Editor's comment

Randall writes of Condorcet:
"Forced to flee for his life, to lie hidden in a back room of an eating
house, and finally to take his own life that he might escape the guillotine...
he was capable of utterly forgetting his own fate in the wonderous new vision
of progress for the whole human race...

He spent his time composing the most sublimely confident book that has ever been written, the "History of the Progress of the Human Spirit."


Randall,Jr., John Herman, The Making of the Modern Mind, 1940 Columbia University Press, New York [abridged— 790 words] [abstract– 170 words] — the idea that reason and science will make human progress inevitable

The men of the Enlightenment hoped and expected to bring about the ideal society of mankind based on progress through education…

The ancient world seems to have had no conception progress. Greeks and Romans looked back rather to a Golden Age from which man had degenerated and the Middle Ages were preoccupied with thoughts of the next world.

It was Fontenelle who instilled the eighteenth-century faith in progress. It was from science and reason that he hoped that Europe would not only equal but far surpass antiquity.
So long as men continue to accumulate knowledge, progress will be as inevitable as the growth of a tree; nor is there any reason to look for its cessation.

Condorcet summed up the hopes and the confidence of the whole age when he wrote: “There is no limit set to the perfecting of the powers of man… it will never go backward; at least, so long as the earth occupies the same place in the system of the universe.”