Condorcet and the Meaning of Enlightenment

Lorraine Daston

in Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 151, 2006 Lectures

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264249
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734045 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Condorcet and the Meaning of Enlightenment

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This lecture discusses the meaning of Enlightenment through Condorcet's eyes. It begins with the notion of lumières, which is a word best translated as ‘enlightenment’, but this time written in miniscule. This preserves the associations of wisdom and deeper insight that still cling to the word in English, such as in the phrase ‘spiritual enlightenment’. Next, the lecture explores the multiple senses of calculation. It also looks at how Condorcet sought to fight two variants of fear, one with lumières and the other with calculation. It finally concludes with some reflections on the Enlightenment, spiritual enlightenment, and the probability 0.999993.

Keywords: Enlightenment; Condorcet; lumières; associations of wisdom; spiritual enlightenment; multiple senses of calculation; variants of fear

Chapter.  9144 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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