The Eighteenth-Century Enlightenment and France’s New Grandes Écoles
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In this chapter, we present the European Enlightenment and the late French eighteenth century, centralized in the city of Paris, as a specific moment in the history of thought. Ideas were no longer merely speculative: they aimed at transforming the world. It is this “bursting forth” of mathematics and the technical Encyclopaedists who wrote on how to operate in the real world. Nicolas de Condorcet, as a mathematician, is one of these individuals, and his work is that of continental pragmatism. As an influential politician during the French Revolution, he transformed pure ideas into concrete pedagogical projects. We describe the conception of a new school for the purpose of training teachers (the École normale supérieure), another to deploy civil works and engineering projects (the École polytechnique) and finally, a school to document, valourize and diffuse the arts of industry (the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers).