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 examine of its content material, constitution, resources and value. It incorporates a dialogue of Condillac's research of excellent and undesirable structures, the adequacy of his wisdom and less than­ 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 clinical strategy, and particularly his realizing of the position of hypotheses, his program of the Newtonian medical strategy to politics, physics, and the humanities, and, eventually, his preoccupation with the that means of phrases and with the beginning and objective oflanguage. Speculative metaphysical structures, reminiscent of these of Descartes, Malebranche, Boursier, Leibniz and Spinoza, are attacked by way of Con­ dillac, as are renowned 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 mom and dad ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I desire to recognize my indebtedness to a number of humans. I may still like at the beginning to thank Dr. W. H. Barber, who has for a few years tirelessly given me encouragement and worthwhile suggestions. I desire to thank additionally Professors RH. Rasmussen, A. D. Wilshere and C. Wake for his or her aid and their aid within the early days of the instruction of this learn. lowe unique thank you additionally to Mrs. M. V.

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The second type of principle is the supposition to which the metaphysicians are forced'to resort in order to provide a plausible explanation of phenomena. "3 However, the fact that a hypothesis provides a convenient method of explaining things does not prove that it is true. Metaphysicians, says Condillac, have been as inventive with the second type of principle as they have been with the first, so loath are they to admit their inability to reveal the true nature of things. "4 It enjoys less favour than the other two because we are unaccustomed to examining "des faits bien constates" and are therefore ignorant of how to apply them.

78 It remains to be seen in the next two chapters how valid Condillac's indictment was. It is obvious from this discussion of the first five chapters of the Traite des systemes that one of Condillac's major concerns was with methodology. He was neither a mathematician nor a scientist, in the sense of a "physicien" or an "astronome," but a psychologist, a logician and a grammarian. What, then, are the sources of his conception of empirical and scientific method? Are Newton and Locke his only sources of inspiration, or did he owe anything to others, such as Bacon and Pascal?

Supernatural causes are the province of the theologian: "Le philosophe se borne aux causes naturelles; mais, pour passer les autres sous silence, il ne les rejette pas. "30 There was in his thought a dichotomy between two separately existing areas of truth - philosophy and science on the one hand, and theology on the other. 31 He did not choose, therefore, to see the implications of 25 See Marsak, op. , pp. 30, 36. Professor G. " It IS interesting to note that Condillac himself rejects this CritiCism in a letter to Count Potocki, 23rd January, 1779: "n faut remarquer que qUOlque nos sensatIOns soient paSSives, il ne s'ensuit pas que tout ce qUi vlent des sensations soit passif egalement.

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