Abstract

This essay investigates the interconnection between two essential aspects of Condorcet's thought: his feminism and support for women's suffrage, and his vision of a new social science based on probability theory and statistics. In his works in applied mathematics, Condorcet outlined some of the fundamental principles of statistical studies. He was convinced that such studies would show gender differences in intellectual capacity to be insignificant or simply the result of education and socialization. He therefore concluded that there were no grounds for denying women their natural right to vote. Logically, he also defended women's equal right to public education: women were to be full citizens of the republic, which Condorcet conceived of as a community of rational agents engaged in a collective search for truth. I conclude by emphasizing the deep affinity between Condorcet's research in probability and statistics, and his theory of individual rights: both rest on a subtle dialectic of identity and difference in their approach to the critical notion of individuality.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 347-362
Launched on MUSE
2009-03-29
Open Access
No
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