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Etienne Condillac

Etienne Bonnot de Mably de Condillac, 1714-1780, French philosopher.

Condillac, an associate of Rousseau and Diderot, was elected to the French Academy in 1768. His works -- including the Essai sur l'origine des connaissances humaines (1746), Traité des systèmes (1749), and the Traité des sensations (1754) -- gave Locke's theories on the tabula rasa of the brain, in which all knowledge is derived from the senses, a biological basis. His work is in this respect similar to Hartley's.

In the Traité, Condillac begins by observing that "We do not know how to recall the ignorance in which we were born; it is a state which leaves no traces after it." In order to understand the processes by which the sense leave impressions on the subject, he imagines a marble statue with the potential to receive sensations, beginning with smell and proceeding through the other four senses. His consideration of the relationship between memory and sensation allowed him to do away with Locke's faculty of reflection.