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Institut national des Sciences et Arts



Founded on 25 October 1795 by order of the National Convention to replace the abolished Ancien Régime academies, the new Institut national was inaugurated under the Directory on 4 April 1796. The second of the three classes of the Institute, that for Moral and Political Sciences ("Classe des Sciences morales et politiques") enshrined the new field of social science at the heart of Enlightenment culture.

This Class was seen by its founders as necessary for stabilizing Revolutionary turmoil, and many of its most vocal thinkers (known as 'Idéologues' after the royalists' derogatory term for students of a science of ideas) shared an ambitious vision of social science leading to social harmony. As the physician, Pierre-Jean-Georges Cabanis, asserted during an early session of the class, "Only habits of reason can render [the republican government] stable and peaceful… The stronger temper given to its citizens demands of them a greater dose of common sense, so that their passions do not always tend to replace public utility".

Members not appointed directly by the Directory were sponsored by the military and diplomatic elite, as well as leading members of the Auteuil Circle, such as Sieyes, Garat, Cabanis, Ginguené and Roederer. Other members were added, or restored, after its reorganization in 1803.

For more on its background and mission, see Martin S. Staum, 'Minerva's Message. Stabilizing the French Revolution' (1996, McGill)