The purpose of this project is to go back in time and explore the life of one of the most important figures in the fight towards social reforms and gender equality. I will be exploring Condorcet’s early life experiences and how they shaped him to become such a radical thinker for his time, and even today, for his views on women’s rights. By exploring big ideas like gender, race, women’s right and perfection, I will be able to discover how Condorcet’s contributions to society so many years ago has affected my personal and social life today. I based my research on this figure, since as a man I have been impacted by strong women such as my mother and sister, throughout my entire life. I saw this as an opportunity to appreciate Condorcet’s contribution to society and how he helped my mom and my sister have a voice that can be heard.
Early life of a revolutionary thinker: Nicolas de Condorcet
Named Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, but known as Nicolas de Condorcet, Nicolas was born in 1743 in a small town in France called Ribemont (1). His father was killed, in battle, shortly after his birth (2). Nicolas de Condorcet, was born from the ancient family of Caritat, who took their title from Condorcet, a town in Dauphiné (3). After the death of Nicolas’ father, his mother assigned him for protection to the virgin, where he wore white dresses until the unconventionally late age of eight (4). At the instigation of his paternal uncle, the orthodox-leaning bishop of Lisieux, Condorcet began his formal education at age nine (4). In his scholar years, he went to the Jesuit college in Reims and to the College of Navarre in Paris, where he excelled as a mathematician (3). He wrote papers on different subjects like mathematics after he became a member of the Academy of Sciences in 1769 (3). French philosopher and mathematician of the Enlightenment and advocate of educational reform and women’s rights (3). At only 21 years of age, his work on integral calculus, was praised by the Royal Academy of Science earning him the recognition by many as one of the top Europeans mathematicians of his time (4). In 1777, he was appointed secretary and spokesman of the French Academy of Science (2). Another remarkable highlight in the life of Condorcet was his biography of a biography of Voltaire, and his mentorship of Auguste Comte accredited as the father of Sociology and with whom he had similar ideals regarding the progressive interpretation of history (1)
French Revolution: role of a radical thinker
Nicolas de Condorcet was very supportive of the French Revolution, since he saw this as the perfect time to strive for social reform (3). He helped draft the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the citizen (2). Condorcet was elected into the National Legislative Assembly in 1971, where he advocated to end the privileges of the monarchy, and proposed reforms for state education in France (4). However, he unsuccessfully tried to have girls educated alongside boys in colleges and universities, since he stated that gender has nothing to do with intellectual differences, the lack of educational opportunities is what affects women (4).
Race is still a very delicate topic in today’s society. Nicolas had a huge impact in the abolitionist movement in France through his work “Reflections on Black Slavery” and later by being the president of the Society of the Friends of Blacks (4). I decided to relate how equality of race has affected me as an immigrant of a different ethnicity. It is very hard to live in a place where you are looked down upon and feel like you don’t fit in. Even though, I still go through these uncomfortable situations, I feel like the battle of Nicolas against racism and slavery really made it much simpler.
“The rights of men stem exclusively from the fact that they are sentient beings, capable of acquiring moral ideas and of reasoning upon them. Since women have the same qualities, they necessarily also have the same rights. Either no member of the human race has any true rights, or else they all have the same ones; and anyone who votes against the rights of another, whatever his religion, color or sex, automatically forfeits his own.”
Nicolas de Condorcet discussed the fact that the obstacles that women face in society are based on their lack of education and opportunity just because of their sex. Furthermore, he states the equality of not just women compared to men but also racial and religious equality and how by putting someone’s right over others just based on these simple things as gender, race, or religious affiliation you are basically relinquishing your own rights.
Condorcet’s battle against the oppression of women has really impacted me in a profound way. I was raised in an environment where my mom was a role model for me. She was able to become a doctor and I can’t stop thinking about the fact that she was able to achieve her dream due to the sacrifice of figures like Nicolas de Condorcet. The fact that I have the opportunity to be sitting next to my sister, studying in a university working to achieve a better version of ourselves each day. It is shocking to me to think about how the work of someone more than 300 years ago has allowed my mom and my sister to have a voice and important place in society.
One of Condorcet’s major focus was humankind strive for perfection; and we can see that in his work titled Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, where he listed nine stages that the human race has gone through and states that the following step is going to be perfection. Even though, a perfect human race cannot be truly achieved, I believe that Condorcet’s ideals towards the better of humanity has helped me personally by inspiring me to become a better person every day, and by becoming a more capable member of society I can have a more direct impact in my surroundings.
Reflection: How Condorcet’s life impacted mine
As I was doing this project, I found it very hard to connect my personal life to the work of another person that lived over 300 years ago. However, after some hours of research and an open mind, I was able to create a bond and a sense of appreciation for the sacrifice and the contributions Nicolas de Condorcet made to society. As I sat here reflecting how Condorcet’s life impacted mine I can honestly say that the first and most important thing that comes to mind is the fact that I get to sit next to my sister in a classroom where she has the same opportunities as me and where her voice matters as much as mine. I will forever be in debt to people that spend their lives in search of a more inclusive and “perfect” world like Nicolas de Condorcet did.
- Beck, D. (n.d.). EMECC Early Modern Forum 1450 – 1850. Retrieved April 04, 2019, from https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/ecc/emforum/projects/brieflives/nicolas_de_condorcet/
- Smith, P. (2013, March 20). The Marquis de Condorcet: 1. Life and Times. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMjW1dNwXLU
- Acton, H. B. (2019, March 25). Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas-de-Caritat-marquis-de-Condorcet
- Landes, J. (2016, January 20). The History of Feminism: Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/histfem-condorcet/
- Nicolas de Condorcet Quotes (Author of Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind). (n.d.). Retrieved April 09, 2019, from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5820660.Nicolas_de_Condorcet
- Race Versus Stereotypes, Which One Is The Real Problem? (2014, September 07). Retrieved from https://thenotsoobvious.com/2014/09/07/race-versus-stereotypes-which-one-is-the-real-problem/
- Smith, P. (2013, May 21). Condorcet: 3.1. The Rights of Women (part 1). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsDI-Td9PMw
- Aubin, M. (2019, March 12). Nicolas de Condorcet, a scientist serving the public interest. Retrieved from https://blog.open-agora.com/en/nicolas-de-condorcet-2/
- The Myth of Perfectionism; How to Stop Being Your Worst Critic. (2017, October 25). Retrieved from http://mayowaoluyede.com/the-myth-of-perfection/
- (10)Condorcet. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.emaze.com/@AQOQCZZL
- The First Essay on the Political Rights of Women by Nicolas de Condorcet. (2011, March 24). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20990730-the-first-essay-on-the-political-rights-of-women