Philosophical Writings of Etienne Bonnot, Abbe de Condillac - Vol. 1

Philosophical Writings of Etienne Bonnot, Abbe de Condillac - Vol. 1

Philosophical Writings of Etienne Bonnot, Abbe de Condillac - Vol. 1

Philosophical Writings of Etienne Bonnot, Abbe de Condillac - Vol. 1


This is the first English translation of Condillac's most influential works: the Essay on the Origins of Human Knowledge (1746) and Course for Study of Instruction of the Prince of Parma (1772).

The Essays lay the foundation for Condillac's theory of mind. He argues that all mental operations are, in fact, sensory processes and nothing more. An outgrowth of Locke's empirical account of ideas and sensations as a source of knowledge, Condillac's theory goes beyond Locke's foundations, introducing his universal method for understanding any complex entity: the reduction of all matters to their origins and then to their simplest forms.

The Course, originally written to teach Prince Ferdinand of Parma to think and to develop good habits of mind following the principle of association of ideas, covers grammar, writing, reasoning, thinking, and ancient and modern history. Philip writes in the introduction: "[the] mind is moldable to reason and to 'nature' which gave it a model and provides the ultimate authority for all it can know or do."


In the course of the eighteenth century, two near contemporaries--David Hume (1711-1776), writing in English, and Etienne Bonnot, abbé of Condillac (1715-1780), in French--argued independently that the only available medium for constructing a rational understanding of reality is the individual person's successive instants in the having of sensations.

Within subsequent philosophy, the brilliant Scotsman has enjoyed a fame that almost totally eclipses the memory of the dogged Frenchman. This translation of three of the philosophical works of Condillac is being published in the hope of redressing the balance between the two.

Hume was skeptical about the reasonableness of certain common-sense assumptions, and the tensions created by his practically intolerable but seemingly irrefutable skepticism have helped to keep Humean metaphysics alive. Condillac, despite his official status as metaphysician for the acute critics of the French Enlightenment, was himself mostly not skeptical. the absence of tension between his sensationalism and common sense may, together with his compatriots' characteristic impatience with empirical ideas, account for Condillac's comparative obscurity even in French philosophy.

Condillac has had a continuing influence, however, on Western thought, for his constructive ideas have been incorporated into the behavioral sciences. From the first psychiatrist Philippe Pinel's use of observation of the mentally infirm to the application of Maria Montessori's sensory training of the child, the social sciences have explicitly relied on Condillac's genetic theory of mental operations.

Of the three books included in this volume, the first, the Treatise on Systems (1746), contrasts Condillac's philosophic system with rationalistic . . .

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