8. A comparison of d’Alembert’s wording with the following lines in Condillac’s Essai sur l’origine des connoissances humaines (Essay Concerning the Origin of Human Knowledge, 1746) gives one indication among many of d’Alembert’s debt to the work of Condillac throughout the Discourse:

Our first object, which we should never lose from sight, is the study of the human mind—not to discover its nature, but to learn to know its operations, to observe how they are combined and how we ought to use them in order to acquire all the intelligence of which we are capable. It is necessary to go back to the origin of our ideas, to work out their generation, to follow them to the limits which nature has prescribed for them, and by these means to establish the extent and limits of our knowledge and renew all of human understanding. [ Oeuvres philosophiques de Condillac, ed. Georges Le Roy (Paris, 1947), I, 4.]

Condillac’s essay, in turn, was inspired by Locke’s great Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), translated in 1700 into French under Locke’s supervision by the Huguenot refugee, Pierre Coste.


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