Quesnay’s Liberty and Rationality

The thought of Quesnay and Physiocrats is ambivalent: on the one hand, it promotes free trade, on the other it develops a political doctrine based on despotism. Would there be a discontinuity of physiocratic thought where the economy is the only space of freedom? For Quesnay, liberty is not absence of constraints; it is an opportunity for calculation and the expression of rationality. It analyzes the origins of this concept through Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibniz and Locke. The relation between liberty and natural right is analyzed to understand the coherence of physiocratic thought. Thus we understand better the link between liberty and order.

The Moral Theory of Condillac: A Path toward Utilitarianism

Contrary to those of his brother, Mably, Condillac’s thoughts on morality are not considered to be among his most successful undertakings. Right from the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment until the present day, none of the great scholars who studied or continue to study his philosophical works have paid much attention to the author’s thoughts on this matter. It took two recent PhD theses to question this point. However, these two studies of Condillac’s ideas on morality diverge somewhat. The first focuses mainly on his Essai sur l’origine des connaissances humaines (1746) and concludes that Condillac had a specific ethical morality. The second interpretation, which bases itself on the role of one’s needs and one’s “estimation of pleasure and pain,” tries to fit Condillac’s notion of morality into a more utilitarian perspective. Clearly based on this last perspective, the first objective of this article is to present how the principles of human association (the “state of nature” and the “contract”) and morality are linked in Condillac’s works and how both result from man’s need for self-preservation. We shall then see how Condillac proposes a true “moral calculation” which leads individuals to act in a virtuous manner, their sole objective being to satisfy their self-interest. We will conclude by situating this moral theory halfway between Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui’s conceptions and those of the French utilitarians of the second half of the 18th century, bearing in mind that Condillac’s ideas, when compared with the ideas of natural law theorists, constitute a step forward toward a consequentialist moral theory.