UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Diderot's moral and social thought 1970

You don't seem to have a PDF reader installed, try download the pdf

Item Metadata

Download

Media
UBC_1970_A1 L35.pdf [ 17.47MB ]
Metadata
JSON: 1.0102171.json
JSON-LD: 1.0102171+ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 1.0102171.xml
RDF/JSON: 1.0102171+rdf.json
Turtle: 1.0102171+rdf-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 1.0102171+rdf-ntriples.txt
Citation
1.0102171.ris

Full Text

I DIDEROT'S MORAL AND SOCIAL THOUGHT by DAVID JEFFREY LANG-DON B.A., U n i v e r s i t y of Oxford, 1956 L. es L., U n i v e r s i t y of L i l l e , 1964 M .A., McMaster U n i v e r s i t y , 1965 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY i n the Department of FRENCH We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the r e q u i r e d standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August, 1970 In presenting th i s thes is in pa r t i a l fu l f i lment o f the requirements fo r an advanced degree at the Un ivers i ty of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the L ibrary sha l l make i t f r ee l y ava i l ab le for reference and study. I fur ther agree that permission for extensive copying of th i s thes is for scho la r l y purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by h is representat ives . It is understood that copying or pub l i ca t ion of th i s thes is fo r f i nanc ia l gain sha l l not be allowed without my wr i t ten permiss ion. Department of F r e n c h The Univers i ty of B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada Date August 20, 1970 ABSTRACT This thesis attempts to present a synthesis of the views on moral and s o c i a l questions which .may he found dispersed throughout Diderot's works and correspondence. In the course of the presentation a number of alleged contradictions are either denied or resolved, and i t i s demonstrated that the philosopher's mature doctrine attains a substantial, though not t o t a l , unity. After his early d e i s t i c period, Diderot never departed from a m a t e r i a l i s t i c and deterministic conception of the world and of man. It i s inaccurate to say that on an emotional plane he rejected the determinism of which he was convinced i n t e l l e c t u a l l y . Moreover, between his denial of f r e e - w i l l and his s o c i a l u t i l i t a r i - anism he admits no r e a l incompatibility. In claiming that i n a deterministic world the concepts of vice and virtue are meaningless and i n replacing them by those of maleficence and beneficence, he retains the essential d i s t i n c t i o n between moral good and moral e v i l , but stresses that one must look especially to improvements i n the structure of society to encourage individuals to act i n the general in t e r e s t . Diderot's r a d i c a l c r i t i c i s m of the moral code prevailing i n his own society, especially with regard to sexuality, should he regarded not as advocacy of an anarchism which would run counter to the whole notion of a harmonious society, hut as an appeal f o r a more r a t i o n a l . s o c i a l morality. His thinking, as i t relates to moral conduct i n existing s o c i a l contexts, and his suggestions for possible reform of the moral code are cautious and imply a considerable degree of rela t i v i s m . i i A major spokesman of eighteenth-century l i b e r a l i s m , Diderot protests eloquently against arb i t r a r y government and s o c i a l i n j u s t i c e . He proclaims the p r i n c i p l e of popular sovereignty, though he does not propose either direct or representative majority rule as an ef f e c t i v e p o l i t i c a l solution. D i s i l l u s i o n e d regarding the p o s s i b i l i t y of an absolutism dedicated to the general interest, he increasingly favours c o n s t i t u t i o n a l l y limited monarchy. His v i s i o n of an anarchical, yet harmonious, society i s a purely speculative i d e a l ; for p r a c t i c a l purposes, human imperfection renders government and l e g i s l a t i o n necessary. While fearful, of the immediate consequences of revolution, Diderot nevertheless suggests that i t may well be the only means of i n s t i t u t i n g a p o l i t i c a l structure more favourable i n the long run to general happiness. Although Diderot lays great emphasis on the value of individu- a l i t y , and deplores the pressures which lead to a d u l l uniformity of character, he stops short of condoning the kind of i n d i v i d u a l i t y which must express i t s e l f i n a n t i - s o c i a l acts. His admiration for the grandeur d'ame of certain criminals i n no way implies moral approval of their conduct. Diderot's e t h i c a l thought i s not merely c r i t i c a l . He rejects, extremes of moral r e l a t i v i s m and seeks to base a universal moral . law on the nature of man and of human relations. The moral obligation of the individual to obey this law presents Diderot with a d i f f i c u l t problem. He t r i e s to show that the individual's s e l f - i n t e r e s t , i f correctly understood', must always prompt him i i i t o a c t i n accordance w i t h the g e n e r a l i n t e r e s t . To demonstrate t h i s p r o p o s i t i o n , D i d e r o t i s o b l i g e d t o a p p e a l t o e l u s i v e s u b j e c t i v e f a c t o r s such as remorse. Even so, he i s not t h o r o u g h l y c o n v i n c e d t h a t t h i s d o c t r i n e o f the bond between v i r t u e and p e r s o n a l h a p p i n e s s i s u n i v e r s a l l y v a l i d , f o r i t c o n f l i c t s w i t h h i s r e c o g n i - t i o n o f the g r e a t v a r i a t i o n i n i n d i v i d u a l human n a t u r e . He i s thus t o r n between h i s e m o t i o n a l need t o b e l i e v e a c e r t a i n e t h i c a l d o c t r i n e and i n t e l l e c t u a l doubts r e g a r d i n g i t s v a l i d i t y . Here i s the t r u e c o n f l i c t between head and h e a r t i n D i d e r o t and the o n l y i m p o r t a n t p o i n t upon which h i s e t h i c a l thought f a l l s s h o r t o f complete u n i t y . TABLE OP CONTENTS Page INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER I Diderot and deterministic materialism 15 CHAPTER.II The e t h i c a l consequences of determinism 53 CHAPTER III Man the victim of an unnatural morality 80 CHAPTER IV Government and the governed 113 CHAPTER V Liberty and licence 145 CHAPTER VI The ind i v i d u a l and society 172 CHAPTER VII A universal moral law 218 CHAPTER VIII Diderot's e t h i c a l dilemma 254 CONCLUSION 286 BIBLIOGRAPHY 293 INTRODUCTION Throughout the present century the writings of Diderot have attracted increasing attention from students of l i t e r a t u r e and of the history of ideas. His f i c t i o n a l works have earned him high regard as a l i t e r a r y a r t i s t , while his philosophical ideas have been judged worthy of serious scholarly consideration. His growing reputation as a thinker can no doubt be partly explained by the declining influence of that nineteenth-century school of conservative denigration which saw i n him a threat to established s o c i a l and moral values, but the continuing interest i n his ideas must be mainly attributed to t h e i r i n t r i n s i c value and to the powerful and stimulating forms i n which they f i n d expression. It has often been said that Diderot i s not a systematic thinker. I f this judgment implies that his thought i s chaotic, I would deny i t categorically. I f i t means simply that he does not express his ideas i n c a r e f u l l y constructed and l o g i c a l l y argued t r e a t i s e s , i t i s indisputable. His opinions on most philosophical subjects are to be found scattered throughout his f i c t i o n a l and non-fict i o n a l works, often i n the form of digressions, r e f l e c t i o n s on contemporary events or comments on other men's writings. This lack of systematization i s especially apparent i n his moral and s o c i a l thought, which i s the subject of the present 2 dissertation. My aim w i l l be to examine his various r e f l e c t i o n s on morality and the nature of society — subjects which are inseparable i n his thought — and to present the main l i n e s of his doctrine i n as clear and coherent a manner as possible. P r a c t i c a l considerations have prompted me to l i m i t the scope of my enquiry by excluding, i n p r i n c i p l e , such peripheral questions as the sources of Diderot's thought, i t s relations to that of his contemporaries and i t s a f f i n i t i e s with the views of l a t e r thinkers. I have, i t i s true, often found i t necessary to examine his comments on other writers, since he so frequently defines his own position by his reaction to other men's ideas. Nevertheless, my sole purpose remains throughout to render an accurate account of Diderot's personal views on moral and s o c i a l questions. I have further r e s t r i c t e d the main object of my scrutiny to the doctrine which i s contained i n the mature writings, giving only cursory attention to the early works, i n which Diderot had not yet e n t i r e l y rejected the r e l i g i o u s views which were the legacy of his Christian upbringing and education. In the works he wrote after about 1756, the date of his important l e t t e r to Lahdois concerning determinism and i t s e t h i c a l consequences,-'• ^ See below, pp. 58> 72-78, The precise date at which Diderot's deism gives way to atheism i s d i f f i c u l t to establish with much certainty, since i t i s hard to determine the s i n c e r i t y of his professions of orthodox or d e i s t i c b e l i e f i n the 1740's and 50' s. As I explain i n connection with the a r t i c l e "Droit naturel" (See below, pp. 277-79), I am in c l i n e d to think that he had d e f i n i t i v e l y abandoned deism well before 1756, but I am doubtful whether positive proof of an e a r l i e r date can be furnished. 3 his doctrine (when allowance i s made for prudence i n published works) manifests a coherence and a consistency which seem to me to j u s t i f y treating i t as a single whole. I therefore have considered i t undesirable to complicate the discussion of this u n i f i e d doctrine by laying undue stress on the evolution or fluctuation of Diderot's opinions on certain subjects i n the e a r l i e r period. I have not, however, maintained a superstitiously s t r i c t rule of excluding from consideration everything he wrote before the mid 1750's. While I deny that there i s any marked transformation i n Diderot's general position on moral and s o c i a l questions after that time, I do allow that on points of d e t a i l there i s some evolution, and I examine these cases as they a r i s e . I am also ready to admit that his particular moral and s o c i a l preoccupations were oriented toward dif f e r e n t problems at di f f e r e n t periods i n his l i f e . However, though I would agree that these changes i n emphasis form an interesting part of Diderot's i n t e l l e c t u a l biography, I think such considerations are not essential to an account of his moral and s o c i a l thought as a whole, as long as there i s no incompatibility i n his conclusions on the d i f f e r e n t problems he approaches. In presenting as a cohesive system ideas which i n Diderot's writings appear i n a highly disconnected form, I have t r i e d to avoid a r b i t r a r i l y supplying l o g i c a l connections of my own devising. I have sought instead to u t i l i z e those l i n k s which Diderot himself e x p l i c i t l y provides, or to c l a r i f y those which are 4 i m p l i c i t . Since my primary object i s to elucidate rather than to evaluate the ideas I discuss, I have t r i e d as f a r as possible to prevent my personal e t h i c a l opinions from colouring my approach. Diderot's philosophy has been the subject of a substantial body of c r i t i c a l l i t e r a t u r e . Various inte r e s t i n g studies examine part i c u l a r aspects of his thought or assess the contribution of indi v i d u a l works to the t o t a l picture. B r i e f surveys of his moral and s o c i a l thought are not lacking, i n the form of articles-*- or of chapters i n general studies of his writings. But no single work i n this f i e l d can compare i n scope and thoroughness with Pierre Hermand's Les Idees morales de Diderot, which was written 2 before the F i r s t World War. While I am conscious of my debt to the commentators who have preceded me, my conclusions are based throughout on a personal and, I hope, thorough examination of the writings of Diderot over a period of several years. In general I have not cited the opinions of other scholars i n corroboration of my own analysis, though I do occasionally refer the reader to their 1 See especially Rene Hubert, "La Morale de Diderot," Revue du dix- huitieme s i e c l e , I I , 1914, p p . 328-40, and III, 1916, pp. 29-42; Eugene Meyer, "Diderot moraliste," Revue des cours et conferences, XXVI (Ire Serie), 1925, pp. 375-81, 469-80, 641-49, and XXVI (2e Serie), 1925, pp. 742-60. 2 Paris, 1923 (Reprinted 1969). 5 works for further information on a question which I have decided to treat more succinctly. I have also found i t helpful at times to stress my disagreement with a particular c r i t i c a l view i n order to make my own position clearer. The general tenor of Hermand's approach was to dispel the myth that Diderot 1s moral and s o c i a l thought i s a tissue of contradictions and to demonstrate instead i t s basic coherence. Since the publication of his study, however, many scholars have clung to the opinion that Diderot's thought i s self-contradictory, though they tend to see i n i t not a chaos, but a dichotomy. A notable example of this attitude i s the view that there i s i n Diderot a c o n f l i c t between head and heart with respect to the denial of free-will."^ Between his determinism and his exaltation.of duty and virt u e , there exists, i t i s asserted, a contradiction of which he himself was aware and which caused him great distress.. His determinism, the argument continues, i s an i n t e l l e c t u a l conviction which, on an emotional plane, he refuses to accept; when he considers i t s l o g i c a l consequences for ethics, he i s dismayed; he would l i k e to be able to deny determinism i n t e l l e c t u a l l y , but finds himself unable to do so, and must content 1 Cf. Henri Lefebvre, Diderot. Paris, 1949, p. 284; Georges May, Quatre visages de Denis Diderot, Paris, 1951, pp. 148-49; Lester Crocker, The Embattled Philosopher. London, 1955, pp. 319-20 and 347. 6 h i m s e l f with the c o n c l u s i o n that s p e c u l a t i v e t h e o r i e s may cease to he true when a p p l i e d to r e a l s i t u a t i o n s , i n which one must l i s t e n to the reasons of the h e a r t . For my p a r t , I s h a l l attempt to show th a t , i n f a c t , Diderot faces up to these e t h i c a l consequences of determinism and i s not deeply t r o u b l e d by them. I s h a l l argue t h a t , whereas, f o r p r u d e n t i a l and s t r a t e g i c reasons he o f t e n adopts i n h i s m o r a l i s t i c works a terminology compatible w i t h b e l i e f i n f r e e - w i l l , the e s s e n t i a l moral message of even h i s e x o t e r i c w r i t i n g s remains u n a l t e r e d when i t i s t r a n s l a t e d i n t o terms concordant with h i s a u t h e n t i c views. My i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of D i d e r o t ' s p o s i t i o n on f r e e - w i l l and determinism and on t h e i r e t h i c a l consequences w i l l form the s u b j e c t of my f i r s t two chapters. Another v e r s i o n of the view that D i d e r o t ' s ideas present a dichotomy i s the c o n t e n t i o n that h i s supposed c o n t r a d i c t i o n s r e s u l t from a c o n f l i c t between two d i a m e t r i c a l l y opposed aspects of h i s p e r s o n a l i t y . T y p i c a l of t h i s s c h o o l of thought have been the;' many i n f l u e n t i a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of Le Neveu de Rameau which see the two i n t e r l o c u t o r s l u i and Moi as i n c a r n a t i o n s of divergent tendencies w i t h i n the author h i m s e l f . In Moi we are to see the D i d e r o t who p r i d e s h i m s e l f on h i s v i r t u e , but f o r whom v i r t u e c o n s i s t s i n conformity to the p r e v a i l i n g notions of r e s p e c t a b i l i t y , a man more concerned with h i s p u b l i c r e p u t a t i o n than with the e s s e n t i a l p r i n c i p l e s of e t h i c s , i n s h o r t , something of a h y p o c r i t e . L u i , on the other hand, i s to be regarded as the embodiment of that u n f e t t e r e d bohemianism which might have been D i d e r o t ' s mode i 7 of existence i f he had not succumbed to the temptations of bourgeois r e s p e c t a b i l i t y and the material and psychological security which i t affords; at the same time, we are told, Diderot ascribes to the Nephew the e t h i c a l position to which his own materialism leads him when he follows i t to i t s l o g i c a l conclusion. Thus Lui i s seen as a manifestation of Diderot's authentic s e l f , of an a l t e r ego, amoral but free from hypocrisy, which i s generally suppressed to the subconscious l e v e l , but which emerges i n the characters of his f i c t i o n or i n c u l t u r a l and s o c i a l day- dreams which his bourgeois consciousness rejects as mere paradox.^ I have not thought i t necessary to offer a systematic refutation of such an interpretation of Le Neveu de Rameau. though I s h a l l have occasion to take issue with i t on several s p e c i f i c points. I have, on the other hand, considered i t important to argue at length against the general attitude of which this analysis of the work i s an example, namely that Diderot's supposed psychological duality manifests i t s e l f i n an unresolved c o n f l i c t between two facets of his moral and s o c i a l thought. Even Hermand subscribes i n some measure to this view, speaking 1 I do not claim that the interpretation of Le Neveu de Rameau which I have outlined here can be found i n precisely this form i n any p a r t i c u l a r c r i t i c . It i s to be taken as a composite theory t y p i f y i n g a whole school of thought. It combines elements from such writers as Hegel (La Phenomenologie de 1'Esprit, trans. Jean Hyppolite, Paris, 1939, II, 76-84), Daniel Mornet ("La veritable s i g n i f i c a t i o n du Neveu de Rameau," Revue des Deux Mondes, 1927, pp. 881-908) and, to quote a recent example, James D o o l i t t l e (Rameau's Nephew, a study of Diderot's Second Satire, Geneva, I960). 8 of " l a contrariete qui existe, i r r e d u c t i b l e , nous semble-t-il, entre 1'individualisme de Diderot et une morale qui sera essentiellement sociale.""'" In contrast to this opinion, the whole of the central portion of my study (chapters III-VI) may he considered as an attempt to demonstrate that i n fact Diderot never exalts individualism at the expense of that form of society which he considers to he most conducive to the general happiness of mankind. Thus, i n my t h i r d chapter, I s h a l l study Diderot's views on sexual morality and show that, while he challenges the d e s i r a b i l i t y of most of the r e s t r i c t i o n s which custom and l e g i s - l a t i o n have placed on the expression of sexuality, he i s f a r from condoning, even i n a r a d i c a l l y simplified society, unre- strained individualism i n sexual r e l a t i o n s . Even i n his Tahitian utopia, sexuality i s s t i l l governed by a s o c i a l ethic. Again, i n the fourth and f i f t h chapters, which treat s p e c i f i c a l l y of Diderot's views on the r e l a t i o n between the individual and society and between the individual arid government, I s h a l l point out that even i n his b i t t e r e s t and most r a d i c a l c r i t i c i s m s of the prevailing p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l structure he does not go so far as to cast doubt on the value of s o c i a l bonds per se. Of these two chapters, the f i r s t w i l l be devoted to Diderot's protest against u n j u s t i f i a b l e infringements of personal l i b e r t y by government, while the second w i l l refute the view that 1 0p_. c i t . , p. 116. 9 the profound motivation underlying these c r i t i c i s m s i s a rejec t i o n of that l i m i t a t i o n of individual freedom of action which i s implied by any form of society. With respect to govern- ment, I concede that i t i s for Diderot an unfortunate necessity and that he would l i k e to believe that an anarchical society could maintain i t s e l f i n harmony and happiness. He stresses, however, that such an arrangement i s an ideal which must forever remain i n the realm of speculation. 1 Having dealt, i n my t h i r d to f i f t h chapters, e s s e n t i a l l y with Diderot's plea that no arbitrary r e s t r i c t i o n s be placed on the s a t i s f a c t i o n of needs common to a l l mankind, i n my sixth I s h a l l turn to his defence of the right of each individual to develop his own peculiar p o t e n t i a l i t i e s . Diderot's i l l u s t r a t i o n s of his position generally concern individual p e c u l i a r i t i e s which present no r e a l threat to the welfare of other people. But some 2 c r i t i c s have suggested that he tends toward the view that the right to the free development and expression of i n d i v i d u a l i t y should be granted even to men whose peculiar propensity i s to commit harmful acts. In order to demonstrate the f a l s i t y of t h i s c r i t i c a l opinion, I s h a l l examine Diderot's views on great criminals and his conception of strength of character. I s h a l l 1 See below, pp. 1 5 8 - 6 3 . p E.g. Henri Lefebvre, ojo. c i t . , pp. 208-09, and Charly Guyot, Diderot par lui-meme, Paris, 1953, pp. 74-76. 1 0 endeavour to show that, while he finds aesthetic value i n the consistent development of o r i g i n a l propensities even i n criminal characters, he does not accord moral approval to criminal acts as such, and I s h a l l further argue that there i s no evidence that he claims a right for maleficent individuals to express their o r i g i n a l personality without r e s t r i c t i o n . I s h a l l conclude the chapter by showing that the strength of character which Diderot admires i n certain great criminals pleases him s t i l l more i n the virtuous man. In my l a s t two chapters I s h a l l leave the discussion of Diderot's plea for human l i b e r t y and turn to his views on the nature of moral obligation. In the seventh chapter, I s h a l l deal with his claim that there i s a universal and immutable moral law. On the assumption that the general interest i s the right end for a l l individuals to pursue, Diderot deduces from the positive r e a l i t y of common human nature certain moral principles which are binding on a l l men at a l l times and i n a l l places. This "natural" morality, he claims, i s the standard by which l o c a l and temporary customs and i n s t i t u t i o n s must be judged. It lays down both the inalienable rights of the individual and the l i m i t s which he i s morally obliged to set upon his own conduct. Diderot could conceivably have been content to consider as self-evident the basic assumption that a l l individuals ought to pursue the general good; i n other words, he could have treated the concept of moral obligation as sui generis. He takes the view, however, that moral obligation i s a psychological experience, 11 actual or potential, and therefore feels the need to j u s t i f y his u t i l i t a r i a n p r i n c i p l e by appealing to the hedonistic notion of enlightened s e l f - i n t e r e s t . However great a s a c r i f i c e may be required, virtue i s s t i l l , Diderot attempts to show, the best way to happiness for every i n d i v i d u a l . In my eighth and f i n a l chapter, I s h a l l weigh the s i g n i f i - cance of Diderot's doubts regarding the v a l i d i t y of this r e l a t i o n between virtue and happiness. He has a profound and persistent emotional need to believe that a motivation to obey the "natural" moral law arises from the depths of the individual nature of a l l men. But the evidence of var i a t i o n i n the psychological needs of individuals forces him at times grudgingly to admit that he i s deluding himself. This admission certainly does not mean that he i s tempted to reject the universal moral law; but i f men are not, when enlightened, universally motivated to obey i t , i t s authority seems to him to be d i f f i c u l t to comprehend. This i s not simply an i n t e l l e c t u a l problem for Diderot. He i s emotionally committed to the view that human nature, not only i n a general sense, but i n each ind i v i d u a l , i s b a s i c a l l y good; but he finds i t d i f f i c u l t to maintain this position i n t e l l e c t u a l l y i n the face of positive evidence to the contrary. Here, rather than over the question of f r e e - w i l l and determinism, one may speak of a c o n f l i c t between head and heart i n Diderot. Since Hermand's day, much work has been done to establish a 12 correct text of Diderot's works and correspondence and I have taken f u l l advantage of the most recent editions. For the sake of convenience, however, I r e f e r uniformly to the Oeuvres completes edited by Assezat and Tourneux,except for works not contained therein or works of which a considerably modified 2 text appears i n a more r e l i a b l e edition. For the Correspondence 3 I refer to the edition by Georges Roth. Where I quote from the Oeuvres completes, I occasionally prefer a reading from another edition, i n which case the change and i t s source w i l l be indicated. I am also more fortunate than most of my predecessors with regard to the canon of Diderot's works. Certain long accepted attributions have been rejected. This i s p a r t i c u l a r l y the case with a large number of Encyclopedic a r t i c l e s with which Assezat or Tourneux credited Diderot. We are indebted primarily to Jacques Proust and John lough for c l a r i f y i n g this question.^ I have accepted Lough's view that Diderot's authorship of a considerable number of a r t i c l e s can be s u f f i c i e n t l y established on int e r n a l evidence i n the absence of the e d i t o r i a l asterisk or the testimony of Naigeon. My opinion on the a t t r i b u t i o n of 1 Paris, 1875-77. Designated hereafter by the i n i t i a l s "AT". 2 Thus I have referred, i n the case of the Elements de physiologie. to the edition of Jean Mayer* Paris, 1964. ^ Paris, 1955- . Hereafter referred to as "Roth". ^ Cf. J. Proust, Diderot et l'Encyclopedie, Paris, 1967, pp. 117^ 49 and 532-40, and J. Lough, "The problem of the unsigned a r t i c l e s of the Encyclopedie," Studies on V o l t a i r e and the Eighteenth Century. XXXII, 1965, pp. 327-90. 13 i n d i v i d u a l a r t i c l e s to Diderot generally coincides with that of Lough; the small number of cases where I d i f f e r concern mainly a r t i c l e s which are irrelevant to this thesis and which I have therefore not mentioned."*" A further r e s t r i c t i o n of the canon has resulted from an 2 a r t i c l e by Jean de Booy which reveals that four short works attributed to Diderot by Assezat were i n fact written by Mme 3 d'Epinay. These reductions of the canon have been more than compensated for by the addition of a number of new texts. These include the Lettre apologetique pour l'abbe Raynal.^ the Pages contre un 5 6 tyran. and the Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis. • .Finally, i t has been demonstrated that large portions of Raynal's Histoire des For my views on the authorship of "Liberte (Morale)", see below, p. 23, note 3« p "Inventaire provisoire des contributions de Diderot a. l a Qorrespondance l i t t e r a i r e , " Dix-huitieme s i e c l e , I, 1969, pp. 353-97. 3 The works concerned are Q̂ u'en pensez-vous?, La Marquise de Claye et l e comte de Saint-Albin. Cinqmars et D e r v i l l e and Mon pere et moi, a l l of which appear i n v o l . IV of the Oeuvres completes• ^ F i r s t published by Herbert Dieckmann i n his Inventaire du Fonds Vandeul, Geneva, 1951. I refer to the text presented by Paul Verniere i n Oeuvres philosophiques, Paris, 1961, pp. 621-44. F i r s t published by Franco Venturi, Paris, 1937. I refer to the edition by Verniere i n Oeuvres politiques, Paris, 1963, pp. 127-48. ^ Published by Georges May i n Francois Hemsterhuis, Lettre sur 1'Homme et ses rapports, avec l e commentaire ine d i t de Diderot, New Haven, 1964. 14 deux Indes, and especially of the third edition (1781), came from Diderot's pen.3" It i s to be hoped that we s h a l l not have long to wait for the presently projected edition of Diderot's complete works, and that i t w i l l encourage and f a c i l i t a t e c r i t i c a l discussion and interpretative studies. With regard to Diderot's moral and s o c i a l ideas, I neither hope nor desire to have said the l a s t word, but simply to have c l a r i f i e d a certain number of points by presenting them i n the t o t a l context of his thought on in d i v i d u a l conduct and the nature of society, and perhaps to have gone a l i t t l e further than previous scholars i n bringing out the coherence of his ideas and the dominance and compatibility of the two major facets of his position, namely his desire that the i n d i v i d u a l should be free and that society should e f f e c t i v e l y serve i t s essential purpose of assuring the happiness of i t s members. Gf. Anatole Feugere, "Raynal, Diderot et quelques autres 'Historiens des Deux Indes 1," Revue d'histoire l i t t e r a i r e de l a France. XX, 1913, pp. 343-78; Michele Duchet, " l e Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville et l a collaboration de Diderot a 1'Histoire des Deux Indes," Cahiers de 1'Association Internationale des Etudes Francaises, XIII, 1961, pp. 173-87; Yves Benot, "Diderot, Pechmeja, Raynal et l'anti-colonialisme," Europe, Jan.-Feb., 1963, pp. 137-53- I have made sparing use of Diderot's contributions to the Histoire des Deux Indes, since I think i t prudent to wait u n t i l further research has established with greater certainty which particular passages can be attributed to him.' CHAPTER I DIDEROT AND DETERMINISTIC MATERIALISM No adequate discussion of Diderot's moral ideas can f a i l to take account of the continuity which he postulates between the physical, psychological and moral aspects of human nature. Since he considers human beings to be e n t i r e l y composed of matter and i n no way separate from the general material system, I s h a l l f i r s t b r i e f l y discuss his conception of the physical world, before going on to show how man i s , i n his view, integrated into this scheme of things. Pascal was troubled by Descartes's picture of the material universe because i t made God almost redundant. A l l that was required of the Prime Mover was to give a f i l l i p to set i n motion the system of matter, after which inexorable laws took charge of everything with no further help from God."̂ " Diderot goes a step further than Descartes. He dispenses with God completely, considering that motion i s an essential attribute 2 of matter and that therefore the o r i g i n a l f i l l i p i s not required. Thus Diderot conceives of the material universe as s e l f - s u f f i c i e n t and subject to immutable laws. Thinking i n terms of a corpuscular theory of matter, he expresses as follows his 1 Pensees, i n Oeuvres completes, ed. Jacques Chevalier, Paris, 1954, p. 1137. 2 Cf. Principes philosophiques sur l a matiere et l e mouvement. AT,11, 64-70. 16 idea of the rigorous mechanism governing the ever-changing state of the physical world: S i l a somme peut-etre i n f i n i e de l a multitude peut- etre i n f i n i e des molecules de l a nature nous e t a i t parfaitement connue, i l m'est evident que nous verrions tous les pnenomenes s'executer par des l o i s rigoureusement geometriques . . . .J- It follows that a given conjunction of conditions can he succeeded only by one particular new set of conditions: Je crois que l a forme actuelle sous laquelle l a matiere existe est necessaire et determinee, a i n s i que toutes l e s formes diverses qu'elle prendra successivement a. toute eternite. In p r i n c i p l e , a l l phenomena would be predictable i f we knew completely and with perfect accuracy the conditions obtaining at one pa r t i c u l a r moment. But, i n fact, predictions can never be anything but approximate and probable: On ne peut r i e n prononcer sur l a marche d'un phenomene compris entre une seule cause et un seul ef f e t ; parce q u ' i l ne peut etre que l e resultat d'une i n f i n i t e de causes, et l a cause d'une i n f i n i t e d'effets.^ Associated with this doctrine of determinism i n the physical 1 Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice II, p. 330. 2 Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, ed. G-. May, p. 127. 5 Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice II, p. 330. 17 universe, though perhaps not l o g i c a l l y a part of i t , i s the rejection of finalism. Diderot denies that either the universe as a whole or any part of i t i s what i t i s because of some purpose which i t i s meant to f u l f i l . One of the t r a d i t i o n a l teachings of the Church was that the existence and goodness of God was manifested by the loving care with which He had furnished the world with a multitude of things conducive to the well-being of man. In such a si m p l i s t i c form i t never was a very s o l i d argument, and Diderot i s one of many eighteenth-century free- thinkers who r i d i c u l e i t . In Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e , the master t r i e s to account for the insects which plague Jacques as "une nuee de petits chirurgiens a i l e s qui viennent avec leurs petites lancettes te piquer et te t i r e r du sang goutte a goutte." Jacques re t o r t s : "Oui, mais a tort et a travers, sans savoir s i j 1 en a i trop ou trop peu. Faites venir i c i un etique, et vous verrez s i les petits chirurgiens a i l e s ne l e piqueront pas." Similarly, i n the Salon de 17.67, i n his discussion with the abbe on the question of Providence, Diderot uses the p a r t i c l e of g r i t which has lodged i t s e l f i n the abbe's eye as a p r a c t i c a l example to refute the opinion that nature has been arranged with a view to the well-being of man. In fact, says Diderot, the world i n which we l i v e i s partly favourable and partly unfavourable to us: Nous sommes dans l a nature; nous y sommes tantot bien, tantot mal; et croyez que ceux qui louent l a 1 A T , VI, 263. 18 nature d'avoir au printemps tapisse l a terre de vert, couleur amie de nos yeux, sont des impertinents qui oublient que cette nature, dont i l s veulent retrouver en tout et partout l a bienfaisance, etend en hiver, sur nos campagnes, une grande couverture blanche qui blesse nos yeux, nous f a i t tournoyer l a tete, et nous expose a. mourir glaces. La nature est bonne et b e l l e , quand e l l e nous favorise; e l l e est l a i d e et mechante, quand e l l e nous a f f l i g e . 1 Besides, i f nature were not, on balance, s u f f i c i e n t l y conducive to our continued existence, we would simply cease to exist: Ge bel ordre qui vous enchante dans l'univers ne peut etre autre q u ' i l est. Vous n'en connaissez qu'un, et c'est c e l u i que vous habitez; vous l e trouvez alternativement beau ou l a i d , selon que vous coexistez avec l u i d'une maniere agreable ou penible. II serait tout autre, q u ' i l serait egalement beau ou l a i d pour ceux qui coexisteraient d'une maniere agreable ou penible avec l u i . Un habitant de Saturne, transports sur l a terre, s e n t i r a i t ses poumons dechires, et p e r i r a i t en maudissant l a nature. Un habitant de l a terre, transports dans Saturne, se s e n t i r a i t etouffe, suffoque, et p e r i r a i t en maudissant l a nature . . . . Not only does Diderot deny that anything i n the universe possesses a f i n a l i t y related to man's purposes, he also asserts that neither the universe nor any of i t s parts has any purpose at a l l , and that therefore the terms good and e v i l cannot be applied to things i n themselves: C'est q u ' i l n'y a n i bien n i mal absolu dans l e tout; c'est que supposer dans l e tout un melange de bonnes efecfe mauvaises l o i s , pour en deduire l e bien et l e mal des individus, c'est une absurdite. Le bien et l e mal ne peut se dire non plus de l'univers que 1 Salon de 1767. AT, X I , 109. 2 Ibid., p. 104. 19 d'une machine p a r t i c u l i e r e oix i l y aurait une partie qui en f a t i g u e r a i t une autre. Since we cannot predicate good or e v i l of the -universe as a whole, i t follows that the transformations to which i t i s subject cannot be said to constitute improvements or deteriorations: . . . l'ordre general change sans cesse. Les vices et vertus de l'ordre precedent ont amene l'ordre qui est, et dont les vices et les vertus ameneront l'ordre qui sui t , sans qu'on puisse dire que l e tout s1amende ou se deteriore. S'amender, se deteriorer sont des termes r e l a t i f s aux individus d'une espece entre eux, et aux differentes especes entre e l l e s . The passages concerning the order of the universe which I have quoted so far evoke a completely impersonal mechanistic system and seem to exclude the p o s s i b i l i t y of an emotional response to i t on the part of man. Yet some commentators have spoken of pantheism as one of the tendencies of Diderot's thought.^ The text which lends most support to such a view i s Le Reve de d'Alembert. But Verniere i s probably right i n Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice II, p. 329. "Individus" has i n thi s text the technical philosophical sense of "individual e n t i t i e s " ; i t does not refer to human beings. Cf. also the Encyclopedie a r t i c l e "Laideur, AT, XV, 410. p Ibid., p. 209. A similar passage occurs i n Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, ed. May. p. 503. It should be noted that i n these two passages the terms "vertus" and "vices" should not be taken as r e f e r r i n g to human morality i n particular, but rather to harmonious and discordant features i n the universe, or perhaps to what human beings consider to be favorable or ho s t i l e to themselves. Again the "individuals" and "species" mentioned are not necessarily l i v i n g beings. ^ Cf., for example, D. Mornet, Diderot, 1'homme et 1'oeuvre, Paris, Boivin, 1941, pp. 47-48. 20 remarking that Diderot's "acceptation i n t e l l e c t u e l l e du pantheisme et son image baroque de 1'immense araignee etreignant l'univers ne sont que jeux d'esprit.""*" It i s true that one finds at times i n Diderot, i f not a t r u l y r e l i g i o u s or mystical f e e l i n g towards the impersonal mechanism which for him constitutes the universe, at least a certain awe, and a sense of man's insign i f i c a n c e . "Pardonnons a l a nature qui est aveugle," he writes, "et qui a f a i t l a partie pour l e tout, et non l e tout 2 pour une des parties." But despite the s u p e r f i c i a l l y r e l i g i o u s tone of such passages, a careful analysis of the ideas they contain brings us back to Diderot's usual view of the -universe 3 as void of any di r e c t i n g purpose. Such r e f l e c t i o n s on the deterministic universe probably reveal the influence of Spinoza.^ But, whereas modern commentators recognize i n Spinoza's pantheism a t r u l y r e l i g i o u s attitude, Diderot, l i k e the philosophes i n general, considers i t to be a disguise for atheism and values i t as such. He i s t y p i c a l of ^ Spinoza et l a pensee frangaise avant l a Revolution, Paris, 1954, I I , 599. Verniere refers to AT, II, 142-43. 2 Roth, IX, 179 (Undated fragment). Cf. also Moi's reference to the wisdom of Nature, i n Le Neyeu de Rameau, AT, V, 397, which I s h a l l discuss i n chapter VI (see below, pp. 191-92). 3 For further examples of a s u p e r f i c i a l r e l i g i o s i t y serving as a v e i l for materialism, see the Encyclopedie a r t i c l e s "Harmonie", AT, XV, 76, and "Imparfait", AT, XV, 185. ^ P. Verniere, Spinoza et l a pensee frangaise, I I , 607-08, demonstrates that this influence was direct as well as from intermediary sources. 21 his age i n that his metaphysical thought i s merely a prelude to his thought on man. It serves, l i k e that of Lucretius, to r i d the heavens of menacing presences, and to weaken the power of their earthly representatives. For Diderot, what r e a l l y matters i s man. What, then, i s man i n the midst of t h i s rigorously determined universe? Rejecting the notion of the s p i r i t u a l human soul, to which Cartesian dualism attributed a mysterious independence from the body and an even more mysterious capacity for con t r o l l i n g i t , Diderot asserts that man i s composed of only one substance, matter. Man's consciousness i s an awareness, on the part of the matter of which he i s formed, of i t s own actual state. This awareness does not distinguish man es s e n t i a l l y from other material beings, for s e n s i b i l i t y (by which Diderot seems to mean s e l f - awareness, and not simply responsiveness to stimuli) i s an inherent quality of a l l matter. Even inanimate matter possesses an " i n e r t " s e n s i b i l i t y , which becomes "active" i n l i v i n g beings."1" What distinguishes sentient beings i s that i n them awareness i s not momentary, but continuous. This i s the res u l t of memory, 1 Cf. Entretien entre d'Alembert et Diderot, AT, II, 106. This d i s t i n c t i o n between " i n e r t " and "active" s e n s i b i l i t y raises d i f f i c u l t problems both with regard to Diderot's exact meaning and to the v a l i d i t y of his views on this point. For further discussion, see, for example, Emile C a l l o t , La philosophie de l a vie au XVIIIe s i e c l e , Paris, 1965, pp. 280-87. 22 which Diderot considers to he a physical process."** As for thinking beings, Diderot suggests that the particular type and degree of self-awareness which they possess are attributable to the s pecial function of the brain, which acts as a unitary 2 receiving-point for information from the senses. Against the dual i s t s ' view that the s p i r i t u a l soul i s capable of governing the actions of the body by the operation of a faculty called the w i l l , Diderot denies that the w i l l , whatever i t i s , can operate without a cause. Thus he objects to Hemsterhuis's constant use of the term " v e l l e i t e " on the grounds that this term "semble supposer en moi un acte sans cause, ce 3 que je ne saurais admettre." There can be no causeless act i n man because man i s a part of nature and must obey i t s laws: La volonte est l ' e f f e t d'une cause qui l a meut et l a determine; un acte de volonte sans cause est une chimere. Rien ne se f a i t par saut dans l a nature; tout y est l i e . L'animal, l'homme, tout etre est soumis a cette l o i generale.4 The following argument, attributed to Jacques, demonstrates i n more precise terms the impossibility of f r e e - w i l l : Quelle que s o i t l a somme des elements dont je suis compose, je suis un; or, une cause n'a qu'un 1 Cf. Entretien entre d'Alembert et Diderot. AT, II, 112. 2 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, I I , 318, 319-20, et passim. 3 Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, ed. May, p. 65. ^ Elements de physiologie. ed. Mayer, p. 262. 23 e f f e t ; j ' a i toujours ete une cause une; je n'ai done jamais eu qu'un effet a. produire; ma duree n'est done qu'une suite d'effets necessaires.l Similarly, i n Le Reve de d'Alembert, Bordeu speaks as follows: Est-ce qu'on veut, de soi? La volonte nait toujours de quelque motif i n t e r i e u r ou exterieur, de quelque impression presente, de quelque reminiscence du passe, de quelque passion, de quelque projet dans l'avenir. Apres cela je ne vous d i r a i de l a l i b e r t e qu'un mot, c^est que l a derniere de nos actions est 1'effet necessaire d'une cause une: nous, tres compliquee, mais une.^ In the a r t i c l e "Liberte," Diderot declares that "ce que nous sommes dans 1'instant qui va suivre depend s i necessairement de ce que nous sommes dans 1'instant present, q u ' i l est metaphysiquement impossible que nous soyons autres," and offers Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e . AT, VI, 180. 2 AT, II, 175- 1. G. Crocker defends f r e e - w i l l against Bordeu- Diderot as follows: "Actually, a l l he [Bordeu] has done i s to stipulate a motive for every action. But ' f r e e - w i l l ' , or freedom of the s e l f , does not mean that our acts have no causes, or that our desires are free. Freedom, i f i t exists, l i e s i n the conscious control we have over the passage of impulse into action. The strongest motive we must obey. It i s not determined, however, by a mechanical competition for nerve paths, but selected by the Self, by an operation of the mind, by our own decision. The mind i s capable of creating or being i t s own cause." (The Embattled Philosopher, p. 331*) But Crocker f a i l s to indicate how a decision of the "Self" or the "mind" (by which he presumably means an immaterial entity) can cause effects i n the human body, without the matter of which the body i s composed ceasing to obey the laws which govern physical phenomena i n general. His position i s much the same as that of Descartes, and equally untenable. 5 AT. XV, 481. The a r t i c l e "Liberte (Morale)" i s included i n the Oeuvres completes and was therefore accepted as Diderot's by many c r i t i c s u n t i l the findings of Jacques Proust and John Lough were published. (See above, p. 12.) It was assumed that motives of prudence explained any discrepancies between the views expressed i n the a r t i c l e and Diderot's known opinions on the f r e e - w i l l question. Paul Verniere, i n his discussion of "Liberte" 24 the following graphic i l l u s t r a t i o n : Supposons une femme qui soit entrainee par sa passion i n Spinoza et l a pensee francaise. I I , 589-91, does not question the a t t r i b u t i o n of the a r t i c l e to Diderot. However, once the pr i n c i p l e s of a t t r i b u t i o n on which Assezat and Tourneux based the i r c o l l e c t i o n of a r t i c l e s had been shown to be unreliable, i t became abundantly evident that "Liberte" contained passages which could not possibly have been written by Diderot. Proust remarks that " i l n'y a aucune raison de l ' a t t r i b u e r a Diderot." (Diderot et 1 1 Encyclopedic, p. 311, note 72.) Proust refuses to attribute d e f i n i t e l y to Diderot any a r t i c l e which does not bear the editor's asterisk, unless his authorship i s vouched for by Waigeon or confirmed by some other external evidence. Lough considers such caution to be excessive and i s w i l l i n g to attribute numerous a r t i c l e s to Diderot on internal evidence. However, he s t i l l r ejects "Liberte." For my part, I consider that certain portions of the a r t i c l e were i n fact written by Diderot. A large proportion of the text consists of a confrontation of arguments i n favour of f r e e - w i l l and others supporting determinism, the former pre- sented as the opinion of the author, the l a t t e r as anticipated objections which he must refute. However, the deterministic arguments sometimes bear a strong resemblance, i n phraseology as well as i n thought, to texts d e f i n i t e l y attributable to Diderot. I suggest that the a r t i c l e i n i t s present form i s the result of collaboration between Diderot and another writer who favoured f r e e - w i l l . (This may perhaps have been the abbe Yvon. See Proust, op_. c i t . , p. 158, note 178.) The basic text seems to have been submitted to Diderot, who interpolated objections which the other writer then answered. In favour of t h i s hypothesis, i t should be noted that, whereas we read, on p. 480: "On peut reduire tous l e s arguments dont Spinoza et ses sectateurs se sont servis pour soutenir cette absurde hypothese a. ces deux . . . ," we are given, after two b r i e f l y summarized Spinozistic arguments, lengthy t h i r d and fourth arguments, which judging.by both style and content, I consider to have been written by Diderot. (From p. 481: "En troisieme l i e u , ' i l s ajoutent . . . " to p. 484: ". . • d'une nature differente de c e l l e des poids.") The f i r s t two Spinozistic arguments are answered systematically (pp. 484-85), but Diderot's interpolation i s not. The writer of the a r t i c l e continues instead by. defending f r e e - w i l l on the basis of the subjective conviction of l i b e r t y . He then introduces a further objection to f r e e - w i l l with the sentence: "Un des plus beaux esprits de notre s i e c l e a voulu essayer jusqu'a quel point on pouvait soutenir un paradoxe." (P. 487.) The reference, I think, i s to Diderot. The defender of f r e e - w i l l has scarcely 25 a. se j e t e r t o u t a. l ' h e u r e e n t r e l e s b r a s de son amant; s i nous imaginons cent m i l l e femines entierement semblables a. l a pr e m i e r e , d'age, de temperament, d ' e d u c a t i o n , d 1 o r g a n i s a t i o n , d ' i d e e s , t e l l e s , en un mot, q u ' i l n'y a i t aucune d i f f e r e n c e a s s i g n a b l e e n t r e e l l e s e t l a pr e m i e r e : on l e s v o i t egalement soumises a. l a p a s s i o n dominante, e t p r e c i p i t e e s e n t r e l e s br a s de l e u r s amants, sans qu'on p u i s s e c o n c e v o i r aucune r a i s o n pour l a q u e l l e l ' u n e ne f e r a i t pas ce que t o u t e s l e s a u t r e s feront.-*- D i d e r o t , then, d e n i e s the freedom o f the w i l l . He does n o t , however, deny the e x i s t e n c e o f the w i l l . I f he d i d so, he would f i n d i t hard t o g i v e an e f f e c t i v e answer t o the argument, t o 2 w h i c h Rousseau, f o r example, a p p e a l s , t h a t we have an i n n e r begun t o r e p l y t o the "paradoxe", when he i s i n t e r r u p t e d by a s e r i e s o f o b j e c t i o n s ? (P. 489: "Mais, 1 dans ce systeme . . . " t o p. 491: " . . . s u r l e s d i s p o s i t i o n s m a t e r i e l l e s . " ) These o b j e c t i o n s a r e the n answered by the orthodox w r i t e r (pp. 491-97). The a r t i c l e t a k e s on the a s p e c t of a v e r i t a b l e d i a l o g u e . There i s no evidence o f any i n t e r p o l a t i o n or i n t e r v e n t i o n on D i d e r o t ' s p a r t i n the remainder of the a r t i c l e . My c o n c l u s i o n i s t h a t , w h i l e the b u l k o f t h e a r t i c l e cannot be a t t r i b u t e d t o D i d e r o t , it..:Lcontains s e v e r a l passages which can w i t h c o n f i d e n c e be r e s t o r e d t o him. H i s c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the a r t i c l e seems not t o have c o n s i s t e d s i m p l y of i n t e r p o l a t i o n s i n a ma n u s c r i p t s u b m i t t e d t o him; t h e r e must have been d i s c u s s i o n between the w r i t e r of the b a s i c t e x t and h i m s e l f . A l l passages from " L i b e r t e " quoted i n t h i s t h e s i s a r e t a k e n , u n l e s s o t h e r w i s e s t a t e d , from p a r t s of the a r t i c l e which I c o n s i d e r t o have been w r i t t e n by D i d e r o t . 1 " L i b e r t e " , AT, XV, 481. The a r t i c l e " M a c h i n a l " , AT, XVI, 34, which Lough a c c e p t s as D i d e r o t ' s work, c o n t a i n s a v e r y s i m i l a r passage, as A s s e z a t a l r e a d y n o t e s . p Cf. the f o l l o w i n g passage from La N o u v e l l e H e l o i s e : "J'entends beaucoup r a i s o n n e r c o n t r e l a l i b e r t e de l'homme, e t j e meprise tous ces sophismes; parce qu'un r a i s o n n e u r a beau me prouver que j e ne s u i s pas l i b r e , l e sentiment i n t e r i e u r , p l u s f o r t que tous ses arguments l e s dement sans c e s s e , et quelque p a r t i que j e prenne dans quelque d e l i b e r a t i o n que ce s o i t , j e sens p a r f a i t e m e n t q u ' i l ne t i e n t qu'a. moi de prendre l e p a r t i c o n t r a i r e . Toutes ces s u b t i l i t e s de l ' e c o l e s o n t v a i n e s precisement parce q u ' e l l e s prouvent t r o p , q u ' e l l e s combattent t o u t a u s s i b i e n l a v e r i t e que 26 awareness of the freedom of our w i l l . Diderot admits that we have an awareness of the exercise of our w i l l , hut denies that we have an awareness of i t s freedom. He contends that the word " w i l l " refers to our consciousness of the motives which prompt us to perform an action: II parait a c e l u i qui examinera les actions humaines de pres, que toute l a difference des volontaires et des involontaires consiste a avoir ete, ou a. n'avoir pas ete r e f l e c h i e s . Je marche, et sous mes pieds i l se rencontre des insectes que j'ecrase involontairement. Je marche, et je vois un serpent endormi, je l u i appuie mon talon sur l a tete, et je 1'ecrase volontairement. However, our awareness of the motives which prompt us to perform an action does not mean that these motives are within our control, i n the sense that we can choose either to have them or not to have them. The a r t i c l e continues: Ma r e f l e x i o n est l a seule chose qui distingue ces deux mouvements, et ma reflexion, consideree relativement a. tous les instants de ma duree, et a. ce que je suis dans l e moment ou j'agis, est absolument independante de moi. In "Libert^" Diderot writes: II n'y a de difference entre l'homme automate qui l e mensonge, et que so i t que l a l i b e r t e existe ou non, e l l e s peuvent ser v i r egalement a prouver qu'elle n'existe pas. A entendre ces gens-la, Dieu meme ne ser a i t pas l i h r e , et ce mot de l i b e r t e n'aurait aucun sens." (Ed. Mornet, Paris, 1925, IV, 246-47.) 1 Art. "Involontaire", A T , XV, 242. p Loc. c i t . There i s a trace here of the attitude which I s h a l l term "pseudo-scientific fatalism". (See below, pp.31-32.) In re- jecting unmotivated acts of reflexion, Diderot finds himself separating the s e l f from i t s a c t i v i t i e s . But I think that this i s only a verbal s l i p , as he so consistently rejects any kind of dualism. 27 agit dans l e sommeil et l'homme i n t e l l i g e n t qui agit et qui v e i l l e , sinon que 11entendement est plus present a. l a chose; quand a. l a necessite, e l l e est l a meme. . . . L'homme n'est done pas d i f f e r e n t d'un automate? Nullement dif f e r e n t d'un automate qui sent; c'est une machine plus composee.J- The motivation which leads us to perform a voluntary act consists of a desire or an aversion, or, where there are several c o n f l i c t i n g desires and aversions, of the f i n a l impulse which results from 2 t h e i r combination. The w i l l , says Bordeu i n Le Reve de 3 d'Alembert, i s " l a derniere impulsion du desir et de 1'aversion." Partisans of f r e e - w i l l may perhaps object that our desires and aversions are created, at l e a s t sometimes and i n part, by our w i l l . But Diderot w i l l have none of t h i s : Pretendre q u ' i l y a dans l'ame une a c t i v i t e qui l u i est propre, c'est dire une chose i n i n t e l l i g i b l e , et qui ne resout r i e n . Car i l faudra toujours une cause independante de l'ame qui determine cette , a c t i v i t e a. une chose plutot qu'a. une autre . . . . People claim, he remarks, "que l e desir nait de l a volonte; c'est l e contraire; c'est du desir que nait l a volonte. Le 5 desir est f i l s de 1' organisation . . . . 1 1 The deterministic mechanism governing the operation of the w i l l i s often described by Diderot i n psychological terms. We -""AT, XV, 482. 2 Cf. "Liberte", AT, XV, 482, where the analogy of the balance i s used, as also i n the l e t t e r to Landois (see below, p. 7 3 ) . 3 AT, I I , 175. 4 Art. "Liberte", AT, XV, 481. Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, p. 265. 28 have already noted Bordeu's claim that acts of w i l l always arise "de quelque motif i n t e r i e u r ou exterieur, de quelque impression presente, de quelque reminiscence du passe, de quelque passion, de quelque pro jet dans 1' avenir."""" This i s the sort of language we use when we describe the contents of our consciousness, which we know i n t u i t i v e l y ; i t i s not the objective language of pure materialism. Again, i n the following passage from the Elements de physiologie, the determinism to which human beings are subject i s expressed i n terms of the psychological analysis elaborated by Locke and Condillac: Toutes les pensees naissent l e s unes des autres; cela me semble: evident. Les operations i n t e l l e c t u e l l e s sont egalement enchainees. La perception nait de l a sensation, de l a perception l a r e f l e x i o n , l a meditation, l e jugement. II n'y a r i e n de l i b r e dans l e s operations i n t e l l e c t u e l l e s , n i dans l a sensation, n i dans l a perception ou l a vue des rapports des sensations entre e l l e s , n i dans l a re f l e x i o n ou l a meditation ou l 1 a t t e n t i o n plus ou moins forte a ces rapports, n i dans l e jugement ou 1 1 acquiescement a ce qui parait vrai.2 In the Refutation d'Helvetius Diderot remarks that man i s subject to a double determinism, psychological and physical: Dans l'homme qui r e f l e c h i t , enchainement necessaire d'idees; dans l'homme attache a t e l l e ou t e l l e profession, enchainement necessaire de t e l l e s ou t e l l e s idees. Dans l'homme qui agit, enchainement d'incidents dont l e plus i n s i g n i f i a n t est aussi 1 AT, II, 175. p Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, pp. 59-60. 29 contraint que l e lever du s o l e i l . Double necessite propre a. l ' i n d i v i d u , destinee ourdie depuis l ' o r i g i n e des temps jusqu'au moment ou je suis . . . . Tout s'est f a i t en nous parce que nous sommes nous, -toujours nous, et pas une minute les memes. But, whereas Helvetius i s led astray by taking too l i t e r a l l y the Lockean metaphor of the tabula rasa and gives a s i m p l i s t i c pseudo-materialistic version of human motivation, Diderot never forgets that the only r e a l causes are physical ones, that true materialism speaks i n terms of the brain, not the mind, and of causes rather than motives. True, when he wishes to refute Helvetius's reduction of a l l higher motives to crudely hedonistic ones, he distinguishes between physical pleasures and those of the "entendement", or "understanding"; but he s t i l l believes that, for a l l the v a l i d i t y and usefulness of this d i s t i n c t i o n , the "entendement" i t s e l f i s , i n the f i n a l analysis, only the subjective awareness of highly complicated modifications of the brain, from which i t has no independence. In other words, consciousness i s for Diderot an epiphenomenon. He e x p l i c i t l y affirms that man's w i l l and understanding are physical and are subject to the same r i g i d laws as the rest of the material universe: La volonte n'est pas moins mecanique que 1'entendement. . La v o l i t i o n precede 1 'action des fibres musculaires. Mais l a v o l i t i o n suit l a sensation; ce sont deux fonctions du cerveau; e l l e s sont corporelles. It i s to this i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the subjective world of the human mind with the objective world of matter that Diderot refers when 1 AT, II, 373. 2 Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, p. 262. 30 he says of Jacques that " l a d i s t i n c t i o n d'un monde physique et d'un monde moral [ i . e . a psychological world] l u i semblait vide de sens." In short, man i s part of the material world and conforms to the same basic laws which govern the movements of a l l matter. In man, matter i s endowed with awareness of i t s e l f , but possesses no special faculty whereby i t might suspend the operation of the laws of nature and thus free i t s e l f from i t s subjection to these laws. As I pointed out i n my Introduction,^ many c r i t i c s have claimed that such a view of man i s i n contradiction with Diderot's position as a moralist and that he was b i t t e r l y aware of thi s dilemma, f e e l i n g himself torn bbetween his i n t e l l e c t u a l convic- tions and the promptings of his heart. I w i l l attempt i n my next chapter to show that, i n fact, he regarded his deterministic materialism as compatible with a personal commitment to benefi- cence and did not think himself i l l o g i c a l i n exhorting others to make a similar "choice". The remainder of the present chapter w i l l be devoted to showing that Diderot does not think that his conception of determinism entails the b e l i e f that the human 1 Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e . AT, V I , 180. p See above,pp. 5-6. 31 in d i v i d u a l i s merely a passive witness of his own destiny. The f r a g i l i t y of many of the arguments advanced by the c r i t i c s to whom I have referred above w i l l become apparent. It w i l l f a c i l i t a t e our discussion to distinguish three d i f f e r e n t , though related, doctrines or attitudes regarding the degree of autonomy attributable to man, a l l of which play a part, of greater or lesser importance, i n Diderot's thought. I s h a l l designate these, admittedly i n a rather personal and arbitrary fashion, by the following terms: 1) s c i e n t i f i c determinism; 2) mythological fatalism; 3) pseudo-scientific fatalism. By " s c i e n t i f i c determinism" I mean the theory, which I have already examined i n Diderot's writings, that the human individual i s part of the material universe and therefore subject to the same immutable laws which govern a l l matter. By "mythological fatalism" I mean the b e l i e f that, although we have the p o s s i b i l i t y of choosing to act i n diff e r e n t ways, the l i n e of conduct we adopt cannot aff e c t the r e a l l y important events i n our l i f e , since these are pre-ordained. Innumerable versions of this b e l i e f may be found i n l i t e r a t u r e and i n popular superstition even i n the most;"advanced" contemporary s o c i e t i e s . This type of fatalism, which Shakespeare expresses i n the words "There's a D i v i n i t y which shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we w i l l , " derives no support from a s c i e n t i f i c view of the world; indeed, i t i s d i f f i c u l t to reconcile the two. 'I s h a l l use the term "pseudo- s c i e n t i f i c fatalism" to refer to the doctrine which sees the 32 human ind i v i d u a l as the passive witness both of the events which take place i n the physical universe (including his own body) and of the succession of his own thoughts. This view d i f f e r s from s c i e n t i f i c determinism i n that i t implies a kind of dualism: the s e l f i s thought of as separate from the body and even from the mind. In s c i e n t i f i c determinism, on the other hand, the s e l f i s i d e n t i f i e d with the body and with the epiphenomenal mind. It i s not free from the general chain of events, being a part of i t , but neither i s i t en t i r e l y passive, since, l i k e every other part of the universe i t possesses i t s own o r i g i n a l dynamism and thus contributes i t s share to the development of the whole. Let us f i r s t consider the role of mythological fatalism i n Diderot's thought. We fin d t h i s attitude i n several texts i n which Diderot complains that human beings are the playthings of destiny. He writes, for example, to Mademoiselle Jodin: . . . nous sommes tous sous l a main du destin qui nous promene a son gre, qui vous a deja. bien ballottee, et qui n'a pas l ' a i r de vous accorder s i t o t l e repos. Vous etes malheureusement un etre energique, turbulent, et 1'on n<j! s a i t jamais oxi est l a sepulture de ces etres - l a . Diderot advises the young lady to take the di r e c t i o n of her l i f e ""* Roth, IX, 25 (Feb. 10, 1769). It i s perhaps surprising that Diderot should claim that the energetic soul i s less master of i t s fate than the placid soul. Probably "energetic" has here a somewhat diff e r e n t connotation from when Diderot extols the "energy" of the ames fortes. (See below, pp. 19*+-200.) The l a t t e r are, presumably', less the playthings of forces exterior to them- selves. But i n the case under discussion, Diderot probably refers rather to capriciousness and to a tendency to violent and rapid changes; i n other words, the adjectives "energique" and "turbulent" are here synonymous. 33 s e r i o u s l y i n hand, so as t o b r i n g as much of i t as p o s s i b l e under the c o n t r o l o f her w i l l : S i vous etes sage, vous l a i s s e r e z au s o r t l e moins de l i s i e r e s que vous p o u r r e z ; vous songerez de bonne heure a v i v r e comme vous v o u d r i e z a v o i r vecu. A q u o i s e r v e n t t o u t e s l e s l e c o n s s e v e r e s que vous avez r e c u e s , s i vous n'en p r o f i t e z pas? Vous e t e s s i peu m a i t r e s s e de vous-meme; e n t r e t o u t e s l e s m a r i o n n e t t e s de l a P r o v i d e n c e , vous e t e s une de c e l l e s dont e l l e secoue l e f i l d ' a r c h a l q u i l ' a c c r o c h e , d'une maniere s i b i z a r r e que j e ne vous c r o i r a i jamais qu'ou vous e t e s , e t vous n 1 e t e s pas a. P a r i s , et vous n'y s e r e z p e u t - e t r e pas s i t o t . D i d e r o t never attempts t o e x p r e s s t h i s s o r t of f a t a l i s m w i t h l o g i c a l r i g o u r . We may assume t h a t i t i s s i m p l y a s t r i k i n g way o f e x p r e s s i n g the c o n v i c t i o n t h a t the i m p o r t a n t events and t u r n i n g - p o i n t s i n our l i v e s a r e o f t e n the r e s u l t o f c i r c u m s t a n c e s q u i t e o u t s i d e our c o n t r o l , o r o f d e c i s i o n s which we o u r s e l v e s make, but w i t h i n s u f f i c i e n t c o n s i d e r a t i o n o f t h e i r probable consequences. Pew people would c l a i m t h a t our e x p e r i e n c e i s w h o l l y the r e s u l t of the e x e r c i s e o f our w i l l ; most would admit t h a t i t i s the r e s u l t o f an i n t e r a c t i o n between events which a r i s e from the e x e r c i s e of our w i l l and events which occur i n d e p e n d e n t l y o f i t . D o u b t l e s s the p r o p o r t i o n v a r i e s from person t o p e r s o n , p a r t l y because of p e r s o n a l i t y d i f f e r e n c e s and p a r t l y because of pure chance. D i d e r o t urges us t o i n c r e a s e our c o n t r o l over the course o f our l i v e s by the e x e r c i s e o f our r e a s o n . R o t h , IX, 26. The use o f the r e l i g i o u s term " P r o v i d e n c e " need not d e c e i v e us; D i d e r o t means " d e s t i n y " . 34 What I have called pseudo-scientific fatalism i s harder to distinguish from the form of determinism which Diderot actually accepted, for the two doctrines have many points i n common. Thus Jacques's fatalism consists of a mixture of pri n c i p l e s which Diderot accepts and of conclusions which he derides. When Jacques, after Spinoza, expounds universal determinism and denies f r e e - w i l l , he i s Diderot's mouthpiece. But Diderot shows that when Jacques deduces from th i s that i t i s useless to exercise prudence, he entangles himself i n ridiculous contradictions. Jacques believes that since a l l things are pre-ordained, prudence can be of no a v a i l , since, no matter what precautions one takes, one cannot a l t e r the inevitable course of events. This paradox leads to absurd p r a c t i c a l r e s u l t s , as the following episode i l l u s t r a t e s . Spending the night at an inn, Jacques and his master encounter a band of dangerous brigands. Before setting off again i n the morning, Jacques takes the precaution of locking the rogues i n the i r room, so as to gain time i n the event of being pursued by them. Nevertheless, he refuses to go faster than a walk, "toujours d'apres son systeme."""" His "system" t e l l s him that human reason i s incapable of knowing what fate has decreed, so that, by galloping, he and his master might run into some quite unforeseen danger. His captain, he explains, . . . croyait que l a prudence est une supposition, dans laquelle 1'experience nous autorise a regarder les circonstances ou. nous nous trouvons comme causes 1 AT, VI, 18. 35 de certains effets a esperer ou a. craindre pour l'avenir. . . . Mais, d i s a i t - i l , qui peut se f l a t t e r d'avoir assez d'experience? Celui qui s'est f l a t t e d'en etre l e mieux pourvu, n ' a - t - i l jamais ete dupe? Et puis, y a - t - i l un homme capable d'apprecier juste les circonstances ou i l se trouve? Le c a l c u l qui se f a i t dans nos tetes, et c e l u i qui est arrete sur l e reg i s t r e d'en haut, sont deux calculs bien d i f f e r e n t s . Est-ce nous qui menons l e destin, ou bien est-ce l e destin qui nous mene? Combien de projets sagement concertes ont manque, et combien manqueront! Combien ^ de projets insenses ont reussi, et combien reussironti Now Diderot was certa i n l y acutely conscious of the uncer- tainty of our destinies, i n spite of a l l the care and forethought by which we attempt to direc t them. But the p r a c t i c a l conclusion he draws from this fact i s quite di f f e r e n t from Jacques's views on prudence. In the Conclusion to the Elements de physiologie, he likens l i f e to a gambling-house. There i s no certitude; one must act, must take decisions, without knowing for sure whether the results w i l l be good or bad: "Je ne saurai qu'a l a f i n ce 2 que j'aurai perdu ou gagne dans ce vaste t r i p o t . . . ." Here Diderot does not conclude that prudence i s pointless, but simply laments that a l l our prudence can never give us a s o l i d assurance that we are acting i n the way which w i l l produce the best r e s u l t s . AT, VI, 20. p Ed. Mayer, p. 307. The sentence immediately preceding this quotation, namely, "Le monde est l a maison du plus f o r t , " or, as AT has i t , ". . . du f o r t , " (IX, 428) does not seem to be l o g i c a l l y connected with the context i n which i t i s placed. Diderot i s not concerned here with how the strong push the weak to the wall, nor with the struggle i n which men must engage against nature, but with the uncertainty of a l l human a f f a i r s , which presumably applies to the strong as well as the weak. The emendation sug- gested by Pierre Hermand (Les Idees morales de Diderot, p. 293), i . e . "Le monde est l a maison du sort," f i t s f a r better, since i t leads naturally to the image of the gambling-house. 36 In another text he makes more e x p l i c i t the p r a c t i c a l conclusion which he draws. Referring to the estimation of p r o b a b i l i t i e s , he writes: C 1 est e l l e qui indique l e p a r t i l e plus sHr ou l e moins incertain, et qui console lorsque ' evenement ne repond pas a une attente bien fondee. He continues with a remark which i s closely related i n thought to the passage from the Elements de physiologic which I have just quoted. "Toute notre v i e , " he says, "n'est qu'un jeu de hasard; 2 tachons d'avoir l a chance pour nous." We should exercise a l l the prudence and foresight of which we are capable, and from the e t h i c a l point of view this i s a l l that can be asked of us. Thus to Catherine II he writes: Mais a. 1'impossible nul n'est tenu. On a tout f a i t , lorsqu'on a cherche, trouve et mis en oeuvre l e s meilleurs moyens que l a prudence humaine pouvait i n s p i r e r , prudence qui ne s'etend n i a l a violence n i aux hasards qui sont receles dans l a \:po i t r i n e obscure du destin et qui sont au-dessus de nous. It seems reasonable, then, to take Jacques's view of the p r a c t i c a l conclusions to be drawn from determinism with regard to the exercise of prudence as an amusing paradox and not as Diderot's own soberly held opinions. """ Plan d'une universite pour l e gouvernement de Russie, AT, III, 456. Cf. also Roth, XII, 39 T^o the comtesse de Porbach; c i r c a 1772). 2 Plan d'une universite, l o c . c i t . Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, Paris, 1966, p. 128. 37 Another o f Jacques's f a l s e o p i n i o n s c o n c e r n i n g d e t e r m i n i s m i s t h a t such a system l o g i c a l l y i m p l i e s t h a t one s h o u l d r e s i g n o n e s e l f t o e v e n t s . T h i s appears t o have been a c o n c l u s i o n which D i d e r o t h i m s e l f a t times c o n s i d e r e d v a l i d . I n the l e t t e r t o L a n d o i s , f o r example, he expounds a c e r t a i n p h i l o s o p h y o f r e s i g - n a t i o n , n o t o n l y t o the c a l a m i t i e s which the f o r c e s o f i n a n i m a t e n a t u r e cause, but a l s o t o the harm done t o us by our fellow-men. Determinism, he c l a i m s , l e a d s t o "une s o r t e de p h i l o s o p h i e p l e i n e de com m i s e r a t i o n , q u i a t t a c h e fortement aux bons, q u i n ' i r r i t e non p l u s c o n t r e l e mechant que c o n t r e un ouragan q u i nous r e m p l i t l e s yeux de p o u s s i e r e . , , J " Commiseration can be re g a r d e d as a h u m a n i t a r i a n consequence o f d e t e r m i n i s m , and attachment t o good people as a u t i l i t a r i a n consequence; I s h a l l c o n s i d e r t h e s e q u e s t i o n s i n the f o l l o w i n g c h a p t e r . But the r e s t o f the passage i s concerned w i t h q u i t e a d i f f e r e n t a t t i t u d e , namely an e m o t i o n a l acceptance of the i n e v i t a b l e course o f e v e n t s . Presumably D i d e r o t does not mean t h a t we s h o u l d r e f r a i n from showing anger toward the wi c k e d man, s i n c e , as we s h a l l see, he t h i n k s t h a t anger i s u s e f u l i n d e t e r r i n g the l a t t e r ' s e n t e r p r i s e s ; presumably he means t h a t we s h o u l d t r y not t o f e e l anger beyond the i n s t i n c t i v e momentary r e a c t i o n which we cannot c o n t r o l , and t h a t t h e r e i s no p o i n t i n h a r b o u r i n g resentment a g a i n s t w i c k e d men. 1 R o t h , I , 214 (June 29, 1756). 38 Resignation to the inevitable course of events cer t a i n l y has a great attractiveness for Diderot. He quotes approvingly the ancient Stoic prayer: "0 Destin, conduis-moi ou tu voudras, je suis pret a te suivre; car tu ne m'en conduirais et je ne t'en suivrais pas moins, quand je ne l e voudrais pas.""*" He considers such resignation to be the mark of wisdom. It i s doubtful, however, whether this theme ever became an integrated part of his philosophy, since he makes no attempt to show that i t has any l o g i c a l l y v a l i d connection with determinism. Indeed, he would have found this very d i f f i c u l t . We may assume that the Stoics did not mean that one should make no ef f o r t s to conduct one's own l i f e i n the way one desires (since such eff o r t s are included i n the pre-ordained order of events), but rather that when one has made a l l possible efforts to direct one's l i f e , one should adopt an attitude of resignation to the actual outcome. But t h i s i s a wise policy whether one believes i n determinism or not. Whether a man i s able to adopt i t depends on his character. Diderot says that he himself can manage i t at times and feels much better for i t , but that he cannot achieve i t consistently. He remarks i n a l e t t e r to Sophie Volland: Hier je d i s a i s avec Damilaville que, quand j'etais las de v o i r a l l e r les'choses contre mon gre, i l me prenait des bouffees de resignation. Alors l a douleur des hypocondres se defend; l a b i l e accumulee coule doucement; l e sort ne me l a i s s e r a i t pas une chemise au dos, que peut-etre j'en plaisanterais. Je concois 1 Roth, V, 207 (To Falconet; Dec. 4, 1765). 39 q u ' i l y a des hommes assez heureusement nes pour etre par temperament et constamment ce que je suis seulement par i n t e r v a l l e , de refle x i o n , et par secousses.1 In another l e t t e r , he remarks that business worries and a l i v e r complaint have resulted i n a serious bout of melancholia: Je n'y connais qu'un remede, qui malheureusement n'est pas f a i t pour moi; ce serait une parfaite indifference sur les choses de l a vie, f a i r e tout pour l e mieux et n'en pas perdre un moment de repos n i un coup de dent, lorsque tout va mal. Mais, ma f o i , je ne saurais; je m'afflige comme un sot, et mon mal empire. This personal experience i s humorously transposed i n a passage i n Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e which i l l u s t r a t e s the f u t i l i t y of maintaining that resignation follows l o g i c a l l y from the cosmic order, when i n fact i t depends on one's character. Jacques would l i k e to be completely i n d i f f e r e n t to the ups and downs of l i f e , but, try as he may, he s t i l l feels pleasure and g r i e f . The annoying thing i s that, whereas he i s unshakeably ;•;steadfast on certain perilous occasions, at other times a mere t r i f l e can upset him. He has given up the attempt, he says: . . . j ' a i p r i s l e p a r t i d'etre comme je suis; et j ' a i vu, en y pensant un peu, que cela revenait presque au meme, en ajoutant: Qu'importe comme on soit? C'est une autre resignation plus f a c i l e et plus commode.^ This sort of resignation i s scarcely resignation at a l l , since i t has no effect on one's mental state. 1 Roth, III, 245-46 (Nov. 9 and 10, 1760). 2 Roth, XII, 88 (To Francois Tronchin; July 17, 1772). 3 AT, VI, 87. 40 Jacques has his own-version of the Stoic prayer: Toi qui as f a i t l e grand rouleau, quel que tu sois, et dont l e doigt a trace toute l ' e c r i t u r e qui est la-haut, tu as su de tous l e s temps ce q u ' i l me f a l l a i t ; que ta volonte s o i t f a i t e . Amen. This prompts his master to enquire: "Est-ce que tu ne fe r a i s pas aussi bien de te ta i r e ? " Here Diderot i s probably making fun of the r e l i g i o s i t y of such an attitude, implying, no doubt, that prayers to an all-powerful and omniscient Christian God are equally pointless; but he i s also r i d i c u l i n g the idea that the doctrine of the i n e v i t a b i l i t y of a l l events can j u s t i f y resigna- t i o n or any other p r a c t i c a l attitude. Both the denial of the efficacy of prudence and the doctrine of submission to i n e v i t a b i l i t y are aspects of pseudo-scientific fatalism i n that they leave out of account that inherent a c t i v i t y by which the ind i v i d u a l contributes to the t o t a l scheme of things. It may well be true that some men are pre-determined to exercise prudence and others not, but the r e a l i t y of determinism does not i n i t s e l f prevent a given i n d i v i d u a l either from being prudent or benefiting from his prudence. The ind i v i d u a l i s not a t o t a l l y passive victim of forces exterior to himself. Resignation to misfortune i s a g i f t which some men possess and for which they are a l l the happier; others cannot achieve i t . But i n neither case does determinism affect the question. Such resignation i s 1 Ibid., p. 167. 41 only advisable when nothing further can be done to remedy the situ a t i o n . I f i t became a constant attitude to l i f e i t would be very harmful. The c r i t i c s who claim that Diderot i s torn between an i n t e l l e c t u a l acceptance of determinism and an emotional f a i t h i n the r e a l i t y of human l i b e r t y lay great stress on a fragment of a l e t t e r concerning the comet of 1769: Votre question sur l a comete m'a f a i t f a i r e une refl e x i o n singuliere; c'est que l'atheisme est tout v o i s i n d'une espece de superstition presque aussi puerile que l'autre. Rien n'est i n d i f f e r e n t dans un ordre de choses qu'une l o i generale l i e et entraine; i l semble que tout soit egalement important. II n'y a point de grands n i de pe t i t s phenomenes. l a constitution Unigenitus est aussi necessaire que l e lever et l e coucher du s o l e i l ; i l est dur de s'abandonner aveuglement au torrent universel; i l est impossible de l u i r e s i s t e r . Les effor t s impuissants ou victorieux sont aussi dans l'ordre. S i je crois que je vous aime librement, je me trompe. II n'en est r i e n . 0 l e beau systeme pour les ingratsl J'enrage d'etre empetre d'une diable de philosophie que mon esprit ne peut s'empecher d'approuver, et mon coeur de dementir. Je ne puis s o u f f r i r que mes sentiments pour vous, que vos sentiments pour moi soient a s s u j e t t i s a quoi que ce s o i t au monde, et que Naigeon les fasse dependre du passage d'une comete. Peu s'en faut que je ne me fasse C h r e t i e n pour me promettre de vous aimer dans ce monde tant que j'y ser a i ; et de vous retrouver, pour vous aimer encore dans l'autre. C'est une pensee s i douce que je ne suis point etonne que les bonnes ames y tiennent. S i Mile Olympe et a i t sur l e point de mourir, e l l e vous d i r a i t : "Ma chere cousine, ne pleurez pas, nous nous reverrons." Et puis v o i l a ou m'a mene 42 votre perfide question sur l a comete. Many commentators have taken this text very seriously, treating i t as a sort of recantation on an emotional plane of the determinism which Diderot accepts i n t e l l e c t u a l l y . They contrive to make him appear as a being divided into two selves, perpetually i n dialogue, but ultimately agreeing to d i f f e r . According to Lester Crocker, for instance, the fragment i n question expresses a " c o n f l i c t between [Diderot's] inexorable rationalism and an emotional heart that rebelled against the 2 conclusions of his i n t e l l e c t . " Georges May notes of this fragment that "on l e c i t e d'ordinaire en exemple pour f a i r e v o i r que l e philosophe lui-meme est quelquefois conscient du divorce 3 qui existe entre sa morale et sa metaphysique." May's own view conforms to this c r i t i c a l t r a d i t i o n . "Le merite unique . . . du fragment . . .," he claims, "est de reveler l a vehemence avec laquelle [Diderot] s'eleve lui-meme contre [le] determinisme en dehors du domaine purement a b s t r a i t . " 4 1 Roth, IX, 154-55. The source of t h i s text i s a copy, i n Naigeon's hand, of a number of detached fragments, presumably from Diderot's correspondence. Roth dates i t , hypothetically, from the end of September 1769. It was formerly thought to be part of a l e t t e r to Sophie Volland, but Jean Pommier i n his "Etudes sur Diderot" (Revue d'histoire de l a philosophie et d'histoire generale de l a c i v i l i s a t i o n , 1942, pp. 176-80) argued convincingly that i t was addressed to Mme de Maux, and this has recently been proved con- c l u s i v e l y by Mme Lydia-Claude Hartman i n her a r t i c l e "A propos de Sophie Volland," Diderot Studies. XII, 1969, pp. 101-02. 2 The Embattled Philosopher, p. 319. A similar view i s expressed by Jean Thomas i n L'Humanisme de Diderot, Paris, 1938, pp. 52-53. 3 Quatre visages de Denis Diderot, p. 148. Ibid., pp. 148-49. 43 I think i t can be demonstrated that these c r i t i c s are seriously mistaken regarding, i n the f i r s t place, the tone of the fragment: i t i s not anguished soul-searching, but a whimsical paradox intended to be both amusing and thought-provoking. Their erroneous estimate of the general significance of the text seems to me to be due to an incorrect understanding of Diderot's meaning. Crocker, for example, renders the sentence " . . . l'atheisme est tout v o i s i n d'une espece de superstition presque aussi puerile que l'autre," by "Atheism i s close to being a kind of superstition, as puerile as the other.""*" A more l i t e r a l t ranslation i s also more f a i t h f u l : "Atheism i s very close to a kind of superstition almost as c h i l d i s h as the other." Crocker seems to imply that Diderot suspects that his deterministic doctrine may r e a l l y be a superstitious b e l i e f . What Diderot i n fact means i s that i t i s a delicate matter to distinguish between the determinism upon which his atheism i s founded and the old a s t r o l o g i c a l b e l i e f s , which are a superstition almost as puerile as the b e l i e f i n a personal immaterial being on whose w i l l a l l that happens i n the world depends. The interpretation of determinism which Diderot outlines i n the fragment i s not his true doctrine, but the convenient representation of a subtly distorted version thereof, which lends a specious c r e d i b i l i t y to the superstition regarding the influence of comets. His paradox 1 The Embattled Philosopher, p. 3 2 0 . 44 r i m s as f o l l o w s . S i n c e a l l e v e n t s , g r e a t and s m a l l , a r e l i n k e d t o g e t h e r by a u n i v e r s a l law, any a l t e r a t i o n i n the s m a l l e s t event would e n t a i l an a l t e r a t i o n i n every p a r t o f the system. Thus one may c l a i m t h a t t h e r e i s no r e a l d i f f e r e n c e i n importance between events which a r e u s u a l l y c o n s i d e r e d g r e a t e r or s m a l l e r . A l t h o u g h i t i s t r u e t h a t s m a l l events depend on g r e a t ones, i t i s e q u a l l y t r u e t h a t g r e a t events depend on s m a l l ones. Any p a r t i c u l a r event may be c o n s i d e r e d as e n t i r e l y e n t a i l e d by the t o t a l c o n t e x t of events i n which i t i s p l a c e d . Thus the human i n d i v i d u a l , who i s n o t h i n g but a s u c c e s s i o n of p h y s i c a l e v e n t s , may be seen as n o t h i n g but the i n e v i t a b l e r e s u l t of a l l the events which c o n s t i t u t e the e v e r - c h a n g i n g u n i v e r s e . There i s i n him no p r i n c i p l e which might d i r e c t h i s a c t s , or even h i s t h o u g h t s , any more than t h e r e i s , i n someone who i s swept down- stream by a r a g i n g t o r r e n t , a p r i n c i p l e which determines the d i r e c t i o n he t a k e s . Moreover, not o n l y do the a c t s and thoughts of the human i n d i v i d u a l r e s u l t from the u n i v e r s a l c o n t e x t i n w hich he i s s i t u a t e d , but any event, g r e a t or s m a l l , which i s p a r t o f t h i s c o n t e x t may be s a i d t o i n f l u e n c e them. Naigeon has, i t would appear, f a c e t i o u s l y p o i n t e d out t h a t t h i s d o c t r i n e i s v e r y c l o s e t o the o l d s u p e r s t i t i o n about comets and t h a t , f o r a l l D i d e r o t knows, he would never have f a l l e n i n l o v e w i t h Mme de Maux i f i t were not f o r t h e appearance of the comet o f 1769. D i d e r o t ' s a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e o f h i s f e e l i n g s t e l l s him, however, t h a t h i s l o v e i s not imposed on him by any f o r c e e x t e r i o r t o h i m s e l f . 45 The argument i s , i n f a c t , a sophism, because i t f a i l s t o t a k e account of the o r i g i n a l dynamism i n h e r e n t i n every p a r t i c l e o f m a t t e r , a p r i n c i p l e which D i d e r o t h i m s e l f expounds i n h i s P r i n c i p e s p h i l o s o p h i q u e s s u r l a m a t i e r e et l e mouvement. "Un atome remue l e monde;" he w r i t e s , " r i e n n ' e s t p l u s v r a i ; c e l a l ' e s t a u t a n t que 1'atome remue par l e monde: puisque 1'atome a s a f o r c e p r o p r e , e l l e ne peut e t r e sans e f f e t . " " 1 " Thus the a nalogy of the man i n the t o r r e n t l e n d s o n l y s p e c i o u s support t o the paradox, f o r , though h i s s t r u g g l e s may not be e f f e c t i v e i n s a v i n g h i s l i f e , t h e y are bound t o have some e f f e c t on the d i r e c - t i o n he t a k e s . I n t h i s p a r a d o x i c a l c o n t e x t , the sentence "Les e f f o r t s i m p u i s s a n t s ou v i c t o r i e u x sont a u s s i dans l ' o r d r e , " seems t o i m p l y t h a t man has not the s l i g h t e s t measure o f autonomy. I n f a c t , however, w h i l e t h i s statement i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h D i d e r o t ' s d e t e r m i n i s m , one may not l o g i c a l l y c onclude from i t t h a t man has no autonomy, f o r the f a c t t h a t h i s autonomy i s i n c l u d e d i n the u n i v e r s a l o r d e r does not n u l l i f y i t . Indeed, the sentence under d i s c u s s i o n admits t h i s by a l l o w i n g t h a t man's e f f o r t s may be e f f i c a c i o u s . Naigeon would be r i g h t i f he went no f u r t h e r t han c l a i m i n g t h a t the passage of the comet must have some e f f e c t , however n e g l i g e a b l e , on the c o u r s e of events which c o n s t i t u t e s D i d e r o t ' s l i f e . But, as f o r h i s c l a i m t h a t D i d e r o t would not have f a l l e n i n l o v e i f the comet had not appeared, he might j u s t as w e l l a s s e r t t h a t t h e comet would not have appeared i f D i d e r o t 1 AT, I I , 67. 46 had not f a l l e n i n love! I think we may be sure that Diderot knows that his paradox i s f a l l a c i o u s . He knows perfectly well that i t i s not true that a l l events i n the universe have an equal effect on a l l others. This i s evident from a passage i n Le Reve de d'Alembert i n which Bordeu points out to Mile de l'Bspinasse that our senses receive impressions from a l l parts of the universe, but that their strength i s i n inverse proportion to the distance of their origin."'" Several passages from di f f e r e n t works make i t clear that the cause which produces the individual's act or thought i s not simply the context i n which 2 he i s placed, but comprises also his own nature. I think that when Diderot says, "J 1enrage d'etre empetre d'une diable de philosophie . . . ," he refers not to his r e a l deterministic doctrine, but to the p a r t i c u l a r f a l s i f i e d version of i t which he outlines here. But what does he mean when he says that his mind cannot help approving i t , though his heart rejects i t ? One could suppose that Diderot i s merely -pretending to believe i n his paradox, but I think the matter i s i n fact more complicated. I suggest that i n formulating this paradox Diderot has momentarily become his own dupe, that he i s not c l e a r l y conscious that he has crossed the fine l i n e between s c i e n t i f i c determinism and pseudo-scientific fatalism. The reason why so many c r i t i c s have 1 AT, II, 141-42. o See above, p. 22, the quotations from Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e . AT, VI, 180, and from Le Reve de d'Alembert. AT, II, 175. 4 7 taken th i s fragment as the serious expression of a profound philosophical and emotional dilemma may well be that Diderot has managed to give a certain tone of s i n c e r i t y to his paradox. Instead of analysing the precise way i n which determinism could be distorted into fatalism, he here r e c a l l s a frame of mind i n which he sometimes finds himself, when he feels that within the deterministic system, i n spite of the kind of autonomy and o r i g i n a l dynamism which i t allows the individual, man i s s t i l l a helpless witness of his own destiny. The following iext shows that Diderot was fa m i l i a r with such a f e e l i n g : On est bien ou mal ne. On se trouve, en entrant dans l e monde, jete en bonne ou mauvaise compagnie. On a des gouts honnetes ou dissolus. On est un homme d'esprit ou un sot. On a du bon sens ou l'on est un insense. On a de l a s e n s i b i l i t e ou l'on est une pierre. On est heureux ou malheureux. La nature nous dispose a un role ou a un autre. Tres souvent les circonstances nous condamnent a. c e l u i pour lequel nous n'etions pas f a i t s , et sans avoir d i t avec l e st o l c i e n : 0 destinl conduis-moi oil tu voudras, me v o i l a pret a te_ suivrel nous n'en sommes n i plus n i moins conduit s.-*- The fact that Diderot i s capable of adopting such an attitude does not, I think, j u s t i f y the conclusion that, either here or i n the s o p h i s t i c a l argument i n the fragment concerning the comet, we have the ca r e f u l l y weighed position which we could c a l l his philosophy. Nor are such feelings of emotional d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with the situ a t i o n of man i n a deterministic scheme of things frequent enough to j u s t i f y our seeing Diderot as s p l i t between his i n t e l l e c t and his heart. AT, IV, 93 (Remarks concerning a work entitl e d Principes philosophiques pour ser v i r d'introduction a l a connaissance de 1 ' e s p r i t et du coeur humain). 48 I think that i n the fragment concerning the comet Diderot does allude to a philosophical problem which preoccupied him, but I think also that i t i s quite d i f f e r e n t from the dilemma to which Crocker and May refer. To make my point clear, I must quote from a passage i n the a r t i c l e "Romains", i n which a similar problem i s evoked. The a r t i c l e opens with a reference to the "frivolous science" of augury, which provokes the following r e f l e c t i o n s : 0 combien nos lumieres sont f a i b l e s et trompeuses! Tantot c'est notre imagination, ce sont les evenements, nos passions, notre terreur et notre cu r i o s i t e qui nous entraxnent aux suppositions l e s plus r i d i c u l e s ; tantot c'est une autre sorte d'erreur qui nous joue. Avons-nous decouvert, a force de raison et d'etude, quelque principe vraisemblable ou v r a i , nous nous egarons des l e s premieres consequences que nous en tirons, et nous flottons incertains. Nous ne savons s ' i l y a vice ou dans l e principe, ou dans l a consequence; et nous ne pouvons nous resoudre, n i a. admettre l'un, n i a. rejeter 1'autre, n i a. l e s recevoir tous deux. Le sophisme consiste dans quelque chose de tres s u b t i l qui nous echappe.l How, asks Diderot, could one refute purely by r a t i o n a l argument an augur who claimed that his art was founded on the p r i n c i p l e that a l l things i n nature are interconnected, and declared that he had observed a constant r e l a t i o n between the condition of the e n t r a i l s of the sacred chickens and important events on which the fate of the empire depended? The answer i s that reason alone i s powerless to refute him; one i s forced to have recourse to experimental v e r i f i c a t i o n : 1 AT, XVII, 27. 49 Et voila. mon philosophe, s ' i l est un peu sincere, reduit a. l a i s s e r de cote sa raison, et a, prendre l e couteau du s a c r i f i c a t e u r , ou a, abandonner un principe incontestable: c'est que tout tient dans l a nature par un enchainement necessaire. . . . Qu'on rende l e philosophe s i s u b t i l que 1 1 on voudra, s i 1'augur n'est pas un imbecile, i l repondra a. tout, et ramenera l e philosophe, malgre q u ' i l en a i t , a 1'experience.! There i s a s t r i k i n g and instru c t i v e s i m i l a r i t y between the problem with which Diderot deals i n this passage from "Romains" and the question which i s raised i n the fragment concerning the comet. In each case the problem arises because, from a general p r i n c i p l e which Diderot considers incontrovertible, namely the pri n c i p l e of universal determinism, a conclusion i s drawn which he finds unacceptable though he i s unable to demonstrate the falsehood of the deduction. In both texts he admits that determinism lends an apparent support to superstitious b e l i e f s . What makes Diderot reject the augur's b e l i e f i s his sense of the comparative probability of dif f e r e n t combinations of events, a sense which results from an immense number of observations, 2 i n other words, from experience. It i s fortunately possible to establish by a series of experiments whether or not the inspection of chickens' e n t r a i l s enables one accurately to predict the result of battles. In the fragment concerning the comet, on the other hand, a l l that Diderot can invoke to counter Naigeon's facetious suggestion that his love for Mme de Maux has 1 Ibid., p. 28. 2 Cf. Pensees sur 1'interpretation de l a Nature, sect. I l l , AT, II, 24. 50 been the re s u l t of the passage of the comet i s the evidence of his heart. This i s experience, but i t i s not experiment. The comet w i l l come only once i n Diderot's l i f e t i m e and he w i l l never have a way of proving that he would s t i l l have f a l l e n i n love with Mme de Maux even i f i t had not appeared. This i s why he must remain "empetre" and continue to "enrager". To sum up my conclusions on the significance of the fragment concerning the comet, I believe that i t does not express an emotional rejection of Diderot's i n t e l l e c t u a l l y accepted determini but reveals instead his awareness of the contradiction between the evidence of his emotional experience and the pseudo-scientific fatalism into which defective, but specious, l o g i c sometimes leads him. The Refutation d 'Helvetius -" provides further evidence^ that Diderot believed there was a v i t a l d i s t i n c t i o n to be made between, on the one hand, that sort of determinism i n which part of the causality which governs the individual's acts and thoughts i s to be found within himself, and, on the other hand, the pseudo- s c i e n t i f i c fatalism according to which the individual i s merely passive. According to Helvetius, the personality of the i n d i - vidual i s ent i r e l y the result of the influence of the environment. I f two babies could be brought up so as to have an i d e n t i c a l experience, they would, from the psychological point of view, be """ The only complete edition i s that which appears i n the Oeuvres completes (AT, II, 275-4-56), under the t i t l e Refutation suivie de l'ouvrage d'Helvetius i n t i t u l e 1'Homme. 51 indistinguishable. In Diderot's view, this would only be true i f they were i d e n t i c a l at b i r t h i n their physical constitution, for t his endows them with peculiar predispositions and aptitudes. Thus, for Helvetius, man i s a passive witness of effects produced i n him by external forces, while Diderot i n s i s t s on the importance of individual b i o l o g i c a l differences which interact with the influence of the environment to cause the individual to function as he does."*" In my discussion of Diderot's determinism, I have endeavoured especially to ascertain what sort of human l i b e r t y he denies when he rejects f r e e - w i l l and what sort of autonomy his deterministic doctrine allows the human in d i v i d u a l . Prom what I have said, i t w i l l , I think, be clear that the notion of freedom he discards i s quite d i f f e r e n t from that freedom of which, as I w i l l show i n chapters III-VI, he was the unflagging champion. The l i b e r t y which matters for Diderot i s l i b e r t y from oppressive forces acting upon the i n d i v i d u a l . Man cannot but be subject to external Diderot stresses his disagreement with Helvetius over t h i s point constantly throughout the Refutation. His general comment on Section I of De 1'Homme i s as follows: "L'auteur emploie l e s quinze chapitres qui forment cette section a. e t a b l i r son paradoxe f a v o r i , 'que 1'education seule f a i t toute l a difference entre des individus a peu pres bien organises . . . ,' condition dans laquelle i l ne f a i t entrer n i l a force, n i l a faiblesse, n i l a sante, n i l a maladie, n i aucune de ces qualites physiques ou morales qui d i v e r s i f i e n t l e s temperaments et les caracteres." (AT, II, 276.) It should be noted that both Diderot and Helvetius use the word "education" i n a very broad sense: we would say "environmental influences". 52 i n f l u e n c e s , but he cannot be happy when they e x e r t an e x c e s s i v e and s t i f l i n g e f f e c t on the development of those o r i g i n a l f o r c e s w h ich are w i t h i n him. The h a p p i n e s s of the i n d i v i d u a l and o f s o c i e t y depends upon a c e r t a i n b a l a n c e between the i n h e r e n t needs and p r o p e n s i t i e s of the i n d i v i d u a l and the p r e s s u r e s e x e r t e d upon him by s o c i e t y . B e f o r e t u r n i n g , however, t o the q u e s t i o n of the i n d i v i d u a l ' s r e l a t i o n t o s o c i e t y , I must examine D i d e r o t ' s views on the l o g i c a l consequences which the d e n i a l of f r e e - w i l l e n t a i l s f o r e t h i c s . CHAPTER II THE ETHICAL CONSEQUENCES OP DETERMINISM I endeavoured to show i n the previous chapter that Diderot remains a confirmed determinist throughout his mature career. I denied, i n particular, that the fragment concerning the comet provides, as so many scholars have claimed, evidence that on an emotional plane Diderot rejected the determinism of which he was convinced i n t e l l e c t u a l l y . In the present chapter I wish to examine his view of the significance of determinism for ethics. Here again I s h a l l oppose the theory that he reveals an inner c o n f l i c t between i n t e l l e c t u a l and emotional conviction. Contrary to the opinion of certain commentators, I s h a l l argue that according to Diderot himself a consistent deterministic doctrine does not constitute a danger for morality or render e t h i c a l discourse meaningless, that he sees i t s p r a c t i c a l consequences as rather limited and not at a l l distressing and i n fact regards i t as the only sound theoretical basis for ethics. Diderot himself was well aware of the common opinion that to deny f r e e - w i l l i s to sap the whole foundation of ethics and to jeopardize public morality. That i s the reaction he ascribes to Mile de l'Espinasse i n Le Reve de d'Alembert, when Bordeu declares that no human action i s free and that a human being could never act at a given moment otherwise than he i n fact does. The lady exclaims i n horror: 54 Mais, docteur, et l e vice et l a vertu? La vertu, ce mot s i saint dans toutes l e s langues. cette idee s i sacree chez toutes l e s nations"^ This scandalized attitude was c l e a r l y that of most people i n Diderot's day. Consider, for instance, the following passage from the a r t i c l e "Liberte": Encore une f o i s , otez l a l i b e r t e , vous ne l a i s s e z sur l a terre n i vice, n i vertu, n i merite; les recompenses sont r i d i c u l e s et l e s chatiments sont injustes: chacun ne f a i t que ce q u ' i l doit puisqu'il agit selon l a necessite; i l ne doit, n i eviter ce qui est inevitable, n i vaincre ce qui est i n v i n c i b l e . Tout est dans l'ordre, car l'ordre est que tout cede a l a necessite. La ruine de l a l i b e r t e renverse avec e l l e tout ordre et toute police, confond l e vice et l a vertu, autorise toute infamie monstrueuse, eteint toule pudeur et tout remords, degrade et defigure sans ressource tout l e genre humain. Une doctrine s i enorme ne doit point etrepexaminee dans l'ecole, mais punie par les magistrats. This passage, which I do not consider to have been written by 3 Diderot, sums up, admittedly i n a somewhat truculent manner, the t r a d i t i o n a l common-sense view that b e l i e f i n determinism destroys the basis of morality and encourages vice and crime. It i s i n fact s t i l l the view of most people today and we find i t expressed or implied by some of Diderot's recent commentators. Thus many scholars point to what they c a l l the "contradiction" between Diderot's e t h i c a l system i n writings where his determinism 1 AT, II, 176. 2 AT, XV, 501. ^ See above, p. 23, note 3, concerning the authorship of "Liberte". 55 i s e x p l i c i t and his attitude i n works l i k e the Entretiens sur l e F i l s naturel, where, without mentioning the problem of free- w i l l and determinism, he extols virtue and vituperates v i c e . 1 According to Georges May, Diderot i s aware that there i s an irr e c o n c i l a b l e contradiction between his e t h i c a l views and his determinism. He can only escape from the l a t t e r , says May, "par un manque de rigueur dans sa dialectique, par l a pirouette de Bordeu substituant aux notions de bien et de mal c e l l e s de 2 bienfaisance et de malfaisance." Unfortunately, May"does not specify on what grounds he c r i t i c i z e s the rigour of Diderot's l o g i c . Contrary to such opinions, I s h a l l attempt to demonstrate that Diderot's position i s , i n fact, l o g i c a l l y consistent; that between the unorthodox e t h i c a l conclusions which he derives from his determinism and the moralizing stance he often adopts the c o n f l i c t i s only apparent; that he professes, quite consciously, a "double doctrine", and that the acceptability of his exoteric moral position to timorous minds i s due not only to prudent concessions to orthodoxy, but also very often to a deliberate use 1 Cf. the following remark of Charly Guyot: "Quoi que Diderot puisse dire, i l est d i f f i c i l e de ne pas voi r une inconsequence entre son materialisme theorique et sa 'pratique' moralisatrice." (Diderot par lui-meme, Paris, 1953, p. 59.) It i s determinism which Guyot has p a r t i c u l a r l y i n mind when he refers here to Diderot's materialism. See also lefebvre, op_. c i t . , p. 284. 2 Quatre visages de Denis Diderot, p. 149. May presumably uses the words bien and mal i n the same sense as Diderot uses vice and yertu, i . e . implying f r e e - w i l l . 0 of t r a d i t i o n a l modes of expression the unini t i a t e d , while at the same not inconsistent with his esoteric 56 which are calculated to deceive time they convey a message doctrine. In order that the reader may judge whether my analysis of Diderot's views on the e t h i c a l consequences of determinism i s correct, I w i l l begin by quoting i n f u l l , and without commentary, the most important texts relevant to this question: 1) l e Reve de d'Alembert. AT, II, 176. In answer to Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse's query as to what becomes of the word "virtue", Bordeu r e p l i e s : II faut l e transformer en c e l u i de bienfaisance, et son oppose en c e l u i de malfaisance. On est heureusement ou malheureusement ne; on est irresistiblement entraine par l e torrent general qui conduit l'un a l a g l o i r e , 1'autre a. l'ignominie. Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse: Et l'estime de s o i , et l a honte, et l e remords? Bordeu: P u e r i l i t e fondee sur 1'ignorance et l a vanite d'un etre qui s'impute a. lui-meme l e merite ou l e demerite d'un instant necessaire. Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse: Et l e s recompenses, et les chatiments? Bordeu: Des moyens de corriger l ' e t r e modifiable qu'on appelle mechant, et d'encourager c e l u i qu'on appelle bon. 2) Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e . AT, VI, 180-81. Jacques ne connaissait n i l e nom de vice, n i l e nom de vertu; i l pretendait qu'on e t a i t heureusement ou 57 malheureusement ne. Quand i l entendait prononcer les mots recompenses ou chatiments, i l haussait l e s epaules. Selon l u i l a recompense e t a i t 1 1 encouragement des bons; l e chatiment, l ' e f f r o i des mechants. Qu'est-ce autre chose, d i s a i t - i l , s ' i l n'y a point de l i b e r t e , et que notre destinee s o i t ecrite la-haut? II croyait qu'un homme s'acheminait aussi necessairement a l a gloi r e ou a l'ignominie, qu'une boule qui aurait l a conscience d'elle-meme suit l a pente d'une montagne; et que, s i 1'enchainement des causes et des effets qui forment l a vie d'un homme depuis l e premier instant de sa naissance jusqu'a son dernier soupir nous e t a i t connu, nous resterions convaincus q u ' i l n'a f a i t que ce q u ' i l e t a i t necessaire de f a i r e . . . . D'apres ce systeme, on pourrait imaginer que Jacques ne se re j o u i s s a i t , ne s ' a f f l i g e a i t de ri e n ; cela n'etait pourtant pas v r a i . II se conduisait a. peu pres comme vous et moi. II remerciait son bienfaiteur, pour q u ' i l l u i f i t encore du bien. II se mettait en colere contre l'homme injuste; et quand on l u i objectait q u ' i l ressemblait alors au chien qui mord l a pierre qui l ' a frappe: "Nenni, d i s a i t - i l , l a pierre mordue par l e chien ne se corrige pas; l'homme injuste est modifie par l e baton." Art. "Malfaisant", AT, XVI, 57. MALFAISANT, ad. (Gram, et Morale), qui nuit, qui f a i t du mal. S i l'homme est l i b r e , c'est-a-dire s i l'ame a une a c t i v i t e qui l u i s o i t propre, et en vertu de laquelle e l l e puisse se determiner a f a i r e ou ne pas f a i r e une action, quelles que soient ses habitudes ou cel l e s du corps, ses idees, ses passions, l e temperament, 1'a.ge, les prejuges, etc., i l y a certainement des hommes vertueux et des homines vicieux; s ' i l n'y a point de l i b e r t e , i l n'y a plus que des hommes bienfaisants et des hommes malfaisants; mais les hommes n'en sont pas moins modifiables en bien et en mal; l e s bons exemples, les bons discours, les chatiments, les recompenses, l e blame, l a louange, les l o i s ont toujours leur e f f e t : l'homme malfaisant est malheureusement ne. Art. "Liberte", AT, XV, 482-83. II n'y a done plus de vicieux et de vertueux? non, s i vous l e voulez; mais i l y a des etres heureux ou malheureux, bienfaisants et malfaisants. Et les 58 recompenses et l e s chatiments? II faut bannir ces mots de l a morale; on ne recompense point, mais on encourage a. bien f a i r e ; on ne chatie point, mais on etouffe, on effraye. Et l e s l o i s , et l e s bons exemples, et les exhortations, a quoi servent-elles? E l l e s sont d'autant plus u t i l e s , qu'elles ont necessairement leurs e f f e t s . Mais pourquoi distinguez-vous, par votre indignation et par votre colere, l'homme qui vous offense, de l a t u i l e qui vous blesse? c'est que je suis deraisonnable, et qu'alors je ressemble au chien qui mord l a pierre qui l ' a frappe. Mais cette idee de l i b e r t e que nous avons, d'ou. v i e n t - e l l e ? De l a meme source qu'une i n f i n i t e d'autres idees fausses que nous avons! En un mot, concluent-ils [the Spinozists], ne vous effarouchez pas a. contre-temps. Ge systeme qui vous parait s i dangereux, ne l ' e s t point; i l ne change r i e n au bon ordre de l a societe. l e s choses qui corrompent les hommes seront toujours a supprimer; l e s choses qui l e s ameliorent seront toujours a m u l t i p l i e r et a f o r t i f i e r . C'est une dispute de gens o i s i f s , qui ne merite point l a moindre animadversion de l a part du l e g i s l a t e u r . Seulement notre systeme de l a necessite assure a toute cause bonne, ou conforme a l'ordre e t a b l i , son bon ef f e t ; a toute cause mauvaise ou contraire a l'ordre e t a b l i , son mauvais e f f e t ; et en nous prechant 1'indulgence et l a commiseration pour ceux qui sont malheureusement nes, nous empeche d'etre s i vains de ne pas leur • ressembler; c'est un bonheur qui n'a dependu de nous en aucune fagon. 5) To these texts should be added a passage from Diderot's l e t t e r to Landois, dated June 29, 1 7 5 6 . S i n c e I s h a l l find i t necessary to quote this passage l a t e r i n the present chapter when commenting on the significance of the l e t t e r , considered as a whole, the reader i s referred to pp. 73-7^ helow for this text. Perhaps the most s t r i k i n g feature of these passages i s the paradoxical and provocative way i n which Diderot chooses to express himself. It i s as i f he has deliberately set out to shock. Vice and virtue, he declares, do not exist; nothing Roth, I, 213-14. 59 deserves p r a i s e or blame; self-esteem, shame and remorse are p u e r i l i t i e s . Immediately the reader f e e l s h i s values threatened. His equanimity i s not restored despite the assurance that adequate s u b s t i t u t e s are at hand to replace what has been r e j e c t e d , and that the question of f r e e - w i l l and determinism i s a "dispute f o r i d l e people", the issue of which i s of l i t t l e p r a c t i c a l importance. Let us t r y to analyse d i s p a s s i o n a t e l y the ideas which Diderot clothes i n t h i s paradoxical form. F i r s t we must note that he does not deny the d i s t i n c t i o n between good and bad a c t s . These q u a l i t i e s are defined by the e f f e c t produced, on the agent himself and on other people. Nor i s there here any d e n i a l that there i s a v a l i d d i s t i n c t i o n to be made between those men who are commonly s a i d to manifest v i c e and those who are commonly s a i d to manifest v i r t u e . What Diderot objects to i s the use of the terms " v i c e " and " v i r t u e " ; and t h i s i s because of the s p e c i a l connotations which accompany them. The point i s made c l e a r i n a passage which Diderot added to de Jaucourt's a r t i c l e "Vice": L'usage a mis de l a d i f f e r e n c e entre un defaut et un v i c e ; tout v i c e est defaut, mais tout defaut n'est pas v i c e . On suppose a. l'homme qui a un v i c e , une l i b e r t e qui l e rend coupable a. nos yeux; l e defaut tombe communement sur l e compte de l a nature; on excuse l'homme, on accuse l a nature. Diderot s u b s t i t u t e s the terms "bienfaisance" and "malfaisance" Encyclopedie, ou d i c t i o n n a i r e raisonne des sciences, des a r t s et des metiers, par une so c i e t e de gens de l e t t r e s , P a r i s , 1751- 65, v o l . X V I I . 60 f o r those of " v i c e " and " v e r t u " because the new words a r e f r e e from c e r t a i n c o n n o t a t i o n s which he f e e l s t o be i n d i s s o c i a b l e from th e o l d ones. " B i e n f a i s a n c e " and " m a l f a i s a n c e " c h a r a c t e r i z e a c t i o n s s o l e l y by r e f e r e n c e t o the e f f e c t s w hich the agent can expect them t o produce. The words " v i c e " and " v e r t u " n o r m a l l y i m p l y the f r e e - w i l l o f the agent and the i d e a t h a t we ought t o p u n i s h the doer of a h a r m f u l a c t s i m p l y because he has done i t and c o u l d have f r e e l y chosen t o do o t h e r w i s e . That i s a r e a c t i o n a k i n t o vengeance. I t i s q u i t e d i f f e r e n t from s a y i n g t h a t we ta k e such a c t i o n a g a i n s t the doer o f a h a r m f u l a c t as w i l l tend t o p r e v e n t o r d e t e r him from r e p e a t i n g i t o r d e t e r o t h e r s from a c t i n g s i m i l a r l y . T h i s i s D i d e r o t ' s view; i t i s a d i s p a s s i o n a t e approach, u n l i k e the e m o t i o n a l a t t i t u d e n o r m a l l y i n h e r e n t i n the t r a d i t i o n a l r e a c t i o n t o " v i c e " and " v i r t u e " ; f o r one never pronounces the words " v e r t u e u x " and " v i c i e u x " , says D i d e r o t , w i t h o u t e i t h e r l o v e or hatred."*" S i m i l a r l y , when D i d e r o t sa3rs t h a t a c c o r d i n g t o the d e t e r m i n - i s t i c view t h e r e i s n o t h i n g i n human b e h a v i o u r w h i c h deserves p r a i s e or blame, he does not mean t h a t we a r e be h a v i n g f o o l i s h l y when we expr e s s a p p r o v a l o r d i s a p p r o v a l o f a person's a c t i o n s . The p o i n t D i d e r o t i s making i s t h a t , i n so f a r as the terms " p r a i s e " , "blame" and "deserve" i m p l y f r e e - w i l l on the p a r t of the agent, t h e y a r e p h i l o s o p h i c a l l y u n j u s t i f i a b l e . But, w i t h d e t e r m i n i s m , j u s t as punishment i s r e j e c t e d i n the form of r e t r i b u t i o n o n l y "*" Lod . - c i t . 61 to reappear i n the form of deterrence, so praise and blame reappear i n the guise of example, exhortation and moral train i n g . These, l i k e the more extreme measures which the laws prescribe, cannot f a i l to have the i r effect, because no cause can operate upon a human being without producing an effect i n him, since he i s part of the physical world and subject to the laws which govern i t . "Et les l o i s , et les bons exemples, et les exhortations, 3. quoi servent-elles?" asks Diderot i n "Liberte", and he answers: "Elle s sont d'autant plus u t i l e s , q u 1 e l l e s ont necessairement leurs effets."" 1" In the a r t i c l e "Modification", he writes: 11 Mo ins un etre est l i b r e , plus on est sur de l e modifier, et plus l a 2 modification l u i est necessairement attachee." Moreover, the effect which we produce i n a person by our exhortations, reprimands, encouragements and deterrents, cannot cease operating i n him: "Les modifications qui nous ont ete imprimees nous changent sans ressource, et pour l e moment et pour toute l a suite de l a vie, parce q u ' i l ne se peut jamais f a i r e que ce qui a ete une f o i s t e l , n'ait pas ete t e l . " ^ Par from j u s t i f y i n g despondency, the deterministic doctrine should make us more hopeful of the security and progress of the s o c i a l order; for, i f we believe i n f r e e - w i l l , we can have no certainty that any measures we take to influence the w i l l of the potential criminal w i l l have any effect, since, i f we could be sure they would, this 1 AT, XV, 482. 2 AT, XVI, 120. Loc. c i t . 62 would imply the denial of the freedom of his w i l l ; and to the extent that we think the measures we take can influence, without determining, his w i l l , to that extent we i n effect assume the freedom of his w i l l to he l i m i t e d . On the other hand, according to Diderot's view, although the measures we take may he i n s u f f i - cient or inappropriate to deter the potential criminal, their effectiveness depends en t i r e l y upon the i r nature and upon his nature, and not on a capricious and unpredictable decision of his w i l l , a r i s i n g out of nothing at a l l . On one point the passages from " l i b e r t e " and Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e are contradictory, but the question i s not a fundamental one. In "Liberte" we read: "Mais pourquoi distinguez-vous, par votre indignation et par votre colere, l'homme qui vous offense, de l a t u i l e qui vous blesse? c'est que je suis deraisonnable, et qu'alors je ressemble au chien qui mord l a pierre qui l ' a frappe."""" Diderot i s , i n fact, well aware that indignation i s j u s t i f i a b l e , at least as regards i t s outward manifestation, because i t has the p r a c t i c a l usefulness of c o n t r i - buting to the preservation of the i n d i v i d u a l . Jacques points out that anger against a man who wrongs you i s not similar to a dog b i t i n g the stone which has struck i t , because " l a pierre mordue par l e chien ne se corrige pas," whereas "l'homme injuste 2 3 est modifie par l e baton." We s h a l l see, i n a l a t e r chapter, 1 AT, XV, 482. 2 AT, VI, 181. 5 See below, pp. 226-̂  229» 63 that Diderot lays great stress on i n s t i n c t i v e resentment of i n j u s t i c e . When a determinist reacts spontaneously to other people's actions, without seeking to j u s t i f y his reactions i n the l i g h t of his philosophy, he reacts emotionally, with pleasure or anger, just as men always have. Reflecting on his reactions, he can see that they serve a useful purpose: he has therefore no reason to try to bring about a r a d i c a l change i n them. In this connection, i t i s noteworthy that Diderot rejects the Stoic i d e a l of ataraxia. He c i t e s the following remark of Seneca: "Le sage n'entrera pas en colere, s i l'on egorge son pere, s i l'on enleve sa femme, s i l'on v i o l e sa f i l l e sous ses yeux,""*" and re p l i e s that not only i s such an attitude impossible, but the attempt to a t t a i n i t would produce harmful r e s u l t s : "L'indignation contre l e mechant, l a bienveillance pour l'homme de bien, sont 2 deux sortes d'enthousiasme egalement dignes d'eloge." Probably the most disquieting part of the whole doctrine i s the treatment of the feelings of the agent towards his own actions. Bordeu classes self-esteem, shame and remorse as p u e r i l i t i e s . This seems p a r t i c u l a r l y paradoxical, because i t appears to imply that i t would be better i f people never experienced these feelings, whereas i t i s admitted, even i n Diderot's system, that men who do not experience them tend to be maleficent. He i s aware of the useful effects of self-esteem, shame and remorse, for the experience """ Essai sur l e s regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 282. 2 Ibid., p. 283. 64 of these feelings i s part of that continuing process of moral decision i n the individual, which he describes i n his l e t t e r to Landois. 1 I conclude that Diderot would have been able, i f he had so wished, to make Bordeu express substantially the same views on shame and remorse i n a manner less calculated to scandalize. Why then does Bordeu say that self-esteem, shame and remorse are p u e r i l i t i e s ? I think the reason i s that these feelings have t r a d i t i o n a l l y been given a supposedly r a t i o n a l j u s t i f i c a t i o n implying f r e e - w i l l . The orthodox attitude i s : "You have done wrong and could have done r i g h t . Therefore you ought to f e e l shame and remorse." Diderot, on the other hand, would say: "Whether or not you f e e l shame or remorse for the harm you have done cannot depend on a free decision of your w i l l ; i t depends on the end-result of your various motivational c o n f l i c t s . I could, i f I so wished, attempt to sway this balance i n favour of remorse by exhorting you; but I think i t more useful to concern myself with your future actions than your past ones. I w i l l therefore try to motivate you to beneficent conduct i n the future by convincing you that i f you wish to be happy — which you do — the best way i s to be beneficent." I s h a l l consider i n greater 2 d e t a i l l a t e r i n this thesis Diderot's attempts to demonstrate the v a l i d i t y of the position which I have just attributed to him. For the moment, I wish only to show that, far from c o n f l i c t i n g 1 See below, pp. 7^-76, the quotation from Roth, I, 211-13. 2 See below, pp. 239-52. 65 w i t h h i s d e t e r m i n i s m , h i s attempt t o j u s t i f y b e n e f i c e n c e on the grounds t h a t i t i s t o the advantage o f the person who p r a c t i s e s i t i s p a r t and p a r c e l o f the same b a s i c p o s i t i o n . Not o n l y does d e t e r m i n i s m i m p l y no h a r m f u l change i n p r a c t i c a l a t t i t u d e s and b e h a v i o u r , but i t i n no way i n v a l i d a t e s the e x h o r t a t o r y f u n c t i o n of t h e m o r a l i s t . There i s an i n t e r e s t i n g l e t t e r from D i d e r o t t o h i s b r o t h e r the abbe, i n which he r e p l i e s t o a l e t t e r w hich i s not e x t a n t , but i n which i t i s e v i d e n t t h a t the abbe has a t t a c k e d h i s p h i l o s o p h y , i n p a r t i c u l a r h i s d e t e r m i n i s m , as a n e g a t i o n of m o r a l i t y . D i d e r o t r e p l i e s i n a s a r c a s t i c t o n e , but he n e v e r t h e l e s s c l e a r l y e x p r e s s e s the way i n which, a c c o r d i n g t o the d e t e r m i n i s t i c d o c t r i n e , moral r e l a t i o n s between men op e r a t e , p a r t i c u l a r l y w i t h r e g a r d t o the e f f i c a c y and j u s t i f i c a t i o n o f moral e x h o r t a t i o n o r reprimand: Ne p a r l e z jamais p h i l o s o p h i e , parce que vous n'y entendez pas p l u s qu'un t a l a p o i n . He, mon D i e u , o u i , j e s a i s b i e n que t u s e r a i s bon, doux, honhete, t o l e r a n t s i t u l e po u v a i s par toi-meme. Mais j e s a i s b i e n q u ' i l y a quelque d i f f e r e n c e e n t r e l a t u i l e e t l'homme q u i me b l e s s e n t ; et c e t t e d i f f e r e n c e e s t que l a t u i l e ne se m o d i f i e pas, e t que l ' e t r e s e n s i b l e e s t m o d i f i a b l e . J e t e donne du bout du couteau s u r l e nez, comme on f a i t au c h i e n gourmand. Qui s a i t ce que ma l e t t r e f e r a s u r t o i ? C 1 e s t une cause q u i a u r a n e c e s s a i r e m e n t son e f f e t . S i par has a r d e l l e t e r e n d a i t bon, de mechant que t u es; doux, du p l u s a c a r i a t r e des hommes que t u es; hormete, d ' i n s o l e n t ; t o l e r a n t , de f a n a t i q u e a t o u t e o u t r a n c e ; e s t - c e que j'e n d e v r a i s e t r e s u r p r i s ? Nullement. Tant que t u v i v r a s , t u ne se r a s pas sans r e s s o u r c e ; et s u r ce, tache de t e t a i r e s u r une d o c t r i n e d o n t ^ t u ne s a i s pas l a premiere l e t t r e de 1'alphabet. We cannot suppose t h a t D i d e r o t r e a l l y thought t h a t h i s l e t t e r Roth, XII, 169-70 (Nov. 13, 1772). 66 would have any salutary effect on his brother; i n this particular case he knew that the resistance was too great, so he does not even attempt to go about things i n the manner most l i k e l y to be effi c a c i o u s . In any case, the r e a l intention of the l e t t e r i s simply to annoy his brother. Yet the theory which Diderot uses here i s to be taken quite seriously. The following detached note refers to the same idea: Apres avoir l u Seneque, suis-je l e meme que j'etais , avant. que de l e l i r e ? Cela n'est pas, cela ne se peut. Diderot thus answers i n advance the charge that a determinist must, l o g i c a l l y , admit the f u t i l i t y of demonstrating that true happiness can only be enjoyed by the good man. Such objections ignore the fact that the determinism which governs men's thoughts and actions comprises not only their organic constitution, but also a l l the influences which have been exerted on them up to the moment at which they act. These influences include those 2 r e s u l t i n g from t h e i r reading of the works of moralists. Since Diderot minimizes the consequences of determinism for p r a c t i c a l morality, one may well ask, why he lays so much stress Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice II, p. 331. 2 There i s no great o r i g i n a l i t y i n the way Diderot reconciles the p o s s i b i l i t y that moral exhortation can be efficacious with his denial of f r e e - w i l l . Voltaire uses the same argument i n Le Philosophe ignorant (1766), a work i n which he rejects f r e e - w i l l : "Vous me demandez a quoi bon tout ce sermon, s i l'homme n'est pas l i b r e ? D'abord je ne vous a i point d i t que l'homme n'est pas l i b r e ; je vous a i d i t que sa l i b e r t e consiste dans son pouvoir d'agir, et non pas dans l e pouvoir chimerique de vouloir vouloir. Ensuite je vous d i r a i que tout etant l i e dans l a nature, l a Providence eternelle me predestinait a ecrire ces reveries, et predestinait cinq ou six lecteurs a en f a i r e leur p r o f i t , et cinq a s i x autres a. les dedaigner et a l e s l a i s s e r dans l a foule immense des e c r i t s i n u t i l e s . " (Ed. J. L. Carr, London, 1965, section LI, p. 92.) 67 i n some works on the d e t e r m i n i s t i c account of moral phenomena. I t would be c o r r e c t , but i n s u f f i c i e n t , t o answer t h a t he wishes t o r e c t i f y a p h i l o s o p h i c a l e r r o r . What d i s t u r b s D i d e r o t and the ' philosoph.es 1 g e n e r a l l y i s not e r r o r i n i t s e l f , but i t s h a r m f u l consequences. B e l i e f i n f r e e - w i l l has, i n h i s o p i n i o n , c e r t a i n h a r m f u l p r a c t i c a l e f f e c t s which d e t e r m i n i s m , p r o p e r l y u n d e r s t o o d , h e l p s t o combat. The p u b l i c a t t i t u d e towards l a w - b r e a k e r s was, he f e l t , imbued w i t h a v i n d i c t i v e n e s s f o r which a supposed j u s t i f i c a t i o n was p r o v i d e d by the d o c t r i n e of f r e e - w i l l . He c l a i m s t h a t d e t e r m i n i s m , on the o t h e r hand, w i l l make anyone who embraces i t more humane i n h i s a t t i t u d e t o the b e h a v i o u r of o t h e r s , l e s s i n c l i n e d t o be r e v e n g e f u l and l e s s prone t o the p r i d e and s e l f - r i g h t e o u s n e s s w h i c h l e a d , t o e x c e s s i v e s e v e r i t y . S i n c e D i d e r o t ' s day we have grown more accustomed t o l e g a l systems w h i c h take account of the e x t e n u a t i n g c i r c u m s t a n c e s of c r i m e , which c o n s i d e r the c r i m i n a l , not as d e l i b e r a t e l y p e r v e r s e , but as s u f f e r i n g from s o c i a l maladjustment. D i d e r o t j u s t i f i e s i n advance t h i s newer a t t i t u d e : P l u s on accorde a. 1' o r g a n i s a t i o n , a 1 ' e d u c a t i o n , aux moeurs n a t i o n a l e s , au c l i m a t , aux c i r c o n s t a n c e s q u i ont d i s p o s e de n o t r e v i e , d e p u i s 1 ' i n s t a n t ou nous sommes tombes du s e i n de l a n a t u r e , jusqu'a. c e l u i ou. nous e x i s t o n s , moins on e s t v a i n des bonnes q u a l i t e s qu'on possede, et qu'on se d o i t s i peu a. soi-meme, p l u s on e s t i n d u l g e n t pour l e s d e f a u t s et l e s v i c e s des a u t r e s ; p l u s on e s t c i r c o n s p e c t dans l ' e m p l o i des mots v i c i e u x et v e r t u e u x , qu'on ne prononce jamais sans amour ou sans h a i n e , p l u s on a de penchant a. l e u r s u b s t i t u e r ceux de malheureusement et d'heureusement nes, qu'un sentiment de c o m m i s e r a t i o n accompagne t o u j o u r s . Vous avez p i t i e d'un a v e u g l e ; et qu'est-ce qu'un mediant, 68 sinon un homme qui a l a vue courts, et qui ne voit pas au-dela du moment ou. i l agit? Diderot himself more than once expresses the view that poverty- should be considered as i n some measure attenuating crimes of theft. This i s the grain of truth which i s contained i n this remark of Rameau's nephew: "La voix de l a conscience et de 2 l'honneur est bien f a i b l e , lorsque l e s boyaux orient." In commenting on l e g a l penalties i n his Observations sur l e Nakaz, his principles are s t r i c t l y u t i l i t a r i a n and he rejects a l l vindictiveness: II m'a semble que les homines, en general, risquaient plus volontiers leur honneur que leur vie, et leur vie que leur fortune. L'honneur n'est l e ressort que d'un pet i t nombre d'hommes, et l a vie n'est r i e n s i e l l e n'est pas heureuse; en consequence, de toutes l e s peines a f f l i c t i v e s , l e s peines pecuniaires devraient etre les plus frequentes. Rarement des peines ihfamantes: l'infame est condamne a l a mechancete; peu de peines capitales; parce qu'un homme a ete tue, i l n'en faut pas tuer un second; 1'assassin qui est mort n'est plus bon a. rie n ; et i l y a tant de travaux publics auxquels il'. peut etre condamne! Beaucoup de peines ^ pecuniaires dont partie serait appliquable a. 1'offense. 4 In her Instruction to the l e g i s l a t i v e assembly which deliberated, without tangible result, i n 1767-68, Catherine II refers to the death penalty as an "espece de t a l i o n qui f a i t que l a societe Prom Diderot's addition to de Jaucourt's a r t i c l e "Vice", Encyclopedie, v o l . XVII. 2 Le Neveu de Rameau, AT, V, 422. 3 In Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, Paris, 1963, pp. 373-74. ^ Instruction de S. M. I. pour l a commission chargee de dresser l e projet d'un nouveau code de l o i s , Saint-Petersburg, 1769. This work i s often referred to by the Russian name Nakaz. 69 refuse l a surete a un citoyen qui en a prive ou a voulu en priver un autre." 1 Diderot's remarks are intended i n part as a refutation of the Empress's view. His humanitarianism, however, i s tempered by a broad u t i l i t a r i a n i s m which balances p i t y for the criminal against the need to protect the public. This can be seen i n his p r e f l e c t i o n s on Beccaria's Traite des d e l i t s et des peines. While affirming his sympathy with the humanitarian sentiments which inspire t h i s work, he refuses to reject the death penalty on p r i n c i p l e i f i t can be shown to be a t r u l y effective and necessary deterrent. The second, and probably more important, reason why Diderot i s so i n s i s t e n t , i n certain texts, on denying f r e e - w i l l and drawing the ethical conclusions which we have discussed, i s that the ideas of f r e e - w i l l and of merit and demerit are fundamental to the Church's doctrine of punishments after death. Now the Church's precepts contain much that Diderot detests. The pe c u l i a r l y Christian e t h i c a l values, as he understands them, are not derived r a t i o n a l l y from positive r e a l i t y , but are ar b i t r a r y . I f one discounts the theory of an innate moral conscience, as Diderot constantly does, general obedience to arbitrary moral precepts can only be obtained through compulsion by the authority of custom or by threats of supernatural or temporal punishment. 1 Quoted by Verniere, Oeuvres politiques, p. 374, note 1. 2 AT, IV, 61-62. 70 For Diderot, the authority of custom and positive law i s acceptable and necessary as long as i t enforces principles of conduct j u s t i f i e d by the natural needs of man. Beyond this l i m i t , i t i s the cause of much human misery. The Church, as an i n s t i t u t i o n exercising oppressive authority over men's l i v e s , i s abhorrent to Diderot, 1 and his stand on f r e e - w i l l should be seen as part of his eff o r t s to undermine the doctrinal foundations of e c c l e s i a s t i c a l power, and thus to promote the freedom and happiness of man. The control exercised by Church and State was too stringent to allow the battle for men's minds to be waged openly. Out of mere prudence Diderot l i m i t s the frank expression of deterministic views to writings not intended for publication, at least during his l i f e - t i m e , though he often allowed his manuscripts to cir c u l a t e i n a r e s t r i c t e d c i r c l e of kindred s p i r i t s . This does not mean, however, that the works addressed to the general public were merely a vehicle for h y p o c r i t i c a l attitudes designed to placate the authorities and strengthen the allegiance of the unenlightened to the established order. The occasional bows to dogma and revelation are no doubt insincere, but the moralizing i s genuine. In works l i k e Le F i l s naturel or the Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, on every page of which the words "vice" and "virtue" appear, Diderot i s sincere. 1 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 288-89; Discours d'un philosophe a. un~roi, AT, IV, 33-36; Plan d'une universite pour l e gouvernement de Russie, AT, III , 510-11. 71 L i k e P y t h a g o r a s , D i d e r o t p r o f e s s e d a "double d o c t r i n e " , c o m p r i s i n g an e x o t e r i c and an e s o t e r i c form. The e x o t e r i c d o c t r i n e i s not s i m p l y a camouflage designed t o d e c e i v e the c u r i o u s , t o ward o f f the h o s t i l i t y o f p u b l i c o p i n i o n o r t o a l l a y t h e s u s p i c i o n s o f the a u t h o r i t i e s ; i t i s a s a t i s f a c t o r y p r a c t i c a l d o c t r i n e , the t h e o r e t i c a l b a s i s of which i s d e f e c t i v e and makes c o n c e s s i o n s t o s p e c u l a t i v e e r r o r , but which the p h i l o s o p h e r c o n s i d e r s s u i t a b l e f o r the m a j o r i t y o f men, who would not under- s t a n d the s t r i c t t h e o r y a r i g h t and would tend t o draw from i t erroneous and h a r m f u l p r a c t i c a l c o n c l u s i o n s . F o r t h i s r e a s o n , Pythagoras i n s i s t e d on h i s d i s c i p l e s spending s e v e r a l y e a r s s t u d y i n g and p r a c t i s i n g the e x o t e r i c d o c t r i n e b e f o r e b e i n g 2 i n i t i a t e d i n t o h i s system i n i t s e n t i r e t y . There a r e i n the w r i t i n g s o f Rousseau i n t e r e s t i n g echoes o f D i d e r o t ' s d i s t i n c t i o n between h i s openly p r o f e s s e d views and h i s e s o t e r i c d o c t r i n e . See D i d e r o t ' s a r t i c l e "Pythagorisme", AT, XVI, 495-96. 2 The f o l l o w i n g f r e q u e n t l y quoted passage from a l e t t e r t o d'Alembert c o n c e r n i n g the t h r e e d i a l o g u e s c e n t r e d around Le Reve de d'Alembert b o t h c o n f i r m s and i s i l l u m i n a t e d by the view t h a t D i d e r o t c o n s c i o u s l y p r o f e s s e s a double d o c t r i n e : " . . . mais j e l e s u p p l i e par v o t r e bouche de ne me j u g e r qu'apres m'avoir medite, de ne prendre aucun e x t r a i t de c e t t e i n f o r m e e t dangereuse p r o d u c t i o n dont l a p u b l i c i t e d i s p o s e r a i t sans r e s s o u r c e de mon r e p o s , de ma f o r t u n e , de ma v i e et de mon honneur, ou de l a j u s t e o p i n i o n qu'on a congue de mes moeurs, de se r a p p e l e r l a d i f f e r e n c e d'une morale i l l i c i t e e t d'une morale c r i m i n e l l e , e t de ne pas o u b l i e r que l'homme de b i e n ne f a i t r i e n de c r i m i n e l , n i l e bon c i t o y e n d ' i l l i c i t e ; q u ' i l e s t une d o c t r i n e s p e c u l a t i v e q u i n ' e s t n i pour l a m u l t i t u d e , n i pour l a p r a t i q u e ; et que s i , sans e t r e f a u x , on n ' e c r i t pas t o u t ce que l ' o n f a i t , sans e t r e i n c onsequent on ne f a i t pas t o u t ce qu'on e c r i t . " (Roth, IX, 157- 58 [ S e p t . , 17691.) 72 In the Reveries du promeneur s o l i t a i r e , Jean-Jacques refers disparagingly to the double morality of the philosophes: Cette morale sans racine et sans f r u i t q u 'ils etalent pompeusement dans des l i v r e s ou dans quelque action d'eclat sur l e theatre sans q u ' i l en penetre jamais r i e n dans l e coeur n i dans l a raison; [et] cette autre morale secrete et crue l l e , doctrine interieure de tous leurs i n i t i e s a laquelle 1'autre ne sert que de masque, qu'ils suivent seule dans leur conduite et qu'ils ont s i habilement pratiquee a mon egard." 1 In the Confessions, Rousseau refers to the pr i n c i p l e that "1'unique devoir de l'homme est de suivre en tout l e s penchants de son coeur", claiming that t h i s i s " l a doctrine interieure 2 dont Diderot m'a tant parle, mais q u ' i l ne m'a jamais expliquee." Fortunately for the reputation of Diderot and the other philosophes, the opinion of Rousseau on the nature of the i r esoteric and exoteric doctrines and on the r e l a t i o n between the two i s i n no way authoritative. The whole of the present thesis can be considered as an attempt to show that, i n Diderot, at least, the two doctrines, when r i g h t l y interpreted, are compatible. To conclude the present chapter, I s h a l l discuss a text i n which Diderot himself i l l u s t r a t e s the fundamental equivalence of the exoteric and esoteric forms of his ethics, namely his l e t t e r Qeuvres completes, Pleiade edition, Paris, 1959, I, 1022. 2 Qeuvres completes, ed. c i t . , I, 468. For further information on Rousseau's references to the double morality of the philosophes. see i b i d . . I, p. 468, note 2, and p. 1022, note 1. 73 t o L a n d o i s , I n t h e f o l l o w i n g passage he expounds the e t h i c a l consequences o f d e t e r m i n i s m : Regardez-y de p r e s , e t vous v e r r e z que l e mot l i b e r t e e s t un mot v i d e de sens; q u ' i l n'y a p o i n t , e t q u ' i l ne peut y a v o i r d ' e t r e s l i b r e s ; que nous ne sommes que ce q u i c o n v i e n t a l ' o r d r e g e n e r a l , a. 1' o r g a n i s a t i o n , a. 1 ' e d u c a t i o n , et a. l a c h a i n e des evenements. V o i l a . ce q u i d i s p o s e de nous i n v i n c i b l e m e n t . On ne c o n c o i t non p l u s qu'un e t r e a g i s s e sans m o t i f , qu'un des b r a s d'une b a l a n c e a g i s s e sans 1 ' a c t i o n d'un p o i d s ; et l e m o t i f nous e s t t o u j o u r s e x t e r i e u r , e t r a n g e r , a t t a c h e ou par une n a t u r e ou par une cause quelqonque q u i n' e s t pas nous. Ce q u i nous trompe, c ' e s t l a p r o d i g i e u s e v a r i e t e de nos a c t i o n s , j o i n t e a. 1'habitude que nous avons p r i s e t o u t en n a i s s a n t de confondre l e v o l o n t a i r e avec l e l i b r e . Nous avons t a n t l o u e , t a n t r e p r i s , nous 1'avons ete t a n t de f o i s , que c ' e s t un p r e j u g e b i e n v i e u x que c e l u i de c r o i r e que nous et l e s a u t r e s v o u l o n s , a g i s s o n s l i b r e m e n t . Mais s ' i l n'y a p o i n t de l i b e r t e , i l n'y a p o i n t d ' a c t i o n q u i m e r i t e l a louange ou l e blame. I I n'y a n i v i c e , n i v e r t u , r i e n dont i l f a i l l e recompenser ou c h a t i e r . D i d e r o t ' s p o s i t i o n on t h i s p o i n t may appear t o c o n t r a d i c t t h a t adopted i n l a t e r w r i t i n g s . See, f o r example, the passages from Le Reve de d'Alembert and Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e , quoted above, p. 23. I n these t e x t s i t i s c l e a r t h a t the cause o f a man's a c t i o n s i s not e x t e r n a l t o h i m s e l f : i t i s h i m s e l f . Each o f h i s a c t s . i s the r e s u l t of the t o t a l i t y o f h i s b e i n g a t t h a t moment, and t h i s i s i n i t s t u r n the r e s u l t of the i n t e r a c t i o n between t e n d e n c i e s i n t e r n a l t o h i s p h y s i c a l o r g a n i s a t i o n and i n f l u e n c e s o f e x t e r n a l o r i g i n . D i d e r o t ' s p o s i t i o n i n the l e t t e r t o L a n d o i s can, however, s c a r c e l y be f u n d a m e n t a l l y d i f f e r e n t from t h i s , s i n c e here too he i n c l u d e s the p h y s i c a l o r g a n i s a t i o n o f the body among the f o r c e s which " d i s p o s e [ n t ] de nous i n v i n c i b l e m e n t " . The human i n d i v i d u a l p a r t i c i p a t e s i n the "o r d r e general"', i n the "ch a i n e des evenements", i n two ways, one of wh i c h D i d e r o t denotes by the word " o r g a n i s a t i o n " , the o t h e r by the word " e d u c a t i o n " . I t h i n k , t h e r e f o r e , t h a t when he says t h a t the motive which causes our a c t s i s always e x t e r i o r t o o u r s e l v e s , and i s not o u r s e l v e s , we must assume t h a t the word "nous" has an o t h e r sense than i n the passage from Le Reve de d'Alembert. I n the p r e s e n t passage "nous" does n ot denote our t o t a l b e i n g , but the s e l f as D e s c a r t e s c o n c e i v e s i t , i n o t h e r words, an i m m a t e r i a l p r i n c i p l e which the p a r t i s a n s o f f r e e - w i l l p o s t u l a t e and presume t o be the o r i g i n o f f r e e d e c i - s i o n s . D i d e r o t not o n l y d e n i e s t h a t our motives o r i g i n a t e from such a p r i n c i p l e , but — though he does not e x p l i c i t l y say so here — he d e n i e s t h a t i t even e x i s t s . What g i v e s r i s e t o the common s u p p o s i t i o n t h a t a s e l f , so c o n c e i v e d , e x i s t s , i s , i n D i d e r o t ' s o p i n i o n , s i m p l y our c o n s c i o u s n e s s o f some o f the p r o c e s s e s which t a k e p l a c e i n our body, i n p a r t i c u l a r i n our b r a i n . 74 Qu'est-ce q u i d i s t i n g u e done l e s hommes? La bi e n f a i s a n c e et l a malfaisance. Le m a l f a i s a n t e st un homme q u ' i l f a u t d e t r u i r e et non punir; l a b i e n f a i s a n c e est une bonne fo r t u n e , et non une v e r t u . Mais quoique l'homme bi e n ou m a l f a i s a n t ne s o i t pas l i b r e , l'homme n'en est pas moins un et r e qu'on modifie; c'est par c e t t e r a i s o n q u ' i l f a u t d e t r u i r e l e m a l f a i s a n t sur une place publique. De la. l e s bons e f f e t s de l'exemple, des d i s c o u r s , de 1'education, du p l a i s i r , de l a douleur, des grandeurs, de l a misere, e t c . ; de la, une s o r t e de p h i l o s o p h i e p l e i n e de commiseration, q u i attache fortement aux bons, qui n ' i r r i t e non plus contre l e mechant que contre un ouragan q u i nous r e m p l i t l e s yeux de pouss i e r e . I I n'y a qu'une s o r t e de causes, a proprement p a r l e r ; ce sont l e s causes physiques. I I n'y a qu'une s o r t e de n e c e s s i t e ; c'est l a meme pour tous l e s e t r e s , quelque d i s t i n c t i o n q u ' i l nous p l a i s e d ' e t a b l i r entre eux, ou q u i y s o i t r e ellement. More o f t e n than not, the l e t t e r to Landois i s quoted only 2 f o r t h i s e x p o s i t i o n of m a t e r i a l i s t i c and d e t e r m i n i s t i c views. But i t i s important to note that, immediately preceding these remarks, there i s a passage i n which Diderot adopts an a t t i t u d e very s i m i l a r to that which we f i n d i n h i s m o r a l i s t i c w r i t i n g s : Aux yeux du peuple, v o t r e morale est d e t e s t a b l e . C'est de l a p e t i t e morale, m o i t i e v r a i e , m o i t i e fausse, m o i t i e e t r o i t e aux yeux du philosophe. S i j ' e t a i s un homme a. sermons et a. messes, j e vous d i r a i s : Ma v e r t u ne d e t r u i t p o i n t mes passions; e l l e l e s tempere seulement et l e s empeche de f r a n c h i r l e s l o i s de l a d r o i t e r a i s o n . 1 Je connais tous l e s avantages pretendus d'un sophisme et d'un mauvais procede, d'un sophisme b i e n d e l i c a t , d'un procede b i e n obscur, b i e n tenebreux; mais je trouve en moi une egale repugnance a, mal r a i s o n n e r et a. mal f a i r e . Je s u i s entre deux puissances, dont l'une me montre l e b i e n et 1'autre m ' i n c l i n e vers l e mal. I I fa u t prendre p a r t i . 1 Roth, I, 213-14. p P i e r r e Hermand, f o r i n s t a n c e , c i t e s only the e x p l i c i t l y d e t e r m i n i s t i c passage j u s t quoted. (0p_. c i t . . passim.) 75 Dans l e s commencements, l e moment du combat e s t c r u e l ; mais l a p e i n e s ' a f f a i b l i t avec l e temps. I I en v i e n t un ou. l e s a c r i f i c e de l a p a s s i o n ne coute p l u s r i e n . J e p u i s meme a s s u r e r p a r e x p e r i e n c e q u ' i l e s t doux; on en prend a. ses pro p r e s yeux t a n t de grandeur et de d i g n i t e i l a v e r t u e s t une m a i t r e s s e a. l a q u e l l e on s ' a t t a c h e a u t a n t par ce qu'on f a i t pour e l l e , que par l e s charmes qu'on . l u i c r o i t . Malheur a vous s i l a p r a t i q u e du b i e n ne vous e s t pas a s s e z f a m i l i e r e , e t s i vous n'etes pas ass e z en fonds de bonnes a c t i o n s pour en e t r e v a i n , pour vous en complimenter sans c e s s e , pour vous e n i v r e r de c e t t e vapeur, e t pour en e t r e f a n a t i q u e . Nous r e c e v o n s , d i t e s - v o u s , l a v e r t u comme l e malade r e c o i t un remede auq u e l i l p r e f e r e r a i t , s ' i l en e t a i t c r u , t o u t e a u t r e chose q u i f l a t t e r a i t son a p p e t i t . C e l a e s t v r a i d'un malade i n s e n s e . Malgre c e l a , s i l e malade a v a i t eu l e m e r i t e de d e c o u v r i r lui-meme sa ma l a d i e ; c e l u i d'en a v o i r t r o u v e , prepare l e remede, croyez-vous q u ' i l b a l a n c a t a l e pre n d r e , quelque amer q u ' i l f u t , e t q u ' i l ne se f i t pas un honneur de sa p e n e t r a t i o n e t de son courage? Qu'est-ce qu'un homme ve r t u e u x ? C'est un homme v a i n de c e t t e espece de v a n i t e , et r i e n de p l u s . Tout ce que nous f a i s o n s , c ' e s t pour nous. Nous avons l ' a i r de nous s a c r i f i e r , l o r s q u e nous ne f a i s o n s que nous s a t i s f a i r e . R e s t e a. s a v o i r s i nous donnerons l e nom de sages ou d' i n s e n s e s a. ceux q u i se sont f a i t une maniere d ' e t r e heureux a u s s i b i z a r r e en apparence que c e l l e de s'immoler. P o u r q u o i l e s a p p e l l e r i o n s - nous i n s e n s e s , p u i s q u ' i l s sont heureux, e t que l e u r bonheur e s t s i conforme au bonheur des a u t r e s ? Certainement i l s sont heureux; c a r q u o i q u ' i l l e u r en c o u t e , i l s sont t o u j o u r s ce q u i l e u r coute l e moins. Mais s i vous v o u l e z b i e n p e s e r l e s avantages q u ' i l s se p r o c u r e n t , e t s u r t o u t l e s i n c o n v e n i e n t s q u ' i l s e v i t e n t , vous aur e z b i e n de l a pe i n e a. prouver q u ' i l s sont d e r a i s o n n a b l e s . S i jamais vous 1'entreprenez, n ' o u b l i e z pas d ' a p p r e c i e r l a c o n s i d e r a t i o n des a u t r e s et c e l l e de soi-meme t o u t ce q u ' e l l e s v a l e n t . N ' o u b l i e z pas non p l u s qu'une mauvaise a c t i o n n ' e s t jamais impunie; j e d i s j a m a i s , parce que l a premiere que l ' o n commet d i s p o s e a une seconde, c e l l e - c i a. une t r o i s i e m e , e t que c ' e s t a i n s i qu'on s'avance peu a. peu v e r s l e mepris de ses sem b l a b l e s , l e p l u s grand de tous l e s maux. Deshonore dans une s o c i e t e , d i r a - t - o n , j e p a s s e r a i dans une a u t r e ou. j e s a u r a i b i e n me p r o c u r e r l e s 76 honneurs de l a vertu: erreur. Est-ce qu'on cesse d'etre mechant a. volonte? Apres s'etre rendu t e l , ne s ' a g i t - i l que d' a l l e r a cent lieues pour etre bon, ou que de s'etre d i t : Je veux l'etre? -̂ Le p l i est p r i s ; i l faut que l ' e t o f f e l e garde. Perhaps the reason why commentators have g-enerally neglected th i s passage i s that Diderot introduces his remarks with the words "Si j'etais un homme a, sermons et a. messes, je vous d i r a i s . . . ." But the moral position he proceeds to take has, i n fact, none of the s p e c i f i c characteristics which he rejects i n the t r a d i t i o n a l r e l i g i o u s ethic; i t i s not tainted with authoritarianism, nor does i t preach the arbitrary and anti-natural moral code which Diderot condemns i n the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville and many other texts. What Diderot's viewpoint here has i n common with that of re l i g i o u s moralists i s rather that he considers moral decisions introspectively, analysing them i n terms of moral sentiments, passions, desires, psychical pleasures and pains. His purpose i s to refute certain remarks contained i n a manuscript which Landois had communicated to him and which i s not extant. From Diderot's l e t t e r , i t would appear that Landois had doubted that men ever love virtue f o r i t s e l f , but only for the advantages that may be derived from i t . Diderot quotes him as saying that "Nous recevons l a vertu comme l e malade recoit un remede," that i s to say, as something which we would sooner do without i f we could. Now Diderot himself i s an eth i c a l hedonist, but the conception of pleasure on which his hedonism i s based i s very broad. In fact his hedonism i s , i n the f i n a l 1 Roth, I, 211-13. 77 analysis, t r u i s t i c : he i s able to claim that the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain are the only possible motives of human actions because, i n effect, he defines pleasure as the s a t i s f a c t i o n derived from doing what we most want to do.""* Thus, i n the passage under consideration, he analyses the motivation of the virtuous man, that i s to say, the man who apparently makes painful s a c r i f i c e s i n order to remain just or to act beneficently, and he asserts that such a man never ceases to act i n the way which w i l l cause him the least personal d i s s a t i s - f a c t i o n . This i s not to deny the r e a l i t y of the virtuous man's 2 s a c r i f i c e s ; on balance he makes what for him i s the least s a c r i f i c e possible. It should be noted that t h i s exposition of the process of motivation i n the virtuous man implies as t o t a l an exclusion of f r e e - w i l l as does the overtly deterministic passage. There i s , i t i s true, s u f f i c i e n t imprecision i n the language used at the beginning of the passage to permit of an interpretation i n which f r e e - w i l l plays a part; and one might well assume that t h i s was the true implication, were i t not for the context i n which these l i n e s are placed. But when one reads the paragraph beginning "Qu'est-ce qu'un homme vertueux?" i t becomes clear that the " p a r t i " which has to be taken cannot be the re s u l t of an undetermined "*" Diderot' s doctrine i s r e a l l y e t h i c a l egoism clothed i n the terminology of e t h i c a l hedonism. For a more detailed discussion of his theory of motivation, see below, p. 2 7 1 . 2 See below pp. 21*4-15. 78 choice, but i s the inevitable r e s u l t of one's nature. A man either i s , or i s not, s u f f i c i e n t l y virtuous, by nature or by upbringing, to win the battle against the e v i l to which he i s prompted by his passions and his s e l f - i n t e r e s t , s u p e r f i c i a l l y understood. The theory of motivation which Diderot uses i s , though expressed i n subjective terms, completely mechanistic. It i s based on that refined sort of hedonism of which I have already spoken: "Tout ce que nous faisons, c'est pour nous. Nous avons l ' a i r de nous s a c r i f i e r , lorsque nous ne faisons que nous satisfaire."""" Indeed, when, having completed his defence of the good man's love of virtue, Diderot discards the preacher's 2 manner for that of the philosopher and declares that "le mot de l i b e r t e est un mot vide de sens," he i s not contradicting the position he has just taken; he i s merely translating i t from subjective into objective terms. Thus the d i s c i p l e , having mastered the exoteric doctrine, i s led into the c i r c l e of the i n i t i a t e d , where he may view the t o t a l truth now divested of the garb of metaphor and ambiguity i n which i t had been clothed. At the close of this second chapter, we have reached an ^ Roth, I, 212. 2 In the l e t t e r , the l i n k between the two passages I have quoted i s provided by the following sentence: "C'est i c i , mon cher, que je vais quitter l e ton de predicateur.pour prendre, s i je peux, c e l u i de philosophe." (Roth, I, 213.) 79 a p p r o p r i a t e p o i n t a t which t o take s t o c k of the d i s c u s s i o n so f a r . My o u t l i n e of D i d e r o t ' s c o n c e p t i o n o f the p s y c h o - p h y s i o l o g i c a l n a t u r e o f man w i l l , I t h i n k , p r o v i d e the i n i t i a l o r i e n t a t i o n n e c e s s a r y f o r a c o r r e c t u n d e r s t a n d i n g of h i s views on m o r a l i t y . I hope, f u r t h e r , t o have s u c c e s s f u l l y a t t a c k e d the common miscon- c e p t i o n t h a t D i d e r o t was d i v i d e d w i t h i n h i m s e l f w i t h r e g a r d t o de t e r m i n i s m , a m i s r e a d i n g which has ser v e d t o b o l s t e r many i n c o r r e c t i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of h i s e t h i c s . H i s d e n i a l of f r e e - w i l l h e l p s , i n a n e g a t i v e way, t o d e f i n e h i s e t h i c a l p o s i t i o n , s i n c e i t s e t s the l a t t e r a p a r t from t h e o r i e s which t r e a t the n o t i o n o f f r e e - w i l l as a n e c e s s a r y p a r t o f any m e a n i n g f u l concept o f moral o b l i g a t i o n . I f the r e a d e r a c c e p t s the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f D i d e r o t ' s concept of moral o b l i g a t i o n which I propose i n the l a s t two c h a p t e r s of t h i s s t u d y , he w i l l concede, I t h i n k , t h a t i t does not depend on the n o t i o n of f r e e - w i l l . The r e a d e r must d e c i d e f o r h i m s e l f whether such a concept of moral o b l i g a t i o n i s p h i l o s o p h i c a l l y adequate. An i n v e s t i g a t i o n o f the s e q u e s t i o n s , i m p o r t a n t as they a r e , can be c o n s i d e r e d i n t r o d u c t o r y t o the p r i n c i p a l o b j e c t of my e n q u i r y . I n the f o l l o w i n g c h a p t e r s I s h a l l approach d i r e c t l y D i d e r o t ' s s p e c i f i c views r e g a r d i n g the form o f s o c i e t y which men s h o u l d s t r i v e t o a c h i e v e and the k i n d o f i n d i v i d u a l b e h a v i o u r which they s h o u l d p e r m i t or encourage. C H A P T E R I I I MAN T H E V I C T I M O P AN U N N A T U R A L M O R A L I T Y T h e v e r y n o t i o n o f s o c i e t y , i n t h e s e n s e o f a s t r u c t u r e o f c o o p e r a t i v e r e l a t i o n s e m b r a c i n g i n i t s e n t i r e l y t h e m o d e o f l i f e o f a g r o u p o f h u m a n b e i n g s , i m p l i e s t h e c o n f o r m i t y o f i n d i v i d u a l c o n d u c t t o c e r t a i n p r e s c r i p t i o n s a n d r e s t r i c t i o n s , t h e p r e c i s e n a t u r e o f w h i c h w i l l d e p e n d , i n e a c h p a r t i c u l a r s o c i e t y , o n t h e e n d s t o w a r d s w h i c h i t s a c t i v i t y i s d i r e c t e d . S i n c e , f o r D i d e r o t , t h e r e i s n o o t h e r a c c e p t a b l e g o a l f o r h u m a n s o c i e t y t h a n t h e g r e a t e s t g e n e r a l h a p p i n e s s o f m a n i n t h i s w o r l d , a n d s i n c e h e c o n s i d e r s h u m a n h a p p i n e s s t o r e s u l t f r o m t h e s a t i s f a c t i o n o f h u m a n n e e d s , t h e o n l y m o r a l i t y h e w i l l s u b s c r i b e t o i s t h a t w h i c h i s f o u n d e d o n t h e n e e d s w h i c h N a t u r e h a s i n s c r i b e d i n m a n . H e h o l d s t h e C h u r c h r e s p o n s i b l e f o r t h e i n c u l c a t i o n a n d i m p o s i t i o n o f a n a r b i t r a r y a n d u n n a t u r a l e t h i c w h i c h p l a c e s u n j u s t i f i a b l e r e s t r i c t i o n s o n t h e s a t i s f a c t i o n o f b a s i c h u m a n n e e d s . T h e a r b i t r a r i n e s s o f t h e r e l i g i o u s a p p r o a c h t o r u l e s o f c o n d u c t i s , i n D i d e r o t ' s v i e w , r e v e a l e d w i t h t h e g r e a t e s t c l a r i t y i n t h e a b s u r d o b s e r v a n c e s w h i c h c o n s t i t u t e t h e r e l i g i o u s c u l t i t s e l f . A l t h o u g h s u c h r i t u a l p r a c t i c e s , a t l e a s t i n C h r i s t i a n i t y , d o n o t i n t h e m s e l v e s h a v e a n a d v e r s e e f f e c t o n t h e w e l f a r e o f o t h e r s , D i d e r o t b e l i e v e s t h a t , b e c a u s e o f t h e e x c e s s i v e i m p o r t a n c e 81 which, i n his opinion, i s often accorded them, they result i n a f a l s i f i c a t i o n of the natural scale of moral values: Madame l a marechale, demandez au v i c a i r e de votre paroisse, de ces deux crimes, pisser dans un vase sacre, ou n o i r c i r l a reputation d'une femme honnete, quel est l e plus atroce?. II fremira d'horreur au premier, c r i e r a au sacrilege; et l a l o i c i v i l e , qui prend a. peine connaissance de l a calomnie, tandis qu'elle punit l e sacrilege par l e feu, achevera de h r o u i l l e r l e s idees et de corrompre les esprits.- 1- While the importance attached to re l i g i o u s observances i s both a cause and a symptom of the perversion of moral values, the p r i n c i p a l e v i l s arise from other aspects of the r e l i g i o u s ethic. These are, f i r s t , asceticism i n i t s broadest connotation and, secondly, a particular kind of asceticism constituted by the peculiar i d e a l of sexual abstinence or sexual f i d e l i t y to a single partner. It i s appropriate to begin by examining Diderot's attitude to asceticism i n general. Diderot i s w i l l i n g to admit the acceptability of many of the e t h i c a l precepts contained i n the gospels and preached from the pulpits. But he i n s i s t s that t h i s part of Christian morality, namely the part which proclaims the ideals of justice and beneficence, i s not s p e c i f i c a l l y r e l i g i o u s . The s p e c i f i c a l l y r e l i g i o u s part consists i n the mortification of the body i n this l i f e i n the hope of thereby pleasing God and meriting happiness in a future l i f e . It i s this ascetic ideal which Diderot finds unacceptable. Even i f God does exist, why should He be pleased """ Entretien d'un philosophe avec l a marechale de j_ j_ , AT, II, 518. 82 by the sufferings of his creatures? Diderot's answer to this question i s very much i n keeping with the new wave of thinking i n his century which sought to r e h a b i l i t a t e the passions and j u s t i f y the pursuit of man's happiness on this earth. Diderot's rejection of asceticism does not mean, however, that he approves of a f r a n t i c hedonism. Moderation here i s necessary. In La Promenade du Sceptique (1747), an allegory i n which three di f f e r e n t ways of l i f e are represented by three paths, the right path to choose i s that of philosophic moderation (called the path of the chestnut-trees); the path of thorns, i . e . Christian asceticism, and the path of flowers, i . e . the l i f e of immoderate pleasure, ruinous to health, both lead to unhappiness.""" Diderot's rejection of the s e l f - i n f l i c t e d discomfort of long prayer and f a s t i n g i s expressed i n l e t t e r s to his father and his s i s t e r Denise. He pleads with them not to ruin their health i n t h i s f r u i t l e s s manner; i t i s far better for them to take good care of themselves and express their piety by helping 2 unfortunate people i n a tangible way. It i s i n the monasteries, however, that he finds the most t e r r i b l e instances of senseless s e l f - m o r t i f i c a t i o n : La Promenade du Sceptique consists of a "Discours preliminaire" followed by three sections: "L'allee des epines" (AT, I, 189- 214); "L'allee des marronniers" (AT, I, 215-35); "L'allee des f l e u r s " (AT, I, 236-50). Roth, I, 180-82 (To his relations and friends i n langres; Jan. 6, 1755); Roth, XI, 201-02 (To his s i s t e r Denise; Oct. 14, 1771); Correspondance inedite, ed. Andre Babelon, Paris, 1931, pp. 140- 41 (To his s i s t e r Denise; Nov. 29, 1778). 83 Quelles voixl quels c r i s i quels gemissements! Qui a renferme dans ces cachots tous ces cadavres p l a i n t i f s ? Quels crimes ont commis tous ces malheureux? le s uns se frappent l a poitrine avec des cailloux; d 1autres se dechirent l e corps avec des ongles de fer; tous ont le s regrets, l a douleur et l a mort dans l e s yeux. Qui l e s condamne a. ces tourments?J- The question of monastic l i f e brings us to the problem of sexuality. The novel La Religieuse i s more than a protest against forced vocations; i t i s a warning against the e v i l psychological effects which often re s u l t from the denial of normal s o c i a l and sexual l i f e which monasticism e n t a i l s . The young people who become monks or nuns are frequently unaware of the extent of the s a c r i f i c e which they have undertaken. They often mistake their awakening sexuality for a s p i r i t u a l vocation: C'est une ferveur passagere qui tient.. quelquefois a 1*ennui d'un temperament qui f a i t e f f o r t pour se developper dans l'un et dans 1'autre sexe, ou qui, s'etant developpe, porte a. de nouveaux besoins dont on ignore l'objet, ou qu'on ne saurait s a t i s f a i r e , qui entraine tant de jeunes et malheureuses victimes de leur inexperience au fond des c l o i t r e s ou e l l e s se c r o i t appelees par l a grace, et ou. ellesgne rencontrent que l a douleur et l e desespoir. Not only i n the particular case of monasticism, but with respect to the whole structure of the i n s t i t u t i o n s regulating sexual l i f e , Diderot voices persistent and eloquent protests Pensees philosophiques (1746), AT, I, 129. 2 Art. "Passager", AT, XVI, 206. 84 against r e s t r a i n t s which he considers destructive of human happiness. Many texts could he quoted to i l l u s t r a t e this point, but the most important i s the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. Here Diderot portrays a society i n which most of the taboos and r e s t r i c - tions which l i m i t the expression of sexuality i n European society are unknown. In T a h i t i , marriages are only as permanent as the partners desire. No l e g a l formalities are involved i n unions of this type and the structure of society i s such that neither the separated parents nor their .offspring suffer unduly from a divorce. The children simply follow one or other parent, according to certain customary rules, into their new unions. The concept of incest i s unknown. Marriages between brothers and si s t e r s are approved of, and sexual relations between father and daughter or mother and son, though uncommon because of the discrepancy i n age, are i n no way taboo. Most important, the idea that there i s anything i n t r i n s i c a l l y shameful i n the sexual act would be ent i r e l y absent from the Tahitian mentality, were i t not that the chaplain of Bougainville's expedition has succeeded already i n i n s t i l l i n g this notion into some of the young islanders."*" For the Tahitian Orou, the sexual act i s "un p l a i s i r innocent, auquel 2 nature, l a souveraine maitresse, nous i n v i t e tous." Tahitian marriages do not imply a promise of sexual exclusiveness between husband and wife. Orou i s proud of being frequently called upon 1 AT, II, 216. 2 Ibid., p. 220. 85 to father the children of Tahitian maids: "II y a dix mille hommes i c i plus grands, aussi robustes; mais pas un plus brave que moi; aussi les meres me designent-elles.. : J souvent a. leurs f i l l e s . " 1 Freedom from sexual ex c l u s i v i t y i s not the prerogative of males alone. Part of Orou's h o s p i t a l i t y to the chaplain consists i n o ffering him the favours not only of his three daughters, but also of his wife, a proceeding i n which the women participate without reluctance. When Orou hears of the sexual f i d e l i t y which i s required of marriage partners i n Europe, he i s shocked. Such precepts are contrary to nature, for they imply that a being endowed with feelings, thought and l i b e r t y can become the property of another. This i s to confuse human beings with inanimate objects: Ne vois-tu pas qu'on a confondu, dans ton pays, l a chose qui n'a n i s e n s i b i l i t e , n i pensee, n i desir, n i volonte; qu'on quitte, qu'on prend, qu'on garde, qu'on echange sans qu'elle souffre et sans qu'elle se plaigne, avec l a chose qui ne s'echange point, ne. s'acquiert point; qui a l i b e r t e , volonte, desir; qui peut se donner ou se refuser pour un moment; se donner ou se refuser pour toujours; qui se plaint et qui souffre; et qui ne saurait devenir un effet de commerce, sans qu'on oublie son„caractere, et qu'on fasse violence a. l a nature? The fundamental tyranny exercised over mankind by the t r a d i - t i o n a l sexual ethic consists, says Diderot, i n a r b i t r a r i l y ' 1 Ibid., p. 2 3 2 . 2 Ibid., p. 224.. 86 attaching notions of right and wrong to actions which are i n themselves morally indifferent"!"" and which are urged upon a l l human beings by thei r own ineradicable nature. Such prohibitions can never succeed i n changing human nature, but i n the meantime man i s torn apart by the c o n f l i c t between the demands of his nature and the warning of dire consequences attendant on disobe- dience to the a r t i f i c i a l morality to which he has been subjected. His suffering i s even greater because the prohibitions have become i n t e r i o r i z e d and man's c o n f l i c t i s within himself. Diderot symbolizes this process by the image of the war i n the cavern: Voulez-vous savoir l ' h i s t o i r e abregee de presque toute notre misere? La v o i c i . II e x i s t a i t un homme naturel: on a introduit au dedans de cet homme un homme a r t i f i c i e l ; et i l s'est eleve dans l a caverne une guerre c i v i l e qui dure toute l a vie. Tantot l'homme naturel est l e plus f o r t ; tant6t i l est terrasse par l'homme moral et a r t i f i c i e l ; et, dans l'un et l'autre cas, l e t r i s t e monstre est t i r a i l l e , t e n a i l l e , tourmente, etendu sur l a roue; sans cesse gemissant, sans cesse malheureux, so i t qu'un faux enthousiasme de gloir e l e transporte et l'enivre, ou qu'une fausse ignominie l e courbe et l'abatte.2 It must be stressed that the antagonists i n this internal struggle are not, on the one hand, impulses which are vfmtrinsi- c a l l y harmful to others, as tendencies to cruelty or domination would be, and, on the other hand, prohibitions intended to ensure that behaviour i s compatible with s o c i a l l i f e ; instead, i t i s a Cf. the s u b t i t l e of the Supplement: "Dialogue entre A. et B. sur 1'inconvenient d'attacher des idees morales a certaines actions physiques qui n'en comportent pas." 2 Ibid., p. 246. 87 b a t t l e between i n t r i n s i c a l l y harmless tendencies and a r b i t r a r y p r o h i b i t i o n s unnecessary to the maintenance of a s a t i s f a c t o r y s o c i e t y . In the expression "l'homme moral et a r t i f i c i e l " we must take the word "moral" to r e f e r s p e c i f i c a l l y to an a r b i t r a r y and u n j u s t i f i a b l e m o r a l i t y , i n short, to an a r t i f i c i a l m o r a l i t y , and not to the e s s e n t i a l d i s t i n c t i o n between r i g h t and wrong conduct; t h i s d i s t i n c t i o n Diderot never denied, and indeed he freq u e n t l y proclaims i t w i t h great eloquence. I t i s important to note t h a t , i n the T a h i t i of the Supplement, there are, i n f a c t , c e r t a i n p r o h i b i t i o n s regarding sexual conduct, p a r t i c u l a r l y w i t h respect to s e x u a l l y immature or s t e r i l e persons, and some i n d i v i d u a l s are o c c a s i o n a l l y g u i l t y of i n f r i n g i n g them. 1 Orou admits, moreover, that though r i v a l r y f o r a sexual partner between men i s , i n p r a c t i c e , almost always terminated by the woman's choice, i f one of her s u i t o r s were to use vio l e n c e against her, 2 t h i s would be a serious offense. The i m p o s i t i o n of the unnatural and harmful sexual m o r a l i t y which has a f f l i c t e d the in h a b i t a n t s of Europe from time immemorial 1 I b i d . , p. 235. p I b i d . , p. 236: "La vi o l e n c e d'un homme s e r a i t une faute grave; mais i l faut une p l a i n t e publique, et i l est presque inouz qu'une f i l l e ou qu'une femme se s o i t p l a i n t e . " I t may be objected that t h i s statement of Orou i s contradicted by some l a t e r remarks of B: "On a consacre l a r e s i s t a n c e de l a femme; on a attache l'ignominie a. l a vi o l e n c e de l'homme; v i o l e n c e qui ne s e r a i t qu'une i n j u r e legere dans T a h i t i , et qui devient un crime dans nos c i t e s . " Pp. 244-45.) However the cases are d i f f e r e n t . Orou r e f e r s to the vi o l e n c e of a man who possesses by force a woman who has chosen another man. B, on the other hand, r e f e r s to a man's vi o l e n c e towards a woman who has no ob j e c t i o n to him pe r s o n a l l y , but i s a f r a i d of the consequences of the sexual act; h i s v i o l e n c e forces her to do what her senses already prompt her to do. 88 i s attributed by Diderot to the action of the c i v i l and r e l i g i o u s authorities, whose end i s not the general welfare of society but th e i r own private advantage. To shackle man with a l l these prohibitions and to make him, so to speak, his own j a i l e r by i n j e c t i n g them into his very conscience i s the means by which a small group of individuals have gained domination over their fellow-men: . . . ce n'est pas pour vous, mais pour eux, que ces sages l e g i s l a t e u r s vous ont p e t r i et maniere comme vous l'etes. J'en appelle a toutes les i n s t i t u t i o n s politiques, c i v i l e s et religieuses: examinez-les profondement; et je me trompe f o r t , ou vous verrez l'espece humaine pliee de s i e c l e en s i e c l e au joug qu'une poignee de fripons se promettait de l u i imposer. Mefiez-vous de c e l u i qui veut mettre de l'ordre. Ordonner, c'est toujours se rendre l e maitre des autres en les genant. I have confined my discussion so far to the views on sexual morality which Diderot expresses i n the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. Wow i t must be admitted that i n certain other texts he takes a position which appears to be completely opposed to the r a d i c a l principles expounded i n this work. It seems astonishing that the same writer who evokes approvingly the young Tahitian&:'j 2 unabashed performance of the sexual act should be able to write 1 Ibid., p. 247. 2 Ibid., p. 216. 89 the following l i n e s : On a d i t que l a plus be l l e couleur q u ' i l y eut au monde, e t a i t cette rougeur aimable dont 1'innocence, l a jeunesse, l a sante, l a modestie et l a pudeur coloraient les joues d'une jeune f i l l e ; et l'on a d i t une chose qui n'etait pas seulement fine, touchante et delicate, mais vraie . . . It i s thus not too surprising that many c r i t i c s have considered Diderot's position on sexual morality to be yet another example of the basic dichotomy of his ethics. However, the attitudes they adopt towards this contradiction vary. His detractors accuse him of immorality i n his r a d i c a l views and of hypocrisy i n the orthodox preachings of works l i k e Le F i l s naturel. C r i t i c s more favourably disposed often prefer to view these different positions as, respectively, genuine and s u p e r f i c i a l . Diderot's genuine position, they claim, i s the r a d i c a l one, as i t i s grounded i n his deeper, truer nature; his orthodox pronouncements are the re s u l t either of prudence, or of a s u p e r f i c i a l , rationalized conformism; they arise not from hypocrisy, but from self-deception. I think that this second interpretation i s closer to the truth, but that i t i s inaccurate on two counts. F i r s t , i t supposes Diderot to be less aware of the true nature of his own thought than I believe to be the case; secondly, i t f a i l s to recognize that his love of virtue i s as passionate,' and as deep as his love of l i b e r t y . The view I take i n th i s study i s that there i s no r e a l 1 Essai sur l a peinture, AT, X, 471. 90 contradiction i n Diderot's position on sexual morality. I w i l l , of course, concede that his attitude i s marked by a considerable degree of moral relativism, a point which can be i l l u s t r a t e d by various passages from the correspondence. In several l e t t e r s he remarks on the talents, charm and dignity of a young g i r l of the Volland c i r c l e , Jeanne Chevalier. He i s disgusted when the v i l l a i n o u s Villeneuve declares that he sees no reason why a man should not "in s t r u c t " t h i s young innocent: "Je l a regardais, et je pensais au fond de mon coeur que c'etait un ange et q u ' i l faudrait etre plus mechant que Satan pour en approcher avec une pensee deshonnete."""" On the other hand, he c r i t i c i z e s Mme l e Gendre, Sophie Volland's s i s t e r , not for having a sentimental l i a i s o n , but for imprudently exchanging l e t t e r s with her inamorato and f o r keeping him dangling on a s t r i n g without ever s a t i s f y i n g 2 his hopes for the physical consummation of their relationship. This same moral re l a t i v i s m can be seen i n the widely di f f e r e n t advice on sexual conduct which Diderot gives to his daughter and to the young actress Mile Jodin. He explains to Angelique that when a man declares his love to a young lady, what he i s r e a l l y saying i s : Mademoiselle voudriez-vous bien, par complaisance pour moi, vous deshonorer, perdre tout etat, vous bannir de l a societe, vous renfermer a jamais dans 1 Roth, I I I , 68 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 15, 1760). 2 Roth, II, 290-91 (To Sophie Volland; Oct. 20, 1759). Cf. Roth, VII, 190-92 (To V i a l l e t ; 1767). 91 un couvent et f a i r e mourir de douleur votre pere et votre mere?l On the other hand, to Mile Jodin his advice i s less exacting: Presentez toujours mon respect a. Monsieur l e Comte. Cultivez vos talents. Je ne vous demande pas les moeurs d'une vestale, mais c e l l e s dont i l n'est permis a personne de se passer: un peu de respect pour soi-meme. II faut mettre l e s vertus d'un galant homme a l a place des prejuges auxquels l e s femmes sont assujetties.^ The count, who i s the "galant homme" i n question, i s the actress's lover. In an e a r l i e r l e t t e r Diderot had written: On reproche rarement a. une femme son attachement pour un homme d'un merite reconnu. S i vous n'osez avouer c e l u i que vous aurez prefere, c'est que vous vous en mepriserez vous-meme, et quand on a du mepris pour s o i , i l est rare qu'on echappe au mepris des autres. Vous voyez que, pour un homme qu'on compte entre l e s philosophes, mes principes ne sont pas austeres: c'est q u ' i l serait r i d i c u l e de proposer a une femme de theatre l a morale des Capucines du Marais .3 He stresses quite e x p l i c i t l y the moral rela t i v i s m on which he bases his advice: Je ne suis pas un pedant; je me garderai bien de vous demander une sorte de vertus presque incompatibles avec l ' e t a t que vous avez ch o i s i , et que des femmes du monde, que je n'en estime n i ne meprise davantage pour cela, conservent rarement au sein de 1'opulence et l o i n des seductions de toute espece dont vous etes environnee. Le vice vient au devant de vous; e l l e s vont au devant du vice. Mais songez qu'une femme n'acquiert l e droi t de se defaire des l i s i e r e s que 1'opinion attache a. son sexe que par des talents 1 Roth, VIII, 231 (To Sophie Volland; Nov. 22, 1768). 2 Roth, IX, 41 (March 24, 1769). 5 Roth, V, 101 (To Mile Jodin; Aug. 21, 1765). 92 superieurs et les qualites d 1 e s p r i t et de coeur les plus distinguees. II faut mille vertus r e e l l e s pour couvrir un vice imaginaire. Plus vous accorderez a. vos gouts, plus vous devez etre attentive sur l e choix des objets.l It i s clear that underlying Diderot's r e l a t i v i s m with respect to sexual behaviour there i s a constant moral p r i n c i p l e , namely, that one should do no r e a l harm either to oneself or to another person. The p a r t i c u l a r kind of behaviour which i s i n fact harmful varies according to the s o c i a l position and psychological state of the individuals concerned. Public opinion, reputation and s o c i a l acceptance are of great, though varying, importance. In eighteenth-century France, a married woman who did not love her husband and who had enough experience of l i f e and of society to understand what she stood to lose or to gain risked far less by having an a f f a i r than did a young innocent who f e l l prey to a seducer. Similarly, i n Diderot's day, an actress, provided she was successful i n her profession, could l i v e on the fringes of p o l i t e society. Though she could scarcely ever aspire to f u l l acceptance, she might win that degree of respect which could be accorded to one of her profession. Diderot's point of view i s that i f a young lady has chosen to be an actress and i s content with this s o c i a l position, she can allow herself to f l o u t conven- tions to a point which would bring t o t a l ostracism to a young bourgeoise. The universal standard which Diderot applies, and 1 Ibid., p. 101. 93 which l i m i t s h i s mor a l r e l a t i v i s m , i s the a c t u a l h a p p i n e s s o f the i n d i v i d u a l . The e f f e c t o f one's a c t i o n s on another person depends on t h a t person's p s y c h o l o g i c a l needs. These needs may be u n n a t u r a l , i . e . not e s s e n t i a l t o human n a t u r e . They may even be a p r o b a b l e source of unhappiness because they are l i k e l y t o be u n f u l f i l l e d . N o r m a l l y , they i n c l u d e the d e s i r e f o r acceptance by the s o c i a l group t o which the i n d i v i d u a l b e l o n g s ; but the c o n d i t i o n s which t h i s s o c i a l group a t t a c h e s t o the g r a n t i n g of i t s acceptance may be p u r e l y c o n v e n t i o n a l , p r e j u d i c e d , a r b i t r a r y and, i n d e e d , even c o n t r a r y t o i n d i v i d u a l h a p p i n e s s . However, the v i r t u o u s man, i . e . t he man who wishes t o a v o i d harming o t h e r s , w i l l not c o n s i d e r h i m s e l f j u s t i f i e d i n i g n o r i n g t h e s e p s y c h o l o g i c a l and s o c i a l needs of the i n d i v i d u a l s w i t h whom he has d e a l i n g s , but w i l l admit t h a t , however u n n a t u r a l and, i n p r i n c i p l e , h a r m f u l t h e s e needs may be, they a r e none the l e s s r e a l , and t h a t f a i l u r e t o r e s p e c t them can cause r e a l s u f f e r i n g . T h i s i s the meaning o f the p r a c t i c a l c o n c l u s i o n s on s e x u a l m o r a l i t y which B f o r m u l a t e s a t the end of the Supplement au Voyage de B o u g a i n v i l l e : Nous p a r l e r o n s c o n t r e l e s l o i s i n s e n s e e s j u s q u ' a ce qu'on l e s reforme; e t , en a t t e n d a n t , nous nous y soumettrons. . . . Disons-nous a nous-memes, c r i o n s incessamment qu'on a a t t a c h e l a honte, l e chatiment et l ' i g n o m i n i e a des a c t i o n s i n n o c e n t e s en elles-memes; mais ne l e s commettons pas, parce que l a honte, l e chatiment e t l ' i g n o m i n i e sont l e s p l u s grands de tous l e s maux. Im i t o n s l e bon aumonier, moine en F r a n c e , sauvage dans T a h i t i . . . . Et s u r t o u t e t r e honnete et s i n c e r e jusqu'au s c r u p u l e avec des e t r e s f r a g i l e s 94 qui ne peuvent f a i r e notre bonheur, sans renoncer aux avantages les plus precieux de nos soeietes.l The closing pages of the Supplement also contain an interesting reference to several characters from two of Diderot's short f i c t i o n a l works: B: . . . Tant que les appetits naturels seront sophistiques, comptez sur des femmes mechantes. A: Comme l a Reymer. B: Sur des hommes atroces. A: Comme Gardeil. B: Et sur des infortunes a. propos de ri e n . A: Comme Tanie, mademoiselle de La Chaux, l e chevalier Desroches et madame de La Carl i e r e . II est certain qu'on chercherait inutilement dans T a h i t i des exemples de l a depravation des deux premiers, et du malheur des t r o i s derniers.2 The two speakers c i t e these characters as examples of the e v i l produced i n c i v i l i z e d European society by the sophistication of natural desires, a process resulting, at least as far as sexuality i s concerned, from the attachment of arbitrary moral ideas to actions which are i n themselves morally i n d i f f e r e n t . The sophis- ticated appetites, i t should be understood, are those of the "infortunes" as well as those of the two harmful characters. The sophisticated appetites of the l a t t e r concern matters other than sexuality, i n Mme Reymer greed for wealth and i n Gardeil ambition; with respect to th e i r sexual behaviour, they are much closer to the natural character of man than are the i r victims. 1 AT, II, 249. 2 Ibid., pp. 248-49. Tanie, Mine Reymer, Gardeil and Mile de La Chaux appear i n Ceci n'est pas un conte (AT, V , 311-32); Desroches and Mme de La Carliere, i n Sur 1'inconsequence du jugement public de nos actions p a r t i c u l i e r e s (AT, V, 335-57). 95 In the four unhappy characters the sophistication of natural appetites takes the form of a need for f i d e l i t y and e x c l u s i v i t y i n love relationships. In the T a h i t i of the Supplement. where the tendency for l i a i s o n s to be impermanent i s generally accepted, Tanie would not f e e l the need to devote himself exclusively to a woman who treats him shabbily, nor Idle de La Chaux to s a c r i f i c e herself to a man by whom she i s exploited and then abandoned. In T a h i t i , therefore, Mme Reymer and Gardeil would have been unable to take advantage of them. 1 Tanie and Mile de La Chaux are, i n fact, people who have taken to heart the unnatural morality of the Christian European t r a d i t i o n , while Mme Reymer and Gardeil are only s u p e r f i c i a l l y affected by i t . In the Introduction to his edition of the "contes", Jacques Proust writes: "En apparence, Mile de La Chaux est une femme naturelle, qui n'hesite pas a. s a c r i f i e r ses biens, sa reputation, sa sante, pour l e bonheur de l'homme qu'elle aime." On the contrary, Mile de La Chaux i s not even apparently a natural woman: her appetites are sophisticated. But the point i s that they are none the less r e a l . Gardeil i s wrong i n supposing that they are merely s u p e r f i c i a l . Wot having experienced that kind of love himself, he supposes, when she fain t s on hearing him b r u t a l l y confirm the end of their l i a i s o n , that i t i s pure sham or at least no more than s u p e r f i c i a l autosuggestion. Here again I think that 1 It i s also reasonable to assume that i n T a h i t i Mme Reymer and Gardeil would never have developed the greed and ambition which motivate th e i r conduct towards th e i r victims. 2 Quatre Contes, ed. J. Proust, Geneva, 1964, p. l x v i . 96 M. P r o u s t has m i s t a k e n th e p o i n t . M i l e de La Chaux 1s b e h a v i o u r d u r i n g t h i s scene i s , he c l a i m s , merely une a t t i t u d e t h e a t r a l e , c o n v e n t i o n ] ! e l l e . . . . C'est G a r d e i l q u i e s t charge de l a d e m y s t i f i c a t i o n s a l u t a i r e . A D i d e r o t q u i s'empresse a u t o u r de l a jeune femme s p e c t a c u l a i r e m e n t pamee i l repond avec un beau cynisme, en s o u r i a n t et haussant l e s e p a u l e s : "Les femmes ne meurent pas pour s i peu; c e l a n ' e s t r i e n , c e l a se p a s s e r a . Vous ne l e s c o n n a i s s e z pas, e l l e s f o n t de l e u r corps t o u t ce q u ' e l l e s v e u l e n t . " C e l a v a u t l e : " E l l e s p l e u r e n t t o u t e s quand e l l e s v e u l e n t " de 1 * i n t e r l o c u t e u r f i c t i f , au s u j e t de l a pantomime desesperee de Mme Reymer. De Mme Reymer a. M i l e de La Chaux, i l n'y a pas de d i f f e r e n c e de n a t u r e . L'une et 1'autre ont des a p p e t i t s s o p h i s t i q u e s , mais l a premiere en a admis une f o i s pour t o u t e s l e p r i n c i p e et en joue d e l i b e r e m e n t , a l o r s que l a seconde s o u f f r e de l e s a v o i r et ne peut en t o l e r e r l a m a n i f e s t a t i o n chez l e s a u t r e s . 1 But s u r e l y t h e r e i s a b i g d i f f e r e n c e between Mme Reymer's f e e l i n g s f o r Tanie and those of M i l e de La Chaux f o r G a r d e i l . Tanie no doubt a t t r a c t s and s a t i s f i e s Mme Reymer s e x u a l l y , but so do o t h e r men; she does not f e e l any e x c l u s i v e need f o r h i s l o v e . Her d e s p a i r i s pure p l a y - a c t i n g . M i l e de La Chaux, on the o t h e r hand, has a r e a l , even i f u n n a t u r a l need f o r the e x c l u - s i v e p o s s e s s i o n of G a r d e i l . No one e l s e can r e p l a c e him f o r h e r , as i s shown by the f a c t t h a t she w i l l n o t a c c e p t Dr Le Camus as a s u b s t i t u t e , even though she has, a p p a r e n t l y , e v e r y t h i n g t o g a i n by the exchange. G a r d e i l i s wrong i n t h i n k i n g t h a t her f a i n t i n g f i t i s not genuine or t h a t i t i s merely a s u p e r f i c i a l e f f e c t of c a l c u l a t e d a u t o - s u g g e s t i o n . F i l e de L a Chaux p r o b a b l y hopes t h a t t h e s p e c t a c l e of h e r s u f f e r i n g w i l l have the e f f e c t o f s o f t e n i n g G a r d e i l ' s h e a r t , but she does not need t o s i m u l a t e I b i d . , pp. l x i i i - l x i v . 97 g r i e f or shock. As for Gardeil, he stands condemned not for the waning of his passion for her, hut.for his ingratitude and his f a i l u r e to f u l f i l the obligations of friendship. In effect, Mme Reymer and Gardeil practise the sexual morality which i s natural to man, the morality of T a h i t i , i n a society where a r t i f i c i a l moral attitudes have resulted i n the development, i n many people, of unnatural psychological needs, and where, as a resu l t , the practice of natural morality does r e a l harm. Mme de La Carliere i s another example of the sophistication of sexual needs, with this difference, that even stronger i n her than her need for Desroches's exclusive love i s her desire to maintain a certain kind of public reputation. Her dominant motivation i s not so much her desire for emotional security as i t i s her pride i n appearing to the public as a woman who refuses to submit passively to a man's deception. She could simply forgive Desroches and a l l would be well, for he i s no Gardeil and not only remains f a i t h f u l to his friendship for her, but never ceases to love her i n spite of his episodic sexual experience with another woman. Mme de La Carliere certainly suffers because of her "appetits sophistiques": she i s not another Mme Reymer. Yet she i s not simply a victim, l i k e Mile de La Chaux, but i s •unjust and vi n d i c t i v e towards Desroches. The case of Mme de La Pommeraye i n Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e i s rather similar to that of Mme de La Carliere. Again, her sexuality 98 i s dominated by "appetits sophistiques", and, again, she i s much concerned with maintaining her public image and salving her vanity. But her vindictiveness i s even greater than that of Mme de La C a r l i e r e . The l a t t e r i s content to shame Desroches by denouncing his i n f i d e l i t y in'public and by breaking off her relations with him. Mme de l a Pommeraye goes as far as to contrive and implement a lengthy and complicated plot whereby she succeeds i n marrying the marquis des Arcis to a prostitute masquerading as a virtuous young lady. Desglands i s another of these characters who have an unnatural need for the exclusive and permanent possession of another person. Like Mme de La Carliere and Mme de La Pommeraye, he i s not the kind of person to submit passively when the chosen object of his love f a i l s to l i v e up to these high demands. However, i n his case, i t i s not on the woman who has ceased to love him that he takes vengeance, but on his r i v a l . The "veuve galante" who i s the object of Desglands's passion i s an example of purely natural morality; she accepts the fact that her sexual passion changes i t s object at i n t e r v a l s . She does not, however, seek to exploit her sexual partners, as do Mme Reymer and Gardeil, and she d i s t i n - guishes between her sexual passion of the moment and the permanent obligations of friendship and gratitude. Diderot sometimes comments b i t t e r l y on the i n s t i t u t i o n of marriage, "ce maudit l i e n conjugal." 1 But, admitting that European 1 Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 265. Cf. Roth, IV, 122 (To Sophie Volland; Aug. 29, 1762)7 Roth, VI, 25-26 (To Sophie Volland; Jan. 18, 1766); Salon de 1769, AT, XI, 436. 99 s o c i e t y i s i n f a c t based upon i t and t h a t no amount of w i s h i n g w i l l make i t suddenly d i s a p p e a r , he g i v e s c o n s i d e r a b l e thought t o the b e s t ways of m i n i m i z i n g i t s d i s a d v a n t a g e s . I f i t were ensured t h a t t h e r e was a t l e a s t an i n i t i a l c o m p a t i b i l i t y o f c h a r a c t e r between marr i a g e p a r t n e r s , much unhappiness would be a v o i d e d . D i d e r o t opposes the p r a c t i c e of f o r c i n g c h i l d r e n a g a i n s t t h e i r w i l l t o marry persons of t h e i r p a r e n t s ' c h o i c e . I t i s i m p o s s i b l e t h a t t h e r e s h o u l d be c o m p a t i b i l i t y where from the b e g i n n i n g t h e r e i s a marked d i s l i k e . However, he does not advocate s i m p l y t h a t p a r e n t s s h o u l d a b d i c a t e t h e i r a u t h o r i t y over t h e i r c h i l d r e n w i t h r e s p e c t t o the c h o i c e o f a m a r r i a g e p a r t n e r . I t o f t e n happens t h a t because of t h e i r i n e x p e r i e n c e young people make a f o o l i s h c h o i c e . D i d e r o t t h i n k s t h a t i t i s not o n l y a p a r e n t ' s r i g h t , but h i s duty t o guide h i s c h i l d ' s c h o i c e and, i f n e c e s s a r y f o r the c h i l d ' s h a p p i n e s s , t o f o r b i d a c h o i c e which he c o n s i d e r s d i s a s t r o u s . W i t h r e g a r d t o the marriage of h i s own daughter A n g e l i q u e , he e x p l a i n s h i s p r i n c i p l e s as f o l l o w s : Je s u i s l e m a i t r e de mon e n f a n t ; mais c ' e s t a. c o n d i t i o n que j ' u s e r a i de mon a u t o r i t e pour f a i r e son bonheur; et p u i s dans l e cas dont i l s ' a g i t , 1 ' a u t o r i t e des peres e s t t o u t a, f a i t subordonnee aux d r o i t s n a t u r e l s des e n f a n t s . I I ne f a u t pas que ma f i l l e prenne un epoux dont e l l e ne v o u d r a i t pas. I I ne f a u t pas q u ' e l l e prenne un epoux dont j e ne v o u d r a i s pas. I I f a u t q u ' e l l e , sa mere et moi, nous soyons d'accord. D'apres ces p r i n c i p e s , t o u t v a bien.-'- There w i l l , o f c o u r s e , always be cases when a pare n t has a d i f f i c u l t and p a i n f u l d e c i s i o n t o make, when, f o r example, a son 1 R o t h , X, 30-31 (To h i s s i s t e r D enise; March 5, 1770). 100 wishes t o marry a woman who seems v e r y s u i t a b l e as f a r as c h a r a c t e r and e d u c a t i o n a r e concerned, but where d i s p a r i t y i n f o r t u n e and s o c i a l s t a n d i n g t h r e a t e n grave consequences. Such cases cannot be s o l v e d by a g e n e r a l r u l e of thumb.. I t i s the l o n e l y r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o f the p a r e n t t o make h i s d e c i s i o n i n the l i g h t o f a l l the evidence a v a i l a b l e t o him, c a r e f u l l y e s t i m a t i n g the p r o b a b l e consequences of the m a r r i a g e and the p r o b a b l e r e a c t i o n o f the young couple t o these consequences. The dilemma o f a p a r e n t i n t h i s p o s i t i o n i s i l l u s t r a t e d i n Le Pere de f a m i l l e . The f a c t t h a t Sophie t u r n s out t o be a r i c h h e i r e s s means t h a t the f a t h e r ' s f e a r s are unfounded, but t h a t does not a l t e r i n the s l i g h t e s t the moral i s s u e w i t h which the p l a y i s concerned. The f a t h e r can and must base h i s d e c i s i o n o n l y on the knowledge wh i c h he p o s s e s s e s . D i d e r o t i s not t a k i n g s i d e s here on the g e n e r a l q u e s t i o n whether or t o what e x t e n t p a r e n t s s h o u l d r e s t r i c t the l i b e r t y of t h e i r c h i l d r e n w i t h r e s p e c t t o the c h o i c e of a m a r r i a g e p a r t n e r . He assumes, as we have seen, t h a t p a r e n t s have a r i g h t and a duty t o e x e r c i s e t h e i r l e g a l a u t h o r i t y over t h e i r c h i l d r e n where they c o n s i d e r t h a t t h e i r c h i l d r e n ' s h a p p i n e s s i s a t s t a k e , but t h i s i s a v e r y g e n e r a l i z e d p r i n c i p l e . He o f f e r s no s o l u t i o n i n Le Pere de f a m i l l e as t o the p r e c i s e c i r c u m s t a n c e s w h i c h j u s t i f y the e x e r c i s e of t h i s r i g h t . Each case must be e v a l u a t e d s e p a r a t e l y . I do not t h i n k one i s j u s t i f i e d i n s u p p o s i n g t h a t D i d e r o t f a v o u r s e i t h e r the son or the f a t h e r i n t h e i r disagreement. A l t h o u g h the c i r c u m s t a n c e s o f h i s own m a r r i a g e 101 can scarcely have f a i l e d to be i n his mind when he conceived and wrote the play, this does not give us any grounds for supposing that he i s advocating either the t o t a l submission of children to parental authority or the t o t a l freedom of children to marry whomever they choose. Nor have we any reason for seeing i n this play a piece a these simply because the son's arguments are based on a c r i t i c i s m of s o c i a l prejudices which Diderot himself condemned."'" The father too i s well aware that they are prejudices and deplores their existence, but he thinks that to f l o u t them may have grave consequences for one's happiness. This view i s similar to those which we have seen that Diderot takes regarding the p r a c t i c a l application of his r a d i c a l principles with respect to sexual morality. On the other hand, we cannot assume that Diderot considers that the father's decision to forbid the marriage i s the right one. The happy and unexpected ending of the play dispenses Diderot from giving any indication as to how the marriage of these two young people against the f a t h e r 1 s w i l l would have fared. Diderot i s not proposing a solution to the problem: his aim i s to portray the agonizing cas de conscience 2 with which the father i s faced. It i s i r o n i c a l that i n the case 1 Cf. the end of the a r t i c l e "Convenance", AT, XIV, 222. 2 My interpretation of Le Pere de famille d i f f e r s considerably from that proposed by Roger Lewinter i n his a r t i c l e "L'exaltation de l a vertu dans l e theatre de Diderot", Diderot Studies, VIII, 1966, pp. 141-51. In his opinion, Diderot favours the position of the father, who represents s o c i a l order. Having taken this view, M. Lewinter i s obliged to consider the denouement unsatis- factory because i t does not resolve the c o n f l i c t i n the way he supposes Diderot's thesis to require. 102 of Diderot's own marriage, his father's opposition proved to be j u s t i f i e d , though not for the reasons which his father gave: i t was not his wife's lack of fortune which made her an unsuitable partner, but her lack of education, the difference i n their r e l i g i o u s attitudes and a general incompatibility of character. Thus the outcome of the marriage proved both Diderot and his father wrong. My account of Diderot's r a d i c a l c r i t i c i s m of the accepted norms of sexual morality must be completed by an examination of the opinions which he lends to Bordeu regarding various acts generally classed as perversions. Bordeu contends that mastur- bation, homosexuality and b e s t i a l i t y cannot be condemned i f one considers them i n the l i g h t of purely u t i l i t a r i a n p r i n c i p l e s . He prefaces his remarks to Mile de 1'Espinasse on these delicate topics with the following caution: Nous sommes seuls, vous n'etes pas une begueule, vous n'imaginerez pas que je v e u i l l e manquer au respect que je vous dois; et, quel que soit l e jugement que vous portiez de mes idees, j'espere de mon cote que vous n'en conclurez r i e n contre l'honnetete de mes moeurs. Later, r e f e r r i n g to his l i b e r a l opinions concerning masturbation, he remarks: 1 Suite de l'Entretien, AT, II, 183. 103 Je n'oterais pas mon chapeau dans l a rue a l'homme suspecte de pratiquer ma doctrine; i l me s u f f i r a i t qu'on l'appelat un infame. Mais nous causons sans temoins et sans consequence; et je vous d i r a i de ma philosophie ce que Diogene tout nu d i s a i t au jeune et pudique Athenien contre lequel i l se preparait a l u t t e r : "Mon f i l s , ne crains rien, je ne suis pas s i mechant que cel u i - l a . " 1 Bordeu's circumspection i s easily explained. He fears the loss of public esteem which he would incur i f i t were thought that he personally practised his r a d i c a l doctrine; he i s also aware that, even i f he were not suspected of prac t i s i n g i t himself, he would be blamed for propagating immoral opinions. He would incur the penalties which society attaches to the offence of fl o u t i n g what i t considers to be seemly conduct. This i s what he means when he says: ". . . ce serait fouler aux pieds toute decence, a t t i r e r sur soi les soupcons l e s plus odieux, et commettre un crime de lese-societe que de divulguer ces principes Bordeu does not mean that there i s anything deeply immoral i n divulging a doctrine which, after a l l , he does not think i s i t s e l f immoral. Nor does he think there i s anything sacred i n the prejudices of society. What he means i s that these prejudice are so strong that a man would do himself great harm by publicly c r i t i c i z i n g them. The prejudices would not thereby be destroyed, probably hardly even weakened, but the c r i t i c would suffer 1 Ibid., p. 186. 2 Ibid., p. 186. 104 ostracism or worse. 1 It i s quite natural that even while conversing so frankly with Mile de 1'Espinasse, Bordeu should be careful to a l l a y any suspicions she might have that he actually practises any of the perversions which he mentions. He would no doubt be s i m i l a r l y cautious even i f he were not sincere i n claiming that his actual conduct makes no concessions to his theoretical opinions. The question i s beside the point and need 2 not concern us. Before we leave the subject of Diderot's views on sexual morality, i t w i l l be useful to examine more closely the d i s t i n c - t i o n he makes between the ide a l natural morality which i s univer- s a l l y suited to the human species and the p r a c t i c a l morality which constitutes beneficence i n the s o c i a l order prevailing i n the Europe of his day. Georges May contends that Diderot never intended the ideas We s h a l l see l a t e r (see below, p. 238 ) that Diderot defines duty i n terms of the happiness of the agent. From this point of view, by r i s k i n g ostracism through the public expression of his opinions, Bordeu would be neglecting a duty. 2 A point of d e t a i l worth mentioning before we leave this topic i s that when Bordeu has declared masturbation not to be contrary to u t i l i t a r i a n morality, Mile de 1'Espinasse exclaims: "Voila une doctrine qui n'est pas bonne a. precher aux enfants." (AT, II , 185.) Bordeu r e p l i e s : "Ni aux autres." Reading between the l i n e s , one can see that whereas Mile de 1'Espinasse thinks i t would be a bad thing i n i t s e l f i f the practice became more widespread among children as a result of the divulgation of Bordeu's doctrine, Bordeu's reply may not mean simply that he agrees and thinks the spread of masturbation would be a bad thing among older people too, but rather that the person who disseminated this doctrine would have much to fear from these older people. 105 on f r e e l o v e i n the Supplement au Voyage de B o u g a i n v i l l e or B o r d e u 1 s views on p e r v e r s i o n s t o he taken as h i s c a r e f u l l y c o n s i d e r e d o p i n i o n s . They a r e j u s t the r e s u l t s of the l o g i c a l a p p l i c a t i o n o f h i s m a t e r i a l i s m t o human b e h a v i o u r , " l a p o i n t e extreme ou. l ' e n t r a i n e une metaphysique m a t e r i a l i s t e q u i , t o u t e s i n c e r e q u ' e l l e e s t , t o u r n e a, l ' a b s u r d e l o r s q u ' o n 1'applique au domaine e t h i q u e . " 1 A c c o r d i n g t o May, D i d e r o t i n f a c t r e j e c t s t h e s e unorthodox c o n c l u s i o n s : h i s m a t e r i a l i s m " s ' a r r e t e au s e u i l de l a morale. A p a r t i r de l a , l e p h i l o s o p h e d e v i e n t un s e n t i m e n t a l . " I n the l i g h t of our d i s c u s s i o n so f a r , t h i s o p i n i o n seems t o me t o be q u i t e unwarranted. What i s t r u e , i s t h a t D i d e r o t does not advocate the immediate t r a n s l a t i o n o f h i s t h e o r e t i c a l views i n t o l i b e r t a r i a n p r a c t i c e . Bordeu i s q u i t e e x p l i c i t about t h i s , as we have seen. He g i v e s few i n d i c a t i o n s o f what p r a c t i c a l changes i n s e x u a l m o r a l i t y h i s r a d i c a l t h e o r y might j u s t i f y . He i s l e s s guarded w i t h r e s p e c t t o m a s t u r b a t i o n than t o h o m o s e x u a l i t y and b e s t i a l i t y . But here he s i m p l y r e f l e c t s t h e g r e a t e r l e n i e n c y o f p u b l i c o p i n i o n towards the f i r s t of the s e t h r e e p r a c t i c e s . D i d e r o t i s not campaigning f o r t o l e r a t i o n o f s e x u a l d e v i a t i o n s so much as o b j e c t i n g t o the i r r a t i o n a l m o tives f o r w h ich they a r e condemned. These a c t s a r e , he c l a i m s , not i n t r i n s i c a l l y e v i l . I f they a r e t o be punished or o t h e r w i s e d i s c o u r a g e d , i t s h o u l d be because they have h a r m f u l e f f e c t s . 1 Quatre v i s a g e s de Denis D i d e r o t , p. 144. 2 Loc. c i t . 106 Diderot i s inc l i n e d to see i n them primarily symptoms of the unsatisfactory sexual l i f e which society has imposed on man. They are substitutes for the natural sexual enjoyment which Tahitian mores allow and which i s so r e s t r i c t e d i n Europe. Other c r i t i c s have seen i n Diderot the tendency to admit that for a privileged few there i s a special moral code. Thus Daniel Mornet remarks that " l a morale sociale de Diderot s'acheverait, s ' i l avait pr i s soin d'etre plus e x p l i c i t e , en une morale qui reserve les droits des inadaptes et meme en une 1 2 morale des chefs." In an e a r l i e r chapter I quoted a l e t t e r to d'Alembert r e f e r r i n g to a revised version of the three dialogues of 1769. In thi s text Diderot speaks of "une doctrine speculative qui n'est n i pour l a multitude n i pour l a pratique." Having quoted this passage, Paul Verniere remarks: " l a morale de Diderot, on l e vo i t , comportait une casuistique qui n ' a l l a i t pas sans 4 danger." Perhaps so, but one could wish Verniere were more e x p l i c i t . What exactly i s this casuistry and what and for whom i s the danger? One can well understand that the reference to a speculative doctrine unsuitable for the multitude might be mis- understood. A hasty reader might, for example, suppose that Diderot thinks i t permissible for certain people to practise "** Diderot 1'homme et 1 1 oeuvre, p. 65. 2 See above, p. 71, note 2. 5 Roth, IX, 15 (Sept. 1769). ^ Oeuvres philosophiques, p. 373, note 1. 107 behaviour the generalization of which would be undesirable. This would make Diderot a sort of moral e l i t i s t and would be the complete negation of a universal morality. But i t i s quite clear that he means, i n fact, that the speculative doctrine i s to be divulged only to a few wise men, who would not be in c l i n e d to use i t as a pretext for maleficent conduct, and not to be put into direct practice by anyone. The "doctrine speculative" concerning sexual morality i s part of the esoteric doctrine to which I referred i n an e a r l i e r chapter. 1 We have "seen that, although Diderot c r i t i c i z e s very r a d i c a l l y the accepted norms of sexual morality, he stresses that the individual who considers the happiness of others w i l l r e f r a i n from f l o u t i n g these norms as long as they are i n force. But the p r i n c i p l e of obeying senseless laws while protesting against them does not preclude t h e i r eventual abrogation. It i s clear that Diderot would favour certain reforms i n the i n s t i t u t i o n s and attitudes i n which the oppressive sexual ethic i s embodied. It i s not, however, a simple matter to assess the extent of the reforms which he would consider possible and desirable over a f a i r l y long term. He leaves unexamined the various p o s s i b i l i t i e s which l i e between the standards of the Tahitian utopia, which he probably considered forever beyond the reach of advanced societies, and the few timid reforms which he wanted to see immediately applied i n eighteenth-century France. 1 See above, p. 71. 108 Any reform would not only have to overcome the resistance of powerful i n s t i t u t i o n s such as the Church, hut would also he faced with the great d i f f i c u l t y of changing the deeply rooted prejudices of the general public. Towards the end of the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville, B defines the most desirable system of morality as one founded on the common needs of man. He thinks that this would be eas i l y attained i f most societies were not i n fact already dominated by i r r a t i o n a l moral attitudes: B: . . . je c r o i r a i s volontiers l e peuple l e plus sauvage de l a terre, l e Tahitien qui s 1 en est tenu scrupuleusement a l a l o i de nature, plus v o i s i n d'une bonne l e g i s l a t i o n qu'aucun peuple c i v i l i s e . A: Parce q u ' i l l u i est plus f a c i l e de se defaire de son trop de r u s t i c i t e , qu'a nous de revenir sur nos pas et de reformer nos abus. B: Surtout ceux qui tiennent a 1'union de l'homme avec l a femme.l The only hope, Diderot implies, i s for slow and gradual reform made possible by a progressive change i n the climate of public opinion. The key factor i n the reform of sexual morality i s thus the struggle for influence over the minds of men. The campaign against the Church was a necessary preliminary to any reforms i n sexual l e g i s l a t i o n and custom. People's attitudes would not change u n t i l the authority of the chief source of the i r prejudices was undermined. Diderot wrote at a time when the main task was to change the 1 AT, II, 241. 109 attitudes of men s u f f i c i e n t l y for them even to begin to recognize the need for a reform of sexual morality. It i s understandable that he should not have addressed himself to detailed questions regarding precisely what kind of reforms should be undertaken, how much progress should be attempted at a given time, and so on. These are a l l questions which must depend on the actual state of public opinion and on the psychological attitudes generally prevailing. It i s not surprising, therefore, that Diderot should formulate few precise demands for l e g i s l a t i v e reform i n the domain of sexuality. The only related proposal which he does make i s that divorce should be legalized, that i t should be granted by- c i v i l courts, and that divorced persons should be permitted to remarry. He admits that making suitable provision for the up- bringing of the children of divorced parents presents a d i f f i c u l t problem. It i s noteworthy that these proposals are not found i n the Encyclopedie or i n any work which might come to the notice of the French authorities, but rather i n writings intended for the private scrutiny of Catherine I I . 1 I f we sum up our findings regarding Diderot's position on sexual morality, we see, f i r s t that his most r a d i c a l statements on an appropriate sexual ethic are intended to be taken as l i t e r a l l y 1 Cf. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 204-05 (Memoir XL, "Du divorce"); Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , pp. 435- 36. 110 t r u e . He r e a l l y b e l i e v e s t h a t mankind would be h a p p i e r i f European s o c i e t y were so s t r u c t u r e d t h a t s e x u a l m o r a l i t y f o l l o w e d T a h i t i a n l i n e s . Such a system would not e l i m i n a t e a l l r e s t r i c t i o n s on i n d i v i d u a l s e x u a l b e h a v i o u r , but a l l unnecessary and h a r m f u l c o n s t r a i n t s would be abandoned. However, D i d e r o t does not propose t h i s i d e a l f o r immediate p r a c t i c a l a p p l i c a t i o n . The t r a d i t i o n a l s e x u a l e t h i c has become so entrenched b o t h i n i n s t i t u t i o n s and l e g i s l a t i o n and i n i n d i v i d u a l f e e l i n g s t h a t a r t i f i c i a l , but r e a l , needs e x i s t w hich cannot be i g n o r e d . Any r e f o r m programme would t h e r e f o r e have t o be both c a u t i o u s and u n h u r r i e d . Men must be c o n t e n t f o r the most p a r t w i t h a p r a c t i c a l s e x u a l e t h i c r e l a t i v e t o v a r y i n g i n d i v i d u a l needs and s u s c e p t i b i l i t i e s and so t o p r e v a i l i n g s o c i a l s t r u c t u r e , l e g i s l a t i o n and custom. D i d e r o t ' s e x a l t a t i o n o f the " n a t u r a l " s e x u a l e t h i c i s a p o l e m i c a l weapon which he uses t o c r i t i c i z e the p r e v a i l i n g orthodoxy i n the i n t e r e s t s o f p r e p a r i n g p u b l i c o p i n i o n f o r c e r t a i n r e f o r m s o f a f a i r l y moderate s o r t . He i s too p r a c t i c a l a t h i n k e r t o see any p o i n t i n campaigning f o r acceptance of T a h i t i a n mores even as a d i s t a n t g o a l f o r European s o c i e t y . The r e s i s t a n c e from a l l q u a r t e r s would be so g r e a t as t o make t h i s a f u t i l e v e n t u r e . But much improvement can be made by e l i m i n a t i n g the w o r s t abuses, such as f o r c e d and premature r e l i g i o u s v o c a t i o n s and m a r r i a g e s o f convenience, by p r o p a g a t i n g more comprehensive a t t i t u d e s towards s e x u a l misconduct and by f a c i l i t a t i n g d i v o r c e . Even i f i t were t o prove u l t i m a t e l y p o s s i b l e , i t i s d o u b t f u l whether D i d e r o t would have approved o f I l l the complete abandonment of a l l aspects of " a r t i f i c i a l " sexual morality. He sees the development of the need for l i f e - l o n g sexual partnership as a source of good as well as of e v i l . It has caused suffering by making men and women emotionally vulnerable; but i t has also produced, i n certain people, a degree of altruism, or of cooperative conduct, a s e n s i t i v i t y to the needs of others, a delicacy of conscience, which do credit to mankind and which might not otherwise have been attained: Voulez-vous que je vous dise une verite qui vous frappera, quoique diametralement opposee a. vos idees? C'est que l e sens moral s'est perfectionne parmi nous, a. un point qui passe de beaucoup l a portee du commun des individus; i l s ont, ces etres en qui l e sens moral s'est perfectionne, une langue que l a multitude n'entend pas; i l s font des dis t i n c t i o n s dont l e grand nombre se moque; i l s se font des scrupules auxquels l a plupart n'entendent r i e n . les hommes charnels appellent cela du oCeladonisme en amour, du Jansenisme en amitie, de l a sottise en a f f a i r e s , de l a pedanterie en vertu ou en probite. J- The establishment and progress of c i v i l i z e d society, Diderot claims, have produced many vices and crimes; but the suffering these have caused has been compensated for by the development of 2 many moral q u a l i t i e s which have enriched human relationships. Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis. pp. 509-11. Diderot does not intend the expression sens moral to be taken l i t e r a l l y as r e f e r r i n g to an innate moral faculty. See below, pp. 25^-55. Cf. the following passage from the Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron: "J'oserais assurer que l a purete de l a morale a s u i v i l e s progres des vetements depuis l a peau de l a bete jusqu'a l ' e t o f f e de soie. Combien de vertus delicates que l'esclave et l e sauvage ignorent! S i l'on croyait que ces vertus, f r u i t s du temps et des lumieres, sont de convention, l'on se tromperait; e l l e s tiennent a. l a science des moeurs comme l a f e u i l l e t i e n t a. l'arbre qu'elle embellit." (AT, III , 430.) 2 Cf. Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. - J O ? . . W i t h r e s p e c t t o s e x u a l m o r a l i t y , as i n o t h e r domains, mankind advance towards c i v i l i z a t i o n has had advantages and drawbacks I t seems t h a t , i n D i d e r o t ' s view, wisdom l i e s i n s e e k i n g a compromise s o l u t i o n which would e l i m i n a t e the worst e v i l s and y e t p r e s e r v e the most v a l u a b l e b e n e f i t s ; t o hope t o a c h i e v e a p e r f e c t l y happy s t a t e f o r mankind i s c h i m e r i c a l . CHAPTER IV GOVERNMENT AND THE GOVERNED Prom our study of Diderot 1s ideas regarding the system of morality i d e a l l y appropriate to the human species, we may conclude that he believed that the society of his day infringed upon what he considers to be an essential prerogative of man, namely the right to behave i n accordance with human nature. Diderot's charge that European society exerts upon i t s members pressures which c o n f l i c t with some of the fundamental requisites for human happiness must now be placed i n the context of his general doctrine concerning the structure of society. We s h a l l see later" 1" that he approves i n theory of an anarchical but harmonious society; he does not, however, believe that such a system i s a p r a c t i c a l p o s s i b i l i t y . Consequently, he reduces the question of the structure of society mainly to the problem of the relations between government and the governed. The most e x p l i c i t formulations of his conception of the nature and function of government are found i n the a r t i c l e s "Autorite politique", "Cite" and "Citoyen". In the two l a s t - mentioned a r t i c l e s , the concept of the contract, though not e x p l i c i t l y mentioned, i s c l e a r l y implied. In the p o l i t i c a l state, "les actes de l a volonte et 1 'usage des forces sont resignes a une personne physique ou a un f t r e moral, pour l a surete, l a """ See below, pp. 158-63. 114 t r a n q u i l l i t e interieure et exterieure, et tous les autres avantages de l a vie.""*" Diderot stipulates, however, that though this resignation of individual w i l l s to the sovereign authority- i s t o t a l i n degree, i t only concerns certain a c t i v i t i e s , and not a l l aspects of human l i f e : D'etre moral souverain etant par rapport au citoyen ce que l a personne physique despotique est par rapport au sujet, et l'esclave l e plus p a r f a i t ne transferant pas tout son etre a son souverain; a plus forte raison l e citoyen a - t - i l des droits q u ' i l se reserve, et dont i l ne se depart jamais.^ A d i s t i n c t i o n i s also made between the government (whether i t be a moral or a physical person) as the public sovereign power and the government as a private corporate power possessing domains and other material interests. In this second sense, i t i s not superior to the private individual c i t i z e n and should not receive preference over him and before the law. In the a r t i c l e "Autorite politique" i t i s e x p l i c i t l y stated that a l l legitimate p o l i t i c a l authority has i t s source i n the consent of those who have submitted to i t by virtue of a contract, formal or t a c i t , between themselves and the person to whom they 4 have granted i t . The authority which the prince thus receives from his subjects i s always limited by natural law and the fundamental laws of the State: 1 "Cite", AT, XIV, 187. 2 "Citoyen", AT, XIV, 193. •5 ' Doc. c i t . 4 AT, XIII, 392. 115 La puissance qui vient du consentement des peuples suppose necessairement des conditions qui en rendent 1'usage legitime, u t i l e a. l a societe, avantageux a. l a republique, et qui l a fixent et l a restreignent entre des l i m i t e s ; car l'homme ne doit n i ne peut se , donner entierement et sans reserve a un autre homme . . . These general considerations on the nature of government evoke an i d e a l of society characterized by harmony and cooperation i n the pursuit of general well-being. Diderot contrasts this i d e a l with the sad r e a l i t y : Le mot de societe f a i t concevoir un etat de reunion, de paix, de concours des volontes de tous les individus vers un but commun, l e bonheur general. La chose est exactement l e contraire. C'est un etat de guerre; guerre du souverain contre ses suiets; guerre des sujets les uns contre les autres. 2 This state of war has two origins. In the f i r s t place, i t i s due to the f a i l u r e of government to enact and apply l e g i s l a t i o n safeguarding c i v i l l i b e r t y . An essential requisite of a s a t i s - factory society i s to assure the c i v i l l i b e r t y of a l l c i t i z e n s , 3 which means the freedom of their persons and of t h e i r property. Of these two parts of c i v i l l i b e r t y , the more fundamental i s personal freedom, the right to dispose of one's person without compulsion from anyone else. "La premiere propriete est l a 4 5 personnelle." This right i s the inalienable prerogative of man. M AT, XIII, 392-93. p Observations sur l e Wakaz, i n Qeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, p. 401. 3 J Cf. Plan d'une universite, AT, III, 518, and Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . p. 403. 4 Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 406. 5 La Religieuse, AT, V, 88. 116 and the idea that one person should ever he the property of another i s unthinkable: . . . jamais un homme ne peut etre l a propriete d'un souverain, un enfant l a propriete d'un pere, une femme l a propriete d'un mari, un domestique l a , propriete d'un maitre, un negre l a propriete d'un colon. Consistent with this general p r i n c i p l e , Diderot condemns the i n s t i t u t i o n of slavery. He deplores the fact that i n the European colonies human beings are reduced to the condition of 2 beasts of burden. Diderot's additions to the t h i r d edition (1781) of Raynal's Histoire des deux Indes denounce not only the slave trade and the i n s t i t u t i o n of slavery, but the whole notion of colonization i n areas where indigenous populations are already 3 established. This i s also the point of view adopted i n the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. "Nous sommes l i b r e s ; " the old Tahitian t e l l s the departing Bougainville, "et v o i l a que tu as enfoui dans notre terre l e t i t r e de notre futur esclavage. Tu n'es n i un dieu, n i un demon: qui es-tu done, pour f a i r e des esclaves? . . . Tu n'es pas esclave: tu s o u f f r i r a i s l a mort plutot que de l ' e t r e , et tu veux nous a s s e r v i r l " 4 In the Observations sur l e Nakaz, Diderot i n s i s t s that the Russian serfs should be given their l i b e r t y . He b i t t e r l y c r i t i c i z e s """ Fragments echappes du p o r t e f e u i l l e d'un philosophe, AT, VI, 450. Cf. also Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. 345. 2 Suite de l'Entretien, AT, II, 190. Cf. also Roth, IX, 196-97 (To Mme de Maux; Nov., 1769). 3 See Yves Benot, "Diderot, Pechmeja, Raynal et l'anticolonialisme," Europe, Jan. - Feb., 1963, pp. 149-53. 4 AT, II, 214. 117 the Empress's projected code, which neglects to make any provision for t h i s reform. 1 Second only i n importance to personal l i b e r t y i s the security of property. Although Diderot occasionally speaks of the id e a l state of society as one i n which there would be no personal 2 property and everything would be held i n common, he implies at the same time that such a system would require a degree of cooperation or of natural abundance which i s , i n practice, unattainable. Nature demands that to earn their l i v e l i h o o d men 3 s h a l l engage with her i n a constant struggle, and i t i s to ensure that the individual s h a l l enjoy the f r u i t s of his own labour that property must be held sacred. Diderot follows Locke i n basing 4 the right to property on labour. I f property i s not secure, there can be neither laws nor ju s t i c e . Diderot praises the physiocrat Mercier de l a Riviere for having demonstrated that "toute l e g i s l a t i o n bonne ou mauvaise se res o l v a i t en dernier l i e u par favoriser et attaquer l a propriete. Grand criterium de toute l o i . ' ' 6 1 Ed. c i t . , pp. 386 and 457. 2 See below, pp. 1 5 8 - 6 1 . 3 Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 402. 4 Cf. The Second Treatise of Government, ed. T. Peardon, New York, 1952, p. 17; Entretien d'un pere avec ses enfants, AT, V, 297; Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 2 3 9 . 5 \ Roth, XI, 122 (Reponse au neuvieme chef d'accusation de M. Luneau.) 6 Roth, VII, 76 (To Damilaville; June or July 1767). 118 It would be incorrect to suppose that Diderot defends the pr i n c i p l e of the security of property i n order to champion the propertied classes against the landless masses. For one thing, he considers the peasants as the true owners of their land despite the o f f i c i a l l e g a l position according to which the proprietor was the "seigneur". But i n any case, Diderot i s not defending a part i c u l a r d i s t r i b u t i o n of property; he i s concerned instead with the security of a l l property from attack either by individuals or by the government. This position leads him, i t i s true, to defend the sanctity of property against certain proposals tending towards the equalization of wealth. Thus he rejects Helvetius's suggestion that, when a family diminishes i n number, i t should be required to give up some of i t s property to neighbouring families of greater size. Diderot points out that "cette cession forcee disposant du f r u i t de mon industrie blesse l e droi t de propriete."**" He does admit, however, that there are l i m i t s to the sanctity of property. Morellet, i n his refutation of Galiani's work on the corn trade, claims that the exportation of corn surpluses abroad must not be interfered with, since, however much this corn i s needed within the country, i t i s the property of the producers to dispose of as they please. Diderot i s h o r r i f i e d by such callousness: Ce principe est un principe de tartare, de cannibale, et non d'un homme police. Est-ce que l e sentiment 1 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 441. 119 d'human!"te n'est pas plus sacre que l e droit de propriete qu'on enfreint en paix, en guerre, en une i n f i n i t e de circonstances, et pour lequel M. l'abbe [Morellet] nous preche l e respect jusqu'a. nous exposer a nous tuer, a. nous egorger, a. mourir de faim? 1 Diderot makes an illuminating d i s t i n c t i o n between the sanctity of property rights from infringement by individuals and the precedence of the public interest over individual property r i g h t s : Le dr o i t de propriete est sacre de p a r t i c u l i e r a p a r t i c u l i e r , et s ' i l n'est pas sacre, i l faut que l a societe se dissolve. C'est l e contraire de ce dro i t de p a r t i c u l i e r relativement a. l a societe. Ce n'est rien, car s i c'etait quelque chose, i l ne se f e r a i t r i e n de grand, d'u t i l e a. l a societe; l a propriete de quelques p a r t i c u l i e r s croisant sans cesse les vues generales, e l l e tendrait a. sa ruine, parce que l e dr o i t de propriete de quelques p a r t i c u l i e r s c r o i s e r a i t sans cesse l e s moyens de son opulence, de sa force et de sa su.rete.2 There can be no c i v i l l i b e r t y , no security of person or property, unless there i s equality before the law. Diderot stresses this point to Catherine I I : Mais surtout des l o i s , des l o i s s i generales qu'elles n'exceptent personne. La generality de l a l o i est un des plus grands principes de l ' e g a l i t e des sujets. Que personne ne puisse impunement en frapper, en maltraiter, en i n j u r i e r grievement un autre. L'homme l e plus v i i prend de l a hauteur, du courage, de l a fermete, quand i l s a i t q u ' i l a un defenseur dans l a l o i . Employee surtout votre commission a. e t a b l i r cette sorte d'egalite legale; e l l e est s i naturelle, s i Apologie de l'abbe Galiani. i n Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, p. 118. Cf.. also i b i d . . pp. 85 and 90-91. 2 Ibid., p. 99. 120 humaine, q u ' i l n'y aurait que des betes feroces qui pussent s 'y refuser. Sim i l a r l y there must be equality before taxation. The n o b i l i t y should enjoy no exemptions: Qu'on attache de grands honoraires aux fonctions de l a noblesse; qu'on l u i accorde des rangs de preseance, des marques honorifiques, des statues, etc., mais aucun de ces privileges qui distinguent l e s nobles aux pieds des tribunaux, ou qui les affranchissent de 1'impot. La l o i et l e f i s c ne doivent f a i r e exception de personne, pas meme du prince du sang. II n'y a p que ce moyen de remedier a l a noblesse hereditaire. Diderot i s adamant i n his condemnation of privileges of a l l kinds, whether the beneficiaries are the n o b i l i t y , the clergy, 3 the magistracy, or the trade guilds. He condemns the hunting rights of the nobles, by virtue of which the peasants are forbidden to shoot any game which despoils their crops. 4 He also protests against the right of the seigneurs to levy dues from their peasants for the maintenance of community bakeries. In most areas the peasants were now equipped with their own ovens and the i n s t i t u t i o n of the "four banal" had outlived i t s o r i g i n a l j u s t i - f i c a t i o n and become a mere pretext for a burdensome tax. "Tous les paysans de ma province," Diderot observes, "ont des fours. 5 Les fours banaux sont des servitudes et des fleaux." 1 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 63. p Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , pp. 429-30. 3 Cf. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 5 and pp. 149- 54; Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 366. 4 Apologie de Galiani, ed. Verniere, 92; art. "Chasse", AT, XIV, 111. Apologie de Galiani, ed. c i t . , p. 97. 121 Although the importance he attaches to the security of property implies acceptance of a certain inequality i n wealth, Diderot disapproves of excessive inequality. He protests against the exactions of the fermiers generaux and expresses disgust at the i r vulgar display of i l l - g o t t e n wealth. 1 Meanwhile, he points out, the peasants are often reduced to dire poverty. A poor- painting by Halle e l i c i t s the following aside: Les jambes des rameurs grel.es a f a i r e peur; a. effacer avec l a langue. Dans nos campagnes les mieux ravagees par I'intendance et l a ferme, dans l a plus miserable de nos provinces, l a Champagne pouilleuse; l a , ou. 1'impot et l a corvee ont exerce toute leur rage; l a , ou l e pasteur, reduit a l a portion congrue, n'a pas un l i a r d a. donner a. ses pauvres; a l a porte de l ' e g l i s e ou du presbytere, sous l a chaumiere ou. l e malheureux manque de pain pour vivre, et de p a i l l e pour se coucher, 1'artiste aurait trouve de meilleurs modeles.2 Many eighteenth-century writers reacted to this situation by condemning luxury. . The general prevalence of poverty was due, they thought, to the f r i t t e r i n g away of resources by the opulent few. Other writers r e p l i e d by defending luxury on the grounds that i t gave employment to large numbers of people and thus was a way of r e d i s t r i b u t i n g wealth. This i s the view put forward by Mandeville i n The Fable of the Bees and adopted by Voltaire i n Le Mondain. Diderot's position d i f f e r s from both these views. He distinguishes between two kinds of luxury. There can be a good kind of luxury, based on a general opulence which enables 1 Roth, VIII, 183-84 (To Sophie Volland; Oct. 1, 1768). 2 Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 29. 122 people, once they have s a t i s f i e d their essential needs, to devote resources to inessential pleasures, "tous ces vices charmants qui font l e honheur de l'homme dans ce monde-ci et sa damnation eternelle dans l'autre.""*" But, i n r e a l i t y , instead of this happy state of general opulence, a few people are very r i c h and most are very poor. Besides which, the system of government i s such that merit and virtue lead nowhere, whereas wealth without either leads everywhere. The only way to obtain public respect i s to display one's wealth, or, at least to simulate wealth. Thus luxury becomes i n many cases a mask which conceals a r e a l indigence. Ostentatious expenditure i s preferred to the s a t i s f a c t i o n of essential needs: Toute l a societe est pleine d'avares fastueux. On loue une premiere loge a. 1'Opera et l'on emprunte l e l i v r e t . On garde deux ou t r o i s equipages et l'on neglige 1'education de ses enfants. On a un bon cocher, un excellent c u i s i n i e r et un mauvais precepteur. On veut que l a table s o i t somptueuse et l'on ne marie pas ses f i l l e s . 2 Diderot's position on this whole question i s aptly summed up i n the following passage from the Memoires pour Catherine I I : II s ' e t a b l i t , par mille funestes moyens q u ' i l est i n u t i l e d'exposer, une incroyable inegalite de fortune entre des concitoyens. II s'y forme un centre d'opulence r e e l l e ; autour de ce centre d'opulence r e e l l e , i l existe une immense et vaste misere. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 156. 2 Ibid., pp. 148-49. Cf. Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 89: ". . . i l y a deux sortes de luxe: l'un qui nait de l a richesse et de l'aisance generale, l'autre de 1'ostentation et de l a misere . . ." 123 Chez cette nation, par un concours de mille circonstances, l e merite, l a bonne education, l e s lumieres et l a vertu ne menent a. r i e n . L'or rnene a. tout. L'or qui mene a. tout est devenu l e Dieu de l a nation. II n'y a qu'un vice, c'est l a pauvrete. II n'y a qu'une vertu, c'est l a richesse. II faut etre riche ou meprise. S i l'on est effectivement riche, on montre sa richesse par tous l e s moyens imaginables. S i l'on n'est pas riche, on veut l e devenir par toutes les voies imaginables. II n'y en a point de deshonnete. S i l'on n'est pas riche, i l n'y a r i e n qu'on ne fasse pour cacher son indigence. Inequality i n wealth would not cause great harm, Diderot thinks, i f i t could be ensured that money gave access only to material and aesthetic satisfactions and not to p o l i t i c a l power or to pr i v i l e g e before the law. The best way to achieve this would be to abolish the sale of of f i c e s and i n s t i t u t e instead public competitions to f i l l posts i n the government and administra- t i o n : . . . nulle recompense au talent et a. l a vertu, nulle ressource pour oter a. l ' o r son a t t r a i t et sa puissance sans l e concours, meme aux places l e s plus importantes. 2 In another of the memoirs he wrote for Catherine II, Diderot, imagining himself crowned King Denis, proposes various reforms and i s optimistic about their e f f e c t : Que d o i t - i l a r r i v e r sous mon regne, s i , apres avoir releve et enrichi ma nation, je prends quelque precaution pour que l ' o r ne s o i t pas l e dieu de mon pays, et que, par l e concours aux places, j'assure quelque recompense au merite et a. l a vertu? Ne puis- Ed. Verniere, pp. 145-46. Note the s i m i l a r i t y with the s a t i r e of society i n Le Neveu de Rameau. Cf. AT, V, 471-72. 2 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 127. Cf. also i b i d . , pp. 48-49; Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, pp. 433, 435. 124 je me f l a t t e r , a i n s i qu'Henri IV, que mes paysans de Brie auront l e dimanche une poule dans leur pot? I f the various measures which Diderot proposes were adopted, there would exist that equality before the law which i s necessary to protect the c i v i l l i b e r t y and property of each individual against the aggression of others. But the individual must also be rendered secure from the oppressive exactions of government i t s e l f . Governments tend constantly to exceed the l i m i t s of the power conceded to them by the individuals from whom they derive a l l their authority. It w i l l be clear from my e a r l i e r 2 remarks on the a r t i c l e s "Cite"" and "Citoyen" that Diderot's conception of the relations between government and governed i n no way j u s t i f i e s a t o t a l i t a r i a n state. Government i s oppressive whenever i t exceeds the minimum of a c t i v i t y and interference necessary for the performance of i t s essential functions. These concern " l a surete generale et l a t r a n q u i l l i t e interieure, l e soin des armees, l'entretien des forteresses, 1 1 observation des l o i s , " — i n other words, national defence and the application of c i v i l and criminal law (in order that individuals may be protected from one another). In this way the general security of the whole community i s assured, and the persons and property of individuals are protected. But, i n s i s t s Diderot, each ind i v i d u a l possesses a portion of the t o t a l wealth over which **" Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 154-55. 2 See above, pp. 1 1 3 - 1 ^ . J Fragments echappes, AT, VI, 449. 125 he has a right of use and abuse and with which the government must not interfere, even i n the individual's own interest. The necessary governmental function of protecting the nation from foreign invasion or internal disorder already provides the executive authority with too frequent an excuse for c u r t a i l i n g the l i b e r t y of c i t i z e n s ; economic e f f i c i e n c y should not, Diderot pleads, become a further pretext for government intervention: Partout ou vous verrez chez les nations l ' a u t o r i t e souveraine s'etendre au dela de cette partie de police, dites qu'elles sont mal gouvernees. Partout ou. vous verrez cette partie de police exposer l e citoyen a. une surcharge d'impots, en sorte q u ' i l n'y a i t aucun reviseur national du l i v r e de recette et de depense de l'intendant ou souverain, dites que l a nation est exposee a. l a depredation. 0 redoutable notion de l ' u t i l i t e publiquel Parcourez l e s temps et les nations, et cette grande et be l l e idee d ' u t i l i t e publique se presentera a votre imagination sous 1'image symbolique 'd'un Hercule qui assomme une partie du peuple aux c r i s de joie et aux acclamations de 1'autre partie, qui ne sent pas qu'incessamment e l l e tombera ecrasee sous l a meme massue aux c r i s de joie et aux acclamations des individus actuellement vexes.! In this s p i r i t of minimum government, King Denis announces an extensive programme for the r e s t r i c t i o n of royal expenditure, with a view to lightening the burden of taxation. A major cause of oppressive taxation, and one which Diderot frequently denounces, i s aggressive militarism. This has the further harmful consequence of giving the monarch an excuse for maintaining a standing army, which he can then use to repress i n t e r n a l dissent. A t y p i c a l example of such militarism i s provided Fragments echappes, AT, VI, 449-50. ) Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 149-54. 126 by the government of Frederick II,"*" whom Diderot characterizes as "-un politique ambitieux, sans f o i , pour qui i l n'y a ri e n de sacre, un prince s a c r i f i a n t tout, meme l e bonheur de ses sujets, p a. sa puissance actuelle, 1'eternel boute-feu de 1'Europe." The remedy Diderot proposes for such militarism i s that standing armies be abolished and their essential role of defending the national t e r r i t o r y against foreign invasion be f u l f i l l e d by a c i t i z e n army. He admits that there i s l i t t l e chance that any monarch would ever w i l l i n g l y enact such a measure. Indeed, he envisages the c i t i z e n army as a defence as much against internal tyranny as against foreign invasion: Sous quelque gouvernement que ce fut, l e seul moyen d'etre l i b r e ce serait d'etre tous soldats; i l faudrait que dans chaque condition l e citoyen eut deux habits, 1'habit de son etat et 1'habit m i l i t a i r e . Aucun souverain n'etablira cette education. . . . II n'y a de bonnes remontrances que ce l l e s qui se feraient l a baionnette au bout du f u s i l . * I have considered so far Diderot's conception of the ide a l relationship between government and the governed, and his cr i t i c i s m s Cf. Pages contre un tyran, i n Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere pp. 147-48. 2 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 36. ^ Politique des souverains, i n Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, p. 173. Cf. Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. ext., pp. 442-43, and the apostrophe to the American insurgents included i n the Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron (1778), AT, III, 324-25. 127 of the r e l a t i o n actually prevailing i n the states of eighteenth- century Europe. These c r i t i c i s m s and proposed reforms are not s p e c i f i c a l l y related to particular forms of government, except i n so f a r as tyranny i s excluded as being essentially incompatible with individual freedom. However, Diderot gave considerable thought to the best p r a c t i c a l form of government, and during his career his views on this question show a certain evolution. In the Refutation d'Helvetius, Diderot admits that democracy i s the best form of government, but doubts whether i t i s a p r a c t i c a l p o s s i b i l i t y i n states large- enough to be secure from foreign attack: . . . l e gouvernement democratique supposant l e concert des volontes, et l e concert des volontes supposant les hommes rassembles dans un espace assez e t r o i t , je crois q u ' i l ne peut y avoir que de petites republiques, et que l a surete de l a seule espece de societe qui puisse etre heureuse sera toujours precaire.-'- It should be noted that this conception of democracy, l i k e that 2 of Rousseau, demands direct p a r t i c i p a t i o n of a l l c i t i z e n s i n decisions a f f e c t i n g the general interest. What are nowadays called democracies would no doubt be classed; by Diderot as elective 3 a r i s t o c r a c i e s . For p r a c t i c a l purposes, Diderot grants that 1 AT, II, 390. p Cf. Le Contrat s o c i a l , III, chap. 4, i n Qeuvres completes (Pleiade), Paris, 1964, pp. 404-06. 5 Cf. d'Holbach's a r t i c l e "Representants", AT, XVII, 12: "Dans un Etat purement democratique, l a nation, a proprement parler, n'est point representee; l e peuple entier se reserve l e dr o i t de f a i r e connaitre ses volontes dans les assemblies generales, composees de tous les-citoyens; mais des que l e peuple a c h o i s i des magistrats q u ' i l a rendus depositaires de son autorite, ces magistrats deviennent ses representants; et suivant l e plus ou l e moins de pouvoir que l e peuple s'est reserve, l e gouvernement devient ou une a r i s t o c r a t i e , ou demeure une democratie." 128 there must he a d i s t i n c t i o n between the general body of cit i z e n s and those persons who hold p o l i t i c a l authority. His r e f l e c t i o n s on systems of government are always concerned with the best way to ensure that the personnel of government carry out their necessary functions without allowing their personal interests to take precedence over the general interest. In the opinion of Jacques Proust, during the period when he was mainly occupied with the Encyclopedie, i . e . 1750-65, Diderot's preference was for absolute monarchy."*" It may, perhaps, be true that at this time Diderot, l i k e V o l t a i r e , espoused-the. these royale and saw i n the various corps intermediaires (which Montesquieu advocated especially as checks on the power of the executive) not the noble guardians of the interests of the people, but the representatives of the s e l f i s h interests of privileged- groups. It i s d i f f i c u l t , however, to be certain of Diderot's preferences regarding p r a c t i c a l p o l i t i c a l arrangements judging only on the basis of what he writes i n his Encyclopedie a r t i c l e s . The three which I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, "Autorite politique", "Cite" and "Citoyen", deal mainly i n general terms with the p o l i t i c a l structure of societies, without c l e a r l y expressing any preference for one or other particular -gorm of government. Where there i s a more s p e c i f i c reference to particular p o l i t i c a l arrangements, one has to make considerable allowance for prudence and, perhaps, irony. Take, for example, the a l l u s i o n ""* Diderot et 1'Encyclopedie, p. 348. 129 to kings near the end of the a r t i c l e "Droit naturel": . . . puisque des deux volontes, l'une generale et 1*autre p a r t i c u l i e r e , l a volonte generale n'erre jamais, i l n'est pas d i f f i c i l e de voir a laquelle i l faudrait, pour l e bonheur du genre humain, que l a puissance l e g i s l a t i v e appartint, et quelle veneration l'on doit aux mortels augustes dont l a volonte p a r t i c u l i e r e reunit et l' a u t o r i t e et 1 ' i n f a i l l i b i l i t e de l a volonte generale. The f i n a l remark i s ambiguous, since i t can be taken to imply- either that kings do i n fact represent the general w i l l , or that, when they do, they deserve veneration. Diderot himself never believed that any monarch necessarily expressed the general w i l l , but for a considerable part of his career he seems to have hoped that, when informed by enlightened public opinion, they would conform their p o l i c i e s to the general interest. This hope finds expression, for example, i n his evocation of the popular king 2 Henri IV i n "Autorite politique". During the l a t e r 1750's and the 1760's Diderot seems gradually to have l o s t whatever confidence he may have had i n the French monarchy, considering Louis XV and the future Louis XVI as personally incompetent and the regime as i n constant danger of degenerating into despotism. In the early 1770's he remarks i n a memoir to Catherine I I : Notre monarque est bien caduc. Les dernieres annees d'un long regne d'un grand r o i ont souvent gate l e s premieres; jamais l e s dernieres annees d'un long 1 AT, XIV, 300-01. On Diderot's views on the general w i l l , see below, pp. 22 3-29. 2 AT, XIII, 396-99. 130 regne d'un r o i ordinaire, pour ne r i e n dire de pis, n'ont repare les desastres des annees precedentes. A i n s i nous avons peut-etre encore du chemin a f a i r e vers l a decadence. Mais qui s a i t notre sort sous l e regne suivant? Moi, personnellement, j'en pense mal. Puisse-je me tromper! P u i s s e - t - i l ne pas toujours chasser sans vo i r goutte. In 1771 Diderot writes to John Wilkes announcing the decadence 2 and approaching ruin of the French state. In his "Essai historique sur l a police de l a France", he traces the decline of p o l i t i c a l l i b e r t y i n France since the Middle Ages. Since the reign of Louis XIV, the royal power has been i n effect absolute, but while the Parlements remained i n existence a certain exterior appearance of l i b e r t y was preserved. Now, with Maupeou's coup d'etat abolishing these bodies, the great spider's web bearing an image of l i b e r t y revered by the multitude has been torn apart and 3 tyranny revealed for a l l to see. Although Diderot had no great l i k i n g for the actual p o l i t i c a l attitudes of the former Parlements, he now r e a l i z e s that there must be constitutional checks on royal power and that one cannot re l y on the benevolence of the monarch to ensure that he respects the fundamental laws of the State and the general w i l l of the people. His e a r l i e r ideal of the popular monarch able to impose his w i l l i n order to make the Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 40-41. Diderot alludes successively to Louis XIV, Louis XV and the future Louis XVI, who was passionately fond of hunting, but short-sighted. 2 Roth, XI, 210-11 (Oct. 19, 1771) and p. 223 (Nov. 14, 1771). ^ Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 20. 131 general interest triumph over the s e l f i s h interests of individuals and groups i s , at least i n theory, hard to distinguish from enlightened despotism; but since then he has witnessed both the p r a c t i c a l f a i l u r e of the French monarchy to promote the public interest by introducing essential reforms and the m i l i t a r i s t i c p o l i c i e s of the "enlightened" Frederick I I . He now thinks of absolute power as potential, i f not actual, tyranny. He had supposed that, provided the monarch were well enough informed concerning the state of national a f f a i r s and public needs, i f he were constantly confronted with what the Physiocrats called "1'evidence", he could be r e l i e d upon to pursue wise p o l i c i e s . As l a t e as 1767, he had praised Mercier de l a Riviere for proclaiming that "1'evidence" was the sole counterforce to tyranny. 1 Now he has l o s t this confidence; he writes shortly after the death of Louis XV: L'evidence n'empeche n i l e jeu de l ' i n t e r e t n i c e l u i des passions; un- commercant deregle voit evidemment q u ' i l se ruine, et ne se ruine pas moins. Un souverain sentira q u ' i l tyrannise ou par lui-meme ou par ses ministres, et n'en tyrannisera pas moins. Est-ce 2 1'evidence qui a manque en France sous l e regne passe? To hold tyranny i n check, one must apply the physical counterforce of a p o l i t i c a l body, such as the English parliament. In answer to contemporary thinkers l i k e Helvetius, who considered that absolutism was an e v i l only i f i t was unenlightened, 1 Roth, VII, 76 (To Damilaville; June or July 1767). p Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 359. 3 Ibid.. p. 359. 132 Diderot c r i t i c i z e s the very notion of enlightened despotism. Catherine II, i n her Instruction to the l e g i s l a t i v e assembly of 1767-68,"*" defines absolutism i n such a way as to imply that the pursuit of the general interest i s an essential aspect of i t : Quel est l'objet d'un gouvernement absolu? Ce n'est certainement point de priver l e s homines de leur l i b e r t e naturelle, mais de d i r i g e r leurs actions vers l e plus grand de tous les biens. Diderot re p l i e s that the important question i s not what i s the "object" of absolute government, but what i s i t s eff e c t : "Son effet est de mettre toute l i b e r t e et toute propriete dans 3 l'absolue dependance d'un seul."^ Enlightenment and benevolence cannot be part of the essence of absolutism as a p o l i t i c a l system; they must always depend on the personality of the reigning monarch. Even i f he personally pursues wise and just p o l i c i e s , he leaves his successor free to undo a l l the good he has done. An hereditary r u l e r combining to an equal degree the qu a l i t i e s of justice, enlightenment and strength of character i s a r a r i t y . But even when chance places such a person on the throne, i t does not follow that he should be given a free hand. The nation must not lose the habitual courage to question royal p o l i c i e s and to consent only to their r a t i o n a l i t y and not to authority per se. Even Diderot's much-admired Seneca disappoints him i n one passage, where the Roman philosopher declares that there i s no point i n a "*" See above, p. 6 8 , note h. p Quoted i n Oeuvres politiques, ed Verniere, p. 354, note 1. 3 Observations sur l e fflakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 354. 133 r u l e r giving reasons to j u s t i f y his edicts, since the subject needs only to obey. Diderot protests that "une societe d'hommes n'est pas un troupeau de betes: l e s t r a i t e r de l a meme maniere, c'est i n s u l t e r a. l'espece humaine."1 Arbitrary rule has a corrupting effect on the s p i r i t of the nation: A mesure qu'un peuple perd l e sentiment de l a l i b e r t e et de l a propriete, i l se corrompt, i l s ' a v i l i t , i l penche vers l a servitude. Quand i l est esclave, i l est perdu; i l ne se c r o i t plus meme proprietaire de sa vie. II n'a plus de notion precise de juste et d'injuste. Sans l e fanatisme qui l u i inspire l a haine pour les autres contrees, i l n'aurait plus de patrie. Partout ou ce fanatisme ne subsiste plus, les grands songent a. s'expatrier; et les petit s ne sont retenus que par l a stupidite qui l e s engourdit; i l s ressemblent aux chiens malheureux qui vont cherchant l a maison ou. i l s sont battus et mal nourris.^ Even when despotism i s enlightened and benevolent, this process of degradation s t i l l takes place. Thus, paradoxically, a succession of benevolent despots would be a great e v i l , for i t would sap the nation's b e l i e f i n i t s rights and i t s courage to defend them, leaving i t a passive victim to the blatant tyranny which must sooner or l a t e r b e f a l l i t . Diderot warns Catherine II of the misfortune which a succession of three enlightened despots would s p e l l for Russia: . . . ces t r o i s despotes excellents accoutumeraient l a nation a. l'obeissance aveugle; sous leurs regnes les peuples oublieraient leurs droits inalienables; i l s tomberaient dans une securite et une apathie funestes; i l s n'eprouveraient plus cette alarme continuelle, l a conservatrice necessaire de l a l i b e r t e . Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 264. Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 440. 134 Ce pouvoir absolu qui, place dans l a main d'un bon maitre, f a i s a i t tant de bien, l e dernier de ces bons maitres l e transmettrait a un me'chant, et l e l u i transmettrait s c e l l e par l e temps et par 1'usage; et tout s e r a i t perdu. The only r e a l , permanent, good which could possibly ensue from the rule of an enlightened despot would be his abdication of arbitrary power and the i n s t i t u t i o n of a system of government i n which the powers of the r u l e r and the rights of the ruled were l a i d down i n a written constitution. For this i n i t i a l establishment of the guarantees of p o l i t i c a l l i b e r t y the absolute r u l e r i s at a great advantage, i f only he makes a firm resolve to take such a step. In this respect the Russian empress sadly disappointed Diderot: Je vois dans 1'Instruction de Sa Majeste Imperiale un projet d'un code excellent; mais pas un mot sur l e moyen d'assurer l a s t a b i l i s e de ce code. J'y vois l e nom de despote abdique; mais l a chose conservee, mais l e despotisme appele monarch i e . Diderot's attitude to Catherine II i n no way constitutes an abandonment of his hatred of despotism. He seems to have f e l t gratitude towards his benefactress and admiration for her i n t e l l i - gence and strength of character without approving of the nature of her power. He long cherished the b e l i e f , or at least the hope, that she would 'ultimately i n s t i t u t e a limited monarchy. Both i n the memoirs which he p e r i o d i c a l l y submitted to her during his """ Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , pp. 354-55. Cf. also Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 117-18; Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 381-82. 2 Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 457. 135 stay i n R u s s i a and i n the Observations sur l e Nakaz, he f r e e l y expresses h i s condemnation of absolutism, h i s b e l i e f i n the sov e r e i g n t y of the people and h i s approval of l i m i t e d monarchy."1" In the memoirs, he i s c a r e f u l to avoid o f f e n d i n g the s u s c e p t i b i l i t y of an a u t h o r i t a r i a n woman, but behind the apparent ingenuousness of remarks l i k e the f o l l o w i n g , there i s a challenge to the i n n e r conscience of the Empress: Que s i l ' o n p r o p o s a i t a. Sa Majeste Imperiale de v o i r subitement l a c o n s t i t u t i o n de 1'empire russe transformed dans l a c o n s t i t u t i o n a n g l a i s e , je doute f o r t q u ' e l l e l e r e f u s a t . L i b r e pour l e b i e n q u ' e l l e veut, l i e e pour l e mal q u ' e l l e ne veut pas, en e f f e t , qu'y p e r d r a i t - e l l e ? 2 In the Observations sur l e Nakaz, which remained i n the author's p o s s e s s i o n u n t i l h i s death, when they were sent to R u s s i a with h i s l i b r a r y and manuscripts, i t i s apparent that D i d e r o t has r e t a i n e d few i l l u s i o n s r e g a r d i n g Catherine. Does she, he asks, or does she not, inte n d to give up the d e s p o t i c power which she c e r t a i n l y possesses a t present? I f she does, l e t i t be c l e a r l y w r i t t e n i n t o the C o n s t i t u t i o n , and l e t her devi s e , i n c o n s u l t a t i o n with the n a t i o n , means of pr e v e n t i n g any f u t u r e r u l e r from u s u r p i n g absolute power. The Empress should examine her conscience: S i en l i s a n t ce que je v i e n s d ' e c r i r e et en ecoutant sa conscience, son coeur t r e s s a i l l i t de j o i e , e l l e ne veut p l u s d'esclaves; s i e l l e f r e m i t , s i son sang se 1 The f i r s t a r t i c l e of the Observations sur l e Nakaz (ed. c i t . , pp. 343-44) i s p a r t i c u l a r l y outspoken on these p o i n t s . p Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. "Verniere, p. 123. 136 r e t i r e , s i e l l e p a l i t , e l l e s'est crue m e i l l e u r e q u ' e l l e n'etait.-*- Small wonder Catherine I I was annoyed! when she f i n a l l y read the Observations sur l e Nakaz a f t e r the author's death, f o r she had f a i l e d to c a r r y out her announced i n t e n t i o n of p r o v i d i n g R u s s i a w i t h a w r i t t e n C o n s t i t u t i o n . The r e l a t i o n between the propaganda of the philosophes and the French R e v o l u t i o n has been the subject of much dispute among h i s t o r i a n s f o r over a century and a h a l f . I do not intend to add to t h i s debate, but the question of D i d e r o t ' s a t t i t u d e to v a r i o u s p o s s i b l e forms of regime r a i s e s the r e l a t e d matter of 3 h i s views on the popular overthrow of'an e s t a b l i s h e d government. D i d e r o t ' s w r i t i n g s c o n t a i n no p r e c i s e statements as to the course which he would l i k e p o l i t i c a l events to take i n France i f the e x i s t i n g government f a i l e d to i n s t i t u t e reforms. He suggests that the s i t u a t i o n i s so bad that piecemeal reforms cannot remedy i t : " l e s mauvais usages m u l t i p l i e s sans f i n et i n v e t e r e s sont Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 345. " T r e s s a i l l i t " i s an obsolete form of the present tense o f t e n used by eighteenth- century w r i t e r s . p Cf. V e r n i e r e ' s remarks i n Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , pp. 333-34. 3 The poem l e s Eleutheromanes could be t r e a t e d i n t h i s s e c t i o n , s i n c e i t contains a warning to t y r a n t s that t h e i r excesses are l i k e l y to provoke v i o l e n t popular r e b e l l i o n . I have p r e f e r r e d , however, to d i s c u s s t h i s t e x t i n the f o l l o w i n g chapter (pp. 1 6 5 - 7 1 ) because i t has sometimes provided specious support f o r the view that D i d e r o t i s a t heart an a n a r c h i s t who doubts the value of s o c i a l order. 137 devenus respectables par l e u r duree et irreformables par l e u r nombre." 1 In a s i m i l a r v e i n , he w r i t e s to Catherine I I : Qu'un peuple est heureux, l o r s q u ' i l n'y a r i e n de f a i t chez l u i ! Les mauvaises et surtout l e s v i e i l l e s i n s t i t u t i o n s sont un obstacle presque i n v i n c i b l e aux bonnes. 2 In s e v e r a l passages he evokes the myth of Medea. Lamenting, i n a l e t t e r to John Wilkes, the c u l t u r a l decadence of France, he remarks: On me demandait un jour comment on re n d a i t l a vigueur a une n a t i o n qui l ' a v a i t perdue. Je repondis: comme Medee r e n d i t l a jeunesse L s o n pere, en l e depecant et en l e f a i s a n t b o u i l l i r . The sanguinary character of t h i s myth may suggest that Diderot has i n mind a frenzy of b l o o d - l e t t i n g , but we must not allow our knowledge of the a c t u a l course taken by the French Revolution to colour our understanding of pre - r e v o l u t i o n a r y w r i t i n g s . In a l l p r o b a b i l i t y , Diderot hopes that the c r i s i s w i l l take the form of an abrupt and r a d i c a l change i n n a t i o n a l p o l i c y , implemented perhaps by the e x i s t i n g government and b r i n g i n g about a sudden r e d i s t r i b u t i o n of wealth and power; t h i s would cause hardship to many people, but would i n the long run do much good. This i n t e r - p r e t a t i o n i s supported by the f o l l o w i n g passage: Notre d r o i t coutumier est immense. I I est l i e avec l ' e t a t et l a fortune de tous l e s p a r t i c u l i e r s . C e l u i qui p r o j e t t e r a i t l e re'nversement de ce colosse e b r a n l e r a i t 1 Roth, IV, 108 (To Sophie Voll a n d ; Aug. 19, 1762). p Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. Verniere, p. 4. 5 Roth, XI, 223 (Nov. 14, 1771). 138 toutes l e s proprietes. II n'acheverait pas son entreprise sans commettre une foule d'injustices criantes. II souleverait i n f a i l l i b l e m e n t tous les differents ordres de l ' E t a t . Je l e fer a i s pourtant, car je pense q u ' i l faut f a i r e un grand mal d'un moment pour un plus grand bien qui dure. With regard to revolution i n the form of a popular uprising, i t i s true that Diderot claims that an oppressed nation has.the right to rebel against a tyrannical government: S ' i l n'est point de gouvernement ou des circonstances urgentes n'exigent 1'infraction des l o i s naturelles, l a v i o l a t i o n des droits de l'homme et l ' o u b l i des prerogatives des sujets, i l n'y en a point ou certaines conjonctures n'autorisent l a resistance de ceux-ci; d'ou naxt 1'extreme d i f f i c u l t e de d e f i n i r et de circo n s c r i r e avec exactitude l e crime de haute trahison. Qui est-ce qui se rendit coupable de lese-majeste? fut-ce l e s Romains ou Meron?2 But t h i s was not a s t a r t l i n g l y novel point of view. It had 3 already been propounded by Locke and others. Besides, Diderot i s very cautious i n defining the conditions j u s t i f y i n g the exercise of t h i s r i g h t . One must, however, allow for caution i n a published work, and there i s l i t t l e reason to doubt that Diderot was favourably disposed to revolutionary action by the people against a tyrannical government provided such action proved e f f e c t i v e . In the f i r s t edition of his Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, published i n 1778, he acclaims the American Revolution 4 enthusiastically. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 3. p _ Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Heron, AT, i l l , 102-03. 3 Cf. The Second Treatise of Government, chap. XIX, "Of the d i s - solution of government," ed. c i t . , pp. 119-39. 4 Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de E'er on, AT, III, 324-25. 139 Yet although he thinks that popular r e b e l l i o n can be instrumental i n momentarily overthrowing tyranny, he has no f a i t h i n the a b i l i t y of the common people to bring about any durable reform. He despises the "peuple" for i t s ignorance, i t s prejudices, i t s lack of any firm pr i n c i p l e s , of a l l n o b i l i t y of s p i r i t : "L'homme peuple est l e plus sot et l e plus mediant des hommes: se depopulariser, ou se rendre meilleur, c'est l a meme chose.""'' This attitude does not imply class snobbery; any lowly born man who has r i s e n above the popular l e v e l , not i n wealth, but i n i n t e l l e c t u a l and moral q u a l i t i e s , i s worthy of esteem. Such a man i s , by d e f i n i t i o n , no longer a member of the "peuple", 2 i n the pejorative sense which Diderot sometimes gives the term. But the masses, as they i n fact are, cannot be r e l i e d upon to bring about any amelioration i n the i r l o t or that of mankind. If t h e i r unrest should provide the c r i s i s which Diderot thinks i s necessary to shake French society from i t s torpor, i t w i l l inevitably be up to the i n t e l l e c t u a l s , the philosophes, to propose p r a c t i c a l means of achieving a freer and more just s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l system. There have been many rebellions, and much bloodshed, over the centuries, but no good has ever come of such turmoil because no constructive policy for reform guided these movements of rev o l t : Les hommes, las d'etre mal, ont quelquefois assomme avec leurs chaines l e maitre cruel qui a trop abuse 1 I b i d . , p. 263. Cf. also i b i d . , p. 164 and the a r t i c l e "Multitude", AT, XVI, 137. 2 Diderot's views on the "peuple" are c l a r i f i e d i n an excellent a r t i c l e by Roland Mortier, "Diderot et l a notion de 'peuple'," Europe, Jan.-Feb., 1963, pp. 78-88. 140 de son autorite et de leur patience, mais i l n'en est resulte aucun bien n i pour eux n i pour leurs descendants, parce qu'ils ignoraient ce que l e philosophe pretend leur apprendre d'avance, ce qu'ils ont a, f a i r e pour etre mieux.! When eventually the r e a l l y f r u i t f u l revolution comes, i t w i l l be because there i s a s u f f i c i e n t body of enlightened opinion to give a r a t i o n a l , constructive d i r e c t i o n to p o l i c i e s and events. The philosophic movement w i l l have brought about that "revolution dans les espri t s " which Diderot hoped would be the result of the 2 Encyclopedie. The mission of the philosopher i s to inform men of t h e i r inalienable rights, to denounce re l i g i o u s fanaticism and militarism: "II prepare aux revolutions, qui surviennent toujours a l'extremite du malheur, des suites qui compensent l e sang 3 repandu." Diderot's analysis of the p o l i t i c a l s ituation i n Prance i n the 1760's and 70's appears to distinguish two divergent trends. He becomes more and more convinced that the French monarchy i s irremediably tyrannical; but at the same time he asserts that the s p i r i t of l i b e r t y i s awake and, indeed, i s t y p i c a l of the times i n which he l i v e s . The authorities, he suggests, should not be surprised at this when they allow the publication i n France of a work such as the l e t t r e s d'un fermier de Pennsylvanie aux habitants 1 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 235. Cf. Roth, VIII, 113 (To Falconet; Sept. 6, 1768). 2 Roth, IV, 172 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 26, 1762). 3 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 235. 141 de 1'Amerique s e p t e n t r i o n a l e (1769): On nous permet l a l e c t u r e de ces c h o s e s - l a , et l ' o n e s t etonne de nous t r o u v e r , au bout d'une d i z a i n e d'annees, d ' a u t r e s homines. E s t - c e qu'on ne sent pas avec q u e l l e f a c i l i t e des ames un peu genereuses d o i v e n t b o i r e ces p r i n c i p e s e t s'en e n i v r e r ? Ah! mon ami, heureusement l e s t y r a n s sont encore p l u s i m b e c i l e s q u ' i l s ne sont mechants; i l s d i s p a r a i s s e n t ; l e s l e c o n s des grands hommes f r u c t i f i e n t , et 1 ' e s p r i t d'une n a t i o n s ' a g r a n d i t . I n a n o t h e r r e v i e w a r t i c l e w r i t t e n a t about the same tim e , he denounces a w r i t e r who has pronounced the e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y m o r a l l y c o r r u p t and i n a l l r e s p e c t s i n f e r i o r t o the s e v e n t e e n t h . D i d e r o t defends h i s c e n t u r y on the grounds of i t s s c i e n t i f i c and c u l t u r a l advances, the r i s e i n the g e n e r a l l e v e l of e n l i g h t e n m e n t , and, above a l l , f o r the s p i r i t o f l i b e r t y which pervades the n a t i o n : Maudit s o i t 1 ' i m p e r t i n e n t q u i rend l a n a t i o n r e s p o n s a b l e des d e s o r d r e s q u i c e s s e r o n t avec l a r a c e des b e l i t r e s q u i l a gouvernent. . . . Maudit s o i t 1 ' i m p e r t i n e n t q u i ne v o i t pas que l e s F r a n c a i s n'ont jamais r e s p i r e un s entiment p l u s p r o f o n d e t p l u s r e f l e c h i de l a l i b e r t e . ^ I n a l e t t e r t o P r i n c e s s D a s h k o f f , he sums up the p o l i t i c a l s i t u a t i o n d u r i n g the s t r u g g l e between Maupeou and the P a r l e m e n t s . I f the r o y a l a u t h o r i t i e s g i v e way, the f o r c e s opposing d e s p o t i s m w i l l f e e l t h e i r s t r e n g t h and t h i s c o u l d l e a d to the t o t a l o v e r - throw of the a b s o l u t e power of the monarchy. I f , however, a l l the P arlements a r e d i s s o l v e d and r e p l a c e d by s m a l l t r i b u n a l s composed of c r e a t u r e s of the m i n i s t r y , t h e r e w i l l no l o n g e r be any b a r r i e r 1 AT, IV, 89. 2 AT, V I , 373. 142 t o oppose t o t o t a l d e s p o t i s m . We have seen how D i d e r o t s u b s e q u e n t l y c o n f i r m s t h i s view of the s i g n i f i c a n c e of Maupeou's coup d ' e t a t ; 1 a t the time of t h i s l e t t e r he i s s t i l l h o p e f u l t h a t the s p i r i t of l i b e r t y w hich has s t r u c k so many blows a g a i n s t the power and i n f l u e n c e of the Church w i l l a l s o p r e v a i l a g a i n s t s e c u l a r o p p r e s s i o n : Chaque s i e c l e a son e s p r i t q u i l e c a r a c t e r i s e . L ' e s p r i t du n o t r e semble e t r e c e l u i de l a l i b e r t e . L a premiere a t t a q u e c o n t r e l a s u p e r s t i t i o n a ete v i o l e n t e , sans mesure. Une f o i s que l e s hommes ont ose d'une maniere quelconque donner l ' a s s a u t a. l a b a r r i e r e de l a r e l i g i o n , c e t t e b a r r i e r e , l a p l u s f o r m i d a b l e q u i e x i s t e comme l a p l u s r e s p e c t e e , i l e s t i m p o s s i b l e de s ' a r r e t e r . Des q u ' i l s ont t o u r n e des r e g a r d s menacants c o n t r e l a majeste du c i e l , i l s ne manqueront pas, l e moment d'apres, de l e s d i r i g e r c o n t r e l a s o u v e r a i n e t e de l a t e r r e . Le c a b l e q u i t i e n t et comprime l'humanite e s t forme de deux c o r d e s : l'une ne peut ceder sans que 1 ' a u t r e v i e n n e a. rompre. 2 B o t h the conquest o f l i b e r t y i n the f a c e o f o p p r e s s i o n and i t s maintenance under good government depend upon the f r e e e x p r e s - s i o n o f o p i n i o n . I t i s t h i s b a s i c freedom which p e r m i t s the f o r m u l a t i o n of the w i l l of the p e o p l e , of which, i n s a t i s f a c t o r y p o l i t i c a l systems, i t i s e s s e n t i a l t h a t the government be i n f o r m e d . F r e d e r i c k I I h a v i n g d e c l a r e d t h a t men's duty i s always t o r e s p e c t the form of government of t h e i r c o u n t r y , D i d e r o t remarks t h a t i t i s one t h i n g t o obey the l a w s , but q u i t e another t o remain s i l e n t 1 See above p. 1 3 0 . 2 R o t h , X I , 20 ( A p r i l 3, 1771). 143 when the laws are bad: " . . . comment l e l e g i s l a t e u r reconnaitra- t - i l l e vice de son administration, l e defaut de ses l o i s , s i personne n'ose elever l a voix?"**" On the other hand, when governments become oppressive and neglect the general interest, the expression of public opinion i s the means whereby the s p i r i t of l i b e r t y and of resistance to tyranny i s kept a l i v e . When governments e f f e c t i v e l y silence writers, oppression reaches i t s p culmination, for the people lose even th e i r w i l l to r e s i s t i t . It was probably i n his dealings with the royal and e c c l e s i - a s t i c a l censorship that Diderot was personally most aware of the heavy hand of absolutism. His imprisonment at Vincennes and the long battle which he fought against the e c c l e s i a s t i c a l authorities to bring the Encyclopedie before the public are well known. It i s hard to imagine what his writings and those of the other philosophes would have been l i k e i f they had been free to publish whatever they pleased. He himself was conscious that the necessity of circumspection i n published writings not only obliged authors to edulcorate t h e i r opinions, but tended i n the long run to result i n a drying-up of the well of new and bold ideas; one could avoid t h i s danger i n some measure by writing only for posthumous publication: La contrainte des gouvernements despotiques r e t r e c i t 1 Pages contre un tyran, i n Oeuvres politiques. ed. Verniere, p. 144. 2 Cf. Memoires pour Catherine l l , ed. Verniere, p. 100. 144 1*esprit sans qu'on s'en apercoive: machinalement on s ' i n t e r d i t une certaine classe d'idees fortes, comme on s'eloigne d'un obstacle qui nous blesserait; et lorsqu'on s'est accoutume a cette marche pusillanime et circonspect, on revient d i f f i c i l e m e n t a une marche audacieuse et franche. On ne pense, on ne parle avec force que du fond de son tombeau; c'est l a q u ' i l faut se placer, c'est de la. q u ' i l faut s'adresser aux hommes. Celui qui c o n s e i l l a au philosophe de l a i s s e r un testament de mort, eut une idee u t i l e et grande.-*- It might seem at this point that we have reached the end of our discussion of Diderot's position regarding the structure of society and the relations between government and the governed. However, certain of his writings have sometimes been construed as implying on his part a profound tendency to prefer to a harmonious society based on the p r i n c i p l e of the r e s t r i c t i o n of individual action a state of anarchy i n which individuals could s a t i s f y their desires within the l i m i t s of their personal strength. I f i n d i t therefore necessary to devote a further chapter to an examination of the texts which have been mainly responsible for suggesting t h i s , i n my view, erroneous interpretation. Essai sur l e s regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 219. Cf. this similar remark i n Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 235: "Quelle difference entre l a pensee d'un homme dans son pays et l a pensee d'un homme a. neuf cents lieues de sa cour! Aucune des choses que j ' a i ecrites a Petersbourg ne me serait venue a. Paris. Combien l a crainte retient l e coeur et l a tete! Quel singulier effe t de l a l i b e r t e et de l a s e c u r i t e l " 2 See, for example, Jean Fabre's edition of Le Neveu de Rameau, Geneva, 1950, Introduction, pp. l x x v i - l x x x i . CHAPTER V LIBERTY AND LICENCE The most important c r i t i c i s m which has been l e v e l l e d against Diderot as an e t h i c a l thinker i s that the two most strongly- marked tendencies of his moral thought, his exaltation of individual freedom and his stress on the need for s o c i a l cooperation, remain 1 2 i n unresolved contradiction. Some c r i t i c s would have us believe that the p r a c t i c a l message which Diderot consciously strove to communicate to mankind consists solely of his s o c i a l ethic, whereas the i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c doctrine i s an expression of a n t i - s o c i a l , or at least amoral, tendencies, which, though suppres- sed i n his everyday l i f e and i n most of his writings, well up to the surface of his consciousness at odd moments. His moderation regarding proposals for p r a c t i c a l reform or the correct conduct for the individual i n the present state of public morality has been viewed as only a mask of prudent conformism or perhaps a veneer of self-deception, beneath which l i e s his true s e l f , impatient of a l l s o c i a l or moral re s t r a i n t s imposed upon the spontaneous impulses of his nature. Diderot thus i s made to appear s u p e r f i c i a l l y good, but d u l l , and, at a profounder l e v e l , d e l i g h t f u l l y wicked. In the course of the preceding chapters, I have had occasion 1 Cf. J. Reinach, Diderot. Paris, 1894, pp. 172-75. 2 E.g. L. Ducros, Diderot, l'homme et 1'ecrivain, Paris, 1894, pp. 325-31. 146 t o q u e s t i o n t h i s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n w i t h r e s p e c t t o s e v e r a l p a r t i c u l a r a s p e c t s of D i d e r o t ' s t h o u g h t . 1 My e x p o s i t i o n o f h i s t h e o r y o f the r e l a t i o n s between the i n d i v i d u a l and government and of h i s views on s e x u a l m o r a l i t y w i l l , I hope, a l r e a d y have shown t h a t i n h i s e t h i c a l thought the c l a i m s of the i n d i v i d u a l and o f s o c i e t y a r e a s s i g n e d t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e l i m i t s . But the c r i t i c i s m t o which I r e f e r has been made, sometimes c a t e g o r i c a l l y , sometimes i n an a t t e n u a t e d form, by so many s t u d e n t s o f D i d e r o t ' s thought, and i t i s such a fundamental q u e s t i o n , t h a t I propose t o devote the p r e s e n t c h a p t e r t o a more s y s t e m a t i c r e f u t a t i o n , p a y i n g s p e c i a l a t t e n t i o n t o tho s e works which l e n d themselves most r e a d i l y t o t h i s k i n d of m i s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . The w r i t i n g s w i t h which we s h a l l be m a i n l y concerned a r e those i n which D i d e r o t e x p l o i t s themes d e r i v e d from the c u r r e n t of p r i m i t i v i s m so i n f l u e n t i a l i n h i s day. A l t h o u g h not a l l t h e s e t e x t s e x p l i c i t l y r e f e r t o the s t a t e of n a t u r e , they a l l bear a c l o s e r e l a t i o n t o t h i s i l l - d e f i n e d and v a r i a b l e n o t i o n . I t w i l l t h e r e f o r e be u s e f u l , f i r s t o f a l l , t o examine b r i e f l y the main forms which t h i s concept t a k e s i n the l i t e r a t u r e w i t h which D i d e r o t was f a m i l i a r . F o r the purposes o f our d i s c u s s i o n , i t i s e s p e c i a l l y i m p o r t a n t t o d i s t i n g u i s h two d i f f e r e n t c o n c e p t i o n s o f the s t a t e of n a t u r e which may be termed the . j u r i s t i c and the c u l t u r a l senses. By the j u r i s t i c sense I mean the h y p o t h e t i c a l s t a t e o f human e x i s t e n c e 1 See, f o r example, pp. 89, 106. 147 i n which men are conceived as "unbound by the reciprocal principles of conduct which constitute the s o c i a l bond. By the c u l t u r a l sense I mean the state of society i n which the arts and sciences have made r e l a t i v e l y l i t t l e progress. 1 The d i s t i n c t i o n between these two conceptions of the state of nature w i l l prove useful i n our discussion, but i t w i l l also be necessary to place those themes which refer s t r i c t l y to one or other of these notions i n a wider context, namely the general category embracing a l l conceptions of a state of human existence, whether treated as f i c t i o n a l , h i s t o r i c a l or'hypothetical, which i s opposed i n one or several ways to the state of c i v i l i z a t i o n found i n Europe and other advanced parts of the world. This broader category would include the various Utopias, such as those described i n Diderot 1s day by Morellet i n Le Code de l a Nature and by Dom Deschamps i n Le Vrai Systeme. It also includes descriptions of primitive societies given by t r a v e l l e r s or to be found i n the writers of antiquity. The reason why we s h a l l f i n d i t useful to enlarge the f i e l d of discussion i n this way i s that, while the j u r i s t i c concept of the state of nature did serve as an aid to l o g i c a l analysis of the structure and functions of society and s o c i a l groups, probably an even more important function of the state of nature for many 1 I am indebted for this d i s t i n c t i o n , and the terms used, to an a r t i c l e by. the la t e A. 0. Love joy i n his Essays i n the History of Ideas, New York, I960, p. 15. My d e f i n i t i o n of the j u r i s t i c state of nature i s , however, a l i t t l e d i f f e r e n t from his, since I refer to the pre-social state, whereas he refers to a state preceding . the establishment of government. 148 w r i t e r s was as a source of c o n t r a s t i n g premises from which e i t h e r t o j u s t i f y or t o c r i t i c i z e the p r e v a i l i n g form o f s o c i e t y . Hoboes's i n t e n t i o n , f o r i n s t a n c e , i n d e s c r i b i n g the s t a t e o f n a t u r e as a war of a l l a g a i n s t a l l i n which human e x i s t e n c e was " n a s t y , b r u t i s h and s h o r t " , i s to denounce the s o r t of anarchy which he had e x p e r i e n c e d d u r i n g the E n g l i s h C i v i l War, an anarchy which had made r e a l i t y approach t h i s s t a t e , and t o j u s t i f y the a b s o l u t i s t form of government which he c o n s i d e r e d t o be the b e s t bulwark a g a i n s t such anarchy. V o l t a i r e ' s v i s i o n o f the s t a t e of n a t u r e i n Le Mondain, w h i l e p e a c e f u l enough, i s made t o seem u n a t t r a c t i v e by i t s l a c k o f m a t e r i a l comfort and i t s c u l t u r a l b a r r e n n e s s , f o r V o l t a i r e i s d e f e n d i n g the r e f i n e d c u l t u r e o f h i s day a g a i n s t the a t t a c k s o f the opponents of l u x u r y . N eedless t o say, a l l the U t o p i a s are i n t e n d e d t o c r i t i c i z e a c t u a l s o c i e t y i n one way or a n o t h e r and t h i s i s the case too w i t h D i d e r o t ' s use of p r i m i t i v i s t i c o r Utopian themes. For t h i s r e a s o n i t w i l l be n e c e s s a r y t o t r e a t b o t h these t y p e s o f theme t o g e t h e r , whether or not they r e f e r e x p l i c i t l y t o the s t a t e of n a t u r e . I t i s t r u e t h a t D i d e r o t moves from one concept of the s t a t e of n a t u r e to a n o t h e r i n a c o n f u s i n g way and does not c l e a r l y d i s t i n g u i s h between h i s p r i m i t i v i s t i c and Utopian v i s i o n s . F o r our p r e s e n t purposes, however, i t w i l l n o t be n e c e s s a r y t o u n t a n g l e t h i s s k e i n except i n the few i n s t a n c e s where such c o n f u s i o n might a f f e c t the i s s u e o f our e n q u i r y . Our immediate aim i s t o see whether or not D i d e r o t ' s use of a l l or any o f these themes i m p l i e s 149 an individualism which contradicts the principles on which he himself founds the existence and maintenance of society. The most important example of Diderot's use of p r i m i t i v i s t i c themes i s the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. It must be noted at-'the outset that the Tahitian society which he depicts, though much simpler than European society, i s not characterized by individual licence, but by the rule of law. Indeed, i n T a h i t i obedience to law attains a degree of consistency unknown i n Europe. It w i l l perhaps be objected that i n T a h i t i i t i s natural lav; which i s obeyed, and that t h i s , unlike the laws of c i v i l i z e d s o c i e t i e s , places no res t r a i n t s on the in d i v i d u a l . However, thi s i s not true. The laws which govern the conduct of the Tahitians, being s t r i c t l y founded on natural law, place no unnecessary or arbitrary r e s t r a i n t s on them, and, indeed, r e s t r i c t them as l i t t l e as possible, but nevertheless they do impose certain r e s t r i c t i o n s . This fact emerges quite c l e a r l y from Orou's description of Tahitian society."'" Orou also expounds the general principles of natural law i n such a way as to leave no doubt that i t does not condone individual licence: """ E.g. "L'aumonier: Vous avez done aussi vos l i b e r t i n e s ? J'en suis bien aise. Orou: Nous en avons meme de plus d'une sorte. . . ." (AT, II, 232 . ) Orou goes on to explain that sexual relations are forbidden to s t e r i l e women, who must wear a black v e i l , to women at the time of menstruation, when they wear a grey v e i l , and to the sexually immature of both sexes. There are some individuals who infringe these rules, " . . . car, partout ou i l y a defense, i l faut qu'on so i t tente de f a i r e l a chose defendue et qu'on l a fasse." (AT, II, 235 . ) 150 Veux-tu savoir, en tous temps et en tous lieux, ce qui est bon et mauvais? Attache-toi a l a nature des choses et des actions; a. tes rapports avec ton semblable; a. 1'influence de ta conduite sur ton u t i l i t e p a r t i c u l i e r e et l e bien general. Tu es en d e l i r e , s i tu crois q u ' i l y a i t r i e n , s o i t en haut, soit en bas, dans l'univers, qui puisse ajouter ou retrancher aux l o i s de l a nature. Sa volonte eternelle est que l e bien s o i t prefere au mal, et l e bien general au bien p a r t i c u l i e r . Tu ordonneras l e contraire; mais tu ne seras pas obei. Tu multiplieras l e s malfaiteurs et l e s malheureux par l a crainte,' par les chatiments et par l e s remords; tu depraveras les consciences; tu corrompras les esprits; i l s ne sauront plus ce qu'ils ont a. f a i r e ou a. eviter. Troubles dans l ' e t a t d'innocence, tranquilles dans l e f o r f a i t , i l s auront perdu l ' e t o i l e polaire dans leur chemin.l The intention behind the p o r t r a i t of Tahitian society i n the Supplement i s , then, not to proclaim and exalt individual l i b e r t y i n the face of s o c i a l order, but to protest against certain f a i l i n g s of c i v i l i z e d society. These defects are primarily i t s laws and customs concerning sexuality. This question has already been discussed i n chapter I I I , where we observed how Diderot reconciles his r a d i c a l theoretical thought i n the area of sexuality with a p r a c t i c a l doctrine of a f a i r l y moderate kind. The portrayal of Tahitian society i n the Supplement i s also the vehicle for c r i t i c i s m of the role of property i n European society. But, as 2 I remarked i n the l a s t chapter, t h i s point i s made i n a rather half-hearted way, compared with the vehemence of the c r i t i c i s m of European sexual i n s t i t u t i o n s . I have already pointed out Diderot's Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville, AT, II, 225. See above, p. 1 1 7 . See above, pp. 1 1 7 - 1 9 . 151 emphasis on the importance of the security of private property. His position i s that i f , as i s the case i n a l l advanced societies, the happiness of the individual i s dependent on his possessing a certain property, this possession must he rendered secure. When, in certain writings, Diderot toys with the other solution, that of communal ownership, he i s not contradicting his usual stress on the security of property: where there i s no individual property, there i s no need to secure i t . In the Supplement l i t t l e space i s , i n fact, devoted to this question. The old Tahitian, i n the harangue he delivers as Bougainville's expedition departs, declares: " I c i tout est a tous; et tu nous as preche je ne sais quelle d i s t i n c t i o n du ti e n et du mien. ""*" We learn l a t e r that "les travaux et les recoltes s'y faisaient en commun. L'acception du mot propriete y e t a i t tres e t r o i t e . " This presumably means that there was some form of personal property, perhaps clothing and movable objects, and that dwellings were the property of individual families, but that there was l i t t l e or no 3 personal or family property i n the form of land. But, for our present discussion, i t i s above a l l important to note that there i s no indication here of a purely i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c ethic. On the contrary, such a system could not function without the obedience 1 AT, II, 214. 2 AT, II, 240. 3 I of course refer to Diderot's version of T a h i t i and not to what might have been the h i s t o r i c a l facts of the case. Cf. Verniere's remarks i n Oeuvres philosophiques, p. 466, note 2. 152 of a l l individuals to a system of rules regulating the organisation of a g r i c u l t u r a l work and the d i s t r i b u t i o n of the harvests. The interlocutor B goes so far as to suggest that only i n T a h i t i has there ever prevailed that general obedience to laws which Diderot c a l l s moeurs. 1 There i s , then, no evidence, either i n the Tahitian system of communal ownership or i n the laws governing sexual morality, of unfettered individual licence or anarchy. The Tahitian way of l i f e corresponds not to the j u r i s t i c concept of the state of nature, but to a c u l t u r a l concept. The Tahitians are described as un peuple assez sage pour s'etre arrete de lui-meme a. l a mediocrite, ou assez heureux pour habiter un climat dont l a f e r t i l i t e l u i assurait un long engourdissement, assez a c t i f pour s'etre mis a. l ' a b r i des besoins absolus de l a vie, et assez indolent pour que son innocence, son repos et sa i'.i f e l i c i t e n'eussent r i e n a. redouter d'un progres trop rapide de ses lumieres. 2 However, i n the discussion between A and B at the end of the work, the j u r i s t i c concept makes i t s appearance. Condemnation of the conventional sexual morality which prevails i n Europe leads B to i l l u s t r a t e the r e s u l t i n g psychological suffering by the image of the constant struggle of natural man to throw off the domination of "l'homme moral et a r t i f i c i e l . N o w this image f i t s i n l o g i c a l l y 1 AT, II, 240. For a similar d e f i n i t i o n of moeurs, see Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 372. 2 AT, II, 240. 3 AT, II, 246. The passage i s quoted above, p. 86. 153 with Diderot's message i n the Supplement regarding sexual morality; and when A asks B whether i t would be better to " c i v i l i s e r l'homme, ou l'abandonner a son instinct,""'" we expect B to remain within the context of sexual morality i n his reply. He does not do so, however, but quickly enlarges the whole discussion to include not only laws regulating sexual relations, but a l l laws regulating any kind of inter-personal relations. In fact, B suggests that the whole i n s t i t u t i o n of society may very well be less conducive to human happiness than t o t a l anarchy. In doing so, he invokes the j u r i s t i c concept of the state of nature: "Je considere les hommes non c i v i l i s e s comme une 2 multitude de ressorts epars et i s o l e s . " Society, on the other hand, i s a machine i n which these springs have been made to act and react against each-other, so that they are constantly weakening and breaking. Now, c l e a r l y , this anarchical state of individual i s o l a t i o n , which B suggests i s preferable to society, i s not at a l l the model according to which Tahitian society functions. The l a t t e r , as we have seen, i s not an anarchical but rather a well-ordered society, which d i f f e r s from European society i n being c u l t u r a l l y less advanced and at the same time free from the bad l e g i s l a t i o n governing sexuality and property i n Europe. Yet i t appears that B i s not aware that the contrast to which he points between 1 AT, II, 246. 2 AT, II, 247. 154 pre-social anarchy and advanced societies i s of a diff e r e n t nature from that, stressed throughout the work, between T a h i t i and Europe. After the comparison between pre-social anarchy and society, the discussion deviates once again, this time to a comparison between primitive existence and advanced c i v i l i z a t i o n i n the cu l t u r a l sense. A t r i e s to get B to admit c l e a r l y that he thinks men are "d'autant plus mechants et plus malheureux qu'ils sont plus c i v i l i s e s . " 1 B, true to his strategy of suggesting without categorically affirming, r e p l i e s : Je ne parcourrai pas toutes les contrees de l'univers; mais je vous avertis seulement que vous ne trouverez l a condition de l'homme heureuse que dans T a h i t i , et supportable que dans un recoin de 1 'Europe. 2 This corner of Europe i s Venice, where the common people are kept i n extreme ignorance by the r u l i n g aristocracy, but where sexual morality i s comparatively free from a r t i f i c i a l constraints. Here, the main theme of the Supplement, sexual morality, emerges once again. It can be seen from the preceding analysis that i n the closing pages of the Supplement, while at f i r s t glance i t seems that the two interlocutors are discussing a single topic, namely the comparison between primitivism and c i v i l i z a t i o n , on closer inspection this apparent si m p l i c i t y of theme dissolves into a confusing variety of comparisons between dif f e r e n t pairs of concepts. Rather than jump to the conclusion that Diderot has 1 AT, II, 248. 2 AT, II, 248. 155 simply l o s t command of his subject at this point, l e t us consider whether some useful a r t i s t i c r esults may have been derived by the writer from this confusion. We cannot assume that what either interlocutor says i s the soberly held opinion of Diderot himself. B i s propounding a paradox which, Diderot would probably admit, i s partly true and partly f a l s e . In refusing to affirm, but giving reasons to support, his paradox, B uses precisely the method which Diderot recommends for writers who wish to make paradoxical ideas acceptable to their readers. Helvetius's De 1'Esprit i s , he says, too methodical and as a result the paradoxes i t contains are revealed as blatant untruths: . . . i l n'y a r i e n qui v e u i l l e etre prouve avec moins d'affectation, plus derobe, moins annonce qu'un paradoxe. Un auteur paradoxal ne doit jamais dire son mot, mais toujours ses preuves: i l doit entrer furtivement dans l'ame de son lecteur, et non de vive force. C'est l e grand art de Montaigne, qui ne veut jamais prouver, et qui va toujours prouvant, et me ballottant du blanc au noir, et du noir au blanc. It may well be that the way the discussion between A and B s l i p s from one conception of the state of nature to another i s a deliberate means by which the author hopes to make B's paradox appear more acceptable. Too great an a n a l y t i c a l rigour here might be a l i t e r a r y f a u l t . The question arises, of course, why Diderot should be interested i n propounding a paradoxical opinion which he did not, i n the f i n a l analysis, consider v a l i d . I suggest that he wishes 1 Reflexions sur l e l i v r e de 1'Esprit, AT, II, 272. 156 to make his readers concede that such a preference for primitive ways of l i f e and even pre-social anarchy over the material comforts and c u l t u r a l refinements which they enjoyed and valued was at least worthy of serious consideration. His aim i s to disturb t h e i r complacency and perhaps to make them more ready to question those aspects of their own society which l e f t so much to be desired. The eighteenth-century wealthy classes, conscious and proud of their refined culture and of the advances which were constantly being made i n the l e v e l of c i v i l i z a t i o n , would at f i r s t f ind such a suggestion preposterous. Yet many of them were already becoming s u f f i c i e n t l y blase about their highly a r t i f i c i a l way of l i f e to appreciate, on r e f l e c t i o n , the element of truth contained i n such a paradox. In another text, Diderot remarks how the mansions of the r i c h , i n themselves the very antithesis of the primitive l i f e , are deliberately surrounded by sp e c i a l l y planted trees, so as to simulate man's primeval forest environment, while the walls of the i r r i c h l y decorated rooms are hung with paintings depicting scenes of pastoral l i f e . 1 Diderot i s personally more concerned with defects of modern c i v i l i z a t i o n such as oppressive sexual regulations and p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l i n j u s t i c e , rather than with the boredom and emotional a r i d i t y of the r i c h , e v i l s which, after a l l , they can remedy i f they 2 choose. But he wishes to take advantage of his readers' readiness 1 Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 112. 2 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 427-32. 157 to l i s t e n to the p r i m i t i v i s t i c paradox i n order to bring these deeper e v i l s to their attention. The comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of the primitive and c i v i l i z e d states occurs frequently i n other writings of Diderot. He often puts forward as his own view the opinion voiced by A i n the Supplement, that there i s a fixed l i m i t to the degree of happiness of the human race (as opposed to that of par t i c u l a r individuals, some of whom may, of course, be happier than others), so that every benefit derived from a step towards c i v i l i z a t i o n i s offset by an equivalent l o s s . Some- times he concludes that the balance leans i n favour of the primitive l i f e , but more often he gives the verdict to c i v i l i z a t i o n . Sometimes he suggests, as he does i n the Supplement, that a h a l f - way stage might be the best for human happiness. 1 I am not p suggesting that Diderot did not seriously ponder over this question." or that his asking i t was never anything but a way of provoking his reader's thought. But such r e f l e c t i o n s do not express i n Diderot a positive attraction for primitive, uncultured, existence or unbridled individualism; rather they are symptoms of his despondency at the misery and oppression which accompany too often the c i v i l i z e d values he loved so much. Whatever stand he takes regarding the minimum extent of complication desirable i n 1 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 431-32. 2 In the Refutation d'Helvetius, among examples of problems which, despite his persistent e f f o r t s , have proved beyond his capacity to solve, Diderot cites the question "D'etat sauvage e s t - i l preferable a. l ' e t a t police?" (AT, II, 346.) 158 s o c i a l structure and i n culture, i t cannot be argued that he po s i t i v e l y favours an anarchical way of l i f e i n which individuals are laws unto themselves. His true position derives from his c r i t i c i s m of the defects of existing s o c i e t i e s . If the actual system of i n s t i t u t i o n s and l e g i s l a t i o n reaches a certain degree of i n j u s t i c e and oppression, i t becomes contradictory to the very- essence of law and s o c i a l order, which i s to secure the happiness and the l i b e r t y of the in d i v i d u a l . In such extreme cases i t may well be true that t o t a l anarchy would be preferable. This i s what Diderot means when he writes: II n'y a point de societe sans l o i . C'est par l a l o i que l e citoyen jouit de sa v i l l e , et l e republicain de sa republique. Mais s i les l o i s sont mauvaises, l'homme est plus malheureux et plus mechant dans l a societe que dans l a nature. As I pointed out i n dealing with his p o l i t i c a l and economic 2 ideas, Diderot's i d e a l of government i s one of minimum i n t e r f e r - ence, the l a i s s e r - f a i r e State. He considers laws of any sort, or at least their promulgation and enforcement, to be an unfortunate necessity: ". . . l a necessite de f a i r e des l o i s est toujours une chose facheuse; e l l e suppose des actions ou mauvaises en elles-memes ou regardees comme t e l l e s , et donne l i e u a une 3 i n f i n i t e d'infractions et de chatiments. H > He would prefer a world where men l i v e d i n harmony without need of coercion. He 1 Art, "Cyniques", AT, XIV, 261. See above, pp. 12h-25. 3 Art, "Chasse", AT, XIV, 110. 159 i s d e l i g h t e d w i t h the U t o p i a n p i c t u r e of such a w o r l d p a i n t e d by t h e B e n e d i c t i n e monk Dom Deschamps: Un moine appele Dom Deschamps m'a f a i t l i r e un des ouvrages l e s p l u s v i o l e n t s e t l e s p l u s o r i g i n a u x que j e c o n n a i s s e . C'est l ' i d e e d'un e t a t s o c i a l ou l ' o n a r r i v e r a i t en p a r t a n t de l ' e t a t sauvage, en passant par l ' e t a t p o l i c e , au s o r t i r duquel on a 1'experience de l a v a n i t e des choses l e s p l u s i m p o r t a n t e s , et ou l ' o n c o n c o i t e n f i n que l ' e s p e c e humaine s e r a malheureuse t a n t q u ' i l y a u r a des r o i s , des p r e t r e s , des m a g i s t r a t s , des l o i s , un t i e n , un mien, l e s mots de v i c e s et de v e r t u s . Jugez combien c e t ouvrage, t o u t mal e c r i t q u ' i l e s t , a du. me f a i r e de p l a i s i r , p u isque j e me s u i s r e t r o u v e t o u t a coup dans l e monde pour l e q u e l j ' e t a i s ne. An e x a m i n a t i o n of the work t o which D i d e r o t r e f e r s , namely Le 2 V r a i Systeme, r e v e a l s q u i t e c l e a r l y t h a t the i d e a l s o c i a l s t a t e f o r w hich he c l a i m s t o be by n a t u r e s u i t e d i s not one i n which every i n d i v i d u a l pursues h i s own h a p p i n e s s a t the expense o f whoever i s too weak t o r e s i s t him, but one i n which a l l men are f r e e from m i s c o n c e p t i o n s and p r e j u d i c e s r e g a r d i n g the n a t u r e o f t h e i r t r u e h a p p i n e s s , and t h e r e f o r e c o o p e r a t e w i t h t h e i r f e l l o w - men. I n t h i s i d e a l w o r l d t h e r e are no laws because no laws a r e needed; t h e r e a r e no words f o r v i c e and v i r t u e because v i c e does not e x i s t ; t h e r e are no k i n g s , p r i e s t s or m a g i s t r a t e s because t h e r e i s no need f o r a s u p e r i o r a u t h o r i t y t o impose obedience t o l a w s ; t h e r e i s no p r i v a t e p r o p e r t y because such an i n s t i t u t i o n i s not r e q u i r e d t o ensure t h a t a man s h a l l e njoy the f r u i t s o f -1 R o t h , IX, 245 (Fragment; p r o b a b l y 1769). Cf. a l s o AT, V I , 439 (Remarks on Le Temple du bonheur). 2 Dom Deschamps, Le V r a i Systeme, ou l e mot de 1'enigme metaphysique e t morale, ed. J . Thomas and F. V e n t u r i , Geneve, 1939. 160 his labour. This v i s i o n i s certainly anarchistic i n the exact sense of the term, but i t i s not open to the charge of amoralism or unfettered individualism.""" It i s perhaps surprising that Diderot should be so appreciative of the ideas of Dom Deschamps, since many of them run counter to his own views. He surely cannot have found much s a t i s f a c t i o n i n the monk's subtle metaphysics. It i s , moreover, hard to believe that the author of the Refutation d'Helvetius would accept the view that individual differences are mainly attributable to s o c i a l influences and should r e l i s h the prospect of everyone being so similar i n the "etat de moeurs" as to be p r a c t i c a l l y interchangeable. Nor would he have admitted that the destiny of free men could ever be f u l f i l l e d without a dynamic culture. Diderot has f o r - gotten a l l these ideas of Dom Deschamps and has remembered only his attack on the oppressive forces i n the actual state of society and his v i s i o n of a world i n which harmony i s achieved without compulsion. Diderot does not take Dom Deschamps's ideas too seriously. He sees i n them "un beau paradoxe". The Utopian "etat de moeurs" 2 i s , he admits, "diablement i d e a l " . Presumably he means that i t would be p r a c t i c a l l y impossible to fi n d a way of changing'. """ It i s worth noting, perhaps, that the anarchism which Diderot praises here i s very di f f e r e n t from the theories expounded i n the majority of eighteenth-century U t o p i a s . Morelly's communistic state, for instance, far from being anarchistic, i s a highly regimented society. Cf. Kingsley Martin, The Rise of French L i b e r a l Thought, New York, 1954, pp. 242-46. AT, VI, 439 (Remarks on Le Temple du bonheur). 161 from the present state to the way of l i f e advocated by Dom Deschamps, since men have been conditioned by t h e i r upbringing to seek their own advantage i n every way which the laws do not p o s i t i v e l y prevent, and have come to associate the possession of private property with freedom and happiness. In other words, the whole psychology of men would have to be changed. Dom Deschamps contends that the a b o l i t i o n of laws, and, i n particular, those on which the i n s t i t u t i o n of property i s based, would produce thi s necessary psychological change. But Diderot could never accept such a view, since he thinks that there w i l l always be a certain number of individuals who are so constituted as to be incapable of pursuing their own interest i n cooperation with others, and s t i l l more people whose passions are too strong for them to control unless their reason i s reinforced by fear of punishment. In order that the general welfare may be protected against such people, laws w i l l always have to be promulgated and enforced.""" I f a l l men were perfect and could trust each other i m p l i c i t l y , no laws would be necessary, but i n practice laws are needed for To judge from a l e t t e r from Dom Deschamps to his friend the marquis de Voyer, i t appears that, i n his conversations with the Benedictine, Diderot raised such p r a c t i c a l objections to the monk's Utopian "etat de moeurs". Dom Deschamps remarks that Diderot believes man to be "moitie mechant par nature et moitie par etat s o c i a l . " Dom Deschamps, who thinks that the e v i l i n man i s caused entir e l y by the structure of society, makes fun of Diderot's attitude on this point: "On d i t cet homme athee, mais on a t o r t . II se c r o i t mechant par l e grand diable d'enfer, des q u ' i l se c r o i t mechant par nature; et croire cela c'est croire au grand diable d'enfer. Or, qui c r o i t n'est point athee, et je ne vois pas pourquoi i l craint l a police a, ce t i t r e . " (Roth, IX, 106 Aug.' 13, 1769 .) 162 the maintenance of a general standard of morality. Diderot remarks that " s i l a vertu d'un p a r t i c u l i e r peut se soutenir sans appui, i l n'en est pas de meme de l a vertu d'un peuple." 1 There i s , i n practice, need of a coercive force to compel those who are not s u f f i c i e n t l y motivated by love of virtue andv a sense of duty to behave i n accordance with the general good, and thereby with their own s e l f - i n t e r e s t r i g h t l y understood. Another reason for the general enforcement of laws i s that, i n fact, unless they are generally enforced, i t i s doubtful whether i t w i l l be i n the true interest even of an individual who i s aware of their justice and conformity with the general good to obey them when other individuals infringe them. In the memoir "De l a morale des r o i s , " Diderot explains that, i n their relations with each other, sovereigns are s t i l l i n the j u r i s t i c state of nature, there being no superior authority to constrain them c o l l e c t i v e l y to just behaviour; so that, while some of them recognize the pr i n c i p l e of justice i n international a f f a i r s , even these are often obliged to disregard this p r i n c i p l e i n practice because they have no assurance that the other sovereigns w i l l respect i t . ^ These two reasons c l a r i f y Diderot's remark i n the a r t i c l e "Grecs": . . . qu'est-ce que l a voix de l a conscience, sans l'a u t o r i t e et l a menace des l o i s ? les l o i s I l e s l o i s ! v o i l a l a seule barriere qu'on puisse elever contre les passions des hommes; c'est l a volonte generale q u ' i l faut opposer aux volontes p a r t i c u l i e r e s : et 1 Roth, II, 55 (To the Princess de Nassau-Saarbruck; May or June 1758). p Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 231 and 234. 163 sans un glaive qui se meuve egalement sur l a surface d'un peuple, et qui tranche ou fasse baisser l e s tetes audacieuses qui s'elevent, l e f a i b l e demeure expose a. 1'injure du plus f o r t ; l e tumult e regne, et l e crime avec l e tumulte; et i l vaudrait mieux, pour l a surete des hommes, qu'ils fussent epars, que d'avoir l e s mains l i b r e s et d'etre v o i s i n s . l It i s clear, i n the l i g h t of what we have just said, that this • passage does not deny the v a l i d i t y of the princip l e of justice or claim that i t originates i n positive l e g i s l a t i o n . It i s also evident from this text that Diderot i s not advocating anarchy when he refers to a state of isolated existence, but i s simply pointing out that such a state would be preferable to a cohesive existence without the enforcement of general laws. In some texts Diderot states categorically that to bring men closer together and to strengthen the bonds between them i s always desirable. He writes to Catherine II, for example: Dans une societe d'hommes quelconque, plus l e s parties en sont eparses, moins e l l e s sont rapprochees, plus cette societe est eloignee de l a veritable notion de societe; moins e l l e s se soutiennent, moins e l l e s s'entraident, moins e l l e s sont fortes; moins e l l e s luttent avantageusement et contre l'ennemie constante de l'homme, l a nature, et contre les ennemies accidentelles, l e s societes adjacentes, plus l e tout est v o i s i n de l ' e t a t sauvage. 2 But i n texts l i k e this there i s the i m p l i c i t assumption that the society under discussion i s a well-ordered society, one which corresponds to the ide a l conception of that state. We should not 1 AT, XV, 57. Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. Verniere, p. 176. Some changes have been made i n the punctuation. 164 be m i s l e d by D i d e r o t ' s f r e q u e n t l y b i t t e r c r i t i c i s m of h i s own s o c i e t y and h i s doubts as t o whether i t i s a t a l l p r e f e r a b l e t o p r i m i t i v e anarchy: he never f o r one moment l o s e s s i g h t o f the k i n d o f c i v i l i z e d s o c i e t y he d e s i r e s and towards the c r e a t i o n of which a l l h i s e f f o r t s as a t h i n k e r and p r o p a g a n d i s t a r e d i r e c t e d . The p e r f e c t s o c i e t y would not c r e a t e a new. type o f human n a t u r e , but would p r e s e r v e and p r o t e c t those a d m i r a b l e and v a l u a b l e q u a l i t i e s which a r e n a t u r a l t o man and would a l l o w some o f them t o develop t o a degree which i s i m p o s s i b l e i n the absence o f s o c i a l bonds. D i d e r o t imagines savage man, l i v i n g i n i s o l a t e d f a m i l y groups, t o be a d m i r a b l e i n h i s independence and i n h i s sense o f d i g n i t y and p e r s o n a l v a l u e . But man i n such c o n d i t i o n s i s i g n o r a n t and must p i t h i s own unaided s t r e n g t h a g a i n s t n a t u r e ; he can never hope t o a c h i e v e the c u l t u r a l advances the germs of whic h l i e dormant i n h i s n a t u r e but w i l l o n l y d e v e l o p i f he enjoys l e i s u r e and s e c u r i t y . These he can never o b t a i n except through c o o p e r a t i n g w i t h o t h e r men, which means f o r m i n g a s o c i e t y . 1 The man who i s s u b j e c t e d t o u n j u s t , t y r a n n i c a l government i s a s l a v e . I t would be b e t t e r f o r him i f he l i v e d the savage l i f e i n the p r e - s o c i a l s t a t e of n a t u r e . But the f r e e c i t i z e n , the man who, i n obeying l a w s , i s i n f a c t c o nforming t o h i s own judgment of what conduct i s b e s t f o r him as a member of a c o o p e r a t i v e group, p r e s e r v e s the same d i g n i t y and p r i d e i n h i s own l i b e r t y as the savage p o s s e s s e s . C o n s i d e r the f o l l o w i n g p o r t r a i t o f savage man: 1 P l a n d'une u n i v e r s i t e . AT, I I I , 4 2 9 - 3 0 . 165 Un a i r de f i e r t e mele de f e r o c i t e . Sa tete est droite et relevee; son regard f i x e . II est maitre dans sa foret. Plus je l e considere, plus i l me rappelle l a solitude et l a franchise de son domicile.1 Republican man i s remarkably similar to savage man i n his dignity and sense of freedom: l a republique est un etat d'egalite. Tout sujet se regarde comme un p e t i t monarque. L'air du republicain sera haut, dur et f i e r . In the l i g h t of the texts which we have just examined, I 3 propose now to discuss the meaning of a work which some c r i t i c s have adduced as evidence of a fundamental leaning towards i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c anarchism, namely Les Eleutheromanes (1772). Diderot explains i n the "argument" which precedes the poem that he wrote i t on the occasion of receiving for the t h i r d year i n succession the bean which t r a d i t i o n a l l y confers an honorary kingship at Twelfth-night. Treating this t r i v i a l circumstance with mock-seriousness, he i s caught up by the gravity of the symbolic interpretation which he gives to this offer of a crown, and his j u s t i f i c a t i o n f o r immediately abdicating his royal power raises the work from the l e v e l of l i g h t society verse to that of 1 Essai sur l a peinture, AT, X, 487. 2 Ibid., AT, X, 487. E.g. Karl Rosenkranz, Diderot 1s Leben und Werke, Leipzig, 1866, II, 351; Ernest S e i l l i e r e , Diderot, Paris, 1944, pp. 93-94. 166 a philosophical poem. He begins by affirming that absolute power i s a very dangerous thing because men who are not corrupted by i t are extremely rare. It would be presumptuous, he f e e l s , to suppose that he could himself wield absolute power without succumbing to the temptation of i n j u s t i c e . Supposing he should become another Caligula! The hated name i s a signal for the poet to c a l l upon tyrants to behold the danger of revolt which i s forever threatening them. Awake and l i s t e n , he c a l l s to the oppressor: . . . et tu sauras qu'en ton moindre sujet, Ni l a garde qui t'environne, Ni l'imposant hommage qu'on rend a. ta personne N'ont pu de s'affranchir etouffer l e projet.1 So far there i s nothing here which goes beyond the generalities of Diderot's oft-repeated condemnation of p o l i t i c a l tyranny. But the next passage, i n which the poet evokes natural man impatient of a l l authority, restive beneath the bonds imposed by society, unwilling either to impose or to submit to laws, i s ce r t a i n l y disquieting. Here, i f anywhere, one may ask whether Diderot's ideal i s a world i n which individual freedom reigns so uncontrolled as to leave no basis for right and wrong except the a b i l i t y of the stronger man to impose his w i l l on the weaker. It w i l l be necessary to quote the whole passage before commenting on i t : L'enfant de l a nature abhorre l'esclavage; Implacable ennemi de toute autorite, II s'indigne du joug; l a contrainte l'outrage; 1 AT, IX, 14. 167 Liberte, c'est son voeu; son c r i , c'est Liberte. Au mepris des li e n s de l a societe, II reclame en secret son antique apanage. Des moeurs ou grimaces d'usage Ont beau s e r v i r de v o i l e a. sa fer o c i t e ; Une hypocrite urbanite, Les souplesses d'un tigr e enchaine dans sa cage, Ne trompent point l ' o e i l du sage; Et, dans l e s murs de l a c i t e , II reconnait l'homme sauvage S'agitant sous les fers dont i l est garrotte. On a pu l ' a s s e r v i r , on ne l ' a point dompte. Un t r a i t de physionomie, Un vestige de dignite Dans le'fond de son coeur, sur son front est reste; Et mille f o i s l a tyrannie, Inquiete ou trouver de l a securite, A p a l i de 1'eclair de son o e i l i r r i t e . C'est alors qu'un trone v a c i l l e ; Qu'effraye, tremblant, eperdu, D'un peuple furieux l e despote imbecile Connait l a vanite du pacte pretendu. Repondez, souverains: qui l ' a dicte, ce pacte? Qui l ' a signe? qui l ' a souscrit? Dans quel bois, dans quel antre en a-t-on dresse l'acte? Par quelles mains f u t - i l e c r i t ? L'a-t-on grave sur l a pierre ou l'ecorce? Qui l e maintient? l a justice ou l a force? De d r o i t , de f a i t , i l est p r o s c r i t . J'en atteste les temps; j'en appelle a tout age; Jamais au public avantage L'homme n'a franchement s a c r i f i e ses droits; S ' i l osait de son coeur n'ecouter que l a voix, Changeant tout a coup de langage, II nous d i r a i t , comme I'hote des bois: "La nature n'a f a i t n i serviteur n i maitre; "Je ne veux n i donner n i recevoir de l o i s . " Et ses mains ourdiraient les e n t r a i l l e s du pretre, Au defaut d'un cordon pour etrangler les r o i s . x As Assezat points out, this poem was not published u n t i l 1795, so that there i s no reason to suppose that i t had any influence on the excesses of the French Revolution. Nor need we suppose that the f i n a l l i n e s of the passage quoted indicate Ibid., pp. 15-16. The d i v i s i o n into strophe, antistrophe and epode has been omitted, since i t seems a r b i t r a r i l y to interrupt what i s i n fact a continuous development of ideas. 168 any l u r k i n g b l o o d t h i r s t i n e s s i n D i d e r o t . What he i s s a y i n g i s t h a t i f men were not c o n d i t i o n e d t o behave i n an o r d e r l y , submis- s i v e manner, they would r e v o l t a g a i n s t t h e i r o p p r e s s o r s i n as savage a way as might t h e i r u n c i v i l i z e d a n c e s t o r s i n the f o r e s t s o f y o r e . As i n the .Supplement au Voyage de B o u g a i n v i l l e , D i d e r o t shows us a n a t u r a l man l a n g u i s h i n g enchained i n the h e a r t of c i v i l i z e d man, but now the s p e c i a l r e f e r e n c e i s not to s e x u a l c o n s t r a i n t s , but t o p o l i t i c a l t y r a n n y . The f e r o c i t y o f t h i s n a t u r a l man does not mean t h a t t r u e human n a t u r e i s i n d i s c r i m i n a t e l y a g g r e s s i v e , but s i m p l y t h a t when, as i n the savage s t a t e , man i s not i n h i b i t e d by an a c q u i r e d r e l u c t a n c e t o r e s o r t t o v i o l e n c e and i s not i n d o c t r i n a t e d w i t h r e s p e c t f o r a u t h o r i t i e s unworthy of i t , he w i l l use f o r c e t o w in or m a i n t a i n h i s freedom. A l t h o u g h i n c i v i l i z e d man t h i s w i l l t o freedom has been mastered, i t has not been d e s t r o y e d and o n l y the p h y s i c a l power of the t y r a n t can p r e v e n t i t from b r e a k i n g l o o s e . The " s o - c a l l e d p a c t " t o which D i d e r o t r e f e r s i s not the t a c i t c o n t r a c t by which i n d i v i d u a l w i l l s a r e abandoned i n f a v o u r of an a u t h o r i t y which s h a l l execute the g e n e r a l w i l l . I n s t e a d , D i d e r o t r e f e r s here t o the H o b b e s i a n 1 There i s , a d m i t t e d l y , no e x p l i c i t r e f e r e n c e here t o Hobbes him- s e l f . L e l a n d Thielemann, i n " D i d e r o t and Hobbes," D i d e r o t S t u d i e s , I I , 1952,.po239, n o t e s the r a r i t y of D i d e r o t ' s comments on Hobbes's defence of a b s o l u t e monarchy and on h i s c o n c e p t i o n o f the p o l i t i c a l c o n t r a c t , and r i g h t l y observes t h a t "of a l l the c o n t e x t s i n which D i d e r o t r e f e r r e d e x p l i c i t l y t o Hobbes, the one i n which h i s c o n v i c - t i o n s d i f f e r e d most c o m p l e t e l y and most c o n s i s t e n t l y from those o f the E n g l i s h p h i l o s o p h e r was a t the same time the one i n which he mentioned Hobbes l e a s t o f t e n . " "Few of [ D i d e r o t ' s ] p o l i t i c a l ^ w r i t i n g s however," Thielemann c o n t i n u e s , "even though they d i d not e x p r e s s l y name Hobbes, f a i l e d t o make c l e a r the uncompromisable d i f f e r e n c e s between the Hobbesian and the l i b e r a l t h e o r i e s of p o l i t i c a l government." Cf. Thielemann's subsequent remark: "The g r e a t l i b e r a t i n g concept of the s o c i a l c o n t r a c t . . . had been 169 concept of a contract of submission by virtue of which the subjects give up a l l t heir rights i n exchange for the guarantee by the monarch of the maintenance of public order. This view of govern- ment i s t o t a l l y opposed to Diderot's conception of the relations between subjects and sovereign, as he expresses i t i n the a r t i c l e s "Autorite politique," "Cite" and "Citoyen." 1 Diderot does not agree with Hobbes that the natural state of man i s a war of a l l against a l l , and considers such a doctrine to be dangerous because i t provides a specious j u s t i f i c a t i o n for tyranny. When he writes i n l e s Eleutheromanes: "Jamais au public avantage / L'homme n'a franchement s a c r i f i e ses d r o i t s , " Diderot means not that man has never f r e e l y abandoned his right to pursue his own personal advantage at the expense of a l l other men — Diderot consistently refuses to concede that man ever possessed 2 such a right , even i n the state of nature — but that man has never, i n exchange for a "public advantage" consisting solely of the guarantee that society w i l l not lapse into a war of a l l against a l l , spontaneously abandoned his right to be free from the i n j u s t i c e which others might wish to exercise towards him. Diderot agrees 3 with Locke that the anarchy of nature, though spoiled by the perverted to the uses of ru l i n g despots who were now pretending that t h e i r despotism was l e g a l . In the poem Les Eleutheromanes, Diderot merely echoed the sentiments of Ramsay [See AT, IV,.54.1 i n challenging the despots to produce the document." (Ibid., p. 244.) 1 See above, pp. 1 13-15 . See below, p. 2 2 6 . 3 Cf. The Second Treatise of Government, ed. Peardon, chap. II, sect. 13, pp. 9-10. 170 a c t i o n s o f a c e r t a i n number of v i c i o u s men a g a i n s t whose e n t e r - p r i s e s the j u s t man has no r e c o u r s e except t o whatever s t r e n g t h he may p o s s e s s , i s not n e c e s s a r i l y worse than a form of c i v i l i z e d s o c i e t y i n w h i c h i n j u s t i c e i s w r i t t e n i n t o the laws and i n s t i t u - t i o n a l i z e d i n e q u a l i t y encourages c r i m e : J ' o s e r a i s presque a s s u r e r q u ' i l se commet p l u s de c r i m e s en un j o u r a. P a r i s que dans t o u t e s l e s f o r e t s des sauvages en un an. D'ou i l s ' e n s u i v r a i t qu'une s o c i e t e mal ordonnee e s t p i r e que l ' e t a t sauvage. P o u r q u o i n o n ? 1 Thus Les Eleutheromanes i s not a p r o t e s t a g a i n s t law i n g e n e r a l , but a g a i n s t u n j u s t laws e n f o r c e d by t y r a n n i c a l powers. J u s t i c e precedes a l l p o s i t i v e l a w s , b e i n g a p r i n c i p l e i n s e p a r a b l e 2 from the n a t u r e o f man. To make one's conduct conform t o n a t u r a l law i s not t o g i v e up one's freedom, whereas t o submit t o a c t s i n which another person i n f r i n g e s n a t u r a l law i s t o be e n s l a v e d . The p o t e n t i a l advantage of the s o c i a l s t a t e over the s t a t e of n a t u r e i s t h a t the s o c i a l s t a t e can p r o v i d e a mechanism f o r c o m p e l l i n g such men as have t e n d e n c i e s towards u n j u s t conduct t o r e s p e c t the freedom of t h e i r f e l l o w s . What D i d e r o t laments and what makes him a t times r e g r e t the savage e x i s t e n c e where a s m a l l number of hideous c r i m e s have t o be b a l a n c e d a g a i n s t the l a c k o f o r g a n i z e d o p p r e s s i o n and of i n j u s t i c e s a n c t i o n e d by p o s i t i v e l a w s , i s t h a t i n a c t u a l f a c t c i v i l i z e d s o c i e t i e s have c o n s e c r a t e d the bondage of man by e n f o r c i n g not n a t u r a l law, but ""* O b s e r v a t i o n s s u r l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 401. 2 See below, p. 233. 171 an a r t i f i c i a l and arbitrary morality and the dominance of small groups of people over the general mass of mankind. We may sum up the argument put forward i n th i s chapter by saying that Diderot never contests the d e s i r a b i l i t y of a j u s t l y ordered society, but condemns only unjust and oppressive s o c i a l systems. He denies that obedience to just laws and moral principles detracts from the true freedom of man. Indeed, no man i s t r u l y free unless he has become the slave of duty. "II vaut mieux etre mort que fripon;" he retorts i n a l e t t e r to Jean-Jacques, "mais malheur a, c e l u i qui v i t et qui n'a point de devoir dont i l s o i t esclave!" 1 Many years l a t e r , i n the Essai sur l e s regnes de Claude et de Neron, he writes the following imaginary dialogue: —Pour etre heureux, i l faut etre l i b r e : l e bonheur n'est pas f a i t pour c e l u i qui a d'autres maitres que son devoir. —Mais l e devoir n ' e s t - i l pas imperieux? et s ' i l faut que je serve, qu'importe sous quel maitre? — I I importe beaucoup: l e devoir est un maitre dont on ne saurait s'affranchir sans tomber dans l e malheur; c'est avec l a chaine du devoir qu'on brise toutes les autres. -1 Roth, I, 235 (March 14, 1757). 2 AT, III, 314. CHAPTER V I THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY My l a s t t h r e e c h a p t e r s have been concerned w i t h D i d e r o t ' s p l e a t h a t m o r a l i t y and the s t r u c t u r e o f s o c i e t y s h o u l d be founded on the common n a t u r e o f mankind, so t h a t the e s s e n t i a l needs o f men might be s a t i s f i e d w i t h o u t a r b i t r a r y r e s t r i c t i o n s . I have s t r e s s e d t h a t t h i s demand f o r freedom does not a p p l y t o men as i n d i v i d u a l s , but r a t h e r as members of a common s p e c i e s , and t h a t the freedom c l a i m e d f o r each member of the s o c i a l group i s l i m i t e d by the freedom of the o t h e r members. However, D i d e r o t i s w e l l aware t h a t the n a t u r e o f each i n d i v i d u a l combines, on the one hand a t t r i b u t e s common t o a l l human b e i n g s and, on the o t h e r , c e r t a i n p e c u l i a r c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s . What I now propose t o d i s c u s s i s the degree of freedom which D i d e r o t would a c c o r d the i n d i v i d u a l i n the s a t i s f a c t i o n o f h i s s p e c i a l needs and the development o f h i s p a r t i c u l a r p o t e n t i a l i t i e s . D i d e r o t ' s view of what we might term c h a r a c t e r o l o g i c a l i n d i v i d u a l i t y i s founded on h i s c o n c e p t i o n of the p h y s i c a l n a t u r e o f man. Human be i n g s are h i g h l y d i v e r s e i n t h e i r g e n e r a l b o d i l y make-up and, what i s e s p e c i a l l y i m p o r t a n t as r e g a r d s c h a r a c t e r , i n the s t r u c t u r e of t h e i r b r a i n and of t h e i r "diaphragm", which 173 Diderot considers to be the centre of a physical system corres- ponding to emotional sensibility."*" From these physiological differences there results a great d i v e r s i t y i n physical, emotional and i n t e l l e c t u a l needs and aptitudes, and one would expect that i f these needs and aptitudes were not subjected to constraints which tend to produce uniformity, there would be a great range of behaviour and l i f e - s t y l e s . But Diderot observes that, within a given s o c i a l group, men manifest a tedious sameness, i n contrast to which he finds any kind of o r i g i n a l i t y refreshing. He loves to portray i n his f i c t i o n a l writings characters l i k e Rameau's nephew, who can be r e l i e d upon to think and act d i f f e r e n t l y from the next man. We are told that the f a t a l i s t Jacques i s "un franc o r i g i n a l , ce qui a r r i v e r a i t plus souvent parmi les hommes, s i 1'education d'abord, ensuite l e grand usage du monde, ne l e s . usaient comme ces pieces d 1argent qui, a force de c i r c u l e r , 2 perdent leur empreinte." This i s a favourite image with Diderot. We f i n d i t again i n the Refutation d'Helvetius, where Diderot suggests that the great uniformity of s p i r i t and character which foreigners notice i n the French i s due to th e i r extreme s o c i a b i l i t y : "ce sont des pieces dont 1'empreinte s'est usee par un frottement 3 continu." It may be considered strange that Diderot should decry 1 Cf. Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, pp. 48 and 138; Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 333-37 and 365-67. 2 AT, V I , 192-93- 5 AT, II, 382. 174 s o c i a b i l i t y i n this way, since he does not appear to have been troubled by the inaptitude for s o c i a l relations which made Rousseau's l i f e so wretched. Diderot's l e t t e r s provide ample evidence of the great enjoyment he found, for example, i n the society of the d'Holbach c i r c l e . But this contradiction i s only apparent. He was, i n fact, shy of strangers. He writes to Mme d ' Epinay: Vous croyez done que ma sauvagerie est une pretendue sauvagerie; que je n'ai que l a peau de l'ours, mais que l a personne n'est pas dessous. C'est que vous prenez tous pour un brave c e l u i qui n'est qu'un poltron revolte. Je f a i s dans 1'occasion, comme tout l e monde, de necessite vertu. Mais i l n'y a qu'a. me regarder dans l e premier moment, et l'on verra comment a l'approche d'un inconnu, mes joues tombent et ma huppe se releve. Je suis tout effarouche et j'en a i bien l ' a i r . The fact i s that Diderot r e a l l y enjoyed s o c i a l contact only with people whom he knew well enough to be tr u l y himself, who put him at his ease and accepted him for what he was. "Je vous jure," he remarks i n the same l e t t e r , "que je ne suis nulle part heureux, qu'a l a condition de jouir de mon a/me, d'etre moi, moi 2 tout pur." He was unwilling to undergo those lar g e l y unconscious modifications of personality by which people adjust to each other u n t i l they a l l approach what he would have considered to be the same d u l l common denominator. He was proud of possessing individual characteristics of manners and behaviour which could raise a smile 1 Roth, VII, 170 (Oct., 1767). 2 Ibid., p. 171. 175 from those unused to such deviations from accepted norms. When Garat wrote to him apologizing for having published i n the Mercure a somewhat ca r i c a t u r a l account of a meeting with the philosopher, Diderot inserted i n the text of his Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron a paragraph reassuring the jo u r n a l i s t : II y a de l a ver i t e dans l e plaisant r e c i t de notre premiere entrevue; je m'y suis reconnu, et j ' a i r i du vernis leger d'ironie poetique q u ' i l y a repandu, et qui l ' a rendu piquant. On sera tente de me prendre pour une espece d'original; mais qu'est-ce que cela f a i t ? Est-ce done un s i grand defaut que d 1avoir pu conserver, en s'agitant sans cesse dans l a societe, quelques vestiges de l a nature, et de se distinguer par quelques cotes anguleux de l a multitude de ces uniformes et plats galets qui foisonnent sur toutes les plages?l To his beloved Sophie he writes: II est v r a i que vous etes un peu baroque; mais c'est que les autres ont eu beau se f r o t t e r contre vous, i l s n'ont jamais pu emousser tout a f a i t votre asperite naturelle, et j'en suis bien aise. J'aime mieux votre surface anguleuse et raboteuse, que l e p o l i maussade et commun de tous ces gens du monde. Au milieu de leur bourdonnement sourd et monotone, s i vous ietez un mot dissonant, i l frappe et on l e remarque. A dif f e r e n t image serves to praise the baroness d'Holbach for similar q u a l i t i e s : Cette femme est origi n a l e . E l l e a des choses tres fines, et tout a. cote des naivetes. Peu de monde, mais en revanche r i e n de cette uniformite s i decente et s i maussade qui donne a un cercle de femmes du monde l ' a i r d'une douzaine de poupees tirees par des f i l s d'archal.3 **" AT, III, 392. Garat's pen-portrait i s reproduced from the Mercure of Peb. 15, 1779 i n AT, I, x x i - x x i i . 2 Roth, III, 265 (Nov. 25, 1760). 5 Roth, IV, 82 (To Sophie Volland; July 31, 1762). 176 On learning that Sophie's s i s t e r Mme Le Gendre has resolved to acquire s o c i a l graces, Diderot expresses his disappointment that she should deliberately try to replace her most estimable q u a l i t i e s with s u p e r f i c i a l charms which would make her indistinguishable from the multitude of well-trained society women: S i l a resolution qu'elle a prise de s'apprivoiser tient encore, d i t e s - l u i de prendre garde de semer des fleurettes sur une belle etoffe pleine et unie. II faut bien du gout et de l ' a r t pour f a i r e serpenter une guirlande autour d'une colonne sans detruire sa noblesse. Toutes ces petites vertus de societe auxquelles e l l e ne se p l i e r a jamais de bonne grace ne vont point avec l a franchise et l a severite de son caractere. Madame Le Gendre, mon Uranie, j o l i e , polie, attentive, prevenante, affable, souriante, souple, reverencieuse? Cela ne se peut. Eh! qu'elle reste comme nature l ' a f a i t e : grave, serieuse, noble et pensante. Nature l ' a f a i t e grande et noble: et l a v o i l a qui veut se f a i r e petite et j o l i e . In his Essai sur l a peinture, Diderot defines true grace as "cette rigoureuse et precise conformite des membres avec l a nature de l ' a c t i o n . " Quite di f f e r e n t i s the conventional grace which a dancing master teaches. If the famous Marcel were to find one of his pupils standing i n the slouching pose of the c l a s s i c a l statue of Antihous, he would i n s i s t that the young man adopt an attitude more i n keeping with his own pre-conceived rules of deportment: . . . l u i portant une main sous l e menton et 1'autre sur les epaules: "Allons done, grand dadais, l u i d i r a i t - i l , est-ce qu'on se tient comme cela?" Puis, l u i repoussant l e s genoux avec l e s siens, et l e relevant par-dessous l e s bras, i l ajouterait: "On d i r a i t que Roth, IV, 95 (To Sophie Volland; Aug. 8, 1762). 177 vous etes de c i r e , et que vous a l l e z fondre. Allons, nigaud, tendez-moi ce jarret; deployez-moi cette figure; ce nez un peu au vent." Et quand i l en aurait f a i t l e plus insipide petit-maitre, i l commencerait a. l u i sourire, et a. s'applaudir de son ouvrage. The teacher of deportment here symbolizes the despotism of s o c i a l pressures, which bring about a break between the deep springs of thought and action i n the indi v i d u a l and his actual behaviour, replacing what would be his spontaneous mode of expression by manners modelled on a common pattern, and eventually atrophying the o r i g i n a l personality. Diderot d i s l i k e d the highly s t y l i z e d type of dancing i n vogue i n his time and would have preferred a dance which took the form of an imitation of some human a c t i v i t y . 2 He himself, he claims, lacked a l l aptitude for dancing. But one suspects that this claim may rather have been a symbolic r e f u s a l . At any rate, i t seems l i k e l y that his i n a b i l i t y to dance had acquired that value i n Diderot's mind. "On apprend a. danser a 1'ours;" he writes, "mais l'ours qui danse est un animal bien malheureux. On ne m'apprendra jamais a. danser." While the whole of s o c i a l l i f e exerts this constant pressure towards uniformity, i t i s i n the upbringing of children that the 1 AT, X, 489. 2 Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 333. 5 Ibid., p. 384. 178 greatest and most irrevocable damage i s done. Children are too s t r i c t l y regimented, too much trouble i s taken to ensure that they are well behaved, according to adult standards, well groomed, always reasonable, never straying from the patterns of expression and conduct acceptable i n t h e i r parents' s o c i a l world. Diderot pleads for a freer upbringing, allowing children to develop their o r i g i n a l i t y : J'eus l e courage de dire hier au s o i r a. Mme Le Gendre qu'elle se donnait bien de l a peine pour ne f a i r e de son f i l s qu'une j o l i e poupee. Pas trop el^ver est une maxime qui convient surtout aux garcons. II faut un peu l e s abandonner a l'energie de nature. J'aime qu'ils soient violents, etourdis, capricieux. Une tete ebouriffee me p l a i t plus qu'une tete bien peignee. Laissons-leur prendre une physionomie qui leur appartienne. S i j'apercois a travers leurs sottises un t r a i t d ' o r i g i n a l i t e , je suis content. Nos petits ours mal leches de province me plaisent cent f o i s plus que tous vos petit s epagneuls s i curieusement dresses. Quand je vois un enfant qui s'ecoute, qui va l a tete bien droite, l a demarche bien composee, qui craint de deranger un cheveu desa f r i s u r e , un p l i de son habit, l e pere et l a mere s'extasient et disent: Le j o l i enfant que nous avons l a ! Et moi je d i s : II ne sera jamais qu'un s o t . l In a memoir written for Catherine II, Diderot describes the edu.cation of the pupils at the Ecole des Cadets, one of the Empress's newly founded educational i n s t i t u t i o n s . Vigorous physical exercises w i l l give the cadets strength of body, courage and a healthy constitution capable of withstanding the rigours of the harsh Russian climate. Their t r a i n i n g i n the s o c i a l graces might be considered deficient by people who judge according to Roth, V, 65 (To Sophie Volland; July 25, 1765). 179 the standards of fashionable French society. Diderot imagines a conversation between himself and a Parisian "elegant". The French fop doubts whether these young Russians possess "cette politesse qui annonce une jeunesse liberalement eievee et qui p l a i t meme encore lorsqu'elle ne tient pas ce qu'elle promet." 1 The children of the French upper classes, he continues, acquire at an early age the grace and politeness of high society because, instead of being kept continually i n the company of their tutors and of companions of their own age, they are introduced early i n l i f e to fashionable c i r c l e s . Their parents i n s t i l i n them the desire to create a pleasing impression, and they model themselves on the adults who surround them. The Russian cadets, on the other hand, brought up i n the rough-and-tumble of their classmates' company, with l i t t l e opportunity to observe the s o c i a l behaviour of po l i t e adults, cannot f a i l to exhibit a r u s t i c gaiety lacking a l l finesse; they w i l l inevitably rush around l i k e young animals, with loud voices and a bold manner, except when, i n unfamiliar company, 'they become stupidly shy. Diderot, casting himself i n the role of a Russian Spartan, retorts to the inhabitant of the new Athens that any disadvantages which the cadets' upbringing may have as regards th e i r adaptation to the demands of po l i t e society are more than compensated by the preservation of their o r i g i n a l i t y : Chez nous, Athenien, mon ami, on ne veut pas que les enfants soient po l i s et manieres comme tes poupees; et tu crois qu'un homme qui a conserve un peu du gout 1 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 215. 180 de l a v e r i t a b l e nature n'aime pas mieux l a f r a n c h i s e , l a l i b e r t e , l e s sauts, l e s c r i s , 1'impetuosite, l e s t i r a i l l e m e n t s de ces especes de p e t i t s sauvages-la que l e s reverences cadencees, l e s pieds portes en avant ou r e t i r e s en a r r i e r e de tes i n s i p i d e s p e t i t s mannequins? Mets tes j o l i s p r ecieux marmots dans des b o i t e s . l e s notres ne sont pas f a i t s pour c e l a . Tu r e c u l e s a. 1'aspect de l e u r s cheveux e b o u r i f f e s et de l e u r s vetements d e c h i r e s . C'est a i n s i que j 1 e t a i s quand j ' e t a i s plus jeune, et c'est a i n s i que je p l a i s a i s , meme aux femmes et aux f i l l e s de ma province. E l l e s m'aimaient mieux d e b r a i l l e , sans chapeau, q u e l q u e f o i s sans chaussure, en veste et pieds nus, moi, f i l s d'un forgeron, que ce p e t i t monsieur b i e n vetu, b i e n poudre, b i e n f r i s e , t i r e a. quatre e p i n g l e s , l e f i l s de madame l a pre s i d e n t e du b a i l l i a g e ; parce que mes bonnes p r o v i n c i a l e s avaient de l a r a i s o n , de l a s i m p l i c i t e , et un gout n a t u r e l pour l a sante, pour l a l i b e r t e , pour l e s q u a l i t e s vraiment estimables. E l l e s voyaient que deux p o l i s s o n s comme moi, laches sur une douzaine de p e t i t s p r e s i d e n t s en miniature, l e s a u r a i e n t mis en deroute. E l l e s voyaient a. ma boutonniere l a marque de mes progres dans l e s etudes, et un enfant q u i montrait son ame par un mot net et f r a n c , et qui s a v a i t mieux donner un coup de poing que f a i r e une reverence, l e u r p l a i s a i t plus qu'un mol, l a c h e , faux et effemine p e t i t f l a g o r n e u r . Ce que tu c u l t i v e s s i soigneusement dans tes p e t i t s enfants, l e s n otres 1 1apprendront en deux ans dans l e monde, avec c e t t e d i f f e r e n c e que l e u r s premieres annees auront ete mieux employees, et q u ' i l s conserveront a jamais 1'empreinte de l e u r o r i g i n a l i t e propre. Tous vos p e t i t s enfants semblent a v o i r ete fondus dans'le meme j o l i moule. lious voulons que l e s n o t r e s , s o r t i s d i v e r s des mains de l a nature, r e s t e n t d i v e r s . Tu prepares des modeles a. Boucher, nous en preparons a Van Dyck. Tu eleves des c o u r t i s a n s , nous elevons, nous, des magistrats et des s o l d a t s . P a i s comme t u voudras, mais ne dedaigne pas sottement ce que l e s autres f o n t . Tu as ton but et i l s en ont un autre, ou p l u t o t t u n'en as po i n t et i l s en ont un. Tu veux a v o i r des agreables, et i l s v e u l e n t , eux, a v o i r des hommes.l Did e r o t blames not only the u s u a l t r a i n i n g i n manners, but a l s o the i n t e l l e c t u a l education given to c h i l d r e n i n the c o l l e g e s i n h i s day. This education was based very l a r g e l y on the study Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. V e r n i e r e , pp. 216-17. 181 of Latin. Although himself an excellent L a t i n i s t , he considered the almost exclusive study of this ancient tongue to he quite unsuited to the needs and aptitudes of the majority of pupils. They not only f a i l e d to reap the benefits this training could offer to the very few who were f i t t e d for i t , but whatever natural aptitudes they may have possessed remained undeveloped and atrophied. 1 It was Helvetius's contention that the way children turn out i s ent i r e l y the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of the i r teacher, who has the power, provided he has the required knowledge of his subject and of the pedagogical art, to make of his pupils what he w i l l . To this Diderot r e p l i e s : Je ne connais pas de systeme plus consolant pour les parents et plus encourageant pour les maitres. Voila son avantage. Mais je n'en connais pas de plus desolant pour les enfants qu'on c r o i t egalement propres a. tout; de plus capable de remplir l e s conditions de l a societe d'hommes mediocres, et d'egarer l e genie qui ne f a i t bien qu'une chose; n i de plus dangereux par 1'opiniatrete q u ' i l doit i n s p i r e r a des superieurs qui, apres avoir applique longtemps et sans f r u i t une classe d'eleves a. des objets pour lesquels i l s n'avaient aucune disposition naturelle, les rejetteront dans l e monde ou i l s ne seront plus bons a. r i e n . On ne donne pas du nez a. un l e v r i e r , on ne donne pas l a vitesse du l e v r i e r a. un chien-couchant; vous aurez beau f a i r e , c e l u i - c i gardera son nez, et celui-la. gardera ses jambes.2 True education i s quite a diff e r e n t matter: En quoi consiste done 1'importance de 1'education? Ce n'est point du tout de f a i r e du premier enfant 1 Plan d'une universite pour l e gouvernement de l a Russie, AT, III, 469-73, 485. 2 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 277. 182 communement bien organise ce q u ' i l p l a i t a ses parents d'en f a i r e , mais de l'appliquer constamment a l a chose a. laquelle i l est propre: a 1'erudition, s ' i l est doue d'une grande memoire; a. l a geometrie, s ' i l combine facilement des nombres et des espaces; a. l a poesie, s i on l u i reconnait de l a chaleur et de 1'imagination; et a i n s i des autres sciences: et que l e premier chapitre d'un bon t r a i t e d'education doit etre de l a maniere de connaitre l e s dispositions naturelles de 1'enfant. x This r e f u s a l of Diderot's to believe with Helvetius that a l l men are b a s i c a l l y the same and that they become what they are, both morally and i n t e l l e c t u a l l y , through the sole agency of environmental influences, i s more than a disagreement on a point of psychological theory. For Helvetius, this doctrine makes possible a shining hope for the future happiness of the human race: only i f one believes that there are i n men no ineradicable tendencies m i l i t a t i n g against the eventual triumph of knowledge and goodness can one have f a i t h that the application of s c i e n t i f i c knowledge to the relations between man and his environment and between man and man w i l l some day put an end to ignorance and i n j u s t i c e . Helvetius places his trust i n enlightened rulers possessing s u f f i c i e n t knowledge of human psychology and of the art of managing and manipulating men to be able to direct them of necessity to virtuous s o c i a l behaviour, and thus to happiness. Diderot agrees that an appropriate system of education and l e g i s - l a t i o n would be the best means of improving the general standard of morality, but he denies that o r i g i n a l individual dispositions could ever be completely eliminated, and asserts that, even i n 1 Ibid., AT, II, 374-75. 183 the best organized state, there would always be a certain number of persistently maleficent individuals, just as there w i l l always be some men whose altruism exceeds the duties imposed by laws and s o c i a l pressures."1" Diderot seems to suspect that Helvetius's theory might be used to provide a specious pretext for a l l the kinds of despotism, p o l i t i c a l , s o c i a l and educational, which he deplores. He feels also that the attempt to obliterate individual differences would mean a great loss of human potential both for i n t e l l e c t u a l and a r t i s t i c achievement and for moral excellence. The plea- that s o c i a l pressures should not be allowed to destroy individual differences has led some c r i t i c s to see i n Diderot a fundamental contradiction between the importance he attaches to i n d i v i d u a l i t y and the s o c i a l ethic which he so often proclaims. Pierre Hermand expresses this c r i t i c a l position as follows: . . . nous n'essayerons pas de nier l a contrariete qui existe, i r r e d u c t i b l e , nous semble-t-il, entre 1 1individualisme de Diderot et une morale qui sera essentiellement sociale: 1'existence meme et l e maintien de l a societe ne s o n t - i l s pas l i e s a. ce conformisme, — resultat de 1'education et des multiples contraintes c o l l e c t i v e s , — a tout cela contre quoi s'insurge Diderot?^ 1 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius, A T , II, 314-15. 2 Op. c i t . , p. 116. 184 But this judgment i s by no means as incontrovertible as Hermand imagines. Diderot does not claim that the o r i g i n a l dispositions of the individual should be allowed to develop i n an environmental vacuum; indeed, he rea l i z e s that this i s inconceivable. In Le Neveu de Rameau, both Lui and Moi 1 agree that some kind of moral education i s necessary, since i t i s impossible for man, a s o c i a l animal, to subsist, either i n d i v i d u a l l y or as a member of a group, i f the basic physical drives, as they grow more powerful with physical maturity, are not tempered by the development of reason. This i s the meaning of Moi's remark regarding Lux's young son: Si l e pet i t sauvage e t a i t abandonne a. lui-meme, q u ' i l conservat toute son i m b e c i l l i t e et q u ' i l reunit au peu de raison de 1'enfant au berceau l a violence des passions de l'homme de trente ans, i l tordrait l e cou a son pere et coucherait avec sa mere.2 The best form of moral education, as Diderot conceives i t , involves placing the c h i l d i n an environment i n which he i s obliged by the r e a l i t i e s of s o c i a l relations to temper his own spontaneous impulses i n order to obtain the maximum s a t i s f a c t i o n compatible Some explanation i s perhaps required regarding my use of the names Lui and Moi. Le Neveu de Rameau takes the form essentially of an interview between Jean-Francois Rameau, nephew of the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, and a narrator, whom numerous de t a i l s i n v i t e us to i d e n t i f y with the author. In the dialogue portions of the work, the speakers are designated by the pronouns "Lui" and "Moi". I prefer to use the word Moi, rather than to refer to Diderot by name, since I wish to avoid giving the impres- sion that the remarks addressed to Rameau are necessarily to be taken as the author's true opinions. Although I do not accept the view that Moi represents a self-caricature of certain h y p o c r i t i c a l l y conformist tendencies which Diderot discerns i n himself (cf. D o o l i t t l e , o_p_. ext., passim.), I readily admit that there i s a degree of d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n , deliberate, I think, between the image of himself which Diderot offers us i n Moi and the image which, from our t o t a l knowledge of him, we may suppose that he considered himself to present sub specie a e t e r n i t a t i s . 2 AT, V, 474. 185 with his continued integration i n the s o c i a l group. On this point Lui d i f f e r s from Moi only i n his contention that moral education should teach the c h i l d to adapt to the corrupt society which actually exists, whereas Moi holds that i t i s preferable for children to be brought up i n a s o c i a l and moral environment which f i t s them less for the existing state of society than for an i d e a l society i n which men would cooperate i n the pursuit of their common welfare. 1 In reacting against the stereotyping of character, Diderot does not mean to suggest that no restr a i n t s should be placed on basic human urges. The Russian cadets, for example, receive a large part of their moral education from the s o c i a l relationships i n which they interact with t h e i r fellow- cadets on a footing of equality, a better school for virtue than the h i e r a r c h i c a l adult society into which the young Parisians are early introduced and which provides such excellent training i n f l a t t e r y and deceit. The question whether Diderot's "individualism" c o n f l i c t s with his s o c i a l ethic cannot, however, be decided solely by re f e r r i n g to the texts quoted so far i n th i s chapter, texts i n which Diderot c r i t i c i z e s the a r t i f i c i a l uniformity of manners and 1 Cf. AT, V, 471-73. 186 character imposed by s o c i a l pressures. Other c r i t i c s have voiced an opinion similar to that of Hermand, but i n a more extreme form, quoting as evidence various passages i n which Diderot expresses admiration for individuals who have preserved the or i g i n a l energy of thei r nature, even when their conduct i s a n t i - s o c i a l . The following remarks of Jean Pabre are a good example of this approach: Pour se rassurer, plus encore que par gout du paradoxe, [Diderot] cherche volontiers a. j u s t i f i e r , sur l e plan de l a moralite, son admiration pour les grandes ames, meme criminelles: l e spectacle de 1'energie est toujours salutaire, meme dans l e mal (Cf. Salon de 1765, AT, X, 342: "Je ne hais pas les grands crimes . . ."; Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 118; A r t i c l e "Laideur", AT, XV, 410, etcT) Da haine de l a mediocrite l e pousse jusqu'a esquisser une apologie du crime: ne sont meprisables que ces hommes — l a majorite helas! — dans lesquels " i l n'y a pas assez d'etoffe, n i pour f a i r e un honnete homme, n i pour f a i r e un fripon." " Si l e s mSchants n'avaient pas cette energie dans l e crime, les bons n'auraient pas l a meme energie dans l a vertu." Tarquin garantit Scaevola, et Damiens Regulus. . . . Les scrupules moraux ne tiennent guere devant l'esthetique et cette consideration: de 1'unite, essentielle a l a d e f i n i t i o n du Beau. "Vous l e savez, vous, ma Sophie, vous l e savez, vous, mon amie. Un tout est beau l o r s q u ' i l est un; en ce sens Cromwell est beau, et Scipion aussi, et Medee, et Aria, et Cesar, et Brutus. . . . " (10 aout 1759) 1 More recently, David Punt has contended, i n a similar vein, that i n Diderot there i s a conventional morality, founded upon the res t r a i n t of conventional rules and maxims, both l e g a l and p o l i t e . . . . There i s also a more fundamental or natural morality, as i l l u s t r a t e d i n the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. . . . The acquired morality of Edition of Le Neveu de Rameau, pp. 213-14. The references are Pabre's. 187 conventions i s transcended by the morality founded on the i n t e g r i t y of the person and i t s uninhibited expres- sion, a morality i n which, Diderot sometimes suggests, even the great criminal may participate. "L'atrocite de 1'action vous porte au-dela du mepris," claims the nephew of Rameau (AT, V, 457). It i s this morality of i n t e g r i t y to which i s opposed the h y p o c r i t i c a l , i . e . that which i s i n int e r n a l c o n f l i c t with i t s e l f , hence inhibited, and which gives r i s e only to petty ideas and petty acts, whether i t be a question of petty virtues or petty crimes. "On prise en tout 1'unite de caractere," says the nephew again (AT, V, 453). 1 These remarks of Fabre and Funt are rather imprecise and 2 ambiguous, but their implication seems to be that Diderot considered as the highest ideal for human conduct not s o c i a l cooperation but the vigorous and uninhibited deployment of the origitasal forces of the individual nature. His ideal world would thus presumably be caracterized by agressive competition between individuals for survival and domination. Such interpretations are, I think, erroneous. The scholars who have proposed them have probably been deceived by Diderot's predilection for para- doxical forms of expression. I s h a l l attempt to show i n the remaining part of this chapter that a careful analysis of Diderot's text does not bear out the charge that he at times subscribes to an immoralistic ethic of individual efficacy running counter to his s o c i a l ethic. "Oh'..the conception of the 'vicieux' i n Diderot", i n Diderot Studies, X, 1968, pp. 58-59. 2 E.g. Fabre's comment, "les scrupules moraux ne tiennent guere devant 1'esthetique . . . ," and Funt's use of the words "transcended" and "participate". 188 I n many of the passages which a re f r e q u e n t l y mentioned as i n s t a n c e s of such an e t h i c of i n d i v i d u a l e f f i c a c y , D i d e r o t ' s r e a l c o ncern seems t o be r e l a t e d t o the simu l t a n e o u s presence of both good and e v i l i n the w o r l d . I t w i l l be co n v e n i e n t f i r s t t o examine c e r t a i n t e x t s i n which he d e a l s w i t h the presence of bo t h good and e v i l i n the same i n d i v i d u a l , and then t o c o n s i d e r o t h e r passages i n which he r e f e r s i n s t e a d t o the occurence of good and e v i l s e p a r a t e l y , i n d i f f e r e n t i n d i v i d u a l s . I n one of the l e t t e r s t o Sophie V o l l a n d , the d i s c u s s i o n i s c e n t r e d on L o v e l a c e , hero o f R i c h a r d s o n ' s n o v e l C l a r i s s a . I t appears from D i d e r o t ' s remarks t h a t Sophie and h e r s i s t e r Mme Le Gendre r e a c t e d t o L o v e l a c e by w i s h i n g him to be d e s t r o y e d as an e v i l b e i n g . D i d e r o t c o u n t e r s by d e c l a r i n g t h a t the l a d i e s have been too h a s t y i n w e i g h i n g up the b a l a n c e of good and e v i l i n C l a r i s s a ' s seducer; a l l i s not e v i l i n L o v e l a c e ' s c h a r a c t e r : C'est que ce L o v e l a c e e s t d'une f i g u r e charmante, q u i vous p l a i t comme a. t o u t l e monde, et que vous en avez dans 1 ' e s p r i t une image q u i vous s e d u i t ; c ' e s t q u ' i l a de 1' e l e v a t i o n dans 1'a.me, de 1 ' e d u c a t i o n , des co n n a i s s a n c e s , tous l e s t a l e n t s a g r e a b l e s , de l a l e g e r e t e , de l a f o r c e , du courage; c ' e s t q u ' i l n'y a r i e n . d e v i i dans sa s c e l e r a t e s s e ; c ' e s t q u ' i l vous e s t i m p o s s i b l e de l e m e p r i s e r ; c ' e s t que vous p r e f e r e r i e z m o u r i r L o v e l a c e , de l a main du c a p i t a i n e Morden, a v i v r e Solmes; c ' e s t qu ' a . t o u t p r e n d r e , nous aimons mieux un etre m o i t i e bon m o i t i e mauvais, qu'un e t r e i n d i f f e r e n t . Nous esperons de n o t r e bonheur ou de n o t r e a d r e s s e d ' e s q u i v e r a. sa m a l i c e et de p r o f i t e r dans 1 ' o c c a s i o n de sa bonte. C'royez-vous que quelqu'un sous l e c i e l eut ose impunement f a i r e s o u f f r i r a. C l a r i s s e l a centieme p a r t i e des i n j u r e s que L o v e l a c e l u i f a i t ? C'est quelque chose qu'un p e r s e c u t e u r q u i , 189 en meme temps qu'il nous tourmente, nous protege contre tout ce qui vous environne et nous menace. Et puis, c'est que vous avez un pressentiment que cet homme, qui s'est endurci pour une autre, se serait adouci pour vous. As i s frequently the case when Diderot poses moral problems for Sophie and her s i s t e r , his aim i s to amuse and tease them and also, probably, to c r i t i c i z e the conventionality of their moral attitudes. The serious point which emerges, however, from his remarks i n the l e t t e r under discussion i s that Lovelace i s only a p a r t i c u l a r l y s t r i k i n g example of the general truth that good and e v i l are intermingled i n human nature, and that therefore i t i s often a very d i f f i c u l t matter to decide whether there i s more good or more e v i l i n an individual. Diderot i n no way denies the immorality of Lovelace's conduct towards Cl a r i s s a ; nor does he suggest that the many admirable q u a l i t i e s which the charming scoundrel possesses exonerate him for his wickedness. Rather Diderot contests the conventional tendency to c l a s s i f y individuals as either a l l good or a l l bad. The problem of the correct attitude to take towards characters i n which good and e v i l q u a l i t i e s are found concomitantly i s also Diderot's main concern i n the well-known passage from Le Neveu de Rameau where Lui and Moi discuss men of genius who manifest moral defects i n their private l i v e s . According to Lui, such men, apart from the single f i e l d of a c t i v i t y i n which they excel, are good 1 Roth, III, 317-18 (Sept. 28, 1761). 190 f o r nothing: " i l s ne savent ce que c'est que d'etre citoyens, peres, meres, parents, amis."""" Thus, continues L u i , i t i s i n the i n t e r e s t of any i n d i v i d u a l to resemble them as f a r as p o s s i b l e , but not to wish them to be common. Moi concedes that men of genius are often maleficent i n t h e i r p r i v a t e l i v e s , but argues that they are beneficent through t h e i r achievements. When one weighs the b e n e f i t s and disadvantages which such men b r i n g to mankind, one must conclude that the good they do g r e a t l y exceeds the e v i l . He takes as an example Racine: Mais Racine? C e l u i - l a certes a v a i t du genie, et ne pas s a i t pas pour un trop bon homme. . . . Lequel des deux prefereriez-vous? ou q u ' i l eut ete un bon homme, i d e n t i f i e avec son comptoir, comme Briasson, ou avec son aune, comme Ba r b i e r , f a i s a n t regulierement tous l e s ans un enfant l e g i t i m e a sa femme, bon mari, bon pere, bon oncle, bon v o i s i n , honnete commercant, mais r i e n de plus; ou q u ' i l eut ete fourbe, t r a i t r e , ambitieux, envieux, mechant, mais auteur d'Andromaque, de B r i t a n n i c u s , d'Iphigenie, de Phedre, d'Athalie? . . . Pesez l e mal et l e bien. Dans m i l l e ans d ' i c i , i l f e r a verser des larmes; i l sera 1'admiration des hommes, dans toutes l e s contrees de l a t e r r e . I I i n s p i r e r a l'humanite, l a commiseration, l a tendresse. On demandera qui i l e t a i t , de quel pays, et on l ' e n v i e r a a l a Prance. I I a f a i t s o u f f r i r quelques etres qui ne sont plus, auxquels nous ne prenons presque aucun i n t e r e t ; nous n'avons r i e n a redouter n i de ses v i c e s , n i de ses defauts. I I eut ete mieux sans doute q u ' i l eut recu de l a nature l a v e r t u d'un homme de bien avec l e s t a l e n t s d'un grand homme. C'est un arbre qui a f a i t secher quelques arbres plantes dans son voisinage, qui a etouffe l e s plantes qui c r o i s s a i e n t a. ses pieds; mais i l a porte sa cime jusque dans l a nue, ses branches se sont etendues au l o i n ; i l a prete son ombre a. ceux qui venaient, qui viennent et qui viendront se reposer autour de son tronc majestueux; i l a produit des f r u i t s d'un gout exquis, et qui se renouvellent sans cesse.2 1 AT, V, 392. 2 AT, V, 395-97. 191 In order to judge, t h e r e f o r e , whether mankind i s b e t t e r or worse o f f f o r the exis t e n c e of men of genius whose p r i v a t e conduct i s wicked, we must take a long-term' view: . . . oublions pour un moment l e po i n t que nous occupons dans l'espace et dans l a duree; et etendons notre vue sur l e s s i e c l e s a v e n i r , l e s regions l e s plus eioignees et l e s peuples a. n a i t r e . Songeons au bie n de notre espece; s i nous ne sommes po i n t assez genereux, pardonnons au moins a l a nature d ' a v o i r ete plus sage que nous. As i n the case of Lovelace, Diderot-Moi does not deny that Racine's p r i v a t e conduct was m a l e f i c e n t ; he claims, however, that the t o t a l e f f e c t of Racine's a c t s f o r mankind as a whole i s over- whelmingly b e n e f i c i a l . The question here r a i s e d i s not that of the moral judgment to be passed on p a r t i c u l a r a c t s , but r a t h e r whether one i s j u s t i f i e d i n c r i t i c i z i n g a n a t u r a l order i n which good and e v i l are o f t e n i n e x t r i c a b l y mingled, i n t h i s case i n the same being. Moi b e l i e v e s , i t i s true, that one can f i n d examples of the genius who i s f r e e from notable moral d e f e c t s ; i t i s c l e a r , n e v e r t h e l e s s , from h i s comments on V o l t a i r e and Greuze that he recognizes a c e r t a i n c o r r e l a t i o n between moral d e f i c i e n c y and genius. V o l t a i r e ' s s e n s i t i v i t y to c r i t i c i s m a r i s e s from the same p s y c h o l o g i c a l source as the a r t i s t i c s e n s i b i l i t y which enables him to crea t e the cha r a c t e r s of h i s t r a g e d i e s . S i m i l a r l y , Greuze's v a n i t y has the same o r i g i n as the enthusiasm which accounts f o r h i s t a l e n t as a p a i n t e r : S i vous j e t e z de l ' e a u f r o i d e sur l a t e t e de Greuze, vous e t e i n d r e z peut-etre son t a l e n t avec sa v a n i t e . 1 AT, V, 397. 192 Si vous rendez de Voltaire moins sensible a l a c r i t i q u e , i l ne saura plus descendre dans l'ame de Merope, i l ne vous touchera p l u s . x The cases of Lovelace and Racine concern primarily the presence i n the same individual of q u a l i t i e s which are respectively beneficent and maleficent towards others. The Salon de 1767 contains some re f l e c t i o n s which, while r e l a t i n g to a similar theme, deal with q u a l i t i e s which are respectively harmful and b e n e f i c i a l to the individual who possesses them. Here too i t was Diderot's b e l i e f that Nature tends to balance good q u a l i t i e s with bad. Reflecting on the kind of personal character which brings i t s possessor happiness, Diderot contrasts the balance, the lack of strong passions, the mediocrity, which shield a man equally from blame and envy with, on the other hand, the tendency to f l y to extremes, the strong passions, the acute s e n s i b i l i t y , which resu l t i n a mixture of exaltation and unhappiness. But why i s i t , he asks, that, for a l l the apparent or r e a l disadvantages of s e n s i b i l i t y , no one would w i l l i n g l y give up his share of i t and become mediocre? He takes as examples of mediocrity and s e n s i b i l i t y two contrasting characters from Piron's comedy La Metromanie. M. Baliveau, a r i c h bourgeois, i s eager for the s o l i d advantages afforded by wealth, bent on exercising a petty tyranny over those near him, and t o t a l l y devoid of idealism. His nephew Damis, on the other hand, who has. adopted the s i g n i f i c a n t pseudonym of M. de l'Empiree, l i v e s above his means, neglects his law studies, 1 AT, V, 397. 193 but i s generous and sets no value on money for i t s own sake or for i t s material advantages; his eyes are fixed on literary- fame; i n his personal relations he i s honorable and kind. While his uncle i s scheming to have him imprisoned, the young man contrives to overcome the obstacles impeding the happy marriage of his friend Dorante. 1 Diderot comments as follows: Heureux, cent f o i s heureux, . . . M. Baliveau, capitoul de Toulouse! c'est M. Baliveau, qui boit bien, qui mange bien, qui digere bien, qui dort bien. G'est l u i qui prend son cafe l e matin, qui f a i t l a police au marche, qui perore dans sa petite famille, qui arrondit sa fortune, qui preche a ses enfants l a fortune; qui vend a. temps son avoine et son ble; qui garde dans son c e l l i e r ses vins, jusqu'a ce que l a gelee des vignes en a i t amene l a cherte; qui s a i t placer surement ses fonds; qui se vante de n'avoir jamais ete enveloppe dans aucune f a i l l i t e ; qui v i t ignore; et pour qui l e bonheur inutilement envie d'Horace, l e bonheur de mourir ignore fut f a i t . M. Baliveau est un homme f a i t pour son bonheur et pour l e malheur des autres. Son neveu, M. de l'Empiree, tout au c o n t r a i r e . 2 I think i t w i l l be clear from the three passages which I have cited so far that Diderot does not wish to question the v a l i d i t y of an ethic of beneficence or to propose new and unorthodox c r i t e r i a for judging particular actions. His meditation has quite another object. The problem he examines i s whether one should c r i t i c i z e the natural order for producing e v i l alongside of good. Moi, i n Le Neveu de Rameau, defends not the e v i l that I base this description of the two characters on the text of Piron's play, to which one must, I think, return i n order to understand what Baliveau and M. de l'Empiree represent for Diderot. For an example of a misinterpretation of Baliveau, see S e i l l i e r e , op. c i t . , pp. 264-65. 2 Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 126. 194 men of genius do i n t h e i r p r i v a t e l i v e s , hut rat h e r Nature f o r c r e a t i n g t h i s mixture of good and e v i l i n them. I think i t unnecessary here to examine i n d e t a i l the arguments put forward by l u i and Moi wit h respect to the simultaneous presence of good and e v i l i n the world and i n man. Mod's f i n a l conclusion — and, I t h i n k , that of the author — i s that i t i s unreasonable to pass a value judgment on the a c t u a l order of the universe since i t i s the only p o s s i b l e order: Acceptons done l e s choses comme e l l e s sont. Voyons ce q u 1 e l l e s nous coutent, et ce qu'elles nous rendent, et l a i s s o n s la. l e tout que nous ne connais sons pas assez pour l e louer ou l e blamer, et qui n'est peut- etre n i bien n i mal, s ' i l est necessaire, comme beaucoup d'honnetes gens l'imaginent. So f a r we have considered passages i n which Diderot r e f l e c t s on the coexistence of good and e v i l i n the same i n d i v i d u a l . There are, however, s e v e r a l important passages, r e l a t i n g to a s i m i l a r theme, but which i l l u s t r a t e h i s concern w i t h the presence of both good and e v i l i n the human race when they occur separately, i n d i f f e r e n t i n d i v i d u a l s . Here too we s h a l l see that the main object of Diderot's enquiry i s to determine whether one should c r i t i c i z e the n a t u r a l order which has brought about t h i s s t a t e of a f f a i r s . His answer to t h i s l a s t question emerges most c l e a r l y from a l e t t e r to Sophie Volland: 1 AT, V, 398. 195 Si les mechants n'avaient pas cette energie dans l e crime, les bons n'auraient pas l a meme energie dans l a vertu. S i "l'homme a f f a i b l i ne peut plus se porter aux grands maux,.il ne pourra plus se porter aux grands biens. En cherchant a. 1'amender d'un cote, vous l e degraderez de 1'autre. S i Tarquin n'ose v i o l e r lucrece, Scoevola ne tiendra pas son poignet sur un brasier ardent. Cela est singulier; on est en general assez mecontent des choses, et l'on n'y toucherait pas sans les empirer.l The reference to amending human nature means here, I think, imagining i t i n an improved form. Diderot never doubted the a d v i s a b i l i t y of taking p r a c t i c a l measures to ameliorate the actual conduct of individuals. He may have gone so far as to question the d e s i r a b i l i t y of a type of education which so weakened the f i b r e of human nature as to render men incapable of either great crimes or of great heroism; but he never suggests that society should cease to apply laws and to enforce them by punishing wrong-doers. Although the passage I have quoted i s immediately preceded by the remark "Je ne puis m'empecher d'admirer l a nature humaine, meme quelquefois quand e l l e est atroce," I do not think this implies moral approval of crime on Diderot's part. It i s , however, easy to see how the paradoxical form of such a remark might be misleading. I s h a l l have more to say presently about thi s admiration of Diderot's for energy i n crime. The following passage also deals with the theme of the presence of good and e v i l i n different individuals and proposes 1 Roth, III, 98 (Sept. 30, 1760). Henri Lefebvre, having quoted t h i s passage, exclaims: "On c r o i t rever; ou done est passe l e moraliste? En bonne forme, v o i l a un tres beau plaidoyer pour les mechants." (Op., c i t . , p. 229,) 196 a similar account of the interdependence of these moral opposites: . . . c'est que les grandes et sublimes actions et les grands crimes'portent l e meme caractere d'energie. Si un homme n'etait pas capable d'incendier une v i l l e , un autre homme ne serait pas capable de se prec i p i t e r dans un gouffre pour l a sauver. S i l'ame de Cesar n'eut pas ete possible, c e l l e de Caton ne l ' a u r a i t pas ete davantage. l'homme est ne citoyen tantot du Tenare, tantot de l'Olympe; c'est Castor et Pollux; un heros, un scelerat; Marc-Aurele, Borgia: di v e r s i s s t u d i i s ovo prognatus e_odem.± Once again, l i k e that previously quoted, th i s passage i s immedi- ately preceded by a s t a r t l i n g l y paradoxical remark: "Je hais toutes ces petites bassesses qui ne montrent qu'une ame abjecte, mais je ne hais pas les grands crimes . . . . 1 1 Here too there i s not, I think, any implication of moral approval of great crimes, any b e l i e f that the great criminal transcends common humanity to such a degree that he earns the right to be judged by a diff e r e n t moral law. Diderot i s merely pointing out that i f one wishes the natural order to produce heroes, one has to accept having great villains as well; we need not approve of them, but we must reconcile ourselves to an order of things i n which they inevitably exist. With regard to the presence of good and e v i l i n dif f e r e n t individuals, Diderot's point i s , i n fact, much the same as the one he makes with regard to the concomitance of ^ Salon de 1765. AT, X, 342. Diderot alludes to the legend of Manlius Curtius, who plunged on horseback into an abyss i n order to save the c i t y of Rome. Presumably the man who burned the c i t y i s Nero. The twin brothers Castor and Pollux, born from Leda's egg, were respectively mortal and immortal. 197 good and e v i l i n the same ind i v i d u a l . He does not propose that we should judge the e v i l personal q u a l i t i e s of certain men of genius or the maleficent energy of great criminals according to a dif f e r e n t moral standard from that which i s applied to ordinary men. Diderot i s concerned with the universal scheme of things, and concludes that i t makes no sense to pass value judgments on human nature as a whole; one must accept i t , as one must accept the fundamental order of the universe. As a f i n a l example of Diderot's r e f l e c t i o n s on a world order i n which heroes and great criminals exist side by side, l e t us examine his remarks on Damiens, the would-be assassin of Louis XV: Qu'il y a i t eu parmi nous un homme qui a i t ose attenter a l a vie de son souverain; q u ' i l a i t ete p r i s ; qu'on l ' a i t condamne a etre dechire avec des ongles de fer, arrose d'un metal bouillant, trempe dans l e bitume enflamme, etendu sur un chevalet, demembre par des chevaux; qu'on l u i a i t l u cette sentence t e r r i b l e , et qu'apres 1'avoir entendue, i l a i t d i t froidement: "La journee sera rude"; a 1'instant j'imagine aussi q u ' i l respire a cote de moi une ame de l a trempe de ce l l e de Regulus, un homme qui, s i quelque grand interet, general ou p a r t i c u l i e r , l ' e x i g e a i t , entrerait sans p a l i r dans l e tonneau herisse de pointes. 1 I s h a l l have further remarks to make on thi s passage l a t e r . For the moment I wish only to stress that here again Diderot's position i s that i n the actual order of the world there i s an interconnection between the existence of great criminals and great heroes, that one cannot have one without the other. Roth, III, 141-42 (To Sophie Volland: Oct. 14-15, 1760). 198 The explanation Diderot gives for the interdependence of good and e v i l , whether i n the physical world, i n the same human individuals, or separately i n different individuals, i s that good and e v i l have the same or i g i n . He expounds this theory most f u l l y i n a note to l e Proselyte repondant par lui-meme (c. 1763): J' a i vu de savants systernes, j ' a i vu de gros l i v r e s e c r i t s sur l' o r i g i n e du mal; et je n'ai vu que des reveries, l e mal tient au bien meme; on ne pourrait oter l'un sans 1'autre; et i l s ont tous les deux leur source dans les memes causes. C'est des l o i s donnees a. l a matiere, lesquelles entretiennent l e mouvement et l a vie dans l'univers, que derivent les desordres physiques, l e s volcans, l e s tremblements de terre, l e s tempetes, etc. C'est de l a s e n s i b i l i t e , source de tous nos p l a i s i r s , que resulte l a douleur. Quant au mal moral, qui n'est autre chose que l e vice ou l a preference de soi aux autres, i l est un effet necessaire de cet amour-propre, s i essentiel a. notre conservation, et contre lequel de faux raisonneurs ont tant declame. Pour q u ' i l n'y a i t pas de vices sur l a terre, c'est aux l e g i s l a t e u r s a f a i r e que les hommes n'y trouvent aucun i n t e r e t . l In a second note, Diderot declares that i t i s inconceivable that a world should exist without e v i l : Je ne sais s ' i l peut y avoir un systeme ou. tout serait bien; mais je sais bien q u ' i l est impossible de l a concevoir. Otez l a faim et l a s o i f aux animaux, qu'est- ce qui les av e r t i r a de pourvoir a. leurs besoins? Otez- leur l a douleur, qu'est-ce qui les previendra sur ce qui menace leur vie? A l'egard de l'homme, toutes ses passions, comme l ' a demontre un philosophe de nos jours, ne sont que l e developpement de l a s e n s i b i l i t e physique. Pour f a i r e que l'homme so i t sans passions, i l n'y a pas d'autre moyen que de l e rendre automate. Pope a tres bien prouve, d'apres Leibniz, que l e monde ne saura.it etre que ce q u ' i l est; mais l o r s q u ' i l en a AT, II, 85, note 1. 1 9 9 c o n c l u que tout e s t b i e n , i l a d i t une a b s u r d i t e ; i l d e v a i t se contenter de d i r e que tout est n e c e s s a i r e . ^ With. regard to meral e v i l and human s u f f e r i n g these remarks confirm the ideas of Moi concerning V o l t a i r e and Gfreuze and those of D i d e r o t r e g a r d i n g the b e n e f i t s and disadvantages which a M. de l'Empiree d e r i v e s from the g i f t of s e n s i b i l i t y . The source of moral e v i l and of moral good i s s e l f - l o v e , which i s fundamentally the tendency of a l l organisms to s t r i v e to continue t h e i r own ex i s t e n c e . T h i s s e l f - l o v e i s guided by s e n s i b i l i t y , which i n i t s o r i g i n i s a p h y s i c a l phenomenon in s e p a r a b l e from the organism and which i n i t s developed form gives r i s e to the human passions. In order to r e f u t e completely the view that Diderot tended towards i m m o r a l i s t i c i n d i v i d u a l i s m , i t w i l l be necessary to examine i n some d e t a i l h i s ideas concerning the passions. As e a r l y as 1 7 4 6 , i n the Pensees philosophiques, Diderot d e c l a r e s h i s preference f o r s t r o n g passions, the f i r s t f i v e . s e c t i o n s of the work being devoted to t h i s theme. The f o l l o w i n g s e l e c t i o n w i l l g ive an i d e a of Did e r o t ' s p o i n t of view: I b i d . , p. 8 5 , note 2 . Assezat i d e n t i f i e s the "philosophe de nos j o u r s " as C o n d i l l a c . Cf. V o l t a i r e ' s Preface to the Poeme sur l e des a s t r e de Lisbonne of 1 7 5 5 (Melanges, P l e i a d e e d i t i o n , P a r i s , 1 9 6 1 , pp. 3 0 1 - 0 3 ) . A l l these r e f l e c t i o n s of Did e r o t ' s concerning good and e v i l i n the universe should be seen i n the context of the controversy r e g a r d i n g optimism i n the decade around 1 7 6 0 . 200 On declame sans f i n contre l e s passions; on leur impute toutes les peines de l'homme, et l'on oublie qu 1elles sont aussi l a source de tous ses p l a i s i r s . C'est dans sa constitution un element dont on ne peut dire n i trop de bien n i trop de mal. Mais ce qui me donne de l'humeur, c'est qu'on ne les regarde jamais que du mauvais cote. . . . Cependant i l n'y a que les passions, qui puissent elever l'ame aux grandes choses. Sans e l l e s , plus de sublime, s o i t dans les moeurs, soit dans les ouvrages; les beaux-arts retournent en enfance, et l a vertu devient minutieuse. . . . l e s passions sobres font les hommes communs. . . . Les passions amorties degradent l e s hommes extraordinaires. La contrainte aneantit l a grandeur et l'energie de l a nature. Voyez cet arbre; c'est au luxe de ses branches que vous devez l a fraicheur et l'etendue de ses ombres: vous en jouirez jusqu'a. ce que l' h i v e r vienne l e depouiller de sa chevelure. Plus d'excellence en poesie, en peinture, en musique, lorsque l a superstition aura f a i t sur l e temperament l'ouvrage de l a v i e i l l e s s e . We s h a l l see l a t e r that Diderot does i n s i s t that i n the i r expression strong passions should be subjected to some form of re s t r a i n t . But I would l i k e to concentrate for the moment on his 'preference for strong rather than weak passions. I would not seek to deny that he prefers a world i n which there i s a mixture of extremes i n good and e v i l to a world i n which moral mediocrity i s the rule. He prefers the energy which gives r i s e either to great crimes or to great heroism rather than the moral weakness which makes a man incapable either of marked altruism or of a s u f f i c i e n t l y resolute selfishness to act i n a decidedly malevolent way. It i s i n this sense that he hates "toutes ces petites bassesses qui ne montrent qu'une ame abjecte," but does not hate great crimes, because of the quality of energy which, " 2 l i k e acts of heroism, they manifest. 1 AT, I, 127-28. 2 See above, p. 196 . Cf. also the rather similar remark i n his l e t t e r to Sophie Volland dated Sept. 30, 1760, quoted above, p. 19-5. 201 With the "energetic" character, whether good or e v i l , Diderot contrasts the mediocre man: Tenez, mon amie, votre Desmarets n'etait bon a. r i e n . II n'y avait pas assez d'etoffe n i pour f a i r e un honnete homme n i pour f a i r e un fripon. S ' i l n'est pas encore completement stupide, cela ne tardera pas a. venir. Au reste, un coup d'oeil sur l e s inconsequences et l e s contradictions des hommes, et l'on v o i t que l a plupart naissent moitie sots et moitie fous. Sans caractere comme sans physionomie, i l s ne sont decides n i pour l e vice n i pour l a vertu. I l s ne savent n i immoler les autres n i se s a c r i f i e r ; et soit qu'ils fassent l e bien, soit qu'ils fassent l e mal, i l s sont malheureux et j'en a i p i t i e . It i s true, on the other hand, that according to Diderot, i t i s precisely the mediocre mass of mankind, lacking a pronounced natural disposition either to cooperative or to a n t i - s o c i a l behaviour, which can be influenced by edxication and l e g i s l a t i o n : II est un phenomene, constant dans l a nature, auquel Helvetius n'a pas f a i t attention, c'est que l e s ames fortes sont rares, que l a nature, ne f a i t presque que des etres communs; que c'est l a raison pour laquelle les causes morales subjuguent s i facilement 1'organisation. It i s this fact which j u s t i f i e s our hope for the general improve- ment of the standard of human morality through the agency of good government and an appropriate educational system. But the kind of virtue, i f i t deserves the name, which results from careful nurture i s not what f i l l s Diderot with enthusiasm or makes him proud to belong to the human race. He i s more impressed Roth, III, 97-98 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 30, 1760). 2 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 393. 202 by that virtue which springs spontaneously from the o r i g i n a l seed of the individual nature. Diderot's preference for a world i n which a l l i s not mediocrity, but where there are instances of great heroism, inevitably balanced by other instances of great villainy, may no doubt be rejected by some moralists, who consider that a state of harmonious mediocrity would be more conducive to the happiness of society as a whole. I think, however, that much could be said on either side of the question and that i t would be wrong to reach the hasty conclusion that Diderot's position i s immor- a l i s t i c . When we consider, for example, a l l the passages i n which Diderot speaks of the concomitance i n the natural order of great crimes and great heroism, we find that his attitude toward di f f e r e n t types of great criminal varies. For instance, when he contrasts Marcus Aurelius and Borgia, Manlius Curtius and Nero,"'" his attention is. concentrated, as regards the villains, on one quality only, their "energy", which here seems to mean the strength of the passions. This quality pleases him, he explains, for two reasons. One i s that i t provides him with an a e s t h e t i c a l l y pleasing spectacle: "On en f a i t de beaux tableaux et de belles tragedies." The other reason i s that the existence i n some men of violent passions directed toward e v i l affords an "*" See above, p. 196. 2 Salon de 1765, AT, X, 342. 203 assurance that there exist i n other men equally strong passions directed toward good. I do not think one can suppose that Diderot has any actual moral admiration for a Nero or a Borgia, i n the sense that he would l i k e to resemble them. In other cases, however, i t seems that he feels a true moral admiration for at least certain aspects of the character of a criminal. He admires, for instance, Damiens's courage i n the face of his t e r r i b l e sentence. Such admiration does not denote immoralism. Diderot himself c l a r i f i e s i n the following passage the d i s t i n c t i o n between approval of criminal ends and admiration for the i n t e l l e c t u a l or psychological q u a l i t i e s which are deployed i n their pursuit: Une seule chose peut nous rapprocher du mechant; c'est l a grandeur de ses vues, l'etendue de son genie, l e p e r i l de son entreprise. Alors, s i nous oublions sa mechancete pour courir son sort; s i nous conjurons contre Venise avec l e comte de Bedmar, c'est l a vertu qui nous subjugue encore sous une autre face. In t h i s context we must, i n my view, take the word "vertu" to mean something dif f e r e n t from justice, which i s the way Diderot, true to his s o c i a l ethic, usually defines i t . Here i t has a meaning closer to i t s etymological sense and refers to whatever qu a l i t i e s are considered desirable i n a man. This meaning i s broader than that of beneficence or justice, for i t includes also the i n t e l l e c t u a l and psychological characteristics which make a man e f f i c i e n t i n carrying out his designs. In short, the word refers to q u a l i t i e s which, from the point of view of s o c i a l morality, are neutral. My interpretation i s confirmed, I think, 1 Salon de 1767. AT, XI, 118. 204 by a c l o s e l y p a r a l l e l passage i n the a r t i c l e " l a i d e u r " : Une chose e s t b e l l e ou l a i d e sous deux a s p e c t s d i f f e r e n t s . L a c o n s p i r a t i o n de V e n i s e dans son commencement, ses progres et ses moyens nous f a i t e e r i e r : Quel homme que l e comte de Bedmar! q u ' i l e s t grand! La meme c o n s p i r a t i o n sous l e s p o i n t s de vue moraux e t r e l a t i f s a l'humanite et a l a j u s t i c e nous f a i t d i r e q u ' e l l e e s t a t r o c e , et que l e comte de Bedmar e s t h i d e u x ! x D i d e r o t ' s c o n c e p t i o n of what i s a d m i r a b l e i n human c h a r a c t e r i s c o m p l i c a t e d by the f a c t t h a t a t times he ap p e a l s t o the p r i n c i p l e o f u n i t y of c h a r a c t e r . I n a l e t t e r t o Sophie V o l l a n d , he remarks: Un t o u t e s t beau l o r s q u ' i l e s t un. En ce sens, Cromwell e s t beau, et S c i p i o n a u s s i , et Medee, et A r i a , et Cesar, e t Brutus.2 T h i s p r i n c i p l e of u n i t y , however, i s r a t h e r d i f f e r e n t from the p r i n c i p l e on which i s founded D i d e r o t ' s a d m i r a t i o n f o r Damiens or the comte de Bedmar. I n such men D i d e r o t f i n d s q u a l i t i e s which he would l i k e t o p o s s e s s ; but i t i s c l e a r from c e r t a i n p o r t r a i t s I N LJL© Neveu de Rameau t h a t he would not f e e l t h i s way about a l l c h a r a c t e r s p o s s e s s i n g u n i t y . Such u n i t y may be found i n weak as w e l l as i n s t r o n g c h a r a c t e r s , i n base s o u l s as w e l l as i n n o b l e ones, a f a c t which i s i l l u s t r a t e d by Bouret and P a l i s s o t , i n whom Rameau's nephew f i n d s a u n i t y of c h a r a c t e r of which he h i m s e l f f a l l s s h o r t . T h e i r p e r f e c t i o n i n baseness may p o s s i b l y be the 1 AT, XV, 410. 2 R o t h , I I , 208 (Aug. 11, 1759). 205 source of a c e r t a i n a e s t h e t i c p l e a s u r e f o r the o b s e r v e r , but, i f one can speak a t a l l o f t h e i r i n s p i r i n g a d m i r a t i o n , i t i s c e r t a i n l y not the s o r t o f a d m i r a t i o n w i t h which Damiens 1s courage f i l l s D i d e r o t , r e m i n d i n g him as i t does of the courage of a Regulus. We remember t h a t Rameau, h a v i n g f a i l e d t o e l i c i t from Moi a n y t h i n g o t h e r than amused contempt f o r P a l i s s o t and B o u r e t , t r i e s a g a i n w i t h h i s anecdote c o n c e r n i n g the renegade of A v i g n o n . x The s c o u n d r e l i n q u e s t i o n g a i n s the c o n f i d e n c e of a r i c h Jew, s t i l l p r i v a t e l y p r a c t i s i n g • hils"1 , r e l i g i o n , and p r e t e n d s t o be c o n v e r t e d t o Judaism; whence the a p p e l a t i o n "renegade". A f t e r some time has e l a p s e d , he s e c r e t l y denounces the Jew t o the I n q u i s i t i o n and makes o f f w i t h h i s f o r t u n e on the p r e t e x t of k e e p i n g i t s a f e from the a u t h o r i t i e s . Meanwhile the Jew i s burned a t the s t a k e . The main d i f f e r e n c e between the case of the renegade and those o f P a l i s s o t and B o uret i s t h a t h i s a c t i s i n f i n i t e l y more h e i n o u s . He i s an example of those extremes i n v i c e w hich g i v e D i d e r