CONDILLAC, ETIENNE BONNOT DE French philosopher, was born at Grenoble of a legal family and, like his elder brother, the well-known political writer, abbe de Mably, took orders and became abbe de His works are Essai sur l'origine des connaissances /zumaines (1746) , Traite des systemes (1749), Traite des sensations (1754), Traite des animaux (1755), a comprehensive Cours d'etudes written for the young Duke Ferdinand of Parma, a grandson of Louis XV ., Le Commerce et le gouvernement, consideres rela tivement l'un a l'autre (1776), and two posthumous works, Logique (1781) and the unfinished Lavigne des calculs (1798). In his earlier days in Paris he came much into contact with the circle of Diderot. A friendship with Rousseau, which lasted in 'i.e., abbot in commendam of the Premonstratensian abbey of Mu reau in the Vosges.—(Ed.) some measure to the end, may have been due in the first instance to the fact that Rousseau had been domestic tutor in the family of Condillac's uncle, M. de Mably, at Lyons.
Though Condillac's genius was not of the highest order, he is important both as a psychologist and as having established sys tematically in France the principles of Locke, whom Voltaire had lately made fashionable. In setting forth his empirical sensa tionism, Condillac shows many of the best qualities of his age and nation, lucidity, brevity, moderation and an earnest striving after logical method. Nevertheless, in the analysis of the human mind on which his fame chiefly rests, he has missed out the active and spiritual side of human experience. His first book, the Essai sur l'origine des connaissances humaines, keeps close to his English master. He accepts with some indecision Locke's deduction of our knowledge from two sources, sensation and reflection, and uses as his main principle of explanation the asso ciation of ideas. His next book, the Traite des systemes, is a vigorous criticism of those modern systems which are based upon abstract principles or upon unsound hypotheses. His polemic, which is inspired throughout with the spirit of Locke, is directed against the innate ideas of the Cartesians, Malebranche's faculty psychology, Leibnitz's monadism and pre-established harmony, and, above all, against the conception of substance set forth in the first part of the Ethics of Spinoza. By far the most import ant of his works is the Traite des sensations, in which he questions Locke's doctrine that the senses give us intuitive knowledge of objects, that the eye, for example, judges naturally of shapes, sizes, positions and distances. To clear up such questions we must study our senses separately, to distinguish precisely what ideas we owe to each sense, to observe how the senses are trained, and how one sense aids another. The result, he is con fident, will show that all human faculty and knowledge are transformed sensation only, to the exclusion of any other princi ple, such as reflection. The plan of the book is that the author imagines a statue organized inwardly like a man, animated by a soul which has never received an idea, into which no sense-im pression has ever penetrated. He then unlocks its senses one by one, beginning with smell, as the sense that contributes least to human knowledge. At its first experience of smell the con sciousness of the statue is entirely occupied by it; and this occupancy of consciousness is attention. The statue's smell experience will produce pleasure or pain; and pleasure and pain will thenceforward be the master-principle which, determining all the operations of its mind, will raise it by degrees to all the knowledge of which it is capable. The next stage is memory, which is the lingering impression of the smell-experience upon the attention : "memory is nothing more than a mode of feeling." From memory springs comparison : the statue experiences the smell, say, of a rose while remembering that of a carnation ; and "comparison is nothing more than giving one's attention to two things simultaneously." And "as soon as the statue has com parison it has judgment." Comparisons and judgments become habitual, are stored in the mind and formed into series, and thus arises the powerful principle of the association of ideas. From comparison of past and present experiences in respect of their pleasure-giving quality arises desire ; it is desire that determines the operation of our faculties, stimulates the memory and im agination, and gives rise to the passions. The passions, also, are nothing but sensation transformed. Sc runs the argument in the first section of the treatise. In the second section Condillac invests his statue with the sense of touch, which first informs it of the existence of external objects. In a very careful and elaborate analysis, he distinguishes the various elements in our tactile experiences—the touching of one's own body, the touch ing of objects other than one's own body, the experience of movement, the exploration of surfaces by the hands; he traces the growth of the statue's perceptions of extension, distance and shape. The third section deals with the combination of touch with the other senses. The fourth section deals with the desires, activities and ideas of an isolated man who enjoys possession of all the senses; and ends with observations on a "wild boy" who was found living among bears in the forests of Lithuania.
The conclusion of the whole work is that in the natural order of things everything has its source in sensation, and yet that this source is not equally abundant in all men; and, finally, that man is nothing but what he has acquired; all innate faculties and ideas are to be swept away.
Condillac's work on politics and history, contained, for the most part, in his Cours d'etudes, offers few features of interest, except so far as it illustrates his close affinity to English thought: he had not the warmth and imagination to make a good his torian. In logic, on which he wrote extensively, he is far less successful than in psychology. He enlarges with much iteration, but with few concrete examples, upon the supremacy of the analytic method ; argues that reasoning consists in the substitution of one proposition for another which is identical with it, and further he rejects the mediaeval apparatus of the syllogism. It is obvious enough that Condillac's anti-spiritual psychology, with its explanation of personality as an aggregate of sensations, leads straight to atheism and determinism. There is, however, no reason to question the sincerity with which he repudiates both these consequences. What he says upon religion is always in harmony with his profession ; and he vindicated the freedom of the will in a dissertation that has very little in common with the Traite des sensations to which it is appended. The common re proach of materialism should certainly not be made against him. He always asserts the substantive reality of the soul ; and in the opening words of his Essai, "Whether we rise to heaven, or descend to the abyss, we never get outside ourselves—it is always our own thoughts that we perceive," we have the subjectivist principle that forms the starting-point of Berkeley.
As was fitting to a disciple of Locke, Condillac's ideas have had most importance in their effect upon English thought. In matters connected with the association of ideas, the supremacy of pleasure and pain, and the general explanation of all mental contents as sensations or transformed sensations, his influence can be traced upon the Mills and upon Bain and Herbert Spencer. And, apart from any definite propositions, Condillac did a notable work in the direction of making psychology a science. His method, however, of imaginative reconstruction was by no means suited to English ways of thinking. In spite of his protests against abstraction, hypothesis and synthesis, his allegory of the statue is in the highest degree abstract, hypothetical and syn thetic. In France, however, Condillac's doctrine, so congenial to the tone of i8th century philosophism, reigned in the schools for over 5o years, challenged only by a few who, like Maine de Biran, saw that it gave no sufficient account of volitional expe rience. Early in the i 9th century the romantic awakening of Germany had spread to France, and sensationism was displaced by the eclectic spiritualism of Victor Cousin.
See also F. Rethore, Condillac ou l'empirisme et le rationalisme (1864) ; L. Dewaule, Condillac et la psychologie anglaise contemporaine (1891) ; V. Saltnikova, Die Philosophie Condillac (Igo') ; G. De Baguenault de Puchesse, Condillac: sa vie, sa philosophie, son influence (1910) ; H. Bedaude, Condillac a Parme, Lettres inedites (Grenoble, 1924) ; Z. Q. Schaupp, The Naturalism of Condillac (1926).