Link: Condillac




DENIS DIDEROT  Denis Diderot (1713-1784) In 1749 Diderot wrote Letter on the Blind. Extract from Letter on the Blind ...our moral and metaphysical ideas depend on the state of our organism.. la' morale' (The French word 'morale' is defined as the 'collection of rules and values which function as the norms of a society'...'ensemble des regles d'action et des valeurs qui fonctionnent comme normes d'une societe' Larousse).... the morals.. ethics of a blind person are not the same as the 'ethics morale' of a seeing person. This notion of 'relativity of la morale' ...contradicts the Christian concept according to which la morale results from a revelation and is thus universal...the proof of the existence of God by the marvels of nature has no is not valid for everyone...see the 'aveugles-nees'. In 1751 he wrote Letter on Deaf Mutes. Diderot conceived of a project to study the senses - Study of the Senses. "My idea would be to decompose a man so to speak, and examine what he derives from each of the senses with which he is endowed."  The project of analysing each sense separately was carried out by Etienne Condillac (1714-1780)...a contemporary of Diderot.

 Etienne Condillac was the son of a government official of Grenoble. Condillac carried out a project in which he analysed each sense separately. In 1746 he wrote his Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge: Being a Supplement to Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding. (Essai sur l'Origine des Connaissances Humaines 1746). New York, New York: AMS Press, 1974)

 He defined the conditions for a scientific pedagogical base for the understanding of the child,

He claimed that the central interest of education reform... the function of education should be the proper socialization and full development of the child.

The aim of education is to help the child methodically through the stages of development from within, towards the full development of his faculties and intelligence.

The task of the educator is to assure a child's development of sensory perceptions.

In 1754 he wrote and published "A Treatise on Sensations" in which he concluded that all of the senses are of equal value in obtaining knowledge of the world... that with one sense alone the understanding has as many faculties as with the five senses joined together! The other senses did not add any thing that was qualitatively new to the properties of the mind... they added in degree only and not in kind, to the sensations and ideas produced by a single impression... Thus they simply enlarged the sphere of its understanding. Impressions from the different sense organs were bleneded together by a kind of mechanical mixing which depended on experience, but the resultant sensation and its corresponding idea differed in degree only and not in kind from the sensation and idea produced by a single impression.

"His 'thought experiment': man is a statue equipped with only one of the five senses. With the sense of smell, the sensation of smell would generate ideas of smell. The persistence of the ideas of smell would consitute memory and the combination of those ideas would form knowledge.

Condillac's principles of the new education summarized: Development of the individual according to his own nature and the inculcation of knowledge required for socialization.

The problem par excellence of the new education was as follows: instead of focusing on methods of teaching and the subject matter, focus on the person. The child has a right to develop to maturity. Knowledge is secondary. The aim of instruction is to give the child a means of acquiring knowledge which will serve later in life. Teach the child how to think in order to acquire the wisdom needed to adapt to changing circumstances. These same ideas are expressed by all those subscribing to school reform.

FOLLOWERS OF CONDILLAC Followers of Condillac included his disciple Itard and Itard's companion Etienne Seguin (born 1812), a student of Seguin - Maria Montessori and her contemporary Ovide Decroly. Condillac's disciple Itard was a doctor for the deaf. He studied an abnormal child found in the woods. l80l wrote "Education d'un Homme Sauvage" ... l838 died in Paris. His studies showed that language and social context are necessary for the complete development of a child's intelligent socialization and intellectual faculties. Seguin studied the education of idiots and backward children. He settled in New York in l863 and died there in l880.