Front Page Titles (by Subject) FIRST EPOCH. Men united into Hordes. - Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind
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FIRST EPOCH. Men united into Hordes. - Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind 
Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind, being a posthumous work of the late M. de Condorcet. (Translated from the French.) (Philadelphia, 1796).
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We have no direct information by which to ascertain what has preceded the state of which we are now to speak; and it is only by examining the intellectual or moral faculties, and the physical constitution of man, that we are enabled to conjecture by what means he arrived at this first degree of civilization.
Accordingly an investigation of those physical qualities favourable to the first formation of society, together with a summary analysis of the developement of our intellectual or moral faculties, must serve as an introduction to this epoch.
A society consisting of a family appears to be natural to man. Formed at first by the want which children have of their parents, and by the affection of the mother, as well as that of the father, though less general and less lively, time was allowed, by the long continuance of this want, for the birth and growth of a sentiment which must have excited the desire of perpetuating the union. The continuance of the want was also sufficient for the advantages of the union to be felt. A family placed upon a soil that afforded an easy subsistence, might afterwards have multiplied and become a horde.
Hordes that may have owed their origin to the union of several distinct families, must have been formed more slowly and more rarely, the union depending on motives less urgent and the concurrence of a greater number of circumstances.
The art of fabricating arms, of preparing aliments, of procuring the utensils requisite for this preparation, of preserving these aliments as a provision against the seasons in which it was impossible to procure a fresh supply of them—these arts, confined to the most simple wants, were the first fruits of a continued union, and the first features that distinguished human society from the society observable in many species of beasts.
In some of these hordes, the women cultivate round the huts plants which serve for food and supersede the necessity of hunting and fishing. In others, formed in places where the earth spontaneously offers vegetable nutriment, a part of the time of the savage is occupied by the care of seeking and gathering it. In hordes of the last description, where the advantage of remaining united is less felt, civilization has been observed very little to exceed that of a society consisting of a single family. Meanwhile there has been found in all the use of an articulate language.
More frequent and more durable connections with the same individuals, a similarity of interests, the succour mutually given, whether in their common hunting or against an enemy, must have equally produced both the sentiment of justice and a reciprocal affection between the members of the society. In a short time this affection would transform itself into attachment to the society.
The necessary consequence was a violent enmity, and a desire of vengeance not to be extinguished, against the enemies of the horde.
The want of a chief, in order to act in common, and thereby defend themselves the better, and procure with greater ease a more certain and more abundant subsistence, introduced the first idea of public authority into these societies. In circumstances in which the whole horde was interested, respecting which a common resolution must be taken, all those concerned in executing the resolution were to be consulted. The weakness of the females, which exempted them from the distant chace and from war, the usual subjects of debate, excluded them alike from these consultations. As the resolutions demanded experience, none were admitted but such as were supposed to possess it. The quarrels that arose in a society disturbed its harmony, and were calculated to destroy it: it was natural to agree that the decision of them should be referred to those whose age and personal qualities inspired the greatest confidence. Such was the origin of the first political institutions.
The formation of a language must have preceded these institutions. The idea of expressing objects by conventional signs appears to be above the degree of intelligence attained in this stage of civilization; and it is probable they were only brought into use by length of time, by degrees, and in a manner in some sort imperceptible.
The invention of the bow was the work of a single man of genius; the formation of a language that of the whole society. These two kinds of progress belong equally to the human species. The one, more rapid, is the result of those new combinations which men favoured by nature are capable of forming; is the fruit of their meditations and the energies they display: the other, more slow, arises from the reflections and observations that offer themselves to all men, and from the habits contracted in their common course of life.
Regular movements adjusted to each other in due proportion, are capable of being executed with a less degree of fatigue; and they who see, or hear them, perceive their order and relation with greater facility. For both these reasons, they form a source of pleasure. Thus the origin of the dance, of music and of poetry, may be traced to the infant state of society. They were employed for the amusemeut of youth and upon occasions of public festivals. There were at that period love songs and war songs; and even musical instruments were invented. Neither was the art of eloquence absolutely unknown in these hordes; at least they could assume in their set speeches a more grave and solemn tone, and were not strangers to rhetorical exaggeration.
The errors that distinguish this epoch of civilization are the conversion of vengeance and cruelty towards an enemy into virtue; the prejudice that consigns the female part of society to a sort of slavery; the right of commanding in war considered as the prerogative of an individual family; together with the first dawn of various kinds of superstition. Of these it will be necessary to trace the origin and ascertain the motives. For man never adopts without reason any errors, except what his early education have in a manner rendered natural to him: if he embrace any new error, it is either because it is connected with those of his infancy, or because his opinions, passions, interests, or other circumstances, dispose him to embrace it.
The only sciences known to savage hordes, are a slight and crude idea of astronomy, and the knowledge of certain medicinal plants employed in the cure of wounds and diseases; and even these are already corrupted by a mixture of superstition.
Meanwhile there is presented to us in this epoch one fact of importance in the history of the human mind. We can here perceive the beginnings of an institution, that in its progress has been attended with opposite effects, accelerating the advancement of knowledge, at the same time that it disseminated error; enriching the sciences with new truths, but precipitating the people into ignorance and religious servitude, and obliging them to purchase a few transient benefits at the price of a long and shameful tyranny.
I mean the formation of a class of men the depositaries of the elements of the sciences or processes of the arts, of the mysteries or ceremonies of religion, of the practices of superstition, and frequently even of the secrets of legislation and polity. I mean that separation of the human race into two portions; the one destined to teach, the other to believe; the one proudly concealing what it vainly boasts of knowing, the other receiving with respect whatever its teachers condescend to reveal: the one wishing to raise itself above reason, the other humbly renouncing reason, and debasing itself below humanity, by acknowledging in its fellow men prerogatives superior to their common nature.
This distinction, of which, at the close of the eighteenth century, we still see the remains in our priests, is observable in the least civilized tribes of savages, who have already their quacks and sorcerers. It is too general, and too constantly meets the eye in all the stages of civilization, not to have a foundation in nature itself: and we shall accordingly find in the state of the human faculties at this early period of society, the cause of the credulity of the first dupes, and of the rude cunning of the first impostors.