Frases Denis Diderot

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„He does not confound it with probability; he takes for true what is true, for false what is false, for doubtful what is doubtful, and probable what is only probable. He does more, and here you have a great perfection of the philosopher: when he has no reason by which to judge, he knows how to live in suspension of judgment…
The philosophical spirit is, then, a spirit of observation and exactness, which relates everything to true principles…“

—  Denis Diderot
Context: Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian. Grace causes the Christian to act, reason the philosopher. Other men are carried away by their passions, their actions not being preceded by reflection: these are the men who walk in darkness. On the other hand, the philosopher, even in his passions, acts only after reflection; he walks in the dark, but by a torch. The philosopher forms his principles from an infinity of particular observations. Most people adopt principles without thinking of the observations that have produced them, they believe the maxims exist, so to speak, by themselves. But the philosopher takes maxims from their source; he examines their origin; he knows their proper value, and he makes use of them only in so far as they suit him. Truth is not for the philosopher a mistress who corrupts his imagination and whom he believes to be found everywhere; he contents himself with being able to unravel it where he can perceive it. He does not confound it with probability; he takes for true what is true, for false what is false, for doubtful what is doubtful, and probable what is only probable. He does more, and here you have a great perfection of the philosopher: when he has no reason by which to judge, he knows how to live in suspension of judgment... The philosophical spirit is, then, a spirit of observation and exactness, which relates everything to true principles... Article on Philosophy, Vol. 25, p. 667, as quoted in Main Currents of Western Thought : Readings in Western European Intellectual History from the Middle Ages to the Present (1978) by Franklin Le Van Baumer Variant translation: Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian. Grace moves the Christian to act, reason moves the philosopher. Other men walk in darkness; the philosopher, who has the same passions, acts only after reflection; he walks through the night, but it is preceded by a torch. The philosopher forms his principles on an infinity of particular observations. … He does not confuse truth with plausibility; he takes for truth what is true, for forgery what is false, for doubtful what is doubtful, and probable what is probable. … The philosophical spirit is thus a spirit of observation and accuracy.

„There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge available to us: observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation.“

—  Denis Diderot
Context: There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge available to us: observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination. Our observation of nature must be diligent, our reflection profound, and our experiments exact. We rarely see these three means combined; and for this reason, creative geniuses are not common. No. 15

„Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control.“

—  Denis Diderot
Context: As for our celebrated lawgivers, who have cast us in our present awkward mold, you may be sure that they have acted to serve their interests and not ours. Witness all our political, civil, and religious institutions — examine them thoroughly: unless I am very much mistaken, you will see how, through the ages, the human race has been broken to the halter that a handful of rascals were itching to impose. Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control. "Supplement to Bougainville's Voyage" (1796) Variant translation: Never allow yourselves to forget that it is for their own sakes and not for yours that all those wise lawgivers have forced you into your present unnatural and rigid molds. And as evidence of this, I need only produce all our political, civil, and religious institutions. Examine them thoroughly, and either I am very much mistaken or you will find that mankind has been forced to bow, century after century, beneath a mere handful of scoundrels has conspired, in ever age, to impose upon it. Beware of the man who wants to set things in order. Setting things in order always involves acquiring mastery over others — by tying them hand and foot. As translated by Derek Coleman, in Diderot's Selected Writings (1966)

„Time, matter, space — all, it may be, are no more than a point.“

—  Denis Diderot
Context: What is this world? A complex whole, subject to endless revolutions. All these revolutions show a continual tendency to destruction; a swift succession of beings who follow one another, press forward, and vanish; a fleeting symmetry; the order of a moment. I reproached you just now with estimating the perfection of things by your own capacity; and I might accuse you here of measuring its duration by the length of your own days. You judge of the continuous existence of the world, as an ephemeral insect might judge of yours. The world is eternal for you, as you are eternal to the being that lives but for one instant. Yet the insect is the more reasonable of the two. For what a prodigious succession of ephemeral generations attests your eternity! What an immeasurable tradition! Yet shall we all pass away, without the possibility of assigning either the real extension that we filled in space, or the precise time that we shall have endured. Time, matter, space — all, it may be, are no more than a point. Dying words of Nicholas Saunderson as portrayed in Lettre sur les aveugles [Letter on the Blind] (1749) Variant translation: What is this world of ours? A complex entity subject to sudden changes which all indicate a tendency to destruction; a swift succession of beings which follow one another, assert themselves and disappear; a fleeting symmetry; a momentary order.

„In any country where talent and virtue produce no advancement, money will be the national god. Its inhabitants will either have to possess money or make others believe that they do. Wealth will be the highest virtue, poverty the greatest vice.“

—  Denis Diderot
Context: In any country where talent and virtue produce no advancement, money will be the national god. Its inhabitants will either have to possess money or make others believe that they do. Wealth will be the highest virtue, poverty the greatest vice. Those who have money will display it in every imaginable way. If their ostentation does not exceed their fortune, all will be well. But if their ostentation does exceed their fortune they will ruin themselves. In such a country, the greatest fortunes will vanish in the twinkling of an eye. Those who don't have money will ruin themselves with vain efforts to conceal their poverty. That is one kind of affluence: the outward sign of wealth for a small number, the mask of poverty for the majority, and a source of corruption for all.

„How old the world is! I walk between two eternities…“

—  Denis Diderot
Context: How old the world is! I walk between two eternities... What is my fleeting existence in comparison with that decaying rock, that valley digging its channel ever deeper, that forest that is tottering and those great masses above my head about to fall? I see the marble of tombs crumbling into dust; and yet I don’t want to die! Salon of 1767 (1798), Oeuvres esthétiques <!-- p. 644 -->

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