41. D’Alembert reproduces here some of the interest in the development of language which Condillac found to be of central importance in his discussion of ideas (Part Two of his Essai sur l’origine des connoissances humaines [1746], in Oeuvres, I, 60 ff., which in turn owes something to Locke’s discussion of signs and Warburton’s discussions of the origins of language). The history of the development of signs is, in effect, the history of ideas, starting in earliest times with words for individual things, then moving to abstract words involving general properties of objects. These also indicate the birth of first the arts and then the sciences. D’Alembert carries on the discussion of signs in the Encyclopedia (cf. “Character,” vol. II).

 [ return to text ]