Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECOND EPOCH. Pastoral State of Mankind.—Transition from that to the Agricultural State. - Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind
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SECOND EPOCH. Pastoral State of Mankind.—Transition from that to the Agricultural State. - 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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The idea of preserving certain animals taken in hunting, must readily have occurred, when their docility rendered the preservation of them a task of no difficulty, when the soil round the habitations of the hunters afforded these animals an ample subsistence, when the family possessed a greater quantity of them than it could for the present consume, and at the same time might have reason to apprehend the being exposed to want, from the ill success of the next chace, or the intemperature of the seasons.
From keeping these animals as a simple supply against a time of need, it was observed that they might be made to multiply, and thus furnish a more durable provision. Their milk afforded a farther resource: and those fruits of a flock, which, at first, were regarded only as a supplement to the produce of the chace, became the most certain, most abundant and least painful means of subsistence. Accordingly the chace ceased to be considered as the principal of these resources, and soon as any resource at all; it was pursued only as a pleasure, or as a necessary precaution for keeping beasts of prey from the flocks, which, become more numerous, could no longer find round the habitations of their keepers a sufficient nourishment.
A more sedentary and less fatiguing life afforded leisure favourable to the development of the mind. Secure of subsistence, no longer anxious respecting their first and indispensable wants, men sought, in the means of providing for those wants, new sensations.
The arts made some progress: new light was acquired respecting that of maintaining domestic animals, of favouring their reproduction, and even of improving their breed.
Wool was used for apparel, and cloth substituted in the place of skins.
Family societies became more urbane, without being less intimate. As the flocks of each could not multiply in the same proportion, a difference of wealth was established. Then was suggested the idea of one man sharing the produce of his flocks with another who had no flocks, and who was to devote his time and strength to the care they require. Then it was found that the labour of a young and able individual was of more value than the expence of his bare subsistence; and the custom was introduced of retaining prisoners of war as slaves, instead of putting them to death.
Hospitality, which is practised also among savages, assumes in the pastoral state a more decided and important character, even among those wandering hordes that dwell in their waggons or in tents. More frequent occasions occur for the reciprocal exercise of this act of humanity between man and man, between one people and another. It becomes a social duty, and is subjected to laws.
As some families possessed not only a sure subsistence, but a constant superfluity, while others were destitute of the necessaries of life, natural compassion for the sufferings of the latter gave birth to the sentiment and practice of beneficence.
Manners of course must have softened. The slavery of women became less severe, and the wives of the rich were no longer condemned to fatiguing labours.
A greater variety of articles employed in satisfying the different wants, a greater number of instruments to prepare these wants, and a greater inequality in their distribution, gave energy to exchange, and converted it into actual commerce: it was impossible it should extend without the necessity of a common measure and a species of money being felt.
Hordes became more numerous. At the same time, in order the more easily to maintain their flocks, they placed habitations, when fixed, more apart from each other; or changed them into movable encampments, as soon as they had discovered the use of certain species of animals they had tamed, in drawing or carrying burthens.
Each nation had its chief for the conduct of war; but being divided into tribes, from the necessity of securing pasturage, each tribe had also its chief. This superiority was attached almost universally to certain families. The heads however of families in possession of numerous flocks, a multitude of slaves, and who employed in their service a great number of poor, partook of the authority of the chiefs of the tribe, as these also shared in that of the chiefs of the nation; at least when, from the respect due to age, to experience, and the exploits they had performed, they were conceived to be worthy of it. And it is at this epoch of society that we must place the origin of slavery, and inequality of political rights between men arived at the age of maturity.
The consuls of the chiefs of the family or tribe decided, from ideas of natural justice or of established usage, the numerous and intricate disputes that already prevailed. The tradition of these decisions, by confirming and perpetuating the usage, soon formed a kind of jurisprudence more regular and coherent than the progress of society had rendered in other respects necessary. The idea of property and its rights had acquired greater extent and precision. The division of inheritances becoming more important, there was a necessity of subjecting it to fixed regulations. The agreements that were entered into being more frequent, were no longer confined to such simple objects; they were to be subjected to forms; and the manner of verifying them, to secure their execution, had also its laws.
The utility of observing the stars, the occupation which in long evenings they afforded to the mind, and the leisure enjoyed by the shepherds, effected a slight degree of improvement in astronomy.
But we observe advancing at the same time the art of deceiving men in order to rob them, and of assuming over their opinions an authority founded upon the hopes and fears of the imagination. More regular forms of worship begin to be established, and systems of faith less coarsely combined. The ideas entertained of supernatural powers, acquire a sort of refinement: and with this refinement we see spring up in one place pontiff princes, in another sacerdotal families or tribes, in a third colleges of priests; a class of individuals uniformly affecting insolent prerogatives, separating themselves from the people, the better to enslave them, and seizing exclusively upon medicine and astronomy, that they may possess every hold upon the mind for subjugating it, and leave no means by which to unmask their hypocrisy, and break in pieces their chains.
Languages were enriched without becoming less figurative or less bold. The images employed were more varied and more pleasing. They were acquired in pastoral life, as well as in the savage life of the forests, from the regular phenomena of nature, as well as from its wildness and eccentricities. Song, poetry, and instruments of music were improved during a leisure that produced an audience more peaceable, and at the same time more difficult to please, and allowed the artist to reflect on his own sentiments, examine his first ideas, and form a selection from them.
It could not have escaped observation that some plants yielded the flocks a better and more abundant subsistence than others. The advantage was accordingly felt of favouring the production of these, of separating them from plants less nutritive, unwholesome, and even dangerous; and the means of effecting this were discovered.
In like manner, where plants, grain, the spontaneous fruits of the earth, contributed with the produce of the flocks to the subsistence of man, it must equally have been observed how those vegetables multiplied; and the care must have followed of collecting them nearer to the habitations; of separating them from useless vegetables, that they might occupy a soil to themselves; of securing them from untamed beasts, from the flocks, and even from the rapacity of other men.
These ideas must have equally occurred, and even sooner, in more fertile countries, where the spontaneous productions of the earth almost sufficed of themselves for the support of men; who now began to devote themselves to agriculture.
In such a country, and under a happy climate, the same space of ground produces, in corn, roots, and fruit, wherewith to maintain a greater number of men than if employed as pasturage. Accordingly, when the nature of the soil rendered not such cultivation too laborious, when the discovery was made of employing therein those same animals used by pastoral tribes for the transport from place to place of themselves and their effects, agriculture became the most plentiful source of subsistence, the first occupation of men; and the human race arrived at the third epoch of its progress.
There are people who have remained, from time immemorial, in one of the two states we have described. They have not only not risen of themselves to any higher degree of improvement, but the connection and commercial intercourse they have had with nations more civilized have failed to produce this effect. Such connections and intercourse have communicated to them some knowledge, some industry, and a great many vices, but have never been able to draw them from their state of mental stagnation.
The principal causes of this phenomenon are to be found in climate; in habit; in the sweets annexed to this state of almost complete independence, an independence not to be equalled but in a society more perfect even than our own; in the natural attachment of man to opinions received from his infancy, and to the customs of his country; in the aversion that ignorance feels to every sort of novelty; in bodily and more especially mental indolence, which suppress the feeble and as yet scarcely existing spark of curiosity; and lastly, in the empire which superstition already exercises over these infant societies. To these causes must be added the avarice, cruelty, corruption and prejudices of polished nations, who appear to these people more powerful, more rich, more informed, more active, but at the same time more vicious, and particularly less happy than themselves. They must frequently indeed have been less struck with the superiority of such nations, than terrified at the multiplicity and extent of their wants, the torments of their avarice, the never ceasing agitations of their ever active, ever insatiable passions. This description of people has by some philosophers been pitied, and by others admired and applauded; these have considered as wisdom and virtue, what the former have called by the names of stupidity and sloth.
The question in debate between them will be resolved in the course of this work. It will there be seen why the progress of the mind has not been at all times accompanied with an equal progress towards happiness and virtue; and how the leaven of prejudices and errors has polluted the good that should flow from knowledge, a good which depends more upon the purity of that knowledge than its extent. Then it will be found that the stormy and arduous transition of a rude society to the state of civilization of an enlightened and free people, implies no degeneration of the human species, but is a necessary crisis in its gradual advance towards absolute perfection. Then it will be found that it is not the increase of knowledge, but its decline, that has produced the vices of polished nations, and that, instead of corrupting, it has in all cases softened, where it has been unable to correct or to change the manners of men.