An Essay on the Foundations of Our Knowledge

An Essay on the Foundations of Our Knowledge

An Essay on the Foundations of Our Knowledge

An Essay on the Foundations of Our Knowledge

Excerpt

The publication of this translation of the Essai sur les fondements de nos connaissances by Antoine Augustin Cournot makes available to English readers one of the major contributions of this important nineteenth-century French mathematician, economist, and philosopher. Only one other of Cournot's studies in these areas, his Recherches sur les principes mathématiques de la théorie des richesses, has previously been available in English, although some have been translated into other languages, particularly German and Italian. Long before the translation of the Recherches was made, Cournot's position as a creative and significant contributor to the general field of mathematical economics had been thoroughly established. This fact makes even more pointed the neglect which has been accorded his equally valuable work in philosophy. My interest in lessening this neglect stems from a conversation I had over twenty years ago with Professor Arthur E. Murphy. At his suggestion I read the Essai. Being impressed by the range of Cournot's knowledge, by his concern to carry forward a careful, penetrating and constructive analysis of certain persistent philosophical problems, and by the ingenuity and prescience with which he addressed himself to this work, I decided to undertake a translation of it.

The first draft of the translation was completed in the early 1930's. Difficulties in getting the work published were almost insurmountable, but, among others, Professors Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Morris R. Cohen, Curt J. Ducasse, George Boas, Frank Knight, and Arthur E. Murphy urged me to persist in my efforts.

The onset of the Second World War brought the whole project to a halt for over ten years. In the spring of 1950, Mr. Oskar Piest, Editor of the Liberal Arts Press, expressed an interest in adding the Essai to the listings of this Press. Dr. Sharvy G. Umbeck, President of Knox College (where I was teaching at that time), strongly urged me to go ahead with arrangements which Mr. Piest and I had tentatively worked out. More important, through the good offices of President Umbeck I received generous assistance from Knox College . . .

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