Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Summary of Condorcet's Progrès de L'Esprit Humain

David Stove (1927-1994), "The Malthus Check," On Enlightenment (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2003), pp. 57-73 (at 61):
The past is one long hideous night of oppression, greed, cruelty, ignorance, superstition, fanaticism, and imposture, with priests and kings to blame. (To update, substitute "capitalists," "whites," "males," etc., to taste.) But then somehow—it is not clear how, or rather it is, in Condorcet's treatment, an absolute mystery how, but anyway somehow—in Europe, a few years back, light dawned. And this light is soon going to spread everywhere, and irreversibly. Our descendants will all be happy, healthy, free, equal, just, rational, leisured, and cultivated. Condorcet does not actually say that Enlightenment is going to cure wooden legs, though I think it would have pained him to hear it denied. He does say that the length of human life will be indefinitely increased. He never faces, as even ancient Greek fable had faced, the Tithonus-problem: extension of life without reprieve from aging. But no doubt he would have said that, in the future, the progress of medical science will etc., etc.

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