plays a game of chess, except that in chess the number of combinations is finite, while it is infinite in a geometrical problem since no possible combination of lines is excluded. What happens, in fact, in a game of chess? One does not analyze all the possible combinations for each move, but one seeks those that can produce a certain outcome in two or three moves (depending upon the range of one’s mind). ... If by the complete analysis of an idea, one understands the methodical series of all the possible combinations of simple ideas involved, this would doubtless lead infallibly to the truth sought. But a complete analysis in this sense is impossible, either rigorously in the problems of geometry or morally in the game of chess or in problems of combinations. Yet this is to give to the term analysis, in the sense of the decomposition of ideas, a more extensive sense than it should have, since it would result from such a definition that no one has ever made or could ever make an analysis of any idea.”126 In Condorcet’s view, as this fragment makes clear, the essential model for scientific reasoning was the combinatorial analysis of mathematics. For this procedure, the Lockean analysis of ideas was a necessary but insuf¬ ficient condition of scientific discovery. In the search for truth, as in chess, success depends not only upon reducing our ideas (or sensations) to the most simple elements but upon playing the combinations (or collections) of these elements, as it were mathematically, to produce a certain outcome or a certain series of outcomes. The object of analysis in its most general sense, Condorcet therefore argued in another manuscript fragment, is

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nothing but the various combinations of a single idea-system and the most general notion to which repeated abstraction can lead. A science in which all the results are formally stated as rational propositions, in which all the terms are more or less complex statements of the same idea, is of necessity valid. Safe from all ambiguity, it is free from error and uncertainty. This is clearly a mathematical model, but Condorcet regarded it as by no means limited to mathematics. A mind experienced in thus finding the truth by mental operations in which ideas are precisely fixed and clearly delineated can seize hold of the truth in whatever science or matter of conduct it is presented with by applying the infallible method of analysis to the appropriate data. If it cannot reduce everything to a single idea, it uses the least possible number.127 For a mind more or less strong, an exhaustive analysis of data by means of this combinatorial logic is often impossible. But would it be impossible for a machine? We shall find that this was a consequence that Condorcet was not slow to consider. Like the physical sciences, then, the moral and political sciences must be reduced by the method of analysis to positive truths based on “general facts and rigorous reasoning.”128 So convinced was he that positive scientific truth was grounded upon the twin foundations of observation and analysis, that Condorcet suggested in a fragmentary plan for the history of the sciences that they advance by a- dialectical movement, oscillating between periods dominated successively by the spirit of observation necessary to elicit facts and to detail them accurately and by the systematic spirit necessary to classify these facts and to perceive their relations and consequences. There arrives a stage in the development of every science where it demands so much of the energy of the scientist to work through the detailed facts accumulated by observation that the discovery of general principles requires superhuman intelligence. At such a stage, Condorcet maintained, the scientist must await a revolution in method that will make it possible to reduce the inchoate mass of detail to general truths.129 Condorcet found evidence for this generalization in the development of natural history during his own time. He regarded Linnaeus as presented with a science swollen with unrelated detail, awaiting an analytical method that would revolutionize its conceptual organization. “The more he studied botany, the more he realized that this science, which had grown immense in its detail, needed the advent of a reforming hand to produce one of those great revolutions which commemorate the name of their author in the history of the human mind.”130 Linnaeus found this revolutionary method in a system of classification based upon the reproductive organs of plants, which Condorcet regarded as inaugurating a further period dominated by the spirit of observation. On the one hand, it entailed more accurate description and intensive observation of the characteristics which formed the basis of classification; on the other, it inspired the worldwide investigation of botanical specimens. Soon the whole earth was covered with his disciples, Condorcet exclaimed in praise of Linnaeus. In the name of one man, nature was interrogated from the Mississippi to the Ganges, from Arctic to Antarctic.131

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Linneaus’s system of classification revealed hitherto unknown relations between plants, but it was not for that reason immune from the criticism of his contemporaries. In France, the most influential attack was that of Buffon in the introduction to the Histoire naturelle. Despite their evident utility in organizing and facilitating the work of research, Buffon main¬ tained, the systems of classification used in natural history have certain inevitable defects. They impose arbitrary laws on the phenomena of nature; they establish divisions and distinctions where nature knows only continuity; in short, they measure the forces of nature only in terms of "our feeble imaginations.”132 But since Buffon went on to insist that our knowledge of phenomena is always relative to our feeble nature, this argument could hardly form the essential basis of his objections against methods of classification. What he criticized in the systematists, indeed, was less their methods of classification than their abuse of them. Linnaeus and his like had settled for arbitrary definitions instead of detailed description; for supposition instead of observation; for jargon instead of science. Above all, they had been blinded by their view of method itself. Seeing it as a philosopher’s stone that would reveal the secrets of the universe, they had rushed to identify arbitrary systems with knowledge of nature itself, rather than proceeding modestly towards the improvement of the knowledge that must always remain limited and relative to human faculties. Methods of classification must be accepted and utilized, then, so long as their limitations are recognized. “It follows from all that has been said that there are in the study of Natural History two rocks that are equally dangerous: the first, that of having no method at all; the second, that of wishing to relate everything to a particular system.”133 But how was the scientist to steer an even course between the Scylla of being without a method of classification and the Charybdis of being trapped in a system? It was necessary, the answer came, to find a natural method of classification to replace the artificial methods of the systembuilders. Chief among the advocates of the “natural method” was Bernard de Jussieu, whose e'loge Condorcet delivered in 1777. In considering the characteristics of plants to be chosen as the basis for classification, Condorcet argued, Jussieu had realized that all combinations of charac¬ teristics were theoretically possible in nature. Those combinations that actually existed were therefore related according to certain necessary laws. A botanical method founded on these laws, which would at the same time constitute a demonstration of them, would be more than simply a convenient nomenclature or a kind of artificial memory-bank. Such a method, Jussieu taught, would be “the very foundation of a science.”134 The natural method that would make natural history a rational science rather than an arbitrary collection of observations was advanced on a field-trip to Senegal by Michel Adanson, a pupil of Bernard de Jussieu now frequently cited as the founder of modern numerical taxonomy. “If there was truly a system in nature, it was necessary to seek it in nature itself,” Adanson later wrote of this trip in his Families des plantes in 1763.135 To arrive at this order in nature, it was necessary to abandon the artificial methods of the systematists in arbitrarily choosing a given characteristic as

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the privileged basis for classification; and to proceed by describing as many variables as possible in each plant observed, eliciting the relationship of plants from the combinations of variables thus revealed. Such a procedure would issue ultimately, Adanson insisted, not in a mere nomenclature but in conclusions as evident and as well-demonstrated as the truths of mathematics.136 Unfortunately for Adanson’s career and subsequent reputation, the reception accorded to the Families des plantes fell far short of the majesty of its conception. As a result, development of the “natural method” passed to his great rival, Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu, the nephew and (like Adanson) the pupil of Bernard de Jussieu. It was the younger Jussieu who in 1773 presented a paper to the Academy of Sciences on classification, in which he sketched out his uncle’s principles as incorporated in an earlier plan for the organization of the botanical gardens in the Petit Trianon.137 As permanent secretary, Condorcet dealt with the implications of this paper in his account of the academy’s activities for 1773, published four years later. While “the different artificial methods can only be considered as varieties of tables constructed in such a way that an observer who examines the plant can, according to the characteristics used as the basis of the system, recognize the genus to which it belongs, the name which it has been given, the properties attributed to it,” Condorcet argued, these methods had been shown to possess a more important use than that of serving merely as a kind of dictionary. “The species of plants which a method placed in one genus, the genuses that it brought together into a more general category, had resemblances other than those which had united them in the classification. Consequently, the parts which make up a plant have mutual relations given by nature, since given the configuration of certain of its parts, one can deduce either the form of the other parts, the properties of the plant, or its chemical composition. Botany, which had up until this time been only a nomenclature useful to Medicine and the Arts, thus became a true science.”138 The younger Jussieu’s method, as opposed to Adanson’s, posited a hierarchy of characteristics in any given family such that certain character¬ istics were regarded as more important for classification than others. Thus while Adanson proposed a table describing the observed combinations of variables from which certain principal characteristics might ultimately emerge, Jussieu proposed a system of classification in terms of what appeared in nature to be the most salient characteristics in each family. “If among the almost immense number of species of plants, a great number of which are still unknown to us, some were found which are different in the characteristic regarded as primitive by M. de Jussieu, while similar in all the rest; if there were even no character not subject to such exceptions, then a natural method would not exist,” Condorcet insisted in his account of Jussieu’s paper. “But the efforts made to discover it would produce a great good in leading to the discovery of the least imperfect artificial method.... These researches would have served to make known several botanical facts either absolutely general or subject to a small number of exceptions, which can be regarded as the laws of Botany.”139

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Thus, as secretary of the Academy of Sciences, Condorcet found himself witness to developments that promised to make natural history a true science, founded on general facts, rigorous reasoning, and an exact and precise language. Yet insofar as Jussieu advocated classification in terms of certain principal characteristics, there was a danger in his method no less menacing than in the Linnaean system. In Condorcet’s view, the sciences would reach no ultimate stage in which they could be finally embalmed. He regarded the content of scientific knowledge as eternally changing, continually under scrutiny. Facts that appeared constant revealed unex¬ pected variation under scrupulous examination; truths apparently proven were suddenly found wanting. Methods of classification that imposed a given interpretation upon nature —no matter how important that interpre¬ tation for scientific progress —therefore came to represent a considerable obstacle to the continuing process of enquiry that constituted scientific advance. The method of analysis, as defined by the philosophes, essentially reduced all science to the model of classification: to the art of arranging and rearranging the data of sense-experience through the ordering of signs. Science could not advance without classification; and yet each successive act of classification seemed to threaten further advance. To the extent that Jussieu’s method might lead only to “the least imperfect artificial method,” then, it was subject to the disadvantages inevitable in all artificial methods. Condorcet returned to these disadvantages, and to the means of alle¬ viating them, in an important chapter of his Elements du calcul des proba¬ bilities, written in the late 1780s. The methods of classification in natural history had advanced research by making it possible to identify specimens and to discover the results of investigations already carried out, he argued, but they also had the great defect of being almost useless if the charac¬ teristics used as the basis of classification had not been observed in a par¬ ticular case. Since the Linnaean system classified plants on the basis of their reproductive organs, for example, it enabled the investigator follow¬ ing Linnaeus to identify specimens only by their sexual characteristics. It thereby inhibited comparative investigation and the testing of hypotheses from any other point of view. The disadvantages of such a method could be reduced by choosing as the basis for classification the most constant and easily observable characteristics, those “linked in some way to the real nature [nature intime] of the object,” but the obstacles to scientific progress, Condorcet insisted, remained no less real.140 Nor was this problem limited to the botanical and mineralogical classifications of natural history. Any collection of data —tables of meteo¬ rological observations, for example, or statistical data in the social sciences —was subject to the same disadvantages as the Linnaean classifi¬ cation. The normal, chronological arrangement of meteorological obser¬ vations made it easy to compare weather conditions on given days of the year, or on the same day of each year; but if it was necessary to compare days of a given temperature and pressure —if, that is, it was desired to make any comparisons other than chronological — meteorological tables could be made useful only by a great deal of work. The same was even

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more true of tables of mortality which, Condorcet remarked, were not even published in their complete form. Such tables were useful for the comparison of phenomena that their authors had themselves found interesting enough to compare and record; but they were inadequate for investigation for any other purpose or from any other point of view. In all these cases, the act of classification imposed a certain fixed interpretation upon the material classified. “Certainly the observers themselves would have taken different results from the tables, according to the ideas they had in mind, the goal which they set themselves; but I remain almost helpless for the new combinations which I should like to form.”141 Despite these difficulties, it was impossible to do without artifical methods of classifying and presenting data. “If there is little philosophy in mistaking these methodological arrangements for science itself,” Condor¬ cet insisted in praise of Linnaeus, “there is still less in despising them. '142 It was therefore necessary to develop technical methods of classifying the accumulated, and accumulating, mass of scientific data, which would reveal the relations of objects and facts classified from a certain point of view without thereby precluding or inhibiting investigation on any other basis. The system of classification which Condorcet developed for this purpose in the Elements du calcul des probabilites, later expanding it in a chapter for his projected Tableau historique des progres de Vesprit humain,143 is similar to the decimal system later developed by Melvil Dewey and constitutes in effect a mathematicization of Adanson’s pro¬ posed botanical method. In essence, it consisted in selecting a number of primary qualities or categories according to which objects or facts could be classified, with each quality or category possessing up to ten modifications. In this way, given n qualities, a number of facts or objects up to the equivalent of 10n could be classified by designating the ten modifications of the first quality by 0. . .9, of the second by 00. . .09, of the third by 000 . . . 009. Thus the number 325 . . . would designate an object possessing the fourth modification of the first quality, the third modification of the second quality, and the sixth modification of the third quality, and so on. Assuming ten primary qualities, for example, this system could accommo¬ date up to 10,000,000,000 ( = 1010) objects, each of which would be designated by a number from 0,000,000,000 to 9,999,999,999. If these objects were then classified in a table according to their numerical designation, Condorcet maintained, such an arrangement would form at once a systematic catalog and an analytical table. With the help of such a table, an observer able to recognize the modifications of all the qualities of an object with which he were presented would be immediately able to identify it. If, on the other hand, he were presented with an object of which it had been possible to observe precisely the modifications of only some of the qualities, he would nevertheless be able to discover the possible identity of this object by using the table to isolate all those objects possessing the particular combination of characteristics observed. The natural historians, Condorcet insisted, “would appreciate all the usefulness of such a table” in this respect.144 In his essay on this method in the Elements du calcul des probabilites,

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Condorcet laid principal emphasis on the technical advantages of the decimal classification for the storage and retrieval of data. In his descrip¬ tion of this system of classification for the Tableau historique des progres de Vesprit humain, however, he insisted that his method of forming tables had a more fundamental utility: that of arranging objects methodically in such a way that the characteristics of each could be related to those of all in whatever way the researcher wished. It was therefore possible to verify by this means whether certain combinations of characteristics did or did not exist in nature; or whether some combinations existed constantly and to the exclusion of others. In other words, it was possible to utilize the data presented in such a table for framing and testing hypotheses and for establishing the relations of phenomena from a variety of points of view. “It will be possible with the help of the general table to form new tables at will, related to such combinations of circumstances as shall be devised. Thus whatever the purpose for which the table was originally prepared, it can be used to form all the distributions of facts which will be needed; to prepare all the elements to which it might be wished to apply mathema¬ tical calculation even for different purposes: finally, to discover all the results, all the general facts, all the natural laws which this system of facts can reveal.”145 It is characteristic of Condorcet’s developing preoccupation with the science of man that he illustrated this aspect of the utility of his methods by outlining a demographic table that would yield a “veritable natural history of man.” Whereas ordinary mortality tables were useful only for a limited number of questions, he maintained, comprehensive and detailed tables compiled according to the decimal system of classification would make it easily possible to answer any question, or to test any hypothesis, suggested by examination of the facts. “Thus although these facts often contain within themselves the proof of a natural law which it is important to know,” he insisted in the Exemple des methodes techniques, “the maldis¬ tribution of facts in ordinary tables can make its discovery almost impossible, or at least delay it for a long time. It is even sufficient that the tables have been prepared for purposes not relating to this law. Instead of which, with our method, on the contrary, it is enough to have the idea that this law exists and the desire to verify this suspicion, for the table to provide —immediately and with little effort —all the elements necessary to discover and to establish it.”146 With this decimal system of classification, Condorcet therefore claimed to have reduced the problem of classification to a technical solution. Nor did he use this term inadvisedly. The advantage of Adanson’s method, he had argued earlier, was that well-prepared forms (or observational sche¬ dules) would allow the work of observation to be carried out simply by observers trained to fill in the blanks.147 The advantage of his mathematicization of Adanson’s method —which must therefore be seen, in effect, as the first proposal for a numerical taxonomy in the strict sense of the term —lay in the fact that not only the work of observation but much of the work of analysis could be carried out by such technicians. “It should be noticed in conclusion,” he emphasized in the Elements du calcul des

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probabilites, “that in the kind of tables which we have taken as an example, the work of research is absolutely technical: with the result that it should be enough to establish exactly what question one wishes to resolve, what fact one wishes to know with precision, after which there is no one who should not be able, with a little practice, to carry out the rest of the work.’’148 In the preliminary discourse to the Encyclopedic, d’Alembert had proceeded to a rhetorical defense of the status of the mechanical arts by asking how many savants pretendus there were whose science could not more properly be regarded as a mechanical art.149 Condorcet, firmly convinced that the historical task of the eighteenth century was to codify the scientific method —to reduce it pour ainsi dire, en formules — took d’Alembert’s question even further by asking how much of true scientific activity itself could be reduced to a mechanical art. The logical step from the Enlightenment insistence on the mechanics of method lay in the direction of the mechanization of method. Condorcet was already close to such a step in the Elements du calcul des probabilites when he referred to the use of calculating machines to deal with certain difficulties in the system of classification.150 In his later version of the technical methods, unambiguously though somewhat diffidently, Condorcet took this final step into the machine age. I shall not speak here of the mechanical means which could be em¬ ployed; it is easy to envisage them, but this mechanism would appear ridiculous until the time when experience has shown the utility of these tables for the discovery of relations and general laws between natural substances, observed facts and variations of a phenomenon, which without this method would have long escaped our research.151 In many respects, Condorcet’s reputation as a prophet hardly survived the eighteenth century. It might therefore be permissible to indulge the reflection that his intimations on this point have not been entirely discredited in the twentieth. There is a further, and more fundamental, point to be made concerning this essay on technical methods. Condorcet’s Esquisse, the introduction to his monumental Tableau historique des progres de Tesprit humain, has often —perhaps too often —been cited as the philosophical testament of the eighteenth century. Yet this judgment is perhaps more true of his generally neglected and until recently unknown Exemple des methodes techniques than it is of his often idiosyncratic conception of human progress. The philosophes, as we have seen, reduced all science to the model of classification, or the art of arranging and rearranging signs into new “collections,” “combinations,” or “systems” that would yield ever more abstract relationships of ideas. The aim of all scientific endeavor, Condil¬ lac argued in a passage of his Traite des systemes which summed up this conception, is a systematic exposition in which the various facts are disposed in such mutually related order that the last are theoretically explicable in terms of the first, or principles. Indeed, the fewer the

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principal facts needed to explain the data of the science, the more perfect it is.152 It is not by vague and arbitrary hypotheses that we can aspire to know nature, d’Alembert insisted in the preliminary discourse to the Encyclopedic. “It is by the thoughtful study of phenomena, by comparing them one with another, by the art of reducing (as far as possible) a great number of phenomena to a single one that can be regarded as their principle.”153 The principle of gravity was not in itself a new discovery, Condillac remarked. Men had long been aware of the weight of physical bodies. Newton's achievement consisted less in discovering a new fact than in analyzing, rearranging, and recombining the well-attested facts of experience and in stating them in such a way that their mutual relations became obvious.154 Knowledge, then, is essentially an understanding of the relationship of things. We learn these relations only by constituting signs that distinguish things one from another and by combining and recombining these signs “by a kind of calculus” until their latent relations emerge. For this procedure, best exemplified in the combinatorial analysis of the mathe¬ maticians, there were a number of prerequisites: accurate signs, precisely denoting the characteristics of things; simple signs, capable of reducing complex data to an elementary expression; homogeneous signs, capable of combination and recombination in an order of variables. A classification reducing complex phenomena to such a system of signs would make possible the ordering of these phenomena in the way that mathematicization had ordered the simpler phenomena of the physical sciences. It was exactly such a system that Condorcet sketched out in his Exemple des methodes techniques. His aim was to unite mathematics and classification into a universal science of order that would yield in the empirical sciences the abstract relations already achieved in the mathematical sciences. Nowhere more clearly than in this essay are the dictates of what Foucault has called the classical episteme revealed and fulfilled. For the mathematician in Condorcet, there could be no true science without the model of mathematics, nor was there a subject that could be regarded by definition as not potentially susceptible of mathematical treatment. The greatest accomplishment of Pythagoras, the first mathe¬ matician to emerge into the clear light of history, Condorcet argued in his opening lecture at the Lycee in 1786, had been to posit the mathematical foundations of scientific knowledge, “a vast and sublime idea which is the first and fundamental basis of natural philosophy.” He had understood that “all the relationships of entities [etres], all the laws of nature can be expressed by quantities of the same kind; that the true object of the physical sciences is to know how to determine the value of these quantities and know the laws to which they are subject.”155 The most fertile achievements of Descartes, Condorcet continued, had been to demon¬ strate by example this Pythagorean principle of mathematicization, the principle finally and gloriously vindicated in Newton’s Principia: “that everything that is susceptible of following regular laws can be subjected to the same calculus, to that of quantity [grandeur], in general, or of the abstract relationship of numbers.”156 In accordance with this conviction,

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the outline for the history of the sciences that Condorcet had planned to write in 1772 had divided the body of the natural sciences quite simply into two : those to which mathematics had been applied and those to which it had not yet been applied.157 Among the empirical sciences still recalcitrant to the yoke of mathe¬ matics in 1772, Condorcet had included chemistry and natural history. Chemistry was to be transformed in France by the impact of the experiments following this, Lavoisier’s “crucial year,” and by the develop¬ ment of a scientific language that seemed to offer chemistry all the precision that mathematics had brought to physics.158 Natural history, which Condorcet saw advanced by the work of Adanson and the Jussieu family, he himself proposed to revolutionize by the development of his technical methods of classification. Little can be achieved in the sciences, Bacon had insisted in the Novum Organum, “unless all the particulars which pertain to the subject of enquiry shall, by means of Tables of Discovery, apt, well arranged, and as it were animate, be drawn and marshalled; and the mind be set to work upon the helps duly prepared and digested which these tables supply.”159 There is clearly a close similarity between Bacon’s Tables of Discovery and Condorcet’s technical methods. Should it be concluded that Condorcet’s conception of scientific method therefore remained essentially Baconian? Clearly this is the case insofar as he regarded accurate observation and description of phenomena as the very basis of science. “I refer you to Bacon,” he wrote to Mme Suard. “He was a great genius. He saw much better than Descartes the means of arriving at truth, especially in the sciences of induction.”160 But while Condorcet regarded empirical data as the raw material of science, he did not regard the collection of such data as adequate in itself. In his view, science was concerned with the relations of things; and it was the more perfect the more these relations could be expressed analytically in an ideal language. It was exactly such an analysis of phenomena that was being secured in Newtonian physics. And it was to facilitate the achievement of a similar analysis of the far more complex phenomena of natural history or social science that Condorcet developed his technical methods of classification. “It will be seen,” he insisted, “that in several respects they are equivalent, for the observation of isolated facts, of the methods used to discover the empirical laws underlying quantitative observations.”161 Simple facts that could be expressed quantitatively, in other words, could be related to each other mathematically to elicit laws governing their relations. But not all observed facts could be quantified in this way. For Condorect, the principal (and revolutionary) value of the decimal system of classification lay in his conviction that its numerical arrangement made possible the precise comparison of nonquantifiable facts and the mathematical analysis of the combinations of these facts. It thereby introduced into all branches of knowledge the potential for the logical precision that the physical sciences owed to their mathematical language. Such a conception found its closest model —though there is no clear evidence that it found its direct inspiration —in the “logic of

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invention” proposed by Leibniz in the De arte combinatorial62 Just as d’Alembert and his successors reduced the willful interventions of Newton’s God to the rational world order of Leibnizian philosophy, so Condorcet pressed Bacon’s Tables of Discovery into mathematical service in search of the universal science of order that constituted the focus of Leibniz’s logical endeavors. From this point of view, it becomes clear why in his Tableau historique des progres de Tesprit humain, Condorcet linked his system of classification closely with another project dear to Leibniz: that of a universal “charac¬ teristic,” or language of the sciences, “which will be for all the branches of science, but with still greater perfection, what the language of algebra is for mathematical analysis.”163 An exact system of classification and a precise unambiguous language: these two projects together made it theoretically possible to reduce the data of any science to the precise, analytical formulations already achieved in mathematical physics. Indeed, in essence these two projects reduced themselves to different aspects of the same undertaking. The decimal figures which Condorcet envisaged in his technical methods not only designated the object concerned, they also contained a precise description of its characteristics. The decimal system of classification itself formed the first desideratum of a universal language, a precise and unambiguous means of characterizing the objects of any science. A universal language of the sciences required not only a “characteristic” for the designation of objects but a symbolic logic for the expression of our intellectual operations. In the Essai d’une langue universelle later drafted for his projected Tableau historique des progres de Tesprit humain, Condorcet set out to develop the symbolic logic which he regarded as appropriate to such a universal language of the sciences.164 The essay is unfinished and unfortunately breaks off just as it turns to discussion of the language of the moral and political sciences. Nor is this entirely surprising. For in the concluding lines Condorcet had pointed to a significant difference between the natural sciences and the moral sciences. In the former, he maintained, the objects to which the universal language is to be applied are generally well-determined; in the latter, on the contrary, “it is first of all a question of making known the very objects of the science. It is even necessary to find and to form these first combinations of ideas and to seek to designate them.”165 In the case of the moral and political sciences, therefore, the problem was to be less that of guaranteeing further advance by the elaboration of a universal language than that of developing the first principles of our knowledge. Even here there was a problem of language. The moral sciences are obscure, Condorcet argued, precisely because they employ a vague and imprecise terminology taken from ordinary human affairs. Their imperfection is in large part caused by the fact that they use words which have, in vulgar use, a sense different from their philosophical meaning; the two senses are never adequately distinguished.166 Flence the primary requirement of the moral and political sciences, as of any science,

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is a precise, well-determined language: one achieved not by way of arbitrary definition but on the basis of exact analysis and rigorous reasoning. In the moral, as in the physical, sciences we shall see that Condorcet never ceased to regard language and method as indissolubly linked.

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POSITIVISM AND PROBABILITIES All those who have attacked the certainty of human knowledge have committed the same mistake. They have established (nor was it difficult to establish) that neither in the physical sciences nor in the moral sciences can we obtain the rigorous certainty of mathematical propositions. But in wishing to conclude from this that man has no sure rule upon which to found his opinions in these matters, they have been mistaken. For there are sure means of arriving at a very great probability in some cases and of evaluating the degree of this probability in a great number. Condorcet, Notes sur les Pensees de Pascal

At This Stage, It May Be Convenient to Recapitulate the Preceding

discussion of Condorcet’s view of science and the scientific method as it took shape in the general context of Enlightenment thinking. It has been shown that he expected the whole edifice of the human sciences to be based, like the physical sciences, upon the solid foundation of positive fact; raised, like the sublime architecture of Newton, by the method of analysis; structured, like the nascent sciences of chemistry and natural history, by the creation of a precise, well-determined language. Such a construction, Condorcet prophesied in his reception speech at the French Academy, would be no less secure than the lofty mansions of Newtonian science. Sharing the methods of the natural sciences, the moral and the political sciences must necessarily “attain the same degree of certainty.” But what degree of certainty did the natural sciences enjoy? To appreciate the importance of this fundamental question, it is once again necessary to return to the Newtonian debate of the first half of the century. The first philosophical fruit of that debate, as we have seen, was the notion of epistemological modesty. In the physical sciences, as in everything else, man must limit himself to what he knows; and all that he knows is the data of sense experience and statements ultimately derivable from sense experi¬ ence. The second conclusion involved the idea of mathematics as the language of the physical sciences: a language that was certain because man had created it himself, but which brought to physics not the self-evidence of its propositions as the basis of physical reality but the precision of its measure in describing the phenomena that are all man can perceive of that reality. The physical sciences were therefore certain, that is, precise and unambiguous, in the language of their description. But did they for that reason necessarily provide sure and reliable knowledge of the phenomena described? “And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of,” Newton argued in the Opticks.1 It was left for his successors to examine more fully the nature and assumptions of this “best way of arguing which

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the Nature of Things admits of’ and to gauge more precisely the measure of its reliability. Knowledge and Probability: Newton to Hume

The essential distinction in this discussion was put clearly by Locke in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding. “I am apt to doubt, ” he argued in discussing the extent of human knowledge, “that, how far soever human industry may advance useful and experimental philosophy in physical things, scientifical will still be out of our reach.”2 In this distinction between scientifical and experimental knowledge, Locke was following the Cartesian definition of science as “certain and evident knowledge.” Scientific reasoning, in this sense, implied two desiderata: “clear, distinct, and complete ideas,” as exemplified in the epistemological model of mathematics; and the consequent “perception of the connexion of and agreement_, or disagreement and repugnancy” between these ideas.3 For, since all distinct ideas must eternally be known not to be the same, and so be universally and constantly denied one of another, there could be no room for any positive knowledge at all, if we could not perceive any relation between our ideas, and find out the agreement or disagreement they have with one another, in several ways the mind takes of comparing them.4 Thus Locke defined “science” as certain knowledge achieved by demon¬ strative reasoning on the basis of the intuitively perceived relations between clear and distinct ideas. Whatever falls short of this ideal, “with what assurance soever embraced, is but faith or opinion, but not knowledge, at least in all general truths.”5 While Locke shared the Cartesian definition of rational scientific know¬ ledge, however, he did not embrace the Cartesian conviction that man can attain scientific knowledge of the physical world in this sense. Neither clear and distinct ideas, nor demonstrative knowledge of the relations between these ideas, can be guaranteed in the physical sciences, he insisted. We have clear and distinct ideas of the primary qualities of physical bodies, of matter and motion for example. But it is impossible, given matter and motion, to make a world, so long as we are still ignorant of the “several powers, efficacies, and ways of operation, whereby the effects which we daily see are produced.”6 In many cases, these causes are too remote or too minute for us to gain adequate knowledge of them through our limited senses. Gold dissolves in aqua regia and silver in aqua fortis: these effects we can establish by observation and experiment. “But whilst we are destitute of senses acute enough to discover the minute particles of bodies and to give us ideas of their mechanical affections, we must be content to be ignorant of their properties and ways of operation.”7 If we could arrive at clear and distinct ideas of the material atoms that we postulate as the basis of physical reality, we would know why gold dissolves in aqua regia in much the same way as the watchmaker knows the working of a watch or a locksmith the operation of a lock. Such an explanation would indeed amount to a rational demonstration, or scientific knowledge. But such knowledge is clearly beyond man’s power in this case, “because we want

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[that is, lack] perfect and adequate ideas of those very bodies which are nearest to us, and most under our command. 8 We can, for example, establish it as a matter of observed fact that gold dissolves in aqua regia. But we cannot be certain that this same effect will occur time and time again, because our observations give us no ideas adequate to explain by rational demonstration why it should occur time and time again. Distinct ideas of the several sorts of bodies that fall under the exami¬ nation of our senses perhaps we may have; but adequate ideas, I sus¬ pect, we have not of any one amongst them. And though the former of these will serve us for common use and discourse, yet whilst we want the latter, we are not capable of scientifical knowledge; nor shall ever be able to discover general, instructive, unquestionable truths concerning them. Certainty and demonstration are things we must not, in these matters, pretend to.9 In some cases, therefore, our experience of the physical world does not fulfill the first desideratum of rational scientific knowledge: that of clear and distinct ideas adequate to form the basis for demonstrable knowledge. In other cases, it fails to fulfill the second desideratum: that of “a discoverable connexion between the ideas which we have.”10 Some of our ideas necessarily imply others. It is impossible, for example, to conceive of a triangle the angles of which would not be equivalent to two right angles: there is here a necessary and immutable connection between these two ideas that is the hallmark of certain knowledge. In many cases, this necessary connection is lacking in our knowledge of the physical world: ideas are found constantly and regularly connected without our being able to discover any logically necessary connection implied in the ideas themselves. Locke’s chief example in this respect was the coexistence of primary and secondary qualities in physical objects. Our ideas of secondary qualities are constantly associated with those of primary qualities in certain objects and, Locke insisted, in some way “produced” by them. Though we can establish a constant and regular connection between certain of these ideas in experience, however, we cannot arrive at any logically necessary connec¬ tion between the ideas themselves, and are obliged to “attribute their connexion to nothing else but the arbitrary determination of that All-wise Agent who has made them to be, and to operate as they do, in a way wholly above our weak understandings to conceive.”11 Here Locke ap¬ proached on specific points the position that Clarke was shortly to argue more generally in his defense of Newtonianism against Leibniz: that man can have no rationally demonstrable knowledge of the nature of things in the physical world, but only experimental knowledge of the effects he must ascribe “to the arbitrary will and good pleasure of the Wise Architect.”12 But Locke was more attentive to the epistemological implications of this position than was Clarke. Experimental knowledge of effects alone, he insisted with Leibniz and the Cartesians, can never be made to yield certain knowledge in the absence of rational understanding of the relations between these effects. In these cases, “we can go no further than particular experience informs us of matter of fact, and by analogy to guess what effects the like bodies are, upon other trials, like to produce. But as to a perfect

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science of natural bodies, (not to mention spiritual beings,) we are, I think, so far from being capable of any such thing that I conclude it lost labour to seek after it.”13 Thus applying the Cartesian criterion of scientific knowledge to the experimental natural philosophy to which man was perforce limited —and which it was therefore his obligation to advance as far as possible —Locke concluded that in our knowledge of the physical world (as in much of the conduct of life) we are largely incapable of achieving the certain light of rational demonstration. Essential to his analysis, although often obscured by the looseness of his terminology, was the distinction between truths of fact and relations of ideas set forth in the Logique de Port Royal, which he described in his journal for 1678 as “the most accomplished work of its kind yet to appear.”14 Man has certain knowledge only of the necessary relations of ideas known immediately by intuition, or by demonstration resulting from an unbroken series of acts of intuition. Where ideas coexist in the mind without evincing this necessary relation, intuitive or demonstrative knowledge (that is, scientifical knowledge) is impossible. We may state it as a matter of fact that particular effects exhibit a constant and regular connection in the ordinary course of things. We may have every expecta¬ tion that they will in fact continue to do so. “The things that, as far as our observation reaches, we constantly find to proceed regularly, we may conclude do act by a law set them; but yet by a law that we know not.”15 Yet in the absence of rational demonstration of the connection between these effects, our expectation that it will recur, however strong, can never amount to more than probability. As truths of fact lacking the self¬ evidence of rational demonstration, the statements of the physical sciences were to be returned to the continuum of probable human experience from which Descartes had attempted to rescue them. God has vouchsafed it to us to know very few things in the “broad daylight” of certain knowledge, Locke therefore concluded in the Essay, “in the greatest part of our concernments, he has afforded us only the twilight, as I may so say, of probability; suitable, I presume, to that state of mediocrity and probationership he has been pleased to place us in here.”16 Locke had reached these conclusions well before the publication of Newton’s Principia demonstrated “how far Mathematicks, applied to some Parts of Nature, may, upon Principles that Matter of Fact justifie, carry us in the knowledge of some, as I may so call them, particular Provinces of the Incomprehensible Universe.”17 But if in reading that work he came to a new appreciation of the power of the mathematical method, he neverthe¬ less found nothing to force him to revise his fundamental conviction that rationally demonstrable knowledge of the physical world remained beyond the compass of human understanding. Such applications of mathematics, he was persuaded by Newton’s work, could indeed lighten the twilight of probability with the hope of “more true and certain knowledge in several Parts of this stupendious Machine, than hitherto we could have expected.”18 Yet based as they were on truths of fact, these mathematical principles could never attain certainty in the strict sense of the term. “The Works of Nature are contrived by a Wisdom, and operate by ways too far surpassing

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our Faculties to discover, or Capacities to conceive, for us ever to be able to reduce them into a Science,” he insisted in Some Thoughts Concerning Education.19 Divorced from the evidence of rational demonstration, the experimental truths of Newtonian science, the precision of their mathema¬ tical formulation notwithstanding, remained confined to the realm of probability. Locke was among the first to reach such an estimation of the certainty of Newtonian philosophy, but he was far from alone, in holding it. Indeed, this was an analysis that rapidly became commonplace among the popularizers of Newton.20 Their customary view of the epistemological status of the physical sciences was put characteristically by Pemberton in A View of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy. “The proofs in natural philosophy cannot be so absolutely conclusive, as in the mathematics,” Pemberton argued. “They may be represented to our senses by material objects, but they are themselves the arbitrary productions of our own thoughts, so that as the mind can have a full and adequate knowledge of its own ideas, the reasoning in geometry can be rendered perfect. But in natural knowledge the subject of our contemplation is without us, and not so compleatly to be known: therefore our method of arguing must fall a little short of absolute perfection.”21 How far short of the absolute perfection of mathematics these truths of fact might fall, Pemberton did not further enquire. However, this question had already been taken up at greater length by the most influential continental expositor of Newton’s philosophy, the Dutch physicist ’sGravesande. In his preface to the Mathematical Elements of Natural Philosophy, ’sGravesande distinguished between pure mathematics, which “enquire into the General Properties of Figures and abstracted Ideas,” and mixed mathematics, including physics, which “examine things themselves, and will have our Notions and Deductions to agree both with Reason and Experience.”22 In pure mathematics, which is concerned only with the relations of our ideas, the criterion of truth is clear: the evidence of propositions is demonstrated by showing that to assert the contrary involves self-contradiction. In applied mathematics, this is no longer the case. The first requirement is that our ideas agree with phenomena, and this agreement cannot be proved by mathematical demonstration. For while we constantly reason concerning phenomena, ’sGravesande argued, it is clear that what is present in our mind and the subject of our reasoning is not “Things themselves” but our ideas of such things. At this point, ’sGravesande was forced to anticipate the inevitable skeptical question: how can man be sure of the concordance between things in themselves and his ideas of them? His answer was clear: “as we have Occasion to reason of Things themselves every Moment, and of those Things nothing can be present to our Minds besides our Ideas, upon which our Reasonings immediately turn; it follows, that GOD has established some Rules, by which we may judge of the Agreement of our Ideas with the Things themselves.”23 In developing these rules vouchsafed by God, ’sGravesande first argued that statements of fact, unlike mathematical demonstrations, can yield

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contrary propositions that are not logically impossible and may be denied or affirmed with equal certainty. I can assert that Peter is dead; I can affirm with equal conviction that he is still living. Here, then, is a “certainty” altogether different from that of mathematical demonstration. What is the basis of this reasoning concerning matters of fact? Like Locke before him, ’sGravesande argued that it depends essentially upon the principle of analogy which underlies our conviction that like effects constantly recur in like circumstances. This principle, which ’sGravesande presented as the very basis of Newton’s rules of philosophizing, in its turn depends ultimately upon the following axiom: “We must look upon as true, whatever being deny’d would destroy civil Society, and deprive us of the Means of living."24 ’sGravesande then gave examples of certain factual propositions that are taken for granted in daily life. A building that is sound today will not —failing some external cause —be found wanting tomorrow; the food I have eaten for years will not poison me today; when I find hemlock, I can conclude that it is poisonous without experimenting on each individual piece. These arguments from analogy are daily taken for granted in civil life “because every body sees that they cannot be called into question without destroying the present Oeconomy of Nature.”25 Thus validated by the acid test of common life, the principle of analogy —the very basis of the Newtonian method of philosophizing —can also be accepted as a valid basis for reasoning in the physical sciences. “For who could live a Minute’s time in Tranquillity, if a Man was to doubt the Truth of what passes for certain, whatever Experiments have been made about it; and if he did not depend upon seeing like Effects produced by the same Cause?”26 It is important to emphasize exactly what ’sGravesande has asserted in the preface to this influential work. Truths of fact, he has insisted in effect, are based on the principle of analogy: that is, on the assumption that future events will continue to resemble similar events in the past. These truths clearly have a “certainty” very different from that of mathematical demonstrations. They are, in short, merely probable. But just as we must be content with such probabilities in day-to-day affairs, if life is to continue, so can we accept probabilities of the same order in physics. To this extent, ’sGravesande has reiterated fairly closely the arguments put forward by Locke. But he has done more than merely link the truths of the physical sciences with the truths of everyday life in the twilight zone of probability. He has also made the validity of the latter truths the very criterion of truth in the former. Only if the principle of analogy is first sociologically validated in the habitual conduct of human affairs can it be accepted as valid in the physical sciences. The implications of such an argument for the conception of social science are enormous. Descartes had attempted to rescue the physical sciences by giving them the certainty of rational demonstration, welding them to the logic of mathematics. The effect of his reasoning was therefore to open a rift between the mathe¬ matical and physical sciences —the privileged domain in which such certainty was possible —and the human sciences concerned with the contingencies of human life and social existence, past and present. These

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latter were to be abandoned to the skeptical dogs. However, the arguments of Locke and ’sGravesande combined to turn the Cartesian position on its head. Divorced from the evidence of certain demonstration, the truths of the physical sciences once again joined the probabilities of the human world. But this time they were saved from the skeptics not in terms of the logic of mathematical demonstration but by an appeal to exactly that kind of knowledge condemned by Descartes: the logic of probabilities experientially validated in the social world. Not only has the distinction between our certain knowledge of the physical world and our probable knowledge of the social world been eliminated; but our common acceptance of matters of fact in the latter has been presented as grounds for our acceptance of them in the former. Much of this epistemological revolution is only implicit in ’sGravesande. Arguing in defense of the physical sciences, he was not concerned to develop the positive implications of his arguments for the science of man. Nevertheless, within a very few years, this same appeal to the logic of probabilities was to become the cornerstone of one of the most concerted and comprehensive attempts to elaborate the implications of Newtonian science for the science of man that the eighteenth century was to witness: that of David Hume. The critical importance of the logic of probabilities for such a science was made clear in An Abstract of a Book lately Published, entituled, A Treatise of Human Nature &c., the pamphlet that Hume published in 1740 in an anxious attempt to resuscitate the work that had in the previous year fallen “dead-born from the press.” Ancient philosophers who had treated of human nature, Hume argued there, had been happy with presenting the common-sense view of mankind on this subject in the most elegant literary fashion, “without following out steadily a chain of propositions, or forming the several truths into a regular science. But tis at least worth while to try if the science of man will not admit of the same accuracy which several parts of natural philosophy are found susceptible of. There seems to be all the reason in the world to imagine that it may be carried to the greatest degree of exactness.”27 In pursuit of this goal, Hume’s initial task —first because it was necessary to establish the epistemological status of the science of man in relation to the other sciences; second because all other sciences were ultimately “in some measure dependent upon the science of MAN” —was “to propose a compleat system of the sciences, built on a foundation almost entirely new, and the only one upon which they can stand with any security.”28 Central to the elaboration of this system of the sciences, as he made absolutely clear in the Abstract, was a thoroughgoing philosophical investigation of the logic of probable knowledge. Dominated by the search for demonstrable certainty, Hume argued, other philosophers had treated probability only briefly (as in the Logique of Port-Royal), confusedly (as in Locke’s chapter on probability in the Essay), or en route to a more secure contemplative knowledge (as in Malebranche’s De la recherche de la vente). All these writers had admitted, with ’sGravesande, that without such probable knowledge, daily life could not continue. Hume’s avowed intention was to investigate more fully the logic of probabilities and to provide it, if

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possible, with a valid philosophical foundation. From this point of view, the Treatise became the Discourse on Method of probable reasoning. This treatise therefore of human nature seems intended for a system of the sciences. The author has finished what regards logic, and has laid the foundation of the other parts in his account of the passions. The celebrated Monsieur Leibnitz has observed it to be a defect in the common systems of logic, that they are very copious when they explain the operations of the understanding in the forming of demonstrations, but are too concise when they treat of probabilities, and those other measures of evidence on which life and action intirely depend, and which are our guides even in most of our philosophical speculations. In this censure, he comprehends the essay on human understanding, la recherche de la verite, and Tart de penser. The author of the treatise of human nature seems to have been sensible of this defect in these philosophers, and has endeav¬ oured, as much as he can, to supply it.29 In the work of ’sGravesande, Cassirer has remarked, “mathematical empiricism. . .stands on the threshold of skeptical empiricism, and the step from Newton to Hume is henceforth inevitable.”30 In a sense this is true. Yet in emphasizing only the skeptical side of Hume’s philosophy in this comparison, Cassirer neglected aspects of the complex relationship between Hume and Newtonian philosophy that it is essential for our study to underline. ’sGravesande argued in defense of the physical sciences, appealing to the evidence of everyday life to establish their validity. Hume, on the other hand, argued on the offensive. His aim was to establish the validity of the science of man by placing the moral sciences on the same positive, experimental basis as the physical. But did he establish the equality of the moral and the physical sciences only at the cost of subverting all science? In opening the citadel of science to the science of man, did he also open the gates of that citadel to a skepticism that threatened to destroy it from within? It has often been argued that this is the case; and not without good authority. For Hume himself, in his more melodramatic moments, fancied himself as “some strange uncouth monster” cut off from all commerce with human society by his skeptical doubts. Indeed, it was this Hume —for whom skeptical doubt was aggravated by a residual reluctance to abandon forever the demonstrative certainty of the rationalists —that came most powerfully to the surface in the closing part of the first book of A Treatise of Human Nature, “Of the Sceptical and Other Systems of Philosophy.” Hume opened this section of his work by returning to the now well-worn distinction between knowledge and probability. “In all demonstrative sciences the rules are certain and infallible; but when we apply them, our fallible and uncertain faculties are very apt to depart from them, and fall into error.”31 Logically speaking, then, truths of demonstration are certain, since “our reason must be consider’d as a kind of cause, of which truth is the natural effect.” Psychologically speaking, however, they possess only the probability of fact, based upon the constant experience of the mind in generating them and the assumption, common to all truths of fact, that

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the mind will continue to do so in the same way. Thus not only the proofs of the physical sciences but even the demonstrative truths of mathematics become “at last of the same nature with that evidence, which we employ in common life.’ 32 Knowledge, proofs, and probabilities: all of these, Hume insisted, merge insensibly the one into the other; the more certain into the less certain. Still it appears that all is not lost. For if we know the reliability of our faculties in general, then surely we can evaluate the probability of our reasoning in particular cases. It would seem to follow that in all our reasoning we should be able to “correct the first judgment, deriv’d from the nature of the object, by another judgment, deriv’d from the nature of the understanding.” As demonstration is subject to the controul of probability, so is probability liable to a new correction by a reflex act of the mind, wherein the nature of our understanding, and our reasoning from the first probability become our objects.33 This, of course, had been Locke’s general aim in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, where he had hoped to defeat the attacks of the skeptics by establishing the precise capacity of the understanding and delineating clearly the extent of our knowledge. It was, as Hume was quick to point out, an impossible aim: for the secondary judgment which we bring to our initial reasoning is itself subject to all the uncertainty of the first judgment. This can only be corrected by a third judgment, which can in turn be corrected only by a fourth judgment. The result is an infinite regress of doubt or probability that can only end in “a continual diminution, and at last a total extinction of belief and evidence.”34 At this point Hume seemed to find himself at the bottom of the greasy pole of skepticism: at one with “those sceptics, who hold that all is uncertain, and that our judgment is not in any thing possest of any measure of truth and falsehood.” Yet he clearly had no intention of remaining in this company. He saved himself by a simple but drastic expedient: by abandoning to the skeptics the claims to a rational certainty that it was their true object to destroy. Skepticism, Hume understood, must always be as strong as the rationalism on which it feeds. Abandon all claims to absolute certainty and skepticism is mitigated. Its teeth drawn, it can be put to use in a more positive fashion —as it was in the Enquiries — as an instrument for the destruction of prejudice and nonsense. But if we abandon all claims to absolute certainty, what are we left with? Here the skeptic himself shows the way: whatever his rational pretensions, he continues to reason and believe in daily life, on the basis of assumptions that can never be rationally demonstrated. “Nature has not left this to his choice, and has doubtless esteem’d it an affair of too great importance to be trusted to our uncertain reasonings and speculations.”36 Thus Hume escaped from the dialectical conflict between rationalism and skepticism by pointing to the doctrine of natural, probable belief. The skeptic is part of nature. Like the animals, he continues to act upon the basis of “a wonderful and unintelligible instinct in our souls, which carries us along a certain train of ideas, and endows them with particular qualities, according to their particular situations and relations.”36 Here

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one finds the Scottish philosopher at his most consistent. To subvert the claims of Cartesian rationalism — the only way of destroying the extreme claims of the skeptics locked within it —it was also necessary to erase the Cartesian dichotomy between the thinking man and the brute beast. Epistemologically, man was to be returned to nature. The only knowledge available to him derived from his position in the regular continuum of phenomena that was nature, and in his natural propensity to build his experience into a pattern of belief according to an instinct “which carries forward the thought in a correspondent course to that which she [nature] has established among external objects.”37 The only guarantee of such knowledge was that it is, quite simply, an inescapable fact: beyond reason, though still susceptible of improvement on the basis of rational reflection and general rules of reasoning. It was this doctrine of natural, probable belief that Hume (now more serenely skeptical of his skepticism than he had been in the more melodramatic pages of the Treatise) presented in the First Enquiry as his final “sceptical solution” to the skeptical doubts. He saved science as ’sGravesande had suggested, by making it a simple fact: as natural to man and of no different order of certainty than the customary reasoning “so necessary to the subsistence of our species, and the regulation of our conduct, in every circumstance and occurrence of human life.”38 The language has changed —’sGravesande’s God has disappeared in Hume’s naturalism —but the principle remains the same. The physical and the moral sciences —our understanding of the natural and social world — are linked together in their reliance upon natural or customary belief. The step from Newton to Hume by way of ’sGravesande was thus only in part a step from a mathematical to a skeptical empiricism. More fundamentally, it marked the transition from a theistic mathematical empiricism to an empirical social-scientific naturalism. This was a development that, as a theorist of social science, Condorcet could not afford to ignore. Nor does it appear that he did so. The Logic of Belief: Hume In a draft history of the sciences, Condorcet argued that the “little exact metaphysics” that was yet known —by which he meant not metaphysics proper but the epistemological analysis of sensations and ideas, the only valid meaning of the term that he was prepared to allow —had been taught by the textbook trinity of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.39 Since it will be suggested later that Condorcet’s conception of social science rests at some critical points on a philosophy of belief that is very close to Hume’s, it will be necessary to make his arguments clear. This is not an easy task or one that can be well done briefly (if at all). The already complex and difficult arguments of the Treatise are often complicated rather than resolved by the existence of a “simplified” version of Hume’s epistemology in the later Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Many interpreters of Hume have quoted with feeling the words of his principal editor, Selby-Bigge: “He says so many different things in so many different ways. . . and with so much indifference to what he has said before, that it is hard to say positively that he taught or did not teach this or that particular doc-

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trine .... This makes it easy to find all philosophies in Hume or, by setting up one statement against another, none at all.”40 Apart from the difficulties involved, the idea of devoting to the Scottish philosopher a substantial section of a study of Condorcet will doubtless appear gratuitous to some readers. Hume the skeptic has traditionally been made to appear the very antithesis of the facile optimism attributed to the philosophes. Even where he has been presented as a member of the family of philosophes, it has too often been as a well-meaning brother who reluctantly or inadvertently demolished their city (whether earthly or heavenly) from within.41 Yet much has been written in recent years to revise this traditional dichotomy. If the philosophes no longer seem as sanguine in their philosophical convictions, Hume’s skepticism has also been clearly shown to be limited by his naturalism.42 Nor does the Scottish philosopher seem as isolated as he once did. His obsession with skepticism, which has often appeared radical or extreme within the context of a British tradition of philosophy, seems less singular when set against the record of a continental confrontation with skepticism which he clearly knew well and evidently took very seriously.43 The more central the problem of skepticism appears in the evolution of Enlightenment thinking, the more naturally he finds a place among the philosophes. His antagonists were often their antagonists; his weapons (though sometimes wielded with superior skill) often their weapons.44 There remains the question of Hume’s direct philosophical influence in France, which recent studies have tended to minimize.45 There is no evidence that Condorcet actually met the Scottish philosopher, though he may well have done so in the salon of Mile de Lespinasse, where Hume was lionized during his second extended visit to France from 1763 to 1766. He certainly heard much of Hume in the salon on the rue de Belle-Chasse, for d’Alembert and Julie de Lespinasse remained on intimate terms with the philosopher, d’Alembert serving as his chief field officer in the protracted quarrel with Rousseau.46 Whether d’Alembert encouraged his protege to consider Hume’s philosophy seriously is uncertain: there is little evidence that the older mathematician did so himself.47 It seems likely, then, that such encouragement came from a different direction. Even before Hume’s lengthy visit to Paris, Trudaine de Montigny had translated his Natural History of Religion-, and in 1759 he was using his father’s postal privileges and the good offices of Hume’s friend, Stewart, to obtain copies of the philosopher’s works in English for members of his circle. Among those who obtained copies of Hume’s works in this way was Turgot, described by Stewart to Hume as “a man of very good sense, great knowledge and one of your great admirers.”48 Given Turgot’s serious interest in the philosophy of probable belief—to which his refutation of Berkeley and his contributions to the Encyclopedic bear witness—he probably considered Hume’s philo¬ sophical doctrines as seriously as he considered his economic writings.49 It would appear that he also encouraged his disciple to do likewise. We shall find that Condorcet not only cited the Scottish philosopher but adopted specifically Humean arguments at critical points in his analysis of probable reasoning. Moreover, the nature of these arguments are such as

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to suggest the influence of the untranslated Treatise of Human Nature rather than of the translated First Enquiry. Condorcet read English well and would have had little difficulty in reading the Treatise. Moreover, while he nowhere specifically cites that work, it is suggestive that his own disciple in the theory of probabilities, Silvestre-Frangois Lacroix, became thoroughly grounded in the Treatise — his notes on the work still remain among his papers —later combining the philosophical views of Hume and the mathematical inspiration of Condorcet in his textbook on proba¬ bility.50 These are no more than indications, clearly inadequate in themselves, to decide the question of Hume’s “influence” on Condorcet, even if such questions can ever be decided. The reader must judge for himself whether the similarities between them on specific points in the philosophy of probable belief support the conclusion that Condorcet drew directly on a reading of a Treatise of Human Nature. Yet this is, in some respects, an incidental question. If Condorcet did not read Hume, he was nevertheless forced to develop substantially similar arguments on a number of points, the context of which can be more fully elucidated by an analysis of Hume’s reasoning. Nowhere are the epistemological problems under¬ lying the structure of Enlightenment thought more clearly revealed than in the relentless analyses of the Scottish philosopher. It will therefore be necessary for the development of the present argument to follow fairly closely the reasonings of the first book of A Treatise of Human Nature and especially of the third part of that book, “Of Knowledge and Probability.” Hume’s aim in this first book of his work, as we have seen, was to establish the foundations for a “compleat system of the sciences.” In the Abstract — vital not only as a guide to Hume’s intentions but as an indication of what he expected the intelligent eighteenth-century reader to find in his work —he presented two distinctions as essential to this philosophical enterprise: that between “impressions” and “ideas” and that between “relations of ideas” and “matters of fact.” Locke had used the word idea to cover all mental phenomena, whether derived from sensation or reflection. Hume used “perception” in the general sense in which Locke had used “idea,” reserving “impression” for “all our sensations, passions and emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul.”51 He termed “ideas” the images or copies of the first impressions as they are involved in reflection (that is, in thinking and reasoning), distinguishing further within this latter category between ideas of the memory and those of the imagination. In this distinction, Hume was ultimately to run into some difficulty, since he wanted to classify the perceptions of memory on some occasions as ideas, and on others as impressions.52 For the moment, however, he vacillated by describing an idea of the memory as the reappearance of an original impression in the mind which “retains a considerable degree of its first vivacity, and is somewhat intermediate betwixt an impression and an idea.”53 An idea of the memory is therefore somewhat less vivacious than the original impression, but by no means as feeble as the “pure idea” of the imagination. Ideas of the memory are “ty’d down” to the original impression: they reproduce it without in any way changing it. Ideas of the imagination, on the other hand, change and

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transpose the images of original impressions into new and different forms.54 Any combination of ideas is possible to the imagination, Hume argued. It is clear from experience, however, that all combinations of ideas do not occur with equal frequency. Since certain combinations in the mind recur in certain patterns, there must be “some bond of union among them, some associating quality, by which one idea naturally introduces another.”55 This principle of association cannot be a necessary connection, since the freedom of the mind to form any possible combination of ideas has already been allowed. Hume nevertheless found evidence of “a gentle force, which commonly prevails” over the activities of the imagination, disposing it to form combinations of ideas chiefly in terms of their resemblance, their contiguity in time and place, and especially their apparent relationship of cause and effect.56 With the discovery of this force, Hume found his Newtonian ambitions fulfilled. Here is a kind of ATTRACTION, which in the mental world will be found to have as extraordinary effects as in the natural, and to shew itself in as many and as various forms. Its effects are every where con¬ spicuous; but as to its causes, they are mostly unknown, and must be resolv’d into original qualities of human nature, which I pretend not to explain. Nothing is more requisite for a true philosopher, than to restrain the intemperate desire of searching into causes, and having establish’d any doctrine upon a sufficient number of experiments, rest contented with that, when he sees a farther examination would lead him into obscure and uncertain speculations. In that case his enquiry wou’d be much better employ’d in examining the effects than the causes of his principle.57 Chief among these effects of attraction in the mental world was the rela¬ tion of cause and effect. This relation, Hume insisted in terms of his second fundamental epistemological distinction, forms the sole basis for truths of fact as opposed to the demonstrable certainty of relations of ideas. An impression in the mind, or one recalled by the memory, is not in itself a statement about existence; nor does it yield a statement about existence (a truth of fact) without being related causally to other impressions by the association of ideas.58 Here, of course, Hume argued that he could find no logical basis for the idea of causality. No matter how convinced we are of a necessary connection between the impact of one billiard ball and the subsequent movement of another, this connection can never be shown to exist by logical demonstration. In purely logical terms, the second billiard ball might move after having been struck by the first billiard ball or it might not. Whether in fact the movement of the second billiard ball constantly follows the immediate impact of the first is not therefore a question of rational deduction. It is a matter of observation and experience. Hume made the point in the Abstract by taking the Malebranchian example of Adam, created with the full endowment of powers of reason but as yet innocent of experience. Malebranche had insisted that the only secure and reliable knowledge would be that known to Adam, that is, known by intuition and demonstration, independently of all experience.

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Hume turned the tables on the Cartesians by arguing that Adam would have known all too little. Were a man, such as Adam, created in the full vigour of under¬ standing, without experience, he would never be able to infer motion in the second ball from the motion and impulse of the first. It is not any thing that reason sees in the cause, which makes us infer the effect.... It would have been necessary, therefore, for Adam (if he was not inspired) to have had experience of the effect, which followed upon the impulse of these two balls .... If he had seen a sufficient number of instances of this kind, whenever he saw the one ball moving towards the other, he would always conclude without hesitation, that the second would acquire motion.59 Even when he had learned from experience that certain ideas are constantly associated in the mind with certain others, “Adam with all his science, would never have been able to demonstrate, that the course of nature must continue uniformly the same, and that the future must be conformable to the past.”60 Since it is possible to conceive of a change in the course of nature, it can never be proved demonstratively that future events will continue to resemble past events. Thus the belief in causality — or more precisely, the expectation that certain events are (and will continue to be) constantly accompanied in our experience by certain others —is not a dictate of reason but a matter of custom. It is a habit of mind that brings together two distinct components: the constant experi¬ ence of a constant conjunction of certain ideas or events in the past; the unprovable assumption that events in the future will continue to resemble like events in the past. “ ’Tis not, therefore, reason which is the guide of life, but custom. That alone determines the mind, in all instances, to suppose the future conformable to the past. However easy this step may seem, reason would never, to all eternity, be able to make it.”61 This is, of course, a crucial point in Hume’s philosophy. Locke had maintained that, could we but know it, knowledge of the relation of cause and effect would yield certain and demonstrable knowledge in the physical sciences. If we could discover the reason why gold dissolves in aqua regia — that is, the cause of its so dissolving —we would know this particular operation of nature as certainly as the watchmaker knows his watches. Locke also regarded such demonstrable knowledge of the relation of causality as unattainable in our understanding of the physical world. The senses of man are too limited to penetrate the causes of the most common effects, his intellect too feeble to find a necessary connection between many of his ideas. In this respect, Berkeley advanced beyond the Lockean position in a number of ways. “Naturalists do not distinguish betwixt Cause and occasion,” he noted in his early commonplace book.62 Drawing on this Malebranchian distinction, he extended Locke’s argument that the mind is too feeble to find a necessary connection between causes and effects, by insisting that the connection of ideas never implies the relation of cause and effect. The human mind, in other words, cannot of itself discover necessary connections between its ideas of cause and effect; it can

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only know occasions, or “coexisting Ideas.”63 Berkeley developed this philosophy of science in the treatise on motion he prepared for the prize essay competition held by the Academy of Sciences in 1720. It is not the business of the physicist to seek demonstrable knowledge of the efficient cause of things, he argued there, but only to attempt accurate description of the succession of effects. “The physicist studies the series of successions of sensible things, noting by what laws they are connected, and in what order, what precedes as cause, and what follows as effect. And on this method we say that the body in motion is the cause of motion in the other, and impresses motion on it, draws it also or impels it. In this sense second corporeal causes ought to be understood, no account being taken of the actual seat of the forces or of the active powers or of the real cause in which they are.”64 Thus Berkeley argued that while the physical sciences must seek knowledge of causes and effects, this is true only in a very drastically redefined sense. A cause is the phenomenon which constantly comes first in a succession of sensible things; an effect is that which follows. As anything beyond a manner of describing the order of phenomena in a generally observed pattern “as marks or signs for our information,”65 knowledge of causes is outside the reach of experimental philosophy. “Only by medita¬ tion and reasoning can truly active causes be rescued from the surrounding darkness and be to some extent known. To deal with them is the business of first philosophy or metaphysics. Allot to each science its own province; assign its bounds; accurately distinguish the principles and objects belong¬ ing to each.”66 Thus distinguishing between physics and metaphysics, Berkeley main¬ tained that our knowledge of truths of fact in the physical world can teach us nothing more than that “such ideas are attended with such and such ideas, in the ordinary course of things.” This gives us a foresight, which enables us to regulate our actions for the benefit of life. . .not by discovery of any necessary connexion be¬ tween our ideas, but only by the observation of the settled laws of Nature, without which we should be all in uncertainty and confu¬ sion, and a grown man no more know how to manage himself in the affairs of life, than an infant just born.67 Such knowledge was adequate, and necessary, for the conduct of everyday life. But it could never yield rationally demonstrable knowledge. Insofar as it could be known, and known certainly, rational knowledge was attainable only through metaphysics: through meditation in the Idea, or intuitive understanding of “that active principle, that supreme and wise spirit, in whom we live, move, and have our being.”68 Here, of course, Berkeley was following Malebranche in enunciating the doctrine of causality that became the very foundation of Hume’s philo¬ sophy. However, it is unnecessary for our purposes to enter into the debate as to whether Hume drew directly on Berkeley.69 It will be enough for our purposes to suggest that when Condorcet attributed the “little exact metaphysics” that was known to Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, he had in mind the Berkelian conclusions concerning causality and the limitations of

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scientific knowledge that Hume —and later Condorcet himself—was to make the very cornerstone of his philosophy.70 It was only necessary for Hume to reassert a strictly reductionist version of sensationalist psychology against Berkeley’s idealist alternative to find himself left with a radically positivist conception of scientific knowledge. Such a conception no longer aspired to the rationally demonstrable knowledge that would be enjoyed by an all-wise Intelligence, or even measured itself implicitly against such an ideal model. For Hume, science came to imply knowledge only of the probable truths of facts. Insofar as these truths of fact lead us to an acquaintance with a settled order of phenomena, or causes and effects, this is knowledge only of their coexistence and not of their necessary logical connection. Indeed, in its most extreme implications, Hume’s philosophy makes it meaningless even to speak of such necessary logical connections between things, let alone to aspire to know them. How then does the mind become accustomed to pass from the percep¬ tion of one effect to another; and under what conditions do we regard it as valid for the mind to do so? What, in other words, is the logic of probable knowledge? As Passmore has very effectively shown, these questions led Hume to the development of a doctrine that assumed a gradually increasing significance as his philosophy unfolded: the doctrine of natural belief. In the case of truths of demonstration, he argued, once a proposition has been understood it is impossible to conceive of the contrary without being absurd or unintelligible. In the case of matters of fact, this is far from being true. When I see a billiard ball approaching another, I habitually anticipate the usual effect by conceiving of the second ball in motion; but I can also conceive of the contrary case of the balls remaining at rest. Logically, these contrary conceptions are entirely equivalent: psychologically, they are not. For while I conceive of the second ball’s remaining at rest, I do not in fact believe that it will do so. Such is the power of the imagination that it can conceive of an infinite number of possible combinations of ideas relating to matters of fact. But while it can conceive of these ideas, it does not necessarily believe them. What .then is the difference, Hume demanded in the Abstract, between belief and the mere conception of a thing? “Here is a new question unthought of by philosophers.”71 While it was not entirely a new question, it was (as Hume soon found himself forced to admit) an extremely difficult and perplexing one. He came back to it time and time again: in the Appendix to the Treatise, in the A bstract, in the First Enquiry. Each time he found himself unable to go beyond the discussion in the Treatise. Each time he found himself not entirely satisfied by that discussion. Part of Hume’s difficulty, Passmore has suggested, lay in the fact that he was seeking to satisfy two contradic¬ tory impulses. On the one hand he wanted, as a moral scientist, to arrive at a phenomenological account of belief that would include prejudice, superstition, and credulity as well as the reasonable belief and opinions “receiv’d by philosophers.” On the other hand he found it necessary, in

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order to safeguard the claims of the moral science he was seeking to establish, to distinguish “rational” or “natural” belief from “irrational” or “unnatural,” in a way that was not always easy in terms of his original definitions. From this point of view, then, Hume’s discussion of belief gradually became the focal point of his epistemological endeavor.72 Hume’s first and simplest definition of belief was clearly implied in his preliminary distinction between ideas of the memory and ideas of the imagination. By definition, ideas of the memory are exact copies of impressions, while ideas of the imagination change and transpose them. But this difference is not adequate to distinguish them to the mind in operation, since we can never compare present ideas against past impres¬ sions to decide whether they are exact copies or not.73 If we regard ideas of the memory as closer to original impressions than ideas of the imagination, this must be because they are “more lively and strong,” that is, they have more of the force and vivacity that characterize original impressions. “Thus it appears, that the belief or assent, which always attends the memory and the senses, is nothing but the vivacity of those perceptions they present; and that this alone distinguishes them from the imagination. To believe is in this case to feel an immediate impression of the senses, or a repetition of that impression in the memory. ’Tis merely the force and liveliness of the perception, which constitutes the first act of the judgment, and lays the foundation of that reasoning, which we build upon it, when we trace the relation of cause and effect.”74 So far so good. With only a little manipulation of earlier definitions, Hume was able to generate a definition of belief from his initial distinction between memory and the imagination. However, we habitually believe many things that are beyond our personal experience and do not therefore derive their force and vivacity from the direct operation of our memory. Hume’s next step was therefore to apply the definition of belief to such ideas of the imagination, in order to show how we distinguish those we accept as true from those we reject as fiction. He first insisted that, as far as the conception itself is concerned, there is no difference between the idea in which I believe and the idea in which I do not believe. If the difference between truth and fiction does not rest in any difference in the nature of the ideas received, then it must rest in a difference in the manner in which they are conceived. “ ’Tis certain, that the belief super-adds nothing to the idea, but only changes our manner of conceiving it, and renders it more strong and lively.”75 But how was it possible to account for this greater liveliness of one idea of the imagination over another? To this question, Hume gave a simple answer; by the power of custom “to which I attribute all belief and reasoning.”76 In interpreting the meaning of custom in this respect, however, he began to encounter some fundamental difficulties. Hume had already pointed out in his discussion of memory and imagination that ideas of the memory are not always superior in force and vivacity to ideas of the imagination. The more recent the memory, he argued, the more forceful it is; as the original impression recedes in time, so the copy of that impression in the memory loses its force and vivacity

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until it becomes no more powerful than an idea of the imagination. Conversely, an idea of the imagination may also acquire “such force and vivacity, as to pass for an idea of the memory, and counterfeit its effects on the belief and judgment.” Frequent and habitual repetition of lies, for example, gradually infuses them with such force and vigor that the liar eventually comes to believe them, “custom and habit having in this case, as in many others, the same influence on the mind as nature.”77 The same effect, Hume insisted, could be achieved by education, which he here understood to mean the inculcation of ideas through habitual repetition. The greater part of the opinions prevailing among mankind derive from the customary effects of education in this sense, Hume ventured to assert, rather than from the more acceptable philosophical bases of reason and experience. “But as education is an artificial and not a natural cause, and as its maxims are frequently contrary to reason, and even to themselves in different times and places, it is never upon that account recogniz’d by philosophers; tho’ in reality it be built almost on the same foundation of custom and repetition as our reasonings from causes and effects.”78 Here, as Passmore has shown, Hume found himself presented with a radical problem. To accept prejudices that had been inculcated by customary repetition as based on the same foundation as the reasonings “recogniz’d by philosophers” was to subvert all knowledge, destroying the moral sciences in the very act of creating them. To resolve this dilemma, Hume reached for a distinction between two definitions of the term “imagination.” In the first usage, as “the faculty, by which we form our fainter ideas,” it is distinguished from the memory, which provides us with more forceful ideas “ty’d down” to impressions. In the second usage, imagination is to be distinguished not only from memory but also from reason. In this sense, it signifies “the same faculty (by which we form our fainter ideas) excluding only our demonstrative and probable reason¬ ings.”79 Now Hume’s first definition of belief, in terms of the force and vivacity of ideas, accounted for the distinction between imagination and memory. It was not adequate, as his discussion of education clearly revealed, to support the weight of the distinction between imagination and reason. It was therefore essential for the moral scientist to modify the definition in some way: for “as our assent to all probable reasonings is founded on the vivacity of ideas, it resembles many of those whimsies and prejudices, which are rejected under the opprobrious character of being the offspring of the imagination.”80 Hume was able to distinguish between belief in probable reasoning and that in “whimsies and prejudices” by distinguishing between two kinds of custom acting on belief. Education, although customary, is “an artifical and not a natural cause.” Wrong (or incorrect) belief therefore owes its vivacity to unnatural custom; while right (or correct) belief must owe its vivacity to natural custom.81 What then is natural custom in this sense? Here Hume extended the reasoning he had used in first discussing memory and imagination. Memory owes its naturally greater force and liveliness to the fact that it is “ty’d down” to original impressions. Right belief must also be shown to derive its force and liveliness from the same natural source.

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Suppose that in all past experience we have found two objects constantly in conjunction. It follows that, should one of these objects be again presented to us as an impression, custom naturally leads us to the idea that usually attends it. At the same time, this customary transition is so easy that much of the force and liveliness of the impression is transferred to the associated idea: which is to say that we believe it more firmly than “any loose floating image of the fancy.”82 In this way, belief in our probable reasonings concerning matters of fact is accounted for by the effects of natural custom —that is, by the customary association of certain ideas and impressions in sensory experience —and can be distinguished from the mere “whimsies and prejudices” of the imagination based on unnatural custom, that is, the mere repetition of ideas in the abstract, divorced from primary sensory experience. Thus Hume gave a second definition of belief which anchored acceptable scientific reasoning in the same way as the first definition had anchored the ideas of the memory: by direct relation to an impression. “An opinion, therefore, or belief may be most accurately defin’d, A LIVELY IDEA RELATED TO OR ASSOCIATED WITH A PRESENT IMPRESSION.”83 Hume elaborated this definition at some length, using it to build up our mental picture of the world from first impressions. Ideas of the memory, most closely related to these impressions, stand out in the mind on account of their greater force and liveliness. Thus the first act of the mind is to organize these “ideas or impressions of the memory” (Hume is still not quite sure what to call them) into “a kind of system, comprehending whatever we remember to have been present, either to our internal perception or senses; and every particular of that system join’d, to the present impressions, we are pleas’d to call a reality.”84 This is the first sys¬ tem of the mind, the system of the memory and senses, which links present impressions and ideas of the memory into the lively pattern of ideas we call reality. But the mind finds another system of ideas constantly associated with the first through the essential link of present impressions. This is the system of the judgment, which deals with statements of fact beyond our immediate experience. Finding that this second system is constantly and habitually associated with the first, “by custom, or if you will, by the relation of cause or effect,” the mind confers upon it the same vivacity as the system of the memory and accepts it, too, as a system of reality.85 Hume has here refined his definition of belief even further. He no longer speaks of it as merely “a lively idea related to or associated with a present impression,” though this is still implicit in his account of the relationship between the system of the memory and the system of the judgment. In effect, he adds two further points to his definition. First, ideas of correct or rational belief (the system of the judgment) are associated with the perceptions of the memory through present impressions, in a relationship that “admits not of the least change.”86 Second, these ideas are connected to impressions “by custom, or if you will, by the relation of cause or effect.” Thus modified, the definition of belief must read: a lively idea related in a fixed and regular manner to a present impression, by custom or the relation of cause and effect. Why the change? What is the

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significance of “or if you will” in the phrase “custom, or if you will, by the relation of cause or effect”? This becomes clear in the subsequent para¬ graphs of Hume’s discussion. He has evidently realized that the second definition of belief, though a considerable advance over the first, is still not entirely adequate to distinguish fantasy from correct belief and to establish a secure epistemological basis for scientific knowledge. Belief is “a lively idea related to or associated with a present impression.” But exactly what relations or associations are involved in this definition? Three relations between ideas are possible: that of contiguity, that of resemblance, and that of cause and effect. Yet neither contiguity nor resemblance alone can yield the regular and fixed system of belief that is “recogniz’d by philosophers,” while at the same time ruling out credulity and superstition. By very definition, contiguity alone does not imply constant association: if we are to believe any idea that the mind happens to form immediately after an impression, then there can be no way of distinguishing science from the purest caprice. Similarly, a poet may give added force and liveliness to his description of the Elysian fields by drawing a resemblance to a beautiful field and meadow within experience: if we are to accept resemblance alone as the relation between a belief and a present impression, then there can be no way of distinguishing between the real and the poetical, between science and the arts of imagination.87 The conclusion is clear. If resemblance leads only to credulity and contiguity to caprice, then only the relation of cause and effect can give an adequate —that is, a regular and settled —basis for scientific conviction. Thus, in his final definition of belief, Hume substi¬ tuted for the phrase, “by custom, or if you will, by the relation of cause or effect,” the clear insistence that correct belief comes only from custom and the relation of cause and effect. All this, and everything else, which I believe, are nothing but ideas; tho’ by their force and settled order, arising from custom and the relation of cause and effect, they distinguish themselves from the other ideas, which are merely the offspring of the imagination.88 In consequence, Hume’s third and final definition of belief insisted that “we can never be induc’d to believe any matter of fact, except where its cause, or its effect, is present to us.”89 As Passmore has suggested, “what started out as a theory of belief has become, with no explicit acknowledg¬ ment of the fact, a theory of what it is rational to believe.”90 Hume started by arguing that belief is a simple matter of the liveliness of ideas: “ ’Tis not solely in poetry and music, we must follow our taste and sentiment, but likewise in philosophy.”91 He concluded the discussion of belief in the Appendix by arguing that far more is involved than mere liveliness of ideas. Indeed, we must be careful not to follow our taste and sentiment in philosophy without caution, lest we should find no way of distinguishing it from poetry and the arts of the imagination. A poetical description may, for example, have a much more lively effect upon the mind than an historical account. But no matter how lively it is, “the ideas it presents are different to the feeling from those, which arise from the memory and the judgment. There is something weak and imperfect amidst all that seeming

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vehemence of thought and sentiment, which attends the fictions of poetry."92 We must therefore learn to distinguish between the degree of liveliness and the quality of liveliness in an idea. In poetry and eloquence, liveliness is ‘‘accidental” to the individual idea, which is why it remains in some way “weak and imperfect” in quality while nevertheless strong in degree. In ideas arising from the memory and the judgment, however, the liveliness of an idea derives from its constant association with the system of reality. It is not only forceful in degree, but has a certain quality of strength and steadiness. Thus we must learn to distinguish poetical enthusiasm from serious conviction more by the quality than by the mere degree of liveliness attached to an idea. In other words, we must learn to resist the habit of “augmenting our belief upon every encrease of the force and vivacity of our ideas.”93 How can this be done? By observing “that the great difference in their feeling proceeds in some measure from reflexion and general rules."94 If, then, we wish to distinguish rational belief from superstition, indoctrination, and credulity on the one hand, and poetical enthusiasm on the other, we must learn to do so by understanding the general rules of philosophizing and reflecting on the relationship between cause and effect. In the light of such reflection, Hume argued, it becomes clear that all rational beliefs do not command the same degree of assent. Hume’s reasoning up to this stage had rested on the accepted distinction between knowledge and probability: between relations of ideas proved demonstra¬ tively and matters of fact known from experience. He now insisted that while this dichotomy was logically valid, it was not entirely adequate, either for a rational theory of belief, or for a theory of what it is rational to believe. As a truth of experience, the assertion that the sun will rise tomorrow is indeed only probable. Yet it has such a high degree of probability that we commonly regard it as beyond the slightest doubt. In order then to account adequately for the various “degrees of belief and assurance,” Hume found it necessary to replace the simple distinction between knowledge and probability with a more complex one. He accordingly distinguished between knowledge, “the assurance arising from the comparison of ideas”; proofs, “those arguments, which are deriv’d from the relation of cause and effect, and which are entirely free from doubt and uncertainty”; and probabilities, “that evidence which is still attended with uncertainty.”95 Knowledge Hume had already dealt with, insofar as it interested him. Proofs he regarded as adequately treated, at least for the moment, in his discussion of causality and belief. He therefore turned his attention to probabilities. Hume’s first approach was to distinguish between “probability of chances” and “probability of causes.” However, it soon emerged from his discussion that this was a false distinction. Mathematicians had established the principle of the equiprobability of chances as the basic assumption of the calculus of probabilities. Unless the chance that a die will fall on one side is regarded as equal to the chance that it will fall on any other side, Hume pointed out, there can be no rational basis for calculating the probability of chances in the manner developed by the mathematicians.

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But Hume insisted that this assumption —“acknowledg’d by every one, that forms calculations concerning chances”96 —rests entirely upon a further one: the assumption that there are certain causes constantly and uniformly operating on the behavior of the die. In calculating the probability of chances, we are in effect calculating a priori the probability of the causes that we assume to be acting. Hume concluded that the probability of chances is merely a special case of the more general probability of causes. “What I have said concerning the probability of chances can serve no other purpose, than to assist us in explaining the probability of causes; since ’tis commonly allow’d by philosophers, that what the vulgar call chance is nothing but a secret and conceal’d cause. That species of probability, therefore, is what we must chiefly examine.”97 In examining probability of causes, Hume in fact found not one species of probability but three, each of them “receiv’d by philosophers, and allow’d to be reasonable foundations of belief and opinion.”98 Belief in matters of fact varies with two conditions: the constancy of the conjunction of certain ideas or objects in past experience; the degree of resemblance of the present object to any one of those experienced in the past. “Without some degree of resemblance, as well as union, ’tis impossible there can be any reasoning: but as this resemblance admits of many different degrees, the reasoning becomes proportionately more or less firm and certain.”99 Probabilities arising from analogy or resemblance, and varying with the degree of resemblance between present impressions and past ones, are therefore one kind of probability. Hume also found two species of probability related to the other condition of belief: the constancy of the conjunction of certain ideas or objects in past experience. The first of these derives from “imperfect,” or more precisely, insufficient experience. Our belief increases with the frequency of the events concerned. The first instance has little or no effect on us; the second scarcely more; the third only a little more. Gradually our assurance increases by degrees in such a way that “the gradation, therefore, from probabilities to proofs is in many cases insensible.”100 Logically and chronologically, this is the first species of probability. With only a very limited experience, the infant knows nothing else. As his experience accumulates, he mounts by way of probabilities to proofs. Thus Hume maintained of this kind of probability that “no one, who is arriv’d at the age of maturity, can any longer be acquainted with it.”101 The probabilities that remain are more complicated, since they usually rest on experience that is not so much insufficient as contradictory. Certain events or objects are found now in conjunction with some events or objects, now in conjunction with others. This contrariety in experience operates in two ways to yield what Hume called “hesitating belief.” In the first case, our habitual tendency to envisage the future in terms of the past leads the mind instinctively to ignore the few contrary cases in favor of what has most generally occurred. Here the habit of belief is “imperfect” or “not entire” in the sense that it is not based on full consideration of past causes. “When the conjunction of any two objects is frequent, without being entirely constant, the mind is determin’d to pass from one object to the

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other; but not with so entire a habit, as when the union is uninterrupted, and all the instances we have ever met with are uniform and of a piece.”102 This kind of probability Hume also regarded as uncommon. More often, contrary cases are frequent enough in experience that they are not overlooked in this way. We consciously take them into consideration, weighing them and comparing them in such a way that “our reasonings of this kind arise not directly from the habit, but in an oblique manner” as the effect of reasoning.103 In this case, in which he included all our reasoning concerning the mathematical probability of chances, Hume argued that the habit of mind which leads us to expect the future to resemble the past is divided against itself, operating in favor of each of the contrary events that have occurred. “The first impulse, therefore, is here broke into pieces, and diffuses itself over all those images, of which each partakes an equal share of that force and vivacity, that is deriv’d from the impulse. Any of these past events may again happen; and we judge, that when they do happen, they will be mix’d in the same proportion as in the past.”104 The probability of any event, in other words, is derived from the ratio of the frequency of the cases in which it has occurred to the frequency of similar cases in which it has not occurred, each individual case being given equal arithmetical weight. Presented with such contrarieties in experience, my belief is divided and hesitating between the two eventualities: I come to a decision only when my belief in one of these eventualities overwhelms my belief in the other by sheer numerical weight of the number of cases involved. “The only manner then, in which the superior number of similar component parts in the one can exert its influence, and prevail above the inferior in the other, is by producing a stronger and more lively view of its object. . nor is there anything but a superior vivacity in the probability, arising from the concurrence of a superior number of views, which can distinguish these effects.”105 Probability from imperfect experience, from contrary causes, and from analogy: these then are the legitimate species of belief in probability. But in addition to these philosophical probabilities, Hume found that there were unphilosophical probabilities based on a misapplication of the same principles. In philosophical probability, a constant conjunction of certain ideas in the past enlivens the present conception of those ideas to produce belief. The degree of belief is produced cumulatively and quantitatively: past events being equal in their effects upon the understanding, the vivacity of belief is produced by the constancy of past experience and the frequency with which events have occurred. However, the vivacity of a conception, and hence the degree of belief, can also be enlivened by other factors in experience than frequency and constancy of conjunction. An experience that is recent and fresh in our memory has more force than one that is more remote in time: “and tho’ the difference in these degrees of evidence be not receiv’d by philosophy as solid and legitimate; because in that case an argument must have a different force today, from what it shall have a month hence; yet notwithstanding the opposition of philosophy, ’tis certain, this circumstance has a considerable influence on the under-

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standing, and secretly changes the authority of the same argument. 106 Nor is this the only factor that secretly corrupts philosophical probability. A very lively or dramatic impression has greater effect on our belief than a fainter one, even though the fainter one may be more frequently re¬ peated.107 In this way the arithmetical equality of past experiences —the essential foundation of rational belief in probability —is overthrown, and philosophical probability degenerates into unphilosophical. In addition to these species of unphilosophical probability, based on corruption of the principle of constant conjunction, Hume also found a further one based on the degeneration of resemblance. This unphilo¬ sophical probability “is that deriv’d from general rules, which we rashly form to ourselves, and which are the source of what we properly call PREJUDICE.”108 In this sense, prejudice means an exaggerated tendency to find resemblances and a consequent failure to distinguish clearly between ideas. In almost all relations of cause and effect, and thus in almost all matters of fact, there are some circumstances that are essential to the relation and some that are accidental, even though commonly present. If the latter are numerous, striking, and constant enough, they come to have an influence on the understanding. As a result, when they are then found divorced from the essential circumstances with which they are customarily related, the mind nevertheless follows its usual habit in expecting them to be accompanied by the usual effects. In doing so, it finds a false resemblance between the cases where the essential and necessary circum¬ stances were present and that where only the accidental circumstances are present. “We may correct this propensity by a reflection on the nature of those circumstances; but ’tis still certain, that custom takes the start, and gives a biass to the imagination.”109 The suggestion that reflection can in such cases correct the bias of the imagination is, by Hume’s own admission, a puzzling one. He had originally argued that “according to my system, all reasonings are nothing but the effects of custom; and custom has no influence, but by inlivening the imagination.”110 This seemed to imply that there could be no disparity between reason and the imagination, since both were the effect of custom. How then could reason now be expected to correct the unphilosophical bias of the imagination? Hume insisted that the difficulty could be resolved “by no other manner, than by supposing the influence of general rules... by which we ought to regulate our judgment concerning causes and effects.”111 He therefore outlined eight rules of philosophizing that comprised “all the LOGIC I think proper to employ in my reasoning,” the effect of which was to distinguish “accidental circumstances” from “effica¬ cious causes.”112 According to these rules, once we find that an effect can be produced without the occurrence of certain circumstances which have usually been associated with it, we must conclude that these circumstances do not form part of the efficacious cause, no matter how frequently they are found in conjunction with the effect. Nevertheless, as we have already seen, this frequent conjunction con¬ tinues to have some effect on the imagination, despite the contrary conclusion suggested by the general rules. The result is that here, as in the

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case of probability of chances, our belief is once again divided against itself. Rationalists have seen this as an opposition between reason and imagination. “The general rule is attributed to our judgment; as being more extensive and constant. The exception to the imagination; as being more capricious and uncertain.”113 More properly, Hume insisted, it is an opposition stemming from contradictory applications of the general rules. When an object appears which substantially resembles any cause, we are immediately carried to “a lively conception of the usual effect,” for the general rules suggest that like causes produce like effects. But when we consider more carefully the differences between this object and the cause, finding that it is different in important respects, we see that our earlier opinion was “of an irregular nature, and destructive of all the most established principles of reasoning. ” Yet this latter judgment is no less the consequence of the general rules than the earlier judgment that it corrects. There is no opposition between reason and the imagination. The opposi¬ tion is between beliefs each based on general rules; or more precisely, between a belief based on “general rules, which we rashly form to ourselves,” and one which has been corrected “by a reflection on the nature of the circumstances.” Sometimes the one, sometimes the other prevails, according to the disposition and character of the person. The vulgar are commonly guided by the first, and wise men by the second. Mean while the sceptics may here have the pleasure of observing a new and signal contradiction in our reason, and of seeing all philosophy ready to be subverted by a principle of human nature, and again sav’d by a new direction of the very same principle. The following of general rules is a very unphilosophical species of probability; and yet ’tis only by following them that we can correct this, and all other unphilo¬ sophical probabilities.114 This conclusion is worth emphasizing. In the operation of the understand¬ ing, as in the domain of conduct, “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”115 Yet reason is a more or less enlightened slave; and while it cannot oppose the imagination, it can inform it more or less effectively. For Hume, prejudice (or unphilosophical probability) can be, must be, and often is corrected by reflection in accordance with general rules “form’d on the nature of our understanding, and on our experience of its operations in the judgments we form concerning objects.”116 In this discussion of probabilities —philosophical and unphilosophical — Hume followed the essential pattern of his earlier discussion of belief by moving from an analysis of how we come to a belief in probabilities to a statement of how we are to decide in which probabilities to believe. At first sight, however, he would also appear to have come full circle. His original discussion of belief started by adopting what might be called a quantitative approach, by emphasizing the degree of liveliness of an idea as deter¬ mining the degree of belief in it. Finding that this analysis presented difficulties in terms of a theory of what it is rational to believe, Hume then moved towards a more qualitative definition of right belief by stressing the quality of the liveliness of an idea rather than its mere degree. In his

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distinction between philosophical and unphilosophical probability, on the other hand, the argument was reversed. Hume once again tried to reduce philosophical belief to an implicitly quantitative model by arguing that philosophical probability degenerates into unphilosophical probability under two general conditions: when the mind ceases to weigh each event in past experience against the others as an arithmetical equal; or when it confuses the operation of this mental calculus by a mistaken analogy between the cases. Yet although he appears to oscillate between quan¬ titative and qualitative descriptions of acceptable knowledge, there is an underlying unity to his thinking on this point. The basic nature of his epistemological model of such knowledge has remained unchanged. This model can now be stated, in summary, in the following way. Correct knowledge is knowledge of experience, which Hume regarded as consisting essentially of a steady stream of discrete (but homogeneous and equal) perceptions, acting cumulatively upon the mind. This data the mind receives as a kind of sorting and calculating machine: classifying each perception and adding individual perceptions of each kind to a quantitative cumulative score for that kind. In terms of this model, incorrect knowledge —whether unphilosophical probability or poetical enthusiasm —disturbs the operation of the epistemological calculus by distorting either the equality of individual perceptions or their homo¬ geneity in the steady flow of experience. The misleading degree of liveliness or vivacity in poetical enthusiasm, which Hume rejected in his first discussion of belief, disturbs the postulated equality of the units of past experience just as does the unphilosophical quality of liveliness, which he rejected in his later analysis. On the other hand, the quality of strength and steadiness that he regarded as distinguishing serious conviction from poetical enthusiasm derives from exactly the gradually quantitative accu¬ mulation of equal units of experience that he presented as the hallmark of philosophical probability. No matter how lively our poetical enthusiasm, it is “weak and imperfect” because it does not derive from the steadily accumulating data of experience that it is the function of the under¬ standing to organize on the basis of “reflexion and general rules.” The place of Hume’s general rules in his philosophical scheme thus becomes clear: their function is to reduce the data of experience to discrete, homogeneous, and equal perceptions susceptible of being processed by the mind, as it were arithmetically, into an aggregate of correct belief. For Hume, no less than for the Encyclopedists, right reason therefore reduced itself to a kind of calculus. This calculus involved three basic postulates: ignorance of the essential causes of events; the equal phenomenological weight of events; the determined order of events. These postulates are necessary because in our ignorance of the essential nature of things, we can never demonstrate rationally the causes that might produce any one event rather than another. Logically speaking, all combinations of ideas (or events) are to be regarded a priori as equally possible. But since events are logically indifferent (which is another way of saying that we have no sufficient reason for associating any one idea or event with any other), our beliefs must

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consequently be derived from habitual acquaintance with the combina¬ tions of events in experience. If these beliefs are to be correctly founded, we must learn to respect the equal phenomenological weight of each event and to discover the regular and constant configuration of events in experience by accurately assigning each to the class of similar events in the past. It should be emphasized here that while Hume denied our ability to demonstrate the relationship of causality, he was far from denying its actual existence. The basic assumption of a determined order of phenom¬ ena is the very foundation of his epistemology. The regularity and constancy of our experience (and hence of correct belief) derives only from our position in a regular, constant, and determined order of nature. Objectively, Hume insisted, there is no such thing as chance; there is only subjective ignorance of causes, that is, an inability to fit a succession of phenomena into the ordered sequences we designate as cause and effect. If these three postulates can be correctly regarded as the foundation of Hume’s doctrine of rational belief, then it is surely significant that they are brought together explicitly in only one place during his discussion of knowledge and probability: in the chapter on the probability of chances. Indeed, each of these three postulates was basic to the classic theory of probability, as it was being laid down by mathematicians from the time of Jacob Bernoulli to that of Laplace. In effect, one of Hume’s most important contributions to the logic of probable knowledge was to assimilate rational belief to the mathematical model of the probability of chances. This aspect of his thinking is worth noting, the more so as he tends to appear in discussions of the philosophy of probability only as a negative critic, one of the few writers in the eighteenth century to see through the more naive rationalistic presuppositions of the developing theory of probabilities.117 Certainly, Hume criticized the rationalistic pretensions of the mathematicians, arguing that probability rested on no other authority than habitual belief and rejecting as no more than tautological their claim to pronounce with certainty the probable outcome of chance events. Yet in the general eighteenth-century context of his thinking, these criticisms are less important for the theory of probability than other aspects of his thought. Hume, in effect, brought together the probability of the philosophers and the probability of the mathematicians. It is to this latter that we must now turn, if we are to appreciate the importance of Hume’s analysis to a mathematician such as Condorcet. The Science of the Probable:

Bernoulli to Laplace

The story of the chevalier de Mere, the mathematically-minded gamester who brought the problem of points to the attention of Pascal in 1654, is a familiar one in the history of probability theory. In the subsequent correspondence between Pascal and Fermat, the calculus of probabilities was born, and with it the germs of the modern mathematical theory of decision-making.118 In essence, Pascal was asked to estimate what would be a fair division of the stake between two players unable to finish a game of chance, taking into account the expectations and risks that would be involved if the game were played to completion. In his formulation of the

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problem, the mathematician drew upon a body of reasoning developed by jurists concerned to establish the grounds for equity in such “aleatory contracts” as gaming, maritime insurance, and life annuities, and to explore the notions of risk and expectation in contracts particularly subject to contingencies that might prevent their fulfillment (for example, shares in maritime commerce).119 Given this background, it is perhaps not sur¬ prising that the calculus of probabilities, once elaborated in terms of games of chance, was quickly seized upon as potentially applicable to those probabilities in the social world for which the jurists had prepared the field. Nor is it surprising that it was Leibniz —the mathematical genius concerned from his youth with the problem of formalizing the rationale of judicial evidence —who first conceived the possibility of generalizing its applications in a logic of probable knowledge.120 “I have more than once insisted on the necessity for a new kind of logic that would treat the degrees of probability,” Leibniz maintained in the Nouveaux essais sur I’entendement humain. “It would be well for whoever would want to treat this matter to pursue the investigation of games of chance; and in general I wish a skilful mathematician would undertake a comprehensive and systematically reasoned work on all sorts of games, something which would be of great utility for perfecting the art of discovery since the human mind displays itself better in games than in the most serious matters.”121 Like many other projects conceived by this most fertile of human minds, the idea of a mathematical logic of the probable was never realized by Leibniz. However, the task he envisaged in the Nouveaux essais was already being taken up by exactly such a skilful mathematician as he wished for: Jacob Bernoulli, now usually regarded as the true founder of the classical theory of probabilities. Bernoulli died in 1705, leaving his work unfinished, perhaps a year after Leibniz had completed the Nouveaux essais. Yet by the time that this latter work was finally published, fifty years later, Leibniz’s demand for a mathematical logic of probable reasoning seemed already on the verge of fulfillment. That this should be so was in great measure the result of the influence of Bernoulli’s Ars conjectandi, published posthumously in 1713.122 In this work, Condorcet later insisted, Bernoulli “seemed to recognize more clearly than anyone the full potential of the applications of this calculus, and the manner in which it could be extended to almost all questions subject to reasoning.”123 As left by its author, the Ars conjectandi comprised four principal parts. The first consisted of Huyghens’ treatise, De ratiociniis in ludo aleae, reprinted with annotations by Bernoulli; the second dealt with questions of permutations and combinations; the third applied the findings of the preceding part to selected problems related to games of chance. It was only in the unfinished fourth part, Usum & applicationem praecedentis doctrinae in civilibus, moralibus & oeconomiciis, that Bernoulli turned to his main theme: the definition of the nature and scope of the art of probable reasoning in questions of civil life. He began, significantly enough, not with a definition of probability but with a discussion of certainty. The certainty of an event, he insisted, can be regarded as objective or

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subjective: relative to the event itself, or simply to our knowledge of it. In terms of this distinction, all events must be viewed as objectively certain, since divine prescience and divine predetermination exclude even the possibility of contingency. The subjective certainty of an event, however — that is, “the degree of our knowledge concerning this truth”— varies from one event to another according to the extent of our knowedge. Probability is thus defined in this context as “a degree of certainty, from which it differs as a part to the whole.”124 The fall of the die is no less determined than the eclipse of the sun: “it is certain that, given its position, its speed, its distance from the gaming table at the moment it leaves the thrower’s hand, it cannot fall otherwise than the way in which it actually falls.”125 The apparent contingency in this event is entirely relative to our knowledge of it: or, more precisely, to our ignorance of the complex sequence of causes which makes it objectively certain that it can occur in no other way than that in which it does occur. In calculating the chances involved in throwing a die, then, the mathematicians are dealing with a special class of events. But the defining characteristic of these events is not ontological but epistemological. The successive throws of a die do not constitute a unique class of aleatory events contingent in themselves. Instead, they must be regarded as a particular class of determined events in which the outcomes can be reduced by definition to a certain number of equiprobable chances, subject to calculation by the mathematicians.126 The principle of equiprobability here announced was the very basis of the classical theory of probabilities and, indeed, the only postulate that made numerical calculation of the probability of chances possible. “This principle, simple as it appears, is infinitely fertile,” argued the author of the article on probability in the Encyclope'die, who drew heavily upon the fourth part of Bernoulli’s Ars conjectandi: “on this basis are founded all the calculations that have been and can be made concerning games of chance, lotteries, insurance, and all the probabilities susceptible of calculation in general.”127 But what exactly did Bernoulli mean when he argued that there is no reason why any one face of the die should fall rather than another? What is the special characteristic of the die that makes this statement possible? Bernoulli’s answer, in effect, was that dice are made that way. “The first inventors. . . instituted [games of chance] in such a way that the number of cases are certain and known. . . and that all these cases can obtain with equal facility. . . .The number of cases is known in dice playing; there are clearly as many cases as there are sides and all are equally likely. Because of the similarity of the faces and uniform weight of the die, there is no reason why one of the faces should be more likely to fall than another, as might happen if the faces were dissimilar or the die was made of heavier material in one part than another.”128 Since there is no reason why one face of the die should fall rather than another, it follows that the likelihood of any one face falling must be regarded as equal to that of any other. This probability can therefore be calculated as the ratio of the chance that the die will fall on that face to the sum of the equiprobable chances that it will fall on any of the others. Clearly, this is true by definition of what we regard as a normal die. But

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if we take a die and throw a hundred sixes in as many throws, we must come to the conclusion that we are not here dealing with a normal die, that is, there is some reason why one face should fall rather than any of the others. In the light of this argument, Bernoulli’s principle of equiprobability becomes an implicit consequence of our ignorance of the causes determining events; and it comes to mean that as long as there is no known reason for regarding any one possible outcome of an event as more probable than another, we are justified in considering all possible out¬ comes (and by extension all possible causes determining these outcomes) as equally probable. “In fact, it is only by a supposition relative to our limited knowledge, that we say (for example) that all the sides of a die can fall equally,” the article on probability in the Encyclopedie emphasized. But this is only true because in our ignorance of the causes that will affect the throw of the die “we have no reason to prefer one side to any other, and we therefore suppose them all equally likely to fall.”129 This principle of relative ignorance or insufficient reason (more explicitly formulated by Laplace) seemed to make it possible to apply the calculus of probabilities to any event in experience, when we are ignorant of its causes. It would be difficult to exaggerate the potential power of Bernoulli’s argument for his successors. As Boudot has emphasized, so long as the calculus of probabilities was regarded as relevant only to a certain category of events that were considered as objectively contingent in themselves, its field of application was severely restricted. As soon as probability was defined as relative not to events in themselves, but to our subjective knowledge (or ignorance) of them, this limitation on the application of the calculus was removed. It became the foundation of an art of probable reasoning applicable, as Bernoulli insisted, to all the probabilities of human life and conduct. To conjecture is to measure the probability of something: and the Art of Conjecture, or the Stochastic Art, is therefore defined as the art of measuring as exactly as possible the probabilities of things, in order that in our judgments and actions we can always choose or follow that which it would be better, safer, more preferable and more considered to take. In this alone consists all the wisdom of the Philosopher and the prudence of the Statesman.130 It was this Bernoullian vision of a mathematical science of conduct, theoretically applicable to all the probabilities of life, that was to dominate Condorcet’s conception of social science. Yet although Bernoulli regarded the art of conjecture as comprising “all the wisdom of the Philosopher and the prudence of the Statesman,” his definition of its scope was still restricted by other aspects of his thinking, most clearly among them the rationalist conception of science in terms of which he presented his analysis. “Those things that are certain and indubitable, we regard as known scientifically or evidently," Bernoulli argued: “all others are in the realm of conjecture or opinion,”131 The text of the Ars conjectandi makes it quite clear that Bernoulli’s intention was to develop the art of probable reasoning as it had been discussed in the

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concluding chapters of the Logique (or Ars cogitandi) of Port-Royal, which it was intended to complement. It is equally clear that in his discussion of probability Bernoulli retained all the traditional bias of that work in favor of demonstrative reasoning. Having defined the art of conjecture, he pro¬ ceeded to enumerate a number of general rules governing its use, which were reproduced more or less directly in the article on probability in the Encyclopedic. The most important of these rules “which mere reason usually dictates to the solitary man of sound mind, and which are also constantly observed by the more prudent in the conduct of civil life,”132 defined more exactly the scope and extent of probable reasoning by insisting on the gap that divided it from scientific demonstration. Thus Bernoulli laid down as his first rule that there is no place for conjecture concerning things in which complete certainty may be obtained. In uncertain and doubtful matters, indeed, action should in principle be suspended until more certain knowledge is possible. Only if the occasion allows for no delay should that action be taken which appears to be the most prudent and the most probable.133 While Bernoulli therefore opened the way to a social science theoretically founded on the application of the calculus of probabilities to the probable experience of human life and conduct, he still maintained the traditional epistemological divide between the probable truths of such an art and the demonstrable, or scientific, certainty that he regarded as achievable in the physical sciences. Probability, no matter how precisely calculated, was still second best to the demonstrable certainty of the traditional definition of science. Moreover, while Bernoulli’s insistence on the principle of deter¬ minism logically implied a definition of probability as subjective rather than objective —that is, relative to our knowledge of things rather than to things in themselves —his discussion of the principle of equiprobability (or equipossibility) did not remain altogether consistent with this distinction. Indeed, as Hacking has suggested, one of the chief advantages of the principle of equipossibility was that it could serve ambivalently to cover both objective and subjective definitions.134 Bernoulli’s argument for the prin¬ ciple of equiprobability was that the physical characteristics of the die make all faces equally likely (omnes deque proclives). In other words, a normal die is such that there is an equal propensity for each face to fall. From this (a statement about the die) Bernoulli concluded that there is no reason to expect any one face to fall rather than another (a statement about our knowledge of the die). Logically, the statement that there is reason to expect each face to fall with equal propensity is not equivalent to the statement that there is no reason to expect one face rather than another. Given the definition of the normal die, the second statement becomes a corollary of the first. But can the principle of equiprobability, thereby arrived at, be logically extended as a principle relative to our knowledge (or ignorance) of the world at large? Hume’s analysis of belief seemed to validate exactly such an extension, in a manner that Bernoulli’s reasoning did not. In Hume’s philosophy the principle of equipossibility became an essential consequence of our ignorance of necessary connections. Since we can have no logical grounds for associating any one idea (or event) with another a priori, we

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must regard all combinations of ideas (or events) as equally possible. Only by right reasoning, according to regular rules of philosophizing which give equal phenomenological weight to events in experience, can we arrive, as if by a calculus, at an expectation of the probable recurrence of events we have experienced in the past.135 It is in this context that Hume’s discussion of probability seems to assume its true significance for the idea of social science in the Enlightenment. Hume, more consistently than Bernoulli, adopted a subjective definition of probability that opened up the probable domain of human experience to the potential role of the calculus of probabilities. More important, he also completely swept away the rationalistic restrictions that Bernoulli had placed on the extent of this rule, by denying the possibility of rational, or scientific, demonstration in any aspect of human knowledge. The effect of Hume’s analysis of belief was therefore to place the moral and the physical sciences together in a continuum of probable knowledge. If a mathematical art of conjecture were possible, it would apply not only to the probable truths of everyday life but to the entire realm of human thought and conduct. The implication of Hume’s philosophy was thus to invite the hope that all these probabilities might be evaluated by the application of the calculus of probabilities, in what would become a single, mathematical science applicable to the whole realm of human knowledge and understanding. Hume never explicitly drew this conclusion. Indeed, he seemed at times to preclude it. But we shall find that his analysis of rational, probable belief could be of considerable value to a mathematician like Condorcet, who discovered in the calculus of probabilities —a logic of probable knowledge applicable to all aspects of human experience and endeavor —the instru¬ ment that would establish the rational foundations of belief in the moral as in the physical sciences. “If almost all our truths are reducible to probabilities,” Helvetius main¬ tained in De I’esprit, “what gratitude would not be due to the man of genius who set himself to draw up physical, metaphysical, moral and political tables, in which would be indicated with precision all the various degrees of probability, and consequently of belief, that should be assigned to each opinion.”136 It was one thing to speculate on the possibility of such a science of probable knowledge. It was quite another to seek to establish it. This was an enterprise for mathematicians; and in attempting it Condorcet needed all his mathematical skill and not a little faith in his mathematical tools. The work had, indeed, been already set on foot by Jacob Bernoulli in the Ars conjectandi. Here Bernoulli presented to the public a theorem that he claimed to have kept to himself for twenty years: the solution of a problem that by its very novelty, its difficulty, and above all its great utility, would add value and dignity to all other branches of the theory of probabilities. In games of chance, he argued, precise calculation of the probabilities involved was possible because the number of equiprobable chances could be known certainly and a priori, by the very fact that they were implicit in the rules of the game. In the more important contingencies of human experience —in the chances of death, for example, as revealed by

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the mortality statistics of the nascent science of political arithmetic — neither of these conditions was fulfilled. A method was therefore necessary for the precise calculation of these contingencies a posteriori, that is, a method for estimating the probability of the recurrence of an event from the relative frequency of its occurrence. This empirical method of estimating the probabilities of experience was in fact neither new nor unusual, Bernoulli insisted: it was constantly followed in the everyday conduct of life, and rules for its practice had already been attempted in such works as the Logique of Port-Royal. However, a mathematical method of estimating these proba¬ bilities would make it possible to direct our conduct in the everyday contingencies of life “no less scientifically than in games of chance.”137 As a first step towards such a method, Bernoulli demonstrated the theorem that ultimately became the foundation of the theory of statistics. He showed that if the probability of an event’s occurrence under certain conditions is p, and these conditions are present on m occasions, then (i) the expected number of occurrences of the event is m p (m times p), and (ii) as m increases so does the probability that the proportion of times the event occurs will not diverge from the probable value p by more than a given amount a. In other words, assuming a normal die in which the probability of throwing a six is 1/6, then the proportion of sixes thrown in any number of throws is most likely to approximate to one-sixth, the probability that the proportion will not diverge from one-sixth beyond any given limit (say, plus or minus one thirty-sixth) increasing with the number of throws. As it stands, Bernoulli’s law (or the law of large numbers, as it is often known) did not establish directly the art of probable reasoning as he apparently hoped to found it. Nevertheless, it clearly laid the basis for the development of such an art. Its effect, insisted the author of the article on probability in the Encyclopedic, was to demonstrate that the experience of the past is a principle of probability for the future. It showed that we can justifiably expect future events in conformity with those that have occurred frequently in the past; and it provided a means of calculating the probabilities involved in this expectation in particular cases, on the basis of the observed frequency of events. This principle once accepted, it becomes clear how useful it would be, in questions of physics, politics and matters of everyday life, to have exact tables that would establish, on the basis of a long series of events, the proportion of those that arrive in a certain manner to those that arrive in other ways. The uses made of registers of births and deaths are so great that we must not only concentrate on perfecting them . . . but we must also draw up tables of several kinds of events that are very inappropriately described as the effects of chance; in this way, one could form tables that would indicate how many fires occur in a given time, how many epidemics break out in a certain period, how many ships [are lost], etc. This would be very useful for deciding an infinite number of practical questions, and it would give to careful young men all the experience of old age.138 It was evidently this inverse use of his theorem, which opened the way to a science of conduct by deriving the probability of an event from its observed frequency, that Bernoulli had regarded as most important. But while he

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demonstrated the law of large numbers in his unfinished work in its direct form, he never came to deal mathematically with its inverse applications. It was in England, under the particular influence that Newtonian philosophy took on there, that the mathematical foundations for this inverse use were eventually laid. Nor, perhaps, is this surprising. Several of the aspects of Newtonian philosophy that we have already noticed in other contexts would seem likely to foster such a concern with the mathematics of probability. Physics, as the Newtonian mathematicians came to understand it, rested on probabilities; to extend the mathematics of probability was therefore to extend the Newtonian search for the mathematical principles of natural philosophy. More fundamentally, Newtonian philosophers (as we have seen) came to insist that the laws observed in the universe were contingent upon the direct will of God, rather than necessarily implied in the nature of matter and motion. For this reason, they emphasized that the system of the world displayed a determinate order, in the sense that it followed the direct will of the Creator, rather than a determined order, in the sense that it was subject to laws necessarily (or hypothetically) implied in the existence of matter. It was for this reason that design — the order imparted by an intelligent Creator —became so central a term in English natural philosophy. By definition, design could not be demonstrated by reasoning from first principles of matter and motion: for such, as Clarke had insisted, would imply the motion of determinism or fate. Nor could it be demonstrated by reasoning from the principles informing God’s intelligent purpose, for these were by definition unknowable except to God. It followed, then, that the hand of the Creator could be discovered in his handiwork only by probable reasoning from observed events, which would reveal regularities in phenom¬ ena that could not be the work of chance (that is, mere necessity). For English mathematicians, then, probability was not (as it was for Bernoulli) relative to our ignorance of the laws of a determined world order that could (had we but the intelligence to know them) be demonstrated rationally. On the contrary, it revealed what Newton called “the Counsel and Contrivance of a voluntary Agent” in the only way possible, by reasoning from observed effects to probable causes.139 Some of these implications of Newtonian philosophy are clearly revealed in the work of Bernoulli’s most illustrious successor in the calculus of probabilities, Abraham de Moivre, whose Doctrine of Chances was first published in 1718. In the dedication of the first edition of his work to Newton, Moivre made clear that his ambition extended far beyond the probability of events in play that formed his ostensible subject. “I should think myself very happy,” he declared to the Prince of Philosophers, “if, having given my Readers a Method of calculating the Effects of Chance, as they are the result of Play, and thereby fix’d certain Rules, for estimating how far some sort of Events may rather be owing to Design than Chance, I could by this small Essay excite in others a desire of prosecuting these Studies, and of learning from your Philosophy how to collect, by a just Calculation, the Evidences of exquisite Wisdom and Design, which appear in the Phenomena of Nature throughout the Universe.”140 To establish this method, Moivre turned to “the hardest problem that can be proposed on the

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Subject of Chance,” namely the problem of estimating the probability of an event from its observed frequency (the inverse use of the law of large numbers). In this context, he demonstrated the more elegant and powerful version of Bernoulli's theorem that we now know as the normal distribution curve.141 Moivre considered the implication of this theorem in two remarks, added successively to the second and third editions of The Doctrine of Chances. In the first remark, he argued that his demonstration of the link between a priori and a posteriori probabilities —between the abstract probability of an event and its observed frequency —illustrated the existence of general laws even among apparently contingent phenomena. From what has been said, it follows, that Chance very little disturbs the Events which in their natural Institution were designed to happen or fail, according to some determinate Law. . . .And thus in all Cases it will be found, that alt ho’ Chance produces Irregularities, still the Odds will be infinitely great, that in process of Time, those Irregu¬ larities will bear no proportion to the recurrency of that Order which naturally results from ORIGINAL DESIGN.142 Having established this point, Moivre turned in the second remark to its corollary in inverse probability. For if it was possible to predict frequencies from the expression of probabilities, then it must also be possible to derive the probability of an event from its relative frequency. Thus the law of large numbers served to demonstrate the power of science to reduce even the most irregular phenomena to determinate laws, given sufficiently large numbers of observations. As, upon the Supposition of a certain determinate Law according to which any Event is to happen, we demonstrate that the Ratio of Happenings will continually approach to that Law, as the Experi¬ ments or Observations are multiplied: so conversely, if from number¬ less Observations we find the Ratio of the Events to converge to a determinate quantity, as to the Ratio of P to Q; then we conclude that this Ratio expresses the determinate Law according to which the Event is to happen.143 Moivre’s first impulse was to use this power to demonstrate yet again the existence of an original design by an all-powerful Maker, whose purpose it was “to preserve the stedfast Order of the Universe, to propogate the several Species of Beings, and furnish to the sentient kind such degrees of happiness as are suited to their State.”144 This, indeed, had been the purpose of one of the earliest exercises in the study of population statistics by John Arbuthnot, Physician in Ordinary to Queen Anne, who had used the evidence of a constant ratio of male to female births in London (in a proportion slightly favoring the male) as an argument for the existence of divine providence.145 Arbuthnot’s contention had been ridiculed by Nicolas Bernoulli, nephew of the author of Ars conjectandi, which work he prepared for publication. Following the London birth statistics utilized by Arbuthnot, Nicolas Bernoulli found a ratio of male to female births in the population of 18: 17. This proportion, he argued, would be quite compatible with the assumption

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that the ratio of male to female births was simply the result of chance: given a number of dice with 35 faces (18 white and 17 black) equal to the number of births in each year, there would be a high probability that the numbers of white and black faces thrown would approximate the total numbers of boys and girls in the tables.146 This argument was now attacked in its turn by Moivre on the grounds that Bernoulli had missed the point. Arbuthnot, he emphasized, had not argued from prior probabilities to frequencies: he did not assume a more or less equal ratio of male to female births as given and then feign surprise at the relative frequencies observed. On the contrary, he had inferred the probability from the observed frequencies to discover evidence of a design no less striking than that which would be exercised in the creation of Bernoulli’s hypothetical dice with 35 sides.147 Bernoulli’s error, Moivre therefore insisted, stemmed from a misunder¬ standing of the term “chance,” which he now defined in two senses. The first and legitimate sense meant, quite simply, the propensity of events to occur in particular ways given the existence and generally known properties of things. The second and illegitimate sense, invoked by Bernoulli as the antithesis of design, Moivre found quite meaningless. “That is a mere word,” he proclaimed in the language of Clarke’s replies to Leibniz. “The like may be said of some other words in frequent use: as fate, necessity, nature, a course of nature in counterdistinction to the Divine Energy. ”148 Thus the regularities observed in the universe could only be the effect of the direct will of the Creator: “the Inertia of matter, and the nature of all created Beings, rendering it impossible that anything should modify its own essence, or give to itself, or to anything else, an original determination or propensity.”149 In a sense, this argument undercut the very reasoning from probabilities that Moivre was seeking to sustain: for if all observed regularities were therefore the contrivance of an intelligent will, any regularity whatsoever revealed a design. This problem notwithstanding, Moivre drew the appropriate conclusion: that “if we blind not ourselves with metaphysical dust, we shall be led, by a short and obvious way, to the acknowledgment of the great MAKER and GOVERNOR of all; Himself all-wise, all-powerful and good.”150 Moivre’s formulation of the law of large numbers in the form of the normal distribution curve was a fundamental contribution to the develop¬ ment of the theory of probability. Yet despite the theological and scientific importance he clearly attributed to the inverse use of that law, he did not demonstrate these inverse applications mathematically. In fact, the first important attempt to deal with this problem did not appear in print until 1764, when the Philosophical Transactions published a posthumous paper by the Reverend Thomas Bayes, completed and communicated to the Royal Society by Richard Price in a letter read 23 December 1763.151 Again, the implications of this question for the argument from design were not neglected. Moivre, Price insisted, had revealed the significance of his demonstration of Bernoulli’s theorem by applying it to a very important purpose: “to shew what reason we have for believing that there are in the constitution of things fixt laws according to which events happen, and that, therefore, the frame of the world must be the effect of the wisdom and power

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of an intelligent cause.’’ Far more important for this purpose, however, was Bayes’s demonstration of the inverse of Bernoulli’s theorem: “for it shews us, with distinctness and precision, in every case of any particular order or recurrency of events, what reason there is to think that such recurrency or order is derived from stable causes or regulations in nature, and not from any of the irregularities of chance.”152 The aim of Bayes’s paper was to solve the following problem: given an event about which we know nothing except that it has occurred a number of times in given conditions and has failed to occur a number of times in the same conditions, estimate the probability that the chance of its happening, given these conditions, will fall between any two degrees of probability. The importance of this question for the art of probable reasoning would be immediately recognized by every judicious person, Price insisted in his letter introducing Bayes’s paper. Common sense has always led us to infer the probable results of a given action from its observed consequences in the past, and to place more weight on this reasoning the greater the number of supporting cases of which we have had experience. “But it is certain that we cannot determine, at least not to any nicety, in what degree repeated experiments confirm a conclusion, without the particular discussion of the beforementioned problem; which, therefore, is necessary to be considered by any one who would give a clear account of the strength of analogical or inductive reasoning.” The essence of Bayes’s problem, Price therefore emphasized, was to provide rationally calculable grounds for probable belief “concerning, which at present, we seem to know little more than that it does sometimes in fact convince us, and at other times not; and that, as it is the means of acquainting us with many truths, of which otherwise we must have been ignorant; so it is, in all probability, the source of many errors, which perhaps might in some measure be avoided, if the force that this sort of reasoning ought to have with us were more distinctly and clearly understood.”153 To treat this problem, Bayes supposed a square table constructed in such a way that a ball tossed on to it is as likely to come to rest at any one point on the table as another. A first ball W is thrown on to the table, coming to rest at point o. This throw is followed by repeated throws of a second ball O, the event M occurring if the second ball lands to the right of the first, and failing if it lands to the left. Thus the probability of the event M depends upon the ratio of the area of the table to the right of point o to the area of the whole table. The problem is then posed as follows. If we are ignorant of the whereabouts of point o but know that event M has occurred p times and failed q times, how can we estimate the probability that point o lies within any given interval on the table? In solving this question, Bayes finally demonstrated the inverse of Bernoulli’s theorem: that if an event occurs n times in a total of m independent occasions, then the most probable value of the event’s probability is n/m, provided any value of this probability is initially as probable as any other. “From the preceding proposition it is plain,” he therefore concluded, “that in the case of such an event as I there call M, from the number of times it happens and fails in a certain number of trials, without knowing anything more concerning it,

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one may give a guess whereabouts its probability is, and, by the usual methods computing the magnitudes of the areas there mentioned, see the chance that the guess is right. And that the same rule is the proper one to be used in the case of an event concerning the probability of which we know nothing antecedently to any trials made concerning it, seems to appear from the following consideration; viz. that concerning such an event I have no reason to think that, in a certain number of trials, it should rather happen any one possible number of times than another.”154 Thus Bayes began with a physical model of probability: the level table upon which the balls are dropped. He then proceeded to an epistemologi¬ cal interpretation, on the grounds that the reasoning he had developed in terms of the physical model could be applied to our knowledge of any event in experience.155 But why was this true? In what way could our knowledge of observed events be assimilated to the model of the level table? While Bayes did not fully develop the answers to such questions, they were taken up more fully by Price in an appendix analyzing the nature of probable reasoning that clearly shows the logic of Hume’s Treatise at work.156 Independently of all experience, Price argued, it would be infinitely improbable that any one event should follow the occurrence of any other. An infinite number of possible events can be imagined; and no one combination of these events is more likely, a priori, than another. Our first experience would inform us that one event may follow the occurrence of another, but without suggesting any idea of constancy in that relationship. Only after repeated experience of such a connection would some degree of constancy be observed; and only in such cases would our expectation grow that this constancy would continue in the future. Yet no matter how constant our experience, we can never be certain that events in the future will continue to resemble like events in the past. “In other words, where the course of nature has been the most constant, we can have only reason to reckon upon a recurrency of events proportioned to the degree of this constancy; but we can have no reason for thinking that there are no causes in nature which will ever interfere with the operations of the causes from which this constancy is derived, or no circumstances of the world in which it will fail.”157 Our expectations, Price insisted, are therefore only as strong as the experience upon which they are based. The great advantage of Bayes’s law, in consequence, was that it offered a precise means of evaluating the probable validity of these expectations in all cases. By calculations similar to these may be determined universally, what expectations are warranted by any experiments, according to the dif¬ ferent number of times in which they have succeeded and failed; or what should be thought of the probability that any particular cause in nature, with which we have any acquaintance, will or will not, in any single trial, produce an effect that has been conjoined with it.158 As interpreted by Price, Bayes had therefore brought to fruition the mathematical science of probable reasoning that Bernoulli and Leibniz had conceived more than fifty years earlier: “a sure foundation for all our reasonings concerning past facts, and what is likely to be hereafter.”159

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Despite the hopes that Price placed on it, however, Bayes’s law came to be used by mathematicians not as it was originally presented in the Philosophical Transactions but as it was restated several years later by Laplace. Price had, in presenting Bayes’s theorem, suggested its applica¬ tions to the question of estimating the causes of an event from the frequency of its occurrence. He argued “with respect to every event about which a great number of experiments had been made, that the causes of its happening bear the same proportion to the causes of its failing with the number of happenings to the number of failures; and that, if an event whose causes are supposed to be known, happens oftener or seldomer than is agreeable to this conclusion, there will be reason to believe that there are some unknown causes which disturb the operation of the known ones.”160 However, Price, like Moivre, had been largely interested in demonstrating the determinate order that sprang from divine design. Laplace reformu¬ lated the same theorem for its epistemological applications to a deter¬ mined universe in an important series of early papers on the calculus of probabilities, published in 1774 and 1776 by the Paris Academy of Sciences in its periodical collection of papers presented by nonmembers of the academy.161 Laplace charted his discussion of probabilities firmly against the rationalist-determinist model of science we have found already sketched in Condorcet’s earliest statement of his natural philosophy. “An Intelligence that knew the state of all phenomena at any given moment, the laws governing matter and the effect of these laws after any given period of time, would have a perfect knowledge of the System of the World,” Condorcet had written in Le marquis de Condorcet a M. d’Alembert in 1768. “Such knowledge is beyond our power: but it is the goal towards which all the efforts of philosophical Mathematicians must be directed, and toward which they will draw closer and closer, without ever being able to hope to attain it.”162 In the calculus of probabilities, Laplace found a tribute to the necessary weakness of such philosophical mathematicians and the promise of a powerful instrument for the further advancement of their goal. “The present state of the system of Nature is clearly a result of what it was in the preceding instant, and if we imagine an Intelligence embracing all the relations of beings in the Universe at a given moment, it will be able to determine for any moment of the past or future their respective position, movements, and affections in general,” he announced in a paper read to the Academy of Sciences on 10 March 17 7 3.163 Physical astronomy, of all the sciences that which most inspires respect for the human mind, gives us but an imperfect idea of what such an Intelligence would achieve. Ignorance of the different causes that combine to produce events, with the difficulties that stem from their complexity compounded by the imperfection of mathematical analysis, prevents us from drawing conclusions with the same certainty when dealing with the great majority of phenomena. “Forman, then, there are things that are uncertain, things that are more or less probable. Unable to know them he has tried to compensate by determining their different degrees of probability, with the result that we owe to the feebleness of the human mind one of the most

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delicate and ingenious of mathematical theories, the science of chances or probabilities.”164 Thus the notion of probability, Laplace insisted, relates to our know¬ ledge of things and not to things in themselves. It is a function of the narrow limits of human knowledge as compared with the ideal of the omniscient hypothetical Intelligence for whom the universe would be but one great fact and one great truth. “We regard a thing as the effect of chance, when it offers to our eyes nothing regular or indicative of design and when we are moreover ignorant of the causes which have produced it. Thus chance has no reality in itself; it is only a term fit to designate our ignorance concerning the manner in which the different parts of a phenomenon are arranged among themselves and in relation to the rest of Nature,”165 This uncertainty of human knowledge relates to events or to their causes, Laplace insisted. If, for example, one knows that an urn contains black and white balls in a given proportion, it is possible to calculate the probability that a ball drawn at random from the urn will be white or black. In this case, the event itself is still uncertain but the causes determining its probability are known. It was this class of problems that Laplace took up in 1773 in his paper, Recherches sur I’integration des equations differentielles aux differences finies, et sur leur usage dans la theorie des hasards.166 If, on the other hand, balls are drawn at random from an urn containing black and white balls in an unknown proportion, one can also attempt to determine from the color of the balls drawn the most probable ratio of black and white balls in the urn. In this case, the event is certain and its cause is unknown. It should be clear that this second problem is in effect the same as that to which Bayes had directed his attention; for the most probable ratio of black and white balls in the urn (the cause determining the ultimate proportion of black and white balls drawn) is the same as the most probable value of the probability of drawing a black or white ball at random on any one occasion. Laplace returned to this question in a Memoire sur la probability des causes par les evenements, published in 1774, in which he proposed to “determine the probability of causes by analysis of the events, a question which is new in many respects and deserves all the more to be examined since it is principally from this point of view that the science of chances can be useful to civil life.”167 It was in attacking this problem in this and subsequent papers that Laplace came to formulate the classic mathematical methods for deriving the probability of an event from its statistical frequency. In fact, the solution to this problem that Laplace published in 1774 was to be superseded in his later work. Nevertheless, his formulation of the problem and the promise of his methods had a profound effect on Condorcet, his slightly older contemporary, whose task it was as assistant secretary of the Academy of Sciences to edit the volume in which Laplace’s paper appeared. Indeed, so convinced was Condorcet of the fundamental importance of this paper on the probability of causes that he apparently rushed it into print in 1774 in the sixth volume of the Memoires des savants etrangers, while the earlier paper giving demonstrations of some of

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its theorems did not appear until the seventh volume was published in 17 7 6.168 The problem of finding the probability of the occurrence of an event, given only that it has occurred a number of times in the past, is the most fundamental in the calculus of probabilities, argued the assistant secretary, underlining the significance of Laplace’s paper in the preface to the sixth volume of the Memoires des savants e'trangers. The solution to this problem, and to this problem alone, liberates the calculus of probabilities from its enforced concern with lotteries and games of chance and makes it applicable to all questions of human life and experience. “It is clear that this question comprises all the applications of the doctrine of chances to the functions of life and that it is the only useful part of this science, the only part worthy of serious cultivation by Philosophers. The sole use of the ordinary calculus is to evaluate the probabilities of games of chance and lotteries, and it doesn’t even have the utility of disgusting people with amusements that are equally subversive of industry and social values. For the men who can devote themselves to mathematics are not the ones who ruin themselves in gambling or lotteries.”169 In the development of Condorcet’s conception of social science, the appearance of this paper by Laplace was of cardinal importance. As we shall see, he was already at work in 1774 on a treatise concerning the theory of probabilities which parallels many of Laplace’s philosophical defini¬ tions. He was therefore ready to appreciate the full significance of Laplace’s success in now developing mathematical techniques for esti¬ mating the probability of causes from observed events. This discovery, Condorcet was convinced, provided the mathematical basis for a science of conduct, liberating the calculus of probabilities from its enforced concern with lotteries and games of chance. We shall find that it also offered him the technical means of freeing himself from the rationalistic restrictions placed on the calculus of probabilities by d’Alembert, his mathematical mentor. It prompted him to combine positivism and probabilities in a philosophy of belief that he came to regard as the very foundation of the science of man. In the meantime, however, Laplace continued to raise the edifice of the classic theory of probabilities. Yet another fundamental paper, which it was again Condorcet’s task to summarize and assess,170 appeared in the Memoir es of the Academy of Sciences for the year 1778, published in 1781. All the questions of the calculus of probabilities can be reduced to the single hypothesis of an urn containing a quantity of different colored balls, from which one supposes different balls drawn at random in a certain order or in certain proportions, Condorcet insisted in his discussion of this paper. Assuming the number of balls of each color is known beforehand, one is presented with the usual calculus of probabilities as developed by the mathematicians of the seventeenth century. If, however, the number of balls of each color is unknown and one attempts to estimate this number from the proportion of balls of each color drawn at random, one arrives at an entirely new class of problems. “It appears that MM. Bernoulli and Moivre had an idea of these questions and they have since been studied by MM. Bayes and Price. But while the latter limited themselves to develop-

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ing the principles that could be used in solving these problems, M. de la Place has considered them in greater breadth and has treated them analytically.”171 What, then, were the applications of these new problems in the calculus of probabilities to the questions of human life and experience? In his summary of Laplace’s paper, Condorcet stressed two applications in particular: the estimation of the probability of causes from events; the theory of the probability of errors. As in his earlier paper on the probability of causes from events, Laplace illustrated this first aspect of the a posteriori use of the calculus of probabilities by reference to demo¬ graphy, which provided the only readily available source of statistical data. As we have seen, it had been observed by political arithmeticians that the number of boys born in London and Paris exceeded the number of girls. Laplace now utilized the inverse application of the law of large numbers to estimate from this data the probability that the births of boys would in the future exceed that of girls in these cities; the probability that the phenomenon would be observed in any given year; the probability that it would be observed in London as compared to the probability that it would be observed in Paris. He concluded that there was a very great proba¬ bility—indeed, almost a moral certainty — that the odds were 259: 1 that in the following year the number of girls born in Paris would not exceed that of boys; and that there was an incomparably greater probability that there were physical causes producing this effect in London than in Paris.172 Here was a demonstration of the power of the calculus of probabilities to discover the operation of regular laws, even in events that seemed among the most subject to chance. Laplace was to apply it successfully in later papers to such important physical aspects of the system of the world as the perturbations of the planets, the secular acceleration of the moon, the movements of Jupiter (and of its satellites) and Saturn, and the theory of the tides. But before seeking for regular causes behind the apparent irregularities of nature, it was first of all necessary to make sure that such irregularities actually existed in nature and were not accidently imputed to it as the result of errors occurring in the course of observation. The problem of controlling for errors in the observation of natural phenomena was then being widely discussed among natural scientists. It had been the subject of important essays by Daniel Bernoulli, Euler, and Lagrange, as well as of a generally neglected paper by Condorcet himself that was appended to the account of the experiments in hydrodynamics he carried out in conjunction with Bossut and d’Alembert.173 Applied to the proba¬ bility of errors, the Bayes-Laplace theorem meant that it was not only possible to derive the most probable value from a series of different observations, as Laplace had shown in his earlier paper on the probability of causes from events. It was also possible, Condorcet emphasized, to estimate the probability that the error involved in taking this most probable value would not fall beyond certain assigned limits, in such a way that the probable degree of exactitude of any science could be precisely evaluated.174 Thus, as secretary of the Academy of Sciences, Condorcet found it his official duty to render account of the achievement within the academy of the

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mathematical techniques that seemed finally to make possible the realiza¬ tion of Bernoulli’s dream of a mathematical science of the probable. It was a task that he carried out with more than an official zeal. Indeed, while Laplace was chiefly concerned during the next decade with the application of the calculus of probabilities to the physical sciences, Condorcet set out to cultivate and develop the Bernoullian science of the probable as the very basis of his own conception of social science. For if the different degrees of probability that make up our knowledge could be evaluated with mathema¬ tical precision, then the application of the calculus of probabilities to everyday experience could be made to yield an “art of conjecture” that would form the essential foundation for a science of conduct. Laplace’s demonstration of the inverse of Bernoulli’s theorem —that is, his develop¬ ment of techniques that seemed to turn exact knowledge of past phenomena into a scientific evaluation of probabilities involved in future conduct — therefore marked a critical point in the development of Condorcet’s conception of social science. “In fact, all our physical and moral knowledge is reduced to probabilities of this kind,” Condorcet argued in his account of the academy’s activities for the year 1778. It is because an event has constantly occurred that we expect it to occur again; it is because two phenomena have always co-existed, that we regard one as the cause of the other; it is because a prodigious number of successive observations have taught us that the laws of Nature are constant, that a few repeated experiments are sufficient to convince us of the truth of a fact. It follows that we really have only one kind of absolute certainty, which is found in the Abstract sciences, or in the other sciences in terms of the validity of the consequences derived from a principle taken as given; and [all the rest is] this probability, varying in degree but always of the same order, the only kind of certainty to be sought in the natural sciences, as in the conduct of life.175 Before it was possible for Condorcet to develop this science of the probable, however, a powerful voice had to be stilled. Alone among the leading eighteenth-century mathematicians of his rank, d’Alembert had dared to cast doubt upon the validity of the calculus of probabilities. As d’Alembert’s disciple, Condorcet could not follow Laplace’s pioneering lead until he had answered in his own mind the objections of his mentor, which threatened to leave abandoned to doubt and uncertainty, and consequently to vague and uncertain principles, the important questions of human life and conduct. Only then could he announce the conviction which he later criticized the rationalist in d’Alembert for never having understood. “In the sciences the purpose of which is to teach how one should act, man can (as in the conduct of life) be content with greater or lesser probabilities. Thus the true method consists less in seeking rigorously demonstrated truths than in choosing between probable propositions, and especially in knowing how to evaluate their degree of probability.”176 Condorcet: Towards a Science of Conduct In the traditional game of croix ou pile a coin is tossed twice in succession,

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with the players gambling on the chances of tossing a head in either of the two throws. Since there are four combinations logically possible in two throws, in only one of which a head does not appear, the theory of probability would have it that the chance of tossing a head is 3/4. In an article on “Croix ou pile” which appeared in the Encyclopedic in 1754, d’Alembert ventured to take issue with this result. Taking the two throws in succession, he argued that if a head is tossed in the first throw the game is over. Only if a head is not tossed immediately do the players continue to a second throw. Following this argument, d’Alembert arrived at only three possible outcomes, two of which yield a head. He therefore argued that the chance of throwing a head in this game is not 3/4, as in the accepted theory, but 2/3.177 With this article, the renowned mathematician opened a distinguished career of confusion over the theory of probabilities. In his view, it was a first expression of his serious conviction that the prevailing theory was uncertain and inexact. In the eyes of many of his mathematical contemporaries (and most later writers on the subject) it was a mistake so elementary as to be ridiculous. For the effect of d’Alembert’s argument was to neglect the requirements of the essential postulate of equiprobability, without which there could be no logical basis for the calculation of chances. His mistake, as pointed out by a professor of mathematics at Geneva whose arguments d’Alembert reproduced in the article “Gageure,” lay in regarding his three cases as equally probable.178 For although there are only three outcomes of the game actually possible, the logical probability of these outcomes is not equal. The chance of tossing a head in the first throw, thereby finishing the game, is 1 /2; that of tossing a head in the second throw after a tail in the first is 1/4; that of throwing two tails in succession is 1/4. Thus reduced to the common factor of equiprobable chances, the combined probability of throwing a head in the game is not 2/3 but 1/2 plus 1/4, or 3/4. But while d’Alembert made space for this refutation, he was clearly not convinced. At the heart of his reservations there lay the fundamental question of the relationship between the combinations logically possible and the outcomes actually or physically possible. He still could not accept that the chances of a head in this game were three to one, while the actual outcomes producing or precluding this result were two to one. He therefore attempted to expand his criticism of the existing theory of probabilities in a series of articles published in successive volumes of the Opuscules mathematiques. Here his discussion was concerned chiefly with the implications of the most vexing gambling paradox proposed to mathematicians in the eigh¬ teenth century, the so-called Petersburg problem.179 As posed by Daniel Bernoulli in the transactions of the academy from which it received its name, the Petersburg problem runs as follows. Peter plays against Paul by tossing a coin an unspecified number of times. If he tosses a head at the first throw he will pay Paul one crown; if he tosses a head only on the second he will pay him two crowns; if he does so only on the third throw he will pay him four crowns; on the fourth throw eight crowns, and so on until a head is finally thrown. What is Peter’s risk and Paul’s expectation of gain; or, in other words, how much should Paul pay Peter to make the

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game equal at the start? The paradox lies in the fact that, according to the mathematical theory of expectation, Peter’s risk (and Paul’s expectation of gain) is infinite. Common sense suggests, on the other hand, that Paul should not even pay a small amount to get into this game. In a solution to this problem now hailed as anticipating the principle of marginal utility, Daniel Bernoulli suggested that since Paul’s fortune is not infinite, the amount he is willing to pay Peter to enter the game will be determined not by his mathematical expectation alone but by the amount he is prepared to risk losing and the extent of the risk he is prepared to accept. This amount will vary with the extent of his fortune.180 Alongside the concept of mathematical expectation, Bernoulli therefore set the notion of moral or psychological expectation, which would estimate the value of various possible gains (or losses), each with its particular probability of being realized, for a person of a certain fortune. A solution in terms of moral expectation was rejected by d'Alembert in the article “Croix ou pile,” how¬ ever, on the grounds that the circumstances affecting moral expectation as defined by Bernoulli are too complicated ever to be susceptible of calculation. For the moment, therefore, he upheld the logic of the paradoxical answer to the Petersburg problem according to the traditional theory, while denouncing it as “a scandal which merits the attention of mathematicians.”181 D'Alembert returned to this “scandal” in the second volume of his Opuscules mathematiques, published in 1761. Here he moved from a discussion of the Petersburg problem to a criticism of the accepted notion of mathematical expectation. He argued that when the probability of an event is very small it must be treated as zero, with the result that the mathematical expectation involved in the remote possibility of winning a vast sum should not be regarded as equal to the mathematical expectation deriving from a more substantial probability of winning a lesser sum. Peter plays with Paul for one hundred throws, on the understanding that if he throws a head on the hundredth throw, but not before, he will receive 2100 crowns. Accord¬ ing to the accepted rule for calculating mathematical expectation, Peter must in this instance pay Paul one crown to enter the game. Yet since heads would certainly (though not necessarily) occur before the hundredth throw, d’Alembert insisted, no one in his right mind would pay this amount. While not logically impossible, the probability of throwing a head only on the hundredth throw is so low that it can be discounted.182 But if we establish it as a rule that a very small probability can for practical purposes be regarded as nil, d’Alembert argued, we run into further problems. At what point does the probability become equivalent to zero? And if we take the probability of 1/1000 as equivalent to zero, for example, what then do we do about 1/999? If we must reduce this latter probability to zero as well, where do we stop? These questions amounted to an admission that if strict adherence to the doctrine of equiprobability sometimes yielded ridiculous results, to abandon it would leave no logical basis for calculation of any kind. One of the several “perhaps insoluble” problems that d’Alembert posed in his conclusions for the benefit of those mathematicians who wished to arrive at an adequate theory of probabilities,

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therefore, was that of “knowing how to assign the true relationship of probabilities in cases which are not equally possible, or cannot be regarded as such.”183 In the meantime, opening debate on a second front, he extended his criticism to the applications of the calculus of probabilities in the controversy over inoculation which had been presented to the Academy of Sciences by Daniel Bernoulli in 1760.184 Since his views were greeted with ridicule by such mathematicians as Euler and Daniel Bernoulli and seized upon with glee by lesser minds who saw a chance to deliver an elementary lesson to the great academician, d'Alembert sought to explain himself more fully to a nontechnical audience in the fifth volume of his Melanges de litterature, d ’histoire et de philosophic, published in 1767.185 “I will note first of all that it should not be a matter for astonishment that the formulas with which one sets out to calculate uncertainty itself should share in that uncertainty,” he confessed in a preamble indicative of the fundamental suspicions with which this ration¬ alist had come to regard the theory of probabilities.186 In order to clarify the source of this confusion as far as he could, d’Alembert elaborated upon the distinction he had made earlier between “logical” and “physical” proba¬ bilities. If a coin is tossed one hundred times, the mathematical probability that a head will be thrown every time is equal to the probability of any other possible combination of heads and tails. Mathematically speaking, this much is clear, d’Alembert insisted for the sake of those who had answered his philosophical reservations with an elementary lesson in combinatorial logic. The problem was not with the mathematical validity of such a statement but with the conditions under which it was applicable to observed events. “It is a question of knowing whether these two cases are equally possible, physically and in the order of things, as they are mathematically,”187 The possibility of throwing a head a hundred times in succession with a normal coin, d’Alembert argued, is “contrary to the constant order observed in nature.”188 But what if such an event had occurred in the experiment d’Alembert had proposed in the second volume of the Opuscules mathematiques in order to establish the order of physical probabilities? He would then have been forced to conclude that this was not a normal coin and that forces other than chance were at work.189 The question therefore became one of the nature of our definition of chance, a problem that d’Alembert never really faced squarely. Suppose that on a table we find twenty-five letters in three combinations, the first spelling the word “Constantinopolitanensibus,” the second presenting these same letters in alphabetical order, the third presenting them at random. Mathematically speaking, these three combinations are equally possible. But any sensible man, d’Alembert argued, would wager that the first combination was not the effect of chance; and most sensible men would make the same wager in the second case.190 It follows that we tacitly suppose neither order or regularity in chance hap¬ penings and should exclude the logical combinations presenting such an order from the calculus of chances. This line of reasoning brought d’Alembert to another paper by Daniel Bernoulli, written in response to the prize-essay question proposed by the

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Academy of Sciences for 1732 on the cause of the mutual inclinations of the planetary orbits. Before attempting to suggest a cause for this phenomenon, Bernoulli had set out to calculate the probability that there was such a cause. Estimating that the chances against the phenomena occurring as they did were overwhelmingly high, he concluded that they could not be attributed to chance.191 To d’Alembert, accustomed to looking for causes in terms of rationally demonstrable relationships, this was a completely bewildering procedure. Since, mathematically speaking, this combination is no more or less likely than any of the others, he insisted, the same argument could be put forward for any other combination. What makes it unusual is not the size of the probability against its occurring but the fact that there is an order in its occurrence. This, d'Alembert argued, constitutes a tacit admission that regular effects are not, physically speaking, the work of chance. “It is regarded as very probable, and almost certain [evident], that a combination in which regularity and a kind of design is apparent is not the effect of chance, although mathematically speaking it should be as possible as any other combination in which one sees no order and no singularity and for which, for this reason, one would not think of searching for a cause.”192 In the order of nature such as it is known to us, d’Alembert maintained as he developed this point in later volumes as the Opuscules mathematiques, any uniformity announces a physical cause. So long as one does not suppose a cause, one must not suppose any extraordinary uniformity. If chance alone decides the event, heads cannot arrive a great many times in succession.193 It follows that cases which involve a constant regularity must not be regarded as equal “physically and in the order of things” to those which do not. In the application of the logic of combinatorial analysis to the observation of chance events, therefore, the combination that would produce a constant sequence of events should not be allowed to enter into the calculation of equiprobable chances. The question d’Alembert was raising, albeit in a somewhat confused way, was absolutely fundamental. The theory of probabilities could be (and has been) regarded as a formal logic of argumentation, an abstract statement of the relationships of propositions of a certain class, the kind that are logically involved in statements about such events as the throw of the die. Or it could be (and has been) viewed as a description of the frequencies actually observed in certain aleatory events, frequencies that d’Alembert and others suggested should be determined by experiments with throwing dice. The great promise of Bernoulli’s law was that it seemed to establish the basis for a mathematical link between these two conceptions of proba¬ bility—the a priori statements of possibilities logically involved and the a posteriori statements of frequencies actually observed — making the calculus of probabilities the foundation for a logic of belief that could give a precise value to the degrees of certainty involved in our knowledge of all probable events. D’Alembert, on the contrary, was anticipating modern critics who have insisted that the connection between a priori and a posteriori probabilities involved in Bernoulli’s law was assumed (and could only be assumed) rather than proven.194 He was asking, in effect, the conditions

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under which the abstract logic of probabilities could be validly regarded as a calculus of belief applicable to the data of experience. “This is enough, Monsieur, to engage you to think about this question,” he exclaimed to the mathematician to whom his reflections on the calculus of probabilities in the fourth volume of the Opuscules mathematiques were addressed. I also hope that my doubts will lead skillful men without prejudices to develop this difficult matter and bring it to the degree of certainty to which it is susceptible.”195 As in his view of the system of the world, so in the theory of probabilities —Condorcet took his starting point from d’Alembert only to move gradually away from his mentor as he tried to resolve the latent contradictions in d’Alembert’s thought. It is possible, even quite probable, that he was the mathematician whom d’Alembert tried to involve in thinking about these questions in the letters printed in the fourth volume of the Opuscules mathematiques in 1768. In any case it was not long before Condorcet was at work on an attempted defense of his mentor’s general position. “I am amusing myself by calculating probabilities,” he wrote to Turgot on 3 September 1772. “I shall produce a little book on this subject, which I hope will show that we know very little in this matter. I am in basic agreement with M. d’Alembert and we only differ on a few details.”196 Two years later, when Laplace had completed his fundamental Memoire sur la probability des causes par les evenements, Condorcet’s little work was still unfinished. With his interest in the calculus of probabilities revived by the appearance of Laplace’s work, he announced his intention of producing a general work on the philosophy of probabilities and turned once again to the manuscript of 1772. “Hasn’t M. de Laplace presented you with the project of a work on probabilities?” he was writing to Turgot in the fall of 1774. “I have a little work on the subject, too, but more philosophical than mathematical. I should have the honor of sending it to you this winter, if I have time to finish it, for it only concerns this little globe of ours and I have felt it appropriate to give precedence to the comets, which are infinitely larger.”197 Whether it was the comets that temporarily claimed the day or the pressures of “this little globe” during Turgot’s ministry, this work was still not completed for publication. Fortunately for our purposes, however, there remain among Condorcet’s papers the drafts on this subject written and revised during this crucial period, which provide us with evidence of the development of his thought at a critical moment in the formation of his conception of social science. They suggest that if Condorcet began by sharing his mentor’s general conviction that little was known in the calculus of probabilities, the details upon which he came to differ soon became substantial enough to undercut d’Alembert’s arguments.198 The target of Condorcet’s first projected work on the calculus of probabilities, “a man absolutely unknown even though he gives his name,” was a certain Masse de la Rudelidre who had in 1763 published a Defense de la doctrine des combinaisons against d’Alembert, a tract which Condorcet derided as more concerned with satisfying Jansenistby a defense of Pascal (as founder of the theory of probabilities) than with coming to grips with d’Alembert’s legitimate doubts.199 Since d’Alembert had refrained

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from answering such an attack, Condorcet now came forward to defend the reputation of the philosophe against his Jansenist predecessor. In order to make chance events the subject of a mathematical science it was necessary, he argued, as in all applications of mathematical analysis, to reduce expression of the problem to homogeneous quantities susceptible of a common measure. The great founders of the calculus of probabilities discovered such a procedure in creating the doctrine of combinations, in which "their methods were so ingenious, their conclusions so elegant and their results so striking and so plausible that no one thought of contradicting their principles, still less of examining them.”200 Thus it was not until 1759 that d’Alembert, puzzled by the singular results of the Petersburg problem, turned from consideration of that particular problem to a more general criticism of the very foundations of the theory of probabilities. In summarizing his views for his mathematical correspondent in 1768, d'Alembert had specified three questions that seemed to require further consideration: the relationship of “logical” or mathematical probabilities to " physical” probabilities; the relationship between certainty and proba¬ bility; the notion of expectation.201 Although his early draft breaks off in the middle of the discussion of the notion of expectation, Condorcet was able to sketch out his views on the other two questions in a manner which already took him along the road away from d’Alembert. He began with a recapitulation of the Bernoullian definitions of chance and probability. “Contingent events, or those attributed to chance, have a no less necessary or less determined cause than the most constant phenomena of nature,” he argued. “But in the case of the latter we know their laws or suppose their existence because we expect to discover them some day. This is not true of contingent events. We have no hope of success in determining [their causes] and foreseeing [their occurrence] and to console ourselves for our ignorance we have invented the term chance.”202 D’Alembert’s fundamental objection to the theory of probabilities involved the nature of the relationship between “logical” and “physical” probabilities (or, more precisely, between logical possibilities and physical outcomes), an adequate understanding of which required the clear definition of chance that he was never able to provide. Condorcet met d’Alembert’s objections on this point —as did Laplace a year later, perhaps at Condorcet’s suggestion203 —by insisting that “chance” and “probability” were terms that applied not to things themselves but to our knowledge (or ignorance) of them: the theory of probability involved no modification of the fundamental rationalist postulate of determinism. The effect of this reasoning was to make the distinction between “logical” probabilities and “physical” probabilities so absolute that it became meaningless to speak of a “physical” probability in the actual order of things. Probable events, Condorcet insisted, are determined by necessary and inevitable laws. Their “probability” relates not to the physical order of things but to the weakness of our intellect, which lacking knowledge of the causes of events can only make probable statements concerning their occurrence. Probabilities, then, are merely feeble approximations of the order of the universe as it would be rationally known by a hypothetical omniscient being: approximations

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capable of indefinitely approaching certainty without ever being able to achieve it.204 Condorcet’s manuscript of 1772 breaks off at this point. But his enthusiasm for his work on probability was apparently revived in 1774 by Laplace’s Memoire sur la probability des causes par les evenements. “The principles upon which mathematicians have established the calculus of probabilities would doubtless merit a profound examination,” Condorcet announced in his account of this paper. M. D’Alembert has raised objections to these principles that no one has yet resolved. The author of this Preface proposes to devote some reflections to this matter, so much the more important because the moral and physical certainties of the Schools are but different degrees of probability, and the art of deriving general consequences from individual experience, or of acting on the basis of observations, is after all only a continuation of the problems of the calculus of probabilities.205 Now rewritten and expanded, the earlier draft of this work was refashioned into a short history of the calculus of probabilities, an investigation of its philosophical foundations, and a summary of the nature and implications of Bayes’s law as demonstrated analytically by Laplace.206 This manuscript therefore represents the direction of Condorcet’s thinking at a crucial stage in its development. Condorcet began his analysis of the philosophy of probabilities by developing the implications of the Bernoullian definitions he had set forth in the manuscript of 1772. “Events attributed to chance are determined by invariable and necessary laws, but the expression of these laws is too complicated for us to discover them,” he reiterated. “Thus a contingent event is for us an event the [cause] of which is unknown.”207 1 throw two dice, for example, and before they have left my cup I am told that the chances are 35: 1 that I will not throw two sixes. The dice are covered on a table without my knowing which sides are up, and again I am told that it is 35: 1 that there will not be two sixes. I can say with equal confidence in these two cases that I will probably not throw or find two sixes. Yet the second of these events has already been determined: the dice have been placed. It is not more or less “probable” that the event will occur but more or less “true” that it has occurred. Relative to our knowledge, then, there is no distinction between the probability of a future event and that of a past one. When we say of two contradictory events that they are equally probable in the future, we are speaking of “an abstract and metaphysical possibility and not of a real physical possibility.” Thus when we wish to discover the probability of an event, we take all the combinations of events abstractly possible. We examine those in which the given event occurs, calling the ratio of their number to the total number of combinations the probability of the given event. But this is a purely intellectual consideration which has no relation in itself to the physical state of things and consequently cannot be used to foresee them.208

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Simple as it is, Condorcet argued, this idea had only been understood by the philosophers. He therefore thought it necessary to support the principle by other examples. Suppose a die with a hundred faces. According to the usual method of calculating probabilities, a mathematician would estimate the chances of throwing 100 as 1/100. Suppose, however, that another mathematician had examined the physical configuration of the die and calculated that it was so weighted that it would necessarily show 100. Then suppose a third mathematician, only knowing the physical configuration of the die approximately, who regarded it as very probable that 100 would be thrown but could not demonstrate that this would necessarily be the case. Each of these men would have reasoned equally well on the basis of his knowledge. It follows, then, that “what we call probability is a purely intellectual consideration completely foreign to the real order of things.”209 This truth demonstrated, it was nevertheless necessary “to show that we judge [on the basis] of probability in all matters of life and it is this that governs our conduct.” At this point, Condorcet abandoned the ideal of rationally demonstrable scientific knowledge which his mentor, d’Alem¬ bert, had been so anxious to uphold. With the exception of the demon¬ strable truths of mathematics and logic —to which he added propositions that express the sensations of which we are immediately conscious at any given instant —there are, he insisted, no certain propositions. All other statements are probable; all therefore fall within the domain of “that part of the calculus of probabilities in which one judges the future order of events from those which have been observed, or (more precisely) the order of unknown events from that of known events.”210 ‘Gold dissolves in aqua regia'] ‘Caesar has existed’; ‘the book which I touch, exists’: each of these propositions depends for its validity upon the assumption that events which have occurred in the past will continue to recur. “These reflections show, first of all, a great difference between mathematical certainty and what has so improperly been called moral and physical certainty,” Condorcet concluded. All men are equally sure that two and two make four, once they under¬ stand the proposition. In moral and physical matters, on the other hand, what one calls certainty has different values. When different people say that they are sure, each has a different probability based on his experience. It also follows from this that in the moral sciences people are more certain the less they are enlightened, because they have then seen fewer exceptions; and that in the physical sciences the more one has observed, the more certain one must become about phe¬ nomena the order of which is constant and the less certain about those the order of which is inconstant.211 In his Essai d’arithmetique morale, Buffon had attempted to assign to moral and physical certainty a precise degree of probability. Rejecting this attempt on the grounds that these values vary from individual to individual, Condorcet nevertheless insisted that in each case the value of the probability which an individual is prepared to accept as certain can in principle be calculated, together with the maximum degree of probability attainable in

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any given instance. “It would be chimerical to seek to determine the probability mathematically, either in the sciences or in the conduct of life, ” Condorcet admitted in this early fragment. Nevertheless, such was the model that it was necessary to approximate, for “one could at least take terms of comparison: asking, for example, whether one is as sure of the truth of a new experiment or discovery as one is of the proposition that gold forms an amalgam with mercury; estimating how many more experiments are necessary to arrive at this degree of probability.”212 Thus Condorcet came to answer d’Alembert’s doubts concerning the foundations and applications of the calculus of probabilities by developing Bernoulli’s definitions of probability and drawing upon Laplace’s demon¬ stration of the power of the calculus as applied to these matters. Probability, he concluded, is relative to our uncertain knowledge of things and not to things themselves. It follows that the calculus of probabilities is applicable in principle to all statements which lack the certainty of rationally demon¬ strable knowledge. Abandoning d’Alembert’s faltering attempts to present at least some truths of the physical sciences as rationally necessary, Condorcet argued in effect that all the truths of the physical sciences are, like those of the moral sciences, merely contingent. The rational knowledge of the omniscient Intelligence for whom the universe would be one great truth and one great fact is unattainable, even in part. Philosophical mathematicians may approximate that knowledge only by subjecting the probable truths of experience to the precise evaluation of the calculus of probabilities. The calculus of probabilities, then, was to be the mathema¬ tical language of positivism, conferring upon the moral and physical sciences together “the appropriate degree of precision and exactness which men may flatter themselves to attain.”?13 Condorcet was ready for an initial public statement of these views in 1782, in his reception speech to the French Academy. There he argued, as we have seen, that once based like the physical sciences upon the observation of fact, once following the same analytical methods and expressing themselves in an equally exact and precise language, the moral sciences would also lay claim to exactly the same degree of certainty. This conviction, he admitted in the unpublished notes for a revised edition of this discourse, was still contrary to generally accepted ideas. For this reason, he devoted a special section of these notes to developing his arguments for this point of view. In the case of all scientific statements, except the truths of pure mathematics and the immediately intuitive moral propositions of which more must be said later, Condorcet argued that it is necessary to distinguish between the “evidence” of propositions and their “reality.” Scientific statements arrived at by an exact, logical analysis of the implications of prior propositions are —in their axiomatic form as logical statements —as precise and evident as the truths of mathematics. Insofar as they attempt a general conceptual framework; insofar as they present general truths in the axiomatic form of a precise analytical language, all sciences are in a certain sense sciences of definition.214 Condorcet made this view clear in his eloge of Buffon, in commenting on the naturalist’s influential statement of the

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distinction between the artificial truths of mathematics and the given facts of the sciences of observation. “He there established this opinion, that mathematical truths are not real truths but pure truths of definition: an accurate observation, if one wants to take it in its metaphysical rigor, but which then applies equally to all orders of truths, provided they are precise and general [n’ont pas des individus pour objet].”215 As logical or analytic statements, then, scientific propositions can attain the same certainty as mathematical propositions. As descriptions of empirical reality, however, they depend for their validity upon two conditions: first, an observed correlation with a constant order of facts in experience; second, the assumption that a particular phenomenon, or series of phenomena, which was observed yesterday will present itself again today, or whenever the same circumstances recur. As such, all the truths of experience are merely probabilities. ‘Nitric acid dissolves silver.’ This proposition, Condorcet argued in one of his philosophical fragments on this subject, signifies that every time the heavy, shiny, malleable metal known as silver has been exposed to the action of nitric acid, it has dissolved; from which it has been concluded that it will dissolve in the same wray in the future. This conclusion is of a validity comparable to the assertion that given a bag from which only white balls have been taken, one will continue to extract only white balls. Both conclusions will have a greater or lesser probability according to the number of times the phenomena have been observed; neither will ever be demonstrably certain. For in the ultimate analysis, Condorcet argued, what the human mind has regarded as causality can only be viewed as coincidence. The phenomena of nature are no more related than the order of these balls; they would not be more related when one knew their laws or their causes. The law of a phenomenon is only the abstract expression of all the particular phenomena of a certain class. Its cause is nothing but this expression presented in a particular manner.216 As descriptions of phenomenal existence, therefore, scientific statements have none of the logical certainty of mathematical propositions. Like the existence of the body —which Turgot had shown in his article on this subject in the Encyclopedic to be merely a probability —they possess only “that kind of degree of certainty which is a true probability mathematically expressed. This certainty is essentially different from the strictly defined certainty of the mathematicians.”217 Yet even the demonstrative certainty of mathematics was not entirely free from the taint of probability, Condorcet went on to argue in Humean vein in the notes to his reception speech. The only truths of which I can be absolutely certain, he insisted, are the intuitive propositions actually present in the mind at any given instant. Those embraced intuitively even an instant before are immediately relegated to the second order of truth “founded on the constant order that I have observed, that every time I re-examine a proposition that I remember having seen rigorously demon¬ strated, I still find it evidently true.”218 Thus Condorcet, following the

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“exact metaphysics’’ of the Scottish philosopher, used the distinction between intuitive and demonstrative knowledge to argue that the truths of demonstration have only psychological probability. The proposition ‘two plus two equals four’ can be recalled to the mind at any moment and immediately validated as self-evident. However, the validity of the state¬ ment that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides of a right-angle triangle depends upon the successive demonstration of a whole series of mathematical propositions. It therefore relies upon the constant operation of the mind and the accuracy of the memory. In the ultimate analysis, Condorcet concluded in the Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse, even the reasoning of mathematics is only a probability “based on the constancy of the laws observed in the operation of our understanding.”219 If all the truths of observation are but probabilities, the degree of certainty which they attain depends upon the greater or lesser probability of the order of facts observed, the greater or lesser probability that these facts have a common cause, the greater or lesser probability that the fact regarded as a cause is indeed the cause. This is no less true of the moral sciences, Condorcet argued, than of the physical sciences. “Thus it is from the more or less constant order of facts observed in moral as in physical phenomena that the kind of certainty derives that pertains to reality.”220 Here Condorcet found it important to distinguish two aspects of “the kind of certainty that pertains to reality”: the more or less constant order of facts; and the certainty that one knows these facts. The first of these factors, he maintained, influences the “real and absolute certainty of a science,” the second its “actual certainty.” Suppose a phenomenon has occurred a hundred thousand times, for example, and failed once. My expectation that it will recur is less than it would have been if the phenomenon had occurred two hundred thousand times and failed once. But while the probability of the expected event is different in these two cases, Condorcet insisted, the mathematical certainty with which these probabilities can be expressed is absolutely identical. “The science in general is as certain since I know exactly the degree of certainty that I obtain, but the degree of certainty of the result is not the same.”221 Condorcet’s argument that the moral sciences can equal the physical in reliability hinges, in effect, on this distinction between the “certainty of a science” and the “certainty of its results.” At any given time, the results of the moral sciences may be less probable than those of the physical sciences. If the observation of facts is more difficult in human affairs, and their order consequently less easy to elicit, the moral sciences may in given cases acquire fewer precise truths. If the order of observed facts is itself less constant than that revealed by the physical sciences, then their actual results will be less probable. Yet the probability of these results can still in theory be expressed and evaluated in terms of the calculus of probabilities. An example will serve to make the point clear. The meteorologist cannot be certain that it will rain tomorrow, but he can estimate on the basis of his observations that the odds of its doing so are 100: 1. Similarly, the economist cannot be certain that the standard of living will rise in the

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coming year; but he can still in theory arrive at a given mathematical estimate (say 10:1) of the odds of its doing so. In these two cases, Condorcet would argue that while the probabilities are different they can be stated mathematically with equal assurance and equal precision. Thus subjected in their probabilistic form to the precise evaluation of mathema¬ tics, the propositions of the moral sciences can be as certain, for “the science in general," as the truths of the physical sciences. It was therefore theoretically possible for the philosophical mathematician, armed with the calculus of probabilities, to bind the moral and physical sciences together on a sliding scale of probabilities that could at all stages be expressed and evaluated with mathematical precision. Hence Condorcet seized upon the calculus of probabilities as the essential epistemological link between the moral and the physical sciences. "If the truths of experience are only probabilities,” he argued, “one can propose to recall them to this calculus; and then in the case that one is obliged to act according to probabilities, one can reduce them reciprocally to the truths of experience.”222 All those who have attacked the certainty of human knowledge have committed the same fault, he had insisted in an important note to his edition of Pascal’s Pensees. They have established that in the moral and the physical sciences we cannot attain to the rigorous certitude of mathematical propositions. But they have been mistaken in concluding from this that we have no sure rule on which to base our opinions in these subjects, “for there are sure means of arriving at a very great probability in some cases and of evaluating the degree of that probability in a great number.” To the mathematician skilled in the calculus of probabilities, skeptical doubt ceased to be a paralyzing affliction. On the contrary, it opened the way to the “true philosophy.”223 Clearly sketched in the notes to Condorcet’s reception speech of 1782, this “true philosophy,” the essential epistemological foundation for the science of man, was well stated in summary in 1785 in the Essai sur Vapplication de I’analyse a la probability des decisions rendues a la plurality des voix. In this work, which he regarded as his most fundamental contribution to social mathematics, Condorcet set out to demonstrate by example the potential fertility of his conviction that the moral and political sciences are susceptible of mathematical treatment. All our reasoning is based on two fundamental principles, he insisted in the preliminary discourse to the Essai, reiterating and elaborating upon the argument of the notes to his reception speech. The first of these is “that Nature follows invariable laws”; the second “that these laws have been made known to us by observed phenomena.” Our only grounds for accepting these principles is our constant experience that the facts are in conformity with them. If we could enumerate precisely all the facts that have led us to believe in these two propositions, we could arrive theoretically at a precise calculation of the probability of their truth. But such a calculation is impossible: we know only that it would yield a very great probability in both cases.224 It follows from this argument that all the reasoning by which we direct our judgment and our conduct is based on probability. This is no less true of

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the demonstrative reasoning that depends upon the constant operation of the laws of our understanding, Condorcet argued, than of the most certain propositions of the physical sciences or the most negligible probabilities of the moral sciences. Nevertheless, Condorcet insisted, there are important differences between these truths. Propositions usually regarded as ration¬ ally demonstrable depend upon the single probability that what the mind has found intuitively true in the past, it will continue to find true in the future. Probable propositions, on the other hand, depend not only upon the probability of our reasoning, but on the further probabilities relating to the phenomena they consider. In these cases, the greater the number of variables, the greater the uncertainties involved. “Thus we give the name mathematical certainty to the probability based on the constancy of the laws observed in the operation of our understanding. We call physical certainty the probability which also supposes the same constancy in an order of phenomena independent of ourselves, and we reserve the name probability for judgments exposed in addition to still other sources of uncertainty.”225 In this passage, Condorcet in effect distinguished between three kinds of probable propositions. The first of these, usually regarded as truths of demonstration, are the logical or psychological probabilities “based on the constancy of the laws observed in the operation of our understanding. ” To these we give the name “mathematical certainty.” Probabilities of the second order deal with the existence of physical objects. Propositions such as the statement ‘I see gold’ or ‘gold dissolves in aqua regia have two senses. In so far as they express a mode of individual consciousness (‘I have the sensation of seeing gold’) or serve a definitional function (‘I define gold as that yellow malleable substance which dissolves in aqua regia), they share in the “mathematical certainty” of truths of demonstration or identity. In so far as they make a statement about phenomenal existence (‘the gold that I have the sensation of seeing exists’; ‘that yellow malleable substance defined as gold dissolves in aqua regia), they add to the probability of the laws of our understanding a further probability which “supposes the same constancy in an order of phenomena independent of ourselves.” To these probabilities we give the name “physical certainty.” Truths of the third order, for which we usually reserve the name “proba¬ bilities,” are subject in addition to “still other sources of uncertainty.” In a manuscript fragment clearly related to this passage of the Essai, in which he set out to develop this tripartite division further, Condorcet tried out examples that suggest that he regarded these latter probabilities as characteristic of the moral sciences. 226 Propositions such as the statement ‘the horse has a sore foot’, or ‘men love their children’ (a more interesting example that Condorcet left uncompleted), may be taken in three senses. In the first instance, they may be regarded as expressing a mode of individual consciousness or serving a definitional function. As such, they enjoy the mathematical certainty of the first order of propositions. In the second case, they make statements about phenomenal existence enjoying a physical certainty. Finally, in making a statement about the nature or conduct of living beings, they are subject to yet another order of uncertainty which makes them still less probable. In this third sense,

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Condorcet argued, these propositions have “merely a hypothetical truth susceptible of greater or lesser [probability?] for particular propositions, but not for the order of certainty.”227 What exactly Condorcet had in mind in this last and rather obscure phrase is not entirely clear. Did he mean simply that propositions about the actions of living beings were even less probable than those concerning the observed behavior of physical objects because they involved a third (psychological) order of statements? Such an interpretation would be consistent with his analysis, but would hardly seem to justify the radical break that Condorcet seems here to be suggesting between probable physical statements and the “hypothetical” truths of the third order. Did he mean that such psychological phenomena as love or pain are in some sense less “real,” less clearly observable, than the events of the physical world? Such an interpretation is possible, though a thoroughgoing posi¬ tivist might ask why “love” is more hypothetical than “gravity.” Or did he perhaps mean that the actions of living beings are, after all, not subject to law in the same way as the events of a determined physical order; that they are not simply less probable but radically different? Intimations of such a conclusion would clearly threaten Condorcet’s argument at a fundamental point, by suggesting that statements about human conduct do not fall simply into a sliding scale of probabilities behind statements about physical existence. Perhaps this is why Condorcet found himself unable to complete the analysis of the example, ‘Men love their children’. It may also explain why he did not in the Essai expand upon his particular version of this fairly familiar tripartite division. For whatever reasons, the whole tenor of Condorcet’s argument in the Essai was to deemphasize the implications of this hierarchical ordering. Instead, he stressed the uncertainties involved even in truths that appear to us to be most simple and straightforward. For not only do we have no certainty, even of the laws of nature regarded as most certain and most constant; we have, Condorcet insisted, only a “mean probability” (probabilite moyenne) that the events to which these laws relate are subject to a constant law. We have, in addition, only a mean probability that the law suggested by these events is the law that will be constantly observed. We have, finally, only a mean probability of the accuracy of our observations and the validity of the reasoning employed in deducing these conse¬ quences.228 Thus all our judgments, from the most simple to the most complex, are logically composed of a series of probable propositions, each dependent upon the next. But this conclusion, far from leading us to discouragement and indo¬ lence, as did the old pyrrhonism, must produce the contrary effect. For it follows that all our knowledge, of whatever kind, is founded on probabilities the value of which it is possible to determine with a kind of precision. In seeking to determine these probabilities, we no longer act or make judgments in accordance with a vague and mechanical impression, but we follow an impression subjected to cal¬ culation, the relationship of which to other impressions of the same kind is known to us.229 For Condorcet the mathematician, then, the calculus of probabilities

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THE SCIENTIFIC MODEL

provided the final answer to the challenge of the pyrrhonian skeptics, the threat of whose argument had constantly endangered the philosophes attempt to develop a philosophy of action. It had been easy in the past to demonstrate the uncertainty inherent in all our knowledge, Condorcet ad¬ mitted in the Essai. But it had only become possible to refute the skeptical argument that we are condemned to doubt in all things when it could be shown that this uncertainty involved different orders of probability, each of them susceptible of being analyzed and measured within probability theory. With this discovery, the outmoded skepticism of the pyrrhonists finally gave way to a new positive philosophy. It was a philosophy still based on skepticism, insisted Condorcet’s disciple and biographer, Silvestre-Francois Lacroix, “but a graduated skepticism weighing with precision the various probabilities of our opinions, which shows the true bases of which they are founded and the manner in which these probabilities, increasing with repeated observations and the frequency of phenomena, can approach indefinitely towards certainty.” Condorcet’s skepticism, in other words, issued in probabilism: but he found in the calculus of probabilities a precise means of evaluating the greater or lesser certainty of our opinions, and the greater or lesser probability of our expectations. This precise mathematical evaluation, Lacroix added, was possible not only in the physical sciences but “in everything relating to the knowledge and the determinations truly essential to our existence and our preservation.”230 There remained a fundamental point in this philosophy that Condorcet had yet to clarify. He had argued that since the moral and physical can aspire to no other truths than the probable, the calculus of probabilities is in principle applicable to all events of human life and conduct. But why should man believe what is probable and act according to this probability? What, in other words, is the logical foundation of probable belief? To answer this question, Condorcet needed to develop a philosophy of rational belief. In his manuscript of 1774, he approached the problem by insisting in Humean terms on the simple phenomenological fact that we do indeed believe. “To believe in the moral and physical sciences is nothing else than to represent things as having to exist in a certain manner. Thus when many experiences have presented us with a certain combination of things, it is always this same combination that represents itself to us, and consequently [we believe] that what has occurred will occur again. This explains how a lively imagination makes us believe the falsest things so intensely, how our belief follows the dictates of our passions. And we act according to probability for the same reason, because we only do what we desire as advantageous and what we represent to ourselves as such.”231 Here, however, Condorcet the moral scientist approached the dilemma that troubled Hume in the same capacity. It was necessary to distinguish between the phenomenology of belief and the philosophy of belief; what we do in fact believe and what we ought rationally to accept. Our habitual tendency to regard as constant that which has constantly occurred is entirely passive, Condorcet argued in the Essai. It has no basis in reason, since reason can give us no grounds for believing that this tendency will not mislead us. Furthermore, if reason suggests that probability increases

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with the number of observations, the strength of our natural tendency to believe depends just as much upon the force of the impression an object makes upon us as upon the number of times we have experienced it. Unless reason comes to our aid, then, our opinions will be effectively the product of our sensibility and our impressions. Rational belief will give way to passion and prejudice.232 In the Elements du calcul des probabilites, the statement of his probabilistic philosophy prepared as a supplementary textbook for the course in mathematics at the Lycee taught by Lacroix under his direction, Condorcet answered this problem by applying the model of the calculus of probabilities to an analysis of rational belief developed in the very terms suggested by Hume in A Treatise of Human Nature. From a bag containing black and white balls in unknown proportions, he argued, I draw a succession of balls, replacing each before withdrawing another. If having drawn 100,000,000 white balls I ask the probability of drawing yet another, I find (following Laplace’s rule of succession) that this probability can be expressed as 100,000,001/100,000,002. I therefore have extremely strong grounds for believing that I shall draw another white ball. It can easi¬ ly be seen, Condorcet argued, that the grounds for belief in this case are precisely the same as those which lead us to believe that a phenomenon constantly observed will recur in the same circumstances. This pattern of belief is the basis of our acceptance of the existence of external physical objects (including our own bodies), of the constancy of the observed laws of nature, and of the constancy of our own arguments in mathematics. “Thus it results from this analysis of our judgments that the grounds for belief [motif de croire] in facts of which we only know the probability, is the same as that which leads us to believe the truths according to which we act and direct our conduct, according to which we reason in the sciences and even in mathematics, with the exception of the truths of which we are immediately conscious at any given time.”233 Condorcet demonstrated the strength of this pattern of belief with the example of a ball rolled between two crossed fingers. In such a case, I have the sensation of touching two balls, because I have found that such simultaneous sensations on two fingers have in the past been caused by two different bodies. What is important here is not that I conclude erroneously that there are two balls, but that I feel two balls. This sensation can be corrected by conscious judgment based on more exact observation. Nevertheless the pattern of belief that leads me to relate this individual experience erroneously to similar experiences in the past exercises an instinctive force, by virtue of which my judgments merge with my very sensations without my being distinctly conscious of them. Habitual and instinctive reliance upon this pattern of belief can therefore lead to error.234 It is consequently of the utmost importance to distinguish between the strength of the actual grounds for belief— the greater or lesser frequency of the experiences involved in any given case —and the force of the sentiment of belief, which leads us to regard as constant any event that has often been repeated. This natural and habitual sentiment, “the necessary conse-

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THE SCIENTIFIC MODEL

quence of the constitution of a physical being,” automatically increases in strength with the frequency of the experiences involved. In other words, it increases with the probability of the recurrence of particular experiences. But it is also affected (as Hume had argued earlier) by the intensity or force of particular experiences (or impressions) upon the mind. As a result, since the intensity of impressions has no relation to the probability of their recurrence, a disparity develops between the strength of the sentiment of belief and the extent of the grounds for it. 235 It is for this reason, Condorcet argued, that “the grounds and the sentiment that are here combined must be carefully distinguished, for the basis for belief which depends upon the observed constancy of natural phenomena in general, and of certain phenomena in particular, admits of evaluation by the calculus [of probabilities]. This is not true of the sentiment which accompanies this belief, the intensity of which depends upon the force of the impression as much as upon the constancy and the number of times that it has been found to be the same.”236 In general, then, we obey the automatic and almost irresistible senti¬ ment which leads us to belief, without considering the nature of the grounds for that belief. Reason and experience are as necessary to save us from the erroneous effects of the force of that sentiment as they are to save us from the deceptions of the senses. But reason has found a potent instrument and experience an adequate means of expression in the calculus of probabilities. If we were able to estimate the grounds for belief according to that calculus, Condorcet insisted in the Elements du calcul des probabilites, the sentiment of belief would exercise a less overwhelming and a less misleading force over us. We would yield to it voluntarily and after reflection, instead of instinctively and habitually. Our reason would cease to be blindly subject to our impressions and our passions, on the one hand; it would no longer be vulnerable to skeptical attacks on the other. “The reader will permit us to observe here that this epistemological theory, which could not be known before the discovery of the calculus of probabilities, offers the only solid reply that can be made to the subtleties of pyrrhonism. In fact, it proves that the difficulty of demonstrating the rigorous impossibility of being mistaken in our judgments does not necessarily destroy our grounds for belief; and that furthermore these grounds, far from being completely uncertain because we cannot attain to absolute certainty, can be subjected to precise and measured calcula¬ tion.”237 In this probabilistic philosophy, Condorcet found a model for social science that made it no less certain —no less susceptible of the precise and measured evaluation of mathematical calculation —than the physical sciences. He bound the moral and the physical sciences together in a “graduated skepticism”: a sliding scale of probabilities in which the calculus of probabilities became the precise, mathematical language of rational action. There is no one, he concluded in the Essai sur Vapplication de l'analyse a la probability des decisions rendues par la plurality des voix, who has not at some time or another found his opinions changing, not

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according to new motives or a revised argument, but simply as a result of the impressions of time, circumstances, and events. If we were able to substitute for this habitual and instinctive process of adjustment the precise evaluation of motives and beliefs, “our reason would cease to be the slave of our impressions.”238 The result, the philosophe was convinced, would be a science in which the contingencies of human life and action could be finally subjected to mathematical rule. In such a promise, Condorcet found hope for the social science of which the eighteenth century dreamed, the science that was to be the essential condition of a rational and enlightened social order. The Scientific Model Some twenty-five years ago, Alexandre Koyre delivered a now-classic lecture on the significance of the Newtonian synthesis in modern thought.239 Not neglecting the significance of that synthesis for the science of man, he suggested the still common view that the success of Newtonian science in demonstrating harmony and order in the natural world stimulated the desire to use the same methods to reveal the order and harmony underlying the moral world. It now seems clear that such a view needs modification. It is not, of course, entirely wrong. Many were the parallels invoked between the order Newton had revealed in the natural world and the order would-be Newtons would discover in the social world; many were the appeals to the power of the scientific method as it had been mobilized in the Principia. “This advance of the physical sciences. . .could not be observed without enlightened men seeking to follow it up in the other sciences,” Condorcet observed in the Esquisse d’un tableau histonque des progres de Vesprit humain, “at each step it held out to them the model to be followed.”240 But the preceding chapters suggest that this was only one aspect, and perhaps not the most fundamental, of the significance of the Newtonian synthesis for the science of man. In many ways, as we have seen, concern with the moral sciences was not simply inspired by the power of the scientific method as demonstrated in the natural sciences. It was also dictated by the need to come to terms with the very weaknesses and limitations of our knowledge that were implied in the acceptance of that method as “powerful.” Given the radical scope and profound implications of the Newtonian revolution, it was, as Koyre emphasized, remarkably quick. For that reason it was all the more difficult to accept without strain and contra¬ diction. Much was given up when scientists came to accept a formalized analysis of the relationship between probable events in lieu of rational explanations grounded in the nature of things. Much was given up when science derived from mathematics not the certainty of its rational demonstrations but merely the precision of its measure and the clarity of its language. Much was given up when knowledge became relative entirely to man, to his sensations and ideas, and to the world around him only so far as it could be inferred from those sensations and ideas. “We learn nothing in nature except the sequence of facts it presents to us,” Condorcet

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remarked in an introductory note to Voltaire’s works on Newtonian philosophy: and these facts are too small in number for us ever to be able to divine the general system of the universe. From the moment we go beyond our abstract ideas and truths of definition, to examine the tableau presented by the succession of our ideas —the tableau that is, for us, the universe —we can, with greater or lesser probability, find a constant order in each part. But we can never grasp the whole; and we will never, however great our progress, come to know it in its entirety.241 For such a radical redefinition of the nature and extent of human know¬ ledge, there were nevertheless compensations to be found. If knowledge was relative to man, it could indeed be made relevant to his condition. It could, in short, be useful. If knowledge was limited to facts and the ob¬ served relations between them, it would nevertheless grow with ever more precise observations of facts and ever more powerful methods of analyzing their relations. Such knowledge would progress, and with it man’s mastery of a universe he could never entirely understand. Finally, if science could tell us nothing about the ultimate nature of the universe —if, in the imag¬ ery of Voltaire’s Micromegas, the Book of Nature is forever blank to us —it could nevertheless be remembered that the proper study of mankind is man. “Our business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct,” Locke had insisted.242 In following his insistence on the pri¬ macy of the moral sciences, the philosophes found some compensation for their acceptance of the failure of the physical sciences to penetrate to the essence of the universe. Yet more than compensation was involved in this relationship of the physical and the moral sciences in the Enlightenment, no matter how necessary such compensation might have been. As we have seen, the structure of Newtonian science raised critical philosophical problems that could only be solved by appealing to the validity of our probable knowledge in everyday social life. Descartes had sought to establish the validity of the physical sciences by claiming for them the same demonstra¬ ble certainty found in mathematics; but he did so only at the cost of abandoning to the skeptics the human sciences necessarily tainted by the contingency of everyday existence. In the course of the Newtonian debate, however, this distinction between the demonstrably certain rational truths attainable in physics and the mere probabilities involved in our knowledge of the social world became untenable. For if Newtonian physics lacked the certainty that came from rational explanations grounded in the nature of things —if its power lay in the precise description of phenomena, forma¬ lized in mathematical language —then the skeptics could again demand what rational grounds there were for accepting it. The skeptics had to be answered. And they were influentially answered, first by ’sGravesande and then more explicitly by Hume, with an appeal to precisely the kind of knowledge condemned by Descartes: the logic (or psycho-logic) of proba¬ ble knowledge experientially validated in the social world. Thus the effect

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of the debate over Newton was to reduce the physical and the moral sciences to the same epistemological plane. The validity of the physical sciences could not be established, in other words, without demonstrating the reliability of the probable reasoning “so necessary to the subsistence of our species, and the regulation of our conduct, in every circumstance and occurrence of human life.”243 And it was necessary for this purpose, as Hume realized, “to march up directly to the capital or center of [the] sciences, to human nature itself.”244 To secure its validity, Newtonian science required the creation of a new science of man. Abandoning to the skeptics any claim to the certainty of rational demonstration, Hume rested his case for scientific knowledge on the doctrine of natural probable belief. Yet in reducing our knowledge of the world to probabilities, he also laid the foundations for the mathemati¬ cal evaluation of such belief through the applications of the calculus of probabilities. Hume, in effect, reduced our knowledge of the world to the model of the urn favored by the early theorists of the calculus of probability. The development of that calculus in the hands of Bernoulli, Moivre and Bayes —and, above all, its definitive realization by Laplace — offered the hope of subjecting to precise mathematical evaluation all the probabilities involved in our imperfect knowledge of that urn. Seizing upon that calculus as the essential link between the moral and the physical sciences, Condorcet dreamed of a new mathematical science theoretically applicable to the whole realm of human experience and conduct. Drawing upon Hume’s philosophy of belief, taking up the demand for a mathema¬ tical logic of probable reasoning, rejoicing in Laplace’s demonstration of mathematical techniques which seemed to realize the promise of Ber¬ noulli’s science of probable choice, he found a model for social science that made it no less “certain” —that is, no less susceptible of the precise and measured evaluation of mathematical calculation —than the physical sciences. The foundation of this scientific model was the rationalist postulate of order and regularity in the universe: an order experienced by man as a continuous sequence of discrete, homogeneous sensations, to each of which (in our ignorance of the essential nature of things) we must assign equal epistemological weight. The mind sorts and classifies these sensations (combining and recombining them in ever more elaborate generalizations) according to a natural and instinctive habit of belief, which can be rendered rational, conscious, and therefore scientific by the constitution of exact and precise signs and the application of the calculus of probabilities. This procedure is no less applicable to the probabilities of the social realm, Condorcet concluded, than to those of the physical. Indeed, without the instinctive habit of probable belief, civil society would not continue; and only with its rationalization in a mathematical science of conduct can civil society be perfected. The truths of the moral sciences may be less probable than those of the physical sciences. But they will be no less certain in the expression of these probabilities and no less exact and precise in their mathematical evaluation of them. Just as continental mathematicians had turned to the Leibnizian calculus

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to integrate the contingent truths of Newtonian physics into the rational structure of their science, so Condorcet now cast the positivism implied in Newtonian philosophy into the mathematical mold of the Leibnizian “logic of probabilities.” The measured precision of probable belief re¬ placed the Cartesian certainty of demonstration in this mathematical model of science. Yet Condorcet nevertheless remained, in a sense, a Car¬ tesian. Reduced to the common level of probability, the moral and the physical sciences were to be reintegrated in a new universal science of mathematics, in which the calculus of probabilities became the language of rational action. The Cartesian dream of a universal science was far from dead. Condorcet therefore concluded in his reception speech at the French Academy that the moral sciences, thus based like the physical sciences upon the observation of facts, would follow the same method, acquire an equally exact and precise language, and attain the same degree of certainty. All would be equal between them for a being foreign to our species, who would study human society as we study that of the beavers and the bees. But here the observer himself forms part of the society that he observes, and the truth can have only biased or prejudiced judges.245 At first sight, it would appear that Condorcet had stumbled against a final, insuperable obstacle in the path of the moral scientist. On the strength of this passage, he has been credited with the revolutionary realization that man cannot conceive of himself outside the conceptual framework imposed by the society to which he belongs; that reason is not immutable, but a changing part of the social process.246 But Condorcet’s purpose in his reception speech was not to contrast the objectivity possible in the natural sciences with the necessary subjectivity of the social sciences. Nor did he intend, on the basis of this contrast, to assert that the truths of the moral sciences must after all be less certain than those of the natural sciences. The distinction he was actually trying to make was not that be¬ tween the greater or lesser objectivity to which the scientist can attain in the physical as compared with the moral sciences, but that between the greater or lesser partiality with which the truths of these sciences are received by society at large. Because they are concerned with human affairs, Condorcet insisted, the findings of the moral and political sciences, while no less true than those of the physical, are far more likely to be the subject of passion, prejudice, and vested interest. Thus the advance of the moral sciences will be slower than that of the physical sciences; and we should not be astonished if the principles upon which they are established have to force men’s minds to receive them (to put it this way) while in physics they rush to accept new truths and even new errors.247 Evidently feeling the need to clarify this point, Condorcet again empha-

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sized in the notes to his reception speech that he was referring not to the advance of the moral sciences towards objective truth but to the obstacles in the way of their popularization.248 The progress of the moral sciences since Locke had been immense, he insisted. It was only necessary to cite the work of Hume, Smith, Ferguson, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Beccaria, and the French and Italian economists to prove the truth of this remark. But whereas the truths of the physical sciences were generally accepted as soon as they were discovered — simply because physical scientists alone were regarded as qualified to examine them and judge of their validity —the same was far from true of the moral sciences. They sought to make precise what all men knew vaguely; and everyone believed he could understand them. They employed a language taken from ordinary human affairs; and no one felt obliged to find therein the precision of an exact, scientific terminology. They related directly to the interests of all men; and everyone claimed the right to judge of their truths.249 The real issue that Condorcet was raising here was not that of the objectivity of the moral sciences, about which he had no doubts, but that of the social acceptability of their results, about which he had many. Unlike the physical sciences, in which the authority of science and scientists had been established, the moral sciences were still threatened by the opposing claims of popular opinion and vested interests. Since religious and political authorities had arrogated to themselves the right to judge the truths of the moral sciences, discoveries in these sciences rarely failed to excite powerful opposition. In order to protect their vested interests, these most powerful groups within society were therefore fundamentally opposed to the view that moral and political questions could be submitted to the sole authority of human reason.250 Moreover, to the obstacles raised by the interests of the powerful traditional elites, it was also necessary to add those arising from the contrary claims of popular opinion. The natural right of all members of society to express an opinion on social affairs should not be confused, Condorcet insisted in the Vie de M. Turgot, with the acquired right to pronounce upon the validity of a proposition in the moral and political sciences. In these sciences, as in the physical sciences, this latter privilege must be the sole prerogative of the enlightened. Everyone regards himself as judge; no one imagines that a science employing the terminology of everyday language needs to be learned; the social right to have an opinion on social matters is con¬ fused with the right to pronounce on the truth of a proposition, which enlightenment alone can give. One wants to judge;, and one is mistaken.251 Here Condorcet raised one of the cardinal issues in his conception of social science. For Condorcet, the professional academician, the goal of science was to transform societal choice into the rational decision-making of the idealized republic of science, in which individual opinions were not counted but weighed. For Condorcet, the theorist of liberal democracy, the right of each citizen to an equal voice in social decision-making came to

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be one of the natural rights of man. This tension between scientific elitism and democratic liberalism — between rational choice and popular will —lay at the heart of the philosophe’s thinking. We shall find that his successive attempts to resolve it were crucial in the formulation and development of his conception of the social field.

^ II & THE SOCIAL FIELD

jfc 4

&

THE MORAL AND POLITICAL SCIENCES Why shouldn t politics, grounded like all the other sciences on observation and reasoning, be perfected accordingly, as more subtlety and exactitude are brought to its observations, more precision, profundity and accuracy to its reasoning. Condorcet, ViedeM. Turgot

“A Great Man Whose Teaching and Example, and Above All Whose

friendship I shall always mourn, was convinced that the truths of the moral and political sciences are susceptible of the same certainty as those forming the system of the physical sciences, even those branches of these sciences which, like astronomy, seem to approach mathematical certainty. . . .It was for him that I undertook this work subjecting to calculation questions relating to the common utility. In doing so I attempted to prove, at least by example, the conviction he wished to have shared among all those who love truth. He saw with pain that there are men convinced that one could not hope to obtain truth in these matters, who disdain for this reason alone to concern themselves with the most important of subjects.”1 With this tribute to his political mentor, Condorcet set out in his major work, the Essai sur Vapplication de Tanalyse a la probability des decisions rendues a la plurality des voix, to repay his intellectual debt to Turgot by demonstrating that the moral and political sciences could achieve the same certainty and precision as the physical sciences. But what precisely were the moral sciences for which Condorcet the mathematician came to claim so much? Here a note on terminology will be appropriate. Although the terms sciences morales, sciences politiques, and sciences morales et politiques occur frequently and interchangeably in Condorcet’s work in the 1770’s and 1780’s — to be gradually replaced in his later writings by the more modern sciences sociales or even sciences metaphysiques ou sociales — precise definitions of their meaning do not abound. His concern with the precision of language notwithstanding, Condorcet only rarely found occasion to burden his audience with terminological niceties on this point. Fortunately for our purposes, the Eloge de M. Bucquet delivered in 1780 provided such an occasion. ‘‘We understand by this term [les sciences morales\," Condorcet argued, “all those sciences which have as the subject of their researches either the human mind in itself, or the relations of men one to another.”2 Together with the majority of his contemporaries, then, Condorcet defined the moral sciences quite generally to include the whole domain of human thought and action. Those studies relating to the operation of the mind in itself—in logic and mathematics, epistemology 197

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

and psychology —he later came to call sciences psychologiques, by which he meant the analysis of sensations and ideas to which his younger associates (the future Ideologues) came to give the term ideologic. These “psychological sciences” he distinguished, in the important preparatory notes for the Tableau historique des progres de I’esprit humain, from those dealing with man’s social relations in ethics and politics, legislation and jurisprudence, economics, demography, and statistics, for which he finally preferred the term sciences sociales.3 It would be an impossible task within the scope of the present work to examine the advances in the various social sciences that historians are becoming accustomed to find in the Enlightenment.4 Nor would it be useful to attempt an evaluation of Condorcet’s contributions, where they exist, to the emergence of each of the separate disciplines now recognized by social scientists. The focus in the following discussion will be on the development in Condorcet’s thinking of the conception of a systematic and integral social science, in the sense of a general science of social action and organization susceptible of the methods and procedures of the natural sciences. There are, in fact, three overlapping conceptions within Condorcet’s thinking that might be taken as adumbrating such an idea of social science. He envisaged an empirical study of the factors affecting social existence, broadly defined; an abstract science comprising the first principles of social organization and moral conduct; and, finally, a practical science (or art) that would implement these principles in the light of actually existing conditions. The first of these sciences, which true to its Baconian inspiration he came to call “the natural history of man,” was to be based on empirical observation and statistical analysis of the phe¬ nomena affecting human life and existence. Although much has been written on the history of statistics from a technical point of view, the history of this conception of an empirical science of man remains largely fragmentary.5 Nor is it possible to write it here. Such a science was born, perhaps, when John Graunt turned his “shop-arithmetique” to the London bills of mortality, recognizing in them the tables of discovery that might yield part of the natural history of man projected by Bacon.6 It was claimed for the religious purposes of the physico-theologians, who regar¬ ded statistical regularities in human demography as yet another proof of the divine order, to emerge from the penumbra of theology when Buffon included Dupre de Saint-Maur’s statistical researches on mortality in the anthropological sections of the Histoire naturelle,7 Above all, it grew with the early modern state, as the demographic statistics of the political arithmeticians broadened from an initial response to the administrative need for men and money into a comprehensive attempt to establish a general science of man in society.8 The prospects for such a science, and the necessity for the international cooperation of scientists to achieve it, remained a constant theme in Condorcet’s writing. He first stressed its importance publicly in 1782, at a session of the Academy of Sciences formally attended by the future Czar Paul I and his wife. Condorcet chose as an appropriate theme for this

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public session the advantages that would accrue to the sciences from the united patronage of monarchs for the collective organization of scientific activity. There are regular laws underlying all the phenomena of nature, he insisted. But man can reach an understanding of these regularities only on the basis of all the facts —or, at least, of the whole cycle of facts — relating to their operations. Everything goes to prove that the whole of nature is subject to regular laws; every apparent disorder conceals from our eyes an order that we have been unable to perceive. This order can only be known by the observation of facts, the mass or succession of which are necessary to make it perceptible to our feeble sight.9 In an age which had relied on individual genius for its scientific endeavor, however, it had been difficult to advance those sciences which required observation extending over more than one lifetime. In reviewing the progress of the sciences during the eighteenth century, Condorcet sugges¬ ted to the future czar, it would be found that the sciences which appeared to have escaped the general impetus were precisely those in which an important discovery could be the result only of research extended over several generations and carried out by many hands. For a single ephemeral being, albeit of genius, could not perceive the laws governing phenomena which his life was not even long enough to observe. Condorcet found one example of such a science in meteorology. In order to explain the mass of phenomena presented by the earth’s atmosphere, he maintained, it was necessary to know the relationship between the atmospheric conditions in all the different parts of the earth and perhaps over whole centuries. The natural history of man was similar. Like meteorology, it had to deal with elements dispersed throughout the whole earth. Like meteorology, it had as a result been scarcely studied systema¬ tically. Nor could it be comprehensively studied without the international cooperation of scholars. The earth which he inhabits and its geographical and climatic conditions; the products of the soil, the agricultural tech¬ niques and the different kinds of occupation; the manner of living, customs and usage, government and laws: all these influences act upon man. They affect the duration of his life, his health and fecundity; his activity and industry; his character, morals, and spirit. These causes, in turn, are related among themselves and can be modified by the effects of the changes they themselves have produced. All that was known on these matters, Condorcet insisted, was a few vague, general observations, the majority of which were still contested. The empirical science of man could only be made more precise and systematic as the result of concerted observation by scientists in all parts of the earth and over many genera¬ tions, with these results rigorously subjected to mathematical analysis. From this an important science must result. And this science will not be truly created until an immense collection of constant and precise observations has made it possible to calculate the results of these observations and evaluate the certainty of these results.10

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

Such a science could be the unexpected daughter of time. A happy chance could finally unite under a man of genius the sparse and confused observations of centuries. But sovereigns alone, proclaimed Condorcet to the future czar in 1782, had the means of rendering the success of these sciences independent of chance and time. Only by uniting together to direct scientific activity on an international scale could they implement the Baconian scheme of a comprehensive and systematic assault on the secrets of nature. At a time when the name of humanity was on the lips of sovereigns as well as philosophers; when enlightened rulers were hastening to destroy the barriers set up between peoples as the result of prejudice and pretended national interests, it was only natural, the academician insisted, that princes be expected to unite together to accelerate the progress of the human mind through the advancement of the sciences.11 This was, of course, an eloquent discourse very suitable to the occasion: a flattering scientific appeal to the enlightenment of monarchs in an enlightened age. Yet it was more than that. As we have seen, Condorcet was firmly convinced of the basic need for the collective organization and concerted direction of scientific activity. Just as he here appealed for the collective patronage of kings for the advancement of science on an international level, so had he previously looked to the French monarchy for support of such a scheme on the national level. So, a decade later, abandoning his belief in the power of kings to foster the search for scientific truth, he would call for the formation of an international republic of scientists, a New Atlantis to implement the Baconian dream.12 Again, in this fundamental work, Condorcet linked his plan for the collective organization of scientific activity closely to a program of empirical research in the social sciences. With appropriate methods of investigation, observers in all regions would examine the effects of climate and environment on the physical constitution and socioeconomic organiza¬ tion of mankind. They would investigate the relationship between physio¬ logical and psychological factors in the development of man’s moral and intellectual faculties. They would discover the factors leading to the degeneration of the human organism.13 Detailed tables of mortality and medical statistics would be compiled, together with data on economic and social life. These would enable scientists armed with Condorcet’s decimal system of classification —which he regarded as particularly appropriate to the natural history of man —to answer fundamental questions relating to the nature and limits of human progress and the social and ecological factors affecting it.14 Implied in these fragments of Condorcet’s last and most ambitious work was a vision of a comprehensive science of man in society, based on empirical observation and statistical analysis of the data of social life. Yet while it remained a fundamental theme in Condorcet’s thinking, while he did much to foster the development of empirical social research within the Academy of Sciences, this conception did not become the central focus of his idea of social science. Nor did he ever come to refer to it as “the social science” as such. In fact, Condorcet reserved this term, once adopted, for a very different approach to man in society, an approach based less on

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empirical data from social life than on the abstract first principles of human nature, as derived from sensationalist psychology. This second conception of social science, and the attempts Condorcet made to prove that it met the epistemological criteria of science as he defined them, will be dealt with more fully in a later section of this chapter. It involved a definition of the psychological “facts” of human nature, followed by an adroit leap to the moral and political principles he regarded as logically implied in that definition, foremost among these principles, as Condorcet came to develop them, were the rights of man, the declaration of which he later presented in his educational schemes as the principal application of “the first truths of the social science.”15 Nor was this an isolated usage of the term. It is clear from the curricular projects Condorcet presented to the National Assembly in 1792 that he regarded la science sociale, strictly defined, as concerned not with the empirical analysis of social phenomena but with a theory of social organization as it should be, rationally developed from first principles.16 This point was underlined in the Esquisse d un tableau historique des progres de Vesprit humain. In classical Greece, Condorcet there remarked, mere observation of actual governments was enough to make politics an object of extensive investigation, but it was not enough to constitute a true science. Thus, even in the writings of the Greek philosophers, politics appeared more as “a science of facts, an empirical science, as it were, rather than a true theory founded on general principles which are drawn from nature and acknow¬ ledged by reason.”17 This failure of Greek philosophy sprang from a more fundamental mistake: that of identifying the natural man with the social man it saw corrupted by prejudices, artificial passions, and social customs.18 The “social science,” properly so-called, therefore comprised the true principles of social organization as it should be, grounded in a theory of human nature. Such a “social science” required the elaboration of a “social art” to implement these principles: an art that would command all the resources of the various social sciences to realize “for a given society a system of constitution, laws and administration corresponding exactly to the divisions of the political sciences.”19 Abstract truths often turn out to be vague and inapplicable in practice, Condorcet insisted. In matters of social choice, they are useless without precise observation and accurate measure¬ ment of the contingencies to which they are to be applied. It follows that the social art —“this science for which all other sciences work”20 —must be based on rigorous reasoning and well-attested facts, subject whenever possible to mathematical evaluation of the probabilities of social action and existence revealed by the empirical science of man. The result, Condorcet came to insist, would be a social mathematics by which social choice —the everyday conduct of social life and individual existence — would be rendered both rational and scientific. It is this “science” (or, as Bentham put it more explicitly, this “art-and-science”)21 of social action and organization that lies at the heart of Condorcet’s social thought. And it is on the development of this latter conception of social science —the science of social choice —that we shall concentrate in the following chapters.

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

Any idea of social science, it has been briefly suggested earlier, involves not only a model of science applicable to social affairs but an appropriate definition of the social field to which the model of science is to be applied. It has been argued in the first part of this study that the structure of scientific discourse in the eighteenth century not only yielded a probabil¬ istic model of science explicitly applicable to social affairs, but in some ways required such application as proof of the validity of scientific knowledge. Concern with the science of man, in other words, was not merely the product of a gratuitous conviction that the scientific method, its power demonstrated in physics, was bound to be applicable universally in all fields of knowledge. It was a concern thrown up, as it were, by the very structure of scientific debate at the time. Definitions of the social field, similarly, are structured in such a way that some questions and issues become critical and some ways of seeing social phenomena are brought into relief while others are passed over. Again, in most cases this is not simply or entirely a matter of choice. Social philosophies tend to be structured by social debate: their concern is with issues thrown up in a specific social situation, their function to resolve these issues by an act of definition or vision, an ordering of phenomena in the intellectual world propadeutic to their reordering in the social world.22 Condorcet’s definition of the social field, it will be argued here, was an explicit response to the problems of government and society that lay at the heart of social debate in eighteenth-century France. We shall find that his participation in that debate prompted a definition of the social field closely compatible with his mathematical model of science, a definition which for administrative and financial reasons was already associated with a quanti¬ tative approach to social phenomena. The Regeneration of the Monarchy:

Turgot

In 1775, drawing on his conversations with Turgot, Dupont de Nemours drafted a memorandum ultimately intended for the young Louis XVI, outlining the Controller-General’s proposals for administrative reform.23 It is clear that Turgot himself would have revised the draft thoroughly- before submitting it to the king, probably introducing significant changes. “I have reflected too much on this matter, in the last fifteen years, not to have a host of ideas which you could not possibly have guessed, and it would be a happy coincidence if we were to agree on everything,” he wrote to Dupont, chiding him for devoting too much time to a mere draft. “It follows that the definitive version will probably require revisions; in any case, we shall see.”24 Unfortunately, this definitive version never materialized. Turgot fell from power before the revisions he anticipated could be carried out; and the memorandum therefore remained in the tentative form given it by Dupont. Nevertheless, this form was approved in its general outlines by the Controller-General, who made notes (now lost) for revisions at particular points.25 While it is therefore impossible to decide precisely how much of the work is Dupont’s and how much Turgot’s, we may fairly take the Memoire sur les municipalites as expressing the substance of the ControllerGeneral’s reforming views as he developed them in conversation with his

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small circle of confidants.26 As we shall see, it forms the essential matrix of the political theory Condorcet inherited from his political mentor. The Memoire sur les municipalites opened with a statement of an administrative problem that broadened into a profound diagnosis of the ills of monarchical government in the Old Regime. Effective administra¬ tion and rational social policy, Turgot insisted, required accurate and detailed social information: the kind of information denied to the French government by its very structure and organization.. Lack of such informa¬ tion gave rise to an infinity of abuses, particularly in fiscal matters, the effect of which was to excite discontent and render the condition of the people more miserable. To remedy this situation, it was necessary to transform the whole system of royal administration. The essence of the problem, as Turgot defined it, lay in the fact that the French monarchy lacked a “constitution,” by which he meant not a written constitution but a regular and orderly structure. The cause of the evil, Sire, goes back to the fact that your nation has no constitution. It is a society composed of different orders badly united, and of a people in which there are but very few social ties be¬ tween the members. In consequence, each individual is occupied only with his own particular, exclusive interest and almost no one bothers to fulfill his duties or know his relations to others. It follows that there exists a perpetual war of claims and counter-claims which reason and mutual understanding have never regulated, in which Your Majesty is obliged to decide everything personally or through your agents.27 As a critical summary of the theory and practice of royal absolutism as it had developed by the middle of the eighteenth century, this is a remark¬ ably concise statement. The society of the Old Regime, it need hardly be underlined, was a congeries of provinces and dependencies, communities and corporations, orders and Estates, in which functions and jurisdictions, privileges and immunities, rights and obligations, statuses and claims were constantly overlapping and in continuous process of definition and redefi¬ nition. Within this traditional society the monarchy functioned as the source and principle of unity. It was the source of unity in the sense that the constituent parts and parcels of the kingdom, brought together by dynastic claims, were united primarily in allegiance to the crown. It was the principle of unity in the sense that only by the exercise of the royal will were partial corporate interests reconciled for the good of all. For this reason, royal power was necessarily absolute, which is to say that the king’s sovereignty was not controlled by the will of men (though it was tradition¬ ally subject to counsel) but limited by such constraints as natural law, religious precept, and the fundamental laws of the state.28 It followed from this definition of absolutism, as the Memoire sur les municipalites emphasized, that royal power was necessarily personal. As the highest off icier of the realm, the king was a public person. His will embodied the good of all. Apart from him there could be no public good because without him there was no ultimate principle of unity among all his subjects. It was on this fundamental point that Louis XV insisted in 1766,

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during the famous seance cLe la flagellation in which the king excoriated the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris and reiterated the essential principles of monarchical government. Among the arguments developed by the parlements in the 1760s, perhaps the most radical was the claim that they together constituted a single and indivisible body representing the nation (which by implication became one and indivisible apart from the crown). “To try to make principles of such pernicious novelties is to injure the magistracy, to deny its institutional position, to betray its interests, and to disregard the fundamental laws of the state,” Louis warned his restless Parlement of Paris. “As if anyone could forget that there resides in my person alone the sovereign power of which the natural characteristics are the spirit of consultation, justice and reason; . . .that public order in its entirety emanates from me, and that the rights and interests of the nation, which some dare to regard as a separate body from the monarch, are necessarily united with my rights and interests, and repose only in my hands.”29 There is a further consequence of this view of royal government. If the king, and the king alone, is a public person, there can be no general, public, political activity. The king, alone among his subjects, sees the whole and can take counsel for the whole; his alone is a truly public will. Frenchmen as a body —or, more precisely, as a congeries of corporate bodies —are related to each other only indirectly as subjects of the crown. They participate in government only to the extent that they are officers of the crown or retain a traditional right, by petition or assembly, to make individual or corporate representations of their partial interest. There can be no useful public discussion of political questions — no public resolution of the conflict of partial corporate wills and conflicting social interests — since the principle of unity which must provide the criterion for settling such issues inheres ultimately in the will of the king. It was for this reason that Louis XV quite appropriately prohibited the magistrates of his recalcitrant parlements in 1766 from making public their remonstrances, or even circulating from one body to another the advice they offered him as good and useful counselors.30 In a particularistic society of orders and Estates, then, the king served as arbiter of the common good, guarantor of public order, defender of the realm. To the extent that his responsibilities to the common weal required, he could command his subjects according to their rank and estate to aid him spiritually with their counsel and materially by their financial contributions. His power to command was the more absolute the more conditions threatened. So it was that in seventeenth-century crisis condi¬ tions of war, religious and political division, economic decline and social unrest, the French monarchy had exercised its traditional role by increas¬ ing its power to mobilize the resources of society and coordinate the activities of communities and corporations for the common good.31 Counsel increasingly gave way to the power to command, justice to administration, the local government of officiers and Estates to more centralized control through intendants, corporate self-government to administrative tutelage. As provincial autonomy was suppressed, town government invaded, and guild organization directed by administrative

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authority, royal power, always the ultimate principle of unity among Frenchmen, increasingly became the only principle of order in a society (as Turgot put it) “composed of different orders badly united, and of a people in which there are but very few social ties between the members.”32 As it had developed in seventeenth-century conditions —as the response above all to the need to maintain public peace and mobilize contracting economic resources for an expanding war effort —French absolutism was largely unsystematic. Celebrations of the harmony,, stability, and order of absolute government were generally in inverse proportion to the administra¬ tive reality they glorified. New administrative hierarchies were superim¬ posed on old ones; new functions created but others not abolished; traditional responsibilities bypassed but never formally suppressed; short¬ term expedients preferred to long-term administrative gains. In the best of conditions, such government was responsive to the royal will only to the extent that a strong king could maintain personal control and consistent direction throughout the administration. With the disappearance of his great ministers, with the strains of the last decades of his reign weighing ever more heavily, Louis XIV found his royal task increasingly difficult. For his less energetic successor it gradually became impossible. In the early decades of the eighteenth century, the prestige of royal authority was diminished by a turbulent regency in which the parlements recovered the effective right to remonstrate. The pattern of conflict over religious politics was laid down in the continued struggle over the bull Unigenitus, and the chances of setting royal finances on a sound footing were lost for a century by the schemes of John Law. The personal metier of the young king was undermined by bureaucratic consolidation and the long appren¬ ticeship to Cardinal Fleury, and effective royal control gradually eluded the person of the monarch.33 Lacking consistent direction from above, the fragmented monarchical system fell victim to inevitable strains and contradictions from within. Paradoxically, this governmental crisis was exacerbated by renewed social stability. With the restoration of public order and the establishment of a more stable international system; with social recovery, population increase, and economic growth; with the changing goals and new values invoked in an age of enlightenment, the relationship between govern¬ ment and society in France entered a new phrase. Expanding governmen¬ tal activities, in part the condition of revived order and prosperity, were made increasingly expensive by rising prices and became ever more difficult to finance from a tax base that bore little direct relationship to the distribution and accumulation of wealth in the community. The increased integration of public functions stimulated public expectations of expanded governmental responsibility for social welfare, just as changing intellectual attitudes extended the definition of the benefits that social welfare involved. At the same time, the manner in which the centralization of public authority had occurred prompted growing criticism of irresponsible government, outcries against ministerial despotism, and complaints directed against the unchecked bureaucratic that was the arbitrary power of faceless men.34 These divisions in public opinion were paralleled by tensions within the

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institutions of the monarchy. Indeed, it was largely as these latter tensions broke out of their institutional framework in mid-century that public opinion came to be formed. The new administrative elite, accustomed to interpreting its responsibilities for social welfare in terms of broad national policy and often discovering justifications for that policy in the eudaemonistic values of the Enlightenment, nevertheless found itself increasingly burdened by a system of government still bordering on the labyrinthine. Nor was this elite itself free of tensions in its values and orientations. Real differences emerged as the universalistic implications of the development of bureaucratic absolutism came more clearly to threaten the particular¬ istic social foundations upon which that structure still theoretically rested. These differences notwithstanding, the new centrally directed, policyoriented administrative elite found itself at the same time at odds with the older elite of officiers (most powerfully represented by the parlements) for whom governmental responsibility for social welfare was still defined in judicial rather than administrative terms. The parlementaires reiterated the traditional duty of the monarch (as fount of justice) to maintain the rights and privileges of a corporate order by giving each his due, and to do so by acting through the judicial institutions that were the essential link between the monarch and his people. Yet even as they did so, they were themselves forced into the revolutionary new ways of thinking necessary to validate their traditional responsibilities in the new political context. The protracted conflict between the parlements and the central royal adminis¬ tration, involving as it did all these fundamental issues, gradually came to dominate the reign of Louis XV. In the last years of that reign, as the crisis that began with the Brittany affair demonstrated, the traditional political arrangements had clearly broken down. All of this Turgot doubtless had in mind when he intended to tell the young Louis XVI that he had inherited a realm without a constitution: a state in which there was such disarray and lack of unity that everything seemed to depend upon the particular will of the monarch. Among provinces and cantons, towns and villages, families and individuals, argued the Controller-General, there was no understanding of the mutual relationships that must hold a state together. Individuals were badly instructed in their family obligations; they knew still less about their public duties. Ignorant of the basis for their obligations to the state, families regarded fiscal exactions as nothing but the exercise of the law of the strongest. They saw no other reason for paying taxes than their own weakness, or the failure of their attempts to conceal their wealth and pass their share of the burden to their neighbors. The result, Turgot argued, remembering his years as royal intendant in the Limousin, was a constant war between the king and his people in which no one had any interest in supporting the government. “There is no public spirit, because there is no clearly-known common interest.”35 The same disequilibrium existed at the higher levels of corporate organization, Turgot insisted. Towns and villages, the members of which were already divided among themselves, had no unity at the cantonal level; cantons had none at the provincial level, or provinces at the national

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level. While pays d’etats retained some semblance of a constitution in the form of assemblies of estates, the public interest was nevertheless lost in the divergent claims and interests of the separate estates within these bodies and of the provincial assemblies in relation to the nation as a whole. To remedy this disorder and replace it with a spirit of order and unity in which the resources of the nation would be coordinated for the common good, a regular and uniform constitution was necessary. “You are forced to decree on everything, in most cases by particular acts of will,” Turgot urged the king, “while you could govern like God by general laws if the various parts composing your realm had a regular organization and a clear understand¬ ing of their relations.”36 But what was to be the basis for this reorganization of the realm? What of the fundamental constitution, historically given, the restoration of which was frequently demanded as a check upon encroaching royal despotism? Justice can only be lost in a multiplicity of facts and authorities, Turgot insisted. “The custom of deciding what must be done by examining the example of what our ancestors did in times of ignorance and barbarism has been too frequently employed in grave matters.”37 The crisis of the traditional body politic could not be resolved by reiterating competing corporate claims or reviving historical conflicts of jurisdiction. For such a purpose a new and impartial language was necessary, a new public logic for the relationship between state and society. For this logic, the rhetoric of science afforded an impregnable model. Science was public knowledge, objectively validated; by definition it served no partial inter¬ ests and recognized no self-seeking truths. It could offer a rational response to the conflicting claims of corporate interests, in the form of an objective social science establishing the rights and interests of individuals not on the basis of their history but on their nature as men and their mutual relations as citizens. “These rights and interests are not very numerous,” Turgot maintained. “Consequently, the science which comprises them, based upon the principles of justice that each of us bears in his heart and on the intimate conviction of our own sensations, has a very great degree of certainty and yet is not at all extensive. It does not demand the efforts of long study and does not surpass the capabilities of any man of good will.”38 This was radical language for a royal minister. It amounted to nothing less than the assertion that the historical logic of corporate rights and responsibilities was powerless to resolve the constitutional crisis of the old regime. The deadlock of conflicting corporate claims could not be broken by the familiar pattern of assertion and counterassertion. A new criterion was necessary, a new definition of the public interest. As a young man, Turgot had argued in the Encyclopedic that the usefulness of such corporate entities as endowed foundations should be ceaselessly measured against the supreme law of public utility, as defined by the common interest of the individual citizens that truly make up the body of society. “Citizens have rights, and rights to be respected as sacred by society as a whole,” he had argued in the article “Fondations.” “They exist indepen¬ dently of society; they form its necessary elements; and they only enter into it to place themselves, with all their rights, under the protection of these

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same laws to which they sacrifice their liberty. But private bodies [corps particuliers] do not exist of themselves nor for themselves; they have been formed for society; and they must cease to exist the moment that they cease to be useful.”39 Twenty years later, as Controller-General, Turgot was ready to propose to Louis XVI that the very fabric of the French monarchy be reordered in terms of the same criterion. Put simply, the measures that the Controller-General envisaged in the Memoire sur les municipality were twofold. The first was a national educational system that would inculcate the public spirit now lacking in France by educating the individual in the “science” of “the duties of man in society.” There are methods and institutions for training grammarians and geometricians, painters and physicians, Turgot pointed out, but none for forming citizens. It was therefore necessary to set up a national educational council to direct public instruction in the public interest according to uniform principles, ensuring that “the study of the duties of the citizen, as member of a family and of the State, be the foundation of all other studies, which would be arranged in the order of their potential utility for society.”40 The result, Turgot maintained, would be a nation of enlight¬ ened citizens “prepared for the State, attached to their country, submitting to authority not from fear but through reason, helpful toward their fellow citizens, accustomed to knowing and respecting the justice which is the principal foundation of society.”41 The second measure Turgot envisaged was the decentralization of administration through the institution of a hierarchy of representative assemblies from the village to the national level, charged with the details of tax assessment and the direction of public works. These assemblies were to be instituted not on the artificial basis of corporate membership in a society of orders and Estates but in terms of the natural and objective criterion of the landed wealth of citoyens proprietaires, those whose rational interest was ensured by a stake in the country. They would not be assemblies of Estates, the appropriate constitutional image of the monar¬ chy in a corporate society. But “grouping citizens in relation to their utility to the State and the indelible place they occupy on the soil as propertyowners, they would tend to make of the nation but a single body perpetually animated by one sole objective, the public good and the preservation of the rights of each individual.”42 In outlining the plans for these assemblies, the Memoire sur les municipalites revealed a marked concern to ensure the rationality of their deliberations. To guarantee the existence of primary assemblies that were “neither too numerous, nor tumultuous, nor absolutely unreasonable,” Turgot would have limited the right to participate in their formation to property-owners. They alone, he insisted, have a permanent stake in society; they alone have a rational interest in the public good; they alone can be expected to resist corruption. Clearly, however, all property-owners do not have an equal stake in society: the more marginal their property, the weaker their rational interest in the public good. Turgot therefore defined the right to participate directly in the primary assemblies as belonging to those with enough property to support a family indepen-

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dently, according these citoyens entiers a number of votes proportionate to the number of times their property exceeded this amount. “This arrange¬ ment would be useful,’’ he argued, “in that, putting the plurality of decisive votes most often on the side of those who have received the most education, it would render the assemblies much more reasonable than if badly instructed and uneducated men were to predominate.”43 Those without property enough to support a family independently, on the other hand, Turgot defined as citoyensfractionnaires. They were entitled to join together with other citoyens fractionnaires to elect a representative in the primary assembly, in such a manner that each of these representatives stood for a group of citizens whose property together was the equivalent of that of a citoyen entier. In this way, Turgot was able to reconcile the principle of representation with an aversion to large assemblies and a distrust of the mass of the populace, limiting the primary assemblies to the rational deliberation of a handful of men.44 The arrangement Turgot envisaged for the primary assemblies was not only intended to ensure rationality in their deliberations. It also made the exercise of their responsibilities for the allocation of taxes almost auto¬ matic. Participation in the assemblies being based on property, the claim to participate would automatically imply a public statement of taxability. The desire of an individual to minimize his tax obligations would be counterbalanced by his desire to maximize his participation in the formation of the assemblies, while the accuracy of individual claims would also be guaranteed by their very publicity. As a result, Turgot insisted, “the proportions of fortunes being known, the allocation of taxes will be carried out with the allocation of votes, by the inhabitants themselves without any difficulty.”45 The political records of the primary assemblies would constitute an accurate statement of the taxable wealth of their communities, to be taken by their delegates to the assemblies at the district level. The details of tax assessment accurately and automatically carried out, the primary assemblies would be free to concern themselves with discussion of public works necessary in the community, together with the provision of additional funds for their execution. The same desire to ensure the rationality and accuracy of public deliberations —to turn them, as it were, into instruments for the automatic production of social truth —characterized Turgot’s arrangements for the higher assemblies at the district, provincial, and national levels. To send parish deputies directly to a provincial assembly, he argued, would result in the “numerous assemblies [that] are the death of reason.”46 He therefore envisaged intermediate assemblies at the district level, in which the status of the deputies would depend upon the taxable wealth of the communities they represented. This procedure would again guarantee against false declarations. Automatically establishing the proportions of the tax burden to be paid by the various communities represented, it would leave only the precise amounts of the levy to be determined at a second session, after the share for each district had been determined at the provincial assembly. The district assemblies would then be able to devote the remainder of their first session to discussion of necessary public works in the district and issues

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to be taken by their delegate to the provincial assembly, while still limiting their two sessions to the duration of a few days a year (thereby preventing the dangerous development of esprit de corps). The same pattern was to be repeated in the provincial assemblies, which would be limited to thirty delegates meeting for no more than four weeks a year. Thus Turgot came to the national assembly, or General Municipality of the Realm, “the skein which will unite in Your Majesty’s hands all the threads corresponding to the smallest and most distant parts of your realm.”47 To this assembly of representatives, in which the royal ministers would also sit and vote, the king would declare the fiscal needs of the government and the necessary expenses for public works, leaving the burden of taxation to be divided equitably among the provinces on the basis of the information brought to the assembly by the provincial delegates. Again, this procedure would be carried out accurately and automatically, for the very constitution of the hierarchy of assemblies on the basis of taxable property would have accomplished “what thousands of government employees and millions in expenses would never have been able to produce”: a general cadaster, or land register of the realm.48 Thus equitably divided at the national level, the responsibility for distributing the tax burden would be passed down the chain of assemblies, where the detailed operations would be accurately carried out by those in the best position to do so. As a result, Turgot predicted, “all particular questions, those of the parishes and elections, and even of the provinces, would be automatically handled by those best qualified to deal with them: those who, handling their own affairs, would never have cause for complaint.” No longer overburdened with details, the government would be free to devote itself to “the general considerations of a wise legislation.”49 Chief among the considerations of general policy that Turgot had in mind was the reform of taxation by the abolition of existing taxes and the implementation of a general tax on property that would “place the State in a perfect and visible community of interest with all the proprietors.”50 This reform, he maintained, could be instituted through the new assemblies and with their support. Should the impossible happen and these assemblies oppose such reforms, Turgot insisted, the king would be no less free to introduce them by an act of authority. For these municipal assemblies, from the first to the last, would be only assemblies and not Estates. They could enlighten, and by their constitution they would clarify the distribution of taxes and the par¬ ticular needs of each locality; but they would have no authority to oppose the indispensable and courageous operations that the reform of your finances require. They would have all the advantages of assemblies of Estates with none of their inconveniences: neither the confusion, nor the in¬ trigues, nor the esprit de corps, nor the animosities and prejudices of one order against another.51 Thus Turgot had no intention, at least initially, of allowing his assemblies to determine government policy. They would have the authority

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to support reform in the name of the public interest; but they would have no power to prevent its implementation for the public good. For this decision to limit the assemblies to purely administrative functions there were two basic reasons, Condorcet asserted in his biography of the Controller-General. First, it was clear that the reform of an entire system of legislation could not be effectively carried out without the regular plan, the well-articulated system that could only be the conception of a single man. The great advantage of monarchy, in Turgot’s eyes, was that it could act expeditiously in accordance with such a plan.52 Second, it was clear that Turgot was wrell aware of the dangers of popular decision-making, despite his efforts to ensure the rationality of the deliberations in his projected assemblies. "He knew that even in states with the most popular constitu¬ tions, where all citizens participate in public affairs through duty or ambition, they are almost always decided by the dictates of prejudices,” Condorcet stated in the Vie de M. Turgot. “It is there, above all, that abuses are eternal and useful changes impossible.” But in a monarchy where an institution of this kind would be novel, what could one expect from an assembly of men almost all foreign to public affairs, not amenable to the voice of truth, quick to allow themselves to be led astray by the first charlatan to seduce them? The generosity that would grant them the responsibility to pronounce on their own interests would be but a cruel hypocrisy. It would be to write off as pure loss the greatest advantage of monar¬ chies, that of being able to destroy the edifice of prejudices before it collapses under its own weight, and of carrying out useful reforms, even when the crowd of rich and powerful men protects abuses; that, finally, of following a regular system without being obliged to sacri¬ fice part of it to the necessity of winning votes.53 As Condorcet interpreted the ideas of his mentor, sovereign power— the power to reform in accordance with justice and the public interest— would have been reserved to the monarch, with no direct or immediate transfer of the exercise of power from the king to the people. For Turgot was primarily interested not in the mere transfer of power from one body to another but in the more profound transformation of power through enlightenment. His assemblies were not initially intended to give voice to the political will of the nation; they were instituted, on the contrary, to provide accurate social information and public enlightenment through the exercise of the common reason. They represented an enlightened rework¬ ing of the traditional notion that the king should govern with “tr£s grand conseil.”54 Throughout, the Memoire sur les municipalites remained faithful to its administrative inspiration. For although Turgot admitted the theoretical sovereignty of the people —which he regarded as emphati¬ cally demonstrated in the work of Rousseau55 —the whole thrust of his political thinking was to minimize the importance of its direct and immediate exercise. The right of sovereignty is not anterior to society but owes its existence to it, Condorcet argued in the Vie de M. Turgot, explaining the Controller-General’s views. It should not be confused with those essential rights of man for the preservation of which men entered civil

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society; nor should the direct exercise of sovereignty be allowed to a people who might use it to abuse their natural rights. Indeed, given the preservation of these rights in society, the direct exercise of popular sovereignty is of little significance. “In fact, if one supposes men subject to laws violating none of their rights, all of which (on the contrary) contribute to assure their enjoyment of them, it will be of very little importance to their happiness whether these laws have received their sanction in a public form, or simply by their tacit consent.”56 This is all the more true, Condorcet insisted in the Vie de M. Turgot, once the laws are regarded not as the expression of the arbitrary will of the greatest number but as truths rationally derived from the principles of natural right. The rationality of legislation, in other words, is of more fundamental importance than the locus of legislative power.57 Condorcet was to devote much of his social science to the problem of ensuring rational political decision-making in accordance with this principle. Nevertheless, while they did not necessarily envisage an immediate transfer of power, Turgot’s schemes clearly involved a fundamental redefinition of the relationship between government and society. The establishment of a revised system of taxation would “place the State in a perfect and visible community of interest with all the proprietors,” realizing in a physiocratic manner the old dream of a situation in which the interest of the ruler would be so identified with that of the nation that maladministration would be almost impossible. The institution of a regular system of government would allow the king to rule “like God, by general laws,” leaving the details of administration to be carried out rationally and automatically by local assemblies. The creation of a national system of education would form an enlightened citizen body, “sub¬ mitting to authority not from fear but through reason.” With these reforms, the political reconciliation of partial, corporate interests through the exer¬ cise of a sovereign royal will would yield to a process of rational administra¬ tion , guided and informed by an enlightened public opinion. The king’s role as highest officier of the realm, at once the source of unity and the arbiter between conflicting corporate interests for the public good, would be transformed into that of chief executive (perhaps even chief commis) of a nation of individuals united by the reciprocal bond of citizenship. The closed political order of royal absolutism would give way to the public discussion of a nation of individuals equal before the law and participating in the conduct of public administration in proportion to their rationality. Not surprisingly, all of this was not spelled out in the draft Memoire sur les municipalites intended for the young monarch. Torn between his passion for the public good and his obligation to respect the trust of a prince whose traditional authority he had sworn to uphold, Turgot would have implemented his reforms only gradually, Condorcet argued in his biography of the Controller-General. He would have commenced by instituting only the first two levels of his fourfold hierarchy of assemblies, which represented no threat to royal authority (or, we might say, to public order). Here he would have stopped until public spirit had developed, the arts of citizenship had taken root, and the nation and the king had been prepared for the fulfillment of his scheme.58

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Before finally proceeding beyond this stage to the completion of his hierarchy of assemblies by the institution of the provincial and national bodies, Condorcet claimed, 1 urgot would have warned the king that “he would confer eternal benefit upon the nation, but he could not do so without sacrificing a part of the royal authority” in an act of monarchical patriotism unprecedented in history. He would have told him, at the same time, that in a constitution thus formed, the general desire [le voeu general\ of the nation would be the sole obstacle to an authority always tranquil and assured: an authority that would be the more absolute and free to do good since it would no longer see any intermediary body, or the interests of any order of men, trouble the peace by rising up between a prince and his people. That this general desire [of the nation] could be ascer¬ tained with no difficulty by means of such institutions, and it would rarely go astray. It would be a far surer guide than the public opinion that is a kind of obstacle common to all absolute governments, which while less constant in its resistance is also less tranquil, often as powerful, sometimes harmful and always dangerous. That, finally, if the natural order of events must render necessary such a sacrifice [of the royal authority] it could not be without danger for the nation, as for the prince, unless it were absolutely voluntary and made by the sovereign himself before the moment when the necessity for it began to be felt.59 With this statement, Condorcet drew to their logical conclusion the implications of the development of bureaucratic absolutism, of which Turgot had been the most enlightened exponent in France. Royal power had been personal power, the living embodiment of justice in a corporate society of orders and Estates. Yet in extending its public authority, the monarchy had necessarily depersonalized royal power and political author¬ ity in general, creating a new administrative elite whose structure and values threatened to undermine the traditional foundations of monarchi¬ cal authority in a particularistic society. Like the older traditional elite of officiers, this new elite defined themselves as servants of the monarchy rather than of the monarch. But unlike these officiers, they did not (by and large) occupy offices that were essentially judicial in function; nor could they be regarded as magistrates virtually representing the parts and parcels of the kingdom before the throne. Increasingly, indeed, they found their justifications for power less in the patrimonial justice protecting rights and privileges in a traditional social order than in a concept of public administration advancing the welfare of a nation of citizens.60 This reorientation of goals and values was far from complete in the last decades of the Old Regime, nor was it unchallenged within the administration or without. It is precisely the magnitude of the tensions and contradictions stemming from the coexistence of older and newer structures and values within the same system that constitutes the interest of French administra¬ tive history during this period. Yet for a new administrative elite in search of an ideology, Turgot’s Memoire sur les municipalites offered an entirely appropriate (if radical) political philosophy. In a government where the king ruled “like God, by general laws,” the personal will of the ruler would

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give way to the legal-rational authority of the reformed administrative system. Such a system would find its ultimate justification in service to the nation: hence the theoretical recognition of popular sovereignty. But it would serve not the popular will but the public interest, as rationally defined by consultation with assemblies that were at once administrative agencies and representative institutions. Freed from the arbitrary personal power of the monarch, unimpeded by corporate privileges and jurisdic¬ tions, enlightened by public discussion in rational assemblies, the adminis¬ trative state would become coterminous with the political nation. Yet at the same time, politics would give way to rational self-administration. Turgot never got far enough with his reforming schemes to give Louis XVI this revolutionary advice. Nor it is likely that it would have been well received. The king later showed himself well aware of the radical implications of the Memoire sur les municipalites, when it was eventually made public at the height of the prerevolutionary debate over the reform of the monarchy.61 But for Condorcet, long after the ill-fated ministry was over, Turgot’s attempt to answer the conflict of partial corporate interests in France by redefining the relationship between government and society remained the essential foundation of his political theory. As we shall see, the Controller-General's vision of a society of citizens equal before the law, contributing to the rational conduct of public affairs in proportion to their status as citoyens proprietaires and their capabilities as rational beings, formed the fundamental basis for the conception of the social field to which Condorcet’s scientific model was to be applied. The “Science” of Citizenship

The methodological foundations of the moral and political sciences, Condorcet maintained in the notes to his reception speech at the French Academy, had been laid in England by John Locke.62 This was not to say that Locke had discovered all that could be known in the moral sciences, any more than Newton had in the physical. Locke had taught a method, not a doctrine. He had demonstrated “the way of ideas” by reducing complex ideas to their simplest components, relating these simplest ideas to their origins in the sensations. He had thereby translated metaphysics, redefined as the philosophical analysis of sensations and ideas, from a fixed body of doctrine into a positive science based on facts, and subject like other sciences to the changing dictates of fact. “Metaphysics is only the application of reasoning to the facts made known to us by observation in reflecting upon our sensations, our ideas, our sentiments,” Condorcet stated in his notes for the great Kehl edition of the works of Voltaire. No one can suppose that all these facts have been observed, analyzed and compared one with another. It would even be hardly philosophi¬ cal to regard as unchangeable the limits Locke ascribed to the human mind. It is the same in metaphysics as in the other sciences, from which it differs only in its subject and not in its certainty or its method. One can say of each of them: this is as far as the human mind can hope to reach in the present state of enlightenment; if it forges further ahead, it runs the risk of losing its way; but it would be rash to fix the limit of what one day will be possible.63

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By reducing metaphysics to epistemology, and epistemology to the analysis of ideas as grounded in the sensations, Locke had pointed the way to the introduction of certainty, or at least the highest degree of probability that the observation of facts permitted, into the moral and political sciences. Only by adopting the method of analysis, Condorcet later wrote in the Esquisse, had it been possible for philosophers to make progress in the moral sciences almost as sure as that in the physical sciences: to admit only proven truths; to separate these truths from whatever remained doubtful and uncertain. “Thus the analysis of our sentiments made it possible for us to discover, in the development of our faculty of experiencing pleasure and pain, the origin of our moral ideas; the foundation of the general truths, resulting from these ideas, which determine the immu¬ table and necessary laws of justice and injustice; and finally the rea¬ sons for directing our conduct in conformity with these laws, reasons founded on the very nature of our sensibility, on what could in a sense be called our moral constitution.”64 Like many others in the eighteenth century, Condorcet sought the first principles of the moral and political sciences in the facts of sensationalist psychology. In doing so, however, he was taught by Turgot to avoid the crude utilitarianism best exemplified in France by the psychological doctrines of Helvetius. “It appears that in the moral universe as in the physical universe, God has put but a single principle in all that is,” Helvetius argued in De I’espnt,65 Endowed by nature with physical sensibility, man is primarily motivated by a concern to avoid pain and seek pleasure. He discovers his greatest good in satisfying the interests of the passions: the supreme law of his nature is that of self-interest. Since he finds himself living within a community, however, the principle of self-interest suggests a social ethic, namely, that the interest of the individual be identified with the general interest. In Helvetius’s view, the rational realization that his individual good is best served by submitting to the general interest is of insufficient force to compel man to social virtue. The good man, he argued, is not he who sacrifices his pleasure, his habits, his strongest passions, to the greater good of the public interest, for it is impossible to conceive of the existence of such a paragon. The truly virtuous man is he whose private interest has been made to conform, willy-nilly, to the general interest, “he whose strongest passion is in such conformity with the general interest that he is almost always obliged of necessity to be virtuous.”66 Helvetius considered it the function of the moral and political sciences to effect this artificial and necessary identifica¬ tion of interest. He regarded the task of the legislator as consisting in the manipulation of the great principle of self-interest by means of penalties and pains imposed by the legal machinery and through habits formed by education —to produce the identification of particular interests with the common good. Ethics, he argued, must be viewed as a science of legislation; politics as the art of producing virtuous men. In maintaining the artificial balance of interests within society, the legislator of De Vesprit would fulfill the role of the political engineer as envisaged by Condillac. He would regulate the machine of state by the operation of a single utilitarian spring, that revealed by the positive science of sensationalist psychology.67

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This utilitarian doctrine Helvetius tricked out with a cynical worldliness and a patina of erotic innuendo that gave his work a succes de scandale as “the book that revealed everybody’s secret.” While it clearly exercised an attraction for the young Condorcet, it was severely criticized as meretri¬ cious by the stern Turgot in a series of letters the two exchanged in 1773. Turgot’s first letter on this subject has been lost, but it seems clear from a later letter that it must have been motivated by his repudiation of any hint of determinism in the moral sciences.68 Savage enough to be frightening, in Condorcet’s eyes, it prompted the young mathematician to attempt a rather lukewarm defense of Helvetius which in its turn elicited from his correspondent a powerful profession of faith in matters moral. “Every¬ where he seeks to exclude the idea of justice and morality,” Turgot insisted of the author of De [’esprit. “Never at least does one see him base his morality on justice, nor is there a word in his book that tends to prove that justice towards all is in the interest of all, that it is the interest of each individual as it is that of societies.” Starting from false principles, Turgot charged, Helvetius had established that there is no place for probity be¬ tween nations, from which it follows that the world must be continuously in a state of war. Nowhere does he see that the interest of nations is only that of the in¬ dividuals composing them. Nowhere does he base his argument on a thorough knowledge of the human heart: nowhere does he analyze the true needs of men, which he seems to make consist only of want¬ ing a woman; nowhere does he seem aware that man has a need to love,69 Yet it is erroneous to assert that men always conduct themselves selfishly, Turgot maintained. Even in the most corrupt, the moral sentiments are always in opposition to narrow self-interest. These sentiments may not be innate, but they are none the less “natural, founded on the constitution of our mind and our soul, and on our relations with all that surrounds us.”70 Before this emphatic criticism of Helvetius, Condorcet was forced to clarify his own position. “When I left school, I set myself to reflect upon the moral ideas of justice and virtue,” he replied to Turgot. “I had reason to observe that our interest in being just and virtuous is founded on the pain necessarily inflicted on one sensitive being by the idea of the evil suffered by another. . . .1 am not then of the opinion of Helvetius, since I admit in man a sentiment the force and influence of which he does not seem to have suspected.”71 The principle of moral sentiment, thus enunciated, re¬ mained essential to Condorcet’s thinking in ethics. Together with Turgot, he derived from sensationalist psychology a doctrine of interest wide enough to include the principle of sympathy dear to the Scottish school of philosophers, to whom he gave so much of the credit for advancing the moral sciences.72 But while Condorcet accepted the sympathetic principle, he was careful to deny the existence of an independent moral faculty, or sens intime. The Scottish philosophers had posited such a separate moral sense, Condorcet later argued in the Esquisse, for no other reason than that they found themselves unable to penetrate to the true origin of moral

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principles. They presented no other proof of its existence than that they could explain nothing without it.73 In Condorcet’s view, our moral ideas derive not from a special moral sense but from the combined action of sensation and reflection. As a sensitive being, man seeks pleasure and avoids pain. But, as a sensitive being, he also finds that sympathy (or bienveillance) forms spontaneously in his heart at the sight of the pain or pleasure of another being. It is in the consequent desire to avoid the pain experienced at the sight or idea of a fellow-being suffering, and to share in his pleasure, that Condorcet found both the origin of our moral principles and the motive for virtue.74 Thus while Helvetius, at least in his strictest logic and in his more extreme formulations, regarded the function of legislation as that of identifying self-interest with the common interest through the manipula¬ tion of pains and pleasures, Condorcet came to regard its function in this respect in more negative terms. In his view, the logic of sensationalist psychology issued in conceptions of universal right and justice rather than of utilitarian law. He held that rational consideration of the constant facts of nature leads man to the discovery of moral principles valid for all societies. "The idea of justice, of right, necessarily forms in the same manner in all sensitive beings capable of making the necessary combina¬ tions to acquire these ideas. They will therefore be uniform.”75 The moral principles deriving from man’s psychological nature are universal and invariable. Properly understood, they lead to the good of all. The conflict in existing society between justice and self-interest, private needs and the public good, must therefore be the result of existing social organization. The function of legislation is to eliminate this conflict between justice and self-interest, not by manipulating pains and pleasures to produce an artificial behavioral identification of wills —as Helvetius had insisted —but by replacing a social organization which dictates that self-interest prevail over the common good with one that permits man to listen to the voice of reason within him. The tyranny of will was to give way to the rule of reason ; and a rational theory of action was to replace socially determined behavior. Condorcet therefore looked forward in his reception speech at the French Academy to the establishment of a rational system of legislation and education enabling man to “fulfill by a natural inclination the same duties which today cost him effort and sacrifice.”76 In such a society, with the elaboration of a rational science of conduct, heroic virtue would be as redundant as the artificial identification of interests. But what were the rational principles of legislation? On what basis was legislative reform to be carried out? Once again, Condorcet was taught by Turgot to find the extreme doctrine of Helvetius inadequate. Anticipating the later strictures of Macaulay on the primitive utilitarianism of James Mill, Turgot rejected the vaunted principle that interest is the single spring of human action. This principle is reduced in Helvetius’s analysis to the mere truism that man only desires what he desires, Turgot argued. In this tautological form, the utilitarian doctrine of interest can have no practical consequences. It provides no ground for reform since it leads logically to the conclusion that all that is, is desired.77 Rather than regarding the

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principle of self-interest as leading to a utilitarian program of reform based on the doctrine of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, Turgot insisted that the effect of Helvetius’s analysis was to justify the existence of the very prejudices he sought to destroy. Thus he even refused the author of De Vesprit the merit accorded him by a Condorcet enthusiastic for any weapon against Uinf&me, that of levelling powerful blows against despotism and intolerance. Since the principles of the rights of man alone provide adequate grounds for reform, Turgot argued, premature propaganda based upon the false doctrine of interest can only endanger progress toward reform rather than aiding it. When one wishes to attack intolerance and despotism, it is first nec¬ essary to base oneself on just ideas, for the inquisitors have an interest in being intolerant, and the viziers and their underlings have an in¬ terest in maintaining all the abuses of the government.... I hate des¬ potism as much as anyone; but it must be attacked not by declama¬ tions but by establishing demonstratively the rights of man.78 The crude utilitarianism of De Vesprit, Turgot therefore concluded, was not in the least utilitarian, since it led to no precise practical results. Legislation must be directed not to the greatest utility of society, “a vague principle and a fertile source of bad laws,” but to the maintenance of the natural rights for the preservation of which men entered civil society.79 The true interest of society, Condorcet argued in the Vie de M. Turgot — at the same time summarizing his mentor’s views and affirming his confidence in them —is to be subject to legislation that respects the natural rights of man to life, liberty, and property, and is solely occupied with securing their enjoyment.80 For Turgot, as for his younger disciple, the logic of the moral sciences went beyond the utilitarian doctrine of self-interest, issuing in the physiocratic conception of the rights of man as the logical foundation of the science of society. It is hardly surprising, then, that Condorcet was to become the author of one of the earliest draft declarations of the rights of man to appear in the French Revolution.81 Condorcet sketched the foundations for such a declaration in 1786, in a little work written in response to the prize-essay proposed by the abbe Raynal five years earlier: “Has the discovery of America been useful or harmful to the human race? If benefits have resulted from it, what means are there of preserving and increasing them? If it has produced evil results, how can they be remedied?” Reducing the question to an examination of the effects of the American Revolution on Europe, and particularly on France, Condorcet began by asking by what measure these effects could be regarded as beneficial or harmful. “A nation taken as a body is an abstract being,” he argued. “It can be neither happy nor unhappy.”82 How then should the collective happiness of a nation of individuals be defined? One possibility was to consider it as a kind of mean value of the happiness or unhappiness of the totality of individuals involved. This approach, that of Helvetius in France and Bentham in England, Condorcet specifically rejected, on the grounds that it entailed acceptance of the principle that the well-being of the lesser number could legitimately be sacrificed to the

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well-being of the greater number, “a maxim which places society in a state of perpetual war, subjecting to the empire of force that which should be ruled by reason and justice. 83 Accordingly, he proposed another criterion for assessing the well-being of a nation, namely the general means it enjoyed for the achievement of human happiness. Such means were in part given by nature and determined by the geographical location and natural resources of the country. More important, they were determined by the political constitution and the extent to which it guaranteed respect for natural rights of men that were everywhere the same. d hese rights Condorcet reduced to four principal points, which he listed in De l’influence de la revolution d Amerique in their order of importance.84 First came the right to personal liberty and security: the right of the individual to be free from physical violence; his right to be free from any interference with the exercise of his faculties, provided this exercise does not infringe upon the rights of others. Second, and scarcely less important, came the right of the individual to the free and secure enjoyment of his property. Of all the natural rights, Condorcet had argued in the Vie de M. Turgot, property, the free disposition of what one legitimately possesses, is the most fundamental. It follows that laissez-faire, laissez-passer must be the first law of civil society. Everywhere they are untrammelled, particular interests tend naturally to the common good. Everywhere they are hindered, agriculture, industry, and commerce must be set free. For what right can society have over these objects? Instituted to preserve man’s exercise of his natural rights, obliged to watch over the common good of all, it is required by justice and the public interest equally to limit legislation to protecting the freest exercise of the individual’s right to property, to establishing no obstacles and destroying those that exist, to preventing fraud and violence from contravening the laws.”85 The science of citizenship, as Condorcet learned it from Turgot, clearly implied the liberal economic program for which Condorcet campaigned so vociferously throughout his public career. Yet the security of persons and property can only be guaranteed by law. The third natural right is consequently the right to be subject “only to general laws extending to the body of citizens as a whole, laws the interpretation of which can never be arbitrary and the execution of which is placed in impartial hands.”86 Citizens must be equal before the law, irrespective of their social status or religious convictions. It was this belief in citizenship as a reciprocal and secular relationship that made Condorcet so ardent an advocate of civil rights for Protestants during the 1780s. But equality before the law, in turn, can only be maintained by the rule of law. There must be no arbitrary power above the law. Nor must the law itself be arbitrary, or vary from place to place. Crimes must be clearly and consistently defined, with punishments proportionate to them; the proofs requisite for conviction must be exactly laid down, with no arbitrary powers of interpretation left to the judges; the rationality of tribunals must be guaranteed by their composition and organization.87 The science of citizenship therefore entailed rational and universal law reform, or codification. If it was necessary to reduce the first principles of ethics and

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politics to rational truths, it was also essential to apply “the torch of analysis” to the concomitant sciences of legislation and jurisprudence.88 Condorcet, like Montesquieu, regarded the corruption of the civil and criminal laws as the “slow and secret cause of the decline and fall of nations.”89 Once perverted from their true function and simplicity, the laws spread a silent and scarcely perceptible contagion throughout the body politic; they attack public manners and sap the national character; they breed vice and stifle virtue. In his Eloge de Michel de I'Hopital, Condorcet diagnosed such a process of degeneration in European history. Among the ancients, he argued, legislation had been simple and harmon¬ ious; the law and the constitution, customs, opinions, and religious beliefs, all tended towards the same end. The pathetic moderns were far from such a blessed state: “each nation has been formed by twenty different peoples, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Arabs, Barbarians: each has given us chains or laws.”90 Capitularies inscribed for another government and a different temper; assorted tribal customs perpetrated by chance and royal preten¬ sions ; laws given by Justinian to a people even further away in spirit than in time; the decisions of legists and the practices of tribunals, ordinances inspired by ignorance and barbarism, regulations dictated by passing expediency: such, Condorcet argued, was the chaos of French jurispru¬ dence. Was it surprising that he found in his Eloges that some of the best scientific minds of the age had been lost to the moral sciences as the result of such a spectacle?91 A genius was necessary to reform this disordered mass of legislation. Only the inspired legislator who embodied the alter ego of the philosophe — the myth that had almost become reality in the ministry of Turgot —could replace this legislation by laws deriving from the first principles of human nature. The great Chancellor de I’Hopital had not been unworthy of such a task of reformation, Condorcet declaimed, had the circumstances of his age permitted. But never was an age less favorable to reform than the sixteenth century: “perhaps the most evil epoch in the memory of the world’s annals.”92 Reform required a period of tranquillity, and France had been rent by civil wars; an enlightened nation, and the French had been blinded by fanaticism; a respected authority, and everyone had disobeyed with impunity. Nor was the chancellor’s failure determined only by these obstacles. What he did not do could not be done in the sixteenth century. For the true principles of the moral sciences had yet to be discovered. Tike all sciences, Condorcet insisted, the moral and political sciences are uneven in their progress. “Founded equally [with other sciences] on the general laws that observation alone teaches us to know, they are for a long time merely the assemblage of truths made known by instinct to men of genius. There comes a moment when the true principles of these sciences, the method of studying them, and the art of reducing them to a system are finally discovered.”93 In the moral sciences, as in the natural sciences, it is this very confusion, the number and complexity of the phenomena, that inevitably brings the moment of revolution: “but it must arrive more slowly in the moral sciences, where human vices add to the difficulties of

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nature: and Descartes had to precede Montesquieu.”94 Just as Descartes had taught men to seek in reason the laws governing the physical universe, so in Condorcet’s view had Montesquieu taught them to search for the spirit of the laws behind the historical chaos of custom and legislation. In doing so, the author of De Vesprit des lois had achieved a revolution in the moral sciences almost as fundamental as that accomplished by Locke himself. The disgust of the young d’Alembert at the historical mess of legislation and jurisprudence was easily explicable, Condorcet insisted in his biography of the mathematician. “The work of Montesquieu did not yet exist, and no one foresaw the revolution that he was to produce in our minds.”95 This assessment of Montesquieu is important, since it suggests that Condorcet’s ideas on social science were perhaps more powerfully shaped by the author of De Vesprit des lois than might at times appear. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that Condorcet cut his teeth in questions of politics and legislation on De Vesprit des lois. The manuscript Memoires sur differents sujets adresses a M. le vicomte de Condorcet, par M. le marquis de C***, which bears all the signs of an early work —a first attempt to set down systematically the fruits of its author’s reading on politics —was clearly written with close attention to the work of this “illustrious man from whose opinions one should never stray without the strongest reasons.”96 And as Condorcet became more passionately attached to his reforming convictions, he evidently felt the need again to define them in clear contradistinction to the teachings of Montesquieu, a need fulfilled in the fragment posthumously published as Observations de Condorcet sur le XXIXe livre de VEsprit des lois.97 For the Condorcet of this fragment, as for the baron de la Brede, there are necessary and invariable laws deriving from man’s moral constitution. While he rejected the Malebranchian mold in which Montesquieu’s thoughts on laws moral and physical was formed, the mathematician clearly subscribed to the celebrated assertion of the first book of De Vesprit des lois that “to say that there is nothing just or unjust but what is commanded or forbidden by positive laws is the same as saying that before the describing of a circle all the radii were not equal.”98 It was when Montesquieu attempted to account for the historical gap between the rational moral laws and the positive legislation dictated by physical and social conditions, seeking an accomodation between them, that Condorcet broke radically with the master. At the root of his criticism there lies a repudiation of the relativism of De Vesprit des lois: he attacks Montesquieu by bringing one aspect of his doctrine to bear against the other, revealing the fundamental tension inherent in De Vesprit des lois with all the exasperation of a mind nourished by what it attacks. In essence, Condor¬ cet’s criticism of Montesquieu parallelled the objection he levelled at Pascal in the notes to his edition of the Pensees. Pascal had shown that there are reasons for the prejudices of the people, but not that the people are reasonable to have adopted them.99 Montesquieu, by analogy, had demonstrated that there are reasons for the historical variations of customs and legislation. But he did not thereby prove that these laws are in

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themselves reasonable: for only those laws are reasonable which are in accordance with the invariable moral principles derived from human nature. In De Vesprit des lots, Condorcet insisted, Montesquieu revealed the motives for the laws, but he gave no criterion for distinguishing just from unjust; he offered no guide to the legislator but “the spirit of moderation,” more accurately described, in Condorcet’s corrosive view, as an unscientific “spirit of uncertainty.”100 This fault, the mathematician in Condorcet asserted, was largely the result of Montesquieu’s method. “It is clear that Montesquieu had gathered a mass of notes on the laws of all peoples, and that he wrote his book by collecting them under different titles. This, in its entirety, is the method that has brought him so much honor, which exists only in the heads of those who rewrite his book according to their own ideas.”101 The celebrated method of De Vesprit des lois issued not in analysis and discussion, nor in precise principles of legislation, but in a collation of historical examples, proving only the infinite variety of bad laws. Yet a good law must be the same for all men, Condorcet argued, just as a true proposition is true for all. The laws must be universally the same, for only then will they be based on universal principles of justice derived from man’s nature. It follows that wherever there appears a necessity for laws to be different in different countries, they deal with questions that should not be subject to legislation, or they are founded on prejudices and habits that must be uprooted by the abolition of these laws.102 It is clear, then, that the Condorcet revealed in this brief fragment had little respect for the historical method in questions of legislation. He approached such matters en geometre. The grounds for the law must be separated from its actual text, he argued, just as in a mathematical paper propositions are separated from demonstrations: for a law is nothing more than a formal statement of the justice of a given proposition.103 Montes¬ quieu, Condorcet remarked, seemed to regard legislation as a game in which it is a matter of indifference what the rules are, provided that they are observed by all. But this is not even true of games, argued the mathematician. Although their rules appear arbitrary, they are almost always founded upon reasons which the players only vaguely appreciate, but which mathematicians versed in the calculus of probabilities are able to explain precisely.104 Far from accepting the laws as given, Condorcet was to discover in the calculus of probabilities the hope of an exact means of bringing their operations into accordance with the first principles of justice. This elaboration of a science of citizenship on the basis of abstract principles of right and justice appears as far from the cautious relativism of Montesquieu as it is from the crude utilitarianism of Helvetius. It also seems to be in direct contradiction to the positivism implied in Condorcet’s model of science as comprising probability statements grounded on observable fact. Condorcet was nevertheless at pains to show that his conception of these first principles of the moral sciences was in complete accordance with his views on scientific method. We have seen that in the section of the notes to his reception speech at the French Academy

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specifically intended to demonstrate that the truths of the moral sciences are as certain as those of the natural, he distinguished between the formal validity of scientific statements as logical truths and their empirical validity as truths of fact. Taken in their axiomatic form as logical statements derived by an exact analysis of prior propositions, scientific statements must be as precise and evident as the certain truths of mathematics: “and if one has made an exact analysis of all the ideas which have entered into these propositions, the conclusion will be equally evident, equally precise.” In addition, as descriptions of empirical reality, scientific statements must be shown to have an observed correlation with a more or less probable order of facts. “Thus it is from the more or less constant order of facts observed in moral as in physical phenomena that the kind of certainty which pertains to reality is derived.”105 Condorcet was in no doubt that the first truths of the moral sciences, as he defined them, fulfilled both these conditions as fully and completely as those of the physical sciences. Justice, he argued, consists in nothing more than an intelligent recogni¬ tion of the equality of all individuals. A right is nothing but a claim, based on that equality, to satisfy the individual needs arising from human nature.106 Although this notion of individual equality finds its ultimate justification in psychological “fact,” it is not founded on an actual identity of individual physical organization. In a fragment on the education of children, Condorcet specifically rejected the argument of Helvetius that all inequalities derive from differences in education and environment.107 By physical nature, man is unequal; but in the fact of that physical or sensitive nature, he is equal. It is this fact that lies at the basis of all our moral principles. The rights of man, Condorcet maintained in the Esquisse, are all to be deduced from the single truth that man is “a sensitive being, capable of reasoning and of acquiring moral ideas.”108 While he never explicitly stated the logic involved here, Condorcet was convinced (with many of his contemporaries) that the first principles of morals and legislation could be formally derived from the very definition of man as a sensate being endowed with reason. As logical or analytical statements, he argued, these moral propositions are as certain as the truths of mathe¬ matics: They are in effect the necessary result of the properties of sensitive beings capable of reasoning; they derive from their nature; from which it follows that it is sufficient to suppose the existence of these beings for the propositions founded on these notions to be true; just as it is sufficient to suppose the existence of a circle to establish the truth of the propositions which develop its different character¬ istics. 109 It was enough to posit the existence of a sensitive being capable of reasoning to demonstrate the validity of moral principles as analytical propositions. It was therefore enough to verify empirically the factual existence of such beings to establish the validity of these principles in the actual state of things. With this reasoning, Condorcet claimed an adroit leap from the “is” to the “ought”:

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Thus the reality of moral propositions, their truth relative to the state of real beings, of men, depends entirely upon this truth of fact: that men are sensitive and intelligent beings.110 The basic fact of man’s physical nature (the existence of the body), he argued in the notes to his reception speech at the French Academy, is proven by constant experience that the body I have seen and touched exists: that is, every time I remember having touched and seen a body, I have been able to do so again in the same circumstances. This truth, probable though it may be, is nevertheless as certain and as constant as the most certain truth of physical sciences: the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow. It follows, then, that “if we examine the small number of facts necessary to establish the first foundations of ethics. . .we shall see that the facts are as general and as constant as those of the physical order.”111 Founded on truths as rigorously established by analytical reasoning, and empirically observed facts— or rather, a well-attested single fact —as general and as constant in their operation, these first truths of the moral sciences must therefore be held to be as certain as those of the physical. Condorcet’s preoccupation with the rights of man as the basis of the science of citizenship raises a further question of importance for his conception of social science. He speaks freely in his political writings of a social contract, or pacte sociale, by which men enter political society for the preservation of their rights: a concept that has often appeared antithetical to the development of any significant conception of social science. In fact, the mature Condorcet nowhere speaks of the historical existence of a state of nature or of an original contract of association. “The state of society seems to me as natural to man as it is to the bees,” he maintained in a manuscript note written during the preparation of the Esquisse.112 Any suggestion of a contract of society is conspicuously absent from his historical sketch, which opens the description of the first epoch of human history with the assertion that “the society of the family seems natural to man.” Furthermore, when he came to deal with the origin of political authority, Condorcet’s discussion was purely functional. The tribe, into which the family had grown by a process of reproduction, needed to act in concert for purposes of self-defense and to facilitate the task of acquiring more assured and abundant means of subsistence. Matters of common interest required a common decision; and decision¬ making required experience. Thus it was natural that such decisions should become the responsibility of those whose greater age or experience, or more obvious personal qualities, inspired the greatest confidence. Such, Condorcet remarked, were the origins of political institutions.113 This is not, of course, the foundation of an argument for gerontocracy, any more than the assertion that society has its origins in the family is meant as an argument for patriarchalism. Condorcet does not argue from origins. Rather his remarks are evidence of a willingness to regard the historical development of society and government as irrelevant to the logical foundations of human association. When Condorcet spoke of a pacte sociale, he meant only to emphasize that the principle of individual

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consent is, and must be, the logical foundation of political and social arrangements. Such a conception of the social field, while it hardly implies the richness of a social science oriented towards an understanding of the noncognitive, involuntary aspects of human existence, does not in itself preclude the idea of social science entirely. Indeed, as we shall see, the view of society as resting logically upon the consent of the individuals making it up, and of individuals as attempting to act rationally in accordance with such a postulate, was in many ways very compatible with Condorcet’s conception of social science. It was also in working out the implications of such a conception that Condorcet found his most crucial problems. To understand why this should be so, it is necessary to return briefly to the natural rights of man sketched in the introduction to De Vinfluence de la revolution d’Amerique. To the first three natural rights outlined there —the right to personal liberty, the right to property, the right to equality before the law —Condorcet added a fourth: the right to partici¬ pate, directly or indirectly, in the formation of social policy and the enactment of laws. This right “is a necessary consequence of the natural and primitive equality of man, and its equal enjoyment by each man using his reason must be regarded as the ultimate goal.’’114 Although zealous republicans regarded this as the most fundamental of all human rights, Condorcet maintained, the right to participate in the making of the laws is the least important of all natural rights for the general happiness and welfare, and may often be directly contrary to it. In an enlightened nation, free from superstition and ignorance, the equal enjoyment of this right by each man using his reason would ensure the exercise of all other rights. “But it loses its most precious advantages if ignorance or prejudices divert those who must exercise it from the narrow path traced for them by the immutable laws of justice; and, in terms of public happiness, a republic with tyrannical laws can fall far short of a monarchy.”115 Here Condorcet faced a dilemma at the very heart of his political theory. The principle of the natural equality of man implied the democratic right of the still unenlightened many to participate in the formation of laws. At the same time, the principle that politics be made rational, or scientific, required that political decision-making be limited to the enlightened few. It was to resolve this dilemma, by justifying reliance upon an enlightened elite in terms of a rational calculus of consent, that Condorcet turned to his most fascinating and ambitious work in the moral and political sciences, the Essaisur Vapplication de Vanalyse a la probability des decisions rendues a la plurality des voix.

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The Calculus of Consent

Montesquieu, Condorcet had remarked in the Observations sur le XXIXe livre de VEsprit des lois, appeared to regard legislation as a game in which it is a matter of indifference what the rules are, provided they are observed by everyone. Yet far from being valid for legislation, the mathematician insisted, this assumption is not even true of games. “Their rules, which appear to be arbitrary, are almost all founded on reasons that the players

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vaguely appreciate, and which mathematicians acquainted with the calculus of probabilities would be able to account for.”117 The analogy between gaming and legislation was not Montesquieu’s but his critic’s. It was, moreover, an analogy that had opened to some of the earliest mathematicians interested in the calculus of probabilities the ambitious prospect of introducing mathematical certainty to the moral and political sciences. Jacob Bernoulli had intended the fourth part of his Ars conjectandi to deal with the applications of stochastic reasoning to “matters civil, moral, and economic”, but he died while still clearing the mathematical ground for the realization of that hope. His intentions were partially fulfilled by his nephew, Nicolas Bernoulli (the editor of the posthumous Ars conjectandi), who in 1712 devoted a doctoral thesis to the application of the theory of probability to jurisprudence, a work which Condorcet was planning to republish in an annotated translation in 1785.118 In the same year, a far more ambitious attempt to introduce the clarity of mathematical reasoning into human affairs was brought to Condorcet's notice as permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences, when the academy was invited to join with other scientific institutions in judging entries submitted in answer to a prize-essay question proposed by an anonymous benefactor. The subject of the essay, for which a prize of one thousand imperial ducats was offered, was enthusiastically endorsed by Condorcet in a letter to the Journal de Paris in October 1785. The problem, he explained, was to arrive at general formulas that could be applied to all property transactions, in such a way that any transaction could be completed by filling in particular details on the appropriate form. As such, the question was a scientific rather than a purely legal one. Since it involved finding general formulas applicable to all countries and all contracts possible between rational beings, Condorcet maintained, its solution depended less upon an acquaintance with the positive legislation of individual countries than upon knowledge of the theory of combinations and the art of logical classification. These formulas once found, “all obscurity and equivocation will be avoided, thereby preventing all the disputes that can arise from the ambiguity of such instruments.”119 Nor was Condorcet alone in his enthusiasm for the proposed prize-essay question. Together with Laplace, Borda, and Dionis du Sejour, he formed part of a committee appointed by the Academy of Sciences to examine this proposal, which submitted an extremely favorable report on 30 April 17 8 5.120 Despite the enthusiastic verdict and intellectual weight of the committee, which expressed satisfaction not only with the enlightened object of the essay question but with the ingenious system of plural voting to be employed by the judges, nothing more is heard of this proposal in the academy’s records. It is possible that the corporate pride of the Paris Academy prevented its participation in a matter on which it would not be the sole judge, for the committee report struck a guarded note on this matter. Perhaps, on the other hand, the majority of the academicians felt (not surprisingly) that to endorse the proposed question was equivalent to lending their authority to a competition for the squaring of the circle, for Condorcet was at pains in his letter to the Journal de Paris to reject any suspicion that the problem was insoluble.

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I have heard it said that the solution of the problem was impossible. Leibniz, who conceived the project of a universal language, would not have shared this opinion; and in general this word “impossible” is hardly philosophical. In the history of the sciences, there are important problems that have been solved only by the work of twenty men of genius spread through different countries and different centuries. Why shouldn’t politics present the same spectacle, if cultivated by the same method as the other sciences? Moreover, to prove that a question is insoluble is, in a sense, to solve it; and in the case of questions as important as this, one has done something useful if one is able to caution other men against concerning themselves with it.121 Thus despite its lukewarm reception at the Academy of Sciences, Condorcet welcomed the project and did his best to create support for it beyond the academic confines. Moreover, he clearly regarded it as a step towards the fulfillment of his own methodological program: that of creating a universal language of the sciences that would provide the moral and political sciences with a logic as precise and analytical as that enjoyed by the physical sciences. His enthusiasm for this prize-essay question was doubtless increased by the fact that the proposal came at a time when he himself was most feverishly concerned with the ambitious project of introducing mathematical certainty to the moral and political sciences. By 1785, as he confessed to one of his correspondents, the marquis Jerome (Girolamo) Lucchesini, this was virtually the sole object of his mathemati¬ cal researches.122 It is characteristic of Condorcet’s definition of the social field, and of fundamental significance for his developing conception of social science, that when he came to realize this concern he turned above all to the mathematics of decision-making. The Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse a la probability des decisions rendues a la plurality des voix has long been considered the most obscure mathematical work of a mathematician already regarded by his scientific contemporaries as lacking elegance. In the standard histories of mathe¬ matics, it has generally received short shrift.123 “The obscurity and self-contradiction are without any parallel, so far as our experience of mathematical works extends. . .no amount of examples can convey an adequate impression of the evils,” lamented Todhunter in his influential History of the Mathematical Theory of Probability. “We believe that the work has been very little studied, for we have not observed any recognition of the repulsive peculiarities by which it is so undesirably distinguished. ”124 With such a press, it is hardly surprising that the work has in the past been neglected by historians and mathematicians alike. Recently, more enter¬ prising mathematicians and social scientists have penetrated beyond the peculiarities so repulsive to Todhunter to find in the Essai a remarkably modern approach to the mathematics of decision-making.125 But it is impossible, and in any case unnecessary, to follow them here. Fortunately, the siecle des lumieres was already well acquainted with the problem of the two cultures. We shall therefore be in distinguished company if we attempt to follow the course proposed by Condorcet to another nonmathematician, Frederick the Great, in limiting ourselves to the preliminary discourse of

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the Essai, in which the principal conclusions are presented as far as possible degages de tout Vappareil du calcul.126 The following discussion will therefore be more concerned with the general political assumptions and consequences of the Essai than with its detailed mathematical argument. But it will, perhaps, form a contribution to that necessary “revaluation. . . of the whole of Condorcet’s theory of politics” for which one of the foremost among his recent mathematical interpreters has called.127 The purpose of the Essai sur I’application de l’analyse a la probability des decisions rendues a la pluralite des voix was to answer the following problem. Under what conditions will the probability that the majority decision of an assembly or tribunal is true be high enough to justify the obligation of the rest of society to accept that decision? The manner in which the question is posed needs some explanation. Condorcet saw the process of political decision-making, as did Turgot, not as a means of ascertaining the strongest among a number of opposing parties —not, that is, as a mere expression of will —but as a method for the collective discovery of truth. Among the ancients, he argued, great affairs were decided either by a general assembly of the citizens or by a body that had secured itself in sovereign power. The expressed will of this body —whether just or unjust, whether founded on truth or error— necessarily had the backing of force; and to propose means of subjecting that will to reason would have been to invite citizens to put chains on their liberty and limits to their authority and independence. In such circumstances, political decision-making was an expression of will rather than an articulation of reason; “They sought much more to counterbalance the interests and the passions of the different bodies that entered into the constitution of a state, than to obtain results from their decisions conformable to the truth.”128 But in modern times, Condorcet insisted, political decision-making has a very different locus and should have an entirely different purpose. Among the populous modern nations, he maintained, affairs are most often decided by a body of representatives or officers chosen either by the nation or the prince. It is in the interest of the people as the ultimate, source of public power, or of the prince as chief executive, that such power be employed only in support of decisions conformable to reason. Representa¬ tive or deliberative bodies should therefore be composed, and their procedures directed, in such a way as to ensure the correctness and rationality of their decisions.129 It was the goal of the Essai to apply mathematical reasoning to the discovery of such procedures and modes of composition. As such, it represented a logical development of the funda¬ mental impulse of Turgot’s Memoire sur les municipality to transform the exercise of political will into the expression of public reason. This formulation of the problem has important bearings on Condorcet’s conception of social science. With the political theory he inherited from Turgot, there came a definition of the social field oriented toward public, individual action rather than private, corporate behaviors. According to the traditional political theory of absolutism the king was a public person in the sense that he served as arbiter between the partial wills of the

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corporate parts and parcels of the realm. His will embodied the general good; his person represented the principle of unity in the state. For Condorcet, as for Turgot, it was clear that this view of royal power had in practice broken down: that monarchical government, as constituted, was unable to impose a just order in a constant war of corporate claims and counterclaims; that the principle of royal power alone was inadequate to bring unity for the general good. It was necessary, then, to find another principle of unity and another criterion for the resolution of partial wills in the interest of the public good. Turgot and Condorcet found this principle in the doctrine of a nation of individuals united by the common, reciprocal bond of citizenship, summoning the sovereign person of the public to the aid and counsel of the public person of the sovereign. Yet in the political theory of absolutism, too, politics was not merely a matter of will. Royal authority, Bossuet insisted in a famous phrase, was absolute but not arbitrary, by which he meant that royal power was a matter not merely of will but also of reason.130 The theory of absolutism claimed an effective union of will and understanding in the public person of the king. But was it possible to find the same union of reason and will in the person of the public? For Condorcet, this was to become one of the cardinal issues in his conception of social science. He looked to the logic of public participation in politics as the only effective alternative to the perpetual war of privileged corporate interests in a traditional society of orders and Estates. But at the same time he remained by conviction a political rationalist. He regarded politics as a matter not of will but of reason, not as the mechanism for expressing the greatest interest of the greatest number but as the collective vehicle for the discovery and implementation of truth in political matters. As a result, he was faced with the problem of transforming public debates into rational investigations, turning political discussion into the scientific decision-making of the idealized republic of science. Only where this transformation was possible could politics and social choice become rational and scientific. The problem of the Essai, then, was to investigate the conditions under which assemblies representative of the popular will could be made expressive of the public reason. Rousseau had appeared to argue in Du contrat social, however, that the true expression of the general will, and therefore the true achievement of the public good, was politically impos¬ sible in terms of the representative institutions that Condorcet and Turgot regarded as necessary in populous modern nations. It was accordingly to this question that Condorcet addressed himself in the Essai sur I’application de I’analyse a la probability des decisions rendues a la plurality des voix. His intention was to apply mathematical reasoning to the gen¬ eral problem of political obligation in the context of representative institutions. On what grounds can it be justifiable to subject citizens to a law that has not been unanimously voted, or to a decision that they believe to go against their own interest? How can the right of the individual citizen to be free from oppression be reconciled with the duty of the state to punish offenders condemned by the decision of a judicial tribunal? In both cases, Condorcet found the answer to these questions in a mathematical guar-

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antee: “a very great probability of this decision is the sole reasonable and just motive according to which such submission can be demanded."131 The purpose of the Essai was to lay the mathematical groundwork for a system of representative institutions that would embody this guarantee to the represented. Thus our principal task here is to discover the probability that assures the validity of a law passed by the smallest possible majority, such that one can believe that it is not unjust to subject others to this law and that is useful for oneself to submit to it. . . .Thus the citizen, in obeying this same law, will feel that since it is a necessary condition of the social order that he agree not to follow his own reason alone in a certain category of actions, he has at least the advantage of follow¬ ing only those opinions that, setting his own judgment aside [faisant abstraction de son jugement], he must regard as possessing the degree of probability sufficient to determine his conduct.132 It is important to note in this context that Condorcet regarded the represented citizen possessed of this mathematical assurance as in a position very similar to that of the dissenting citizen of Du contrat social. All men, Rousseau and Condorcet agreed, have the right to follow their own opinion. But reason dictates that on entering political society, they consent to submit to the general will —or, in Condorcet’s phrase, “the common reason” —those of their actions that must be governed for all according to the same principles. In submitting himself to a law contrary to his own opinion, the dissenting citizen of Rousseau and the represented citizen of Condorcet are both following the same reasoning: It is not a question of myself alone, but of everyone. Thus I must not act according to what I myself believe to be reasonable, but according to that which everyone — like me, setting aside his own opinion —must regard as in conformity with reason and truth.133 This quotation is taken from the Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse, but it would not come strangely from the pages of Du contrat social. Rousseau’s first claim for the general will, of course, was that it was “right,” not that it was “true.” Insofar as he meant by this that the general will emanated from the sovereignty of the assembled people and was the unanswerable expression of their will, the conception obviously goes beyond Condorcet’s dichotomy between will and reason. It was on exactly this basis that the two writers differed as to the legitimacy of representa¬ tion. But despite this fundamental difference, there is still an important similarity between their two conceptions. The general will not only expressed the will of the assembled people but their will for the public good; and it is essential to the concept that insofar as it was a correct appreciation of the public good, it was also the articulation of the public reason; “the union” (as Rousseau put it) “of understanding and will in the social body.”134 Thus Rousseau and Condorcet approached decision-making with essen¬ tially the same problem. Both regarded voting as more than a device to ascertain the will of the strongest party within an assembly; both were

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faced with the problem of ensuring the emergence of an enlightened decision from the majority vote. Indeed, it is difficult to resist the suspicion that Condorcet set himself to answer the very question to which Rousseau was unable to give an entirely satisfactory answer in Du contrat social: namely, under what conditions can the majority of an assembly be regarded as expressing a valid decision? Such an interpretation of the Essai sur I'application de Uanalyse is strikingly supported by the fact that Rousseau himself seems to have attempted to offer the dissenting voter a quasi-mathematical guarantee that he would be obliged to follow the general will and not the will of all; that he would, indeed, be forced only to be free. Rousseau distinguished the general will from the will of all in mathematical terms: There is often a great difference between the will of all and the general will: the latter only looks to the common interest; the former looks to private interest, and is only the sum of particular wills. But take from these wills the pluses and the minuses, which cancel one another out, and the general will remains as the sum of the differences.135 If this rather obscure passage means anything at all, it would seem to suggest that each voter’s opinion as to what constitutes the general good is colored by his own self-interest. If in the process of voting, these individual pluses and minuses fail to cancel out —and such a case arises when they are compounded by inadequate information or, more clearly, when the assembly is divided by factions —the general will fails to emerge. If, however, the voters are adequately informed and do not influence one another in voting, Rousseau believed that the pluses and minuses of individual interests would cancel out, leaving the general will “as the sum of the differences.” There is here, perhaps, an intuitive awareness of statistical probability, an implicit assumption of the law of the probability of errors to which mathematicians of the time were turning their in¬ terest,136 that may well have engaged and directed Condorcet’s attention. Yet the first direct stimulus to Condorcet’s interest in the application of mathematics to decision-making seems to have emerged from a rather different direction. It came in 1771, when chancellor Maupeou announced the preparation of a new criminal code to sweeten the harsh measures imposed upon the reluctant parlements. ‘‘We are promised a new code,” Condorcet wrote in that year to Beccaria. “If our criminal jurisprudence is thereby reformed according to just and humane ideas; if penalities are thereby reduced, punishments by the wheel or by fire banished along with torture and other completely useless cruelties; if moral faults, careless mistakes, deviations without consequence are not left among the number of crimes, then we will bless the man who has implemented it and will love a despot who will govern us by mild laws better than two hundred tyrants who arbitrarily execute atrocious usages they have themselves elevated into laws.”137 Not surprisingly, Maupeou’s promise of a new code turned out to have no substance. But it prompted a lengthy exchange of letters between Condorcet and Turgot concerning the principles of criminal jurisprudence

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and the nature and requirements of rational decision-making in judicial matters. The exchange began with a letter from Condorcet advocating the introduction of the jury system in France to replace the privileged, corporate, superstitious tribunals that were the parlements.138 While no more favorable towards the parlements than his younger friend, Turgot responded by asserting the case for the rationality of a majority decision by a tribunal of enlightened professional judges —to be chosen, in Turgot’s view, by the electoral vote of the rational and propertied members of society —as against the untrustworthiness of a unanimous decision by ignorant and disaffected popular juries. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this fascinating piece of correspondence is the contrast (perhaps already a prophetic one for the future revolutionary leader) between the depth of Turgot’s fears of popular sedition and the ease with which the young Condorcet dismissed such fears as irrelevant to a society reformed by good laws.139 But these letters also make clear that Turgot’s reservations concerning the jury system pushed Condorcet into an early statement of the problem of the Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse and may well have encouraged his interest in probability theory and its application to judicial affairs. For scarcely a year later, as we have seen, Condorcet was at work on a manuscript on the mathematics of probability.140 “Moral certainty is never more than probability, but a probability that is called certainty, because every man of good sense naturally gives his assent to it by force of a habit which arises from the necessity to act and is anterior to all speculation,” Beccaria had argued in his discussion of judicial decision-making in Dei delitti e delle pene. “The certainty required to prove a man guilty, therefore, is that which determines every man in the most important transactions of his life.”141 In following Beccaria in his demand for the institution of the jury system, Condorcet elaborated upon this same general theme. In order that the citizens of a state may consent to the use of public authority to punish those among them convicted of criminal action, he insisted to Turgot, it is necessary that they have valid assurance of the guilt of the convicted. Since they cannot themselves examine the proofs of each crime, this assurance can only be based on their confidence in the judicial decision. Such a decision must therefore offer a moral certainty equal to that which men habitually accept in matters they have never examined, yet according to which they normally direct their conduct in the important matters of life.142 Condorcet first proposed, with Beccaria, that this assurance could be found in the unanimous (or very nearly unanimous) decision of a relatively large body of jurors. But he was forced by Turgot’s objections to reconsider the question of how precisely such a certainty could be measured. He did so in terms that already suggest the argument of the Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse. For what better way of estimating the moral certainty according to which men habitually direct their conduct in the most important matters of life, than in looking at the probabilities of life itself? A healthy man conducts his business in this world on the assumption that he will not be taken from it within a certain time. Thus it is only necessary to establish empirically the probabilities of

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such a life expectancy to have a mathematical estimate of the assurance to be required in a judicial decision. “That could be the subject of a very interesting calculation, although a very easy one,” the young mathemati¬ cian wrote to his still-doubting friend, “but I would only want to apply it to numbers acceptable to you.”143 He therefore asked Turgot to estimate the number of years that a normally healthy man could with assurance expect to live. Whether Turgot took this proposal seriously enough to offer such an estimate cannot be known, for this particular exchange of letters breaks off at this point. It is clear from the Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse that Condorcet did not forget the idea of such a calculation, and it doubtless remained in his mind during the intervening years as he devoted more and more of his intellectual energies to the calculus of probabilities and its applications. Indeed, should he have been tempted to forget it, there was yet another powerful voice to prevent him from doing so: that of Voltaire, Vhomme aux Galas. For whatever the guarantee needed to reconcile the right of the citizen to freedom from oppression with the obligation of public authority to punish offenders, Voltaire was convinced that in the case of Calas and La Barre, Sirven and the rest, such an assurance had not been attained. When the judges condemned these poor unfortunates, he had argued in 1770 in the Questions sur VEncyelopedie, they were certain —or they should have been —that these men were guilty. Yet the judges were mistaken: “and on the basis of this poor uncertain certainty of the human mind, a gentleman [Langlade] was put to the question by torture ordinary and extraordinary, thrown helplessly into a cell and condemned to the galleys, where he died. . . .There is no certainty as long as it is physically or morally possible that the matter might be otherwise. What! A demonstration is necessary before we dare to affirm that the surface of a sphere is equal to four times the area of its great circle, while none is required to wrest a citizen’s life by a hideous punishment!”144 Voltaire found in the antiquated judicial procedures that had con¬ demned these judicial martyrs —the arbitrary rules of evidence, the pseudo-calculus of proof, half-proof, and quarter-proof, and the unan¬ swerable finality of torture and capital punishment —a claim to an absolute certainty not attainable in human affairs.145 Such ridiculous pretensions to certainty made it meaningless to regard the judicial process as an expression of reason at all. If, despite the sentence of the preliminary judges, the conclusions of the procureur-general, the complete and utter lack of proof, and the constant denials of the accused, a young couple could be condemned to death for parricide —as were the Montbailli —for sleeping in an antechamber while their mother died of apoplexy, who should not tremble for his life? Such a decision, Voltaire insisted, was not a mistaken expression of reason: it was, on the contrary, an assertion of brute, arbitrary will.146 Within the context of the rule of law established by a regular and uniform law code, Voltaire found two specific remedies for this degenera¬ tion of the judicial process into an instrument of arbitrary will as the result of judicial error. The first lay in the provision of greater safeguards against

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mistaken judgments. Calas had been condemned by a majority of eight to five; and only then after a member of the minority had been persuaded to join the majority to fulfill the requirements of the ordinance of 1670. La Barre’s sentence had been confirmed in the Parlement of Paris by a vote of fifteen to ten. Voltaire wavered on the question of unanimity. But he was convinced that the death sentence should be pronounced only by an overwhelming majority —at least three-quarters —of the judges.147 Voltaire’s second, and more fundamental, remedy for judicial arbitrari¬ ness lay in an explicit avowal of probabilism.148 If the decision of a judicial tribunal was to be regarded and respected as in any sense true, it had to seek a truth attainable to the human mind. Although Voltaire had already suggested in 1770 that judges should learn to weigh the probabilities of age and rank, interest and motive —“if such is the misfortune of humanity that it is obliged to be content with extreme probabilities”149 — his doctrine of juridical probabilism had remained primarily a negative, skeptical wea¬ pon in the arsenal of reform-by-debunking. The advent of the Morangies case in 1772 stimulated the development of the more positive aspects of that doctrine. For it was as a contribution to the debate initiated by this case —a squalid affair between an indebted nobleman and the family of a usurious widow, which grew into a bitter quarrel between noblesse and bourgeoisie — that Voltaire produced his most sustained thought on the application of probabilities to matters of justice, the Essai sur les probabilites en fait de justice.150 The starting point of the Essai sur les probabilites is an explicit avowal of probabilism. If uncertainties and probabilities have fallen to the human lot, we must learn to act upon them; for “it is necessary to make decisions, and we shouldn’t do so at random.”151 The science of probabilities must therefore be developed into a science of human conduct: our feeble minds must study probabilities with as much care as we have learned arithmetic and geometry. If in the trials of Calas and Montbailli, Langlade and Martin, the judges had weighed probability against probability, proof against proof, there would have been fewer victims of judicial murder. For it is possible, Voltaire insisted, for twenty appearances against the victim to be outweighed by one in his favor: “this is the case, and the only case for the doctrine of probabilism.”152 So far so good. Voltaire’s eloquent insistence upon the importance of probability as “the judicial science [la science des juges]" was a significant victory for common sense. But his positive suggestions for the incorpora¬ tion of probabilities into judicial procedure were more open to question. The idea of the numerical evaluation of each piece of evidence for and against the accused —which he seemed to be advocating —was, in logic, little advance upon the antique system of proof, half-proof, and quarterproof. It was substituting one pseudo-calculus for another. Voltaire appears, in any case, to have felt his mathematical inadequacy here, for in 1773 he was referring his defense of Morangies to Condorcet’s mathemati¬ cal judgment on the grounds that the case “should only be judged by philosophers who know how to weigh probabilities.”153 Condorcet’s reply to

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this letter is unfortunately lost; and with it, perhaps, his immediate verdict on Voltaire’s doctrine of judicial probabilism. When, some fifteen years later, he came to write the introduction to the Essaisur les probabilites en fait de justice for the Kehl edition of Voltaire’s works, however, the mathematician’s judgment was harsh: unfamiliar with the kind of calculation applicable to these questions, he [Voltaire] only indicated the route that it was necessary to follow, and it is from this point of view alone that it is necessary to read this work.154 Yet for all his mathematical inadequacy, Voltaire— and behind him, Beccaria —had been able to point the way. Nor is there reason to doubt that Condorcet’s interest in the applications of the theory of probabilities to juridical questions was encouraged by Voltaire’s powerful propa¬ ganda.155 From this point of view, it is possible to see the Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse as continuing the effort made in the Essai sur les probabilites en fait de justice: the effort to beat the destructive, skeptical sword of probabilism into the productive ploughshare of reason, truth, and security.156 Armed, then, with the mathematics of probability —prompted by the concerns of Rousseau and Turgot on the one hand and of Beccaria and Voltaire on the other; doubtless stimulated, too, by practical and theoreti¬ cal interest in the elections of the Academy of Sciences157 —Condorcet set out to elaborate a calculus of consent that would provide adequate guarantee that the majority decision of an assembly or tribunal is true. To do so, he developed what Granger has called a “theoretical operational model” of collective decision-making.158 Suppose an assembly of voters having equal enlightenment and intelligence, none influencing another and all expressing their opinion in good faith. Given the number of voters, the probability that the opinion of each voter will be true rather than false, and the majority required for a decision, it is theoretically possible to calculate: (1) the probability that the assembly will not produce a false decision; (3) the probability that it will give a true decision; (3) the probability that it will produce any decision, true or false; (4) the probability that a decision reached (a) by an unknown majority or (b) by a known majority will be true rather than false.159 In the establishment of a new law, for example, it is necessary to ensure a high probability that there will not be a false decision. But this is not enough. The function of an assembly is to make decisions; and it is important that the disadvantages of having a false decision should not be averted at the cost of having no decision at all. Condorcet argued that in many constitutions the hope of reform had, for a variety of mistaken reasons, been sacrificed to the fear of bad legislation. Thus it is as important to ensure that a good law will achieve the required majority as to prevent a bad law from doing so; and there must be an adequate assurance

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that a law will be rejected because it is bad and not because no decision is reached. Finally, when a law is adopted with the minimum required majority there must be an adequate assurance that it is a good law. The probable truth of a voter’s opinion (that is, the probability that his opinion is correct) may be expressed as greater than one-half if he is regarded as more likely to make a correct judgment than an erroneous one. Conversely, it may be expressed as less than one-half if he appears more inclined to error than to truth. Now if in an assembly the probable truth of each voter’s opinion is greater than one-half, Condorcet argued mathema¬ tically, the probability of the truth of a decision passed by a simple majority increases with the number of voters. Conversely, if the probable truth of each voter’s opinion is less than one-half, the larger an assembly the smaller the probability that a majority decision will be true.160 Condorcet derived important political conclusions from this principle. Under existing conditions, he argued, a very numerous, popular assembly cannot be composed only of enlightened men. It is very probable that those who swell its numbers will bring to many questions prejudices no less misleading than the ignorance from which they stem. Since popular ignorance and prejudice extend to many important political issues, there will be a large number of questions upon which (the probability of the voters’ opinions being correct falling to below one-half) a popular assembly will involve a considerable risk of false decision. Such a risk can be minimized by demanding complicated combinations of assemblies or majorities proportional to the number of voters. A majority of three-fifths of a numerous assembly, for example, would produce a very great probability that there would not be a false decision, provided that the probability of each voter’s opinion were greater than one-fifth. But such a majority could be required only at the cost of increasing the danger of reaching no decision at all. Condorcet therefore concluded that demo¬ cratic constitutions are dangerous wherever the people are unenlightened: it is clear that it can be dangerous to give a democratic constitution to an unenlightened people. A pure democracy, indeed, would only be appropriate to a people much more enlightened, much freer from prejudices than any of those known to history. For every other nation such assemblies become harmful, unless they are limited in the exercise of their power to decisions relating to the maintenance of security, liberty and property: objects upon which a direct personal interest can adequately enlighten all minds.161 Given Condorcet’s premises, this is hardly a surprising conclusion. The more enlightened an assembly, he argues, the more likely it is to make a “true” decision. But what is a “true” decision? Modern theorists of political decision-making would tend to answer this question by defining a “true” or (more appropriately) a “correct” decision as the voting result that most accurately expresses the voters’ preferences, or the “strategy” that maxi¬ mizes the desirable outcomes. But Condorcet does not take such an approach. He does not discuss “true” decisions in terms of their outcomes;

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nor does he wish to identify them merely with the correct expression of voters’ preferences. For no matter how closely a decision corresponded to the preference of the voters, it would not be a “true” decision where the opinions of the individual voters were not “true,” that is, where the voters themselves were unenlightened. In other words, Condorcet defines a “true” decision implicitly as the decision that would be made by a truly enlightened man. This becomes abundantly clear when he comes to the problem upon which the applicability of his model of collective decision¬ making depends: that of evaluating in practice the actual probability of the opinions of the individual voters composing such a body. Condorcet suggests that an evaluation of this kind could be achieved by “empirical means. ' By setting up an examining tribunal composed of very enlight¬ ened persons, which would review the past decisions of a given assembly and estimate the “truth” of its decisions, it would be possible to arrive at an appreciation of the probable truth of the opinions of the voters composing it.162 In practice, then, those decisions of a given assembly would be regarded as “true” that were accepted as such by a still more enlightened assembly. Stripped of its mathematical trappings, Condorcet’s argument is simply that more enlightened assemblies make truer (or more probably true) decisions, while less enlightened assemblies make less true (or less probably true) decisions. Where they are unenlightened, in other words, democratic assemblies make unenlightened decisions! Condorcet’s conclusion as to the dangers of democratic assemblies was reinforced in his analysis of voting on complex decisions, that is, decisions which can be broken down into a series of simple propositions each of which should be voted upon, or in which there are more than two possible ways of casting a vote. The simplest case of this kind is an election between three candidates, in which, as the chevalier de Borda had pointed out in his earlier paper read to the Academy of Sciences, the candidate who attains a simple majority of the votes cannot necessarily be regarded as forming the real preference of the assembly. Condorcet developed the analysis of plural voting of this kind in what is now regarded as his principal contribution to the theory of collective decision-making. 163 Imagine an election between three candidates (A, B, and C) in which, of 60 electors, 23 regard A as their first choice, 19 regard B as their first choice, and 18 regard C as their first choice. In a simple majority vote, A would be regarded as the true choice. But what if, instead of voting simply for their first choice, the same electors are asked to rank the candidates in their order of merit? The 23 regarding A as their first choice might also prefer C to B; the 19 favoring B might also regard C as preferable to A; and of the 18 voting for C, 16 might prefer B to A while 2 prefer A to B. This situation can be expressed mathematically using the symbol > (or its converse, < ) to represent the electors’ judgment of the relative merits of the candidates. Hence:

A B C C

> > > >

C C B A

> > > >

B receives 23 votes 19 votes A 16 votes A } 18 votes 2 votes B

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

It is important to emphasize, in terms of this notation, that true to his rationalist inspiration, Condorcet meant his symbols to represent not merely the votes cast (that is, the mere expression of preference) but the rational judgments informing them as an act of reason. Thus A > B means that an elector (or group of electors) affirms the proposition that A is better than (vaut mieux que) B, consequently placing A higher on the voting order.164 The rank-order votes of a group of electors (as presented above) can be broken down into separate judgments on three pairs of propositions comparing the candidates one with another, as follows: 1. B > A receives 19 + 16 =35 votes A > B 23 + 2 = 25 votes 2. C>A A > C

19 + 16 + 2 = 37 votes 23 votes

3. C > B 23 + 16 + 2 = 41 votes B > C 19 votes Taking the proposition from each pair that received a majority vote in its favor, it can be seen that the electors prefer B to A by a majority of 35 to 25; C to A by a majority of 37 to 23; C to B by a majority of 41 to 19. These three propositions endorsed by the majority vote (B > A, C > A, C > B) logically imply the ranking of the candidates in the order C > B > A. The candidate preferred by a majority of the electors in comparison with each of the others is C, who nevertheless received the smallest number of first-choice votes. In effect, then, since C would have defeated each of the other candidates, A and B, in a direct vote against them, he should be regarded as the effective choice of the electors. Furthermore, the probable truth of this particular choice can be precisely evaluated, according to Condorcet’s definitions, by multiplying the majorities in favor of C by the probability that the voters’ opinions are true.165 By contrast, election by a simple majority of first-choice votes would have led to a choice of that candidate (A) least preferred by a majority of electors in comparison with each of the others, that is, the candidate who would have been defeated by each of the others in a direct vote against them. So far so good. Had he confined his discussion of elections to this analysis of rank preferences, Condorcet would have laid the foundations of the modern theory of elections clearly and unambiguously in a system of formal reasoning that is really (as Black has argued) a primitive topol¬ ogy. 166 But as we have seen, he was concerned not merely with preferences but with probabilities. In other words, he regarded the desirable outcome of decision-making not as that decision corresponding most accurately to the stated preferences of the individual electors (as a mere expression of will), but as that possessing the greatest probability of being true (or rational). With this conception, it was impossible for him to break out of the probabilistic framework in terms of which he had defined the original purpose of his work. At this point in his argument, therefore, he found it necessary to introduce a further complication.

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Imagine another election between three candidates (A, B, and C) in which 60 electors vote as follows: A > C > B receives 13 votes ^ 23 votes A> B > C 10 votes I B > C > A 13 votes s 19 votes B > A > C 6 votes C > B > A 18 votes As in the previous case, these rank-order votes can be broken down into separate judgments on three pairs of propositions comparing the candi¬ dates one with another, as follows: 1. B > A receives 13 + 6 + 18 = 37 votes A> B 13 + 10 = 23 votes 2. C > A A> C

13 + 18 13 + 10 +

=31 votes 6 = 29 votes

3. C > B 13 + 18 =31 votes B > C 10 + 13 + 6 = 29 votes Following the reasoning outlined above, the three propositions endorsed by a majority vote would be B > A,C>A,C> B; hence C > B > A. C should therefore be elected.167 But in this case, Condorcet argued, there could be conditions under which the choice of C (although preferred by a majority of electors in comparison with each of the others) would have a lower probability than the choice of B. The propositions favoring C over the other candidates (C > A, C > B) each received a majority of 31 votes to 29. The propositions favoring B, on the other hand, received a majority of 37 votes to 23 (B > A) and a minority of 29 votes to 31 (B > C). To compare the probability of each of these candidates being the true choice, it is necessary to multiply these majorities by the probability that the voters’ opinions are true. Condorcet argued mathematically that there are values of this probability (not greatly exceeding one-half) that would make the choice of B more probably true than the choice of C.168 Yet such a result would be in contradiction to common sense and the straightforward reasoning of the earlier analysis. It is possible to avoid this situation by requiring a larger majority in favor of C (at the risk of reaching no decision, or prolonging the voting) or by restricting the election to more enlightened voters. Where neither of these requirements is feasible, Condorcet recommended that straighforward reasoning be followed rather than the theory of probabil¬ ities, with the most clearly preferred candidate chosen over the one with the greater probability of being the true choice. Yet even here, with the weakness of his initial approach at its most evident, Condorcet made a last-ditch attempt to save his theory, by arguing that the dangers of a bad choice in such a case could be minimized by only admitting well-qualified candidates.169 Condorcet followed this same reasoning in one final case. Imagine, for

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example, that the preferences of the voters are such as to suggest rankings A > B, B > C, C > A. It is clear that these propositions are not internally consistent and that they admit no rational ranking of the three candidates. The question of what should be done in such “contradictory” cases (as Condorcet called them) is central to the theory of elections; and it has recently been recognized as part of Condorcet’s achievement that he first clearly identified this paradoxical result.170 Where it is not absolutely necessary to make an immediate decision in such a case, he argued, it is best to regard this decision as null, proceeding to another election. Where an immediate decision is essential, however, the best course is to eliminate that proposition with the lowest majority (and hence the lowest proba¬ bility), following the ranking suggested by the other two. The preceding reflections suggest this general rule: that whenever it is essential to make the election, it is necessary to take successively all the propositions that have a majority, beginning with those possessing the largest majority. As soon as these first propositions produce a result, it should be taken as the decision, without regard for the less probable propositions that follow. If this procedure does not yield the result least subject to error, or to a result that has a probability over and is formed from two pro¬ positions more probable than their opposites, at least it will give a de¬ cision that avoids the least probable propositions and involves a lesser injustice between the candidates, taken two by two.171 Condorcet derived two principal desiderata from this tortuous discussion of more complicated decisions. In order to achieve the essential conditions of rational decision-making—a high probability of having a decision, and a high probability that the decision reached is true —it is first necessary that the question be correctly put to the vote, in such a way that complicated decisions are reduced to a series of votes on the simple propositions therein implied. It follows that the power to frame the manner in which decisions are put to an assembly is of the utmost importance. Yet this responsibility “has almost everywhere been left to chance, or conferred as a power or right attached to a particular'office, rather than imposed as a duty that demands wisdom and exactitude.”172 Second, Condorcet insisted, it is necessary that the voters be more enlightened, the more complicated the decisions submitted to them. Otherwise, the procedure required to prevent a false decision will serve only to render any decision impossible, thereby perpetuating abuses and bad laws. Thus the form of the assemblies that decide men’s fortunes is much less important for their happiness than the enlightenment of those composing them: and the progress of reason will contribute more to the popular good than the form of political constitutions.173 Although Condorcet was careful to direct Frederick the Great to this conclusion as one of the most important results of his mathematical analysis,174 it seems at first sight to fall incongruously from a work treating the forms of political organization in such laborious detail. In fact, it

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defines the limits and provides the final justification of the whole Essai. In Condorcet’s view, the pure democracy idealized by Rousseau was appli¬ cable only to the most primitive and the most fully developed societies, in neither of which is there justification for limiting the exercise of the right to vote. In the first stages of society, where men are equal in their ignorance and there can be no great probability of reaching true decisions in any case, there is no legitimate motive for limiting the number of voters and subjecting the greater number to the will of the smaller. In a fully enlightened society, on the other hand, where men would be fully and equally enlightened on matters of public interest, wise laws and prudent reforms could be expected from a numerous popular assembly; and there would once again be no justification for limiting the exercise of the vote. Whether or not he regarded this ultimate goal as attainable, it is clear that Condorcet regarded the mass of humanity as still struggling along the historical continuum from ignorance to enlightenment. Indeed, he ar¬ gued, “a pure democracy would be appropriate only to a people far more enlightened, far freer from prejudices than any of those known to us in history.”175 Only monarchical or representative institutions, then, are suitable to societies on the long road from ignorance to enlightenment. Moreover, where representative institutions exist, they must be adapted to the degree and distribution of enlightenment within each society. They must also be formed in such a way that they afford those excluded from participation an assurance of rational decisions adequate to constitute compelling grounds for their consent.176 Before the precise character of such institutions could be determined, it was necessary to establish the precise degree of assurance that could generally be regarded as adequate and compelling. Clearly, different degrees of assurance would be demanded for more or less grave types of decisions. Condorcet proposed that, in the case of legislation, it would be justifiable to discount the risk of an unwise law provided that the probability of passing such a law were no greater than a risk of death regarded by most men as negligible. Buffon had used this same criterion to evaluate “moral certainty,” estimating it at 9,999/10,000 on the grounds that a man of fifty-six generally neglects the chance of his dying within twenty-four hours (estimated as 1/10,0 00).177 But once again Condorcet was happy to take issue with his favorite enemy. In the first place, he argued, following Daniel Bernoulli, that the risk of dying within twenty-four hours is not equally negligible (or equally neglected) in the case of a man in sound health and a man who is sick. It is therefore misleading to regard an average value of the probability of such a death as a probability generally regarded as negligible in the everyday conduct of life.178 In the second place, Condorcet maintained, the risk of dying within twenty-four hours is generally neglected not only because it is slight but because it is constant. We accept it habitually and unavoidably. Condorcet attempted to eliminate this habitual element from his own calculations by using existing mortality tables to evaluate not the risk of sudden death which men neglect out of habit but the increase in the habitual risk of death which they neglect because of its size alone. He argued that a youth of eighteen has no more fear

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of sudden death-death, that is, from an illness lasting less than a week —than a man of thirty-three; nor a man of thirty-seven than one of forty-seven. Yet he found that according to the tables of Sussmilch the risk of sudden death increased by 3517^5between the ages of eighteen and thirty-three and by between thirty-seven and forty-seven.179 Taking the smallest of these as a risk of death which can genuinely be regarded as negligible, Condorcet accepted a probability of that a good law will be passed at the required majority, and that a law which achieves the minimum majority will be good, as embodying an adequate assurance to the represented citizen. He calculated that a minimum majority of nine required in an assembly of sixty-one voters, or of six in an assembly of forty-four, would satisfy these conditions, provided that the probability of the truth of each vote cast in the larger assembly were no less than four-fifths (that is, each voter would be mistaken no more than once in every five decisions) and that of each vote cast in the smaller assembly no less than nine-tenths.180 Condorcet concluded from this reasoning that in a society in which enlightenment was not widespread although there were some enlightened men —and it is surely justifiable to see in these conditions a description of the France of his day —it would be possible to give such a mathematical guarantee to the represented by entrusting deliberation to a small assembly of enlightened representatives, but impossible —or, at least, very difficult — to do so by means of a large assembly. Only where the role of the less en¬ lightened many was limited to choosing the more enlightened few who would make political decisions beyond the general competence could a rational politics be achieved. Thus, provided a society possesses a large number of enlightened men, free from prejudice; and provided that the right of the great number lacking sufficient enlightenment is limited to choosing those whom it considers the wisest and best informed, to whom the citizens consequently entrust their right to decide on questions beyond their competence, an adequate assurance of decisions conformable to truth and reason can be attained.181 What are the implications of these conclusions for Condorcet’s political theory and for his definition of the social field? At first sight, it might appear that the elitism inherent in his scientism has been responsible for introducing the canker of political elitism into the very heart of his liberal thinking. It might indeed seem that it is but a short step from Condorcet’s attempt to guarantee politically that decisions will be “rational” by entrusting them to an enlightened elite —an attempt in any case unrealiza¬ ble in practice182 —to Comte’s assertion that since popular opinion is irrelevant in physics it must also be inapplicable to politics. But such an interpretation would be premature. For Condorcet was hardly remarkable among liberal thinkers in stressing the importance of an elite as such. The idea of the special responsibilities of the sanior pars in social decision¬ making was by no means foreign to liberal thinking as it had developed by the end of the eighteenth century. Nor is this particularly surprising.

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Traditionally, liberal thinkers were concerned with the problem of revolu¬ tion from above. Their aim was to defend the inherited constitutional rights of their respective kingdoms from the despotism of royal encroach¬ ment and to hammer out the right of the people —as represented by a traditional elite — to defend the constitutional integrity of the various parts and portions of the kingdom. Such had been the purpose of the author of the Vindiciae contra tyrannos in his reliance on the political initiative of the duly constituted magistrates; such had been the concern of John Locke in the weight he attached to the opinions of the “industrious and rational”; such had been the intention of the aristocratic liberalism of Malesherbes’s remonstrance for the Cour des Aides in 1775.183 The significance of Condorcet’s scientism, in this respect, is not that it introduced an alien elitism into liberal thinking, but that it defined the elite in terms of intellect and enlightenment rather than in traditional terms as an office¬ holding or propertied sanior pars. From this point of view, it represented an opening of the elite to enlightenment rather than a restriction of it to experts.184 But Condorcet not only redefined the elite traditional to liberal thinking in rationalist terms. He was also forced to justify its political role in a radically novel manner. For Condorcet, like Turgot, was not concerned with the traditional problem of the defense of the constitutional parts and portions of the kingdom from revolution from above. On the contrary, he hoped for the resolution of what appeared to be an endemic conflict of partial and particularistic interests in a corporate society through the reconstitution of the social order as a nation of individual citizens equal before the law. Such a conception of the res publica, as Rousseau had clearly seen, was incompatible with the idea of representation as the expression of partial interests. In rejecting representation —the heart of liberal political theory as it emerged from the constitutional struggles of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries —Rousseau was of course also rejecting the traditional constitutional justification of elitism in liberal thought. It is in this context that the relationship between scientism, elitism, and liberalism in Condorcet’s thinking becomes more clear. Condorcet’s funda¬ mental aim, like that of Rousseau, was to envisage a system of political institutions that would rationalize public political decision-making for the public good. He accomplished this aim by transforming the traditional liberal reliance on the functions of an elite into the scientistic argument that rational public decisions (the true expression of the “common reason”) could effectively be made only by the enlightened few. True decisions could only be made in social affairs, as they were in science, by allowing greater weight to greater enlightenment. But Condorcet’s aim was also to justify this reliance upon the special abilities of an elite in the face of—and, to a large degree, in the very terms of—the radically democratic doctrines of Rousseau, which offered the model of a true res publica against the conflicting claims of a corporate society. In other words, he saw the application of mathematical reasoning to the process of political decision¬ making as providing a means of reconciling the specific functions and

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responsibilities of an enlightened elite with the general principle of consent. Far from looking forward to Comte’s vision of a society adminis¬ tered by an authoritarian scientific elite, therefore, Condorcet’s scientism seemed to make it possible to redefine the elitist strand of liberalism in keeping with the more radical demands of eighteenth-century democratic theory. We shall find that this attempt to reconcile scientific elitism with the principle of consent was one of the most crucial aspects of his conception of social science. He was soon to find himself faced with a situation that offered him the opportunity to develop these ideas in more practical terms. The Regeneration of the Monarchy:

Condorcet

In 1786, just ten years after the fall of Turgot, Dupont de Nemours was again asked by a Controller-General to draft a plan for administrative reform. These ten intervening years had enjoyed something of the air of fantasy. Powerless to hold down court spending or to close the financial drain from the American War of Independence, his reforming efforts outstripped by immediate needs, Necker had fallen back upon his one indisputable talent: the ability to raise loans. His lotteries, rentes, and life annuities —the last offered under conditions disastrous for the govern¬ ment-signalled the onset of a fever of financial speculation that reached a peak in the mid 1780s, during Calonne’s ministry.185 For a decade, Paris became the financial boom city of Europe. Swiss, Dutch, and English joined French speculators in the frantic game of playing the market; rival groups of bankers speculated in government loans and scrambled to float companies; pamphleteers were hired and false news spread on a level that made Necker’s celebrated Compte-rendu a model of bookkeeping.186 Everything changed in 1787, however, when Calonne summoned an Assembly of Notables and submitted to them a comprehensive plan for fiscal reform. Controller-General since 1783, Calonne had continued Necker’s inflationary policy of borrowing, feeding speculation with the revival of the Compagnie des Indes in 1785, backing his own group of financiers against those supported by other ministers.187 In 1786, this policy came to an end. The Parlement of Paris had at the close of 1785 refused to approve further government borrowing in an overheated market. December 1786 was to bring the termination of the vingtieme imposed in 1782 to redeem the debts of the American war and the expiration of the contract for the collection of indirect taxes. Against this prospect, Calonne could set an immense annual deficit, and short-term loans due for redemption within ten years that amounted to some 400 million livres. The day of reckoning had arrived.188 To draft his reforming plan, Calonne turned to Dupont de Nemours, Turgot’s former secretary. It is not, then, surprising that much of Turgot crept into Calonne’s schemes. The major fiscal proposal was the establish¬ ment of a direct tax on all landowners, without exception, to replace the existing vingtiemes levied on land. Rather than suffering the delays and difficulties of establishing an accurate cadaster — the sine qua non of all the physiocratic schemes for a single land-tax —Calonne proposed a tax in kind,

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the yield of which would thus be proportional to agricultural profits. To stimulate these profits by the expansion of production, freedom of commerce in grain was to be established (with certain safeguards against local famines), the corvee replaced by a direct surcharge on a reduced taille, and royal domain lands offered on favorable conditions to peasant proprietors. At the same time, to foster trade and facilitate the movement of goods, Calonne favored the abolition of internal customs duties and their replacement by a single duty-tax at the frontiers.189 The key to the successful implementation of this reform program lay in the proposal for the establishment of provincial assemblies in all the pays d'elections. Here Dupont largely reproduced and Calonne generally ac¬ cepted the proposals of the Memoire sur les municipalites. The minister’s chief concern in this respect was to distinguish the assemblies he now suggested from those established as an experiment by Necker in Berry (1778) and Haute-Guyenne (17 7 9).190 Necker’s assemblies had been a careful blend of old and new that bore only a superficial resemblance to the more far-reaching projects of Turgot. Where Turgot would have abandoned the distinction between Estates, Necker retained it but set the important precedent of doubling the representation of the Third Estate to equal that of the other Estates combined. Where Turgot had envisaged a hierarchy of assemblies from the village to the national level, Necker established them only at the provincial level. Without the primary and secondary assemblies of Turgot’s scheme, there could be no question of electing delegates: the king designated a third of the members of Necker’s experimental assemblies, with the remainder to be co-opted by these appointees. Without Turgot’s general assembly, there could be no question of national regeneration through the transformation of power: taking the names of ancient provinces rather than those of the generalites in which they were established (the generalites being too closely associated with the administrative despotism of the intendants), Necker’s assemblies looked rather to a stabilization of the absolute monarchy through the restoration of a measure of provincial self-government. Surviving the crisis of Necker’s first ministry in 1781, these experimental provincial assemblies had operated with some success and some friction with the intendants, that of Haute-Guyenne showing itself particularly vigorous in projects for the encouragement of agriculture and the establish¬ ment of a new cadaster.191 It was exactly this model that Calonne was anxious to avoid.192 In his eyes, Necker’s creations were less advisory assem¬ blies than administrative colleges of local notables. Necker had allowed the members of these bodies too great an influence; their tenure of office had been too permanent; they had given too much power to the clergy by reserving their presidency for the local bishop. Above all, Necker’s assemblies had been permitted too wide a scope to interfere with the real authority of the intendants. “Assemblies administer badly, and adminis¬ tration is the responsibility of the government alone,” Calonne noted in a minute written at the end of 17 8 6.193 The function of his provincial assemblies was to be consultative; their organization and composition was to allow them neither the right nor the pretension to share in the authority

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of the state; they were to be clearly subordinated to the administrative authority of the intendants. Since organization of provincial assemblies by Estate had given Necker’s creations too much of the aura of local authority, Calonne therefore decided in favor of the elimination of this distinction. Since co-optation seemed to imply the dignity of participation in the administration, Calonne preferred the principle of election. With this reasoning, Calonne accepted (finding therein the basis for an enlight¬ ened autocracy) the hierarchy of elected assemblies proposed to him by Dupont, but stopped short of a national assembly that might prove difficult to manage. “It will result from this Constitution,” Calonne argued, “that the wishes of the King will be always explained to his subjects by the organs that they themselves have chosen; that the administration will be always enlightened and never obstructed in its workings; always supported by the national will and never contradicted by rumbles of dissent; always beneficent and never reduced to the use of harsh meth ods.”194 Seeking an effective alternative to the obstructionist tactics of the parlements, Calonne presented his reforming proposals in 1787 to an Assembly of Notables summoned for the purpose in a convenient revival of a long-abandoned practice.195 For a while, this tactic promised some success. The notables accepted freedom of trade in grain, the abolition of the corvee and the reduction of the taille. They showed themselves generally enthusiastic towards the establishment of provincial assemblies, although their criticisms of Calonne’s proposal suggested that they found Necker’s assemblies more congenial to their conception of the French monarchy. They insisted on division of the assemblies by Estate —though they allowed the principles of the doubling of the Third Estate and of voting by head rather than by order—and they demanded that the presidency of these bodies be reserved to members of the first two orders. They also protested the subordination of the assemblies to the odious administrative rule of the intendants. But this was only the beginning. By and large, the notables were prepared to allow the principle of equality in taxation. But they rejected Calonne’s proposal for a uniform tax as contrary to the rights of privileged corporations and provinces to tax themselves; and they censured a proportional tax, indefinite in amount and duration, as exceeding the king’s power to demand taxation from his subjects only for specific needs. The notables consequently demanded a definite statement of the amount to be raised by taxation, that is, a clear indication of the extent of the deficit. This Calonne reluctantly accorded them in a statement of the government’s finances so different from Necker’s Compte-rendu that the notables demanded the right to verify the accounts in detail. With Calonne’s refusal, the negotiations reached a stalemate. Unable to sway the assembly directly, unsuccessful in an attempt to sway them indirectly by rallying public opinion in a propaganda campaign, Calonne was out¬ flanked by court intrigue and dismissed from power early in April. A month later, his position was assumed by his principal opponent among the notables, the architect of his fall, Lomenie de Brienne, archbishop of Toulouse.

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Despite a more conciliatory policy, Brienne had no more success with the notables than Calonne. Once having won its demand to verify the extent of the deficit by examining the accounts, the assembly pressed for stricter control of expenditure, the publication of accounts, and regular supervi¬ sion by an independent council of finance. Once Brienne had fixed a definite figure for the land tax, the assembly insisted that new taxation required the legal sanction of the parlements or the formal consent of the Estates-General. Dismissing the notables, Brienne accordingly turned to the Parlement of Paris, where the pattern of the confrontation with the notables was repeated.196 The parlement duly registered edicts establishing freedom of commerce in grain, abolishing the corvee, and instituting provincial assemblies (modified as demanded by the notables to allow for division by Estate, the doubling of the Third, voting by head, and the right of the first two Estates to monopolize the presidency of these bodies). Proposals for the land tax and extension of the stamp tax the parlementaires countered first with a demand to verify the accounts and then, this being refused, by a declaration that only the Estates-General could consent to indefinite taxation. By the middle of August, the financial edicts had been imposed in a lit de justice, the legality of which the parlement refused to accept, and the parlementaires had been sent into exile at Troyes. Here they stayed until the end of September, when the parlement won permission to return to the capital by consenting to an extension of the existing vingtiemes until 1792. Abandoning for the moment the hope of serious financial reform, Brienne now decided on a policy of delay and retrenchment. A bargain could be struck by which the parlement would approve a loan spread over five years to pay off the short-term debt, while the government would agree to summon the Estates-General within the same period. For Brienne, this policy had distinct advantages. It relieved the immediate financial crisis while postponing the calling of the EstatesGeneral for five years, by which time the provincial assemblies established in the pays d 'elections would be operating on a secure electoral basis. These provincial assemblies, Brienne reasoned, could then send representatives to Versailles together with deputies from the assemblies of the pays d ’etats, this body constituting a new national assembly (or Estates-General) that would be less of a threat to royal power and policy than the traditional Estates-General demanded by the parlements and the Assembly of Notables.197 This bargain was to be formalized in a special session of the parlement on 19 November 1787, attended by the king. The royal undertaking to call the Estates-General was announced, but disagreement arose over the demand of some parlementaires that it be convoked earlier. This debate the king terminated by reiterating the promise to call the Estates-General within five years and ordering the registration of the projected loan. When the due d’Orleans protested that such a procedure was illegal in a session of this kind, he was exiled by lettre de cachet, and two other leading magistrates were imprisoned. The parlementaires responded by denounc¬ ing lettres de cachet and arbitrary imprisonment, and by continued remonstrances against the enforced registration of the vital loan. Their opposition reached full voice in May 1788 when the Parlement of Paris

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formulated a declaration of fundamental laws, including the right of the nation to consent to taxation through the Estates-General, the right of the parlements to refuse the registration of edicts contrary to the fundamental law, and the right of an arrested citizen to immediate arraignment before his natural and legal judges.198 His tenuous policy of compromise now shattered, Brienne resolved to follow the example of Maupeou. Early in May, lits de justice in Paris and the provinces stripped the thirteen parlements of the right to register royal edicts and greatly reduced their official functions. The power to register edicts was transferred to a new plenary court with jurisdiction over the realm as a whole, designed by its composition to be more amenable to royal direction. New tribunals were set up to exercise much of the appelate jurisdiction of the parlements, and important reforms of criminal proce¬ dure were implemented to secure the support of liberal opinion.199 Everywhere this coup d’etat met with resistance. In the provinces, aristo¬ cratic protest and popular disorder seemed to threaten civil war, and doubts were raised as to the reliability of the army. In Paris, the Assembly of the Clergy angrily condemned the judicial reform and demanded the Estates-General. Liberal patriots inspired by the American Revolution joined in the same demand with aristocratic reactionaries motivated by archaic visions of a limited monarchy.200 In the propaganda war that followed, public opinion was virtually united behind the parlements. Only a few pamphleteers lent vociferous support to the crown. Condorcet was conspicuous among them. Brienne’s policy went a long way towards fulfilling the reforming program that Condorcet had been advocating for fifteen years or more. The abolition of the corvees, the freedom of the grain trade, and the embattled proposal for the establishment of a land tax free of exemptions for the privileged; all of these reforms had been planned by Turgot with his young disciple in vigorous support. The necessity for judicial reform had been urged upon the former Controller-General even before he came into office, by a Condorcet impassioned against the parlements. “How many things there are to do for the public good,” he had written to Turgot in 1774. “Proscribe fanaticism and bring justice against the assassins of La Barre; assign to each crime a legal penalty; suppress torture and barbarous punishments far removed from our present manners; establish a tribunal where an individual insulted by a magistrate or involved in litigation with him will be judged by someone other than a colleague of his adversary. It is the lack of such a tribunal that rendered the former parlements so insolent in their capitals and so hated within their jurisdic¬ tions.”201 When Turgot fell, none of this had been accomplished. But his disciple continued to add his voice to those of other auteurs citoyens in the campaign for judicial reform which reached a crescendo in the 1780s, and in the campaign for civil toleration of the Protestants to which Brienne eventually yielded in January 1788. As Voltaire had exercised the independent function of the man of letters in defending the unpopular Maupeou against the hostility of men of letters

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deceived by the parlementary rhetoric of 1771, so now Condorcet warned misguided patriots against the virulence of the parlementary reactions to Brienne s reforms. As in defense of Turgot more than a decade earlier, so now for another former member of the salon of Mile de Lespinasse, the philosophe sprang to the cause of a reforming minister against the onslaught of aristocratic tyranny: an onslaught all the more dangerous, he argued, in that it perverted the language of liberty to the uses of aristocratic reaction and parlementary despotism. Men entered society to ensure the enjoyment of their rights to security, liberty, property, and equality, and the title to participate in the formation of the laws, Condorcet insisted in the anonymous Lettres d’un citoyen des Etats-Unis a un frangais sur les affaires presentes, published in the very thick of the pamphlet war that followed Brienne’s coup d’etat in May 1788.202 But do men enjoy the right to security if criminal judgments are arbitrary, and indifferent actions are punishable as crimes; if the accused is deprived of the right to defend himself, and the evidence against him is kept secret; if the judges are members of permanent bodies with passions and prejudices, interests and pretensions contrary to the public good? Do they enjoy the right to liberty when the laws forbid freedom of trade, and the exclusive privileges of guilds and corporations are savagely defended by the parlements? Do they enjoy the right to property when they are everywhere subject to indirect taxes unjustly and arbitrarily exacted, and where the cost of a lawsuit gives the rich an unjust power over the poor? Do they enjoy the right to equality when social distinctions established by law are not the necessary result of real merit, the right of property, public opinion, or the importance of certain social functions? Do they, finally, enjoy the title to participate in the formation of the laws if this right is not equal for all citizens, if a priest or a noble is privileged in this respect over a property-owner of the Third Estate? To all these questions, Condorcet insisted, the true and enlightened patriot could give but one answer. You should not be surprised, then, to see me leaning towards the side whose actions tend to reestablish the citizens in their rights and to destroy a dangerous authority and an inequality contrary to natural right; and which ordains that each individual contribute to the pub¬ lic expenditure in proportion to his property.203 Yet while Condorcet supported Brienne’s policy in general, with reserva¬ tions as to details of specific reforms, he had no enthusiasm for the main strategy in the minister’s antiparlementary program: the establishment of a plenary court for the registration of the laws. “Any plenary court not composed of members elected only by a national or by the provincial assemblies must constitute in my eyes a dangerous institution contrary to the rights of citizens,” he maintained in the Lettres d’un citoyen des Etats-Unis.204 Brienne’s plenary court remained —like the parlements, whose functions in respect to legislation it assumed —an aristocratic body. The old parlements constituted a more tyrannical aristocracy because they were more numerous, their judicial powers more extensive, their magis¬ trates less distinguished. But the new court would produce an aristocracy

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

more potentially dangerous in its political power, because it was more united and more easily won over for opposition projects. The old parlements were therefore more dangerous to the citizens, Condorcet concluded, the new court more of a threat to the ministers. The old parlements would not long have resisted the progress of enlightenment and the will of the nation; the new would be more difficult to destroy. As a matter of political strategy, this fact in itself might have been grounds for sup¬ porting the parlementary resistance to Brienne’s proposed plenary court. But Condorcet was not prepared to allow such considerations into his rational politics. The invidious choice between these two aristocratic institu¬ tions was irrelevant to the patriot and of interest only to the aristocratic tyrants. Why then had patriotic and enlightened citizens rallied to the cause of parlementary reaction against the establishment of the plenary court? 1 am not, then, surprised that the establishment of this court has af¬ flicted and thrown into consternation those friends of the nation who could not have a confidence in the ministers founded on personal knowledge of their character. But I am surprised to see them join the cause of the parlements and sign that mass of protests and memo¬ randa, the tone and principles of which betray the mentality of a parlementary clerk.205 Long a bitter critic of the parlements and all that they stood for, Condorcet was convinced that the demand for the convocation of the Estates-General, while it spoke the language of liberty, was a reactionary and anarchical program designed chiefly to sabotage the government policy of national regeneration through the provincial assemblies. To point to these elected assemblies as best able to accelerate the convocation of a truly national assembly in a way that would be neither useless nor dangerous; to regard them as most suited to discuss the appropriate form of the Estates-General after a lapse of almost two hundred years; to uphold them as best qualified to give a new form of general assembly a truly legal sanction and the endorsement of public opinion: all of this would have been laudable, Condorcet concluded in the Lettres d’un citoyen des Etats-Unis. “But I cannot applaud a vague demand for Estates-General with no apparent concern for what form they should take or what good they would bring. . .[nor can I applaud] the protestations of provinces which establish prerogatives rather than liberties; which separate them from the nation rather than unite them with it; which are based less on natural right and the interests of citizens than on ancient charters which generally recognize the true rights of man less than they promise to preserve abuses.”206 The Lettres d’un citoyen des Etats-Unis, with this vehement counter¬ attack against the campaign for the convocation of the Estates-General, had not yet gone to press on 5 July 1788 when Brienne, in another delaying tactic, issued an edict ordering investigation and asking advice as to the forms according to which the Estates-General would be convoked. With a long work on the constitution and functions of the provincial assemblies substantially complete, Condorcet rushed into print with yet another brief

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pamphlet against the calling of the Estates-General. The Sentiments d un republicain sur les assemblies provinciates et les etats ge'neraux began with vigorous praise of the newly established provincial assemblies as embodying the essentials of Turgot’s great reform program, now finally made public by Dupont.207 Admittedly, there were differences —the retention of distinc¬ tions between the Estates, the institution of parish assemblies too weak to be effective in administration but these could readily be corrected. It had only been necessary to indicate the advantages of gathering several parishes together in an assembly, Condorcet argued, for the government to be concerned with ways of implementing this change. It was only necessary for the nation —"known among you as the Third Estate”208 —to will the abolition of the distinction between Estates for this to be accomplished. For given the doubling of the Third Estate in the provincial assemblies, it could implement any policy upon which it was united with the available help of a few enlightened members of the privileged orders. Despite their imperfections, then, the provincial assemblies proposed by Calonne and instituted by Brienne had all the essential advantages of those planned by Turgot. They were to be comprised eventually of members elected by the citizens. They constituted a hierarchy of assemblies such that the will of all would be effectively represented and no abuse would escape attention. Above all, they promised an easy and untroubled road to reform, for they would lead naturally and inevitably to a national assembly when the state of the finances necessitated measures which could only be guaranteed by the will of the nation.209 Why then, at the very moment the entire nation was being called to discuss its interests in a manner less illusory than that of any country in Europe, was the antique EstatesGeneral demanded so fanatically, not only by the parlements but by the clergy, by the provincial Estates, even by the tumultuous assemblies of nobles? Condorcet did not hesitate long for an answer to his question. All the reactionary interests of the aristocracy, he argued, were united against the provincial assemblies. Once established, these assemblies would de¬ mand the abolition of fiscal inequalities: they were therefore opposed by the privileged. They would demand the reform of justice, claiming the right as elected representatives to proceed to the registration of edicts: they were therefore opposed by the parlements. They would protest against the oppression that kept the people in misery: they were therefore opposed by all the oppressors. They would offer a democratic example to citizens exploited by aristocratic control of the assemblies of Estates in the pays d’etats: they were therefore opposed by the provincial Estates. 210 In effect, then, the Sentiments d’un republicain offered Frenchmen a choice between peaceful reform, through the moderate evolution of the provincial assemblies towards a national assembly approved by the national will, and the turbulently reactionary clamor of privileged interests for the Estates-General, the antique and unrepresentative forms of which had never been approved by the will of the nation.211 In making this choice, the nation would be opting for one of two models of society. The first was aristocratic in its forms, corporate in its organization, fragmented and particularistic in its politics of conflicting interests: the model of corporate reaction and monarchical decline. The second was democratic in its forms,

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

individualistic in its organization, open in its public politics: the model of national regeneration through the transformation of the monarchy. The key to this fundamental choice lay in the continued existence of the provincial assemblies, their success in implementing necessary and enlight¬ ened reforms, and the effective evolution of their constitutional organiza¬ tion. It was to the crucial issue of the provincial assemblies, then, that Condorcet addressed himself in a lengthy book on which he must have been working since the establishment of these assemblies in 1787, the Essai sur la constitution et les fonctions des assemblies provinciales, finally published at the very end of 1788.212 The Essai sur les assemblies provinciales was meant to be no mean work. A people yoked by events to the historic choice between aristocracy and democracy had need of more than mere pamphlets. Citizens long deprived of the right to discuss political questions now required a complete and systematic education in the principles of the moral and political sciences. They could not expect such an education to be mentally painless. To understand the physical sciences, Condorcet argued, everyone knows that it is necessary to submit oneself to the slow discipline of instruction, following the detail of experiments and calculations. Why should it be otherwise in the moral and political sciences? It would doubtless be unfortunate for the human race if the study necessary for men to learn understanding and enjoyment of their rights were not within the compass of all minds. But do we have the right to complain if nature has decreed that the acquisition of this knowledge should cost us some trouble, or at least some attention?213 Nor were the skills of the pamphleteer appropriate to such a serious undertaking, for they teach only to juggle with words. They exchange salvoes of maxims and phrases at a time when the greatest obstacle to a rational politics is the imperfection of language and the lack of precisely defined ideas. “They give ignorance the right to believe that it has knowledge when it only comprehends the words.”214 With this elitist introduction, Condorcet proceeded to a lengthy com¬ mentary on the forms and functions of the provincial assemblies, rein¬ forced with a battery of technical notes and calculations. The resulting Essai sur les assemblies provinciales was his most comprehensive treatise on politics: a last statement (indeed, a last-minute statement) of the political theory he had learned from Turgot before the political universe in which it had been formed was overturned by the events of 1789. Many of the detailed arguments of the work, dealing as they do with the precise articles of the edict of 1787 that established the provincial assemblies, need not be of concern here. But no work displays more clearly the shape of Condorcet’s social and political theory as it developed in the last years of the Old Regime, and the problems raised for his conception of social science by the debate over the regeneration of the monarchy. The purpose of the Essai sur les assemblies provinciales was to outline

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constitutional forms that would render the provincial assemblies instituted by Brienne representative of the public will and expressive of the public reason. To this end, Condorcet insisted, a number of changes were required in the organization they had provisionally received in 1787. The first was to organize elections on the basis of the natural right of citizenship, “the right which nature gives to every man who inhabits a country to contribute to the formation of the rules to which all the inhabitants must submit for the maintenance of the rights of each individual, and of those [secondary rules] governing the actions they must take in common to ensure the execution of these first rules and to maintain the general security and tranquillity.”215 Although this right belongs to all, Condorcet argued, its exercise is nevertheless subject to certain restrictions “that nature and reason themselves have pronounced.”216 The right to vote is only the right to vote rationally; the right to participate in lawmaking is only the right to make just laws. Only men able to come to a decision in terms of reason and justice (and women, too, for Condorcet was an ardent advocate of political equality between the sexes) are qualified to exercise this right for the public good. This implies the immediate exclusion of minors, monks, domestics, convicted criminals: all those who have neither an enlightened nor an uncorrupted will, nor a will of their own. It also means the justifiable exclusion of foreigners and those without property, who have “an uncertain, partial, momentary interest in the common prosperity.”217 Only property-owners are therefore truly qualified to exercise the right to vote rationally. And only those with property sufficient for their own subsistence can exercise it directly, since they alone are in an economic position to form a “free, reasonable, and uncorrupted opinion.”218 Follow¬ ing Turgot s reasoning in the Memoire sur les municipalites, then, Condorcet divided the mass of citoyens proprietaries into two groups: the citoyens entiers, those with property sufficient for their subsistence, qualified directly to elect and serve as representatives; the citoyens fractionnaires, those without property sufficient for their subsistence, qualified only to join with others (in proportion to their property) to elect a deputy to exercise the rights of citizenship on their behalf. But in an important divergence from the argument of the Memoire, he also repudi¬ ated the notion that citoyens entiers should exercise a number of votes proportional to their property. Possession of property enough for subsis¬ tence was a minimum criterion for the exercise of the full rights of citizenship, simply in order to ensure the rationality of political decisions. To assign votes in proportion to property beyond this amount, Condorcet argued, would distort the rationality of political decision-making by allowing the more probable opinion of the majority to be defeated by the less probable opinion of a weighted minority. Property, in other words, indicated a capacity for rational decisions; but rationality did not increase in proportion to property.219 In the development of Condorcet’s ideas on the suffrage, this was an important step. In Turgot’s conception, society had been rather like a joint-stock company in land, in which the largest shareholders naturally

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

held the largest share of the votes. The greater the stake of a propertyowner in the country, the more rational and responsible he was likely to be in his decisions. For Condorcet, not property but rationality now became the basis for political participation: property adequate for subsistence formed the essential condition for the rationality necessary to participate in political decision-making. But in such a conception, it was inconsistent to retain the fractional vote for property-owners possessing less than was adequate for subsistence. Partial rationalities could not be added together to form whole ones, in the way that partial stakes in the country could be. It is not surprising, then, that Condorcet had already dropped the idea of fractional representation by the time he drafted his first Declaration of Rights in 1789. In effect, this left him with a choice between two possible criteria of adequate rationality: the possession of property or the enjoy¬ ment of mere humanity. As we shall see, he first held to the idea of property as the “natural” criterion for the exercise of the rights of active citizenship. But as his experience with the city of Paris revealed the difficulties involved in maintaining the consistency of such a “natural” criterion, he ultimately abandoned that criterion for the principle of universal suffrage. It followed from this definition of the rights of citizenship that in a hierarchy of assemblies of citoyens proprietaries there should be no distinction of orders and Estates. The notables had challenged Calonne’s proposals on this point, reverting to the division of members by Estate, but doubling the representation of the Third Estate and allowing vote by head in a single assembly. Condorcet, in turn, criticized this form (instituted by Brienne) as contrary to the public interest. Tax privileges based on the criteria of order and Estate are unjust and harmful in themselves, he argued. Distinctions aimed at defending these privileges are contrary to the rights of citizens and dangerous to public order. They can have no other effect than to introduce into the assemblies representatives of special interests contrary to the public good. “If these privileges are just, or (synonymously) if it is useful to all citizens to preserve their enjoyment, why seek other defenders than the citizens one supposes equally interested in maintaining them?”220 Nor was Condorcet convinced by arguments that division of the assem¬ blies into Estates was necessary in the interests of the Third Estate, on the one hand, to prevent the nobility from monopolizing all the places; or in the interests of the nobility, on the other hand, to make sure that they secured at least some seats. The second possibility was out of the question, Condorcet insisted, since no one was stupid enough to ignore the reality that birth, wealth, and personal credit were desirable qualities in a representative.221 The first possibility was irrelevant, since it hardly mattered whether members of the upper classes secured all the seats, provided they were found worthy of confidence by citizens of all classes. “Never have the interests of the people been defended with more nobility and moderation, and less danger to the public tranquillity, than when they have been entrusted to a superior class. History offers innumerable proofs of this fact.”222

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But what of the contention that the fundamental constitution of the French monarchy required the separation of Estates? Condorcet rejected this argument on a number of grounds. As royal power had established and changed the traditional forms of the Estates-General, so now could it institute new forms for new assemblies. The question of representation should be made to depend not on a so-called fundamental constitution, in itself the corruption of a much more ancient and reasonable constitution according to which all Frenchmen were free and equal, but on rational considerations of social utility. In France, the clergy were charged and paid by the nation to perform religious functions. As public servants, they should not be regarded as a class apart. Indeed, Condorcet argued, intimating one of the grand historical themes later taken up in the Esquisse, abuses of power had always followed as soon as the clergy were regarded as a separate Estate.223 As for the privileges of the nobility, Condorcet divided these into two. The first were fiscal, deriving from the time when nobles owed personal military service to the crown. The grounds for these privileges no longer existed, Condorcet argued, while the establishment of new taxes to which the nobility was liable had in any case rendered their fiscal exemptions hardly important enough to make separate representation useful to them. The second category of noble privilege was personal, consisting in the legal honors accorded to distinguished men performing honorable functions, transmissable to their descendants by birth. These should be retained as the reward for public service.224 In all countries, however, noble birth had made it easier to obtain functions and places, even when these had not been specifically reserved to the nobility by law. This should not be regarded necessarily as a political evil, Condorcet insisted, perhaps remembering the advantages of his own noble birth. Nobles had formed an educated elite qualified for high position; they had functioned as a kind of intermediary between the citizens and those in power; they had main¬ tained equality more than they had destroyed it. But as humanity progressed and the true dignity of man was better known, there would be less need for a class of distinguished men checking abuses of power by its concern for honor and pride. “Perhaps this distinction of estate will become harmful; and it is for this reason that it is necessary to found it not on legal prerogatives but on opinion, because this opinion will naturally lose its force and influence as a result of the same causes which will render distinctions based on legal prerogatives useless and dangerous.”225 Nobles and clergy called to sit in the provincial assemblies should do so as representatives of the citizens, then, with no other title to distinction than their ability to contribute to the general good. Finally, in order for the provincial assemblies to fulfill their role in the historical task of national regeneration, it was necessary that they pave the way for the convocation of a truly national assembly. In this respect, Condorcet’s main concern was to argue against the calling of the EstatesGeneral and in favor of an assembly drawn from delegates of the provincial assemblies together with those chosen (faute de mieux) by the assemblies in the pays d’etats. The form of the Estates-General was neither that of the

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

ancient assemblies of the nation, Condorcet insisted, nor that of the first convocation of Estates by Philip the Fair.226 Never had a fixed constitution of the Estates-General been proposed to the nation; nor had its meetings been regular or habitual. Thus it was impossible after a lapse of 160 years to regard this form of assembly as consecrated by the tacit agreement of the nation. To call such an assembly according to supposedly ancient forms could only be dangerous to public order and harmful to the nation. It would lead to interminable disputes, to the war of pretension against pretension, text against text, to a twilight of reason in which public opinion would be at the whim of the most adroit political rhetorician.227 Thus only a truly representative assembly, the legitimate expression of the public will, could assure peaceful change. Such an assembly, Condor¬ cet argued, could not be attained “where men who are citizens of the same State, instead of expressing a common will before the Prince, announce separate pretensions, make demands that are sometimes contradictory, unite together to form cabals against the government, and separate when it is necessary to defend the rights of citizens for the public interest.”228 Harmful in the provincial assemblies, which were intended to fulfil largely administrative and consultative functions, the distinction of orders would be even more dangerous to the natural rights of citizens in a national assembly, the function of which would be to discuss the abolition of privileges and the regeneration of the monarchy. Even were they to come to agreement, the separate wills of each order would express not the general good of the citizens but only a measure of accommodation between the parts. Such an agreement, Condorcet insisted, would resemble the peace treaties of rival nations more than the common will of a united people for the public prosperity. In a troubled and disordered realm such forms might once have been justified. “But today it is a question not of reaching agreement with powerful chiefs or disarming dangerous resis¬ tance, but of knowing the will of the nation and consulting it as to its needs. It is consequently necessary to admit to the representative assembly only men who can be swayed by no other concern than the national interests with which they have been entrusted: in a word, representatives of the citizens chosen by the citizens themselves.”229 Condorcet here demanded the establishment of a hierarchy of assem¬ blies truly representative of the public will. Could such assemblies also be made expressive of the public reason? For the academician, as we have seen, collective decision-making was clearly a very risky business: if he was a democrat, then he was indeed a very reluctant one. To minimize the dangers of public deliberation, the Essai sur les assemblers provinciales sketched what must be one of the most tortuously complicated constitutional schemes ever devised by an enlightened mind. Condorcet started, logically, with the question of the size of the assemblies. Numerous assemblies are the death of reason, Turgot had insisted in the Memoire sur les municipalites. His disciple took up the same theme. Large assemblies are dominated by chance or demagogy; small ones by the personal interests and private passions of the members. It is therefore necessary to establish assemblies of such a size that there is a reasonable probability of decisions in accordance

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with reason and justice, without at the same time allowing too much influence to a small number of men or rendering representatives too remote from those who have elected them.230 In the case of France, Condorcet argued, this meant a basic hierarchy of four orders of assembly: municipal, district, provincial, and national. In addition to superimposing a national assembly not included in the edict of 1787, Condorcet’s chief change was to insist that the municipal assemblies represent several parishes rather than one (as laid down in Brienne’s edict). Such a change, he insisted, would avoid the dominant position given to the seigneur and the cure in the elementary parish assemblies set up in 1787, at the same time making the municipal assemblies less concerned with the most immediate local interests.231 At each of these levels, Condorcet argued, there should be in principle electoral assemblies, administrative assemblies, and intermediary adminis¬ trative commissions. Condorcet took over from the edict of 1787 the distinction between deliberative assemblies that would carry on the work of decision-making at regular periodic meetings, and smaller administrative commissions charged with the responsibility of following up the execution of these decisions in the interim between assembly meetings.232 But while the edict laid down that the intermediary commissions be ultimately elected by and from the assemblies to which they corresponded, sharing the same officers, Condorcet specifically rejected this relationship. The purpose of the establishment of provincial assemblies was to inculcate in France the public spirit of citizenship so evidently lacking in a corporate society of orders and Estates. Yet all institutions, even the most popular in their origin, tend to develop an esprit de corps— a sense of corporate identity and self-interest which constantly threatens their competence to express the public good. For Condorcet, the need to eliminate this tendency—which lay at the heart of Rousseau’s repudiation of representa¬ tive institutions —was the greatest challenge faced by the theorist of liberal democracy. It could be counteracted, he argued, only by the introduction of electoral assemblies whose sole function it was to elect the members and officers of all other bodies. In this way, the relationship between delibera¬ tive bodies could be reduced strictly to their functional competence, with the dangers of a chain of corporate self-interest consequently minimized. Thus no administrative assembly should elect members or officers of an administrative commission or of a higher administrative assembly; no body (even the electoral assemblies) should elect the members of another body from its own ranks; no body should elect its own officers.233 This reasoning required the establishment of electoral assemblies at every level but the primary, where members of an assembly could be elected directly by the people. But in this latter case there was yet another argument for the institution of electoral assemblies: the lack of enlighten¬ ment among the majority of those exercising the rights of citizenship. This made it more suitable for them to choose men of good faith as electors, rather than proceeding directly to the election of representatives, the appropriate qualities for whom they were less competent to judge. 234 Thus the general assembly of each community or municipality would elect

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deputies charged with the responsibility of nominating the officers and members of the municipal assembly, the deputy of the municipality to the electoral assembly for the district, and the deputy of the municipality to the administrative assembly for the district (if there was to be such a deputy for each municipality). This election of electors by the general assembly of the community or municipality was the only instance in which citizens were to exercize the right of citizenship directly. In all other instances, they were to act through representatives kept sensitive to the popular will by the requirement of steadily increasing proportions of the vote for reelection.235 This separation between the functions of election and decision-making was to continue at each level of assembly Condorcet envisaged. Thus the electoral assembly of the district would name members of the administra¬ tive assembly of the district, where they had not already been elected by the electoral assembly of the municipality. It would choose the president and officers of the administrative assembly, to prevent that assembly from developing an esprit de corps by doing so itself and to preserve the greatest possible equality between members having “no masters other than reason and the law.”236 It would name the president and members of the administrative commission of the district to maintain an absolute distinc¬ tion between this body and the corresponding administrative assembly. It would choose the representative of the district at the electoral assembly of the province, which would in turn perform parallel functions at the higher level. And finally, if each district had its own deputy in the administrative assembly of the province, the electoral assembly of the district would also name this deputy. Only by such tortuous means, which would surely have made these assemblies unworkable, could the danger of esprit de corps be removed from apparently democratic bodies. The key to Condorcet’s constitutional scheme therefore lay essentially in the operation of the electoral assemblies. To eliminate the development of corporate self-interest at this strategic heart of the constitution, Condorcet was careful to insist that these assemblies should never make elections from among their own members. But even given this safeguard, the electoral assemblies, and consequently all the other assemblies, would be only as effective as the quality of their elections allowed. What guarantee could there be that these assemblies would elect the best qualified candidates? Here Condorcet fell back on the reasoning developed in the Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse a la probability des decisions rendues par la plurality des voix. The function of an election, he argued, is to express a rational judgment as to the respective quality of the candidates. A majority vote is only justified in such a situation on the grounds that a proposition declared true by fifteen people —in this case a proposition relating to the superiority of one candidate over others —is more probable, all things being equal, than one declared true by ten people. 237 But there is a paradox in all this. In elections involving three or more candidates, as we have seen, the one gaining the largest number of votes is not necessarily the one preferred to all other candidates by the largest number of voters. The greater the number of candidates, indeed, and the greater the number of voters, the more likely the simple majority vote to result in error. This

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defect in the common system of elections could be remedied, Condorcet argued, by the adoption of the system of combinatorial voting developed in the Essai sur l’application de Vanalyse a la probability des decisions or by some more practicable variant of it.238 Such a system had the additional advantage, in Condorcet’s eyes, that tumultuous assemblies could be avoided and meetings organized in such a way that electors would be able to complete their functions rationally in one day (dispersing before factions had time to develop) and in one ballot (avoiding the possibility that contradictions might creep into successive votes). Indeed, Condorcet reasoned, developing the logic of this argument, elections could even be arranged in such a way that an assembly of electors would never have to meet in a body. 239 Then, indeed, as Rousseau had suggested, each elector would think his own thoughts! Public discussion of the qualities of candidates is in any case more dangerous than useful, Condorcet argued. It gives rise to divisions among the electors and fosters allegations concerning candidates beyond the competence of an assembly to answer satisfactorily. Since such collective discussions are more condu¬ cive to calumny than to truth, and since corporate self-interest can be most effectively banished where a body never meets, what better way of ensuring the rationality of elections than combinatorial voting carried out by mail?240 Such was Condorcet’s distrust of assemblies that he preferred them never to meet. Yet even in Condorcet’s constitutional scheme, some assemblies had to meet and some bodies had to deliberate. How was it possible to make these deliberations an accurate expression of the public reason? “Anyone who has witnessed the deliberations of a body of any size has necessarily observed the fact that the opinion adopted is very often not the real opinion of the greatest number,” Condorcet argued, “and that the form of deliberation is consequently one of the principal causes of the error, feebleness, and incoherence of majority decisions.”241 The proceedings of the administrative assemblies and the intermediary commissions could be made rational and scientific, however, if important questions to be decided were reduced to a series of simple propositions, or sets of simple proposi¬ tions, answerable by a simple yes or no vote. To reconcile freedom of discussion and deliberation with method and precision in decision-making, such propositions would be drawn up by a committee of the assembly only on the basis of initial discussion of the issues. Presented to the assembly, they could then be subjected to the preferential system of voting adopted by the electoral assemblies, and pluralities required proportionate to the gravity of the issues.242 Only from such a calculus of consent would there emerge decisions the probable truth of which would be high enough to translate the crude instrument of majority voting from an exercise of mere will to an expression of truth and reason. Such were Condorcet’s plans for the constitutional regeneration of the monarchy. It remained only to answer in advance the argument which conservatives liked to reinforce with the authority of Montesquieu, that without corporate distinctions and intermediary powers the monarchy

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itself could not long subsist.243 “It will perhaps be said that these democratic forms are dangerous in a monarchy,” Condorcet argued, “and it is necessary to observe that if they have the authority of the marquis d’Argenson in their favor, that of Montesquieu is against them.”244 Like Descartes, Condorcet stated, Montesquieu had excited prejudices by the novelty of his work. Like Descartes, too, his work had in subsequent generations become the very arsenal in which the prejudiced found their ammunition. But like Descartes, he had shown posterity the way to overcome even the obstacles to which his own work had given rise, by show¬ ing men how to subject everything to the critical examination of reason. The aristocratic institutions which Montesquieu celebrated as a check on royal despotism, Condorcet insisted, could exist only at the cost of fiscal privilege and the inequality of fortunes, conditions which lead to luxury, contempt for private virtues, and the corruption of manners. Such institutions give aristocratic bodies prerogatives to be maintained against the nation rather than on its behalf, fostering the pretension to dominate the people rather than the obligation to defend them. With their elaborate defenses against the aristocratic spirit, Condorcet argued, the democratic bodies he envisaged were at once a more legitimate expression of public opinion and a more secure guarantee of public order than the selfinterested pretensions of permanent intermediary bodies. This Montesquieu would doubtless have recognized if he had been able to reflect more on the nature and effects of truly representative constitutions; if he had not been more often concerned with finding the reasons for that which is, rather than discovering that which should be; with perceiving how abuses counterbalance abuses, rather than examining the means of enveloping them all in the same destruction; finally, with imagining the combinations of laws proper to each kind of constitution, to each climate, to each national char¬ acter, rather than seeking the principles according to which one can find just and reasonable laws suitable for all men.245 With such truly representative institutions, monarchical authority would be tempered by the public opinion of the nation of citizens it had brought into being, rather than destroyed by the constant war of corporate claims and counterclaims. The power to do good would be enhanced by the harmonious expression of the public will, rather than frustrated by partial interests and self-serving prerogatives. And the people would be guided by an open elite of men distinguished by birth, position, wealth, and enlightenment, exercising their authority by virtue of popular choice rather than of vested corporate privilege. The regeneration of the monar¬ chy was indeed at hand. Scientific Model and Social Field It will be appropriate here to recapitulate the aspects of Condorcet’s definition of the social field outlined above and to suggest their relation¬ ship to his view of the scientific model. It was a definition formed in the context of a crisis of government and society that developed as the centralizing tendencies and universalizing implications of bureaucratic

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absolutism came into open conflict with the particularistic and corporatist conceptions that were the traditional foundations of the French monarchy. At the most general level, two polar responses to this conflict were logically possible, though there were naturally many intermediate positions to be taken. The first was to reiterate the importance of the social foundations of the monarchy in a corporate society of orders and Estates. This was the view developed most comprehensively by Montesquieu, propounded by the parlementary theorists in the middle years of the century, and retained in somewhat attenuated form by the pre-Revolutionary writers who regarded the English constitution as a model for the balancing of social orders and governmental powers. Montesquieu arrived at what might be called a radically sociological view of the social universe by objectifying the corporate society of the Old Regime for its defense against the absolutist state. The conservative model of society he propounded —taken up after the French Revolution by Bonald and Maistre and transmuted into sociology by Saint Simon and Comte —stressed the sociological constraints upon political action, the organic structure of society, and the functional interplay of social groups. The social science that emerged from the application of the scientific conviction to this social field during the Restoration was historical in its approach, organic and functionalist in its orientation, and generally conservative in its import. It issued in a historical sociology that contained an implicit demand for a return to the closed society of the Old Regime. The alternative to this position —the view of Turgot and Condorcet, also embraced in one form or another by a majority of the philosophes —was to accept and extend the universalizing and individualizing implications of the development of bureaucratic absolutism. Against the crisis of a corporate society of orders and Estates, they set the logical model of a society of individuals equal in status before the law, a nation in which the public good was to be determined by the harmonious expression of the reciprocal needs of citizens rather than by the conflict of competing corporate claims. Thus if Montesquieu developed a conservative sociologi¬ cal vision of society by objectifying it as the autonomous field of interaction between constituted social bodies, Condorcet developed a reforming political vision by regarding society as the continuum of political and social choices made by the individual citizens of which he held it to be essentially composed. As we have seen, Condorcet brought to this conception of society a mathematical scientific model: a model that not only met the epistemolo¬ gical requirements of science as he defined them but found a historical matrix in the very development of bureaucratic absolutism to which Condorcet’s political theory was a response. For it is significant that the development of political arithmetic —which Condorcet was to generalize into a comprehensive social mathematics — was closely associated with the expanding administrative efforts of states. Wishing to tap to the full the human and financial resources of their societies, governments had need of accurate, extensive social statistics. Forced to raise money to meet an inflated budget by the practice of selling life annuity contracts, they

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required precise information concerning the probable life expectancies of their subjects. Thus as the state penetrated more deeply into traditional society to bring individuals within the direct purview of public authority as citizens, so it also felt the impulse to quantify them. It was no accident that as the Revolution completed the centralizing work of bureaucratic absolut¬ ism, so it consolidated its demographic efforts by establishing a general statistical bureau. As citizens, indeed, there was a sense in which indivi¬ duals were to be quantifiable and interchangeable units in a way that they were not as members of corporate social orders. Each —as Rousseau emphasized —must count for one. There is thus a fundamental continuity in administrative practice, as in political theory, between citizenship and quantifiability. Condorcet not only defined the social field to which his scientific model was to be applied by drawing the full political implications from the conflict between state and corporate society in eighteenth-century France. He also elaborated the scientific model appropriate to that field by generalizing the mathematical techniques developed in relation to the administration of states, to fit his conception of society as a whole. He regarded it as the task of his new social science to rationalize the social process of decision-making in such a way that the public good would emerge from the continuum of individual choices in an open society. This suggests a further fundamental aspect of Condorcet's definition of the social field: namely, that it was oriented toward action rather than behavior, towards individual choice rather than social engineering. Thus he not only repudiated Montesquieu’s vision of a society governed by the functional interplay of corporate behaviors. He also clearly distinguished his social theory from Helvetius’s view that the public good could be engineered by the artificial identification of interests through the social and political manipulation of individual behaviors. For Condorcet, social science was to be concerned with rational conduct and individual choice. It was in this context that he found the mathematical theory of probabilities so appropriate to his concerns. For probability, as he defined it, was relative to our knowledge of things and not to things in themselves. It was, in other words, explicitly individual and subjective. The calculus of probabilities afforded a scientific model for evaluating the validity of individual opinions and determining the probable outcomes of individual actions. Epistemologically, it was the key to the rational understanding of the relationship between individual knowledge and external phenomena. Sociologically, it operated at the level of the interrelationship between an individual’s choices and actions and those of other individuals. It was the perfect scientific matrix for a conception of social science oriented towards a view of society as the field of purposive interaction between rational individuals. One very natural expression of this view would have been a conception of the social field as a laissez-faire economy in which the social choices of individuals were rationalized and harmonized by the logic of the market¬ place. Such a conceptualization of the social field in predominantly economic terms would have been entirely compatible with Condorcet’s model of science. It would also have been the logical expression of the

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fundamental principles to be found in his economic writings. Yet for the moment this potential conception of the social field remained recessive in Condorcet’s thinking. The problem that dominated his conception of social science in the 1780s- the problem of reconciling his scientific elitism in politics with the principle of consent —suggested a rather different model of the social field. For Condorcet, as we have seen, the rights of the citizen included the right to choose, but only the right to choose rationally. His model of collective decision-making was derived from his view of the collective search for truth by the scientific community, in which informed and rational decision transformed private hypotheses into public truths. A majority vote was only justified, he argued, on the grounds that a proposition declared true by the greater number is more likely to be correct than that declared true by the lesser number. But in political society, at least in the existing state of enlightenment, this was far from being the case. To resolve this dilemma, Condorcet again fell back on the calculus of probabilities. Its application to the theory of elections made it possible to elaborate a calculus that would reconcile the principle of consent with the requirements of reason, combining the greater responsibilities of the enlightened few with the political claims of the yet unenlightened many. This attempt to reconcile scientific elitism and democratic liberalism lay at the very heart of Condorcet’s conception of social science. It was also its weakest point. And we shall find that the events of the Revolution were to place increasing strain on precisely this aspect of Condorcet’s thinking.



5

&

THE POLITICS OF SOCIAL SCIENCE To recover promptly from the disorders inseparable from any great social movement. . . there is a need for more exact policies, and methods calculated with more precision. . . . It is necessary to accustom minds to the slow and peaceable march of discussion, to preserve them from that perfidious art which lays hold of their passions to drag them down into error and crime, and which acquires so fatal a perfection in times of trouble. Condorcet, Tableau general de la science qui a pour objet Vapplication du calcul aux sciences politiques et morales

On 8 August 1788, His Hand Forced by Yet Another Revelation of financial crisis, Lomenie de Brienne announced the definite convocation of the Estates-General for 1 May 1789.1 Condorcet’s lonely campaign against the calling of such a body was over, even before the Essai sur les assemblies provinciales, with its elaborate constitutional schemes for the peaceful regeneration of the monarchy, had left the printer. Belatedly, he added a brief postscript, full of foreboding, to the proofs of a work already outstripped by events. For a nation prepared by the political apprentice¬ ship of provincial assemblies, he argued, a truly national assembly would have inaugurated a period of sure and certain regeneration. But the French were still uninformed as to their rights and true interests, still without experience in political affairs, their knowledge of the moral and political sciences limited to “a few maxims taken from the Esprit des lois that are more ingenious than solid, more dangerous than useful, and an admiration for the English constitution that is more passionate than enlightened.”2 In such a nation, the calling of the Estates-General could produce only a dangerous crisis, terrifying in the eyes of thinking men. What man accustomed to reflect upon these questions will not be frightened at the sight, on the one hand, of a multitude of arrange¬ ments that would render the good impossible for a long series of gen¬ erations, by setting up obstacles to progress greater than those which we now bewail; and, on the other hand, of such a small number of ways in which it would be possible, without sacrificing any of the benefits attainable today, to prepare greater ones for the future rather than thwarting them? How frightened would he be to see, at the same time, these dangerous opinions repeated in every mouth, fermenting in every head, while everything that would be truly useful is unknown or disregarded?3 With such reservations, the apostle of rational politics greeted the year 1789. If by the end of that year he found his fears not entirely unfounded, it was not for want of vigorous action on his part. In the remaining months before the calling of the Estates-General —the few brief months left for enlightened men to ready an ill-prepared nation for unforeseeable 264

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events he played an active part in the propaganda campaign of the Society of Thirty1, which circulated model cahiers and worked for the election of liberal deputies.4 At the same time, he bombarded the electorate with pamphlets aimed at averting political disaster in the only way possible, by turning once again to a statement of the first principles of the moral and political sciences. Truth and justice are the same everywhere and for all men, he reiterated in the hasty postscript to the Essai sur les assemblies provinciales. What is good in one province cannot be bad in another. Uniformity in all the objects of public order is an additional bond between men; every difference is a seed of discord.” Reason alone can teach us in what justice consists. And since reason has only begun to appear among men in the eighteenth century, it follows that “everything that bears the imprint of time must inspire distrust rather than respect.”5 Against the historical language of traditional liberties and intermediary powers, the ingenious maxims of De Vesprit des lots, and the blind enthusiasm for the English constitution, Condorcet therefore set the pristine logic of the rights of man. Nature has made only men and citizens, he argued. Prerogatives imply duties, and can be justified only in terms of “the greatest utility of those who are only men and citizens.” Since all power has been established for the good of those who obey, each power should be limited to the extent necessary for it to be useful. It is absurd to propose that we should establish one excessive power to counterbalance another. Man did not put himself into society to be jostled between opposing powers, becoming equally the victim of their unity or of their quarrels, but to enjoy all his rights in peace, under the direction of an authority solely instituted to maintain them; an authority which, never having the power to violate these rights, can have no need of being counterbalanced by another power.6 The true barrier against the abuse of power in France, Condorcet concluded, the only one that endangered neither public tranquillity nor individual security, lay in a declaration of the rights of man drawn up by the enlightened. An assembly that did not respect such rights, believing itself free of the obligation to obey justice simply because it represented the mass of the citizens, would be “more dangerous for liberty than if an equal power were united in the hands of a single man.” Thus the true road towards peaceful and progressive change lay in the election of representa¬ tives to the Estates-General committed to the sanctity of the principles of the rights of man.7 The importance of a declaration of rights and the necessity for enlightened representatives: both were central to Condorcet’s conception of rational politics as he had come to define it in the years before the French Revolution. Both were central now to his scientific prescription for the crucial year, 1789. It was a prescription vigorously and liberally broadcast. In his Ide'es sur le despotisme, d I’usage de ceux qui prononcent ce mot sans Ventendre,8 in succesive drafts of a Declaration des droits,9 in the cahier of the nobility of Mantes that was largely his work,10 Condorcet

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stressed the need for a declaration of the rights of men and citizens as the foundation for constitutional reform, outlining the principal articles that such a declaration would contain and emphasizing the importance of making its adoption the first essential order of business for the EstatesGeneral. To these pamphlets, he added others on the question of representation, ever at the heart of his concern for a rational politics. The Lettres d’un gentilhomme a MM. du Tiers-Etatu — part political pamphlet, part popular lecture on the nature and limits of representation —took issue indirectly with the most influential pamphlet of the French Revolution, Sieyes’ Qu’est-ce-que le Tiers-Etat?Sieyeshad argued that the Third Estate, itself constituting the nation, should elect representatives of the national will only from among its own ranks. Condorcet, while also regarding the Third Estate as “truly forming the nation,” urged its electors to choose representatives of the national reason from enlightened and virtuous men (that is, from the educated elite among the liberal nobility) without regard for rank or title, preferring “enlightenment to eloquence, Phocion’s axe to Demosthenes’ thunder.”12 The rationalist impulse to transform political will into public reason, by appealing to the enlightenment of an elite, remained central to Condorcet’s concern throughout this period. But it was an impulse constantly frustrated. Summoned to the electoral assembly of the nobility of Mantes, Condorcet gave an impassioned speech urging the nobility to join with the representatives of the other estates in a single assembly, voting by head. This assembly would draw up a common cahier of grievances and elect common delegates to the Estates-General, with the evident corollary that such delegates would be chosen without distinction of rank or estate. But while this initiative was well received by a nobility willing to be convinced by Condorcet’s argument that the Third Estate had need of its enlightenment and support, it foundered upon the distrust of the Third Estate and the ambition of its leaders to gain election without the competition of the liberal nobility.13 Condorcet was to leave Mantes with his hopes of representing the inhabitants of his district, without distinction of order and Estate, unfulfilled. Nor did he fare better in his hopes to represent his fellow nobles. At Mantes, despite the fact that Condorcet assumed primary responsibility for drawing up the cahier of his order (a text outstanding among noble cahiers for its liberal ideas), the nobility preferred another voice to represent it at Versailles. “M. Herault [de Sechelles] and I had worked alone on the cahier, which is not too bad, despite the fact that we were obliged to introduce some foolishness into it,” the academician reported to Mme Suard. “We were almost always heard with apparent approval, but our attachment to deliberation by head made us suspect, even though we were not obdurate in support of our opinion. We were believed to be more radical [populaire] than we appeared.”14 In Paris, to which the academi¬ cian returned for the electoral assembly there, much the same pattern was repeated. Condorcet was chosen by the nobles of his district to represent them in the chamber of nobility of the electoral assembly of Paris. Here again the possibility of a common assembly, common representatives, and

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a common cahier was vetoed by the Third Estate, which insisted on the importance of electing representatives from among its own ranks.15 Here again the academician was among those charged with drawing up the cahier of the nobility, though the final product was considerably less liberal than that of the nobility of Mantes. Here again he failed to secure election to the Estates-General as the representative of his fellow nobles. The last of the philosophes, prophet of the moral and political sciences, heir to Turgot's constitutional schemes for the reform of the monarchy, Condorcet was obliged to watch the beginning of the great experiment in social regeneration from the sidelines. Excluded from the Estates-General, he could only turn again to his dead Essai sur les assemblees provinciales, which he reissued in 1789 under a new title, Sur les fonctions des Etats-Ge'neraux et des autres assemblees nationales. The event that was to bring Condorcet opportunity for the direct implementation of his constitutional schemes also introduced the gravest threat to the conception of rational politics implied in his idea of social science: the intervention of the Parisian crowd acting in the name of popular sovereignty. It is customary to assume that Condorcet welcomed the storming of the Bastille with great enthusiasm. The great French historian Michelet, true to his romantic inspiration, went so far as to imagine the academician’s daughter conceived in freedom on the very night of 14 July 1789.16 Condorcet’s principal biographer has insisted that the taking of the Bastille abruptly converted him into a passionate advocate of universal suffrage. “14 July produced in his mind a veritable moral revolution. . . He saw the day of liberation as the rehabilitation of an innocent victim that he had misjudged, the populace of the towns. . . . Imbued with classical memories, he had seen in it the hereditary support for coups d’etat; only reluctantly, formulating many reservations, did he admit it to the right to participate in the formulation of the law. After 14 July his ideas changed abruptly. The populace of Paris had divined the peril in which the Assembly stood; on its own initiative, it had risen up and organized. Contrary to all expectations, it was ready for liberty; the conduct of its destiny could be restored to it without fear; it had wrested the confidence of the nation.”17 Unfortunately, there is hardly more direct evidence for Cahen’s conten¬ tion than there is for Michelet’s fantasy. Indeed, the urgency with which the academician apparently enrolled in the National Guard and concerned himself with its organization, which Cahen cites as evidence of his attitude towards the events of 14 July,18 could as well suggest an exacerbated fear of popular disorder as a passionate enthusiasm for popular intervention. In fact, the development of Condorcet’s ideas on the suffrage underwent a gradual evolution rather than any sudden conversion. A critical change in his thinking —which led to the conclusion that the equality of natural rights precluded the fractional representation outlined in the Essai sur les assemblees provinciales for property-owners without land enough to support themselves — seems to have occurred before the storming of the Bastille. Condorcet’s first draft Declaration of Rights (probably published in June)

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

maintained that “no citizen can be obliged to obey laws to which he has not contributed as much as any other citizen, either directly, or by an equal right to elect representatives and to be elected. ”19 But while the academi¬ cian now felt that the equality of citizens implied an equal right to represent and be represented, he still maintained that the rights to citizenship should depend upon the possession of property; nor did he specifically abandon this position in his second published version of a draft Declaration of Rights.20 When Condorcet did abandon this position is not entirely clear. However, it seems likely that he did so less in response to any single event than in the constant search for theoretical consistency that was his chief characteristic as a political thinker (the characteristic that made him so outspoken and isolated an advocate of equal political rights for women).21 To base exercise of the rights of citizenship on possession of property in land had for long seemed to him to be the natural (that is, nonarbitrary) criterion. As a member of the municipality of Paris, responsible in the winter of 1789-90 for drafting its new constitution, he doubtless became much more aware than he had been in the Essai sur les assemblies provinciales of the difficulties of applying this criterion equitably to an urban population or of discovering a more equitable one. He was bitterly critical of the decrees of the National Assembly rendering active citizenship, and eligibility for election as representative, dependent upon the payment of certain amounts in direct taxation (the equivalent of three days of work for active citizenship, the equivalent of a mark of silver [marc d’argent], in addition to the possession of property, for eligibility for election to the National Assembly), and in December 1790 he began a vigorous campaign in the municipal assembly of Paris, particularly against the latter.22 But it is significant that while Condorcet attacked the marc d’argent on principle as contrary to the equal rights of citizens and as favoring an aristocracy of wealth rather than a natural elite of enlightenment, he did not take issue in the same way with the principle of a distinction between active and passive citizens. Instead, he limited himself to the argument that basing such a distinction upon the payment of taxes confused constitutional rights and financial administration. The amount paid by individuals in taxation can depend on many factors, not least the vicissitudes of government finances, the particular pattern of taxation in particular areas, the more or less arbitrary decisions of the tax collectors. Making eligibility dependent upon payment of direct taxation, Condorcet argued, would especially victimize the inhabitants of Paris, who paid far more in indirect than direct taxes. It would mean that the slightest change in fiscal administration would lead to the enfranchise¬ ment or disenfranchisement of citizens, introducing arbitrariness and uncertainty where the guarantee of uniformity and universal justice was essential. It would make the fiscal tail wag the constitutional dog. If the condition for active citizenship was indeed to be payment of a tax, Condorcet insisted, then only “a light tax to which all Frenchmen would be equally subject, with the exception of those who demand not to be taxed’’ could “free the first law of the constitution from all arbitrariness.”23

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Thus the search for a nonarbitrary criterion seemed to suggest that all but the indigent (or the apathetic?) should possess the rights of active citizenship, a conclusion that Condorcet made more explicit a year later when he advocated a stable domicile as the appropriate criterion, though not without a nostalgic backward look at the “natural” criterion of property.24 Not until he came to draft the Girondin constitution of 1793 in conditions that made any other stance politically unthinkable, however, did Condorcet advocate universal suffrage for males over twenty-one years (his ideas for equal rights for women still being unacceptable), on the grounds that to do otherwise would “sacrifice a natural right, acknow¬ ledged by the most simple reason, to considerations the reality of which is at least uncertain.”25 Thus Condorcet only gradually became convinced of the validity of the principle of universal suffrage, nor did he do so without fear. As we shall see, his theoretical belief in equality of representation remained constantly at war with his distrust of the masses, particularly the populace of the towns. He continued to insist that their ignorance would remain a danger to liberty, and their misunderstanding of their rights a menace to public order, until public instruction and general enlightenment had rendered the world safe for democracy. He continued to regard the urban masses as dangerous raw material for the skills of any political charlatan, a constant threat to the rational politics implied in his conception of social science. The populace of Paris had by no means won his confidence on 14 July 1789. The storming of the Bastille broke the political deadlock at Versailles and swept away the Paris municipal government. Hastily, the electors of the Third Estate of Paris (who had decided to continue their sessions during the meetings of the Estates-General) improvised a city government and organized a National Guard to establish peace and maintain order. Desperately, during the tumultuous summer of 1789, the communal assembly struggled to preserve order and ensure food supplies, while attempting to elaborate a more permanent municipal government. Against this background of violence and disorder, a second municipal assembly was elected in September. In a disputed election, Condorcet gained the right to represent the district of Saint-Germain.26 Barely had the municipal assembly constituted itself, however, than it was swept up in the anarchy of the October Days. One of Condorcet’s first responsibilities in the assembly was to investigate the threat to the city implied in the troop movements around Paris, and particularly the rumors surrounding the movements of the Flanders regiment, whose arrival and reception precipitated the march of the Parisian populace on Versailles.27 With the king brought to the capital by the action of the mob, followed by the National Assembly; with the problems of subsistence and the rumors of famine growing more urgent, the need to restore order and tranquillity pressed ever more heavily on the Parisian government and the municipal assembly. Condorcet was conspicuous in his efforts to restore calm. He was a member of a delegation dispatched to the Tuileries to discuss with the

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

king the arrangements for maintaining peace in the city.28 It was at his instigation that the municipal assembly despatched an address to the National Assembly, assuring the liberty and tranquillity of its deliberations and guaranteeing the personal inviolability of its members.29 He was probably the author of an address to the provinces aimed at setting provincial fears at rest concerning events in the capital.30 And he also had a hand in the composition of the most important of this series of pacificatory addresses: that to the Parisian populace, appealing for the calm that alone could ease the problems of subsistence and guarantee the achievements of the revolution.31 Thus it was anarchy and its dangers that dominated the academician’s thinking in the waning months of 1789. Nowhere is this concern clearer than in a series of reflections written towards the end of the year, probably for a group of moderates meeting at the house of the due de la Rochefoucauld.32 The Reflexions sur ce qui a ete fait, et sur ce qui reste a faire, lues dans une societe d’amis de la paix begins with a brief analysis of events since the convocation of the Estates-General and the creation of the National Assembly. The reforms that enlightened men expected from this assembly —the reestablishment of citizens in their natural rights and the elaboration of a constitution by which these rights were respected; the reform of financial administration and the consolidation of the public debt; the reform of criminal jurisprudence and the abolition of abuses — had been blocked by the interests of powerful corporate bodies in the maintenance of inequality, those of the crown in the retention of sovereign power, those of the magistrates in preserving their prerogatives and privileges. The deadlock at Versailles had been broken only by popular intervention. “The people came to the aid of the national assembly, and the cause of liberty triumphed.”33 But the effect of this intervention had been to introduce anarchy and confusion rather than to open the way to peaceful reform. Old laws had become the object of general contempt before being replaced by better ones; and the old constitution had been destroyed before the new one was even begun. Expenses had multiplied, while taxes were no longer paid; and the financial credit of the govern¬ ment had dissolved before that of the nation had been established. Furthermore, the Constituent Assembly now found itself exposed to the passions of popular movements, which no force seemed able to prevent. In England or America, Condorcet insisted, such a crisis would have been surmountable. Public confidence in the assembly would have taken the place of popular obedience, fear would have given way to respect. But in a France torn by social dissension and untutored in the ways of politics in a France still unprepared (as Condorcet would have had it prepared in 1788) to meet its political destiny —it was quite the contrary. But in France, where all kinds of authority were hereditary, venal, or conferred by the will of the prince; where the people had in general elected its representatives without knowing them, and where half of them had been named by men whom it regarded as its enemies; where peasants distrusted their lords, city-dwellers their municipal officials and judges, where citizens of the most numerous classes did

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not even know the small number of enlightened men who had defended the popular cause, or understand their works, which had not been written for them: then it was natural that the people should abandon itself to distrust; that, knowing nothing, it should wish to judge everything by itself.34 Recalled to its rights but deprived of the advantages of education and enlightenment, knowing nothing yet wishing to be the judge of everything, the people had drawn false consequences from principles true in them¬ selves. Of these false consequences, clearly the most dangerous was the misinterpretation of the principle of popular sovereignty: “the false opinion that the people has drawn of its rights in imagining that the tumultuous will of the inhabitants of a city, a town, a village and even a quarter, is a kind of law; and that popular will, however expressed, has the same authority as a will expressed according to a form presented by a recognized law.”35 What then was to be done? The first cause of anarchy, the dangerous misinterpretation of popular rights, could only be removed, Condorcet insisted, by offering the populace a constitution guaranteeing the imme¬ diate exercise of its rights insofar as compatible with the maintenance of unity and order. It could only be removed, in other words, by convincing the people of the necessity and validity of representative government.36 Here the National Assembly had made progress. It had completed a Decla¬ ration of Rights, although one marred by a certain vagueness of terms and by the absence of an article guaranteeing the right to reform the constitu¬ tion. It had laid sound constitutional foundations, though it was still neces¬ sary to make provisions to guard against the incoherence and precipitation possible in a unicameral assembly.37 The completion of the constitution in accord with the true principles of the moral and political sciences was therefore the first responsibility of the National Assembly. But anarchy had other causes, among them the hatred and distrust of the populace for the upper classes. Peace commissioners were necessary, Condorcet argued, to supervise the piimary assemblies about to be created in the realm, inspiring confidence in nobles and ecclesiastics to attend, and maintaining “decency towards them on the part of louts among the popular class [gens grossiers de la classe du peuple].”33 A sustained campaign was necessary on the part of “friends of the public good who have some empire over opinion,” to preach harmony and peace, and to prove to the people that it could not demand more than it had been accorded without the risk of losing all. In addition, it was necessary that the National Assembly avoid stirring up political passions with further actions against the clergy and nobility. Together with these indirect measures against the threat of anarchy, there were also more direct measures to be taken. Abolition of exclusive hunting privileges had led to the general possession of weapons: measures were necessary to control the bearing of arms, which cannot be regarded as one of the natural rights of man.”39 Anarchy had been fomented by the spreading of false rumors and the hiring of agents provocateurs: a special tribunal had to be created to handle such offenses. Anarchy had been

272

THE SOCIAL FIELD

fostered by the crisis of subsistence in the capital, in itself exacerbated by interference with liberty of the grain trade. That freedom had to be reestablished, with special provisions made for Paris in the transitional period.40 Thus Condorcet offered a comprehensive program for the restoration of order; a return to peaceful constitutional change in accordance with the requirements of rational politics and the principles of 1789. Such a program depended upon appropriate constitutional limitations on the principle of popular sovereignty, combined with the active acceptance of political responsibility by the enlightened elite. This manifesto of moderatism, presented to the “friends of peace,” was to develop into the program of a club that became the first society for the advancement of social science, the Society of 1789. The Society of

1789

After the transfer of the National Assembly to Paris in the autumn of 1789, the growing dominance of the brothers Lameth in the transplanted Jacobin Club left Lafayette and the more moderate members of the patriot party who were hoping for ministerial responsibility without a suitable forum for the exposition of their views. Their desire for a forum in which to elaborate a policy of social peace and political consolidation lay at the genesis of the Society of 1789.41 According to Condorcet’s account of its origins, the club first took form after the disorders of the October Days as a society of friends versed in the moral and political sciences and dedicated to reestablishing political order by applying the principles of these sciences to the development of a new constitution for France.42 The full extent of the membership of this early group, which was probably the group of “friends of peace” to which Condorcet read his Reflexions sur ce qui a ete fait, et sur ce qui reste a faire, is still not clearly defined. In addition to Condorcet himself, it almost certainly included his closest political friends at this time, Lafayette and his associates, the due de la Rochefoucauld, the due de Liancourt, and Dupont de Nemours, with all of whom Condorcet had been closely associated under the Old Regime. This group was meeting together at the house of La Rochefoucauld in January 1790 under the title, Les Impartiaux, and continued to act as a kind of political brain trust for Lafayette during 1790.43 Apparently, the group soon came to include Sieyes and the engineer Jacques-Constantin Perier, for Sieyds was writing to Bancal des Issarts early in 1790 to announce that the first official meeting of the 1789 Club would take place at Perier’s home on 18 January.44 Since it was soon realized that a small group of this kind could have little effect on the stormy movement of affairs, it was decided to form a larger association, which would have a greater influence on the general direction of events. By the end of January, the society had moved its meeting place to premises in the rue de Richelieu, and by late March or early April 1790 it was ready to launch a larger association, the plans for which were published by Sieyes under the title Ebauche d’un nouveau plan de societe patriotique, adopte par le Club de Mil-sept-cent-quatre-vingtneuf.45

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As its purpose was defined in Sieyes’s pamphlet and elaborated by Condorcet in the prospectus for its journal,46 the enlarged Society of 1789 was to have two closely related aims: the development of the “social art’’ and the application of its principles to the establishment of a new constitution. While the study of moral philosophy (the art of cultivating individual happiness) had been established and brought to a kind of perfection by the ancients, Condorcet argued in the prospectus of the Journal de la Societe de 1789, it still remained for the moderns to create the “social art," that of maximizing the happiness of a whole society on the national level. This art —or, as the prospectus argued with cavalier disregard for the art-science dichotomy, “this science for which all other sciences work” —had not yet been studied as a whole. Some of its constituent sciences, agriculture, commerce, government, the art of reasoning itself, had separately achieved a certain development. But they would not attain their full perfection until they were brought together into a systematic and integral social science. “To bring together so many scattered and inconsistent elements, to seek the integrating principles of the economic sciences and especially their common link with the general science of civilization, such is the object of the social art.”47 By its very nature, the development of the “social art” was necessarily to be a collective task. Since this could not be the achievement of a single individual, society, or nation, Condorcet insisted in the prospectus for the society’s journal, it was essential to create a common method of investiga¬ tion and a common order of work that would direct and coordinate the collective endeavor of enlightened minds towards this goal. In organizing itself to create and publicize this common scientific approach, the Society of 1789 divided into three working sections. The first section was responsi¬ ble for the publication of the society’s journal: a periodical intended to provide not a survey of the political news but a collection of papers relating to the science of society and treating the fundamental questions raised by the debates in the National Assembly. The second section was charged with maintaining a correspondence with individuals and societies affiliated with the Society of 1789 and united with it in a commerce de fraternite et d’instruction. The third was devoted to encouragement: to fostering inventions useful to the development of the social art, gathering ideas for the improvement of public institutions, propagating “all that the human mind can invent for the perfecting of man.”48 In many ways, the definition of these three tasks was closer to the goals of an academy than to those of a political society. They corresponded very closely, for example, to the principal activities of such institutions as the Academy of Sciences, or the Royal Society of Agriculture, to which some of the most prominent members of the society belonged.49 In his account of the society, Condorcet himself stressed the extent to which the international correspondence planned by the Society of 1789 was to be modelled upon that of the scientific academies of eighteenth-century Europe. Just as the Academy of Sciences was charged with advancing the progress of the physical sciences by the publication of its memoirs, by corresponding with other academies and associated members, by the encouragement of inventions and the

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

mechanical arts, so its permanent secretary envisaged the task of the new Society of 1789 as furthering the development of social science by the same means. As Condorcet insisted in the prospectus for the society’s journal, the club was intended not as a party but as an academy; not as a political pressure group for particular opinions but as a learned company for the production and propagation of general principles. “This is neither a sect nor a party, but a company of the friends of humanity and, one might even say, of dealers [agents de commerce] in social truths.”50 Thus the Society of 1789 declared itself political heir to the scientific academies of eighteenth-century Europe and especially to the central scientific institutions of the Old Regime, which had turned increasingly to the discussion of social questions as the century advanced. Its purpose was to follow the order of legislative debates and offer rational guidance to the legislature in its appointed tasks. “Seeing the future in the present, and considering each particular law in the context of the entire system of the social order,” the architects of the society looked for a scientific solution to a political problem. “We regarded the social art as a true science,” Condorcet insisted, “founded like all the others on facts, experiment, reasoning and calculation; susceptible, like all the others, of indefinite progress and development, and becoming progressively more useful as its true principles are spread; and we concluded that it would be good for a society of men free in their opinions and independent in their conduct to occupy themselves in accelerating the progress of this science, hastening its development and disseminating its truths.”51 Committed to the revolution¬ ary achievements of 1789, as the very title of their society was meant to emphasize, these men were at the same time moderates fearful of the dangers of political disorder revealed by the October Days. Like many later theorists of social science, they equated science with order; rational politics with peaceful solutions. By elaborating a rational constitution on the basis of the principles of social science they hoped at once to guarantee the political achievements of 1789 and substitute rational discussion for the threat of further revolutionary disorder. Despite the academic purity of its stated goals, however, the Society of 1789 owed its brief term of influence more to the immediate dictates of day-to-day politics than to the long-term promise of its conception of social science. On Friday, 14 May 1790, the very day following the luxurious inauguration of the society’s new premises in the Palais Royal, the minister of foreign affairs demanded from the National Assembly the financial credit to arm fourteen warships in readiness to join the Spanish in hostilities against England over fishing rights in Nootka Sound. In the debate of the following day, Alexandre Lameth precipitated the contro¬ versy which marked the first serious division within the patriotic party by raising the constitutional issue of the right to declare war and make peace. While Cazales on the right argued for the absolute prerogative of the crown in such matters and Barnave on the left for the contrary rights of the legislature, Mirabeau —having just concluded his personal compact with the representatives of the crown —contended for the ambiguous central position of “concurrence.” He found natural, if uneasy, allies against the

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extremist views expressed by the leaders of the Jacobin Club in Lafayette and the moderates associated with him in the Society of 1789.52 As a result of this rapprochement between Lafayette and Mirabeau, those who opposed the views on the issue of war and peace expressed in the Jacobin Club came increasingly to congregate in the new society. Although its leaders denied that the society had originally been formed with the intention of dividing the patriotic party, the circumstances of the debate on war and peace made this a natural result. “The debate over war and peace had singled out the intriguers,” maintained the Revolutions de Paris in its account of the rise of the society, “. . . they had nothing more to risk in removing their mask.”53 On 28 May it was decided that deputies not resident in Paris should be accepted as associates of the club without subscription; and the Journal de la Societe de 1789 was able to claim by 19 June that more than a hundred deputies had been received in this capacity.54 “The society formed under the name of Club of 1789 is daily acquiring a more imposing strength, and that of the Jacobins is losing some of its members” announced the Journal de Versailles on 6 June. “The Society of 1789. . .is becoming daily more numerous and more brilliant,” proclaimed the sympathetic Chronique de Paris on 15 June. “It counts among its members many deputies to the national assembly, many distinguished men of letters, many persons who have given proof in the revolution of patriotism and zeal.”55 The climax of this period of growth came on 17 June, the anniversary of the constitution of the National Assembly, which the Society of 1789 celebrated with a banquet even more lavish than that which marked its own inauguration. “Patriotism is more modest,” protested Lanthenas in Le patriote frangais on 23 June, and to prove the point he gave a report of a celebration held in the bois de Boulogne at the modest sum of 6 livres per head.56 In the circumstances of the debate on war and peace, it is hardly surprising that the emergence of a club that laid stress on the consolidation of the revolution on the basis of royal concurrence in a free constitution was rapidly denounced as the product of a plot to split the patriotic party and establish a ministerial faction.57 For here Montmorin, the foreign minister, met with Lafayette and many officers of the National Guard; with Bailly and members of the municipality of Paris; with Mirabeau, his collaborators and speech-writers; with the majority of the administrators of the Discount Bank (Caisse d’Escompte) and important representatives of the banking and financial community. Here, too, the liberal nobility of the sword and robe, the academicians, lawyers, and men of letters of the Old Regime, met with the deputies, administrators, and financiers most interested in the stability and early prosperity of the new. With the heart of its membership drawn from the Parisian municipal government, the National Guard, and the financial interests of the city of Paris, the society was above all the party of stability, order, and peaceful consolidation of the achievements of 1789. In terms of its conception of social science, however, the society received strong impetus from two main groups, which —while they were by no means the most numerous —were of considerable importance in establishing its prevailing tone. These were the

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

scientists, academicians, and men of letters on the one hand; the bankers and financiers on the other. “Many young former seigneurs and our men of letters who enjoyed pensions under the Old Regime have thrown themselves into the club of 1789,” insisted the Revolutions de Paris on 17 July 1790: “Nothing is simpler, this is the way to fortune.”58 In absolute terms, the number of scientists, academicians, and men of letters within the Society of 1789 was quite small. The list of members published by the society in June 1790 contained 413 names, of whom barely more than 10 percent can be classified in this way.59 Of this group, 26 were members of the Parisian academies of the Old Regime, with the largest contingents coming from the Academy of Sciences (12 members, or 13 percent of the resident membership of the academy) and the Royal Society of Agriculture (13 members, or almost 20 percent of the ordinary members of that society). Given the aims of the Society of 1789, however, it is hardly surprising that the imprint of these academicians upon its activities and goals was far greater than their numbers would suggest.60 As we have seen, the action of reforming officials in creating institutions for the study of social and economic questions was one of the most tangible expressions of the enlightened scientific-administrative movement of eighteenth-century France. The Academy of Sciences, consulted in the last years of its existence on a large variety of social questions; the Royal Society of Agriculture, originally created by Bertin as the provincial society of agriculture for Paris and revived and reorganized in the 1780s; the Royal Society of Medicine, created on Turgot’s initiative to coordinate epi¬ demic control, which retained a strong interest in social aspects of medi¬ cine after it received its letters patent in 1778: such institutions stood as a monument to the efforts of royal administrators to press science and scientists into the service of social needs. Naturally, these developments were not without their political implications. In the context of the Old Regime, it was difficult to make scientific recommendations on social questions without trespassing on the domain of social and political policy that the administration was often anxious to reserve to itself. When Turgot, as intendant, encouraged the agricultural society of Limoges to concern itself with fundamental questions of economic and social policy, he was told by his superiors in no uncertain terms that the government had had no intention, in setting up the societies of agriculture, of fostering such dangerous discussion of administrative problems.61 The Academy of Sciences also found itself aware of the dangers of allowing discussions of technical questions to issue in more fundamental considerations of policy. On at least one occasion, its members discussed the advisability of an official decision of the academy that would bar consideration of such matters.62 Yet in the last years of the Old Regime, academicians found it increasingly difficult to observe this distinction between technical questions and matters of administrative policy. Not surprisingly, the tension was clearest where administrative policy was weakest and the social crisis most aggravated: in the problems of agriculture and agricultural economics

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that lay at the heart of French economic difficulties. Since this is the best-documented case, and one in which many of the academic members of the Society of 1789 were actively interested, it will be useful to examine this example more closely. In 1785, in an attempt to deal with the agricultural crisis, a scientificadministrative committee was established to meet under the direction of Gravier de Vergennes, intendant of the departement des impositions, for the purpose of examining memoirs submitted to the Controller-General and advising on the technical aspects of agricultural reform.63 At the time of the creation of this committee, the Paris Society of Agriculture, revived by Bertier de Sauvigny (Intendant of Paris), was actively investigating agri¬ cultural conditions under the vigorous leadership of its permanent secre¬ tary, Broussonet. Indeed, in the preceding year, the government had approved the initiative of some of the leading members of the Parisian society in requesting that it be given national responsibilities as a Royal Society of Agriculture, but the Parlement of Paris had refused to register the necessary letters patent.64 Why then did the administration now create another institution, drawn from the Paris Society of Agriculture and the Academy of Sciences (which in its reorganization of 1785 obtained a class devoted to the study of agriculture) with responsibilities very similar to those already claimed by the Paris society? The answer lies, at least in part, in the nature of the organization that the government had hoped to give to the projected Royal Society. Dominated by the intendant of Paris, Bertier de Sauvigny, the Paris Society of Agriculture was a powerful institution in the hands of an official often at odds with the ControllerGeneral. In giving the society a new status that would place it (as a royal society) under the authority of the Maison du Roi, the government had hoped to reduce the influence of the intendant of Paris while at the same time introducing regulations that would circumscribe the initiative of the society in the discussion of matters of social and political reform relative to agriculture. When this project failed at the hands of the parlement, the government preferred to seek scientific help in dealing with the agricul¬ tural crisis by creating a research group that would presumably be more amenable to administrative direction since it met in the financial heart of the administration itself.65 Yet doubtless spurred by the claims of the Parisian society and probably aided by the ministerial ambitions of Vergennes, this Committee on Agricultural Administration quickly crossed the line between technical advice and proposals for fundamental political and social reform. Led by Lavoisier and Dupont de Nemours, it moved from examination of specific memoirs referred to the committee for technical evaluation to a more wide-ranging investigation of the state of French agriculture as compared with the British. It moved from statistical attempts to express this comparison quantitatively to legislative proposals for extensive social and fiscal reform that would enable the French to emulate the flourishing state of British agriculture. It moved finally from acceptance of a mere advisory status to a demand for the creation of a permanent department of agri¬ culture that would ensure that the activity and zeal of the committee were

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THE SOCIAL FIELD

no longer “wasted in papers and memoranda of which the administration has made no use whatsoever.”66 Lavoisier summed up these developments in a memoir of 31 July 1787 which also constituted an eloquent plea to a new Controller-General (Laurent de Villedeuil) for the continuation of the committee and its work. Powerful as it was, his argument bore no fruit. Undermined by opponents in the Paris agricultural society anxious to reclaim its functions as their own, a threat to those within the administra¬ tion who felt that its demands went too far, the committee became an early casualty in the agony of the Old Regime.67 It ceased to meet in September 1787 just as its technical experts were demanding their rightful place in the citadel of the administration. Its functions were transferred in 1788 to a special administrative commission within the Parisian society, now estab¬ lished as the Royal Society of Agriculture. Created for the discussion of more general legal and political questions, this commission was to be specifically nominated by the Controller-General.68 The Royal Society of Agriculture had won the battle, but it was to be allowed to discuss general questions of social policy only on the administration’s terms. As an illustration of the politics of social research in France on the eve of the Revolution, the history of the Committee on Agricultural Administra¬ tion and its relations to other institutions is instructive. It was in the acade¬ mies and committees of the Old Regime that there first appeared a new kind of public figure, whose numbers were to increase in the full light of the Revolution: the scientist whose technical skills and scientific training were required (and rewarded) in administrative position.69 Demanding the technical services of scientists, the administration of eighteenth-century France found the line between exercise of technical competence and formulation of social policy increasingly difficult to define, especially when the attempt to define it was complicated by the overlapping jurisdictions and competing authorities characteristic of the Old Regime in all its aspects. In the case of agriculture, for example, it brought its experts to the threshold of political power and administrative responsibility: but only to turn them away. Unable under the Old Regime to influence policy effectively as academicians, the experts now became leading members in a society dedicated to the creation of a social science by adapting the organizational model of the scientific academy to new political circum¬ stances. From the politics of the academy, they turned to an academy of politics. If the scientists and academicians had an influence on the Society of 1789 greater than can be expressed by the mere weight of their numbers, the financial interests were not only among the most vociferous but also among the more numerous groups within it. Of the 413 listed members of the society, perhaps as many as a quarter were involved in finance in one way or another. There were at least fifty-five bankers, banquiers-negociants or exchange brokers (agents de change)-, members of the important Parisian banking houses of Lecoulteux, Vandenyver, Cottin and Jauge, Thellusson, Mallet, Greffulhe and Montz, and many others; together with leading foreign bankers such as the Dutch refugees Abbema and Walckiers, the English, Boyd and Ker, and the Swiss, Bontems, Mallet, and Haller. There

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were seven of the twelve administrators of the Discount Bank in 1790; four farmers-general; six regisseurs; four payeurs des rentes; as well as several high administrative officials and a number of independent speculators. According to Camille Desmoulins, the portals of the club bore the eminently capitalist slogan les petits poissons seront toujours manges par les gros, and he attributed to it the belief that “the advantages, like the authority, of government must always pass from the bottom to the top.”70 During the spring of 1791, some of the remaining members of the society were widely suspected of financial conspiracy —as administrators of the National Treasury according to some quarters, as the backers of the privately floated caisse patriotique according to others.71 Whether valid or not, these rumors found ample support in the evidence of the membership of the club. In essence, then, the financial interests within the Society of 1789 were drawn from the court capitalism of the Old Regime: the big bankers, the financiers, the speculators, who dealt in government loans and scrambled for shares in the joint-stock companies during the boom of the 1780s.72 To these men, political action was no novelty: indeed, their financial success often depended upon it. Rival coalitions of speculators fought pitched political battles in the 1780s for the exclusive royal privilege to establish companies dealing in fire and life insurance.73 They probably worked hard in the National Assembly to secure guarantees of their heavy investment in state loans; and they clearly engaged in political maneuvers to avoid the worst consequences of the liquidation of the New Indies Company by the Convention in 1793.74 As speculators in government loans, they were principally concerned to avoid the threat of state bankruptcy by securing the stabilization of credit. “My fortune, it must be said, is bound to that of the kingdom,” wrote one of the best-known of these speculators, Claviere, in 1786.75 This was no less true in 1790, when the agioteurs flocked into a society that held out the hope of a stabilization of credit through the political reestablishment of order. Apart from its political importance, however, the presence of these financial interests within the Society of 1789 is also of significance in terms of the close association between the idea of a social science and considera¬ tions of finance, public and private. For governments forced in eighteenthcentury conditions to tax ever more heavily the financial resources of their societies, accurate and extensive social statistics were of urgent importance. It would be beyond the scope of this chapter to discuss the efforts in this domain that marked the period between the first large-scale compilation of general statistics for France in the celebrated Memoires des Intendants of 1697-1700 and the establishment of a general statistical bureau by Lucien Bonaparte on his arrival at the Ministry of the Interior in 1801. It is important to note, however, that as the century progressed these efforts broadened — in the works of such authors as the abbe Expilly, Messance, and Moheau, for example —from an initial response to the dictates of adminis¬ trative needs into a comprehensive attempt to establish a general science of man in society.76 The Academy of Sciences recognized both the intrinsic scientific interest and the overwhelming administrative importance of such statistical data when it decided in the 1780s to print the results of the

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population statistics demanded annually from the intendants after 1772; as did two of its leading academicians (Condorcet and Lavoisier, who were also among the most active members of the Society of 1789) when they later used their position as administrators of the National Treasury to demand a public bureau of statistics as a permanent part of the financial administra¬ tion.77 In fact, another member of the Society of 1789 — Duvillard de Durand, functionary in the Controller-General’s office under Turgot, later attached to the statistical bureau at the Ministry of the Interior — was already the director of such a Bureau of Political Arithmetic in 1790. It was in this capacity, and as the author of Recherches sur les rentes, les emprunts et les remboursements, well received by the Academy of Sciences in 1786, that he was invited by the National Assembly’s committee on mendicity to draw up the plans for a mutual insurance society. And it is of some significance that of the three mathematicians appointed by the Academy of Sciences to report upon his Plan dune association de prevoyance, two, Condorcet and Vandermonde, were also members of the Society of 1789.78 The activities of Duvillard de Durand, minor figure though he was, suggest other applications of social statistics that are of considerable relevance to the historical development of the idea of social science. The most effective use of such data would obviously have been in the preparation of a cadaster for a revised tax that would yield additional revenue by spreading the tax burden more effectively. Unable to achieve tax reform, however, the French government of the Old Regime was forced to bridge the gap between expenditure and tax revenue by continued dependence upon such financial expedients as lotteries and life-annuity contracts (rentes viageres), which required sophisticated knowledge of the principles of the calculus of probabilities as well as extensive data concerning mortality rates. The scientific difficulties posed by these expedients presented mathemati¬ cians with many of the important problems in the development of the calculus of probabilities, just as their mathematical solution provided significant evidence of the power of science to reduce the contingencies of social affairs to regular laws. As a result of intensive mathematical investigation, the science of life-contingencies was well enough advanced by the end of the eighteenth century that in the hands of such mathematicians as Condorcet and Laplace, as we have seen, it came to provide not only technical solutions to certain practical financial problems but the general epistemological model for a mathematical science of conduct potentially applicable to all aspects of human existence. At the same time, it attracted not only the financial interest of governments desperate for funds but the political interest of reformers, the humanitarian impulses of philanthro¬ pists, and the speculative hunger of financiers. Humanitarianism, the belief in self-help, the need to rationalize the royal debt, and the taste for profiteering came together with nascent social science in the many social insurance schemes projected in France in the 1780s and 1790s. One of the earliest proposals in France, apparently prompted by the prize offered by the Academy of Sciences in the mathematics of maritime insurance, came from an enlightened avocat, Andre Jean de Larocque, who suggested in 1785 that insurance contracts be extended to cover agricultural

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as well as maritime disasters.79 Inspired by the example of life insurance in Great Britain and intoxicated by Mathon de la Cour’s popular demonstra¬ tion of the potency of compound interest, Larocque followed this proposal in the same year with the idea of a caisse generate des epargnes du peuple which would invest funds formed by the regular contributions of working people, returning the proceeds as annuities to secure them against the rigors contingent upon old age and enforced retirement.80 Submitted to the Academy of Sciences, the work in which Larocque put forward full details of his project was warmly received by the members of the committee appointed to examine it, one of whom, Lavoisier, pressed a very similar scheme upon the provincial assembly of Orleans in 1787.81 Where Lavoisier stressed the humanitarian implications of such a scheme for social welfare, Condorcet was not slow to see its additional financial implications as a means of nationalizing the public debt. In 1790, he proposed the establishment of caisses d accumulation as a means of government borrow¬ ing that would also release greater funds for economic activity by reducing the incentive for individuals to hoard against the possibility of misfortune.82 Nevertheless, the main tenor of his argument was social and political. The development of modern society had produced within every wealthy society a vast number of poor, who relied for their existence upon the labors of a wage earner. Since poverty—and still worse, the relapse into poverty that often came with the death or senility of the wage earner — necessarily bred corruption and unhappiness, the means of preventing it were vital to the happiness of all. Caisses d'accumulation therefore provided the means of creating a new and unheard-of society: “a rich, active, populous nation without the existence of a poor, corrupted class.”83 In the meantime, however, Larocque had found less altruistic imitators. In the speculative climate of the 1780s, such schemes seemed to offer excellent opportunities, both for the financiers who found themselves scrambling in 1787-88 for the lucrative privilege of launching life insurance companies, and for a hard-pressed government that saw insurance monopo¬ lies as an additional source of income. Consulted by the government on the technical aspects of the life insurance schemes, mathematicians such as Laplace and Condorcet found themselves in the midst of this scramble; nor (characteristically) could they refrain from expressing themselves on the fundamental policy questions concerned.84 Its apparent promise of mono¬ poly notwithstanding, the Royal Life Assurance Company, which emerged victorious from this battle, was joined in the 1790s by a number of companies combining the same generally humanitarian goals with a similar hope for speculative profit. Despite the attraction of their colorful names — Caisse d epargnes et de bienfaisance; Tontine des vieillards; Tontines des peres de families; Tontine du Pacte Social, ou Tontine des Sans-Culottes85—few of them survived the actuarial hazards of the Revo¬ lution. Thus social insurance, which comprised an important part of the “social art” as it came to be defined by advocates of social science such as Condorcet and Lavoisier, also attracted the financial appetites of the speculators who met with them in the Society of 1789. It was in part a natural response to the

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dominant issues of the period of its existence, but also a reflection of the interests of its members, that the problems of public credit — and especially the debate over assignats —accounted for the largest number of pamphlets devoted by members of the society to any one single topic.86 Clearly, too, the important series of articles that the chemist Hassenfratz contributed to the Journal de la Societe de 1789 on recent technological advances and the means of exploiting France’s agricultural and mineral wealth was of more than merely scientific interest. Implicit in the concept of social science espoused by the Society of 1789 was the goal of developing and exploiting to the full the economic resources of the nation. It answered not only the philosophical conviction that the elaboration of the science of society was the necessary condition of a rational social order, but the desire of the financial interests for a rational —and, above all, a stable —pattern of social and economic investment. Despite its initial brilliance and its rapid increase in members, the success of the Society of 1789 was short-lived. Whatever expectations its leaders may have had for the Journal de la Societe de 1789, the appointed organ for the diffusion of the principles of rational politics lacked funds and had little influence. The state of the journal was indicative of the state of the society as a whole. As Mme de Stael remarked, its aims were those of a government rather than a party.87 Besides the academic character of its goals and the unpalatable abstractions of its journal, the very organization of the club prevented it from having popular influence: its meetings were closed to the public and its membership fees were prohibitive. Furthermore, once the immediate crisis of the debate on war and peace was over, members of the society found themselves divided between the moderate dissidents from the Jacobin Club and those for whom the desire for stability and moderation would finally lead them to the conservatism of the Monarchical Club. In the decline of the society as in its rise, short-term political concerns were found to be more urgent than the more remote (if rational) goals of social science. During the summer of 1790, there were repeated appeals for the unity of the patriotic party and the return of its dissident members to the Jacobin Club; and on 13 August, Mme Roland was writing to ask the result of “the attempt to bring back to the Jacobins those patriots remaining in the Club of 1789 ,”88 On 15 August, the Journal de Versailles was reporting the possibility of a union of the two clubs as part of the order of the day; and despite Duquesnoy’s protestations to the same journal a few days later that it was only within the Society of 1789 that the patriotic party was to be found intact, the society was debilitated by a steady drain of members returning to the Jacobins.89 As a result of these desertions the tone of the society became increasingly antipopular. Equating social science with orderly solutions and the scientific approach with the responsibilities of the enlightened elite to inform political discussion, its program for the “sweet despotism of reason”90 attracted many members more concerned with maintaining the interests and authority of the elite than with exercising its responsibilities in the development of the “social art.” The elitism constantly threatening the

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conception of social science during this period was stated unambiguously by Grouvelle in his discussion of the right of war and peace printed in the very first issue of the Journal de la Societe de 1789. “For the crowd judges but doesn t understand. The empire of genius is oligarchic by its very nature. We must count votes but weigh opinions; and in such a case one man is not the equal of another.”91 But it was not until the Journal de la Societe de 1789 printed Andre Chenier’s denunciation of the journalists who made this intellectual elitism impossible by arousing the passions of the meanest elements of society —“this lowest class of the people, which understanding nothing, possessing nothing, taking an interest in nothing, knows only how to sell itself to whoever will pay it” —that the political implications of this assumption were stated with their full force.92 The view which regarded Chenier's Avis as the political manifesto of the Society of 1789 did not wait long for confirmation. On 3 September, the society addressed a communication to the municipality of Nancy which congratu¬ lated it on the efficiency with which order had been restored in the town. As Challamel has observed, one could not place oneself more clearly than by this action in the counterrevolutionary camp.93 By the end of the summer, therefore, the initial impetus of the Society of 1789 was already waning. In the assembly, members of the club were becoming more and more closely associated with the party of the right, with whom they usually voted. “The reunion of the club of 89 and the noirs, which we had long suspected, is today no longer doubtful,” announced the Annales patriotiques on 29 September: “the union of the noirs with the bruns fonces and bruns clairs of the club of 89 will drive into flight from this society all the patriots who have been drawn into it. These will return without delay to the popular party.”94 Among the leaders of the society, Mirabeau and Lafayette seem to have realized at about the same time that the Society of 1789 could no longer play an independent political role and could only end by becoming increasingly identified as antipopular. Deriving much of its immediate political significance from the temporary rapprochement between the two leaders during the debate over the right to declare war and make peace, the society was condemned to disintegration with the growing rupture between them and as they sought to dissociate themselves from a club which threatened to discredit them. During late August and September, Lafayette was working surreptitiously to bring about a return of the liberals in the Society of 1789 to the Jacobin Club. “At the Jacobin Club we are awaiting the true patriots who have remained in the dangerous club of 89. M. de la Fayette will come,” wrote Feydel in his Observateur on 24 September.95 On 4 October, Camille Desmoulins was insisting, despite the general’s denials on this score, that Lafayette had attended a series of meetings with Dupont, Alexandre Lameth, Barnave, and others —“our plenipotentiaries to bring about the end of the schism between the Jacobins and 1789” — to arrange a recon¬ ciliation between the two clubs.96 The projet de paix entre le Club de 1789 et la Societe des Amis de la Constitution, which has often been attributed to Lafayette, may well have been the product of these clandestine meetings.97 Fearing the advantage which the success of such negotiations

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might give his rival, Mirabeau himself returned to the Jacobins on 6 October in an attempt to bolster his own influence; and from then on he appeared first at one club, then at the other, as his tactics required.98 Approached first by one and then by the other, the Jacobins became more powerful as Mirabeau and Lafayette jockeyed for position. While the general’s schemes produced no formal reconciliation between the two clubs, they worked to encourage the desertion of liberal members of the Society of 1789 to the Jacobins. “But what will become of our club,” Duquesnoy was made to exclaim in a satirical pamphlet purporting to relate the minutes of a meeting of the society on 30 September. “Each day this poor 89 is being deserted; and our correspondence committee only receives one letter a month, while the enrages of the Jacobin Club have more than 180 affiliated societies.”99 By 12 October, Lanthenas was writing of the return of the dissident Jacobins to their club as an accomplished fact; and Mme Roland was thanking Bancal on 5 November for news of the strength of the patriotic party, the powerful position of the Jacobins, and the abandoned state of its former rival. Characteristically, Prudhomme was already complaining by 18 December that “the fusion of the Club of 1789 into that of the Jacobins has polluted the fountainhead of patriotism.”100 As the membership of the society withered away, its leaders tried in vain to find some means of reviving its strength. Late in October they were trying to repeat an earlier success by opening free memberships, this time to the 144 representatives of the municipality and the 777 electors of the department of Paris. But without effect. “The aims of the 1789 club in this maneuver are too crude to deceive anyone,” reported Carra in the Annales patriotiques. “A member of the Commune, to whom this charitable free invitation was extended, wisely replied: You wish then to depopularize us?" Where direct offers of this kind failed, the indirect appeal of good works was not likely to be more successful. On 11 November, in an effort to maintain visibility, a delegation of the society petitioned the municipality of Paris to arrange the transfer of Voltaire’s ashes to the capital.102 Early in January, it was resorting to the earlier expedient of charity. While the Monarchical Club was distributing free bread to the populace, the Society of 1789 was preparing to arrange a charitable collection for the Paris indigent.103 It was the founding of the Monarchical Club late in 1790, indeed, that delivered the coup de grace to the ailing society. Having watched its more liberal members drift back to the Jacobin Club, it now saw the more conservative appear among those leaning towards counter¬ revolution. Paradoxically, just as the desertions of the liberals had fed the popular conviction that the club was becoming increasingly reactionary, so the aberrations of the conservatives confirmed it. A declaration of the Society of 1789 proposed by Condorcet on 2 January 1791, repudiating the principles of the Monarchical Club and making membership in both societies impossible, did little to change the situation.104 During the spring of 1791, the remaining liberals abandoned a club that could do nothing but compromise them, leaving the rump of the Society of 1789 to linger on until it finally dissolved into the Feuillants. In May 1791, together with

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Talleyrand and Sieyds, Condorcet returned to the Jacobin Club: “this was the party of the people, and I rejoined it.”105 The brief history of the Society of 1789 is essentially, a study in political impotence. Its collapse underlined the failure of the liberal elite of the Old Regime to turn the Revolution into the quiet ways of moderation, just as its frustration revealed the feebleness of the Enlightenment conception of social science when faced with the brutal realities of political passions. In effect, the rift that developed within the club between the conservatives and the more moderate liberals was already symptomatic of the great nineteenth-century divide between sociologies of order and sociologies of progress that the French Revolution was to leave in the concept of social science. Yet the importance of the Society of 1789 for our study should not be minimized. It propounded for the first time in an institutional context, and among an influential audience, the concept of an integral social science based, as Condorcet insisted in his defense of the society, “like all the others, on facts, experiment, reasoning and calculation.” Such a conception of “social science” —the term that former members of the society came to give it106 —did not wither away as the Society of 1789 perished of political inanition. Largely as a result of the influence of some of its members, especially Talleyrand and Condorcet, the teaching and study of social science was incorporated into the reorganized educational system finally established under the Directory, where it was again devel¬ oped and actively propagated by such former members of the society as Cabanis, Destutt de Tracy, and Garat. It is to the debate over education in the new state, and the importance of the idea of a social science in it, that we must now turn. Citizenship Education in the New State Offspring of the traditional alliance between throne and altar, still largely the responsibility of the church and religious corporations, the schools of the Old Regime had quickly fallen casualty to the revolutionary onslaught against privilege and prejudice. With the constitutional foundations of the state apparently laid, the legislators of the new order confronted the problem of converting subjects into citizens, the ruled into the rulers. It was clear to members of the Society of 1789 that this transformation could only be accomplished by incorporating the teaching of the new social science into the reorganized educational system. Thus Talleyrand, present¬ ing his influential plan for public education to the Legislative Assembly in September 1791, stressed the importance of teaching the principles of the social art, though not without acknowledgement of the difficulties involved in teaching a subject that had scarcely been born.107 Condorcet developed the same theme at length in a series of articles on public education published during 1791 in the Bibliotheque de I’homme public, a journal offering a compendium of writings on the moral and political sciences, founded by the academician in his continuing attempt to guide public opinion according to rational principles.108 The associate of Physiocrats and Encyclopedists alike, Condorcet was no

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stranger to the educational speculation and debate that had filled the last decades of the Old Regime. Nor is it surprising that when he wrote his Memoires sur Vinstruction publique for the guidance of the National Assembly, he did so with that debate still very much in mind. It was a debate that took its text (as did so many others) from the greatest political work of the century, De I’esprit des lots. “The laws of education must be relative to the principles of government,’’ Montesquieu had insisted in the fourth book of his work. In the light of this principle there were many in mid-century France who found the state of French education sadly lacking. “There is plenty of instruction among us and little education,” wrote Duclos in the Considerations sur les moeurs de ce siecle in 1750. Instruction in the arts and sciences had formed scholars and artists of all kinds. “But attention has not yet been paid to forming men, that is to say to rearing them one for another, to relating all particular instruction to a basis of general education, in such a way that they are accustomed to seeking their personal advantage in the plan of the general good; and that, whatever their profession, they begin by being patriots.”109 What Duclos termed “education,” as distinct from mere “instruction,” did not merely inform the mind. It also formed the moral person. As such, education comprised a social ethic: it taught men their rights and duties in society, indicating the relation of individual advantage to the general good. But education was not to be limited to the generalized obligations of man as a social animal; it was also to inspire the sentiments of the citizen towards the particular state which assured him the enjoyment of his natural rights. Asking why Frenchmen lacked a feeling of patriotism, Duclos took up a theme that was to become a commonplace of discussion concerning education for the remainder of the century: the example of social and patriotic education in antiquity. For the ancients —particularly in Sparta, which became the exemplar in the eyes of many advocates of patriotic education —education in citizenship had formed an essential part of the constitution. “Thus it is patent that in Spartan education the first task was to form Spartans. In the same way, the sentiments of citizenship must be inculcated in every state; among us, Frenchmen must be formed, and in order to create Frenchmen, we must first work to form men.”110 Duclos was not alone in feeling that the patriotic sentiment of citizenship should be fostered in France. The abbe Coyer’s Dissertation sur le vieux mot de patrie (1755) contained an eloquent plea for a return to the old word la patrie in the place of such current terms as le royaume, I’e'tat, la France.111 It was a plea that the philosophes readily took up. In the politics of language —the battle over words that lay at the heart of the philosophes’ mission — patrie was a strategic linguistic weapon in the critical armory levelled at the Old Regime. Dejaucourt, in an article which made a virtue of borrowing from Coyer, stressed that patrie was not a mere synonym for the country of one’s birth. Indeed, it applied only to the free association in a state which assured the individual the full enjoyment of his natural rights. Those born into a regime which knew no law but the arbitrary will of a despotic sovereign had no patrie. “There is no patrie under the yoke of despotism.”112

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For the philosophes, therefore, the campaign for patriotic education was a political campaign. It was an essential aspect of their attempt to redefine the relationship between state and society. The series of attacks they levelled at clerical education during the 1750s and early 1760s —Duclos in his Considerations; d’Alembert in the Encyclopedic; Helvetius in De Vesprit; Rousseau in Emile— implied a double assault. On the one hand, citizenship education was secular education. Requiring development of the moral and political virtues of the citizen in a system of national education, it would replace the inculcation of religious values in the traditional, fragmented educational system dominated by the clergy. Requiring educa¬ tion for a society that found its principal fulfillment in this world, it would replace an education geared to the needs of a society that looked for its ultimate justification in the next. On the other hand, patriotic education also required a patrie; it implied a vision of the reorganization of society in accordance with the principles of citizenship. For some, indeed, public education appeared to offer a means of implementing this vision. Educa¬ tion, they argued, was to be relative not to the fatherland as historically given, not to the actually existent constitution of the state, as Montesquieu had suggested. “It seems ridiculous to write a work teaching what should be done to maintain that which is bad,” Helvetius commented in his remarks on De Vesprit des lois. “In questions of government and educa¬ tion, the only relevant question is to know what is best suited to assure men’s happiness.”113 Thus public education was to be geared towards the new patrie into which the historical reality was to be transformed, partly as a result of such education. It was precisely in denying the power of public education to effect this transformation that Rousseau, in Emile, parted company with the Encyclopedists. Not all demands for instruction in the patriotic virtues envisaged the ideal patrie of the philosophes as its ultimate object. The nadir of French fortunes during the Seven Years’ War, with disaffection at home and disastrous defeat abroad, brought a clamor for secular education of a different hue. When in 1763, a memoir of the Faculties of Law at Rennes insisted that “the spirit of patriotism must preside over the education of youth,” its author doubtless had in mind education in the interests of the historically given fatherland at a critical military juncture, and not that of an ideal patrie into which the historical reality was to be transformed.114 A discourse crowned by the Academie des jeux floraux at Toulouse in the same year unambiguously linked military defeat abroad directly with educational failure at home. The shameful Peace of Paris, argued the author of this discourse, pere Jean Navarre, was sufficient indication of the lack of social and patriotic education in France. If the students in the colleges had received an education fit to form citizens, France would not now be consoling itself “in songmaking for public losses.” Before accepting such a treaty, true citizens of France would rather “like Cato, have buried themselves in its ruins.”115 Not for the last time, frustrations abroad were eased by a witch-hunt at home. In 1762 —which, d’Alembert remarked, would be celebrated as the year in which France lost all her colonies and repulsed the Jesuits —the

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parlements concluded their campaign against the Society of Jesus by demanding its expulsion. Since the society was principally responsible for education in France, it is not surprising that criticism of Jesuit education, exacerbated by the humiliations of defeat, played a part in the final denunciation. Although their expulsion was immediately occasioned by their commercial enterprises, when the parlementary accounts were drawn up against the Jesuits considerable weight was given to the condemnation of their educational practices. The most notorious of these comptes rendus, those submitted to the Parlement of Rennes by La Chalotais, emphasized that the greatest abuse of their power perpetrated by the Jesuits had been to “corrupt the sources of public instruction.”116 Elaborating on this charge in his influential Essai d 'education nationale, published in 1763, La Chalotais based his indictment of the educational system of the Jesuits on the fact that they were not citizens. They owed their allegiance to a head outside the state. They could not, therefore, be entrusted with education in the interests of the state. Even in the case of orders which held no ultramontane allegiance, clerical control of educa¬ tion was unsatisfactory. The regular orders had renounced the world. Far from seeking to know it, they dreamed only of fleeing from it. As a result, clerical education took no direct interest in inculcating the social and patriotic virtues which form an essential part of the training of the citizen. According to La Chalotais, the most inevitable and vicious flaw of clerical education was “the complete absence of instruction relating to the moral and political virtues. Our education does not form our manners as did that of the ancients.”117 If education was to be truly “national” in character, it had to be nationally directed. The ancients would never have abandoned the education of citizens to men who had views and interests contrary to those of the community at large, maintained La Chalotais. Taking for granted the claim that the parlements were the historical and legal representatives of the nation, La Chalotais reaffirmed the conviction that the welfare of society demanded a civil education, an education, that is to say, controlled by the parlements. 1 insist on demanding for the Nation an education that depends only on the State, to which it essentially belongs; because the Nation has an inalienable and imprescriptible right to instruct its members; be¬ cause, in short, the children of the State must be reared by members of the State.118 But how should the children of the state be educated? In answering this question, La Chalotais brought together the criticisms levelled at Jesuit education by the philosophes, codifying their views into an influential educational program. The plan of studies sketched in the Essaiis grounded upon Condillac s psychology. The mind proceeds by way of reflection from concrete, given sensations to abstract, generalized ideas. Since the order of teaching must follow the natural progress of the human mind, it is clear that children must be presented with concrete facts and not with mere abstractions. Thus the education of the colleges, with its emphasis on Latin

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and the abstractions of grammar and rhetoric, of philosophy and religion, is contrary to the nature of the human mind and harmful to the child. It substitutes a concern with words for the factual basis of true knowledge. “Almost all our Philosophy and education revolve only around words: it is things themselves that it is necessary to know. Let us return to the true and the real; for, in faith, truth is nothing but that which is, that which exists, and in this spirit it is only the knowledge of existing things.”119 In education for citizenship, social realities were among the most important phenomena of existence to which it was necessary to return. Thus La Chalotais insisted that the geography textbook for use in the secondary schools contain a description of the countries of ancient and modern times, the old and the new world: not in institutional terms of towns and villages, bailiwicks and intendancies, but by the situation of each country, the quality and productivity of its soil, its population and the manners of the people, its government, religion, and laws. Instead of the tiresome details found in maps and dictionaries, the young citizen was to be brought up to know: the manners of life of that multitude of men composing society; how and on what they subsist; what bread is eaten and what kind of bed slept on by a peasant farmer, a day laborer, an artisan; the details of the professions and the nature of their functions. He will go on to see how that bread is taken away that they have gained with such pain and how a portion of men live at the expense of another.120 In many ways this passage is the most crucial in the whole Essai, since it implicitly raised in dramatic form the great problem of the eighteenthcentury educational debate: the extent to which it was safe to enlighten the working population. La Chalotais had no doubts on this score. The Essai contains a vehement denunciation of those clerical orders attempting to spread primary education among the poorer classes, a view upon which Voltaire was not slow to congratulate him.121 The good of society demands that the education of the people extend no further than is necessary for their occupations, La Chalotais argued, following a well-worn eighteenthcentury theme. Superfluous education makes men discontent with their lot and disdainful of traditional occupations (and this must be particularly true of an education that would show “how that bread is taken away that they have gained with such pain”!). Since it is the duty of the government to make each citizen so pleased with his condition that he will not be forced to withdraw from it, peasant education must therefore be limited to technological instruction or apprenticeship. Such limitation of education would therefore have two salutary effects: it would prevent the working population from fleeing its unhappy, although very necessary, lot, and in so doing it would minimize the number of over-educated deracines living at the general expense. In the eyes of La Chalotais, as of many of his contemporaries, national education was directed primarily towards public order, social peace, and an acquiescent populace. Nevertheless, even in La Chalotais’s Essai, the logic of the concern to establish the teaching of a social ethic seemed to suggest the creation of a

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social science that would relate the rights and duties of the educated citizen to the actually existent conditions of society. To facilitate his grasp of social realities and to improve his ability to draw conclusions from them, La Chalotais proposed that the citizen whose social status merited advanced education should be taught the logic of the theory of probabilities.122 A knowledge of this theory, he maintained, is especially necessary in ethical and practical questions, where men cannot always assure themselves of finding the truth and are therefore often obliged to act upon the basis of probabilities. Insisting that the implementation of a social ethic must be predicated upon a knowledge of the probabilities involved in social conduct, La Chalotais demanded that more effort be devoted to perfecting the logic of probabilities and developing its application to human affairs. As we have seen, this was a demand that Condorcet was not slow to fulfill. The years following the appearance of the Essai d’education nationale gave birth to an increasing number of essays, discourses, and treatises advocating social and patriotic instruction, which were echoed in the demands of the cahiers of 1789 for a “national” or “citizen” education.123 Many of them presented a social ethic in the guise of a catechism; some of them, such as Garnier’s Trade de Teducation civile, published in 1765, maintained that the various aspects of moral and political instruction — “law of nature, law of nations, public law” —could properly be regarded as parts of a single science of citizenship, “the science of civil man.”124 But it is in the theories of the Physiocrats that the eighteenth-century concern for social education became most coherently and most explicitly identified with the idea of a science of society. Given the ferment of educational theory during the 1760s, it is not surprising that when the Physiocrats came to work out the political implications of their economic theories, they regarded general and univer¬ sal primary instruction in the natural and essential order of societies as one of the fundamental laws of the state. Since the social order is part of the natural physical order, explained Le Mercier de la Rividre, it follows that there is nothing arbitrary about it. Its simplicity, and the self-evidence of its laws, are manifest from the slightest study. Furthermore, the natural social order constitutes the best state possible to man. Once known, therefore, it must necessarily establish itself; and once established, it must necessarily be perpetuated.125 The empire of evidence, Le Mercier maintained, is at present usurped by the rule of ignorance and superstition. The only obstacle to the establishment of the natural social order is human ignorance of its laws. The order must be known to the rulers of the state. It must be publicly known to the members of society. For no matter how powerful the enlightened class, it will never subject the masses to the rule of the natural social order by the use of force. Ruled by physical force alone, society will be constantly in a condition of internal disturbance; it will be continually disrupted “by those hidden acts of brigandage disguised under legal forms, by those shadowy and despoiling practices that sacrifice as many victims as guile can furnish; by all those disorders, in a word, that tend to render all particular interests mutually antagonistic, and thus maintain a habitual

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war of contradictory interests among the members of the same political body, the opposition and the strains of which destroy all social re¬ lations.”126 Although all citizens need not have an equally explicit knowledge of the physiocratic science of society, Le Mercier concluded, they must have knowledge sufficient to understand the rational self-evidence of its laws and to recognize and obey the rules of the natural and essential order of societies as implemented by the magistrates. Thus the force of reason would replace the power of will in society; and the rule of reason would become ' the sole despot of the universe.”127 Once publicly known, the physiocratic science of society would substitute harmony for social dis¬ order, scientific conduct for the political conflict of interests. Public instruction in the principles of social science was therefore essential to maintain the natural order of society; it therefore formed the first and most fundamental positive law of the state. “General and continual public instruction," thundered Mirabeau in one of the earliest volumes of Les ephemerides, “is therefore the only fundamental law of societies that can be of human institution."128 Accordingly, when Quesnay, the founder of the physiocratic school, added political maxims to his general principles of economic order, he gave considerable prominence to education. In the revised version of the Maximes generates du gouvernement economique, published by Dupont in Physiocratie (1767), the first principle of govern¬ ment, which announced the doctrine of legal despotism, was immediately followed by a second concerning public instruction.129 The joint appearance of these first two principles also had other implications. For although the Physiocrats were convinced that the natural order would be best realized by means of a “legal despotism” (with all the ambiguities implied in that term), they were aware that the ruler might be tempted to abuse the authority vested in him. The ultimate guarantee against such abuse of royal authority was to be found in the intrinsic guarantee of the social order itself. Since the sovereign was co-proprietor with the people, his interest was identified with that of the nation. But the full force of the residual guarantee of co-proprietorship operated only ex post facto; some other guarantee was necessary to prevent the monarch from misinterpreting his own self-interest, thus bringing about that disruption of society which must inevitably follow a violation of the natural order. Le Mercier and Dupont explicitly reserved to an independent magistracy the duty of considering and sanctioning the laws of the sovereign, although other disciples were less clear on the issue of judicial review.130 Whatever their differences as to the nature and extent of the independence of the magistracy, however, the Physiocrats were unanimous that the surest guarantee against the abuse of authority lay in public knowledge of the laws of the social order. Enlightened public opinion, perpetuated by instruction, would oppose the errors of the administration; and an administration recruited only for its knowledge of the natural social order would oppose the errors of the government. Le Mercier countered objections to legal despotism by maintaining that while the concentration of authority in the hands of one man was certainly dangerous in the state of

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ignorance, there was nothing to fear from such an arrangement once the nation had arrived at general knowledge of the essential order of society.131 Thus public instruction in the physiocratic social science was to be regarded as the fundamental condition of the establishment and perpetua¬ tion of a rational social order. It was at once a condition of the scientific administration of society and a major safeguard against the overthrow of the social order by monarchical indiscretion. The physiocratic demand for universal, free, primary instruction —“the first positive law, the fundamental law of all other positive laws”132 — proved to be one of the more vociferous campaigns of a vociferous century. While, Les ephemericLes continued to preach the gospel of social instruc¬ tion, Mirabeau outlined schemes of public instruction to the margrave of Baden and inundated his royal disciple with successive catechisms and abridgments of the physiocratic doctrine for use in his schools. Le Mercier addressed a treatise on public education to another royal convert, the king of Sweden. Dupont dreamed of building a new nation by reorganizing the educational system of Poland; but returned frustrated to draft Turgot’s Memoire sur les municipalites, in which education for citizenship played a fundamental role in the regeneration and transformation of the monarchy. Given a council of national education directed towards the moral and social instruction of the citizen, proclaimed the Memoire, the people of France would be changed unrecognizably within ten years. In education, good conduct, and enlightened enthusiasm for the public service, they would be infinitely superior to all other peoples.133 But once again Dupont’s hopes were abruptly deflated. Turgot postponed the date for the execution of the plan until October 1776; and by that time, Dupont gloomily recalled, “we had already been dismissed for five months.”134 No one was more afflicted than Condorcet by the fall of Turgot and the failure of his scheme to transform the monarchy. No one was more convinced of the crucial importance of citizen education in such a transformation. If the people were to be called to exercise new functions in the provincial assemblies, he maintained in his biography of Turgot, it was also necessary to prepare them for it through public instruction. “It is easy to establish assemblies; but their utility depends entirely upon the education of their members and the intelligence that inspires them; and it was a question in France of giving a new education to a whole people, of stimulating new ideas within it at the same time as it was being called to new functions.”135 With the implementation of Turgot’s schemes, public education, freed from the corrupting influence of the clergy, would have taught all sorts and conditions of men all that it was necessary for them to know, as citizens and in the pursuit of their particular professions. For Condorcet, as for Turgot, the establishment of a system of public instruction “truly worthy of the name” was one of the first duties of the leaders of a nation. His concern for education was intimately related to his conception of social science and to his hopes for the implementation of the rational social order that it was the purpose of such a science to sustain. Although they differed in many respects, then, the various appeals for educational reform which appeared during the second half of the eigh-

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teenth century shared two general tendencies. In the first place, they de¬ manded that a predominantly religious education give way to a “national,” or secular, education that would fit the citizen to perform his duties and exercise his rights in civil society. “Your kingdom, Sire, is of this world,” Turgot would have reminded the king in 1776, to emphasize the fact that the function of national education was to inculcate a conception of man based on his obligations in this world rather than his hopes for the next. In the second place, there was a tendency in the educational schemes which appeared before the Revolution to demand that an obsolescent traditional concentration on Latin and philosophy be replaced by a science of physical and social facts that would study “realities” and not “words,” the living present rather than the dead past. The convergence of these two demands is well illustrated in the physiocratic view of public instruction, in which a total science of society, claiming to imitate the model of the Newtonian physical universe, was regarded as the basis of a program of instruction in the social ethic, the religion du pain quotidien. During the revolutionary period this convergence appears most clearly (though in a novel and original form) in the educational writings of Condorcet: the five Memoires sur 1'instruction publique published between January and September 1791, and the Rapport et projet de decret sur Vorganisation generate de Vinstruction publique presented to the Legislative Assembly, on behalf of its Committee on Public Instruction, in April 1792. 136 Since the Memoires represent the fullest expression of Condorcet’s educational thinking, it is on this work that we shall concentrate in the present discussion. Condorcet begins the Memoires sur I’instruction publique with two assumptions, which he regards as equally valid. The first postulates the natural inequality of individual faculties and talents, the second the natural equality of individual rights. These assumptions, in effect, suggest competing and conflicting models of society, which it is the function of public instruction to reconcile. The first model, that of Condorcet the professional academician, possesses many of the features of an academy writ large. It is a society of individuals, now no longer deriving status from membership in corporate orders and Estates, but gathered into occupa¬ tions that are specialized by function and differentiated by talent and knowledge. In such a society there is a natural tendency for politics to become the domain of a profession or series of professions, based on expertise. The result, Condorcet insisted, would be the creation of a new aristocracy (“an aristocracy not of talent and enlightenment, but of occupational specialization”) and the loss of real liberty.137 Such an outcome clearly conflicted with the second model of society, that of Condorcet the liberal democrat. This second model is also a society of individuals: but of individuals equal in their rights as men and their obligations as citizens. In such a society, where political participation is a natural right and a civic duty for all, there is a danger that the political fortunes of the nation come to depend upon “men in no position to be guided by their reason and to have a will of their own.”138 Indeed, this is all the more likely in modern society, where technological specialization can

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stupefy the mass of men with narrow, routine functions. The more specialized the mechanical occupations, Condorcet argued, taking his cue from Adam Smith’s discussion of educational problems in The Wealth of Nations, the more liable the people to the stupidity that arises from limited ideas. The greater the equality established by the laws, the more dangerous to the nation this stupidity becomes. The result of a democratic constitu¬ tion under such conditions would be the despotism of ignorance, “always uniust and cruel, always subject to the corrupt will of some hypocritical tyrant.”139 This despotism of ignorance was as clearly unacceptable to Condorcet the professional academician as an aristocracy of specialized professions was to Condorcet the liberal democrat. The primary purpose of public instruction was to prevent the occurrence of both, by creating a society in which the political responsibilities of the more enlightened and talented few could be reconciled (as in the Essai sur Vapplication de Vanalyse) with the democratic rights of the less enlightened and less talented many. Public instruction, and public instruction alone, could preserve the equality of natural rights and the full exercise of individual freedom for all, while at the same time fostering different talents and abilities for the advancement of scientific and social progress and the realization of a rational social order. Men are by nature unequal. The institution of society necessarily modifies the extreme effects of this natural inequality by coordinating the forces of all for the common well-being of individuals. But at the same time, Condorcet argued, individual well-being comes to depend increas¬ ingly on the social relations of men one with another. As social dependence increases, so do the effects of natural inequalities. This is particularly true of inequalities of intellect. Education cannot diminish the intellectual superiority of those favored in their natural endowments, nor should it attempt to do so. “It would indeed be a fatal love of equality that feared to extend the class of enlightened men and to increase their enlightenment.”140 On the contrary, it is a function of public instruction to foster superior talents for the advancement of science and social welfare. In Condorcet’s vision of the good society, a hierarchical educational system appropriate to different talents and abilities would make it possible for all to acquire the knowledge of which they are capable. The arts and crafts would be promoted by public enlightenment, with open discussion of techniques and procedures once regarded as trade secrets. The professions would be advanced (and equality served) by opening them to superior talents. An army of researchers would be recruited on the basis of their abilities and mobilized in a revitalized system of academies to develop the scientific knowledge upon which social progress necessarily depends. Clearly, the effect of such a system of education would be to emphasize the natural inequalities of intellect among men. Condorcet insisted, however, that it would at the same time destroy the social dependence that such inequalities had always implied. During the centuries of ignorance, he argued (sketching out an idea that was to be developed in the Esquisse into a full-blown theory of history), the few possessed of a monopoly of

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knowledge (priests, lawyers, doctors, those versed in the secrets of com¬ merce) had exercised a tyranny no less powerful than those possessed of a monopoly of force.141 Indeed, before the invention of gunpowder, the hereditary despotism of the military class had itself been based upon exclusive knowledge of the art and science of bearing arms. In modern times, Condorcet maintained, this concentration of knowledge and power in an exclusive caste was no longer possible: the occult or sacred doctrines dividing an elite of initiates from the benighted masses had been banished for ever. The pen had, on occasions, been mightier than the sword; it was hardly mightier than the printing press. With the development of printing and the consequent spread of enlightenment, no hereditary caste or exclusive corporation could maintain an absolute domination by means of a monopoly of knowledge or pseudo-knowledge. Yet the ignorance which dictated subservience remained. The man who cannot read, write, or do simple arithmetic, depends upon the more enlightened neighbor whom he is obliged to consult in the performance of his private and public actions. He who does not know the first principles of the law of property is at the mercy of him who does; he who cannot exercise his critical faculties is the dupe of the first charlatan who attempts to seduce his imagination and his passions. “This state of servile dependence subsists among almost all peoples with regard to the greatest number, for whom liberty and equality can consequently be only words that are read to them from their codes, and not rights that they are able to enjoy.”142 Thus Condorcet unequivocally rejected the contention of La Chalotais, so enthusiastically supported by Voltaire, that education should be confined to an elite in order to avoid the creation of a class of semiliterate deracines living at the expense of society. “The true remedy against the evils foreseen by M. de la Chalotais is to render literacy more general,” he argued in a manuscript note.143 Where literacy is general, it makes no special claims on society. Where education is general, equality is en¬ hanced. The citizen who knows arithmetic enough for the conduct of life will not be dependent upon the more learned for health and happiness; the man instructed in the elements of civil law will not be enslaved by the most enlightened of lawyers. Finally, the man able to exercise powers of individual, critical reasoning —even if he uses them only to choose a yet more enlightened person to represent him —will not be denied the exercise of his natural rights by the power of a demagogue. The first and fundamental aim of public instruction is therefore to make possible a real equal