We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Habits of mind : a brand new Condillac.

Dunham, J. (2019) 'Habits of mind : a brand new Condillac.', Journal of modern philosophy., 1 (1). p. 1.


Is there anything in the mind that was not first in the senses? According to the received view, the French empiricist Étienne Bonnot de Condillac’s (1714–1780) answer to this was a firm “No”. Unlike Locke, who accepted the existence of innate faculties, Condillac rejected the existence of all innate structure and instinctive behaviours. Everything, therefore, is learned. In this article, I argue that from at least the writing of his 1754 Traité des sensations, this reading fails to capture the true nature of his philosophy of mind. I present a genetic reading of Condillac’s philosophy that shows that from the 1750s until his death in 1780, he developed, by engaging closely with the life sciences of his day, an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the mind and perception. This understanding depends on the acceptance of the activity of the mind, innate structure, and a moderate defence of instincts—all characteristics of the mind that he is most commonly read as rejecting. Reading Condillac in this genetic way demonstrates that his philosophy of mind is much more original and powerful than has previously been recognised.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + NonCommercial 4.0 License (CC-BY-NC 4.0), which permits unrestricted use and distribution provided the original author and source are credited and if changes are made, they are indicated. You may not use the material for commercial purposes without the author’s permission.
Date accepted:13 November 2018
Date deposited:13 November 2018
Date of first online publication:28 January 2019
Date first made open access:No date available

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar