Essai sur l’application de l’analyse...la probabilité des décisions rendues...la pluralité des voix (Essay on the Application of Analysis to the Probability of Majority Decisions) 1785
An early example of the long French tradition of the mathematical treatment of the social sciences. In the Essay Condorcet investigated the calculus of probability and the conditions under which majority decisions prove correct.
A second edition, enlarged and completely recast, appeared in 1805 under the title Éléments de calcul des probabilités et son application aux jeux de hasard, à la loterie, et aux jugemens des hommes.
Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrés de l’esprit humain, (trans. as Sketch for a Historical Account of the Progress of the Human Mind, 1795) 1795
Composed while in hiding between July 1793 and March 1794, and after Condorcet’s defence of his liberal constitution for the new republic brought him into conflict with the Jacobins, the Sketch was published posthumously. Captured in 1794, Condorcet died during his first night in prison.
In hidding, Condorcet also wrote other works, including Avis d’un père proscrit à sa fille.
“. . . not only equality of right, but equality of fact, is the goal of the social art.”
“This contemplation is for him a refuge into which the rancour of his persecutors can never follow him; in which, living in thought with man reinstated in the rights and the dignity of his nature, he forgets man tormented and corrupted by greed, by base fear, by envy; it is here that he truly abides with his fellows, in an elysium that his reason has known how to create for itself, and that his love for humanity adorns with all purest delights.”
“. . . if everything tells us that mankind should no longer fall back into its former barbarism; if everything must reassure us against that pusillanimous and corrupt system that condemns mankind to eternal oscillations between truth and error, liberty and servitude, we see at the same time that the light occupies only a small part of the globe, and the number of those who really possess light disappears before the mass of men delivered over to prejudices and ignorance. We see vast countries groaning in slavery, and offering a spectacle of nations, in one place degraded by the vices of a civilization whose corruption slows down its march, in another place still vegetating in the infancy of its first epochs. We see that the labours of these last ages have done a great deal for the progress of the human spirit, but little for the perfection of the human species; much for the glory of man, something for his freedom, but still almost nothing for his happiness. In a few areas our eyes are struck with a dazzling light; but heavy shadows still cover an immense horizon. The soul of the philosopher rests with consolation on a small number of objects; but the spectacle of stupidity, slavery, extravagance, barbarism, afflicts him still more often, and the friend of manking can taste unmixed pleasure only by surrendering to the sweet hopes of the future.”
“ . . . Either no individual of the human species has real rights, or all have the same rights, and anyone who votes against the right of another, whatever his religion, his colour or his sex, has henceforth renounced his own.”
“I shall perish like Socrates and Sidney”. (A fragment from the last days of Condorcet’s life).