The problem is that we may know where they are, but not which of the bones down there belonged to the philosopher. During the French revolution the ossuary was vandalized by over-zealous revolutionaries, and the tragic episode of the Paris Commune in saw a repetition of this posthumous violence.
At present the ossuary is closed and it is difficult to know in which state it really is, but it would hardly be appropriate for the body of a convinced materialist if the bones on the sarcophagus bearing his name would in fact be a composite skeleton made up of various denizens of his former place of burial.
Perhaps a DNA analysis would solve this problem, but it would hardly be a straight forward task. In their own day Diderot and his philosophical brothers in arms were revered and reviled in equal measure, much visited and written about.
The salon was not a philosophical school with rigid teachings but an ongoing conversation between scientists and poets, atheists and believers, philosophers and practitioners. It still sold more than a hundred thousand copies during the second half of the eighteenth century.
HOT FREE BOOKS • Diderot and the Encyclopaedists - Volume II. • John Morley • 5
And yet the radical enlighteners have been pushed into the margins of memory and the footnotes of the history of thought. The Enlightenment is, in our common school understanding at least, the history of a cult of reason whose high priests were Immanuel Kant and Voltaire, not the huge intellectual revolution of Diderot and his friends. Robespierre made Rousseau the patron saint of the new state, heaped him with praise and had a bust of him carved from a stone taken from the Bastille.
In the oppressively clerical environment of their day this last point took a good deal of their attention. In sharp polemics they attacked Christianity and religious faith in general, arguing that it was nothing but a primitive fiction designed to keep the poor in their place, a conspiracy of magistrates and priests.
Diderot saw the truest and the highest goal of human nature not in reason, but in lust. This sensualist approach had an important metaphysical consequence: in a world without sin, a world in which no wrathful God has condemned all lust and demands suffering from his creatures on this earth in order to soften the blow of eternal punishment, the goal of life becomes the best possible realization of pleasure, the education of desire in accordance with natural laws.
In a society without transcendental interference, this chance, the chance of the pursuit of happiness, must be given to all. The work is laden with symbolism, the figure in the centre representing truth, surrounded by bright light the central symbol of the Enlightenment. Two other figures on the right, reason and philosophy, are tearing the veil from truth.
These views were anathema to just about everyone who sought to maintain or gain power, from the aristocracy to Revolutionary dictators such as Maximilien de Robespierre and Napoleon, all the way up to the Catholic Restoration that followed. Laissez-faire capitalism allowed a self-proclaimed Christian middle class to profit from the misery of the working poor, at home and in the colonies. They could not argue for their position with Diderot, who became ever more scathing about the justification of power, privilege, slavery, and colonial expansion.
Their thought was evolutionist long before Charles Darwin; they defended the rights of slaves before William Wilberforce and of women before Mary Wollstonecraft. They wanted to see individual fulfillment in a morality built around lust and social justice in a society built on pleasure and free choice, not on pain and oppression. Censorship, condemnations, and the threat of arrest had been a fact of life for Diderot, but he could not anticipate the cruel or unusual punishment that they might suffer after their deaths.
Diderot and the Encyclopædists (Vol 1 of 2)
Two sarcophagi and countless busts and embossed books broadcast their grandeur and unimpeachable probity. The grand narrative of a rationalist Enlightenment that freed humanity from superstition only to subjugate it once again, this time to the dictates of reason and rationalization, suited the interests and self-image of an economy driven by entrepreneurship and fuelled by a cult of efficiency and cheap labor. Our own time dominated by the fiction of the market that needs to be obeyed and placated like an ancient deity and a society optimized for maximum consumption are a direct consequence of the Enlightenment cult of reason without the Diderotian emphasis on empathy.
The existence of a second, more radical Enlightenment tradition is not denied completely, but two centuries of historical bias have done their work, slowly but surely. But while his role in this magnificent mammoth work was important for the eighteenth century, it is Diderot the philosopher who can still speak to us today. His advocacy of a passionate life, of social solidarity and empathy as the foundations of morality, his interest in science as the basis of all knowledge and in art as and Eros as ways of creating meaning have lost nothing of their freshness, or their necessity.
I always like Kurland books but I wish she would change her format a little. I think this would have been an opportunity to keep things in the present. Jun 05, Alex Lee rated it really liked it Shelves: , bio , collections , philosophy. Good introduction to Diderot. You get an idea that he was a first class "man of letters" although there isn't much in the way of writing that he has left behind. The biggest accomplishment, in a way, was the first encyclopedia of knowledge. I don't know too much about literature of this time period, but Morley seems fairly knowledgeable about the time, the struggles and Diderot's influence.
He survived but didn't become wealthy. Was more interested in finding facts about the world, and in that se Good introduction to Diderot.
Was more interested in finding facts about the world, and in that sense, was a scientist more than a philosopher, although science as we know it today didn't exist in the s. I am mostly impressed with Diderot's character, as Morley also admires him.
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Interesting glimpse into the past. Diderot's insistence on calibrating understanding to the level of one's surroundings -- his letter on what it must be like to be deaf or mute was in some ways, a crude but first look at beginning to understand the end of the Classical period. That logic presentation does not take a standard form for everyone, that one's experiences change one's reasoning axoims.
The first stabs at theorization with shifting basis. Mickey rated it it was ok Feb 18, Alex Galton rated it it was amazing Jun 29, Tweeting rated it really liked it Sep 13, Colin Purkey rated it really liked it Dec 17, Thomas J. Hubschman rated it really liked it May 21, Paul Hampson rated it liked it Feb 18, Donald Steiny rated it liked it Feb 08, Ted Salad rated it it was amazing Dec 04, Catherine Yenne rated it really liked it Oct 09, Poly Ethylene rated it really liked it Aug 01, Kimberley marked it as to-read Dec 26, Barclay Blanchard marked it as to-read Apr 10, Ruddy Adames is currently reading it Jul 14, Kelly marked it as to-read Jul 23, Marie Huysman marked it as to-read Dec 25, Cergat added it Apr 06, E marked it as to-read Apr 29, Tgr marked it as to-read Jul 21, Anderson marked it as to-read Aug 22, Christopher Donut marked it as to-read Jul 06, Manmeet Chopra is currently reading it Nov 19, Larry Tosh is currently reading it Jan 29, James Beaudoin marked it as to-read Feb 20, Kelly marked it as to-read Apr 03, Terry Fenton is currently reading it Aug 14, Ilena is currently reading it Oct 30, Richard Orange marked it as to-read Feb 15, Nox Prognatus marked it as to-read Feb 25, David marked it as to-read Apr 08, Jon is currently reading it May 18, Jonathan marked it as to-read Jul 14, Tim Gleason is currently reading it Sep 23, Sofie added it Oct 29, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.