Condorcet AntoineMarquis de

Condorcet AntoineMarquis de

(1743-94) French aristocrat, philosopher and social theorist who, in arguing for the discovery of laws of historical development, prefigured the concern of many subsequent thinkers (including COMTE and SAINT-SIMON) in proposing a broadly EVOLUTIONARY THEORY. Condorcet's main work was the Sketch of an Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Spirit (1795). This conceptualized the evolutionary development of human society in terms of ten stages. The final stage would be a revolutionary period which would realize the perfection of humanity This general outlook places Condorcet primarily within the Enlightenment (see AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT) and modernist traditions of belief in both progress and in the ability of the intellect to subject the world to rational understanding and control. Condorcet believed progress to be contingent on education for all, and argued strongly for EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY. Just as radical were his claims for the emancipation of women, for birth control, for divorce and for civil marriage. The influence of Condorcet's thought – evolutionary, optimistic and radical – was widespread, and affected many thinkers apart from Comte and Saint-Simon.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000