A Critical Study of Condillac’s Traité des Systèmes by Ellen McNiven Hine (auth.)

By Ellen McNiven Hine (auth.)

The Traite des systemes is a milestone within the highbrow background of the eighteenth century. it is a learn of its content material, constitution, assets and significance. It features a dialogue of Condillac's research of excellent and undesirable structures, the adequacy of his wisdom and below­ status of the speculative metaphysics of the previous century, the effectiveness of his approach to assault on seventeenth-century metaphysical platforms, his perception of empirical and medical strategy, and specifically his figuring out of the function of hypotheses, his program of the Newtonian clinical way to politics, physics, and the humanities, and, eventually, his preoccupation with the which means of phrases and with the beginning and objective oflanguage. Speculative metaphysical structures, comparable to these of Descartes, Malebranche, Boursier, Leibniz and Spinoza, are attacked via Con­ dillac, as are well known superstitions and prejudices, with the weapon of linguistic feedback. it's the systematic use of this weapon which makes the Traite des systemes greater than a mirrored image of his contem­ poraries' antipathy in the direction of speculative metaphysics. In reminiscence of my dad and mom ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I desire to recognize my indebtedness to numerous humans. I should still like at first to thank Dr. W. H. Barber, who has for a few years tirelessly given me encouragement and useful tips. I desire to thank additionally Professors RH. Rasmussen, A. D. Wilshere and C. Wake for his or her aid and their help within the early days of the practise of this examine. lowe precise thank you additionally to Mrs. M. V.

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Peuvent etre dites absolues ou relatives. J'appelle absolu tout ce qui contient en soi la nature pure et simple dont il est question: ainsi tout ce qui est considere comme independant, cause, simple, universel, un, egal, semblable, droit, ou d'autres choses de ce genre; et je l'appelle Ie plus simple et Ie plus facile, afin que nous nous en servions pour resoudre les questions. "24 While it is true from this definition that a "nature simple" is in no wayan abstract idea, it is nonetheless true that simple ideas for Condillac are those nearest to sensation, while for Descartes the simplest ideas are the most 21 Newton, Optieks (New York: Dover Publications, 1952), pp.

55 This criticism is not perhaps without some validity. Anxious to demonstrate how prone human beings are to prejudice, Condillac traces the progress of human error in a rigorous chain of cause and effect, which fails to take full account of the complexity of the facts. Although he begins by remarking that, because of this complexity, it is not as easy to unravel the threads of superstition in the mind of the people as it is in that of the philosopher, he proceeds to trace systematically the history of human gullibility in the art of divination.

8 The ability to grasp any complex idea, therefore, will depend on the understanding of one less complex, and this less complex idea will be explained by one less complex still, and so on until the whole structure of ideas is explained by the simplest idea, which is closest to sensation. Since the strict application of the deductive method cannot serve any useful purpose, two practices are usual to lend it an apparent efficacy. 9 First, propositions which are true in many cases are assumed to be true in every case.

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