UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Diderot's moral and social thought Langdon, David Jeffrey 1970-12-31

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I  DIDEROT'S MORAL AND SOCIAL THOUGHT  by DAVID JEFFREY LANG-DON B.A., U n i v e r s i t y o f O x f o r d , 1956 L. es L . , U n i v e r s i t y o f 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 in  t h e Department of FRENCH  We a c c e p t required  THE  this  t h e s i s as conforming  to the  standard  UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August,  1970  In p r e s e n t i n g t h i s  thesis  an advanced degree at the L i b r a r y I  the U n i v e r s i t y  s h a l l make i t  freely  f u l f i l m e n t o f the of B r i t i s h  available  for  requirements f o r  Columbia, I agree  that  reference and study.  f u r t h e r agree t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e copying o f t h i s  for  thesis  s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the Head o f my Department o r  by h i s of  in p a r t i a l  representatives.  this  It  thesis for financial  i s understood that copying o r p u b l i c a t i o n gain s h a l l  written permission.  Department o f  French  The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada  Date  August  20,  1970  not be allowed without my  ABSTRACT  This t h e s i s attempts to present a synthesis on moral and  s o c i a l questions which .may  throughout D i d e r o t ' s works and the p r e s e n t a t i o n  he found  correspondence.  and  a t t a i n s a s u b s t a n t i a l , though not  a m a t e r i a l i s t i c and  are  either  philosopher's  total,  unity.  never departed from  d e t e r m i n i s t i c conception of the world and  I t i s inaccurate  convinced  Moreover, between h i s d e n i a l of f r e e - w i l l and anism he admits no r e a l i n c o m p a t i b i l i t y .  intellectually.  his social u t i l i t a r i -  In c l a i m i n g that i n a  d e t e r m i n i s t i c world the concepts of v i c e and  v i r t u e are meaningless  i n r e p l a c i n g them by those of maleficence and  beneficence,  he r e t a i n s the e s s e n t i a l d i s t i n c t i o n between moral good and e v i l , but  s t r e s s e s that one  i n the s t r u c t u r e  of  to say that on an emotional plane he  r e j e c t e d the determinism of which he was  and  In the course of  i t i s demonstrated that the  A f t e r h i s e a r l y d e i s t i c p e r i o d , Diderot  man.  dispersed  a number of a l l e g e d c o n t r a d i c t i o n s  denied or r e s o l v e d , mature d o c t r i n e  of the views  moral  must l o o k e s p e c i a l l y to improvements  of s o c i e t y to encourage i n d i v i d u a l s to act i n  the g e n e r a l i n t e r e s t . D i d e r o t ' s r a d i c a l c r i t i c i s m of the moral code p r e v a i l i n g i n h i s own  s o c i e t y , e s p e c i a l l y with regard to s e x u a l i t y , should  regarded not as advocacy of an anarchism which would run to the whole n o t i o n  counter  of a harmonious s o c i e t y , hut as an appeal f o r  a more r a t i o n a l . s o c i a l m o r a l i t y .  His t h i n k i n g , as i t r e l a t e s to  moral conduct i n e x i s t i n g s o c i a l contexts, and  h i s suggestions  f o r p o s s i b l e reform of the moral code are cautious and considerable  he  degree of r e l a t i v i s m .  imply a  ii A major spokesman of eighteenth-century  l i b e r a l i s m , Diderot  p r o t e s t s e l o q u e n t l y a g a i n s t a r b i t r a r y government and injustice.  He proclaims the p r i n c i p l e of popular  social  sovereignty,  though he does not propose e i t h e r d i r e c t or r e p r e s e n t a t i v e m a j o r i t y r u l e as an e f f e c t i v e p o l i t i c a l s o l u t i o n .  Disillusioned  regarding  the p o s s i b i l i t y of an absolutism dedicated to the general i n t e r e s t , he i n c r e a s i n g l y favours c o n s t i t u t i o n a l l y l i m i t e d monarchy.  His  v i s i o n of an a n a r c h i c a l , yet harmonious, s o c i e t y i s a p u r e l y s p e c u l a t i v e i d e a l ; f o r p r a c t i c a l purposes, human i m p e r f e c t i o n renders government and l e g i s l a t i o n necessary.  While f e a r f u l , of  the immediate consequences of r e v o l u t i o n , Diderot n e v e r t h e l e s s suggests  that i t may  w e l l 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 s t r u c t u r e more favourable i n the l o n g run to general happiness. Although ality,  D i d e r o t l a y s great emphasis on the value of i n d i v i d u -  and deplores the pressures which l e a d to a d u l l u n i f o r m i t y  of c h a r a c t e r , he stops short of condoning the k i n d of i n d i v i d u a l i t y which must express for  i t s e l f i n anti-social acts.  His  admiration  the grandeur d'ame of c e r t a i n c r i m i n a l s i n no way  implies  moral approval of t h e i r conduct. D i d e r o t ' s e t h i c a l thought i s not merely c r i t i c a l . extremes of moral r e l a t i v i s m and law on the nature  of man  problem.  rejects,  seeks to base a u n i v e r s a l moral .  and of human r e l a t i o n s .  The  moral  o b l i g a t i o n of the i n d i v i d u a l to obey t h i s law presents with a d i f f i c u l t  He  He t r i e s to show that the  s e l f - i n t e r e s t , i f c o r r e c t l y understood',  Diderot  individual's  must always prompt  him  iii to 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 , Diderot i s obliged to appeal to 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.  E v e n s o , he i s n o t t h o r o u g h l y  t h a t t h i s d o c t r i n e o f t h e bond b e t w e e n v i r t u e and happiness  convinced  personal  i s universally valid, for i t conflicts with his recogni-  t i o n o f t h e 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  is  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  ethical  d o c t r i n e and  Here i s  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 .  t h e t r u e c o n f l i c t b e t w e e n head and h e a r t i n D i d e r o t and important  p o i n t upon which h i s e t h i c a l thought  complete u n i t y .  falls  the  short  only of  TABLE OP CONTENTS Page INTRODUCTION CHAPTER I D i d e r o t and d e t e r m i n i s t i c  1  materialism  15  CHAPTER.II The e t h i c a l consequences of determinism  53  CHAPTER I I I Man the v i c t i m of an unnatural m o r a l i t y  80  CHAPTER IV Government and the governed  113  CHAPTER V L i b e r t y and l i c e n c e  145  CHAPTER VI The i n d i v i d u a l and s o c i e t y  172  CHAPTER V I I A u n i v e r s a l moral law  218  CHAPTER V I I I D i d e r o t ' s e t h i c a l dilemma  254  CONCLUSION  286  BIBLIOGRAPHY  293  INTRODUCTION  Throughout the present  century  the w r i t i n g s of Diderot  have a t t r a c t e d i n c r e a s i n g a t t e n t i o n from students of l i t e r a t u r e and  of the h i s t o r y of i d e a s .  him h i g h regard  H i s f i c t i o n a l works have earned  as a l i t e r a r y a r t i s t , while h i s p h i l o s o p h i c a l  ideas have been judged worthy of s e r i o u s s c h o l a r l y c o n s i d e r a t i o n . His growing r e p u t a t i o n as a t h i n k e r can no doubt be p a r t l y explained  by the d e c l i n i n g i n f l u e n c e of that  school of conservative  nineteenth-century  d e n i g r a t i o n which saw i n him a t h r e a t t o  e s t a b l i s h e d s o c i a l and moral values,  but the c o n t i n u i n g i n t e r e s t  i n h i s ideas must be mainly a t t r i b u t e d t o t h e i r i n t r i n s i c and  value  t o the powerful and s t i m u l a t i n g forms i n which they f i n d  expression. I t has o f t e n been s a i d that Diderot thinker.  i s not a  systematic  I f t h i s judgment i m p l i e s that h i s thought i s c h a o t i c ,  I would deny i t c a t e g o r i c a l l y .  I f i t means simply  not express h i s ideas i n c a r e f u l l y constructed argued t r e a t i s e s , i t i s i n d i s p u t a b l e .  that he does  and l o g i c a l l y  H i s opinions  on most  p h i l o s o p h i c a l subjects are to be found s c a t t e r e d throughout h i s f i c t i o n a l and n o n - f i c t i o n a l works, o f t e n i n the form of d i g r e s s i o n s , r e f l e c t i o n s on contemporary events or comments on other men's writings. T h i s l a c k of s y s t e m a t i z a t i o n  i s e s p e c i a l l y apparent i n h i s  moral and s o c i a l thought, which i s the subject of the present  2 dissertation.  My  on m o r a l i t y and inseparable  aim w i l l be to examine h i s v a r i o u s r e f l e c t i o n s  the nature of s o c i e t y —  i n h i s thought —  h i s d o c t r i n e i n as c l e a r and  and  questions  enquiry  to present  have prompted me  by excluding,  that of h i s contemporaries and  to l i m i t  Nevertheless, accurate  my  the  thought, i t s r e l a t i o n s to  i t s a f f i n i t i e s w i t h the views of  I have, i t i s t r u e , o f t e n found i t necessary to  examine h i s comments on other w r i t e r s , s i n c e he so d e f i n e s h i s own  of  i n p r i n c i p l e , such p e r i p h e r a l  as the sources of Diderot's  l a t e r thinkers.  the main l i n e s  coherent a manner as p o s s i b l e .  P r a c t i c a l considerations scope of my  subjects which are  frequently  p o s i t i o n by h i s r e a c t i o n to other men's i d e a s . s o l e purpose remains throughout to render an  account of D i d e r o t ' s  personal views on moral and  social  questions. I have f u r t h e r r e s t r i c t e d the main object of my the d o c t r i n e which i s contained  s c r u t i n y to  i n the mature w r i t i n g s , g i v i n g  only cursory a t t e n t i o n to the e a r l y works, i n which Diderot  had  not yet e n t i r e l y r e j e c t e d the r e l i g i o u s views which were the legacy  of h i s C h r i s t i a n upbringing  he wrote a f t e r about 1756, Lahdois concerning  and  education.  In the works  the date of h i s important l e t t e r to  determinism and  i t s e t h i c a l consequences,-'•  ^ See below, pp. 58> 72-78, The p r e c i s e date at which D i d e r o t ' s deism g i v e s way to atheism i s d i f f i c u l t to e s t a b l i s h with much c e r t a i n t y , s i n c e i t i s hard to determine the s i n c e r i t y of h i s p r o f e s s i o n s 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 e x p l a i n i n connection with the a r t i c l e " D r o i t n a t u r e l " (See below, pp. 277-79), I am i n c l i n e d t o think that he had d e f i n i t i v e l y abandoned deism w e l l before 1756, but I am d o u b t f u l whether p o s i t i v e proof of an e a r l i e r date can be f u r n i s h e d .  3 h i s d o c t r i n e (when allowance  i s made f o r prudence i n published  works) manifests a coherence and a c o n s i s t e n c y which seem to to j u s t i f y t r e a t i n g i t as a s i n g l e whole. considered i t u n d e s i r a b l e to complicate  me  I t h e r e f o r e have  the d i s c u s s i o n of t h i s  u n i f i e d d o c t r i n e by l a y i n g undue s t r e s s on the e v o l u t i o n or f l u c t u a t i o n of D i d e r o t ' s opinions on c e r t a i n s u b j e c t s i n the e a r l i e r period.  I have not, however, maintained  a superstitiously  s t r i c t r u l e of excluding from c o n s i d e r a t i o n e v e r y t h i n g he wrote before the mid 1750's. While I deny that there i s any marked t r a n s f o r m a t i o n i n D i d e r o t ' s g e n e r a l p o s i t i o n on moral and s o c i a l questions  after  that time, I do allow that on p o i n t s of d e t a i l there i s some e v o l u t i o n , and I examine these cases as they a r i s e .  I am a l s o  ready  preoccupations  to admit that h i s p a r t i c u l a r moral and  social  were o r i e n t e d toward d i f f e r e n t problems at d i 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 i n t e r e s t i n g part of D i d e r o t ' s biography,  intellectual  I t h i n k such c o n s i d e r a t i o n s are not e s s e n t i a l to an  account of h i s moral and  s o c i a l thought as a whole, as l o n g as  there i s no i n c o m p a t i b i l i t y i n h i s c o n c l u s i o n s on the d i f f e r e n t problems he approaches. In p r e s e n t i n g as a cohesive system ideas which i n D i d e r o t ' s w r i t i n g s appear i n a h i g h l y disconnected  form, I have t r i e d to  avoid a r b i t r a r i l y s u p p l y i n g l o g i c a l connections  of my  own d e v i s i n g .  I have sought i n s t e a d to u t i l i z e those l i n k s which D i d e r o t h i m s e l f e x p l i c i t l y provides, or to c l a r i f y those which are  4 implicit.  Since my primary  object i s t o e l u c i d a t e r a t h e r than  to  evaluate the ideas I d i s c u s s , I have t r i e d as f a r as p o s s i b l e  to  prevent my p e r s o n a l e t h i c a l opinions from c o l o u r i n g my approach.  D i d e r o t ' s philosophy has been the s u b j e c t of a s u b s t a n t i a l body of c r i t i c a l l i t e r a t u r e .  Various i n t e r e s t i n g s t u d i e s examine  p a r t i c u l a r aspects of h i s thought or assess the c o n t r i b u t i o n of i n d i v i d u a l works to the t o t a l p i c t u r e .  B r i e f surveys  of h i s  moral and s o c i a l thought are not l a c k i n g , i n the form of articles-*or of chapters i n general s t u d i e s of h i s w r i t i n g s . work i n t h i s f i e l d  But no s i n g l e  can compare i n scope and thoroughness with  P i e r r e Hermand's Les Idees morales de D i d e r o t , which was w r i t t e n 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 c o n c l u s i o n s are based throughout on a p e r s o n a l and, I hope, thorough examination D i d e r o t over a p e r i o d of s e v e r a l years.  of the w r i t i n g s of  In general I have not  c i t e d the opinions of other s c h o l a r s i n c o r r o b o r a t i o n of my  own  a n a l y s i s , though I do o c c a s i o n a l l y r e f e r the reader to t h e i r See e s p e c i a l l y Rene Hubert, "La Morale de D i d e r o t , " Revue du d i x huitieme s i e c l e , I I , 1914, p p . 328-40, and I I I , 1916, pp. 29-42; Eugene Meyer, "Diderot m o r a l i s t e , " Revue des cours et conferences, XXVI ( I r e S e r i e ) , 1925, pp. 375-81, 469-80, 641-49, and XXVI (2e S e r i e ) , 1925, pp. 742-60. 1  2  P a r i s , 1923 (Reprinted 1969).  5 works f o r f u r t h e r i n f o r m a t i o n on a question which I have decided to t r e a t more s u c c i n c t l y .  I have a l s o found i t h e l p f u l a t times  to s t r e s s my disagreement with a p a r t i c u l a r c r i t i c a l view i n order to make my own p o s i t i o n c l e a r e r .  The g e n e r a l tenor of Hermand's approach was to d i s p e l the myth that D i d e r o t s moral and s o c i a l thought 1  i s a t i s s u e of  c o n t r a d i c t i o n s and to demonstrate i n s t e a d i t s b a s i c  coherence.  Since the p u b l i c a t i o n of h i s study, however, many s c h o l a r s have clung t o the o p i n i o n that D i d e r o t ' s thought  i s self-contradictory,  though they tend to see i n i t not a chaos, but a dichotomy. A notable example o f t h i s a t t i t u d e i s the view that there i s i n D i d e r o t a c o n f l i c t between head and heart with r e s p e c t t o the d e n i a l of f r e e - w i l l . " ^  Between h i s determinism  and h i s  e x a l t a t i o n . o f duty and v i r t u e , there e x i s t s , i t i s a s s e r t e d , a c o n t r a d i c t i o n of which he h i m s e l f was aware and which caused him great distress..  H i s determinism,  the argument continues, i s an  i n t e l l e c t u a l c o n v i c t i o n which, on an emotional plane, he r e f u s e s to accept; when he c o n s i d e r s i t s l o g i c a l consequences f o r e t h i c s , he i s dismayed; he would l i k e to be a b l e to deny i n t e l l e c t u a l l y , but f i n d s h i m s e l f unable  determinism  to do so, and must content  Cf. H e n r i Lefebvre, D i d e r o t . P a r i s , 1949, p. 284; Georges May, Quatre v i s a g e s de Denis D i d e r o t , P a r i s , 1951, pp. 148-49; L e s t e r Crocker, The Embattled P h i l o s o p h e r . London, 1955, pp. 319-20 and 347. 1  6 himself t o he  w i t h the  conclusion  t r u e when a p p l i e d  listen  to the  For  my  f a c e s up  that  to r e a l  r e a s o n s of the  part,  p r u d e n t i a l and  by  them.  t h e o r i e s may  s i t u a t i o n s , i n w h i c h one  cease must  heart.  I s h a l l attempt  to these e t h i c a l  deeply troubled  speculative  t o show t h a t ,  in fact,  Diderot  c o n s e q u e n c e s o f d e t e r m i n i s m and I s h a l l a r g u e t h a t , whereas,  s t r a t e g i c r e a s o n s he  is  not  for  o f t e n adopts i n h i s m o r a l i s t i c  works a t e r m i n o l o g y c o m p a t i b l e w i t h b e l i e f  in free-will,  e s s e n t i a l m o r a l message o f even h i s e x o t e r i c w r i t i n g s  the  remains  unaltered  when i t i s t r a n s l a t e d i n t o terms c o n c o r d a n t w i t h h i s  authentic  views.  f r e e - w i l l and form the  My  d e t e r m i n i s m and  subject  o f my  Another v e r s i o n d i c h o t o m y i s the result  i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Diderot's  of the  contention  from a c o n f l i c t  of h i s p e r s o n a l i t y .  the  two  Diderot consists a man  who  two  the  t h a t h i s supposed  consequences  ideas  school  the  other  that unfettered  aspects  o f t h o u g h t have been  i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s o f Le Neveu de Rameau w h i c h Moi  author himself.  as  incarnations  I n Moi  on h i s v i r t u e , b u t  to the  we  t o see  the  of r e s p e c t a b i l i t y , than with  something of a  r e g a r d e d as  divergent  f o r whom v i r t u e  p r e v a i l i n g notions  hand, i s t o be  are  of  the  the hypocrite.  embodiment  b o h e m i a n i s m w h i c h m i g h t have b e e n D i d e r o t ' s  i  a  contradictions  more c o n c e r n e d w i t h h i s p u b l i c r e p u t a t i o n  on  will  present  d i a m e t r i c a l l y opposed  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 short, Lui,  on  chapters.  between two  prides himself  i n conformity  ethical  view t h a t D i d e r o t ' s  i n t e r l o c u t o r s l u i and  tendencies within  their  T y p i c a l of t h i s  the;' many i n f l u e n t i a l see  first  on  position  of mode  7 of existence i f he had not succumbed to the temptations bourgeois  r e s p e c t a b i l i t y and  the m a t e r i a l and  of  psychological  s e c u r i t y which i t a f f o r d s ; at the same time, we  are t o l d , Diderot  a s c r i b e s to the Nephew the e t h i c a l p o s i t i o n to which h i s  own  m a t e r i a l i s m l e a d s him when he f o l l o w s i t to i t s l o g i c a l c o n c l u s i o n . Thus L u i i s seen as a m a n i f e s t a t i o n of D i d e r o t ' s a u t h e n t i c of an a l t e r ego,  self,  amoral but f r e e from h y p o c r i s y , which i s  g e n e r a l l y suppressed to the subconscious l e v e l , but which emerges i n the c h a r a c t e r s of h i s f i c t i o n or i n c u l t u r a l and dreams which h i s bourgeois  consciousness  I have not thought i t necessary  s o c i a l day-  r e j e c t s as mere paradox.^  to o f f e r a  systematic  r e f u t a t i o n of such an i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Le Neveu de Rameau. though I s h a l l have occasion to take i s s u e with i t on s e v e r a l specific points. important  I have, on the other hand, considered i t  to argue at l e n g t h a g a i n s t the general a t t i t u d e of  which t h i s a n a l y s i s of the work i s an example, namely that D i d e r o t ' s supposed p s y c h o l o g i c a l d u a l i t y manifests an unresolved  c o n f l i c t between two  itself  f a c e t s of h i s moral and  in social  thought. Even Hermand s u b s c r i b e s i n some measure to t h i s view,  speaking  I do not c l a i m that the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Le Neveu de Rameau which I have o u t l i n e d here can be found i n p r e c i s e l y t h i s form i n any p a r t i c u l a r c r i t i c . I t i s to be taken as a composite theory t y p i f y i n g a whole school of thought. I t combines elements from such w r i t e r s as Hegel (La Phenomenologie de 1 ' E s p r i t , t r a n s . Jean H y p p o l i t e , P a r i s , 1939, I I , 76-84), D a n i e l Mornet ("La v e r i t a b l e 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 S a t i r e , Geneva, I960). 1  8  of  " l a c o n t r a r i e t e q u i e x i s t e , i r r e d u c t i b l e , nous s e m b l e - t - i l ,  entre 1 ' i n d i v i d u a l i s m e de D i d e r o t et une morale q u i s e r a e s s e n t i e l l e m e n t sociale.""'"  In c o n t r a s t to t h i s o p i n i o n , the  whole of the c e n t r a l p o r t i o n of my  study  (chapters I I I - V I )  may  he considered as an attempt to demonstrate that i n f a c t Diderot never e x a l t s i n d i v i d u a l i s m at the expense of that form of s o c i e t y which he c o n s i d e r s to he most conducive of  to the g e n e r a l happiness  mankind. Thus, i n my  t h i r d chapter, I s h a l l study D i d e r o t ' s views  on sexual m o r a l i t y and show t h a t , 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  legis-  l a t i o n have placed on the expression of s e x u a l i t y , he i s f a r from condoning, even i n a r a d i c a l l y s i m p l i f i e d s o c i e t y , unres t r a i n e d i n d i v i d u a l i s m i n sexual r e l a t i o n s .  Even i n h i s T a h i t i a n  u t o p i a , s e x u a l i t y i s s t i l l governed by a s o c i a l Again,  i n the f o u r t h and  ethic.  f i f t h chapters, which t r e a t  s p e c i f i c a l l y of D i d e r o t ' s views on the r e l a t i o n between the i n d i v i d u a l and  s o c i e t y and between the i n d i v i d u a l arid government,  I s h a l l p o i n t out that even i n h i s 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 p r e v a i l i n g p o l i t i c a l and  s o c i a l s t r u c t u r e he  does not go so f a r 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  D i d e r o t ' s p r o t e s t a g a i n s t 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 r e f u t e the view t h a t 1  0p_. c i t . , p.  116.  9 the profound m o t i v a t i o n  underlying  these c r i t i c i s m s i s a  r e j e c t i o n of that l i m i t a t i o n of i n d i v i d u a l freedom of a c t i o n which i s i m p l i e d by any  form of s o c i e t y .  With respect to govern-  ment, I concede that i t i s f o r Diderot an unfortunate and  necessity  that he would l i k e to b e l i e v e t h a t an a n a r c h i c a l s o c i e t y  could maintain i t s e l f i n harmony and happiness.  He  stresses,  however, that such an arrangement i s an i d e a l which must f o r e v e r remain i n the realm of  speculation.  Having d e a l t , i n my with D i d e r o t ' s  1  t h i r d to f i f t h chapters, e s s e n t i a l l y  p l e a that no a r b i t r a r y r e s t r i c t i o n s be placed  the s a t i s f a c t i o n of needs common to a l l mankind, i n my  on  sixth I  s h a l l t u r n to h i s defence of the r i g h t of each i n d i v i d u a l to develop h i s own  peculiar potentialities.  Diderot's  illustrations  of h i s p o s i t i o n g e n e r a l l y concern i n d i v i d u a l p e c u l i a r i t i e s which present  no r e a l t h r e a t to the welfare  of other people.  But some  2 critics  have suggested t h a t he  tends toward the view that  r i g h t to the f r e e development and should  be granted even to men  commit harmful a c t s .  expression  of i n d i v i d u a l i t y  whose p e c u l i a r p r o p e n s i t y  t h i s c r i t i c a l o p i n i o n , I s h a l l examine D i d e r o t ' s  1  See  below, pp.  i s to  In order to demonstrate the f a l s i t y  c r i m i n a l s and h i s conception  the  views on  of s t r e n g t h of c h a r a c t e r .  of great  I shall  158-63.  p E.g. Henri Lefebvre, ojo. c i t . , pp. 208-09, and Diderot par lui-meme, P a r i s , 1953, pp. 74-76.  Charly  Guyot,  1 0  endeavour to show t h a t , while he f i n d s a e s t h e t i c value i n the c o n s i s t e n t development of o r i g i n a l p r o p e n s i t i e s even i n c r i m i n a l c h a r a c t e r s , he does not accord moral approval  to c r i m i n a l acts  as such, and I s h a l l f u r t h e r argue that there i s no evidence that he claims a r i g h t f o r m a l e f i c e n t i n d i v i d u a l s to express t h e i r o r i g i n a l p e r s o n a l i t y without r e s t r i c t i o n . the chapter  I s h a l l conclude  by showing t h a t the s t r e n g t h of c h a r a c t e r which  Diderot admires i n c e r t a i n great c r i m i n a l s pleases him s t i l l more i n the v i r t u o u s man. In my l a s t two chapters Diderot's  I s h a l l leave the d i s c u s s i o n o f  p l e a f o r human l i b e r t y and t u r n t o h i s views on the  nature o f moral o b l i g a t i o n .  In the seventh chapter,  I shall  d e a l with h i s c l a i m that there i s a u n i v e r s a l and immutable moral law. end  On the assumption that the general i n t e r e s t i s the r i g h t f o r a l l i n d i v i d u a l s to pursue, Diderot deduces from the  p o s i t i v e r e a l i t y of common human nature c e r t a i n moral p r i n c i p l e s which a r e b i n d i n g on a l l men a t a l l times and i n a l l p l a c e s . This " n a t u r a l " m o r a l i t y , 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  l a y s down both the i n a l i e n a b l e r i g h t s of the i n d i v i d u a l and the l i m i t s which he i s morally  o b l i g e d to s e t upon h i s own conduct.  Diderot could c o n c e i v a b l y have been content  to c o n s i d e r as  s e l f - e v i d e n t the b a s i c assumption that a l l i n d i v i d u a l s ought to pursue the g e n e r a l good; i n other words, he could have t r e a t e d the concept of moral o b l i g a t i o n as s u i g e n e r i s .  He takes the  view, however, t h a t moral o b l i g a t i o n i s a p s y c h o l o g i c a l  experience,  11 a c t u a l or p o t e n t i a l , and t h e r e f o r e f e e l s the need to j u s t i f y h i s u t i l i t a r i a n p r i n c i p l e by appealing to the h e d o n i s t i c n o t i o n 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, v i r t u e i s s t i l l ,  D i d e r o t attempts to show, the best  way to happiness f o r every  individual.  In my e i g h t h and f i n a l  chapter, I s h a l l weigh the s i g n i f i -  cance of D i d e r o t ' s doubts r e g a r d i n g the v a l i d i t y of t h i s between v i r t u e and happiness.  He has a profound  relation  and p e r s i s t e n t  emotional need to b e l i e v e that a m o t i v a t i o n to obey the " n a t u r a l " moral law a r i s e s from the depths of the i n d i v i d u a l nature of a l l men. of  But the evidence  of v a r i a t i o n i n the p s y c h o l o g i c a l needs  i n d i v i d u a l s f o r c e s him a t times grudgingly to admit that he  i s deluding himself.  This admission  c e r t a i n l y does not mean  that he i s tempted to r e j e c t the u n i v e r s a l moral law; but i f men are not, when enlightened, u n i v e r s a l l y motivated i t s a u t h o r i t y seems t o him t o be d i f f i c u l t  to obey i t ,  to comprehend.  i s not simply an i n t e l l e c t u a l problem f o r D i d e r o t .  This  He i s  emotionally committed to the view that human nature, not only i n a general sense, but i n each i n d i v i d u a l , i s b a s i c a l l y good; but he f i n d s i t d i f f i c u l t  to maintain t h i s p o s i t i o n  i n the f a c e of p o s i t i v e evidence  to the c o n t r a r y .  intellectually Here, r a t h e r  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 D i d e r o t .  Since Hermand's day, much work has been done to e s t a b l i s h a  12 c o r r e c t t e x t of D i d e r o t ' s works and correspondence  and I have  taken f u l l advantage of the most recent e d i t i o n s .  For the sake  of convenience,  however, I r e f e r u n i f o r m l y to the Oeuvres  completes e d i t e d by Assezat and T o u r n e u x , e x c e p t f o r works not contained t h e r e i n or works of which a c o n s i d e r a b l y modified 2 t e x t appears i n a more r e l i a b l e e d i t i o n . For the Correspondence 3  I r e f e r to the e d i t i o n by Georges Roth. Oeuvres completes,  Where I quote from the  I o c c a s i o n a l l y p r e f e r a r e a d i n g from  another  e d i t i o n , i n which case the change and i t s source w i l l be i n d i c a t e d . I am a l s o more f o r t u n a t e than most of my predecessors regard to the canon of D i d e r o t ' s works. a t t r i b u t i o n s have been r e j e c t e d .  with  C e r t a i n l o n g accepted  This i s p a r t i c u l a r l y the case  w i t h a l a r g e number of Encyclopedic a r t i c l e s w i t h which Assezat or Tourneux c r e d i t e d D i d e r o t .  We  are indebted p r i m a r i l y to  Jacques Proust and John lough f o r c l a r i f y i n g t h i s q u e s t i o n . ^ I have accepted Lough's view that D i d e r o t ' s authorship of a c o n s i d e r a b l e number of a r t i c l e s can be s u f f i c i e n t l y e s t a b l i s h e d on i n t e r n a l evidence i n the absence of the e d i t o r i a l a s t e r i s k or the testimony 1  of Naigeon.  P a r i s , 1875-77.  Designated  My  o p i n i o n on the a t t r i b u t i o n of  h e r e a f t e r by the i n i t i a l s  "AT".  2 Thus I have r e f e r r e d , i n the case of the Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e . to the e d i t i o n of Jean Mayer* P a r i s , 1964. ^ P a r i s , 1955-  .  H e r e a f t e r r e f e r r e d to as "Roth".  ^ Cf. J . Proust, D i d e r o t et l ' E n c y c l o p e d i e , P a r i s , 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 g e n e r a l l y c o i n c i d e s 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 i r r e l e v a n t to t h i s t h e s i s and which I have t h e r e f o r e not mentioned."*" A f u r t h e r r e s t r i c t i o n of the canon has r e s u l t e d from an a r t i c l e by Jean de Booy  2  which r e v e a l s that four short works  a t t r i b u t e d to Diderot by Assezat were i n f a c t w r i t t e n by  Mme  3 d'Epinay. These r e d u c t i o n s  of the canon have been more than compensated  f o r by the a d d i t i o n of a number of new  texts.  These i n c l u d e  the  L e t t r e apologetique pour l'abbe Raynal.^ the Pages contre un 5 6 t y r a n . and the Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis. • . F i n a l l y , i t has been demonstrated that l a r g e p o r t i o n s of Raynal's H i s t o i r e des For my views on the authorship below, p. 23, note 3«  of " L i b e r t e (Morale)",  see  p  "Inventaire p r o v i s o i r e des c o n t r i b u t i o n s de D i d e r o t 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 Q^u'en pensez-vous?, La Marquise de Claye et l e comte de S a i n t - A l b i n . 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 h i s I n v e n t a i r e du Fonds Vandeul, Geneva, 1951. I r e f e r to the t e x t presented by Paul V e r n i e r e i n Oeuvres philosophiques, P a r i s , 1961, pp. 621-44. F i r s t published by Franco V e n t u r i , P a r i s , 1937. I r e f e r to the e d i t i o n by V e r n i e r e i n Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , P a r i s , 1963, pp. 127-48. ^ Published by Georges May i n F r a n c o i s Hemsterhuis, L e t t r e sur 1'Homme et ses rapports, avec l e commentaire i n e d i t de Diderot, New Haven, 1964.  14 deux Indes, and from D i d e r o t ' s  e s p e c i a l l y of the t h i r d e d i t i o n (1781), came pen. " 3  I t i s to be hoped that we the p r e s e n t l y p r o j e c t e d  e d i t i o n of D i d e r o t ' s  that i t w i l l encourage and interpretative studies.  s h a l l not have l o n g to wait f o r complete works,  f a c i l i t a t e c r i t i c a l discussion  With regard  to D i d e r o t ' s  moral  i n d i v i d u a l conduct and  of h i s thought  the nature of s o c i e t y , and  have gone a l i t t l e f u r t h e r than previous out the coherence of h i s ideas and  on  perhaps to  scholars i n bringing  the dominance and  compatibility  major f a c e t s of h i s p o s i t i o n , namely h i s d e s i r e that  the i n d i v i d u a l should be f r e e and serve  last  to have c l a r i f i e d a c e r t a i n number of points  by p r e s e n t i n g them i n the t o t a l context  of the two  and  and  s o c i a l ideas, I n e i t h e r hope nor d e s i r e to have s a i d the word, but simply  and  that s o c i e t y should  effectively  i t s e s s e n t i a l purpose of a s s u r i n g the happiness of i t s  members. Gf. Anatole Feugere, "Raynal, Diderot et quelques autres ' H i s t o r i e n s des Deux I n d e s , " Revue d ' h i s t o i r e 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 B o u g a i n v i l l e et l a c o l l a b o r a t i o n de Diderot a 1 ' H i s t o i r e des Deux Indes," Cahiers de 1 ' A s s o c i a t i o n I n t e r n a t i o n a l e des Etudes F r a n c a i s e s , X I I I , 1961, pp. 173-87; Yves Benot, "Diderot, Pechmeja, Raynal et l ' a n t i - c o l o n i a l i s m e , " Europe, Jan.-Feb., 1963, pp. 137-53- I have made s p a r i n g use of Diderot's c o n t r i b u t i o n s to the H i s t o i r e des Deux Indes, s i n c e I think i t prudent to wait u n t i l f u r t h e r research has e s t a b l i s h e d with g r e a t e r c e r t a i n t y which p a r t i c u l a r passages can be a t t r i b u t e d to him.' 1  CHAPTER I DIDEROT AND  DETERMINISTIC MATERIALISM  No adequate d i s c u s s i o n of D i d e r o t ' s moral ideas can to  fail  take account of the c o n t i n u i t y which he p o s t u l a t e s between  the p h y s i c a l , p s y c h o l o g i c a l 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 m a t e r i a l system,  I s h a l l f i r s t b r i e f l y d i s c u s s h i s conception of the p h y s i c a l world, before going on to show how  man  i s , i n h i s view, i n t e g r a t e d  i n t o t h i s scheme of t h i n g s . P a s c a l was  t r o u b l e d by Descartes's  u n i v e r s e because i t made God  p i c t u r e of the m a t e r i a l  almost redundant.  r e q u i r e d of the Prime Mover was  to g i v e a f i l l i p  A l l that  was  to s e t i n  motion the system of matter, a f t e r which i n e x o r a b l e laws took charge of e v e r y t h i n g with no f u r t h e r h e l p from God."^" goes a step f u r t h e r than Descartes. completely,  Diderot  He dispenses with  God  c o n s i d e r i n g that motion i s an e s s e n t i a l a t t r i b u t e 2  of  matter and t h a t t h e r e f o r e the o r i g i n a l f i l l i p Thus D i d e r o t conceives  i s not r e q u i r e d .  of the m a t e r i a l u n i v e r s e as  s u f f i c i e n t and s u b j e c t to immutable laws.  self-  Thinking i n terms of  a c o r p u s c u l a r theory of matter, he expresses  as f o l l o w s h i s  Pensees, i n Oeuvres completes, ed. Jacques C h e v a l i e r , P a r i s , 1954, p. 1137. 2 Cf. P r i n c i p e s philosophiques sur l a matiere et l e mouvement. A T , 1 1 , 64-70. 1  16 i d e a of the r i g o r o u s mechanism governing the ever-changing s t a t e of the p h y s i c a l world: S i l a somme peut-etre i n f i n i e de l a multitude peute t r e 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 v e r r i o n s tous l e s pnenomenes s'executer par des l o i s rigoureusement geometriques . . . . J  I t f o l l o w s that a given c o n j u n c t i o n of c o n d i t i o n s can he succeeded only by one p a r t i c u l a r new  s e t of c o n d i t i o n s :  Je c r o i s que l a forme a c t u e l l e sous l a q u e l l e l a matiere e x i s t e est n e c e s s a i r e et determinee, a i n s i que toutes l e s formes d i v e r s e s q u ' e l l e prendra successivement a. toute e t e r n i t e . In p r i n c i p l e , a l l phenomena would be p r e d i c t a b l e i f we knew completely and w i t h p e r f e c t accuracy the c o n d i t i o n s o b t a i n i n g at one p a r t i c u l a r moment.  But, i n f a c t , p r e d i c t i o n s 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 s e u l e f f e t ; parce q u ' i l ne peut e t r e que l e r e s u l t a t 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 ' e f f e t s . ^  A s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h i s d o c t r i n e of determinism i n the p h y s i c a l 1  Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e , ed. Mayer, Appendice  I I , p.  330.  2 Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis,  ed. G-. May,  p. 127.  5 Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e , ed. Mayer, Appendice  I I , p.  330.  17 u n i v e r s e , though perhaps not l o g i c a l l y a part of i t , r e j e c t i o n of finalism.  i s the  Diderot denies that e i t h e r the u n i v e r s e  as a whole or any p a r t 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 t h a t the existence and goodness of God was manifested by the l o v i n g care with which He had f u r n i s h e d the world w i t h a multitude of things conducive to the w e l l - b e i n g of man.  In such a s i m p l i s t i c form i t never was a very  argument, and D i d e r o t i s one of many eighteenth-century t h i n k e r s who r i d i c u l e i t .  solid free-  In Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e , the master  t r i e s to account f o r the i n s e c t s which plague Jacques as "une nuee de p e t i t s c h i r u r g i e n s a i l e s q u i viennent avec l e u r s p e t i t e s l a n c e t t e s t e piquer et t e t i r e r du sang goutte a goutte." Jacques r e t o r t s :  "Oui, mais a t o r t et a t r a v e r s , sans s a v o i r  s i j en a i t r o p ou t r o p peu. 1  F a i t e s v e n i r i c i un etique, et  vous v e r r e z s i l e s p e t i t s c h i r u r g i e n s a i l e s ne l e piqueront pas." S i m i l a r l y , i n the Salon de 17.67, i n h i s d i s c u s s i o n 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 r e f u t e the o p i n i o n that nature has been arranged w i t h a view to the w e l l - b e i n g of man.  In f a c t , says Diderot, the world i n  which we l i v e i s p a r t l y favourable and p a r t l y unfavourable to us: Nous sommes dans l a nature; nous y sommes t a n t o t bien, t a n t o t mal; et croyez que ceux q u i louent l a  1  A T ,  VI, 263.  18 nature d ' a v o i r au printemps t a p i s s e l a t e r r e de v e r t , couleur amie de nos yeux, sont des impertinents qui o u b l i e n t que c e t t e nature, dont i l s veulent r e t r o u v e r en tout et partout l a b i e n f a i s a n c e , etend en h i v e r , sur nos campagnes, une grande couverture blanche qui b l e s s e nos yeux, nous f a i t tournoyer l a t e t e , et nous expose a. mourir g l a c e s . La nature est bonne et b e l l e , quand e l l e nous f a v o r i s e ; 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,  to our continued  on balance,  sufficiently  existence, we would simply  conducive  cease to e x i s t :  Ge b e l ordre qui vous enchante dans l ' u n i v e r s ne peut e t r e autre q u ' i l e s t . Vous n'en connaissez qu'un, et c'est c e l u i que vous h a b i t e z ; vous l e trouvez alternativement beau ou l a i d , s e l o n que vous c o e x i s t e z avec l u i d'une maniere agreable ou penible. I I s e r a i t tout autre, q u ' i l s e r a i t egalement beau ou l a i d pour ceux q u i c o e x i s t e r a i e n t d'une maniere agreable ou p e n i b l e avec l u i . Un h a b i t a n t de Saturne, t r a n s p o r t s sur l a t e r r e , s e n t i r a i t ses poumons d e c h i r e s , et p e r i r a i t en maudissant l a nature. Un h a b i t a n t de l a t e r r e , t r a n s p o r t s dans Saturne, se s e n t i r a i t e t o u f f e , 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 r e l a t e d to man's purposes, he a l s o a s s e r t s that n e i t h e r the u n i v e r s e nor any at a l l , and  of i t s p a r t s has any  that t h e r e f o r e the terms good and  purpose  e v i l cannot be  a p p l i e d to things i n themselves: C'est q u ' i l n'y a n i b i e n 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 i n d i v i d u s , c'est une a b s u r d i t e . Le b i e n et l e mal ne peut se d i r e non plus de l ' u n i v e r s que 1  Salon de 1767.  2  I b i d . , p.  104.  AT,  XI,  109.  19 d'une machine p a r t i c u l i e r e oix i l y a u r a i t une p a r t i e qui en f a t i g u e r a i t une a u t r e . Since we cannot p r e d i c a t e good or e v i l of the -universe as a whole, i t f o l l o w s that the transformations to which i t i s subject cannot be s a i d to c o n s t i t u t e improvements or d e t e r i o r a t i o n s : . . . l ' o r d r e general change sans cesse. Les v i c e s et v e r t u s de l ' o r d r e precedent ont amene l ' o r d r e q u i e s t , et dont l e s v i c e s et l e s v e r t u s ameneront l ' o r d r e q u i s u i t , sans qu'on puisse d i r e que l e tout s amende ou se d e t e r i o r e . S'amender, se d e t e r i o r e r sont des termes r e l a t i f s aux i n d i v i d u s d'une espece entre eux, et aux d i f f e r e n t e s especes entre e l l e s . 1  The  passages concerning the order of the u n i v e r s e which I  have quoted so f a r 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 D i d e r o t ' s  thought.^  to such a view i s  The t e x t which lends most support  Le Reve de d'Alembert.  But V e r n i e r e i s probably r i g h t i n  Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e , ed. Mayer, Appendice I I , p. 329. " I n d i v i d u s " has i n t h i s t e x t the t e c h n i c a l p h i l o s o p h i c a l sense of " i n d i v i d u a l e n t i t i e s " ; i t does not r e f e r to human beings. Cf. a l s o the Encyclopedie a r t i c l e "Laideur, AT, XV, 410. p  I b i d . , p. 209. A s i m i l a r passage occurs i n Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, ed. May. p. 503. I t should be noted that i n these two passages the terms " v e r t u s " and " v i c e s " should not be taken as r e f e r r i n g to human m o r a l i t y i n p a r t i c u l a r , but r a t h e r to harmonious and d i s c o r d a n t f e a t u r e s i n the u n i v e r s e , or perhaps to what human beings consider t o be f a v o r a b l e or h o s t i l e to themselves. Again the " i n d i v i d u a l s " and " s p e c i e s " mentioned are not n e c e s s a r i l y l i v i n g beings. ^ Cf., f o r example, D. Mornet, D i d e r o t , 1'homme et 1'oeuvre, P a r i s , B o i v i n , 1941, pp. 47-48.  20 remarking that Diderot's " a c c e p t a t i o n 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 ' u n i v e r s ne sont que jeux d'esprit.""*" I t i s t r u e that one f i n d s a t times i n D i d e r o t , i f not a t r u l y r e l i g i o u s or m y s t i c a l f e e l i n g towards the impersonal  mechanism which f o r him c o n s t i t u t e s  the u n i v e r s e , at l e a s t a c e r t a i n awe, and a sense o f man's insignificance.  "Pardonnons a l a nature q u i e s t aveugle," he  w r i t e s , " e t q u i a f a i t l a p a r t i e pour l e tout, et non l e tout 2 pour une des p a r t i e s . "  But d e s p i t e the s u p e r f i c i a l l y  tone of such passages, a c a r e f u l a n a l y s i s of the ideas  religious they  c o n t a i n brings us back to D i d e r o t ' s u s u a l view o f the -universe 3 as v o i d of any d i r e c t i n g purpose. Such r e f l e c t i o n s on the d e t e r m i n i s t i c universe r e v e a l the i n f l u e n c e of Spinoza.^ recognize i n Spinoza's  probably  But, whereas modern commentators  pantheism a t r u l y r e l i g i o u s a t t i t u d e ,  D i d e r o t , l i k e the philosophes  i n general, considers i t to be a  d i s g u i s e f o r atheism and values i t as such. He i s t y p i c a l of ^ Spinoza et l a pensee f r a n g a i s e avant l a R e v o l u t i o n , P a r i s , 1954, I I , 599. V e r n i e r e r e f e r s to AT, I I , 142-43. Roth, IX, 179 (Undated fragment). C f . a l s o Moi's r e f e r e n c e to the wisdom o f Nature, i n Le Neyeu de Rameau, AT, V, 397, which I s h a l l d i s c u s s i n chapter VI (see below, pp. 1 9 1 - 9 2 ) . 2  3  For f u r t h e r 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 s e r v i n g as a v e i l f o r materialism, see the Encyclopedie a r t i c l e s "Harmonie", AT, XV, 76, and "Imparfait", AT, XV, 185. ^ P. V e r n i e r e , Spinoza et l a pensee f r a n g a i s e , I I , 607-08, demonstrates that t h i s i n f l u e n c e was d i r e c t as w e l l as from intermediary sources.  21 h i s age i n that h i s metaphysical thought h i s thought  on man.  i s merely a prelude to  I t serves, l i k e that of L u c r e t i u s , to r i d  the heavens of menacing presences, and to weaken the power of their earthly representatives. is  For D i d e r o t , what r e a l l y  matters  man.  What, then, i s man universe?  i n the midst of t h i s r i g o r o u s l y  R e j e c t i n g the n o t i o n of the s p i r i t u a l human s o u l ,  to which C a r t e s i a n dualism a t t r i b u t e d a mysterious from the body and an even more mysterious i t , D i d e r o t a s s e r t s that man matter. matter  determined  independence  capacity f o r controlling  i s composed of only one  substance,  Man's consciousness i s an awareness, on the p a r t of the of which he i s formed, of i t s own  awareness does not d i s t i n g u i s h man beings, f o r s e n s i b i l i t y  actual state.  This  e s s e n t i a l l y from other m a t e r i a l  (by which Diderot seems to mean s e l f -  awareness, and not simply responsiveness to s t i m u l i ) i s an inherent q u a l i t y 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 " a c t i v e " i n l i v i n g beings." " 1  What d i s t i n g u i s h e s s e n t i e n t beings i s that i n them awareness i s not momentary, but continuous.  T h i s i s the r e s u l t of memory,  Cf. E n t r e t i e n entre d'Alembert et D i d e r o t , AT, I I , 106. This d i s t i n c t i o n between " i n e r t " and " a c t i v e " s e n s i b i l i t y r a i s e s d i f f i c u l t problems both with regard to D i d e r o t ' s exact meaning and to the v a l i d i t y of h i s views on t h i s p o i n t . For f u r t h e r d i s c u s s i o n , see, f o r example, Emile C a l l o t , La p h i l o s o p h i e de l a v i e au XVIIIe s i e c l e , P a r i s , 1965, pp. 280-87. 1  22 which D i d e r o t considers to he a p h y s i c a l process."** As f o r t h i n k i n g beings, D i d e r o t suggests that the p a r t i c u l a r type and degree of self-awareness which they possess are a t t r i b u t a b l e to the  s p e c i a l f u n c t i o n of the b r a i n , which a c t s as a u n i t a r y 2  r e c e i v i n g - p o i n t f o r i n f o r m a t i o n from the senses. Against the d u a l i s t s ' view that the s p i r i t u a l s o u l i s capable of governing the a c t i o n s of the body by the o p e r a t i o n of  a f a c u l t y c a l l e d 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 o b j e c t s to  Hemsterhuis's constant use of the term " v e l l e i t e " on the grounds that t h i s term "semble supposer en moi un acte sans cause, ce 3  que j e ne s a u r a i s admettre." There can be no causeless a c t i n man because man i s a part of nature and must obey i t s laws: La v o l o n t e est l ' e f f e t d'une cause q u i l a meut et l a determine; un acte de v o l o n t e 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 e t r e e s t soumis a c e t t e l o i generale.4 The f o l l o w i n g argument, a t t r i b u t e d to Jacques, demonstrates i n more p r e c i s e terms the i m p o s s i b i l i t y of f r e e - w i l l : Quelle que s o i t l a somme des elements dont j e s u i s compose, je s u i s un; or, une cause n'a qu'un 1  2  Cf. E n t r e t i e n entre d'Alembert et D i d e r o t . AT, I I , 1 1 2 . Cf. R e f u t a t i o n d ' H e l v e t i u s , AT, I I , 318, 319-20, et passim.  3 Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, ed. May,  p. 65.  ^ Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e . ed. Mayer, p. 262.  23 e f f e t ; j ' a i toujours ete une cause une; j e n ' a i done jamais eu qu'un e f f e t a. p r o d u i r e ; ma duree n'est done qu'une s u i t e d ' e f f e t s n e c e s s a i r e s . l S i m i l a r l y , i n Le Reve de d'Alembert, Bordeu speaks as f o l l o w s : E s t - c e qu'on veut, de s o i ? La volonte n a i t toujours de quelque motif i n t e r i e u r ou e x t e r i e u r , de quelque impression presente, de quelque reminiscence du passe, de quelque passion, de quelque p r o j e t dans l ' a v e n i r . Apres c e l a j e ne vous d i r a i de l a l i b e r t e qu'un mot, c ^ e s t que l a d e r n i e r e de nos a c t i o n s e s t 1 ' e f f e t n e c e s s a i r e d'une cause une: nous, t r e s compliquee, mais une.^ In the a r t i c l e " L i b e r t e , " Diderot d e c l a r e s that "ce que nous sommes dans 1 ' i n s t a n t q u i va s u i v r e depend s i necessairement de ce que nous sommes dans 1 ' i n s t a n t present, metaphysiquement impossible  q u ' i l est  que nous soyons a u t r e s , "  and o f f e r s  Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e . AT, VI, 180. 2  AT, I I , 175- 1. G. Crocker defends f r e e - w i l l a g a i n s t BordeuDiderot as f o l l o w s : " A c t u a l l y , a l l he [Bordeu] has done i s to s t i p u l a t e a motive f o r every a c t i o n . But ' f r e e - w i l l ' , or freedom of the s e l f , does not mean that our a c t s have no causes, or that our d e s i r e s a r e f r e e . Freedom, i f i t e x i s t s , l i e s i n the conscious c o n t r o l we have over the passage of impulse i n t o a c t i o n . The strongest motive we must obey. I t i s not determined, however, by a mechanical competition f o r nerve paths, but s e l e c t e d by the S e l f , by an o p e r a t i o n of the mind, by our own d e c i s i o n . The mind i s capable of c r e a t i n g or being i t s own cause." (The Embattled Philosopher, p. 331*) But Crocker f a i l s t o i n d i c a t e how a d e c i s i o n of the " S e l f " or the "mind" (by which he presumably means an immaterial e n t i t y ) can cause e f f e c t s i n the human body, without the matter of which the body i s composed c e a s i n g t o obey the laws which govern p h y s i c a l phenomena i n g e n e r a l . H i s p o s i t i o n i s much the same as that of Descartes, and e q u a l l y untenable. AT. XV, 481. The a r t i c l e " L i b e r t e (Morale)" i s i n c l u d e d i n the Oeuvres completes and was t h e r e f o r e accepted as D i d e r o t ' s by many c r i t i c s u n t i l the f i n d i n g s of Jacques Proust and John Lough were p u b l i s h e d . (See above, p. 12.) I t was assumed that motives of prudence explained any d i s c r e p a n c i e s between the views expressed i n the a r t i c l e and D i d e r o t ' s known opinions on the f r e e - w i l l question. Paul V e r n i e r e , i n h i s d i s c u s s i o n of " L i b e r t e " 5  24 the f o l l o w i n g graphic Supposons une  illustration: femme q u i s o i t entrainee par sa passion  i n Spinoza et l a pensee f r a n c a i s e . 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 D i d e r o t . However, once the p r 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 t h e 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 u n r e l i a b l e , i t became abundantly evident that " L i b e r t e " contained passages which could not p o s s i b l y have been w r i t t e n by D i d e r o t . Proust remarks that " i l n'y a aucune r a i s o n de l ' a t t r i b u e r a D i d e r o t . " (Diderot et 1 Encyclopedic, p. 311, note 72.) Proust r e f u s e s to a t t r i b u t e 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 e d i t o r ' s a s t e r i s k , unless h i s authorship i s vouched f o r by Waigeon or confirmed by some other e x t e r n a l evidence. Lough considers such c a u t i o n to be excessive and i s w i l l i n g to a t t r i b u t e numerous a r t i c l e s to Diderot on i n t e r n a l evidence. However, he s t i l l r e j e c t s " L i b e r t e . " For my p a r t , I c o n s i d e r that c e r t a i n p o r t i o n s of the a r t i c l e were i n f a c t w r i t t e n by Diderot. A l a r g e p r o p o r t i o n of the t e x t c o n s i s t s of a c o n f r o n t a t i o n of arguments i n favour of f r e e - w i l l and others supporting determinism, the former presented as the o p i n i o n of the author, the l a t t e r as a n t i c i p a t e d o b j e c t i o n s which he must r e f u t e . However, the d e t e r m i n i s t i c arguments sometimes bear a s t r o n g resemblance, i n phraseology as w e l l as i n thought, to t e x t s d e f i n i t e l y a t t r i b u t a b l e to D i d e r o t . I suggest that the a r t i c l e i n i t s present form i s the r e s u l t of c o l l a b o r a t i o n between Diderot and another w r i t e r who favoured free-will. (This may perhaps have been the abbe Yvon. See Proust, op_. c i t . , p. 158, note 178.) The b a s i c t e x t seems to have been submitted to D i d e r o t , who i n t e r p o l a t e d o b j e c t i o n s which the other w r i t e r then answered. In favour of t h i s hypothesis, i t should be noted t h a t , whereas we read, on p. 480: "On peut r e d u i r e tous l e s arguments dont Spinoza et ses s e c t a t e u r s se sont s e r v i s pour s o u t e n i r c e t t e absurde hypothese a. ces deux . . . ," we are given, a f t e r two b r i e f l y summarized S p i n o z i s t i c arguments, lengthy t h i r d and f o u r t h arguments, which judging.by both s t y l e and content, I consider to have been w r i t t e n by Diderot. (From p. 481: "En t r o i s i e m e l i e u , ' i l s ajoutent ..." to p. 484: ". . • d'une nature d i f f e r e n t e de c e l l e des poids.") The f i r s t two S p i n o z i s t i c arguments are answered s y s t e m a t i c a l l y (pp. 484-85), but D i d e r o t ' s i n t e r p o l a t i o n i s not. The w r i t e r of the a r t i c l e continues i n s t e a d by. defending f r e e - w i l l on the b a s i s of the s u b j e c t i v e c o n v i c t i o n of l i b e r t y . He then introduces a f u r t h e r o b j e c t i o n to f r e e - w i l l with the sentence: "Un des plus beaux e s p r i t s de notre s i e c l e a v o u l u essayer jusqu'a quel p o i n t on pouvait s o u t e n i r un paradoxe." (P. 487.) The r e f e r e n c e , I t h i n k , i s to D i d e r o t . The defender of f r e e - w i l l has s c a r c e l y 1  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 s o n amant; s i n o u s i m a g i n o n s c e n t m i l l e femines e n t i e r e m e n t s e m b l a b l e s a. l a p r e m i e r e , d'age, de t e m p e r a m e n t , d ' e d u c a t i o n , d 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 u n mot, q u ' i l n'y a i t a u c u n e 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 et l a premiere: on l e s v o i t e g a l e m e n t s o u m i s e s a. l a p a s s i o n d o m i n a n t e , e t p r e c i p i t e e s e n t r e l e s b r a s de l e u r s a m a n t s , s a n s qu'on p u i s s e c o n c e v o i r a u c u n e r a i s o n p o u r l a q u e l l e l ' u n e ne f e r a i t p a s c e que t o u t e s l e s a u t r e s feront.-*1  D i d e r o t , then, denies t h e freedom o f t h e w i l l . however, deny t h e e x i s t e n c e o f t h e w i l l .  He d o e s n o t ,  I f he d i d s o , he w o u l d  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 t h e argument, t o 2  w h i c h R o u s s e a u , f o r e x a m p l e , a p p e a l s , t h a t we h a v e a n i n n e r b e g u n t o r e p l y t o t h e " p a r a d o x e " , 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: " M a i s , 1 dans c e s y s t e m e . . . " 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 t h e n a n s w e r e d by t h e o r t h o d o x w r i t e r ( p p . 491-97). The a r t i c l e t a k e s on t h e a s p e c t o f a v e r i t a b l e d i a l o g u e . There i s no e v i d e n c e o f a n y i n t e r p o l a t i o n o r 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 t h e b u l k o f t h e a r t i c l e c a n n o t 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 p a s s a g e s w h i c h c a n 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 h i m . H i s c o n t r i b u t i o n t o t h e a r t i c l e seems n o t t o have c o n s i s t e d s i m p l y o f i n t e r p o l a t i o n s i n a m a n u s c r i p t s u b m i t t e d t o h i m ; t h e r e must h a v e b e e n d i s c u s s i o n b e t w e e n t h e w r i t e r o f t h e b a s i c t e x t and h i m s e l f . A l l p a s s a g e s f r o m " L i b e r t e " q u o t e d i n t h i s t h e s i s a r e taken, u n l e s s otherwise s t a t e d , from p a r t s o f t h e a r t i c l e w h i c h I c o n s i d e r t o h a v e b e e n w r i t t e n by D i d e r o t . " 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, w h i c h 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 . 1  p Cf. t h e f o l l o w i n g passage from L a N o u v e l l e H e l o i s e : "J'entends b e a u c o u p 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 m e p r i s e t o u s c e s s o p h i s m e s ; p a r c e qu'un r a i s o n n e u r a b e a u me p r o u v e r que j e ne s u i s p a s l i b r e , l e s e n t i m e n t i n t e r i e u r , p l u s f o r t que t o u s s e s a r g u m e n t s l e s dement s a n s c e s s e , e t q u e l q u e p a r t i que j e p r e n n e d a n s q u e l q u e d e l i b e r a t i o n que c e s o i t , j e s e n s p a r f a i t e m e n t q u ' i l ne t i e n t qu'a. m o i de p r e n d r e 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 p r e c i s e m e n t p a r c e q u ' e l l e s p r o u v e n t t r o p , q u ' e l l e s c o m b a t t e n t 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 e x e r c i s e 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 " r e f e r s to our consciousness of the motives which prompt us to perform an a c t i o n : I I p a r a i t a c e l u i q u i examinera l e s a c t i o n s humaines de pres, que toute l a d i f f e r e n c e des v o l o n t a i r e s et des i n v o l o n t a i r e s c o n s i s t e a a v o i r ete, ou a. n ' a v o i r pas ete r e f l e c h i e s . Je marche, et sous mes pieds i l se rencontre des i n s e c t e s que j'ecrase involontairement. Je marche, et j e v o i s un serpent endormi, j e l u i appuie mon t a l o n sur l a t e t e , et j e 1'ecrase volontairement. However, our awareness of the motives which prompt us to perform an a c t i o n does not mean that these motives are w i t h i n our c o n t r o l , i n the sense that we can choose e i t h e r 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 e s t l a seule chose q u i d i s t i n g u e ces deux mouvements, et ma r e f l e x i o n , consideree relativement a. tous l e s i n s t a n t s de ma duree, et a. ce que j e s u i s dans l e moment ou j ' a g i s , e s t absolument independante de moi. In " L i b e r t ^ " Diderot  writes:  I I n'y a de d i f f e r e n c e entre l'homme automate q u i l e mensonge, et que s o i t que l a l i b e r t e e x i s t e ou non, e l l e s peuvent s e r v i r egalement a prouver q u ' e l l e n ' e x i s t e pas. A entendre ces gens-la, Dieu meme ne s e r a i t pas l i h r e , e t ce mot de l i b e r t e n ' a u r a i t aucun sens." (Ed. Mornet, P a r i s , 1925, IV, 246-47.) 1  A r t . " I n v o l o n t a i r e " , A T , XV, 242.  p  Loc. c i t . There i s a t r a c e here of the a t t i t u d e which I s h a l l term " p s e u d o - s c i e n t i f i c f a t a l i s m " . (See below, pp.31-32.) In r e j e c t i n g unmotivated a c t s of r e f l e x i o n , Diderot f i n d s h i m s e l f s e p a r a t i n g the s e l f from i t s a c t i v i t i e s . But I t h i n k that t h i s i s only a v e r b a l s l i p , as he so c o n s i s t e n t l y r e j e c t s any kind of dualism.  27 a g i t dans l e sommeil et l'homme i n t e l l i g e n t qui a g i t et q u i v e i l l e , sinon que 1 entendement est plus present a. l a chose; quand a. l a n e c e s s i t e , 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 d i f f e r e n t d'un automate qui sent; c'est une machine plus composee. 1  J  The m o t i v a t i o n which leads us to perform a v o l u n t a r y act c o n s i s t s of a d e s i r e or an a v e r s i o n , or, where there are s e v e r a l c o n f l i c t i n g d e s i r e s and a v e r s i o n s , of the f i n a l impulse which r e s u l t s 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 d e r n i e r e impulsion du d e s i r et de P a r t i s a n s of f r e e - w i l l may  1'aversion."  perhaps object that our d e s i r e s and  aversions are created, at l e a s t sometimes and i n p a r t , by will.  our  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 q u i l u i est propre, c'est d i r e une chose i n i n t e l l i g i b l e , et q u i ne resout r i e n . Car i l faudra toujours une cause independante de l'ame q u i determine c e t t e , a c t i v i t e a. une chose p l u t o t qu'a. une autre . . . .  People c l a i m , he remarks, "que  l e d e s i r n a i t de l a v o l o n t e ;  c'est l e c o n t r a i r e ; c'est du d e s i r que n a i t l a v o l o n t e .  Le  5  d e s i r est f i l s de 1' o r g a n i s a t i o n . . . .  11  The d e t e r m i n i s t i c mechanism governing  the o p e r a t i o n of the  w i l l i s o f t e n d e s c r i b e d by Diderot i n p s y c h o l o g i c a l terms. -""AT, XV,  We  482.  Cf. " L i b e r t e " , AT, XV, 482, where the analogy of the balance i s used, as a l s o i n the l e t t e r to Landois (see below, p. 7 3 ) . 2  3  AT,  4  Art.  II,  175.  " L i b e r t e " , AT,  XV,  481.  Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e , ed. Mayer, p.  265.  28 have already noted Bordeu's c l a i m that a c t s of w i l l always a r i s e "de quelque motif i n t e r i e u r ou e x t e r i e u r , de quelque impression  presente,  de quelque reminiscence  du passe, de  quelque passion, de quelque pro j e t dans 1' avenir.""""  This i s  the s o r t of language we use when we d e s c r i b e 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  o b j e c t i v e language o f pure m a t e r i a l i s m .  Again,  i n the f o l l o w i n g  passage from the Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e , the determinism to which human beings are s u b j e c t i s expressed  i n terms of the  p s y c h o l o g i c a l a n a l y s i s elaborated by Locke and C o n d i l l a c : Toutes l e s pensees n a i s s e n t l e s unes des autres; c e l a me semble: evident. Les operations i n t e l l e c t u e l l e s sont egalement enchainees. La p e r c e p t i o n n a i t de l a sensation, de l a p e r c e p t i o n l a r e f l e x i o n , l a meditation, l e jugement. I I 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 s e n s a t i o n , n i dans l a p e r c e p t i o n ou l a vue des rapports des sensations entre e l l e s , n i dans l a r e f l e x i o n ou l a meditation ou l a t t e n t i o n plus ou moins f o r t e a ces r a p p o r t s , n i dans l e jugement ou 1 acquiescement a ce q u i p a r a i t v r a i . 2 1  1  In the R e f u t a t i o n d'Helvetius Diderot remarks that man i s subject to a double determinism, p s y c h o l o g i c a l and p h y s i c a l : Dans l'homme q u i r e f l e c h i t , enchainement n e c e s s a i r e d'idees; dans l'homme attache a t e l l e ou t e l l e p r o f e s s i o n , enchainement n e c e s s a i r e de t e l l e s ou t e l l e s i d e e s . Dans l'homme q u i a g i t , enchainement d ' i n c i d e n t s dont l e plus i n s i g n i f i a n t e s t a u s s i 1  p  AT, I I , 175. Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e , ed. Mayer, pp. 59-60.  29 c o n t r a i n t que l e l e v e r du s o l e i l . Double n e c e s s i t e 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 j e s u i s . . . . Tout s'est f a i t en nous parce que nous sommes nous, -toujours nous, et pas une minute l e s memes. But,  whereas H e l v e t i u s i s l e d a s t r a y by t a k i n g too l i t e r a l l y  the Lockean metaphor of the t a b u l a r a s a and gives a s i m p l i s t i c p s e u d o - m a t e r i a l i s t i c v e r s i o n of human motivation,  Diderot  f o r g e t s that the only r e a l causes are p h y s i c a l ones, that materialism  never true  speaks i n terms of the b r a i n , not the mind, and of  causes r a t h e r than motives.  True, when he wishes to r e f u t e  H e l v e t i u s ' s r e d u c t i o n of a l l higher motives to c r u d e l y ones, he d i s t i n g u i s h e s between p h y s i c a l pleasures  hedonistic  and those of the  "entendement", or "understanding"; but he s t i l l b e l i e v e s that, for  a l l the v a l i d i t y and u s e f u l n e s s  of t h i s 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 awareness of h i g h l y complicated  a n a l y s i s , only the s u b j e c t i v e  modifications  of the b r a i n , from  which i t has no independence.  In other words, consciousness i s  for  He e x p l i c i t l y a f f i r m s that man's  Diderot  will rigid  an epiphenomenon.  and understanding are p h y s i c a l and are subject to the same laws as the r e s t of the m a t e r i a l  universe:  La volonte n'est pas moins mecanique que 1'entendement. . La v o l i t i o n precede 1 ' a c t i o n des f i b r e s musculaires. Mais l a v o l i t i o n s u i t l a sensation; ce sont deux f o n c t i o n s du cerveau; e l l e s sont c o r p o r e l l e s . I t i s to t h i s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the s u b j e c t i v e world of the human mind with the o b j e c t i v e world of matter that Diderot 1  AT, I I , 373.  2 Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e , ed. Mayer, p. 262.  r e f e r s when  30 he says of Jacques that " l a d i s t i n c t i o n d'un monde physique e t d'un  monde moral [ i . e . a p s y c h o l o g i c a l world] l u i semblait  vide  de sens." In short, man i s part of the m a t e r i a l world  and conforms  to the same b a s i c laws which govern the movements o f a l l matter. In man, matter i s endowed with awareness of i t s e l f , but possesses no s p e c i a l f a c u l t y whereby i t might suspend the o p e r a t i o n of the laws of nature and thus f r e e i t s e l f from i t s s u b j e c t i o n to these laws.  As I pointed out i n my I n t r o d u c t i o n , ^ many c r i t i c s have claimed  that such a view of man i s i n c o n t r a d i c t i o n with  Diderot's  p o s i t i o n as a m o r a l i s t and that he was b i t t e r l y aware of t h i s dilemma, f e e l i n g h i m s e l f t o r n bbetween h i s i n t e l l e c t u a l t i o n s and the promptings of h i s h e a r t .  I w i l l attempt i n my  next chapter to show t h a t , i n f a c t , he regarded m a t e r i a l i s m as compatible  convic-  his deterministic  with a personal commitment to b e n e f i -  cence and d i d not t h i n k h i m s e l f i l l o g i c a l i n exhorting others to make a s i m i l a r "choice".  The remainder o f the present  chapter  w i l l be devoted to showing that Diderot does not t h i n k that h i s conception  1  p  of determinism e n t a i l s the b e l i e f that the human  Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e . AT, V I , 180. See above,pp. 5-6.  31 i n d i v i d u a l i s merely a passive witness of h i s own d e s t i n y .  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 r e f e r r e d above w i l l become apparent. I t w i l l f a c i l i t a t e our d i s c u s s i o n to d i s t i n g u i s h three d i f f e r e n t , though r e l a t e d , d o c t r i n e s or a t t i t u d e s r e g a r d i n g the degree o f autonomy a t t r i b u t a b l e to man, a l l of which p l a y a p a r t , of g r e a t e r or l e s s e r importance, i n D i d e r o t ' s thought.  I shall  designate these, admittedly i n a r a t h e r personal and a r b i t r a r y f a s h i o n , by the f o l l o w i n g terms:  1) s c i e n t i f i c determinism;  2) m y t h o l o g i c a l f a t a l i s m ; 3) p s e u d o - s c i e n t i f i c f a t a l i s m . "scientific  By  determinism" I mean the theory, which I have a l r e a d y  examined i n D i d e r o t ' s w r i t i n g s , that the human i n d i v i d u a l i s part of the m a t e r i a l u n i v e r s e and t h e r e f o r e subject to the same immutable laws which govern a l l matter.  By "mythological f a t a l i s m "  I mean the b e l i e f t h a t , although we have the p o s s i b i l i t y of choosing to a c t i n d i f f e r e n t ways, the l i n e of conduct we adopt cannot a f f e c t the r e a l l y important events i n our l i f e , these a r e pre-ordained.  since  Innumerable v e r s i o n s of t h i s 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 s u p e r s t i t i o n even i n the  most;"advanced" contemporary s o c i e t i e s .  T h i s type o f f a t a l i s m ,  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 , " d e r i v e s no support from a s c i e n t i f i c view of the world; indeed, i t i s difficult scientific  to r e c o n c i l e the two. 'I s h a l l use the term "pseudof a t a l i s m " to r e f e r to the d o c t r i n e which sees the  32 human i n d i v i d u a l as the passive witness both of the events which take place i n the p h y s i c a l u n i v e r s e and  of the s u c c e s s i o n  ( i n c l u d i n g h i s own body)  of h i s own thoughts.  T h i s 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 i m p l i e s a kind of dualism: the s e l f i s thought of as separate the mind.  from the body and even from  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.  I t i s not f r e e from the g e n e r a l chain of events,  being  a part of i t , but n e i t h e r i s i t e n t i r e l y passive, s i n c e , l i k e every other part of the u n i v e r s e  i t possesses i t s own o r i g i n a l  dynamism and thus c o n t r i b u t e s i t s share to the development of the whole. Let us f i r s t i n Diderot's  thought.  i n which Diderot of d e s t i n y .  consider the r o l e of mythological f a t a l i s m We f i n d t h i s a t t i t u d e i n s e v e r a l t e x t s  complains that human beings are the p l a y t h i n g s  He w r i t e s , f o r example, to Mademoiselle J o d i n :  . . . nous sommes tous sous l a main du d e s t i n q u i nous promene a son gre, q u i vous a deja. b i e n b a l l o t t e e , et q u i n'a pas l ' a i r de vous accorder s i t o t l e repos. Vous etes malheureusement un e t r e energique, t u r b u l e n t , et 1'on n<j! s a i t jamais oxi e s t l a sepulture de ces etres-la. D i d e r o t advises the young l a d y to take the d i r e c t i o n of her l i f e ""* Roth, IX, 25 (Feb. 10, 1769). I t i s perhaps s u r p r i s i n g that Diderot should c l a i m that the e n e r g e t i c s o u l i s l e s s master of i t s f a t e than the p l a c i d s o u l . Probably " e n e r g e t i c " has here a somewhat d i f f e r e n t connotation from when Diderot e x t o l s the "energy" of the ames f o r t e s . (See below, pp. 19*+-200.) The l a t t e r are, presumably', l e s s the p l a y t h i n g s of f o r c e s e x t e r i o r t o thems e l v e s . But i n the case under d i s c u s s i o n , Diderot probably r e f e r s r a t h e r to c a p r i c i o u s n e s s and to a tendency to v i o l e n t and r a p i d changes; i n other words, the a d j e c t i v e s "energique" and " t u r b u l e n t " are here synonymous.  33 s e r i o u s l y i n h a n d , so as t o b r i n g as much o f i t as p o s s i b l e under the c o n t r o l of her  will:  S i v o u s etes s a g e , v o u s l a i s s e r e z a u s o r t l e m o i n s de l i s i e r e s que v o u s p o u r r e z ; v o u s s o n g e r e z de bonne h e u r e a v i v r e comme v o u s v o u d r i e z a v o i r v e c u . 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 v o u s a v e z r e c u e s , s i v o u s n'en p r o f i t e z p a s ? 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 , v o u s e t e s une de c e l l e s d o n t e l l e s e c o u e 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 m a n i e r e s i b i z a r r e que j e ne v o u s c r o i r a i j a m a i s qu'ou v o u s e t e s , e t v o u s n e t e s pas a. P a r i s , e t v o u s n'y s e r e z p e u t - e t r e pas s i t o t . 1  Diderot never attempts logical rigour.  We  to express  may  t h i s s o r t of f a t a l i s m w i t h  assume t h a t i t i s s i m p l y a s t r i k i n g  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  way  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 of  circumstances  q u i t e o u t s i d e o u r c o n t r o l , o r o f d e c i s i o n s w h i c h we  ourselves  make, b u t 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 consequences. wholly  Pew  probable  people would c l a i m t h a t our e x p e r i e n c e i s  the r e s u l t of the e x e r c i s e of our w i l l ;  most w o u l d a d m i t  t h a t i t i s t h e r e s u l t o f an i n t e r a c t i o n b e t w e e n e v e n t s a r i s e from the e x e r c i s e of our w i l l independently to  person,  of i t .  Doubtless  and  events which  which occur  the p r o p o r t i o n v a r i e s from  p a r t l y b e c a u s e o f p e r s o n a l i t y d i f f e r e n c e s and  because of pure chance. over the course  D i d e r o t u r g e s us t o i n c r e a s e o u r  o f o u r l i v e s by t h e e x e r c i s e o f o u r  R o t h , I X , 26. The u s e o f t h e r e l i g i o u s t e r m n e e d n o t d e c e i v e u s ; D i d e r o t means " d e s t i n y " .  person  partly control  reason.  "Providence"  34 What I have c a l l e d p s e u d o - s c i e n t i f i c f a t a l i s m i s harder t o d i s t i n g u i s h from the form of determinism which Diderot a c t u a l l y accepted,  f o r the two d o c t r i n e s have many p o i n t s i n common.  Thus  Jacques's f a t a l i s m c o n s i s t s of a mixture of p r i n c i p l e s which Diderot accepts and of conclusions which he d e r i d e s . Jacques, a f t e r Spinoza,  When  expounds u n i v e r s a l determinism and denies  f r e e - w i l l , he i s D i d e r o t ' s mouthpiece.  But Diderot shows that  when Jacques deduces from t h i s that i t i s u s e l e s s t o e x e r c i s e prudence, he entangles  himself i n r i d i c u l o u s contradictions.  Jacques b e l i e v e s that s i n c e a l l t h i n g s are pre-ordained, can be of no a v a i l , s i n c e , no matter what precautions one  cannot a l t e r the i n e v i t a b l e course  of events.  prudence  one takes,  This paradox  leads to absurd p r a c t i c a l r e s u l t s , as the f o l l o w i n g episode illustrates.  Spending the n i g h t at an i n n , Jacques and h i s  master encounter a band of dangerous brigands.  Before  setting  o f f again i n the morning, Jacques takes the p r e c a u t i o n of l o c k i n g the rogues i n t h e i r room, so as to gain time i n the event of being pursued by them.  Nevertheless,  he r e f u s e s to go f a s t e r  than a walk, "toujours d'apres son systeme."""" him  that human reason  H i s "system" t e l l s  i s incapable of knowing what f a t e has  decreed, so that, by g a l l o p i n g , he and h i s master might run i n t o some q u i t e unforeseen  danger.  H i s c a p t a i n , he e x p l a i n s ,  . . . c r o y a i t que l a prudence e s t une s u p p o s i t i o n , dans l a q u e l l e 1'experience nous a u t o r i s e a regarder l e s c i r c o n s t a n c e s ou. nous nous trouvons comme causes 1  AT, VI, 18.  35 de c e r t a i n s e f f e t s a esperer ou a. c r a i n d r e pour l ' a v e n i r . . . . Mais, d i s a i t - i l , q u i peut se f l a t t e r d ' a v o i r assez d'experience? C e l u i q u i s'est f l a t t e d'en e t r e l e mieux pourvu, n ' a - t - i l jamais ete dupe? Et p u i s , y a - t - i l un homme capable d'apprecier j u s t e l e s c i r c o n s t a n c e s ou i l se trouve? Le c a l c u l q u i se f a i t dans nos t e t e s , et c e l u i q u i est a r r e t e sur l e r e g i s t r e d'en haut, sont deux c a l c u l s b i e n d i f f e r e n t s . Est-ce nous q u i menons l e d e s t i n , ou b i e n est-ce l e d e s t i n q u i nous mene? Combien de p r o j e t s sagement concertes ont manque, et combien manqueront! Combien ^ de p r o j e t s insenses ont r e u s s i , et combien r e u s s i r o n t i Now Diderot was c e r t a i n l y a c u t e l y conscious  of the uncer-  t a i n t y of our d e s t i n i e s , i n s p i t e of a l l the care and forethought by which we attempt to d i r e c t them.  But the p r a c t i c a l  conclusion  he draws from t h i s f a c t i s q u i t e d i f f e r e n t from Jacques's views on prudence.  In the Conclusion to the Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e ,  he l i k e n s l i f e to a gambling-house.  There i s no c e r t i t u d e ; one  must a c t , must take d e c i s i o n s , without the r e s u l t s w i l l be good or bad: que  knowing f o r sure whether  "Je ne s a u r a i qu'a l a f i n ce 2  j ' a u r a i perdu ou gagne dans ce vaste t r i p o t  . . . ."  Here  Diderot does not conclude that prudence i s p o i n t l e s s , but simply laments that a l l our prudence can never give us a s o l i d assurance that we are a c t i n g i n the way which w i l l produce the best AT,  results.  VI, 20.  p  Ed. Mayer, p. 307. The sentence immediately preceding t h i s quotation, namely, "Le monde e s t 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 w a l l , nor with the s t r u g g l e i n which men must engage a g a i n s t nature, but with the u n c e r t a i n t y of a l l human a f f a i r s , which presumably a p p l i e s to the s t r o n g as w e l l as the weak. The emendation suggested by P i e r r e Hermand (Les Idees morales de Diderot, p. 293), i . e . "Le monde e s t l a maison du s o r t , " f i t s f a r b e t t e r , s i n c e i t l e a d s n a t u r a l l y 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 c o n c l u s i o n which he draws.  R e f e r r i n g to the e s t i m a t i o n of p r o b a b i l i t i e s ,  he w r i t e s : C est e l l e q u i indique l e p a r t i l e plus sHr ou l e moins i n c e r t a i n , et q u i console l o r s q u e ' evenement ne repond pas a une a t t e n t e b i e n fondee. 1  He continues with a remark which i s c l o s e l y r e l a t e d i n thought to the passage from the Elements de p h y s i o l o g i c which I have quoted.  just  "Toute notre v i e , " he says, "n'est qu'un j e u de hasard; 2  tachons d ' a v o i r l a chance pour nous."  We should e x e r c i s e a l l  the prudence and f o r e s i g h t of which we are capable, and from the e t h i c a l point of view t h i s i s a l l that can be asked of us.  Thus  to Catherine I I he w r i t e s : Mais a. 1'impossible n u l n'est tenu. On a tout f a i t , l o r s q u ' o n a cherche, trouve et mis en oeuvre l e s m e i l l e u r s moyens que l a prudence humaine pouvait i n s p i r e r , prudence q u i ne s'etend n i a l a v i o l e n c e n i aux hasards q u i sont r e c e l e s dans l a \:po i t r i n e obscure du d e s t i n et q u i sont au-dessus de nous. I t seems reasonable, then, to take Jacques's view of the p r a c t i c a l c o n c l u s i o n s to be drawn from determinism w i t h regard to the e x e r c i s e of prudence as an amusing paradox and not as D i d e r o t ' s own s o b e r l y held o p i n i o n s . """ Plan d'une u n i v e r s i t e pour l e gouvernement de Russie, AT, I I I , 456. Cf. a l s o Roth, X I I , 39 T^o the comtesse de Porbach; c i r c a 1772). 2 Plan d'une u n i v e r s i t e , l o c . c i t . Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , P a r i s , 1966, p. 128.  37 Another of Jacques's f a l s e opinions concerning determinism i s t h a t s u c h a s y s t e m 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 oneself to events.  T h i s appears t o have been a c o n c l u s i o n w h i c h  Diderot himself a t times considered v a l i d . L a n d o i s , f o r example,  In the l e t t e r to  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 -  nation, not only t o the c a l a m i t i e s which the forces of inanimate n a t u r e c a u s e , b u t a l s o t o t h e harm done t o u s by o u r f e l l o w - m e n . D e t e r m i n i s m , 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 c o m m i s e r a t i o n , q u i a t t a c h e f o r t e m e n t a u x b o n s , q u i n ' i r r i t e n o n p l u s c o n t r e l e mechant que c o n t r e u n o u r a g a n q u i n o u s r e m p l i t l e s y e u x de p o u s s i e r e .  , , J  "  r e g a r d e d as a h u m a n i t a r i a n consequence  C o m m i s e r a t i o n c a n be o f d e t e r m i n i s m , and  a t t a c h m e n t t o good p e o p l e a s a u t i l i t a r i a n c o n s e q u e n c e ; consider these questions i n the f o l l o w i n g chapter.  I shall  But the  r e s t o f t h e passage i s concerned w i t h q u i t e a d i f f e r e n t  attitude,  namely an e m o t i o n a l a c c e p t a n c e o f t h e i n e v i t a b l e c o u r s e o f e v e n t s . P r e s u m a b l y D i d e r o t d o e s n o t mean t h a t we s h o u l d r e f r a i n  from  s h o w i n g a n g e r t o w a r d t h e w i c k e d man, s i n c e , a s we s h a l l s e e , 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 t h e l a t t e r ' s  enterprises;  p r e s u m a b l y he means t h a t we s h o u l d t r y n o t t o f e e l a n g e r  beyond  t h e i n s t i n c t i v e momentary r e a c t i o n w h i c h we c a n n o t 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 r e s e n t m e n t a g a i n s t w i c k e d men. 1  R o t h , I , 214  ( J u n e 29, 1756).  38 Resignation  to the i n e v i t a b l e course of events c e r t a i n l y  has a great a t t r a c t i v e n e s s f o r D i d e r o t . the ancient S t o i c prayer: je  He  quotes  "0 D e s t i n , conduis-moi ou t u voudras,  s u i s pret a te s u i v r e ; car t u ne m'en  conduirais  t'en s u i v r a i s pas moins, quand je ne l e voudrais considers  such r e s i g n a t i o n to be the mark of wisdom.  p a r t of h i s philosophy,  It i s integrated  with determinism.  he would have found t h i s very d i f f i c u l t . S t o i c s d i d not mean that one life  He  s i n c e he makes no attempt to show that  any l o g i c a l l y v a l i d connection  one's own  et j e ne  pas.""*"  d o u b t f u l , however, whether t h i s theme ever became an  i t has  approvingly  i n the way  one  i n c l u d e d i n the pre-ordained  We  should make no  may  Indeed,  assume that  e f f o r t s to conduct  d e s i r e s ( s i n c e such e f f o r t s are order  of events),  but r a t h e r that  when one has made a l l p o s s i b l e e f f o r t s to d i r e c t one's l i f e , should But  one  adopt an a t t i t u d e of r e s i g n a t i o n to the a c t u a l outcome.  t h i s i s a wise p o l i c y whether one b e l i e v e s i n determinism  or not. Diderot  Whether a man  i s able to adopt i t depends on h i s  says that he h i m s e l f  much b e t t e r f o r i t , but  character.  can manage i t at times and f e e l s  that he cannot achieve i t c o n s i s t e n t l y .  He remarks i n a l e t t e r to Sophie V o l l a n d : H i e r je d i s a i s avec D a m i l a v i l l e que, quand j ' e t a i s l a s de v o i r a l l e r les'choses contre mon gre, i l me p r e n a i t des bouffees de r e s i g n a t i o n . A l o r s l a douleur des hypocondres se defend; l a b i l e accumulee coule doucement; l e s o r t ne me l a i s s e r a i t pas une chemise au dos, que peut-etre j'en p l a i s a n t e r a i s . Je concois 1  the  Roth, V,  207  (To Falconet;  Dec.  4, 1765).  39 q u ' i l y a des hommes assez heureusement nes pour e t r e par temperament et constamment ce que j e s u i s seulement par i n t e r v a l l e , de r e f l e x i o n , et par secousses.1 In another l e t t e r , he remarks that business w o r r i e s and a l i v e r complaint have r e s u l t e d i n a s e r i o u s bout o f m e l a n c h o l i a : Je n'y connais qu'un remede, q u i malheureusement n'est pas f a i t pour moi; ce s e r a i t une p a r f a i t e i n d i f f e r e n c e sur l e s choses de l a v i e , 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, l o r s q u e tout va mal. Mais, ma f o i , j e ne s a u r a i s ; j e m ' a f f l i g e comme un s o t , et mon mal empire. T h i s 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 m a i n t a i n i n g that r e s i g n a t i o n f o l l o w s l o g i c a l l y from the cosmic order, when i n f a c t i t depends on one's c h a r a c t e r .  Jacques  would l i k e t o be completely i n d i f f e r e n t t o the ups and downs of life,  but, t r y as he may, he s t i l l f e e l s pleasure and g r i e f .  The  annoying t h i n g i s t h a t , whereas he i s unshakeably ;•;steadfast on c e r t a i n p e r i l o u s occasions, a t other times a mere t r i f l e can upset him.  He has g i v e n up the attempt, he says:  . . . j ' a i p r i s l e p a r t i d'etre comme j e s u i s ; et j ' a i vu, en y pensant un peu, que c e l a r e v e n a i t presque au meme, en a j o u t a n t : Qu'importe comme on s o i t ? C'est une autre r e s i g n a t i o n plus f a c i l e et plus commode.^ T h i s s o r t of r e s i g n a t i o n i s s c a r c e l y r e s i g n a t i o n a t a l l , i t has no e f f e c t on one's mental s t a t e . 1  Roth, I I I , 245-46 (Nov. 9 and 10, 1760).  2  Roth, X I I , 88 (To F r a n c o i s Tronchin; J u l y 17, 1772).  3  AT, VI, 87.  since  40 Jacques has h i s own-version of the S t o i c  prayer:  T o i q u i as f a i t l e grand rouleau, quel que t u s o i s , et dont l e d o i g t a t r a c e toute l ' e c r i t u r e q u i e s t la-haut, t u as su de tous l e s temps ce q u ' i l me f a l l a i t ; que t a volonte s o i t f a i t e . Amen. T h i s prompts h i s master to enquire: pas a u s s i b i e n de t e t a i r e ? "  "Est-ce  Here Diderot  que t u ne f e r a i s  i s probably making  fun of the r e l i g i o s i t y of such an a t t i t u d e , implying, that prayers  no doubt,  to an a l l - p o w e r f u l and omniscient C h r i s t i a n God are  e q u a l l y p o i n t l e s s ; but he i s a l s o r i d i c u l i n g the idea that the d o c t r i n e 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 a t t i t u d e . Both the d e n i a l of the e f f i c a c y of prudence and the d o c t r i n e of submission to i n e v i t a b i l i t y are aspects of p s e u d o - s c i e n t i f i c f a t a l i s m i n that they leave out of account that inherent by which the i n d i v i d u a l c o n t r i b u t e s  activity  to the t o t a l scheme of t h i n g s .  I t may w e l l be true that some men are pre-determined to e x e r c i s e 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 e i t h e r from being or b e n e f i t i n g from h i s prudence.  prudent  The i n d i v i d u a l i s not a t o t a l l y  passive v i c t i m of f o r c e s e x t e r i o r to h i m s e l f .  R e s i g n a t i o n to  misfortune i s a g i f t which some men possess and f o r which they are a l l the happier;  others  cannot achieve i t . But i n n e i t h e r  case does determinism a f f e c t the question. 1  I b i d . , p. 167.  Such r e s i g n a t i o n i s  41 only a d v i s a b l e when nothing f u r t h e r can be done to remedy the situation. be very  I f i t became a constant  a t t i t u d e t o l i f e i t would  harmful.  The  c r i t i c s who c l a i m that Diderot i s t o r n between an  i n t e l l e c t u a l acceptance of determinism and an emotional  faith  i n the r e a l i t y of human l i b e r t y l a y great s t r e s s 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 r e f l e x i o n s i n g u l i e r e ; c'est que l'atheisme e s t tout v o i s i n d'une espece de s u p e r s t i t i o n presque a u s s i p u e r i l e que l ' a u t r e . 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 e n t r a i n e ; i l semble que tout s o i t egalement important. I I n'y a p o i n t de grands n i de p e t i t s phenomenes. l a c o n s t i t u t i o n Unigenitus e s t a u s s i n e c e s s a i r e que l e l e v e r et l e coucher du s o l e i l ; i l e s t dur de s'abandonner aveuglement au t o r r e n t u n i v e r s e l ; i l est impossible de l u i r e s i s t e r . Les e f f o r t s impuissants ou v i c t o r i e u x sont a u s s i dans l ' o r d r e . S i j e c r o i s que j e vous aime librement, j e me trompe. I I n'en e s t r i e n . 0 l e beau systeme pour l e s i n g r a t s l J'enrage d'etre empetre d'une d i a b l e de p h i l o s o p h i e que mon e s p r i t 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 s o i e n t a s s u j e t t i s a quoi que ce s o i t au monde, et que Naigeon l e s f a s s e dependre du passage d'une comete. Peu s'en f a u t que j e ne me f a s s e C h r e t i e n pour me promettre de vous aimer dans ce monde tant que j ' y s e r a i ; et de vous r e t r o u v e r , pour vous aimer encore dans l ' a u t r e . C'est une pensee s i douce que j e ne s u i s p o i n t etonne que l e s bonnes ames y t i e n n e n t . S i M i l e Olympe e t a i t sur l e p o i n t de mourir, e l l e vous d i r a i t : "Ma chere cousine, ne pleurez pas, nous nous r e v e r r o n s . " Et puis v o i l a ou m'a mene  42 v o t r e p e r f i d e question sur l a comete. Many commentators have taken t h i s t e x t very s e r i o u s l y , t r e a t i n g i t as a s o r t of r e c a n t a t i o n on an emotional  plane  the determinism which Diderot accepts i n t e l l e c t u a l l y .  of  They  c o n t r i v e to make him appear as a being d i v i d e d i n t o two  selves,  p e r p e t u a l l y i n dialogue, but u l t i m a t e l y agreeing to d i f f e r . According  to L e s t e r Crocker,  question expresses  f o r i n s t a n c e , the fragment i n  a " c o n f l i c t between [ D i d e r o t ' s ] i n e x o r a b l e  r a t i o n a l i s m and an emotional  heart that r e b e l l e d a g a i n s t  the  2 c o n c l u s i o n s of h i s i n t e l l e c t . "  Georges May  notes of t h i s  fragment that "on l e c i t e d ' o r d i n a i r e en exemple pour f a i r e v o i r que l e philosophe  lui-meme est quelquefois conscient du d i v o r c e 3  qui e x i s t e entre sa morale et sa metaphysique." view conforms to t h i s c r i t i c a l t r a d i t i o n .  May's  own  "Le merite unique  . . . du fragment . . .," he claims, "est de r e v e l e r l a vehemence avec l a q u e l l e [ D i d e r o t ] s'eleve lui-meme contre  [ l e ] determinisme  en dehors du domaine purement a b s t r a i t . " Roth, IX, 154-55. The source of t h i s t e x t i s a copy, i n Naigeon's hand, of a number of detached fragments, presumably from D i d e r o t ' s correspondence. Roth dates i t , h y p o t h e t i c a l l y , from the end of September 1769. I t was formerly thought to be part of a l e t t e r to Sophie V o l l a n d , but Jean Pommier i n h i s "Etudes sur D i d e r o t " (Revue d ' h i s t o i r e de l a p h i l o s o p h i e et d ' h i s t o i r e generale de l a c i v i l i s a t i o n , 1942, pp. 176-80) argued c o n v i n c i n g l y that i t was addressed to Mme de Maux, and t h i s has r e c e n t l y been proved conc 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 V o l l a n d , " Diderot S t u d i e s . XII, 1969, pp. 101-02. 2 The Embattled Philosopher, p. 319. A s i m i l a r view i s expressed by Jean Thomas i n L'Humanisme de Diderot, P a r i s , 1938, pp. 52-53. 4  1  3  Quatre v i s a g e s de Denis D i d e r o t , p. I b i d . , pp. 148-49.  148.  43 I think i t can be demonstrated that these c r i t i c s are s e r i o u s l y mistaken r e g a r d i n g , i n the f i r s t place, the fragment:  the tone of  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 g e n e r a l s i g n i f i c a n c e of the text seems to me to be due to an i n c o r r e c t understanding of D i d e r o t ' s meaning.  Crocker, f o r example, renders the sentence  " . . .  l'atheisme e s t tout v o i s i n d'une espece de s u p e r s t i t i o n presque a u s s i p u e r i l e que l ' a u t r e , " by "Atheism i s c l o s e to being a kind of s u p e r s t i t i o n , as p u e r i l e as the other.""*" t r a n s l a t i o n i s a l s o more f a i t h f u l : kind  A more l i t e r a l  "Atheism i s very c l o s e t o a  of s u p e r s t i t i o n almost as c h i l d i s h as the other."  Crocker  seems to imply that Diderot suspects that h i s d e t e r m i n i s t i c doctrine  may r e a l l y be a s u p e r s t i t i o u s b e l i e f .  What Diderot  i n f a c t means i s that i t i s a d e l i c a t e matter to d i s t i n g u i s h between the determinism upon which h i s atheism i s founded and the o l d a s t r o l o g i c a l b e l i e f s , which are a s u p e r s t i t i o n almost as p u e r i l e 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 i n t e r p r e t a t i o n  of determinism which Diderot o u t l i n e s i n the fragment i s not h i s true d o c t r i n e ,  but the convenient r e p r e s e n t a t i o n  distorted version  thereof,  which lends a specious c r e d i b i l i t y to  the s u p e r s t i t i o n r e g a r d i n g the i n f l u e n c e 1  of a s u b t l y  The Embattled Philosopher, p. 3 2 0 .  of comets.  H i s paradox  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 , together  by a u n i v e r s a l l a w ,  any  great  and  s m a l l , are l i n k e d  a l t e r a t i o n i n the  smallest  e v e n t w o u l d e n t a i l an a l t e r a t i o n i n e v e r y p a r t o f t h e Thus one  may  c l a i m t h a t t h e r e i s no  system.  r e a l d i f f e r e n c e i n importance  between events w h i c h are u s u a l l y c o n s i d e r e d  greater  or  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 e v e n t s depend on g r e a t is  equally true that great  p a r t i c u l a r e v e n t may t o t a l context  be  considered  i s n o t h i n g but  s e e n as n o t h i n g  but  the  events which c o n s t i t u t e the i n h i m no  ones, i t  e v e n t s depend on s m a l l o n e s .  Any  as e n t i r e l y e n t a i l e d by  of events i n which i t i s placed.  i n d i v i d u a l , who may  be  smaller.  a succession  the  Thus t h e human  of p h y s i c a l  events,  i n e v i t a b l e r e s u l t of a l l the  ever-changing universe.  There i s  p r i n c i p l e w h i c h 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 t h a n t h e r e  i s , i n someone who  i s swept down-  s t r e a m 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 w h i c h d e t e r m i n e s d i r e c t i o n he  takes.  Moreover, not  o n l y do  t h e a c t s and  the thoughts  o f t h e human i n d i v i d u a l r e s u l t f r o m t h e u n i v e r s a l c o n t e x t w h i c h he  i s s i t u a t e d , but  part of t h i s context has,  may  any be  event, great  i s very  out  Naigeon  that this  c l o s e t o t h e o l d s u p e r s t i t i o n a b o u t comets and  a l l Diderot  Diderot's  doctrine that, for  knows, he w o u l d n e v e r h a v e f a l l e n i n l o v e w i t h  de Maux i f i t were n o t  f o r the appearance of the  a c t u a l experience  t h a t h i s l o v e i s not himself.  or s m a l l , which i s  s a i d t o i n f l u e n c e them.  i t would appear, f a c e t i o u s l y p o i n t e d  in  comet o f  o f h i s f e e l i n g s t e l l s him,  i m p o s e d on h i m  by any  Mme 1769.  however,  force e x t e r i o r to  45 The  argument i s , i n f a c t , a s o p h i s m , b e c a u s e i t f a i l s  take account of the  o r i g i n a l dynamism i n h e r e n t  of matter, a p r i n c i p l e which Diderot Principes philosophiques  himself  i n every  to  particle  expounds i n h i s  s u r l a m a t i e r e e t 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 ;  cela  l ' e s t a u t a n t que  1'atome remue p a r l e monde: p u i s q u e 1'atome a  s a f o r c e p r o p r e , e l l e ne a n a l o g y o f t h e man the  1  i n the  torrent lends  t i o n he  takes.  In t h i s paradoxical  t h a t man  no  not  be  has  may  effective in  context,  the sentence  "Les  not  not  the  s l i g h t e s t measure o f autonomy.  t h i s statement i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h l o g i c a l l y conclude from i t that  Diderot's man  autonomy, f o r t h e f a c t t h a t h i s autonomy i s i n c l u d e d  the u n i v e r s a l order  does not n u l l i f y i t .  Indeed, the  in  sentence  u n d e r d i s c u s s i o n a d m i t s 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 be  efficacious.  to  ou v i c t o r i e u x s o n t a u s s i dans l ' o r d r e , " seems  I n f a c t , however, w h i l e d e t e r m i n i s m , one  the  t h e y a r e bound t o h a v e some e f f e c t on t h e d i r e c -  e f f o r t s impuissants to imply  Thus  only specious support  p a r a d o x , f o r , t h o u g h h i s s t r u g g l e s may  saving his l i f e ,  has  peut e t r e sans effet."" "  N a i g e o n w o u l d be r i g h t i f he went no  may  further  t h a n c l a i m i n g t h a t t h e p a s s a g e o f t h e comet must h a v e some e f f e c t , however n e g l i g e a b l e , Diderot's  life.  But,  on t h e c o u r s e o f e v e n t s w h i c h c o n s t i t u t e s as f o r h i s c l a i m t h a t D i d e r o t  have f a l l e n i n l o v e i f the  comet had  not  as w e l l a s s e r t t h a t t h e comet w o u l d n o t 1  AT,  II,  67.  would  not  a p p e a r e d , he m i g h t j u s t have appeared i f D i d e r o t  46 had not f a l l e n i n l o v e !  I t h i n k we may  knows that h i s paradox i s f a l l a c i o u s .  be sure that Diderot He knows p e r f e c t l y w e l l  that i t i s not t r u e that a l l events i n the u n i v e r s e have an equal e f f e c t on a l l others.  This i s evident from a passage i n  Le Reve de d'Alembert i n which Bordeu p o i n t s out to M i l e de l ' B s p i n a s s e that our senses r e c e i v e impressions  from a l l parts  of the u n i v e r s e , but that t h e i r s t r e n g t h i s i n i n v e r s e p r o p o r t i o n to the d i s t a n c e of t h e i r origin."'"  S e v e r a l passages from  d i f f e r e n t works make i t c l e a r that the cause which produces the i n d i v i d u a l ' s a c t or thought i s not simply the context i n which 2 he i s placed, but comprises a l s o h i s own  nature.  I t h i n k that  when Diderot says, "J enrage d'etre empetre d'une d i a b l e de 1  p h i l o s o p h i e . . . ," he r e f e r s not to h i s r e a l d e t e r m i n i s t i c d o c t r i n e , but to the p a r t i c u l a r f a l s i f i e d v e r s i o n of i t which he o u t l i n e s here.  But what does he mean when he says t h a t h i s  mind cannot help approving  it,  though h i s heart r e j e c t s i t ?  One  could suppose that Diderot i s merely -pretending to b e l i e v e i n h i s paradox, but I t h i n k the matter i s i n f a c t more  complicated.  I suggest that i n f o r m u l a t i n g t h i s paradox Diderot has become h i s own  dupe, that he i s not c l e a r l y conscious  momentarily that he  has crossed the f i n e l i n e between s c i e n t i f i c determinism and pseudo-scientific f a t a l i s m . 1  AT,  The reason why  so many c r i t i c s have  I I , 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, I I , 175.  47  taken t h i s fragment as the s e r i o u s expression  of a profound  p h i l o s o p h i c a l and emotional dilemma may w e l l be that  Diderot  has managed to give a c e r t a i n tone of s i n c e r i t y to h i s paradox. Instead  of a n a l y s i n g the p r e c i s e way i n which determinism could  be d i s t o r t e d i n t o f a t a l i s m , he here r e c a l l s a frame of mind i n which he sometimes f i n d s h i m s e l f , when he f e e l s that w i t h i n the d e t e r m i n i s t i c system, i n s p i t e of the k i n d of autonomy and o r i g i n a l dynamism which i t allows the i n d i v i d u a l , man i s s t i l l a h e l p l e s s witness of h i s own d e s t i n y .  The f o l l o w i n g iext shows  t h a t Diderot was f a m i l i a r with such a f e e l i n g : On e s t b i e n ou mal ne. On se trouve, en entrant dans l e monde, j e t e en bonne ou mauvaise compagnie. On a des gouts honnetes ou d i s s o l u s . On e s t un homme d ' e s p r i t ou un s o t . On a du bon sens ou l ' o n est un insense. On a de l a s e n s i b i l i t e ou l ' o n e s t une p i e r r e . On e s t heureux ou malheureux. La nature nous dispose a un r o l e ou a un a u t r e . Tres souvent l e s c i r c o n s t a n c e s nous condamnent a. c e l u i pour l e q u e l nous n'etions pas f a i t s , et sans a v o i r d i t avec l e stolcien: 0 d e s t i n l conduis-moi oil t u voudras, me v o i l a pret a te_ s u i v r e l nous n'en sommes n i plus n i moins conduit s.-*The  f a c t that D i d e r o t i s capable of adopting  such an a t t i t u d e  does not, I think, j u s t i f y the c o n c l u s i o n that, e i t h e r 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 c a r e f u l l y weighed p o s i t i o n which we could c a l l h i s philosophy.  Nor a r e such f e e l i n g s of emotional d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n  with the s i t u a t i o n of man i n a d e t e r m i n i s t i c scheme of things frequent  enough to j u s t i f y our s e e i n g Diderot as s p l i t between  h i s i n t e l l e c t and h i s h e a r t . AT, IV, 93 (Remarks concerning a work e n t i t l e d P r i n c i p e s philosophiques pour s e r v i r d ' i n t r o d u c t i o n a l a connaissance de 1 ' e s p r i t et du coeur humain).  48 I t h i n k that i n the fragment concerning the comet Diderot does a l l u d e to a p h i l o s o p h i c a l problem which preoccupied  him,  but I t h i n k a l s o that i t i s q u i t e d i f f e r e n t from the dilemma to which Crocker and May  refer.  To make my  p o i n t c l e a r , I must  quote from a passage i n the a r t i c l e "Romains", i n which a s i m i l a r problem i s evoked.  The a r t i c l e opens with a r e f e r e n c e to the  " f r i v o l o u s s c i e n c e " of augury, which provokes the f o l l o w i n g reflections: 0 combien nos lumieres sont f a i b l e s et trompeuses! Tantot c'est notre imagination, ce sont l e s evenements, nos passions, notre t e r r e u r et notre c u r i o s i t e q u i nous entraxnent aux s u p p o s i t i o n s l e s plus r i d i c u l e s ; t a n t o t c'est une autre s o r t e d'erreur q u i nous joue. Avons-nous decouvert, a f o r c e de r a i s o n et d'etude, quelque p r i n c i p e vraisemblable ou v r a i , nous nous egarons des l e s premieres consequences que nous en t i r o n s , et nous f l o t t o n s i n c e r t a i n s . Nous ne savons s ' i l y a v i c e ou dans l e p r i n c i p e , ou dans l a consequence; et nous ne pouvons nous resoudre, n i a. admettre l ' u n , n i a. r e j e t e r 1'autre, n i a. l e s r e c e v o i r tous deux. Le sophisme c o n s i s t e dans quelque chose de t r e s s u b t i l q u i nous echappe.l How,  asks D i d e r o t , could one r e f u t e p u r e l y by r a t i o n a l argument  an augur who  claimed that h i s a r t was  founded  on the p r i n c i p l e  that a l l things i n nature are i n t e r c o n n e c t e d , and d e c l a r e d that he had observed a constant r e l a t i o n between the c o n d i t i o n of the e n t r a i l s of the sacred chickens and important which the f a t e of the empire depended? alone i s powerless to experimental 1  AT, XVII,  27.  to r e f u t e him;  verification:  events  on  The answer i s that reason  one i s f o r c e d to have recourse  49 Et voila. mon philosophe, s ' i l e s t un peu s i n c e r e , r e d u i t a. l a i s s e r de cote sa r a i s o n , et a, prendre l e couteau du s a c r i f i c a t e u r , ou a, abandonner un p r i n c i p e i n c o n t e s t a b l e : c'est que tout t i e n t dans l a nature par un enchainement n e c e s s a i r e . . . . Qu'on rende l e philosophe s i s u b t i l que 1 on voudra, s i 1'augur n'est pas un i m b e c i l e , i l repondra a. tout, et ramenera l e philosophe, malgre q u ' i l en a i t , a 1'experience.! 1  There i s a s t r i k i n g and i n s t r u c t i v e s i m i l a r i t y between the problem w i t h which Diderot d e a l s i n t h i s passage from "Romains" and the question which i s r a i s e d i n the fragment concerning the comet.  In each case the problem a r i s e s because, from a general  p r i n c i p l e which Diderot considers i n c o n t r o v e r t i b l e , namely the p r i n c i p l e of u n i v e r s a l determinism, a c o n c l u s i o n i s drawn which he f i n d s unacceptable though he i s unable to demonstrate the falsehood of the deduction.  In both t e x t s he admits that  determinism lends an apparent support to s u p e r s t i t i o u s  beliefs.  What makes Diderot r e j e c t the augur's b e l i e f i s h i s sense of the comparative p r o b a b i l i t y of d i f f e r e n t combinations of events, a sense which r e s u l t s from an immense number of observations, 2 i n other words, from experience.  I t i s fortunately possible  to e s t a b l i s h by a s e r i e s of experiments whether  or not the  i n s p e c t i o n of chickens' e n t r a i l s enables one a c c u r a t e l y to p r e d i c t the r e s u l t of b a t t l e s .  In the fragment concerning the  comet, on the other hand, a l l that Diderot can invoke to counter Naigeon's f a c e t i o u s suggestion that h i s l o v e f o r Mme 1  de Maux has  I b i d . , p. 28.  2 Cf. Pensees sur 1 ' i n t e r p r e t a t i o n de l a Nature, s e c t . I l l , AT, I I , 24.  50 been the r e s u l t of the passage of the comet i s the evidence of h i s heart.  T h i s i s experience,  but i t i s not experiment.  The  comet w i l l come only once i n D i d e r o t ' 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 l o v e with Mme de Maux even i f i t had not appeared. he must remain "empetre" and continue To sum up my conclusions concerning  T h i s i s why  to "enrager".  on the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the fragment  the comet, I b e l i e v e that i t does not express an  emotional r e j e c t i o n of D i d e r o t ' s  i n t e l l e c t u a l l y accepted  determini  but r e v e a l s i n s t e a d h i s awareness of the c o n t r a d i c t i o n between the evidence of h i s emotional experience  and the p s e u d o - s c i e n t i f i c  f a t a l i s m i n t o which d e f e c t i v e , but specious,  l o g i c sometimes  l e a d s him. The R e f u t a t i o n d 'Helvetius " provides -  f u r t h e r evidence^ that  Diderot b e l i e v e d 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, t h a t s o r t of determinism i n which p a r t o f the c a u s a l i t y which governs the i n d i v i d u a l ' s a c t s and thoughts i s to be found w i t h i n himself, and, on the other hand, the pseudos c i e n t i f i c f a t a l i s m a c c o r d i n g to which the i n d i v i d u a l i s merely passive.  According  to H e l v e t i u s , the p e r s o n a l i t y of the i n d i -  v i d u a l i s e n t i r e l y the r e s u l t of the i n f l u e n c e of the environment. I f two babies experience,  could be brought up so as to have an i d e n t i c a l  they would, from the p s y c h o l o g i c a l point of view, be  """ The only complete e d i t i o n i s that which appears i n the Oeuvres completes (AT, I I , 275-4-56), under the t i t l e R e f u t a t i o n s u i v i e de l'ouvrage d'Helvetius i n t i t u l e 1'Homme.  51 indistinguishable.  In Diderot's  view, t h i s 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 t h e i r p h y s i c a l c o n s t i t u t i o n , for  t h i s endows them with p e c u l i a r p r e d i s p o s i t i o n s and  Thus, f o r H e l v e t i u s , man i n him  aptitudes.  i s a passive witness of e f f e c t s produced  by e x t e r n a l f o r c e s , while Diderot  i n s i s t s on the  of i n d i v i d u a l b i o l o g i c a l d i f f e r e n c e s which i n t e r a c t with i n f l u e n c e of the environment to cause the i n d i v i d u a l to  importance the function  as he does."*"  In my  d i s c u s s i o n of Diderot's  determinism, I have endeavoured  e s p e c i a l l y to a s c e r t a i n what s o r t of human l i b e r t y he denies when he r e j e c t s f r e e - w i l l and what s o r t of autonomy h i s d e t e r m i n i s t i c d o c t r i n e allows the human i n d i v i d u a l . will,  I think, be  Prom what I have s a i d , i t  c l e a r t h a t the n o t i o n of freedom he  discards  i s q u i t e d i f f e r e n t from that freedom of which, as I w i l l chapters I I I - V I , he was  the u n f l a g g i n g  champion.  The  which matters f o r Diderot  i s l i b e r t y from oppressive  upon the i n d i v i d u a l .  cannot but be subject  Man  to  show i n  liberty forces  acting  external  Diderot s t r e s s e s h i s disagreement with H e l v e t i u s over t h i s p o i n t c o n s t a n t l y throughout the R e f u t a t i o n . His general comment on S e c t i o n I of De 1'Homme i s as f o l l o w s : "L'auteur emploie l e s quinze c h a p i t r e s qui forment c e t t e s e c t i o n 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 d i f f e r e n c e entre des i n d i v i d u s a peu pres b i e n organises . . . ,' c o n d i t i o n dans l a q u e l l e i l ne f a i t e n t r e r n i l a f o r c e , n i l a f a i b l e s s e , n i l a sante, n i l a maladie, n i aucune de ces q u a l i t e s physiques ou morales qui d i v e r s i f i e n t l e s temperaments et l e s c a r a c t e r e s . " (AT, I I , 276.) I t should be noted that both Diderot and H e l v e t i u s use the word "education" i n a very broad sense: we would say "environmental i n f l u e n c e s " .  52 influences, and  but  he  c a n n o t be h a p p y when t h e y e x e r t  s t i f l i n g e f f e c t on  w h i c h a r e w i t h i n him.  an  the  development of those o r i g i n a l f o r c e s  The  happiness of the  i n d i v i d u a l and  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 n e e d s and  propensities  e x e r t e d upon him  by  excessive  of the  i n d i v i d u a l and  the  inherent  pressures  society.  B e f o r e t u r n i n g , however, to the  q u e s t i o n of the  individual'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 v i e w s on l o g i c a l consequences which the ethics.  of  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  CHAPTER I I THE  ETHICAL CONSEQUENCES OP DETERMINISM  I endeavoured to show i n the previous chapter that Diderot remains a confirmed I denied,  d e t e r m i n i s t throughout h i s mature career.  i n p a r t i c u l a r , that the fragment concerning  provides, as so many s c h o l a r s have claimed, emotional  evidence  the comet that on an  plane Diderot r e j e c t e d the determinism of which he  was convinced  intellectually.  In the present  chapter  I wish t o  examine h i s view of the s i g n i f i c a n c e of determinism f o r e t h i c s . Here again I s h a l l oppose the theory that he r e v e a l s an i n n e r 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 o p i n i o n of c e r t a i n commentators, I s h a l l argue that a c c o r d i n g to Diderot h i m s e l f a c o n s i s t e n t d e t e r m i n i s t i c d o c t r i n e does not c o n s t i t u t e a danger f o r m o r a l i t y or render  ethical  d i s c o u r s e meaningless, that he sees i t s p r a c t i c a l consequences as r a t h e r l i m i t e d and not at a l l d i s t r e s s i n g and i n f a c t it  regards  as the only sound t h e o r e t i c a l b a s i s f o r e t h i c s . Diderot h i m s e l f was w e l l aware of the common o p i n i o n that  to deny f r e e - w i l l i s to sap the whole foundation to jeopardize p u b l i c m o r a l i t y .  of e t h i c s and  That i s the r e a c t i o n he a s c r i b e s  to M i l e de l ' E s p i n a s s e i n Le Reve de d'Alembert, when Bordeu d e c l a r e s that no human a c t i o n i s f r e e and that a human being could never a c t a t a given moment otherwise The lady exclaims  i n horror:  than he i n f a c t does.  54 Mais, docteur, et l e v i c e et l a vertu? La v e r t u , ce mot s i s a i n t dans toutes l e s langues. c e t t e idee s i sacree chez toutes l e s n a t i o n s " ^ This s c a n d a l i z e d a t t i t u d e was Diderot's  day.  Consider,  c l e a r l y that of most people i n  f o r i n s t a n c e , the f o l l o w i n g passage  from the a r t i c l e " L i b e r t e " : 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 t e r r e n i v i c e , n i v e r t u , n i merite; l e s 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 d o i t p u i s q u ' i l a g i t selon l a n e c e s s i t e ; i l ne d o i t , n i e v i t e r ce qui est i n e v i t a b l e , n i v a i n c r e ce qui est i n v i n c i b l e . Tout est dans l ' o r d r e , car l ' o r d r e est que tout cede a l a n e c e s s i t e . La r u i n e de l a l i b e r t e renverse avec e l l e tout ordre et toute p o l i c e , confond l e v i c e et l a v e r t u , a u t o r i s e toute infamie monstrueuse, e t e i n t toule pudeur et tout remords, degrade et d e f i g u r e sans ressource tout l e genre humain. Une d o c t r i n e s i enorme ne d o i t point etrepexaminee dans l ' e c o l e , mais punie par l e s m a g i s t r a t s . T h i s passage, which I do not consider to have been w r i t t e n by 3  Diderot,  sums up,  admittedly  i n a somewhat t r u c u l e n t 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 b a s i s of m o r a l i t y and  It i s i n fact s t i l l  encourages v i c e and  crime.  the view of most people today and we  expressed or i m p l i e d by some of D i d e r o t ' s recent  find i t  commentators.  Thus many s c h o l a r s point to what they c a l l the " c o n t r a d i c t i o n " between D i d e r o t ' s 1  AT,  II,  176.  2  AT,  XV,  501.  e t h i c a l system i n w r i t i n g s where h i s determinism  ^ See above, p. 23,  note 3,  concerning  the authorship  of " L i b e r t e " .  55 i s e x p l i c i t and h i s a t t i t u d e i n works l i k e the E n t r e t i e n s sur l e F i l s n a t u r e l , where, without mentioning the problem of f r e e w i l l and determinism, he e x t o l s v i r t u e and v i t u p e r a t e s v i c e . According  1  to Georges May, Diderot i s aware that there i s an  i r r e c o n c i l a b l e c o n t r a d i c t i o n between h i s e t h i c a l views and h i s determinism.  He can only escape from the l a t t e r , says May, "par  un manque de r i g u e u r dans sa d i a l e c t i q u e , par l a p i r o u e t t e de Bordeu s u b s t i t u a n t aux notions de b i e n et de mal c e l l e s de 2 b i e n f a i s a n c e et de malfaisance."  Unfortunately,  May"does not  s p e c i f y on what grounds he c r i t i c i z e s the r i g o u r of Diderot's logic. Contrary that D i d e r o t ' s  to such opinions,  I s h a l l attempt t o demonstrate  p o s i t i o n i s , i n f a c t , l o g i c a l l y c o n s i s t e n t ; that  between the unorthodox e t h i c a l conclusions which he d e r i v e s from h i s determinism and the m o r a l i z i n g stance he o f t e n adopts the c o n f l i c t i s only apparent; that he p r o f e s s e s , q u i t e c o n s c i o u s l y , a "double d o c t r i n e " , and that the a c c e p t a b i l i t y of h i s e x o t e r i c moral p o s i t i o n to timorous minds i s due not only to prudent concessions  to orthodoxy, but a l s o very o f t e n to a d e l i b e r a t e use  C f . the f o l l o w i n g remark of Charly Guyot: "Quoi que Diderot puisse d i r e , i l e s t d i f f i c i l e de ne pas v o i r une inconsequence entre son materialisme theorique et sa 'pratique' m o r a l i s a t r i c e . " (Diderot par lui-meme, P a r i s , 1953, p. 59.) I t i s determinism which Guyot has p a r t i c u l a r l y i n mind when he r e f e r s here to Diderot's materialism. See a l s o l e f e b v r e , op_. c i t . , p. 284. 2 Quatre visages de Denis Diderot, p. 149. May presumably uses the words b i e n and mal i n the same sense as Diderot uses v i c e and y e r t u , i . e . i m p l y i n g f r e e - w i l l . 1  0  56 of t r a d i t i o n a l modes of e x p r e s s i o n which are c a l c u l a t e d to deceive the u n i n i t i a t e d , while at the same time they convey a message not i n c o n s i s t e n t w i t h h i s e s o t e r i c d o c t r i n e .  In order that the reader may  judge whether my a n a l y s i s of  D i d e r o t ' s views on the e t h i c a l consequences c o r r e c t , I w i l l begin by quoting i n f u l l ,  of determinism i s  and without commentary,  the most important t e x t s r e l e v a n t to t h i s q u e s t i o n : 1)  l e Reve de d'Alembert. AT, I I , 176. In answer to Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse's query as to what  becomes of the word " v i r t u e " , Bordeu  replies:  I I f a u t l e transformer en c e l u i de b i e n f a i s a n c e , et son oppose en c e l u i de m a l f a i s a n c e . On est heureusement ou malheureusement ne; on est i r r e s i s t i b l e m e n t entraine par l e t o r r e n t g e n e r a l q u i conduit l ' u n a l a g l o i r e , 1'autre a. l ' i g n o m i n i e . Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse: l a honte, et l e remords?  Et l ' e s t i m e de s o i , et  Bordeu: P u e r i l i t e fondee sur 1'ignorance et l a v a n i t e d'un e t r e q u i s'impute a. lui-meme l e merite ou l e demerite d'un i n s t a n t n e c e s s a i r e . Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse: l e s chatiments?  Et l e s recompenses, et  Bordeu: Des moyens de c o r r i g e r l ' e t r e m o d i f i a b l e qu'on a p p e l l e mechant, et d'encourager c e l u i qu'on a p p e l l e bon. 2)  Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e . AT, VI, 180-81. Jacques ne c o n n a i s s a i t n i l e nom de v i c e , n i l e nom de v e r t u ; i l p r e t e n d a i t qu'on e t a i t heureusement ou  57 malheureusement ne. Quand i l entendait prononcer l e s mots recompenses ou chatiments, i l h a u s s a i t l e s epaules. Selon l u i l a recompense e t a i t 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 p o i n t de l i b e r t e , et que notre destinee s o i t e c r i t e la-haut? I I croyait qu'un homme s'acheminait a u s s i necessairement a l a g l o i r e ou a l ' i g n o m i n i e , qu'une boule qui a u r a i t l a conscience d'elle-meme s u i t l a pente d'une montagne; et que, s i 1'enchainement des causes et des e f f e t s qui forment l a v i e d'un homme depuis l e premier i n s t a n t de sa naissance jusqu'a son d e r n i e r s o u p i r nous e t a i t connu, nous r e s t e r i o n s convaincus q u ' i l n'a f a i t que ce q u ' i l e t a i t n e c e s s a i r e de f a i r e . . . . D'apres ce systeme, on p o u r r a i t imaginer que Jacques ne se r e j o u i s s a i t , ne s ' a f f l i g e a i t de r i e n ; c e l a n ' e t a i t pourtant pas v r a i . I I se c o n d u i s a i t a. peu pres comme vous et moi. I I r e m e r c i a i t son b i e n f a i t e u r , pour q u ' i l l u i f i t encore du b i e n . I I se m e t t a i t en c o l e r e contre l'homme i n j u s t e ; et quand on l u i o b j e c t a i t q u ' i l r e s s e m b l a i t a l o r s au chien q u i mord l a p i e r r e qui l ' a frappe: "Nenni, d i s a i t - i l , l a p i e r r e mordue par l e chien ne se c o r r i g e pas; l'homme i n j u s t e e s t modifie par l e baton." 1  Art.  " M a l f a i s a n t " , AT, XVI, 57.  MALFAISANT, ad. (Gram, et Morale), qui n u i t , q u i f a i t du mal. S i l'homme est l i b r e , c ' e s t - a - d i r e s i l'ame a une a c t i v i t e q u i l u i s o i t propre, et en v e r t u de l a q u e l l e e l l e puisse se determiner a f a i r e ou ne pas f a i r e une a c t i o n , q u e l l e s que s o i e n t ses habitudes ou c e l l e s du corps, ses i d e e s , ses passions, l e temperament, 1'a.ge, l e s prejuges, e t c . , i l y a certainement des hommes vertueux et des homines v i c i e u x ; s ' i l n'y a point de l i b e r t e , i l n'y a plus que des hommes b i e n f a i s a n t s et des hommes m a l f a i s a n t s ; mais l e s hommes n'en sont pas moins m o d i f i a b l e s en b i e n et en mal; l e s bons exemples, l e s bons d i s c o u r s , l e s chatiments, l e s recompenses, l e blame, l a louange, l e s l o i s ont toujours l e u r e f f e t : l'homme m a l f a i s a n t est malheureusement ne. Art.  " L i b e r t e " , AT, XV, 482-83.  I I n'y a done plus de v i c i e u x e t de vertueux? non, s i vous l e voulez; mais i l y a des e t r e s heureux ou malheureux, b i e n f a i s a n t s et m a l f a i s a n t s . E t l e s  58 recompenses et l e s chatiments? I I f a u t bannir ces mots de l a morale; on ne recompense p o i n t , mais on encourage a. b i e n f a i r e ; on ne c h a t i e p o i n t , mais on e t o u f f e , on e f f r a y e . Et l e s l o i s , et l e s bons exemples, et l e s e x h o r t a t i o n s , a quoi s e r v e n t - e l l e s ? E l l e s sont d'autant plus u t i l e s , q u ' e l l e s ont necessairement l e u r s e f f e t s . Mais pourquoi d i s t i n g u e z - v o u s , par v o t r e i n d i g n a t i o n et par v o t r e c o l e r e , l'homme qui vous o f f e n s e , de l a t u i l e qui vous b l e s s e ? c'est que je s u i s deraisonnable, et qu'alors je ressemble au chien q u i mord l a p i e r r e qui l ' a frappe. Mais c e t t e 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, c o n c l u e n t - i l s [the S p i n o z i s t s ] , ne vous effarouchez pas a. contre-temps. Ge systeme qui vous p a r a i t s i dangereux, ne l ' e s t p o i n t ; i l ne change r i e n au bon ordre de l a s o c i e t e . l e s choses q u i corrompent l e s hommes seront toujours a supprimer; l e s choses q u i 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 d i s p u t e 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 n o t r e systeme de l a n e c e s s i t e assure a toute cause bonne, ou conforme a l ' o r d r e e t a b l i , son bon e f f e t ; a toute cause mauvaise ou c o n t r a i r e a l ' o r d r e 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 l e u r • ressembler; c'est un bonheur qui n'a dependu de nous en aucune fagon. 5)  To these t e x t s 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 f i n d i t necessary to quote t h i s passage l a t e r i n the present  chapter  when commenting on the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the l e t t e r , considered as a whole, the reader i s r e f e r r e d to pp. 73-7^  helow f o r t h i s t e x t .  Perhaps the most s t r i k i n g f e a t u r e of these passages i s the p a r a d o x i c a l and p r o v o c a t i v e way express h i m s e l f . shock.  i n which Diderot chooses to  I t i s as i f he has d e l i b e r a t e l y set out to  V i c e and v i r t u e , he d e c l a r e s , do not e x i s t ;  Roth, I, 213-14.  nothing  59  deserves  p r a i s e o r blame; s e l f - e s t e e m , shame and remorse a r e  puerilities. H i s equanimity  Immediately t h e r e a d e r f e e l s h i s v a l u e s  threatened.  i s not r e s t o r e d d e s p i t e the assurance  t h a t adequate  s u b s t i t u t e s a r e a t hand t o r e p l a c e what has been r e j e c t e d , and t h a t t h e q u e s t i o n o f f r e e - w i l l and determinism  i s a "dispute f o r  i d l e people", t h e i s s u e o f which i s o f l i t t l e p r a c t i c a l  importance.  L e t us t r y t o a n a l y s e d i s p a s s i o n a t e l y t h e i d e a s which D i d e r o t c l o t h e s i n t h i s p a r a d o x i c a l form.  F i r s t we must note  t h a t he does n o t deny t h e 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 a r e d e f i n e d by t h e e f f e c t produced, on the agent h i m s e l f and on o t h e r people.  Nor i s t h e r e here any d e n i a l t h a t  t h e r e i s a v a l i d d i s t i n c t i o n t o be made between those men who are commonly s a i d t o m a n i f e s t v i c e and those who a r e commonly s a i d to manifest v i r t u e .  What D i d e r o t o b j e c t s t o i s the use o f t h e  terms " v i c e " and " v i r t u e " ; and t h i s i s because o f the s p e c i a l c o n n o t a t i o n s which accompany them.  The p o i n t i s made c l e a r i n  a passage which D i d e r o t added t o de J a u c o u r t ' s a r t i c l e " V i c e " : L'usage a mis de l a d i f f e r e n c e e n t r e un d e f a u t e t un v i c e ; t o u t v i c e e s t d e f a u t , mais t o u t d e f a u t n'est pas v i c e . On suppose a. l'homme q u i a un v i c e , une l i b e r t e q u i l e rend coupable a. nos yeux; l e d e f a u t tombe communement s u r l e compte de l a n a t u r e ; on excuse l'homme, on accuse l a n a t u r e . D i d e r o t s u b s t i t u t e s t h e terms " b i e n f a i s a n c e " and " m a l f a i s a n c e " E n c y c l o p e d i e , ou d i c t i o n n a i r e r a i s o n n e des s c i e n c e s , des a r t s et des m e t i e r s , par une s o c i e t e de gens de l e t t r e s , P a r i s , 175165, v o l . X V I I .  60 f o r those  o f " v i c e " a n d " v e r t u " b e c a u s e t h e new w o r d s a r e f r e e  f r o m c e r t a i n c o n n o t a t i o n s w h i c h he f e e l s t o be i n d i s s o c i a b l e t h e o l d ones.  from  " 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 t h e e f f e c t s w h i c h t h e a g e n t c a n expect  them t o p r o d u c e .  The w o r d s " v i c e " and " v e r t u " n o r m a l l y  i m p l y t h e f r e e - w i l l o f t h e a g e n t and t h e i d e a t h a t we o u g h t t o p u n i s h t h e d o e r o f a h a r m f u l a c t s i m p l y b e c a u s e he h a s done i t and  c o u l d h a v e f r e e l y c h o s e n t o do o t h e r w i s e .  a k i n t o vengeance.  That i s a r e a c t i o n  I t i s q u i t e d i f f e r e n t f r o m s a y i n g t h a t we  take such a c t i o n a g a i n s t t h e doer o f a h a r m f u l a c t as w i l l to prevent  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 others  acting similarly.  This i s D i d e r o t ' s view;  tend from  i ti s a dispassionate  approach, u n l i k e the emotional a t t i t u d e normally inherent i nthe 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 " a n d " v i r t u e " ; f o r one n e v e r pronounces t h e words "vertueux" without  and " v i c i e u x " , s a y s  Diderot,  e i t h e r l o v e o r 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 t h e d e t e r m i n istic  v i e w 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 o r b l a m e , he does n o t mean t h a t we a r e b e h a v i n g when we e x p r e s s The  approval o r d i s a p p r o v a l o f a person's  foolishly actions.  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 t h e terms " p r a i s e " ,  "blame" and " d e s e r v e "  i m p l y f r e e - w i l l on t h e p a r t o f t h e a g e n t ,  they 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, with  determinism,  j u s t as punishment i s r e j e c t e d i n t h e form o f r e t r i b u t i o n "*" Lod . - c i t .  only  61 to reappear i n the form o f deterrence,  so p r a i s e and blame  reappear i n the guise of example, e x h o r t a t i o n and moral t r a i n i n g . These, l i k e the more extreme measures which the laws p r e s c r i b e , cannot f a i l  to have t h e i r e f f e c t , because no cause can operate  upon a human being without  producing  i s part of the p h y s i c a l world govern i t .  an e f f e c t i n him, s i n c e he  and subject to the laws which  "Et l e s l o i s , et l e s bons exemples, et l e s e x h o r t a t i o n s ,  3. quoi s e r v e n t - e l l e s ? " asks Diderot i n " L i b e r t e " , and he answers: " E l l e s sont d'autant plus u t i l e s , l e u r s effets."" " 1  q u e l l e s ont necessairement 1  In the a r t i c l e " M o d i f i c a t i o n " , he w r i t e s :  11  Mo i n s  un e t r e e s t l i b r e , plus on e s t sur de l e m o d i f i e r , et plus l a 2 m o d i f i c a t i o n l u i e s t necessairement attachee."  Moreover, the  e f f e c t which we produce i n a person by our e x h o r t a t i o n s , reprimands, encouragements and d e t e r r e n t s , cannot cease operating i n him:  "Les m o d i f i c a t i o n s q u i nous ont ete imprimees nous  changent sans ressource,  et pour l e moment et pour toute l a  s u i t e de l a v i e , parce q u ' i l ne se peut jamais f a i r e que ce q u i a ete une f o i s t e l , n ' a i t pas ete t e l . " ^  Par from  justifying  despondency, the d e t e r m i n i s t i c d o c t r i n e should make us more h o p e f u l o f the s e c u r i t y and progress  o f the s o c i a l order; f o r ,  i f we b e l i e v e i n f r e e - w i l l , we can have no c e r t a i n t y that any measures we take to i n f l u e n c e the w i l l of the p o t e n t i a l c r i m i n a l w i l l have any e f f e c t , s i n c e , i f we could be sure they would, t h i s 1  AT, XV, 482.  2  AT, XVI, 120. Loc. c i t .  62 would imply the d e n i a l of the freedom of h i s w i l l ; and extent that we t h i n k the measures we determining,  his w i l l ,  take can i n f l u e n c e , without  to that extent we  freedom of h i s w i l l to he l i m i t e d . to D i d e r o t ' s view, although  to the  i n e f f e c t assume the  On the other hand, a c c o r d i n g  the measures we  take may  he  insuffi-  c i e n t or i n a p p r o p r i a t e to deter the p o t e n t i a l c r i m i n a l , t h e i r e f f e c t i v e n e s s depends e n t i r e l y upon t h e i r nature and upon h i s nature,  and not on a c a p r i c i o u s and u n p r e d i c t a b l e d e c i s i o n of  h i s w i l l , a r i s i n g out of nothing at a l l . On one p o i n t the passages from " l i b e r t e " and Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e are c o n t r a d i c t o r y , but the question i s not a fundamental one.  In " L i b e r t e " we  read:  "Mais pourquoi  distinguez-vous,  par v o t r e i n d i g n a t i o n et par v o t r e c o l e r e , l'homme q u i vous of fe ns e, de l a t u i l e qui vous blesse? c'est que deraisonnable,  et qu'alors  p i e r r e q u i l ' a frappe.""""  je s u i s  je ressemble au chien q u i mord l a Diderot i s , i n f a c t , w e l l aware that  i n d i g n a t i o n i s j u s t i f i a b l e , at l e a s t as regards m a n i f e s t a t i o n , because i t has  the p r a c t i c a l u s e f u l n e s s of c o n t r i -  b u t i n g to the p r e s e r v a t i o n of the i n d i v i d u a l . out that anger a g a i n s t a man  i t s outward  who  dog b i t i n g the stone which has  Jacques p o i n t s  wrongs you i s not s i m i l a r to a  struck i t ,  because " l a p i e r r e  mordue par l e chien ne se c o r r i g e pas," whereas "l'homme i n j u s t e est modifie par l e baton." 1  AT,  XV,  482.  2  AT,  VI,  181.  5  See below, pp. 226-^ 229»  2  We  s h a l l see, i n a l a t e r  chapter,  3  63 t h a t Diderot l a y s great s t r e s s on i n s t i n c t i v e resentment of injustice.  When a d e t e r m i n i s t r e a c t s spontaneously  to other  people's a c t i o n s , without seeking to j u s t i f y h i s r e a c t i o n s i n the l i g h t of h i s philosophy, he r e a c t s emotionally, with pleasure or anger, j u s t as men  always have.  R e f l e c t i n g on h i s r e a c t i o n s ,  he can see that they serve a u s e f u l purpose:  he has t h e r e f o r e  no reason to t r y to b r i n g about a r a d i c a l change i n them.  In  t h i s connection, i t i s noteworthy that D i d e r o t r e j e c t s the S t o i c i d e a l of a t a r a x i a .  He c i t e s the f o l l o w i n g remark of Seneca:  "Le  sage n ' e n t r e r a pas en c o l e r e , s i l ' o n egorge son pere, s i l ' o n enleve sa femme, s i l ' o n v i o l e sa f i l l e  sous ses yeux,""*" and  r e p l i e s that not only i s such an a t t i t u d e 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 b i e n v e i l l a n c e pour l'homme de b i e n , sont 2 deux s o r t e s d'enthousiasme egalement dignes  d'eloge."  Probably the most d i s q u i e t i n g part of the whole d o c t r i n e i s the treatment  of the f e e l i n g s of the agent towards h i s own a c t i o n s .  Bordeu c l a s s e s self-esteem, shame and remorse as  puerilities.  This seems p a r t i c u l a r l y p a r a d o x i c a l , because i t appears  to imply  that i t would be b e t t e r i f people never experienced these f e e l i n g s , whereas i t i s admitted,  even i n D i d e r o t ' s system, that men  do not experience them tend to be m a l e f i c e n t .  He i s aware of the  u s e f u l e f f e c t s of self-esteem, shame and remorse, f o r the """ E s s a i sur l e s regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, 2  I b i d . , p.  283.  who  experience  I I I , 282.  64 of these f e e l i n g s i s part of t h a t c o n t i n u i n g process  of moral  d e c i s i o n i n the i n d i v i d u a l , which he d e s c r i b e s i n h i s l e t t e r to Landois. had  1  I conclude that Diderot would have been able, i f he  so wished, to make Bordeu express s u b s t a n t i a l l y the same  views on shame and remorse i n a manner l e s s c a l c u l a t e d to scandalize.  Why  then does Bordeu say that self-esteem,  and remorse are p u e r i l i t i e s ?  I t h i n k the reason  i s that  shame these  f e e l i n g s 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 . "You  have done wrong and  orthodox a t t i t u d e i s :  could have done r i g h t .  ought to f e e l shame and remorse." would say:  The  Therefore  you  D i d e r o t , on the other hand,  "Whether or not you f e e l shame or remorse f o r the  harm you have done cannot depend on a f r e e d e c i s i o n of your w i l l ; i t depends on the end-result of your v a r i o u s m o t i v a t i o n a l c o n f l i c t s . I could, i f I so wished, attempt to sway t h i s balance of remorse by e x h o r t i n g you;  i n favour  but I t h i n k i t more u s e f u l to concern  myself with your f u t u r e a c t i o n s than your past ones.  I will  t h e r e f o r e t r y to motivate you to b e n e f i c e n t conduct i n the f u t u r e by c o n v i n c i n g you that i f you wish to be happy — the best way  i s to be b e n e f i c e n t . "  which you do  —  I s h a l l consider i n g r e a t e r  2 d e t a i l later i n this thesis  D i d e r o t ' s attempts to demonstrate  the v a l i d i t y of the p o s i t i o n which I have j u s t a t t r i b u t e d to  him.  For the moment, I wish only to show t h a t , f a r from c o n f l i c t i n g 1  2  See below, pp. 7^-76, the q u o t a t i o n from Roth, I, 211-13.  See below, pp. 239-52.  65 w i t h h i s determinism,  h i s attempt t o j u s t i f y beneficence  on t h e  g r o u n d s t h a t i t i s t o t h e a d v a n t a g e o f t h e p e r s o n who p r a c t i s e s it  i s p a r t and p a r c e l o f t h e same b a s i c Not  o n l y does d e t e r m i n i s m  position.  i m p l y no h a r m f u l  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 ,  change i n  b u t 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 o f 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 f r o m D i d e r o t t o h i s b r o t h e r t h e a b b e , i n w h i c h he r e p l i e s to a l e t t e r which i s not extant, but i nwhich i t i s evident t h e abbe h a s a t t a c k e d h i s p h i l o s o p h y , as a n e g a t i o n  of morality.  i nparticular his  determinism,  Diderot r e p l i e s i na sarcastic  b u t 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  t h e way i n w h i c h ,  that  tone,  according  t o t h e d e t e r m i n i s t i c d o c t r i n e , m o r a l r e l a t i o n s b e t w e e n men operate,  p a r t i c u l a r l y with regard  t o t h e e f f i c a c y and j u s t i f i c a t i o n  of moral e x h o r t a t i o n o r reprimand: Ne p a r l e z j a m a i s p h i l o s o p h i e , p a r c e que v o u s n'y e n t e n d e z p a s 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, h o n h e t e , t o l e r a n t s i t u l e p o u v a i s p a r toi-meme. M a i s 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 entre l a t u i l e e t l'homme q u i me b l e s s e n t ; e t 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 s e m o d i f i e p a s , e t que l ' e t r e s e n s i b l e e s t modifiable. J e t e donne d u b o u t d u c o u t e a u s u r l e n e z , comme on f a i t a u c h i e n gourmand. Q u i s a i t c e que ma l e t t r e f e r a s u r t o i ? C e s t une c a u s e q u i a u r a necessairement son e f f e t . S i par hasard e l l e t e r e n d a i t bon, de mechant que t u e s ; doux, d u p l u s a c a r i a t r e d e s hommes que t u e s ; h o r m e t e , 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 etre s u r p r i s ? Nullement. T a n t que t u v i v r a s , t u ne s e r a s p a s s a n s r e s s o u r c e ; e t s u r c e , t a c h e 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 p a s l a p r e m i e r e l e t t r e de 1 ' a l p h a b e t . 1  We c a n n o t s u p p o s e t h a t D i d e r o t r e a l l y t h o u g h t t h a t h i s Roth, X I I , 169-70 (Nov.  13, 1772).  letter  66 would have any  s a l u t a r y e f f e c t on h i s brother; i n t h i s p a r t i c u l a r  case he knew that the r e s i s t a n c e 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 efficacious. simply  In any case, the r e a l i n t e n t i o n of the l e t t e r i s  to annoy h i s brother.  Yet the theory which Diderot uses  here i s to be taken q u i t e s e r i o u s l y .  The  f o l l o w i n g detached  note r e f e r s to the same i d e a : Apres a v o i r l u Seneque, s u i s - j e l e meme que j ' e t a i s , avant. que de l e l i r e ? Cela n'est pas, c e l a ne se peut. Diderot thus answers i n advance the charge that a d e t e r m i n i s t 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 o b j e c t i o n s  ignore the f a c t that the determinism which governs men's thoughts and a c t i o n s comprises not only t h e i r organic c o n s t i t u t i o n , but a l s o a l l the i n f l u e n c e s which have been exerted on them up the moment at which they a c t .  These i n f l u e n c e s i n c l u d e  to  those 2  r e s u l t i n g from t h e i r r e a d i n g of the works of m o r a l i s t s . Since Diderot minimizes the consequences of determinism f o r p r a c t i c a l m o r a l i t y , one may  w e l l ask, why  he l a y s so much s t r e s s  Elements de p h y s i o l o g i e , ed. Mayer, Appendice I I , p.  331.  2 There i s no great o r i g i n a l i t y i n the way Diderot r e c o n c i l e s the p o s s i b i l i t y that moral e x h o r t a t i o n can be e f f i c a c i o u s with h i s d e n i a l of f r e e - w i l l . V o l t a i r e uses the same argument i n Le Philosophe ignorant (1766), a work i n which he r e j e c t s 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 p o i n t 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 c o n s i s t e dans son pouvoir d ' a g i r , et non pas dans l e pouvoir chimerique de v o u l o i r v o u l o i r . E n s u i t e je vous d i r a i que tout etant l i e dans l a nature, l a Providence e t e r n e l l e me p r e d e s t i n a i t a e c r i r e ces r e v e r i e s , et p r e d e s t i n a i t c i n q ou s i x l e c t e u r s a en f a i r e l e u r p r o f i t , et c i n q a s i x autres a. l e s dedaigner et a l e s l a i s s e r dans l a f o u l e immense des e c r i t s i n u t i l e s . " (Ed. J . L. Carr, London, 1965, s e c t i o n L I , p. 92.)  67 in  some w o r k s on t h e d e t e r m i n i s t i c a c c o u n t o f m o r a l phenomena.  I t w o u l d be  c o r r e c t , but  insufficient,  to r e c t i f y a p h i l o s o p h i c a l error. ' philosoph.es  1  g e n e r a l l y i s not  consequences.  t o a n s w e r t h a t he  What d i s t u r b s D i d e r o t  error i n i t s e l f ,  B e l i e f i n f r e e - w i l l has,  but  he  t o combat.  felt,  The  i n his opinion,  claims who  provided  by  the d o c t r i n e  t h a t d e t e r m i n i s m , on t h e  certain  understood, was,  supposed  of f r e e - w i l l .  He  o t h e r h a n d , w i l l make anyone  embraces i t more humane i n h i s a t t i t u d e t o t h e b e h a v i o u r  others,  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  p r i d e and Since  and  self-righteousness which lead,  Diderot's  day  we  which consider  the  l e s s prone to  to excessive  of  the  severity.  h a v e grown more a c c u s t o m e d t o l e g a l s y s t e m s  which take account of the  as  the  p u b l i c a t t i t u d e towards law-breakers  imbued w i t h a v i n d i c t i v e n e s s f o r w h i c h a  j u s t i f i c a t i o n was  and  i t s harmful  harmful p r a c t i c a l e f f e c t s which determinism, properly helps  wishes  extenuating  c r i m i n a l , not  circumstances of  crime,  as d e l i b e r a t e l y p e r v e r s e ,  s u f f e r i n g from s o c i a l maladjustment.  Diderot  justifies  but in  advance t h i s newer a t t i t u d e : P l u s on a c c o r d e 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 , a u 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 n o u s sommes tombes du s e i n de l a n a t u r e , jusqu'a. c e l u i ou. n o u s e x i s t o n s , m o i n s on e s t v a i n des bonnes q u a l i t e s qu'on p o s s e d e , e t 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 p o u r l e s d e f a u t s e t 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 d a n s l ' e m p l o i des mots v i c i e u x e t v e r t u e u x , qu'on ne p r o n o n c e j a m a i s s a n s amour ou s a n s h a i n e , p l u s on a de p e n c h a n t a. l e u r s u b s t i t u e r c e u x de m a l h e u r e u s e m e n t e t d ' h e u r e u s e m e n t n e s , qu'un s e n t i m e n t de c o m m i s e r a t i o n accompagne t o u j o u r s . Vous a v e z p i t i e d'un a v e u g l e ; e t q u ' e s t - c e qu'un m e d i a n t ,  68 sinon un homme q u i a l a vue c o u r t s , et q u i ne v o i t pas au-dela du moment ou. i l a g i t ? Diderot himself more than once expresses  the view that  poverty-  should be considered as i n some measure a t t e n u a t i n g crimes o f theft.  This i s the g r a i n o f t r u t h which i s contained  remark of Rameau's nephew:  "La v o i x de l a conscience  i n this et de 2  l'honneur est b i e n f a i b l e , l o r s q u e l e s boyaux o r i e n t . " commenting on l e g a l p e n a l t i e s i n h i s Observations  In  sur l e Nakaz,  h i s p r i n c i p l e s are s t r i c t l y u t i l i t a r i a n and he r e j e c t s a l l vindictiveness: I I m'a semble que l e s homines, en general, r i s q u a i e n t plus v o l o n t i e r s l e u r honneur que l e u r v i e , et l e u r v i e que l e u r f o r t u n e . L'honneur n'est l e r e s s o r t que d'un p e t i t nombre d'hommes, et l a v i e 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 p e c u n i a i r e s devraient e t r e l e s plus frequentes. Rarement des peines ihfamantes: l'infame est condamne a l a mechancete; peu de peines c a p i t a l e s ; parce qu'un homme a ete tue, i l n'en f a u t pas tuer un second; 1'assassin qui est mort n'est plus bon a. r i e n ; et i l y a tant de travaux p u b l i c s auxquels il'. peut e t r e condamne! Beaucoup de peines ^ p e c u n i a i r e s dont p a r t i e s e r a i t a p p l i q u a b l e a. 1'offense. 4 In her I n s t r u c t i o n t o the l e g i s l a t i v e assembly which d e l i b e r a t e d , without  t a n g i b l e r e s u l t , i n 1767-68, Catherine  I I r e f e r s to the  death penalty as an "espece de t a l i o n q u i f a i t que l a s o c i e t e Prom D i d e r o t ' s a d d i t i o n to de Jaucourt's Encyclopedie, v o l . XVII. 2  article  "Vice",  Le Neveu de Rameau, AT, V, 422.  3  In Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , ed. V e r n i e r e , P a r i s , 1963,  pp. 373-74.  ^ I n s t r u c t i o n de S. M. I . pour l a commission chargee de d r e s s e r l e p r o j e t d'un nouveau code de l o i s , Saint-Petersburg, 1769. This work i s o f t e n r e f e r r e d to by the Russian name Nakaz.  69 r e f u s e l a surete a un c i t o y e n q u i en a p r i v e ou a v o u l u en p r i v e r un a u t r e . "  1  D i d e r o t ' s remarks are intended  of the Empress's view.  i n part as a r e f u t a t i o n  H i s 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 f o r the c r i m i n a l  a g a i n s t the need to p r o t e c t the p u b l i c .  This can be seen i n h i s p  r e f l e c t i o n s on B e c c a r i a ' s T r a i t e des d e l i t s et des  peines.  While a f f i r m i n g h i s sympathy with the humanitarian  sentiments  which i n s p i r e t h i s work, he r e f u s e s to r e j e c t 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 e f f e c t i v e necessary  and  deterrent.  The second, and probably  more important,  reason why  i s so i n s i s t e n t , i n c e r t a i n t e x t s , on denying f r e e - w i l l  Diderot 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 d o c t r i n e of punishments a f t e r death. Church's precepts  c o n t a i n much that Diderot d e t e s t s .  Now  the  The  p e c u l i a r l y C h r i s t i a n e t h i c a l values, as he understands them, are not d e r i v e d r a t i o n a l l y from p o s i t i v e r e a l i t y , but are  arbitrary.  I f one discounts the theory of an innate moral conscience,  as  Diderot c o n s t a n t l y does, general obedience to a r b i t r a r y moral precepts  can only be obtained  through compulsion by the a u t h o r i t y  of custom or by t h r e a t s of s u p e r n a t u r a l or temporal punishment. 1  Quoted by V e r n i e r e , Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , p. 374,  2  AT,  IV, 61-62.  note 1.  70 For D i d e r o t , the a u t h o r i t y of custom and p o s i t i v e law i s acceptable and necessary  as l o n g as i t enforces p r i n c i p l e s of conduct  j u s t i f i e d by the n a t u r a l needs of man. i s the cause of much human misery.  Beyond t h i s l i m i t , i t  The Church, as an i n s t i t u t i o n  e x e r c i s i n g oppressive a u t h o r i t y over men's l i v e s , i s abhorrent to D i d e r o t ,  1  and h i s stand on f r e e - w i l l should be seen as p a r t  of h i s e f f o r t s to undermine the d o c t r i n a l 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 c o n t r o l e x e r c i s e d by Church and State was too s t r i n g e n t to allow the b a t t l e f o r men's minds to be waged openly.  Out of  mere prudence Diderot l i m i t s the frank expression of d e t e r m i n i s t i c views to w r i t i n g s not intended f o r p u b l i c a t i o n , a t l e a s t  during  h i s l i f e - t i m e , though he o f t e n allowed h i s manuscripts to c i r 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 . not mean, however, that the works addressed  This does  to the general  p u b l i c were merely a v e h i c l e f o r h y p o c r i t i c a l a t t i t u d e s designed to p l a c a t e the a u t h o r i t i e s and strengthen the a l l e g i a n c e of the unenlightened  t o the e s t a b l i s h e d order.  The o c c a s i o n a l bows to  dogma and r e v e l a t i o n are no doubt i n s i n c e r e , but the m o r a l i z i n g i s genuine.  In works l i k e Le F i l s n a t u r e l or the E s s a i sur l e s  regnes de Claude et de Neron, on every page of which the words " v i c e " and " v i r t u e " appear, Diderot i s s i n c e r e . Cf. R e f u t a t i o n d ' H e l v e t i u s . AT, I I , 288-89; Discours d'un philosophe a. u n ~ r o i , AT, IV, 33-36; Plan d'une u n i v e r s i t e pour l e gouvernement de Russie, AT, I I I , 510-11.  1  71 Like Pythagoras, comprising  the  professed  a "double d o c t r i n e " ,  a n e x o t e r i c and a n e s o t e r i c f o r m .  doctrine i snot simply curious,  Diderot  a camouflage designed t o deceive the  t o ward o f f t h e h o s t i l i t y  suspicions  The e x o t e r i c  of public opinion or to a l l a y  of the authorities; i t i s a satisfactory p r a c t i c a l  d o c t r i n e , t h e t h e o r e t i c a l b a s i s o f w h i c h i s d e f e c t i v e a n d makes concessions t o speculative e r r o r , but which the philosopher considers stand  suitable for the majority  the s t r i c t theory  o f men, who w o u l d n o t u n d e r -  a r i g h t and w o u l d t e n d t o draw f r o m i t  e r r o n e o u s 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 . Pythagoras i n s i s t e d studying initiated  For this  on h i s d i s c i p l e s s p e n d i n g s e v e r a l  and p r a c t i s i n g t h e e x o t e r i c d o c t r i n e b e f o r e 2 i n t o h i s system i n i t s e n t i r e t y .  See  Diderot's  article  years being  There a r e i n t h e  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 between h i s openly p r o f e s s e d  reason,  distinction  v i e w s and h i s e s o t e r i c d o c t r i n e .  " P y t h a g o r i s m e " , 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 q u o t e d p a s s a g e f r o m a l e t t e r t o d'Alembert c o n c e r n i n g t h e three d i a l o g u e s centred around Le R e v e de d ' A l e m b e r t b o t h c o n f i r m s a n d i s i l l u m i n a t e d b y t h e v i e w that Diderot consciously professes a double d o c t r i n e : "... m a i s j e l e s u p p l i e p a r v o t r e b o u c h e de ne me j u g e r q u ' a p r e s m ' a v o i r m e d i t e , de ne p r e n d r e a u c u n 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 e t de mon h o n n e u r , o u de l a j u s t e o p i n i o n qu'on a congue de mes m o e u r s , de s e r a p p e l e r l a d i f f e r e n c e d'une m o r a l e i l l i c i t e e t d'une m o r a l e c r i m i n e l l e , e t de n e p a s 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 b o n 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 p o u r l a m u l t i t u d e , n i p o u r l a p r a t i q u e ; e t que s i , s a n s e t r e f a u x , on n ' e c r i t p a s t o u t c e que l ' o n f a i t , s a n s e t r e i n c o n s e q u e n t on n e f a i t p a s t o u t c e qu'on e c r i t . " ( R o t h , IX, 15758 [ S e p t . , 17691.)  72 In the Reveries du promeneur s o l i t a i r e , Jean-Jacques r e f e r s d i s p a r a g i n g l y to the double m o r a l i t y of the philosophes: Cette morale sans r a c i n e et sans f r u i t q u ' i l s e t a l e n t pompeusement dans des l i v r e s ou dans quelque a c t i o n d ' e c l a t 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 r a i s o n ; [ e t ] c e t t e autre morale s e c r e t e et c r u e l l e , d o c t r i n e i n t e r i e u r e de tous l e u r s i n i t i e s a l a q u e l l e 1'autre ne s e r t que de masque, q u ' i l s suivent seule dans l e u r conduite et q u ' i l s ont s i habilement pratiquee a mon e g a r d . " 1  In the Confessions, Rousseau r e f e r s to the p r i n c i p l e that "1'unique d e v o i r de l'homme est de s u i v r e en tout l e s penchants de son coeur", c l a i m i n g that t h i s i s " l a d o c t r i n e i n t e r i e u r e  2 dont Diderot m'a tant p a r l e , mais q u ' i l ne m'a jamais  expliquee."  F o r t u n a t e l y f o r the r e p u t a t i o n o f Diderot and the other the o p i n i o n o f Rousseau on the nature  philosophes,  of t h e i r e s o t e r i c and  e x o t e r i c d o c t r i n e s and on the r e l a t i o n between the two i s i n no way a u t h o r i t a t i v e .  The whole of the present  t h e s i s can be  considered as an attempt to show t h a t , i n Diderot, a t l e a s t , the two d o c t r i n e s , when r i g h t l y i n t e r p r e t e d , are compatible.  To conclude the present  chapter,  I s h a l l d i s c u s s a text i n  which Diderot h i m s e l f i l l u s t r a t e s the fundamental equivalence of the e x o t e r i c and e s o t e r i c forms of h i s e t h i c s , namely h i s l e t t e r  Qeuvres completes, P l e i a d e e d i t i o n , P a r i s , 1959, I, 1022.  2 Qeuvres completes, ed. c i t . , I, 468. F o r f u r t h e r i n f o r m a t i o n on Rousseau's r e f e r e n c e s to the double m o r a l i t y of the philosophes. see i b i d . . I, p. 468, note 2, and p. 1022, note 1.  73 to Landois,  I n t h e f o l l o w i n g p a s s a g e he expounds t h e e t h i c a l  consequences o f determinism: R e g a r d e z - y de p r e s , e t v o u s v e r r e z que l e mot l i b e r t e e s t u n mot v i d e de s e n s ; q u ' i l n'y a p o i n t , e t q u ' i l ne p e u t y a v o i r d ' e t r e s l i b r e s ; que nous ne sommes que c e 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 , e t a. l a c h a i n e d e s e v e n e m e n t s . Voila. ce q u i d i s p o s e de n o u s 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 s a n s m o t i f , qu'un d e s b r a s d'une b a l a n c e a g i s s e s a n s 1 ' a c t i o n d'un p o i d s ; e t 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 p a r une n a t u r e o u p a r une c a u s e q u e l q o n q u e q u i n ' e s t pas nous. Ce q u i n o u s t r o m p e , 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 n o s a c t i o n s , j o i n t e a. 1 ' h a b i t u d e que n o u s a v o n s p r i s e t o u t en n a i s s a n t de c o n f o n d r e l e v o l o n t a i r e avec l e l i b r e . Nous a v o n s t a n t l o u e , t a n t r e p r i s , n o u s 1'avons e t e 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 n o u s et l e s autres voulons, agissons librement. 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 l o u a n g e o u l e b l a m e . I I n'y a n i v i c e , n i v e r t u , r i e n d o n t i l f a i l l e r e c o m p e n s e r 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 a p p e a r 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, t h e passages from Le R e v e de d ' A l e m b e r t and J a c q u e s l e f a t a l i s t e , q u o t e d a b o v e , p. 23. I n t h e s e t e x t s i t i s c l e a r t h a t t h e c a u s e o f a man's actions i s not external to himself: i t i s himself. Each o f h i s a c t s . i s t h e r e s u l t o f t h e 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 t h e r e s u l t o f t h e i n t e r a c t i o n b e t w e e n 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 of e x t e r n a l o r i g i n . Diderot's p o s i t i o n i n the l e t t e r t o Landois c a n , h o w e v e r , 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 f r o m t h i s , s i n c e h e r e t o o he i n c l u d e s t h e p h y s i c a l o r g a n i s a t i o n o f t h e body among t h e f o r c e s w h i c h " d i s p o s e [ n t ] de n o u s 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 t h e " o r d r e g e n e r a l " ' , i n t h e " c h a i n e d e s e v e n e m e n t s " , i n two ways, one o f w h i c h D i d e r o t d e n o t e s by t h e w o r d " o r g a n i s a t i o n " , t h e o t h e r by t h e w o r d " 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 s a y s t h a t t h e m o t i v e w h i c h c a u s e s o u r a c t s i s a l w a y s e x t e r i o r t o o u r s e l v e s , and i s n o t o u r s e l v e s , we must assume t h a t t h e word "nous" h a s a n o t h e r s e n s e t h a n i n t h e p a s s a g e f r o m L e R e v e de d ' A l e m b e r t . I n t h e p r e s e n t p a s s a g e "nous" does n o t denote o u r t o t a l b e i n g , b u t t h e 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 other words, an i m m a t e r i a l p r i n c i p l e which t h e 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 t h e o r i g i n o f f r e e d e c i sions. Diderot not only denies that our motives o r i g i n a t e from s u c h a p r i n c i p l e , b u t — t h o u g h he d o e s n o t e x p l i c i t l y s a y s o h e r e — he d e n i e s t h a t i t e v e n e x i s t s . What g i v e s r i s e t o t h e common s u p p o s i t i o n t h a t a s e l f , s o 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 o u r c o n s c i o u s n e s s o f some o f t h e p r o c e s s e s w h i c h t a k e p l a c e i n o u r body, i n p a r t i c u l a r i n o u r b r a i n .  74 Q u ' e s t - c e q u i d i s t i n g u e done l e s hommes? L a bienfaisance et l a malfaisance. Le m a l f a i s a n t e s t un homme q u ' i l f a u t d e t r u i r e e t n o n p u n i r ; l a b i e n f a i s a n c e e s t une bonne f o r t u n e , e t n o n une vertu. M a i s q u o i q u e l'homme b i 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 ' e n e s t p a s moins un e t r e qu'on modifie; c'est par cette raison q u ' i l faut d e t r u i r e l e m a l f a i s a n t s u r une p l a c e p u b l i q u e . De l a . l e s bons e f f e t s de l ' e x e m p l e , d e s d i s c o u r s , de 1 ' e d u c a t i o n , d u p l a i s i r , de l a d o u l e u r , d e s g r a n d e u r s , de l a m i s e r e , e t c . ; de l a , 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 c o m m i s e r a t i o n , q u i a t t a c h e f o r t e m e n t aux bons, q u i n ' i r r i t e n o n p l u s c o n t r e l e mechant que c o n t r e u n o u r a g a n 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 . I I n'y a qu'une s o r t e de c a u s e s , a p r o p r e m e n t 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 ' e s t l a meme p o u r t o u s l e s e t r e s , q u e l q u e 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 e n t r e eux, ou q u i y s o i t r e e l l e m e n t . More o f t e n t h a n n o t ,  thel e t t e r  t o Landois  i s quoted  only 2  for  this  exposition of materialistic  But  i t i s important  remarks, there very  and d e t e r m i n i s t i c v i e w s .  t o note that, immediately  i s a passage i n which D i d e r o t  preceding  these  adopts an a t t i t u d e  s i m i l a r t o t h a t w h i c h 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 d u p e u p l e , v o t r e m o r a l e e s t d e t e s t a b l e . C ' e s t de l a p e t i t e m o r a l e , m o i t i e v r a i e , m o i t i e f a u s s e , m o i t i e e t r o i t e aux yeux d u p h i l o s o p h e . S i j ' e t a i s u n homme a. sermons e t a. messes, j e v o u s dirais: Ma v e r t u ne d e t r u i t p o i n t mes p a s s i o n s ; e l l e l e s tempere s e u l e m e n t e t 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 . J e connais tous l e s a v a n t a g e s p r e t e n d u s d'un sophisme e t d'un mauvais p r o c e d e , d'un sophisme b i e n d e l i c a t , d'un p r o c e d e b i e n o b s c u r , b i e n t e n e b r e u x ; mais j e t r o u v e en m o i une e g a l e r e p u g n a n c e a, m a l r a i s o n n e r e t a. m a l f a i r e . J e s u i s e n t r e deux p u i s s a n c e s , d o n t l ' u n e me montre l e b i e n e t 1'autre m ' i n c l i n e v e r s l e mal. I I f a u t prendre p a r t i . 1  1  R o t h , 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 o n l y t h e 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 . . p a s s i m . )  75 Dans l e s commencements, l e moment d u combat e s t c r u e l ; m a i s l a p e i n e s ' a f f a i b l i t a v e c l e temps. I I en v i e n t u n ou. l e s a c r i f i c e de l a p a s s i o n ne c o u t e plus rien. 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 p r e n d a. s e s p r o p r e s y e u x t a n t de g r a n d e u r e t 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 p a r c e qu'on f a i t p o u r e l l e , que p a r l e s charmes qu'on . l u i c r o i t . Malheur a v o u s s i l a p r a t i q u e d u b i e n ne v o u s e s t p a s a s s e z f a m i l i e r e , e t s i v o u s n ' e t e s p a s a s s e z en f o n d s de bonnes a c t i o n s p o u r en e t r e v a i n , p o u r v o u s en c o m p l i m e n t e r s a n s c e s s e , p o u r v o u s 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 m a l a d e r e c o i t u n remede a u q 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 c h o s e q u i f l a t t e r a i t s o n appetit. C e l a e s t v r a i d'un m a l a d e i n s e n s e . Malgre c e l a , s i l e m a l a d e a v a i t e u l e m e r i t e de d e c o u v r i r lui-meme s a m a l a d i e ; c e l u i d'en a v o i r t r o u v e , p r e p a r e l e remede, c r o y e z - v o u s q u ' i l b a l a n c a t a l e p r e n d r e , q u e l q u e amer q u ' i l f u t , e t q u ' i l ne s e f i t p a s u n h o n n e u r de s a p e n e t r a t i o n e t de s o n c o u r a g e ? Q u ' e s t - c e qu'un homme v e r t u e u x ? C ' e s t u n homme v a i n de c e t t e e s p e c e de v a n i t e , e t r i e n de p l u s . T o u t c e que n o u s f a i s o n s , c ' e s t p o u r n o u s . Nous a v o n s l ' a i r de n o u s s a c r i f i e r , l o r s q u e n o u s ne f a i s o n s que n o u s s a t i s f a i r e . R e s t e a. s a v o i r s i n o u s d o n n e r o n s l e nom de s a g e s o u d ' i n s e n s e s a. c e u x q u i s e s o n t f a i t une m a n i e r e d ' e t r e h e u r e u x a u s s i b i z a r r e en a p p a r e n c e que c e l l e de s ' i m m o l e r . Pourquoi l e s a p p e l l e r i o n s n o u s i n s e n s e s , p u i s q u ' i l s s o n t h e u r e u x , e t que l e u r bonheur e s t s i conforme a u 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 s o n t t o u j o u r s c e q u i l e u r c o u t e l e m o i n s . 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 , v o u s a u r e z b i e n de l a p e i n e a. p r o u v e r 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 e t c e l l e de soi-meme t o u t c e q u ' e l l e s v a l e n t . N'oubliez pas n o n p l u s qu'une m a u v a i s e a c t i o n n ' e s t j a m a i s i m p u n i e ; j e d i s j a m a i s , p a r c e que l a p r e m i e r e que l ' o n commet d i s p o s e a u n e s e c o n d e , c e l l e - c i a. u n e t r o i s i e m e , e t que c ' e s t a i n s i qu'on s ' a v a n c e p e u a. p e u v e r s l e m e p r i s de s e s s e m b l a b l e s , l e p l u s g r a n d de t o u s 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 d a n s 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 v e r t u : e r r e u r . 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 l i e u e s pour e t r e bon, ou que de s'etre d i t : Je veux l ' e t r e ? -^Le p l i est p r i s ; i l f a u t que l ' e t o f f e l e garde. Perhaps the reason why commentators have g-enerally neglected t h i s passage i s that Diderot introduces h i s remarks with the words " S i j ' e t a i s un homme a, sermons et a. messes, j e vous d i r a i s . . . ." But the moral p o s i t i o n he proceeds to take has,  i n fact,  none o f the s p e c i f i c c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s which he r e j e c t s i n the t r a d i t i o n a l r e l i g i o u s e t h i c ; i t i s not t a i n t e d with a u t h o r i t a r i a n i s m , nor does i t preach the a r b i t r a r y and a n t i - n a t u r a l moral code which Diderot condemns i n the Supplement au Voyage de B o u g a i n v i l l e and many other t e x t s .  What D i d e r o t ' s viewpoint  here has i n  common with that o f r e l i g i o u s m o r a l i s t s i s r a t h e r that he considers moral d e c i s i o n s i n t r o s p e c t i v e l y , a n a l y s i n g them i n terms of moral sentiments, pains.  passions, d e s i r e s , p s y c h i c a l pleasures and  H i s purpose i s t o r e f u t e c e r t a i n remarks contained  manuscript which Landois not extant. had  in a  had communicated to him and which i s  From D i d e r o t ' s l e t t e r , i t would appear that  Landois  doubted that men ever l o v e v i r t u e f o r i t s e l f , but only f o r  the advantages that may be d e r i v e d from i t .  Diderot quotes him  as saying that "Nous recevons l a v e r t u comme l e malade r e c o i t un remede," that i s t o say, as something which we would sooner do without  i f we could.  Now Diderot h i m s e l f i s an e t h i c a l  hedonist, but the conception i s based i s very broad. 1  Roth, I , 211-13.  o f pleasure on which h i s hedonism  In f a c t h i s hedonism i s , i n the f i n a l  77 analysis, t r u i s t i c : pleasure  and  he i s able to c l a i m that the p u r s u i t of  the avoidance of pain are the only p o s s i b l e motives  of human a c t i o n s because, i n e f f e c t , he d e f i n e s pleasure s a t i s f a c t i o n d e r i v e d from doing what we  most want to do.""*  i n the passage under c o n s i d e r a t i o n , he analyses of the v i r t u o u s man,  that i s to say,  as  the man  the  who  the Thus,  motivation  apparently  makes p a i n f u l s a c r i f i c e s i n order to remain j u s t or to act b e n e f i c e n t l y , and he a s s e r t s that such a man a c t i n the way faction.  which w i l l cause him  never ceases to  the l e a s t personal  dissatis-  This i s not to deny the r e a l i t y of the v i r t u o u s man's 2  sacrifices;  on balance he makes what f o r him  i s the  least  s a c r i f i c e possible. I t should motivation  be noted that t h i s e x p o s i t i o n of the process of  i n the v i r t u o u s man  i m p l i e s as t o t a l an e x c l u s i o n of  f r e e - w i l l as does the o v e r t l y d e t e r m i n i s t i c passage. it  There i s ,  i s true, s u f f i c i e n t i m p r e c i s i o n i n the language used at  beginning  of the passage to permit of an i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i n which  f r e e - w i l l plays a p a r t ; and  one might w e l l assume that t h i s  the true i m p l i c a t i o n , were i t not f o r the context l i n e s are placed.  But when one  was  i n which these  reads the paragraph  beginning  "Qu'est-ce qu'un homme vertueux?" i t becomes c l e a r that the which has  the  "parti"  to be taken cannot be the r e s u l t of an undetermined  "*" D i d e r o t ' s d o c t r i n e i s r e a l l y e t h i c a l egoism c l o t h e d i n the terminology of e t h i c a l hedonism. For a more d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n of h i s theory of motivation, see below, p. 2 7 1 . 2  See  below pp.  21*4-15.  78 c h o i c e , but i s the i n e v i t a b l e r e s u l t of one's nature.  A man  e i t h e r i s , or i s not, s u f f i c i e n t l y v i r t u o u s , by nature or by u p b r i n g i n g , to win the b a t t l e a g a i n s t the e v i l to which he i s prompted by h i s passions and h i s s e l f - i n t e r e s t , understood.  superficially  The theory of m o t i v a t i o n which D i d e r o t uses i s ,  though expressed i n s u b j e c t i v e terms, completely m e c h a n i s t i c . I t i s based on that r e f i n e d s o r t of hedonism of which I have a l r e a d y spoken:  "Tout ce que nous f a i s o n s , c'est 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 satisfaire.""""  Indeed, when, having completed h i s defence  of the good man's l o v e of v i r t u e , D i d e r o t d i s c a r d s the preacher's  2 manner f o r that of the p h i l o s o p h e r  and d e c l a r e s that " l e mot  de l i b e r t e e s t un mot v i d e de sens," he i s not c o n t r a d i c t i n g the p o s i t i o n he has j u s t taken; he i s merely t r a n s l a t i n g i t from s u b j e c t i v e i n t o o b j e c t i v e terms. mastered  Thus the d i s c i p l e , having  the e x o t e r i c d o c t r i n e , i s l e d i n t o the c i r c l e o f the  i n i t i a t e d , where he may view the t o t a l t r u t h now d i v e s t e d of the garb of metaphor and ambiguity i n which i t had been c l o t h e d .  At the c l o s e of t h i s second chapter, we have reached an ^ Roth, I, 2 1 2 .  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 f o l l o w i n g sentence: "C'est i c i , mon cher, que je v a i s q u i t t e r l e ton de p r e d i c a t e u r . p o u r prendre, s i j e peux, c e l u i de philosophe." (Roth, I, 2 1 3 . )  79 a p p r o p r i a t e p o i n t a t which far.  t o take s t o c k o f t h e d i s c u s s i o n so  My o u t l i n e o f D i d e r o t ' s c o n c e p t i o n o f t h e 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 , necessary  I think, provide the i n i t i a l  f o r a correct understanding  orientation  of h i s views  on m o r a l i t y .  I h o p e , f u r t h e r , t o h a v e s u c c e s s f u l l y a t t a c k e d t h e 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 determinism,  a m i s r e a d i n g w h i c h h a s s e r v e d t o b o l s t e r many  incorrect interpretations of h i s ethics.  H i s denial 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 , it  s e t s t h e l a t t e r a p a r t from t h e o r i e s which  f r e e - w i l l as a necessary obligation. concept  treat the notion of  p a r t o f any m e a n i n g f u l  concept  o f moral  I f the reader accepts the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Diderot's  of moral  o b l i g a t i o n which  c h a p t e r s o f t h i s s t u d y , he w i l l  I p r o p o s e i n t h e l a s t two  c o n c e d e , I t h i n k , t h a t i t does  n o t depend on t h e n o t i o n o f f r e e - w i l l . for  since  h i m s e l f whether such a concept  philosophically  The r e a d e r must d e c i d e  of moral  obligation i s  adequate.  An i n v e s t i g a t i o n o f t h e s e q u e s t i o n s , i m p o r t a n t a s t h e y a r e , c a n 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 t h e p r i n c i p a l o b j e c t o f my enquiry.  I n t h e f o l l o w i n g chapters I s h a l l approach  D i d e r o t ' s s p e c i f i c views  directly  r e g a r d i n g the form o f s o c i e t y  men s h o u l d s t r i v e t o a c h i e v e a n d t h e k i n d o f i n d i v i d u a l which  they should permit o r encourage.  which behaviour  CHAPTER  THE  MAN  The  very  c o o p e r a t i v e of  a  group  conduct nature ends  of  i s  which  i s  human  needs,  founded  on  the  of  a r b i t r a r y  an  The conduct i n  the  not  o t h e r s ,  i t s  i s ,  i n  absurd  needs  to  i s  he  u n n a t u r a l  the  s a t i s f a c t i o n  such  themselves  view,  b e l i e v e s  human t h i s  from  w i l l  the  of  i n c u l c a t i o n which  places  b a s i c  human  because  i s  he  u n j u s t i f i a b l e  g r e a t e s t  r u l e s  of c l a r i t y  r e l i g i o u s  l e a s t  the  He  needs.  the  on  which  i m p o s i t i o n  w i t h  the  of  man.  to  of  the  that  i n  and  the  D i d e r o t ,  s i n c e  approach  e f f e c t  on  than  to  l i f e  p r e c i s e  s a t i s f a c t i o n  i n s c r i b e d  at  of  f o r  and  of  i n d i v i d u a l  the  s o c i e t y  s u b s c r i b e  p r a c t i c e s ,  t h a t ,  of  Since,  the  has  mode  s o c i e t y ,  w o r l d ,  c o n s t i t u t e  adverse  the  p a r t i c u l a r  r e v e a l e d  which  an  i n  s t r u c t u r e  c o n f o r m i t y  r e l i g i o u s  r i t u a l  have  e n t i r e l y  a  r e s t r i c t i o n s ,  f o r  e t h i c  the  of  d i r e c t e d .  Nature f o r  MORALITY  sense  the  r e s u l t  and  observances  i t s  each  man  which  of  the  and  g o a l  m o r a l i t y  D i d e r o t ' s  D i d e r o t  i n  of  r e s p o n s i b l e  A l t h o u g h i n  i n  a c t i v i t y  a c c e p t a b l e  a r b i t r a r i n e s s  i t s e l f . do  on  i n  i m p l i e s  depend,  o n l y  Church  r e s t r i c t i o n s  embracing  happiness  the  h o l d s  s o c i e t y ,  happiness  the  UNNATURAL  AN  p r e s c r i p t i o n s  which other  OP  b e i n g s ,  w i l l  g e n e r a l  c o n s i d e r s human  human  c e r t a i n  no  g r e a t e s t  of  r e l a t i o n s  towards  there  n o t i o n  of  to  VICTIM  III  the  i n  c u l t  C h r i s t i a n i t y ,  welfare  e x c e s s i v e  of  importance  81 which, i n h i s opinion, i s o f t e n accorded them, they r e s u l t i n a f a l s i f i c a t i o n of the n a t u r a l s c a l e of moral v a l u e s : Madame l a marechale, demandez au v i c a i r e de v o t r e p a r o i s s e , de ces deux crimes, p i s s e r dans un vase sacre, ou n o i r c i r l a r e p u t a t i o n d'une femme honnete, quel e s t l e plus atroce?. I I f r e m i r a d'horreur au premier, c r i e r a au s a c r i l e g e ; et l a l o i c i v i l e , q u i prend a. peine connaissance de l a calomnie, t a n d i s q u ' e l l e punit l e s a c r i l e g e par l e feu, achevera de h r o u i l l e r l e s idees e t de corrompre l e s esprits.- 1  While the importance attached  to r e l i g i o u s observances i s  both a cause and a symptom of the p e r v e r s i o n of moral values, the p r i n c i p a l e v i l s a r i s e from other aspects ethic. and,  These are, f i r s t ,  secondly,  of the r e l i g i o u s  a s c e t i c i s m i n i t s broadest  connotation  a p a r t i c u l a r kind of a s c e t i c i s m c o n s t i t u t e d by  the p e c u l i a r i d e a l of sexual abstinence s i n g l e partner.  I t i s appropriate  or sexual f i d e l i t y to a  t o begin by examining D i d e r o t ' s  attitude to asceticism i n general. D i d e r o t i s w i l l i n g to admit the a c c e p t a b i l i t y of many of the e t h i c a l precepts the p u l p i t s .  contained  i n the gospels  But he i n s i s t s that t h i s part of C h r i s t i a n  m o r a l i t y , namely the part which proclaims and  and preached from  beneficence,  the i d e a l s of j u s t i c e  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 c o n s i s t s i n the m o r t i f i c a t i o n of the body i n t h i s life in  i n the hope o f thereby p l e a s i n g God and m e r i t i n g happiness  a future l i f e .  unacceptable.  I t i s t h i s a s c e t i c i d e a l which Diderot  finds  Even i f God does e x i s t , why should He be pleased  """ E n t r e t i e n d'un philosophe II, 518.  avec l a marechale de  j_ j_ , AT,  82 by the s u f f e r i n g s of h i s creatures?  D i d e r o t ' s answer to t h i s  question i s very much i n keeping with the new i n h i s century which sought  wave of t h i n k i n g  to r e h a b i l i t a t e the passions and  j u s t i f y the p u r s u i t of man's happiness  on t h i s e a r t h .  D i d e r o t ' s r e j e c t i o n of a s c e t i c i s m does not mean, however, that he approves of a f r a n t i c hedonism.  Moderation here i s  necessary.  (1747), an a l l e g o r y i n  In La Promenade du Sceptique  which three d i f f e r e n t ways of l i f e are represented by three paths, the r i g h t path to choose i s that of p h i l o s o p h i c moderation ( c a l l e d the path of the c h e s t n u t - t r e e s ) ; the path of thorns, i . e . C h r i s t i a n a s c e t i c i s m , and the path of f l o w e r s , i . e . the life  of immoderate pleasure, ruinous to h e a l t h , both l e a d to  unhappiness.""" D i d e r o t ' s r e j e c t i o n of the s e l f - i n f l i c t e d discomfort of l o n g prayer and f a s t i n g i s expressed i n l e t t e r s to h i s f a t h e r and h i s s i s t e r Denise.  He pleads with them not to r u i n  their  h e a l t h i n t h i s f r u i t l e s s manner; i t i s f a r b e t t e r f o r them to take good care of themselves  and express t h e i r p i e t y by h e l p i n g 2  unfortunate people i n a t a n g i b l e way. I t i s i n the monasteries, however, that he f i n d s the most t e r r i b l e i n s t a n c e s of senseless s e l f - m o r t i f i c a t i o n : La Promenade du Sceptique c o n s i s t s of a "Discours p r e l i m i n a i r e " followed by three s e c t i o n s : " L ' a l l e e des epines" (AT, I, 189214); " L ' a l l e e des marronniers" (AT, I, 215-35); " L ' a l l e e des f l e u r s " (AT, I, 236-50). Roth, I, 180-82 (To h i s r e l a t i o n s and f r i e n d s i n l a n g r e s ; Jan. 6, 1755); Roth, XI, 201-02 (To h i s s i s t e r Denise; Oct. 14, 1771); Correspondance i n e d i t e , ed. Andre Babelon, P a r i s , 1931, pp. 14041 (To h i s s i s t e r Denise; Nov. 29, 1778).  83 Quelles v o i x l 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? l e s uns se frappent l a p o i t r i n e avec des c a i l l o u x ; d a u t r e s se d e c h i r e n t l e corps avec des ongles de f e r ; tous ont l e s r e g r e t s , l a douleur et l a mort dans l e s yeux. Qui l e s condamne a. ces tourments? 1  J  The q u e s t i o n of monastic l i f e b r i n g s us to the problem of sexuality.  The n o v e l La R e l i g i e u s e i s more than a p r o t e s t against  f o r c e d v o c a t i o n s ; i t i s a warning a g a i n s t the e v i l  psychological  e f f e c t s which o f t e n r e s u l t from the d e n i a l 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 f r e q u e n t l y unaware of the extent of the s a c r i f i c e which they have undertaken.  They o f t e n mistake  their  awakening s e x u a l i t y f o r a s p i r i t u a l v o c a t i o n : C'est une f e r v e u r passagere q u i tient.. q u e l q u e f o i s a 1*ennui d'un temperament q u i f a i t e f f o r t pour se developper dans l ' u n et dans 1'autre sexe, ou q u i , s'etant developpe, porte a. de nouveaux besoins dont on ignore l ' o b j e t , ou qu'on ne s a u r a i t s a t i s f a i r e , qui e n t r a i n e tant de jeunes et malheureuses v i c t i m e s de l e u r i n e x p e r i e n c e 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. e l l e s g n e rencontrent que l a douleur et l e d e s e s p o i r . Not only i n the p a r t i c u l a r case of monasticism, but with r e s p e c t to the whole s t r u c t u r e of the i n s t i t u t i o n s  regulating  sexual l i f e , D i d e r o t v o i c e s p e r s i s t e n t and eloquent p r o t e s t s Pensees philosophiques (1746), AT, 2  A r t . "Passager", AT, XVI,  206.  I, 129.  84 a g a i n s t r e s t r a i n t s which he c o n s i d e r s d e s t r u c t i v e of human happiness. Many t e x t s could he quoted to i l l u s t r a t e t h i s p o i n t , but the most important  i s the Supplement au Voyage de B o u g a i n v i l l e .  Here  D i d e r o t p o r t r a y s a s o c i e t y i n which most of the taboos and r e s t r i c t i o n s which l i m i t the expression of s e x u a l i t y i n European s o c i e t y are unknown.  In T a h i t i , marriages  partners d e s i r e .  a r e only as permanent as the  No l e g a l f o r m a l i t i e s are i n v o l v e d i n unions of  t h i s type and the s t r u c t u r e of s o c i e t y i s such that n e i t h e r the separated parents nor t h e i r divorce.  . o f f s p r i n g s u f f e r unduly  from a  The c h i l d r e n simply f o l l o w one or other parent, a c c o r d i n g  to c e r t a i n customary r u l e s , i n t o t h e i r new unions. of i n c e s t i s unknown.  The concept  Marriages between brothers and s i s t e r s  are approved o f , and sexual r e l a t i o n s between f a t h e r and daughter or mother and son, though uncommon because of the discrepancy i n age,  are i n no way taboo.  Most important,  the i d e a that there  i s anything i n t r i n s i c a l l y shameful i n the sexual a c t would be e n t i r e l y absent  from the T a h i t i a n m e n t a l i t y , were i t not that the  c h a p l a i n of B o u g a i n v i l l e ' s e x p e d i t i o n has succeeded a l r e a d y i n i n s t i l l i n g t h i s n o t i o n i n t o some of the young islanders."*" F o r the T a h i t i a n Orou, the sexual a c t i s "un p l a i s i r innocent, 2 nature, l a souveraine maitresse, nous i n v i t e tous." marriages  auquel  Tahitian  do not imply a promise of sexual e x c l u s i v e n e s s between  husband and w i f e . 1  AT, I I , 216.  2  I b i d . , p. 220.  Orou i s proud of being f r e q u e n t l y c a l l e d upon  85 to f a t h e r the c h i l d r e n of T a h i t i a n maids:  "II y a dix mille  hommes i c i plus grands, a u s s i robustes; mais pas un plus brave que moi; a u s s i l e s meres me designent-elles.. :J souvent a. l e u r s filles."  1  Freedom from sexual e x c l u s i v i t y i s not the p r e r o g a t i v e of males alone.  Part of Orou's h o s p i t a l i t y to the c h a p l a i n c o n s i s t s  i n o f f e r i n g him the favours not only of h i s three daughters, but a l s o of h i s w i f e , a proceeding i n which the women p a r t i c i p a t e without r e l u c t a n c e .  When Orou hears of the sexual f i d e l i t y  which  i s r e q u i r e d of marriage p a r t n e r s i n Europe, he i s shocked.  Such  precepts a r e c o n t r a r y to nature, f o r they imply that a being endowed with f e e l i n g s , thought and l i b e r t y can become the property of another.  This i s t o confuse human beings with inanimate  objects: Ne v o i s - t u pas qu'on a confondu, dans t o n pays, l a chose q u i n'a n i s e n s i b i l i t e , n i pensee, n i d e s i r , n i v o l o n t e ; qu'on q u i t t e , qu'on prend, qu'on garde, qu'on echange sans q u ' e l l e s o u f f r e et sans q u ' e l l e se p l a i g n e , avec l a chose q u i ne s'echange p o i n t , ne. s'acquiert point; qui a l i b e r t e , volonte, desir; qui peut se donner ou se r e f u s e r pour un moment; se donner ou se r e f u s e r pour touj o u r s ; q u i se p l a i n t et q u i s o u f f r e ; et q u i ne s a u r a i t d e v e n i r un e f f e t de commerce, sans qu'on o u b l i e son„caractere, et qu'on f a s s e v i o l e n c e a. l a nature? The fundamental tyranny e x e r c i s e d over mankind by the t r a d i t i o n a l sexual e t h i c c o n s i s t s , says D i d e r o t , i n a r b i t r a r i l y 1  2  I b i d . , p. 2 3 2 . I b i d . , p. 224..  '  86 a t t a c h i n g n o t i o n s of r i g h t and wrong t o a c t i o n s which are i n themselves  morally indifferent"!"" and which are urged upon a l l  human beings by t h e i r own i n e r a d i c a b l e nature.  Such p r o h i b i t i o n s  can never succeed i n changing human nature, but i n the meantime man i s t o r n apart by the c o n f l i c t between the demands o f h i s nature and the warning o f d i r e consequences attendant on d i s o b e dience t o the a r t i f i c i a l m o r a l i t y t o which he has been subjected. His s u f f e r i n g i s even g r e a t e r because the p r o h i b i t i o n s 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 w i t h i n h i m s e l f . symbolizes  Diderot  t h i s process by the image of the war i n the cavern:  Voulez-vous s a v o i r l ' h i s t o i r e abregee de presque toute notre misere? La v o i c i . I I e x i s t a i t un homme naturel: on a i n t r o d u i t au dedans de c e t 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 q u i dure toute l a v i e . Tantot l'homme n a t u r e l e s t l e plus f o r t ; t a n t 6 t i l e s t t e r r a s s e par l'homme moral et a r t i f i c i e l ; e t , dans l'un et l ' a u t r e cas, l e t r i s t e monstre e s t t i r a i l l e , t e n a i l l e , tourmente, etendu s u r l a roue; sans cesse gemissant, sans cesse malheureux, s o i t qu'un faux enthousiasme de g l o i r e l e t r a n s p o r t e et l ' e n i v r e , ou qu'une fausse ignominie l e courbe et l ' a b a t t e . 2 I t must be s t r e s s e d that the a n t a g o n i s t s i n t h i s  internal  s t r u g g l e are not, on the one hand, impulses which are v f m t r i n s i c a l l y harmful to others, as tendencies t o c r u e l t y or domination would be, and, on the other hand, p r o h i b i t i o n s intended to ensure that behaviour i s compatible with s o c i a l l i f e ; i n s t e a d , i t i s a Cf. the s u b t i t l e o f the Supplement: "Dialogue entre A. et B. sur 1'inconvenient d'attacher des idees morales a c e r t a i n e s a c t i o n s physiques q u i n'en comportent pas." 2  I b i d . , p. 246.  87  b a t t l e between i n t r i n s i c a l l y harmless t e n d e n c i e s and a r b i t r a r y p r o h i b i t i o n s unnecessary t o t h e maintenance o f a s a t i s f a c t o r y society.  I n the expression  "l'homme moral e t a r t i f i c i e l " we  must t a k e t h e word "moral" t o r e f e r s p e c i f i c a l l y t o 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 s h o r t , t o an a r t i f i c i a l  morality,  and n o t t o t h e 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 D i d e r o t never d e n i e d , and indeed he frequently proclaims  i t w i t h g r e a t eloquence.  I t i s important  t o note t h a t , i n t h e T a h i t i o f t h e Supplement, t h e r e a r e , 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 r e g a r d i n g s e x u a l conduct, p a r t i c u l a r l y w i t h r e s p e c t t o s e x u a l l y immature o r s t e r i l e persons, and some i n d i v i d u a l s a r e o c c a s i o n a l l y g u i l t y o f i n f r i n g i n g them.  1  Orou  a d m i t s , moreover, t h a t though r i v a l r y f o r a s e x u a l p a r t n e r between men i s , i n p r a c t i c e , almost always terminated  by t h e woman's  c h o i c e , i f one o f h e r s u i t o r s were t o use v i o l e n c e a g a i n s t h e r ,  2 t h i s would be a s e r i o u s The  offense.  i m p o s i t i o n of the unnatural  and h a r m f u l s e x u a l  morality  which has a f f l i c t e d t h e i n h a b i t a n t s o f Europe from time immemorial 1  p  I b i d . , p. 235.  I b i d . , p. 236: "La v i o l e n c e d'un homme s e r a i t une f a u t e grave; mais i l f a u t une p l a i n t e p u b l i q u e , e t i l e s t presque i n o u z 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 o b j e c t e d t h a t t h i s statement o f Orou i s c o n t r a d i c t e d by some l a t e r remarks o f B: "On a consacre l a r e s i s t a n c e de l a femme; on a a t t a c h e l ' i g n o m i n i e a. l a v i o l e n c e de l'homme; v i o l e n c e q u i ne s e r a i t qu'une i n j u r e l e g e r e dans T a h i t i , e t q u i d e v i e n t un crime dans nos c i t e s . " Pp. 244-45.) However t h e cases a r e d i f f e r e n t . Orou r e f e r s t o t h e v i o l e n c e o f a man who possesses by f o r c e a woman who has chosen a n o t h e r man. B, on t h e other hand, r e f e r s t o a man's v i o l e n c e towards a woman who has no o b j e c t i o n t o him p e r s o n a l l y , but i s a f r a i d o f t h e consequences o f t h e s e x u a l a c t ; h i s v i o l e n c e f o r c e s her t o do what h e r senses a l r e a d y prompt h e r t o do.  88  i s a t t r i b u t e d by Diderot to the a c t i o n of the c i v i l and  religious  a u t h o r i t i e s , whose end i s not the general welfare of s o c i e t y but t h e i r own  p r i v a t e advantage.  p r o h i b i t i o n s and  to make him,  To shackle man  with a l l these  so to speak, h i s own  jailer  by  i n j e c t i n g them i n t o h i s very conscience i s the means by which a s m a l l group of i n d i v i d u a l s 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 ' e t e s . J'en a p p e l l e a toutes l e s i n s t i t u t i o n s p o l i t i q u e s , c i v i l e s et r e l i g i e u s e s : examinez-les profondement; et je me trompe f o r t , ou vous v e r r e z l'espece humaine p l i e e de s i e c l e en s i e c l e au joug qu'une poignee de f r i p o n s se promettait de l u i imposer. Mefiez-vous de c e l u i q u i veut mettre de l ' o r d r e . Ordonner, c'est toujours se rendre l e maitre des autres en l e s genant.  I have confined my d i s c u s s i o n so f a r to the views on sexual m o r a l i t y which D i d e r o t expresses Bougainville.  Wow  i n the Supplement au Voyage de  i t must be admitted  that i n c e r t a i n other t e x t s  he takes a p o s i t i o n which appears to be completely r a d i c a l p r i n c i p l e s expounded i n t h i s work. that the same w r i t e r who  opposed to the  I t seems a s t o n i s h i n g  evokes a p p r o v i n g l y the young Tahitian&:'j 2  unabashed performance of the sexual act 1  2  I b i d . , p.  247.  I b i d . , p.  216.  should be a b l e to w r i t e  89 the f o l l o w i n g l i n e s : On a d i t que l a plus b e l l e couleur q u ' i l y eut au monde, e t a i t c e t t e rougeur aimable dont 1'innocence, l a jeunesse, l a sante, l a modestie et l a pudeur c o l o r a i e n t l e s joues d'une jeune f i l l e ; et l ' o n a d i t une chose q u i n ' e t a i t pas seulement f i n e , touchante et d e l i c a t e , mais v r a i e . . . I t i s thus not too s u r p r i s i n g that many c r i t i c s have considered D i d e r o t ' s p o s i t i o n on sexual m o r a l i t y to be yet another example of the b a s i c dichotomy of h i s e t h i c s .  However, the a t t i t u d e s  they adopt towards t h i s c o n t r a d i c t i o n vary.  His d e t r a c t o r s accuse  him of immorality i n h i s r a d i c a l views and of h y p o c r i s y i n the orthodox preachings of works l i k e Le F i l s n a t u r e l .  C r i t i c s more  favourably disposed o f t e n p r e f e r to view these d i f f e r e n t as, r e s p e c t i v e l y , genuine and s u p e r f i c i a l .  positions  D i d e r o t ' s genuine  p o s i t i o n , they claim, i s the r a d i c a l one, as i t i s grounded i n h i s deeper, t r u e r nature; h i s orthodox pronouncements r e s u l t e i t h e r of prudence, or of a s u p e r f i c i a l ,  are the  rationalized  conformism; they a r i s e not from h y p o c r i s y , but from s e l f - d e c e p t i o n . I t h i n k that t h i s second i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i s c l o s e r to the t r u t h , but that i t i s i n a c c u r a t e on two counts.  First, i t  supposes D i d e r o t to be l e s s aware of the t r u e nature of h i s own thought than I b e l i e v e to be the case; secondly, i t f a i l s to recognize that h i s l o v e of v i r t u e i s as passionate,' and as deep as h i s l o v e of l i b e r t y . The view I take i n t h i s study i s that there i s no r e a l 1  E s s a i sur l a p e i n t u r e , AT, X,  471.  90 c o n t r a d i c t i o n i n D i d e r o t ' s p o s i t i o n on sexual m o r a l i t y .  I will,  of course, concede that h i s a t t i t u d e i s marked by a c o n s i d e r a b l e degree of moral r e l a t i v i s m , a point which can be i l l u s t r a t e d by v a r i o u s passages from the correspondence.  In s e v e r a l l e t t e r s he  remarks on the t a l e n t s , charm and d i g n i t y of a young g i r l of the V o l l a n d c i r c l e , Jeanne C h e v a l i e r .  He i s disgusted when the  v i l l a i n o u s V i l l e n e u v e d e c l a r e s that he sees no reason why should not " i n s t r u c t " t h i s young innocent: et j e pensais au fond de mon  a  man  "Je l a r e g a r d a i s ,  coeur que c ' e t a i t un ange et q u ' i l  f a u d r a i t e t r e plus mechant que Satan pour en approcher avec une pensee deshonnete."""" Gendre,  On the other hand, he c r i t i c i z e s Mme  le  Sophie V o l l a n d ' s s i s t e r , not f o r having a s e n t i m e n t a l  l i a i s o n , but f o r imprudently exchanging l e t t e r s with her  inamorato  and f o r keeping him d a n g l i n g on a s t r i n g without ever s a t i s f y i n g 2 h i s hopes f o r the p h y s i c a l consummation of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p . This same moral r e l a t i v i s m can be seen i n the widely d i f f e r e n t advice on sexual conduct which Diderot gives to h i s daughter and to the young a c t r e s s M i l e J o d i n .  He e x p l a i n s to  Angelique that when a man d e c l a r e s h i s l o v e to a young lady, what he i s r e a l l y s a y i n g i s : Mademoiselle voudriez-vous bien, par complaisance pour moi, vous deshonorer, perdre tout e t a t , vous bannir de l a s o c i e t e , vous renfermer a jamais dans 1  Roth, I I I , 68 (To Sophie V o l l a n d ; Sept. 15,  1760).  Roth, I I , 290-91 (To Sophie V o l l a n d ; Oct. 20, 1759). V I I , 190-92 (To V i a l l e t ; 1767). 2  Cf. Roth,  91 un couvent et f a i r e mourir de douleur v o t r e pere et v o t r e mere?l On the other hand, t o M i l e J o d i n h i s advice i s l e s s exacting: Presentez toujours mon respect a. Monsieur l e Comte. C u l t i v e z vos t a l e n t s . Je ne vous demande pas l e s moeurs d'une v e s t a l e , mais c e l l e s dont i l n'est permis a personne de se passer: un peu de r e s p e c t pour soi-meme. I I f a u t mettre l e s v e r t u s d'un galant homme a l a place des prejuges auxquels l e s femmes sont a s s u j e t t i e s . ^ The count, who i s the "galant homme" i n question, i s the a c t r e s s ' s lover.  In an e a r l i e r l e t t e r Diderot had w r i t t e n : 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 p r e f e r e , c'est que vous vous en mepriserez vous-meme, et quand on a du mepris pour s o i , i l e s t r a r e qu'on echappe au mepris des a u t r e s . Vous voyez que, pour un homme qu'on compte entre l e s philosophes, mes p r i n c i p e s ne sont pas a u s t e r e s : c'est q u ' i l s e r a i t r i d i c u l e de proposer a une femme de theatre l a morale des Capucines du Marais.3  He s t r e s s e s q u i t e e x p l i c i t l y the moral r e l a t i v i s m on which he bases h i s a d v i c e : Je ne s u i s pas un pedant; j e me g a r d e r a i b i e n de vous demander une s o r t e de vertus presque incompatibles avec l ' e t a t que vous avez c h o i s i , et que des femmes du monde, que j e n'en estime n i ne meprise davantage pour c e l a , conservent rarement au s e i n de 1'opulence et l o i n des seductions de toute espece dont vous etes environnee. Le v i c e v i e n t au devant de vous; e l l e s vont au devant du v i c e . Mais songez qu'une femme n ' a c q u i e r t l e d r o i t de se d e f a i r e des l i s i e r e s que 1'opinion attache a. son sexe que par des t a l e n t s 1  Roth, V I I I , 231 (To Sophie V o l l a n d ; Nov. 22, 1768).  2  Roth, IX, 41 (March 24, 1769).  5  Roth, V, 101 (To M i l e J o d i n ; Aug. 21, 1765).  92 superieurs et l e s q u a l i t e s d e s p r i t et de coeur l e s plus d i s t i n g u e e s . I I f a u t m i l l e vertus r e e l l e s pour c o u v r i r un v i c e i m a g i n a i r e . Plus vous accorderez a. vos gouts, plus vous devez e t r e a t t e n t i v e sur l e choix des o b j e t s . l 1  It to  i s c l e a r that u n d e r l y i n g D i d e r o t ' s r e l a t i v i s m with respect  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 e i t h e r to o n e s e l f or to another  person.  The  p a r t i c u l a r kind of behaviour which i s i n f a c t  harmful v a r i e s a c c o r d i n g to the s o c i a l p o s i t i o n and s t a t e of the i n d i v i d u a l s concerned. and  P u b l i c opinion, r e p u t a t i o n  s o c i a l acceptance are of great, though v a r y i n g , importance.  In eighteenth-century her husband and who to  psychological  France,  had  a married woman who  enough experience  d i d not  of l i f e and  love  of s o c i e t y  understand what she stood to l o s e or to g a i n r i s k e d f a r l e s s  by having an a f f a i r than d i d a young innocent who a seducer. was  S i m i l a r l y , i n Diderot's day,  f e l l prey  to  an a c t r e s s , provided  she  s u c c e s s f u l i n her p r o f e s s i o n , could l i v e on the f r i n g e s of  polite society.  Though she could s c a r c e l y ever a s p i r e to  full  acceptance, she might win that degree of r e s p e c t which could accorded  to one  of her p r o f e s s i o n .  be  D i d e r o t ' s p o i n t of view i s  that i f a young lady has chosen to be an a c t r e s s and  i s content  with t h i s s o c i a l p o s i t i o n , she can allow h e r s e l f to f l o u t convent i o n s to a point which would b r i n g t o t a l ostracism to a young bourgeoise. 1  I b i d . , p.  The u n i v e r s a l standard 101.  which Diderot a p p l i e s , and  93 which l i m i t s h i smoral r e l a t i v i s m , the  i s the a c t u a l happiness of  individual. The  e f f e c t o f one's a c t i o n s on a n o t h e r p e r s o n depends on  t h a t person's p s y c h o l o g i c a l needs. i . e . n o t e s s e n t i a l t o human n a t u r e . source  These n e e d s may be u n n a t u r a l , They may e v e n be a  o f u n h a p p i n e s s b e c a u s e t h e y a r e l i k e l y t o be u n f u l f i l l e d .  Normally,  t h e y i n c l u d e t h e d e s i r e f o r a c c e p t a n c e by t h e s o c i a l  group t o which t h e i n d i v i d u a l belongs; t h i s s o c i a l group a t t a c h e s be  probable  but the conditions which  t o t h e g r a n t i n g o f i t s a c c e p t a n c e may  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, indeed,  contrary t o i n d i v i d u a l happiness. i.e.  even  However, t h e v i r t u o u s man,  t h e man who w i s h e s t o a v o i d h a r m i n g o t h e r s , w i l l n o t c o n s i d e r  himself j u s t i f i e d  i n i g n o r i n g these  p s y c h o l o g i c a l and s o c i a l  n e e d s o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l s w i t h whom he h a s d e a l i n g s , b u t 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  these  n e e d s may b e , t h e y a r e none t h e 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 c a n c a u s e r e a l s u f f e r i n g . the p r a c t i c a l c o n c l u s i o n s  T h i s i s t h e meaning o f  on s e x u a l m o r a l i t y w h i c h B  formulates  a t t h e end o f t h e S u p p l e m e n t a u V o y a g e 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 c e qu'on l e s r e f o r m e ; e t , en a t t e n d a n t , n o u s n o u s y s o u m e t t r o n s . . . . D i s o n s - n o u s a nous-memes, c r i o n s i n c e s s a m m e n t qu'on a a t t a c h e l a h o n t e , l e c h a t i m e n t e t l ' i g n o m i n i e a d e s a c t i o n s i n n o c e n t e s en e l l e s - m e m e s ; m a i s ne l e s commettons p a s , p a r c e que l a h o n t e , l e c h a t i m e n t e t l ' i g n o m i n i e s o n t l e s p l u s g r a n d s de t o u s l e s maux. I m i t o n s l e b o n a u m o n i e r , moine en F r a n c e , sauvage dans T a h i t i . . . . E t 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 l e s plus precieux de nos s o e i e t e s . l The  c l o s i n g pages o f the Supplement a l s o c o n t a i n an i n t e r e s t i n g  r e f e r e n c e t o s e v e r a l c h a r a c t e r s from two of Diderot's  short  f i c t i o n a l works: B: . . . Tant que l e s a p p e t i t s n a t u r e l s seront s o p h i s t i q u e s , comptez sur des femmes mechantes. A:  Comme l a Reymer.  B:  Sur des hommes a t r o c e s .  A:  Comme G a r d e i l .  B:  E t sur des i n f o r t u n e s a. propos de r i e n .  A: Comme Tanie, mademoiselle de La Chaux, l e c h e v a l i e r Desroches et madame de L a C a r l i e r e . I I est c e r t a i n qu'on c h e r c h e r a i t i n u t i l e m e n t 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 d e r n i e r s . 2 The  two speakers c i t e these c h a r a c t e r s as examples of the e v i l  produced i n c i v i l i z e d European s o c i e t y by the s o p h i s t i c a t i o n o f n a t u r a l d e s i r e s , a process r e s u l t i n g , a t l e a s t as f a r as s e x u a l i t y i s concerned, from the attachment of a r b i t r a r y moral ideas t o a c t i o n s which are i n themselves morally i n d i f f e r e n t .  The s o p h i s -  t i c a t e d a p p e t i t e s , i t should be understood, are those  of the  " i n f o r t u n e s " as w e l l as those The  o f the two harmful c h a r a c t e r s .  s o p h i s t i c a t e d a p p e t i t e s of the l a t t e r concern matters other  than s e x u a l i t y , i n Mme Reymer greed ambition;  f o r wealth and i n G a r d e i l  with respect t o t h e i r sexual behaviour,  they are much  c l o s e r to the n a t u r a l c h a r a c t e r o f man than are t h e i r v i c t i m s . 1  AT, I I , 249.  I b i d . , pp. 248-49. Tanie, Mine Reymer, G a r d e i l and M i l e de La Chaux appear i n C e c i n'est pas un conte (AT, V , 311-32); Desroches and Mme de L a C a r l i e r e , i n Sur 1'inconsequence du jugement p u b l i c de nos a c t i o n s p a r t i c u l i e r e s (AT, V, 335-57). 2  95  In the f o u r unhappy c h a r a c t e r s the s o p h i s t i c a t i o n of n a t u r a l a p p e t i t e s takes the form of a need f o r f i d e l i t y and i n love r e l a t i o n s h i p s .  exclusivity  In the T a h i t i of the Supplement. where  the tendency f o r l i a i s o n s to be impermanent i s g e n e r a l l y accepted, Tanie would not f e e l the need to devote h i m s e l f e x c l u s i v e l y to a woman who  t r e a t s him  h e r s e l f to a man  s h a b b i l y , nor I d l e de La Chaux to s a c r i f i c e  by whom she i s e x p l o i t e d and  In T a h i t i , t h e r e f o r e , Mme  Reymer and  unable to take advantage of them. are, i n f a c t , people who  1  then abandoned.  G a r d e i l would have been Tanie and M i l e de La Chaux  have taken to heart the  unnatural  m o r a l i t y of the C h r i s t i a n European t r a d i t i o n , while Mme and  G a r d e i l are only s u p e r f i c i a l l y a f f e c t e d by i t .  I n t r o d u c t i o n to h i s e d i t i o n of the "contes", writes:  In  Jacques  "En apparence, M i l e de La Chaux est une  Reymer the  Proust  femme n a t u r e l l e ,  q u i n ' h e s i t e pas a. s a c r i f i e r ses biens, sa r e p u t a t i o n , sa pour l e bonheur de l'homme q u ' e l l e aime." M i l e de La Chaux i s not even apparently a p p e t i t e s are s o p h i s t i c a t e d . the l e s s r e a l .  But  On the  contrary,  a n a t u r a l woman:  her  the p o i n t i s that they are none  G a r d e i l 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  h i m s e l f , he supposes, when she f a i n t s on h e a r i n g him confirm the end  sante,  brutally  of t h e i r l i a i s o n , that i t i s pure sham or at l e a s t  no more than s u p e r f i c i a l autosuggestion.  Here again I t h i n k that  I t i s a l s o reasonable to assume that i n T a h i t i Mme Reymer and G a r d e i l would never have developed the greed and ambition which motivate t h e i r conduct towards t h e i r v i c t i m s . 1  2  Quatre Contes, ed. J . Proust,  Geneva, 1964,  p.  lxvi.  96 M.  P r o u s t has  during  m i s t a k e n t h e p o i n t . M i l e de L a C h a u x s b e h a v i o u r 1  t h i s s c e n e i s , he  claims,  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 ' e s t G a r d e i l q u i e s t c h a r g e 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 ' e m p r e s s e a u t o u r de l a j e u n e femme s p e c t a c u l a i r e m e n t pamee i l r e p o n d a v e c un b e a u c y n i s m e , en s o u r i a n t e t h a u s s a n t l e s e p a u l e s : "Les femmes ne m e u r e n t pas p o u r s i peu; c e l a n ' e s t r i e n , c e l a s e p a s s e r a . Vous ne l e s c o n n a i s s e z p a s , e l l e s f o n t de l e u r c o r p s t o u t ce q u ' e l l e s v e u l e n t . " Cela 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 , a u s u j e t de l a pantomime d e s e s p e r e e de Mme Reymer. De Mme Reymer a. M i l e de L a 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 e t 1 ' a u t r e ont des a p p e t i t s s o p h i s t i q u e s , m a i s l a p r e m i e r e en a a d m i s une f o i s p o u r t o u t e s l e p r i n c i p e e t en j o u e d e l i b e r e m e n t , a l o r s que l a s e c o n d e s o u f f r e de l e s a v o i r e t ne p e u t 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  surely there  i s a b i g d i f f e r e n c e b e t w e e n Mme  f e e l i n g s f o r T a n i e and T a n i e no so do love. the  t h o s e o f M i l e de L a Chaux f o r G a r d e i l .  d o u b t a t t r a c t s and  o t h e r men; Her  she  despair  o t h e r h a n d , has  s a t i s f i e s Mme  does not  i s shown by  the  a real,  the  f a i n t i n g f i t i s not  No  one  f a c t t h a t she  exchange.  need f o r the him  apparently,  of her  lxiii-lxiv.  she  her,  to her  superficial  F i l e de L a Chaux p r o b a b l y  s u f f e r i n g w i l l have the  but  exclu-  for  everything  genuine or t h a t i t i s merely a  spectacle  on  a c c e p t Dr Le Camus as  G a r d e i l i s wrong i n t h i n k i n g t h a t  of s o f t e n i n g G a r d e i l ' s heart, I b i d . , pp.  M i l e de L a Chaux,  w i l l not  has,  but  e x c l u s i v e need f o r h i s  e l s e can r e p l a c e  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 . hopes t h a t the  Reymer s e x u a l l y ,  even i f u n n a t u r a l  a s u b s t i t u t e , e v e n t h o u g h she g a i n by  f e e l any  i s pure p l a y - a c t i n g .  s i v e p o s s e s s i o n of G a r d e i l . as  Reymer's  does not  need t o  effect simulate  97 g r i e f or shock.  As f o r G a r d e i l , he stands condemned not f o r the  waning of h i s passion f o r her,  h u t . f o r h i s i n g r a t i t u d e and h i s  f a i l u r e to f u l f i l the o b l i g a t i o n s of f r i e n d s h i p . In e f f e c t , Mme Reymer and G a r d e i l p r a c t i s e the sexual m o r a l i t y which i s n a t u r a l t o man, the m o r a l i t y  of T a h i t i , i n a  s o c i e t y where a r t i f i c i a l moral a t t i t u d e s have r e s u l t e d i n the development, i n many people, of u n n a t u r a l p s y c h o l o g i c a l and  where, as a r e s u l t , the p r a c t i c e of n a t u r a l m o r a l i t y  needs, does  r e a l harm. Mme de La C a r l i e r e i s another example of the s o p h i s t i c a t i o n of sexual needs, with t h i s d i f f e r e n c e , that even stronger i n her than h e r need f o r Desroches's e x c l u s i v e love i s her d e s i r e to maintain a c e r t a i n kind of p u b l i c r e p u t a t i o n .  Her dominant  m o t i v a t i o n i s not so much h e r d e s i r e f o r emotional s e c u r i t y as it  i s her p r i d e i n appearing to the p u b l i c as a woman who r e f u s e s  to submit p a s s i v e l y t o a man's deception.  She could  simply  f o r g i v e Desroches and a l l would be w e l l , f o r he i s no G a r d e i l and  not only remains f a i t h f u l to h i s f r i e n d s h i p f o r her, but  never ceases t o love her i n s p i t e of h i s e p i s o d i c with another woman. of her " a p p e t i t s Yet  sexual experience  Mme de La C a r l i e r e c e r t a i n l y s u f f e r s because  sophistiques":  she i s not another Mme Reymer.  she i s not simply a v i c t i m , l i k e M i l e de La Chaux, but i s  •unjust  and v i n d i c t i v e towards Desroches.  The rather  case of Mme de La Pommeraye i n Jacques l e f a t a l i s t e i s  s i m i l a r t o that of Mme de La C a r l i e r e .  Again, her s e x u a l i t y  98 i s dominated by " a p p e t i t s s o p h i s t i q u e s " , and,  again, she i s much  concerned with m a i n t a i n i n g her p u b l i c image and s a l v i n g her v a n i t y . But her v i n d i c t i v e n e s s i s even g r e a t e r than that of Mme Carliere.  de La  The l a t t e r i s content to shame Desroches by denouncing  h i s i n f i d e l i t y i n ' p u b l i c and by breaking o f f her r e l a t i o n s with him.  Mme  de l a Pommeraye goes as f a r as to c o n t r i v e and  a lengthy and complicated  implement  p l o t whereby she succeeds i n marrying  the marquis des A r c i s to a p r o s t i t u t e masquerading as a v i r t u o u s young l a d y . Desglands i s another  of these c h a r a c t e r s who  have an  unnatural  need f o r the e x c l u s i v e and permanent possession of another  person.  L i k e Mme  the  de La C a r l i e r e and Mme  k i n d of person  de La Pommeraye, he i s not  to submit p a s s i v e l y when the chosen object of h i s  l o v e f a i l s to l i v e up to these high demands. case, i t i s not on the woman who  has ceased  takes vengeance, but on h i s r i v a l .  The  However, i n h i s to l o v e him that he  "veuve g a l a n t e " who  is  the object of Desglands's passion i s an example of p u r e l y n a t u r a l m o r a l i t y ; she accepts the f a c t 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 e x p l o i t  her sexual partners, as do Mme  Reymer and G a r d e i l , and  she  distin-  guishes between her sexual passion of the moment and the permanent o b l i g a t i o n s of f r i e n d s h i p and g r a t i t u d e . 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 c o n j u g a l . "  1  But, a d m i t t i n g that European  Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 265. Cf. Roth, IV, 122 (To Sophie V o l l a n d ; Aug. 29, 1762)7 Roth, VI, 25-26 (To Sophie V o l l a n d ; Jan. 18, 1766); Salon de 1769, AT, XI, 436. 1  99 s o c i e t y i s i n f a c t b a s e d u p o n i t and w i l l make i t s u d d e n l y to  t h a t no amount o f  wishing  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 h e b e s t ways o f 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 .  e n s u r e d 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  c h a r a c t e r between marriage avoided.  I f i t were of  p a r t n e r s , much u n h a p p i n e s s w o u l 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  their will  to marry persons of t h e i r parents'  choice.  It is  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 f r o m beginning  t h e r e i s a marked d i s l i k e .  simply that parents  should a b d i c a t e t h e i r a u t h o r i t y over  i f necessary he  Diderot t h i n k s that i t i s not  r i g h t , but h i s duty  considers disastrous.  daughter Angelique,  he  their  With regard  only  a  and,  to f o r b i d a choice  to the marriage  It  people  to guide h i s c h i l d ' s choice  f o r the c h i l d ' s happiness,  advocate  partner.  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 make a f o o l i s h c h o i c e .  the  However, he d o e s n o t  c h i l d r e n w i t h r e s p e c t to the choice of a marriage  parent's  be  which  of h i s  own  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 :  J e s u i s l e m a i t r e de mon e n f a n t ; m a i s 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 p o u r f a i r e son b o n h e u r ; et p u i s d a n s l e c a s d o n t i l s ' a g i t , 1 ' a u t o r i t e des p e r e s e s t t o u t a, f a i t s u b o r d o n n e e 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 p r e n n e un epoux d o n t e l l e ne v o u d r a i t p a s . I I ne f a u t pas q u ' e l l e p r e n n e un epoux d o n t j e ne v o u d r a i s p a s . II f a u t q u ' e l l e , s a mere e t m o i , n o u s s o y o n s d ' a c c o r d . D ' a p r e s c e s p r i n c i p e s , t o u t v a bien.-'T h e r e w i l l , o f c o u r s e , a l w a y s be d i f f i c u l t and 1  R o t h , X,  c a s e s when a p a r e n t  has  a  p a i n f u l d e c i s i o n t o make, when, f o r e x a m p l e , a  30-31  (To h i s s i s t e r D e n i s e ;  M a r c h 5,  1770).  son  100 w i s h e s t o m a r r y a woman who c h a r a c t e r and f o r t u n e and  education  s u i t a b l e as f a r as  a r e c o n c e r n e d , b u t where d i s p a r i t y i n  s o c i a l standing  c a s e s c a n n o t be  seems v e r y  t h r e a t e n grave consequences.  Such  s o l v e d by a g e n e r a l r u l e o f thumb.. I t i s t h e  l o n e l y r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o f t h e p a r e n t t o make h i s d e c i s i o n i n light  of a l l the  e v i d e n c e a v a i l a b l e t o him,  carefully  t h e p r o b a b l e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f t h e m a r r i a g e and  the  The  f a c t t h a t S o p h i e t u r n s out  t o be  estimating  probable  r e a c t i o n of the young couple t o these consequences. of a parent 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  the  The  dilemma  i n Le P e r e de  famille.  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  in  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 c a n and  w h i c h he general  must b a s e h i s d e c i s i o n o n l y on t h e  possesses.  Diderot  i s not  t a k i n g s i d e s h e r e on  q u e s t i o n w h e t h e r o r t o what e x t e n 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 marriage partner. h a v e a r i g h t and  He  a s s u m e s , as we  no  parents  should  to the choice  have seen, t h a t  evaluated  t h i s i s a very  disagreement.  of  a  parents  generalized principle.  e x e r c i s e of t h i s r i g h t .  separately.  that Diderot  restrict  that t h e i r c h i l d r e n ' s happiness  s o l u t i o n i n Le P e r e de f a m i l l e as t o t h e p r e c i s e  which j u s t i f y the  the  a duty to 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 t h e y c o n s i d e r i s a t s t a k e , but  knowledge  favours  I do n o t e i t h e r the  t h i n k one son  is justified  o f h i s own  offers  circumstances  E a c h c a s e must  or the f a t h e r i n  A l t h o u g h the circumstances  He  be  i n supposing  their marriage  101 can s c a r c e l y have f a i l e d to be i n h i s mind when he conceived  and  wrote the play, t h i s does not give us any grounds f o r supposing that he i s advocating  e i t h e r the t o t a l submission  of c h i l d r e n to  p a r e n t a l a u t h o r i t y or the t o t a l freedom of c h i l d r e n to marry whomever they choose.  Nor have we  any reason  f o r seeing i n t h i s  p l a y 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 p r e j u d i c e s which Diderot  himself  condemned."'"  The f a t h e r too i s w e l l aware that they are p r e j u d i c e s  and deplores  t h e i r e x i s t e n c e , but he thinks that to f l o u t them  may  have grave consequences f o r one's happiness.  This view i s  s i m i l a r to those which we have seen that Diderot takes  regarding  the p r a c t i c a l a p p l i c a t i o n of h i s r a d i c a l p r i n c i p l e s with respect to sexual m o r a l i t y .  On the other hand, we  cannot assume that  Diderot considers that the f a t h e r ' s d e c i s i o n to f o r b i d marriage i s the r i g h t one. the play dispenses  The happy and unexpected ending of  Diderot from g i v i n g any i n d i c a t i o n as to  the marriage of these two would have f a r e d .  the  how  young people against the f a t h e r s w i l l  Diderot i s not proposing  1  a s o l u t i o n to the  problem:  h i s aim i s to p o r t r a y the a g o n i z i n g cas de conscience 2 with which the f a t h e r i s faced. I t 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 i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Le Pere de f a m i l l e d i f f e r s c o n s i d e r a b l y from that proposed by Roger Lewinter i n h i s a r t i c l e " L ' e x a l t a t i o n de l a v e r t u dans l e theatre de D i d e r o t " , Diderot Studies, V I I I , 1966, pp. 141-51. In h i s opinion, Diderot favours the p o s i t i o n of the f a t h e r , who represents s o c i a l order. Having taken t h i s view, M. Lewinter i s o b l i g e d to consider the denouement u n s a t i s f a c t o r y because i t does not r e s o l v e the c o n f l i c t i n the way he supposes D i d e r o t ' s t h e s i s to r e q u i r e .  102 of D i d e r o t ' s own marriage, h i s f a t h e r ' s o p p o s i t i o n proved to be j u s t i f i e d , though not f o r the reasons which h i s f a t h e r gave: i t was not h i s wife's l a c k o f fortune which made her an u n s u i t a b l e partner, but her l a c k of education,  the d i f f e r e n c e i n t h e i r  r e l i g i o u s a t t i t u d e s and a general i n c o m p a t i b i l i t y of c h a r a c t e r . Thus the outcome of the marriage proved both Diderot and h i s f a t h e r 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 m o r a l i t y must be completed by an examination of the opinions which he lends to Bordeu r e g a r d i n g v a r i o u s acts g e n e r a l l y c l a s s e d as p e r v e r s i o n s .  Bordeu contends that mastur-  b a t i o n , homosexuality and b e s t i a l i t y cannot be condemned i f one c o n s i d e r s them i n the l i g h t of p u r e l y u t i l i t a r i a n  principles.  He prefaces h i s remarks to M i l e de 1'Espinasse on these d e l i c a t e t o p i c s with the f o l l o w i n g c a u t i o n : Nous sommes s e u l s , vous n'etes pas une begueule, vous n'imaginerez pas que j e v e u i l l e manquer au respect que je vous d o i s ; e t , quel que s o i t l e jugement que vous p o r t i e z de mes i d e e s , j'espere de mon cote que vous n'en conclurez r i e n contre l'honnetete de mes moeurs. L a t e r , r e f e r r i n g to h i s l i b e r a l opinions concerning he remarks: 1  S u i t e de l ' E n t r e t i e n , AT, I I , 183.  masturbation,  103 Je n ' o t e r a i s pas mon chapeau dans l a rue a l'homme suspecte de p r a t i q u e r ma d o c t r i n e ; i l me s u f f i r a i t qu'on l ' a p p e l a t un infame. Mais nous causons sans temoins et sans consequence; et j e vous d i r a i de ma p h i l o s o p h i e ce que Diogene tout nu d i s a i t au jeune et pudique Athenien contre l e q u e l i l se p r e p a r a i t a lutter: "Mon f i l s , ne c r a i n s r i e n , j e ne s u i s pas s i mechant que c e l u i - l a . " 1 Bordeu's circumspection  i s e a s i l y explained.  He f e a r s the l o s s  of p u b l i c esteem which he would i n c u r i f i t were thought that he p e r s o n a l l y p r a c t i s e d h i s r a d i c a l d o c t r i n e ; he i s a l s o aware t h a t , even i f he were not suspected of p r a c t i s i n g i t himself, he would be blamed f o r propagating immoral opinions. i n c u r the p e n a l t i e s which s o c i e t y attaches f l o u t i n g what i t considers he means when he says:  He would  to the offence of  to be seemly conduct.  T h i s i s what  ". . . ce s e r a i t f o u l e r aux pieds  toute  decence, a t t i r e r sur s o i l e s soupcons l e s plus odieux, et commettre un crime de l e s e - s o c i e t e que de d i v u l g u e r ces p r i n c i p e s Bordeu does not mean that there i s anything  deeply immoral i n  d i v u l g i n g a d o c t r i n e which, a f t e r a l l , he does not think i s i t s e l f immoral. the p r e j u d i c e s  Nor does he think there i s anything of s o c i e t y .  sacred i n  What he means i s that these  prejudice  are so strong that a man would do h i m s e l f great harm by p u b l i c l y c r i t i c i z i n g them. probably hardly 1  I b i d . , p. 186.  2  I b i d . , p. 186.  The p r e j u d i c e s would not thereby be  destroyed,  even weakened, but the c r i t i c would s u f f e r  104 o s t r a c i s m or worse. conversing  1  I t i s q u i t e n a t u r a l that even while  so f r a n k l y with M i l e de 1'Espinasse, Bordeu should  be c a r e f u l to a l l a y any s u s p i c i o n s she might have that he a c t u a l l y p r a c t i s e s any of the perversions which he mentions. doubt be s i m i l a r l y cautious  even i f he were not s i n c e r e i n  c l a i m i n g that h i s a c t u a l conduct makes no concessions t h e o r e t i c a l opinions.  He would no  The question i s beside  to h i s  the point and need  2 not concern us.  Before we leave the subject of D i d e r o t ' s views on sexual m o r a l i t y , i t w i l l be u s e f u l to examine more c l o s e l y the d i s t i n c t i o n he makes between the i d e a l n a t u r a l m o r a l i t y which i s u n i v e r s a l l y s u i t e d to the human species and the p r a c t i c a l m o r a l i t y which c o n s t i t u t e s beneficence  i n the s o c i a l order p r e v a i l i n g i n  the Europe of h i s 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 d e f i n e s duty i n terms of the happiness of the agent. From t h i s point of view, by r i s k i n g o s t r a c i s m through the p u b l i c expression of h i s opinions, Bordeu would be n e g l e c t i n g a duty. 2 A point of d e t a i l worth mentioning before we leave t h i s t o p i c i s that when Bordeu has d e c l a r e d masturbation not to be contrary to u t i l i t a r i a n m o r a l i t y , M i l e de 1'Espinasse exclaims: "Voila une d o c t r i n e q u i n'est pas bonne a. precher aux enfants." (AT, I I , 185.) Bordeu r e p l i e s : "Ni aux a u t r e s . " Reading between the l i n e s , one can see that whereas M i l e de 1'Espinasse t h i n k s i t would be a bad t h i n g i n i t s e l f i f the p r a c t i c e became more widespread among c h i l d r e n as a r e s u l t of the d i v u l g a t i o n of Bordeu's d o c t r i n e , Bordeu's r e p l y may not mean simply that he agrees and t h i n k s the spread of masturbation would be a bad t h i n g among o l d e r people too, but r a t h e r that the person who disseminated t h i s d o c t r i n e would have much to f e a r from these o l d e r people.  105 on f r e e l o v e i n t h e S u p p l e m e n t a u Voyage de B o u g a i n v i l l e o r B o r d e u s v i e w s on p e r v e r s i o n s 1  considered  opinions.  t o he t a k e n a s h i s c a r e f u l l y  They a r e j u s t t h e r e s u l t s o f t h e 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 pointe  e x t r e m e ou. l ' e n t r a i n e une m e t a p h y s i q u e m a t e r i a l i s t e q u i , s i n c e r e q u ' e l l e e s t , tourne a u domaine e t h i q u e . "  a, l ' a b s u r d e  According  1  these unorthodox c o n c l u s i o n s : s e u i l de l a m o r a l e . sentimental."  lorsqu'on  t o May, D i d e r o t  1'applique i n fact rejects  h i s m a t e r i a l i s m " s ' a r r e t e au  A p a r t i r de l a , l e p h i l o s o p h e  In the l i g h t  toute  d e v i e n t un  o f o u r 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 u n w a r r a n t e d .  What i s t r u e , i s  t h a t D i d e r o t does n o t a d v o c a t e t h e 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 . e x p l i c i t a b o u t t h i s , a s we h a v e s e e n .  Bordeu i s q u i t e  He g i v e s f e w i n d i c a t i o n s  o f what p r a c t i c a l c h a n g e s 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 might j u s t i f y .  He i s l e s s g u a r d e d w i t h r e s p e c t  than t o homosexuality  and b e s t i a l i t y .  to  masturbation  B u t h e r e he s i m p l y  the 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 t h e f i r s t three p r a c t i c e s .  w h i c h t h e y a r e condemned.  intrinsically discouraged, 1  Loc. c i t .  of these  evil.  motives  T h e s e a c t s a r e , he c l a i m s , n o t  I f t h e y a r e t o be p u n i s h e d o r o t h e r w i s e  i tshould  be b e c a u s e t h e y h a v e h a r m f u l  Q u a t r e v i s a g e s de D e n i s D i d e r o t , p. 144.  2  reflects  Diderot 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 s o much a s o b j e c t i n g t o t h e i r r a t i o n a l for  theory  effects.  106 Diderot i s i n c l i n e d to see i n them p r i m a r i l y symptoms o f the u n s a t i s f a c t o r y sexual l i f e which s o c i e t y has imposed on man. They are s u b s t i t u t e s f o r the n a t u r a l sexual enjoyment  which  T a h i t i a n 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 f o r a p r i v i l e g e d few there i s a s p e c i a l moral code.  Thus  D a n i e l Mornet remarks that " l a morale s o c i a l e de Diderot s ' a c h e v e r a i t , s ' i l a v a i t p r i s s o i n d'etre plus e x p l i c i t e , en une morale q u i reserve l e s d r o i t s des inadaptes morale des c h e f s . "  1  In an e a r l i e r chapter  2  et meme en une  I quoted a l e t t e r t o  d'Alembert r e f e r r i n g t o a r e v i s e d v e r s i o n of the three of 1769.  dialogues  In t h i s t e x t Diderot speaks o f "une d o c t r i n e s p e c u l a t i v e  qui n'est n i pour l a multitude n i pour l a p r a t i q u e . " quoted t h i s passage, Paul V e r n i e r e remarks: on l e v o i t , comportait 4  Having  " l a morale de Diderot,  une c a s u i s t i q u e q u i n ' a l l a i t pas sans  danger."  Perhaps so, but one could wish V e r n i e r e were more  explicit.  What e x a c t l y i s t h i s c a s u i s t r y and what and f o r whom  i s the danger?  One can w e l l understand that the r e f e r e n c e t o a  s p e c u l a t i v e d o c t r i n e u n s u i t a b l e f o r the multitude might be misunderstood.  A hasty reader might, f o r example, suppose that  Diderot t h i n k s i t p e r m i s s i b l e f o r c e r t a i n people t o p r a c t i s e "** Diderot 1'homme e t 1 oeuvre, p. 65. 1  2 See above, p. 71, note 2. 5  Roth, IX, 15 (Sept. 1769).  ^ Oeuvres philosophiques,  p. 373, note 1.  107 behaviour  the g e n e r a l i z a t i o n of which would be u n d e s i r a b l e .  T h i s would make D i d e r o t a s o r t of moral e l i t i s t and would be complete negation of a u n i v e r s a l m o r a l i t y .  the  But i t i s q u i t e c l e a r  that he means, i n f a c t , that the s p e c u l a t i v e d o c t r i n e i s to be d i v u l g e d only to a few wise men,  who  would not be i n c l i n e d to  use i t as a p r e t e x t f o r m a l e f i c e n t conduct, and not to be i n t o d i r e c t p r a c t i c e by anyone.  The  put  "doctrine speculative"  concerning sexual m o r a l i t y i s part of the e s o t e r i c d o c t r i n e to which I r e f e r r e d i n an e a r l i e r We  chapter.  1  have "seen that, although Diderot c r i t i c i z e s very  radically  the accepted norms of sexual m o r a l i t y , he s t r e s s e s that the i n d i v i d u a l who  considers the happiness of others w i l l  refrain  from f l o u t i n g these norms as l o n g as they are i n f o r c e . the p r i n c i p l e of obeying  But  senseless laws while p r o t e s t i n g against  them does not preclude t h e i r eventual abrogation.  It i s clear  that D i d e r o t would favour c e r t a i n reforms i n the i n s t i t u t i o n s a t t i t u d e s i n which the oppressive sexual e t h i c i s embodied.  and It  i s not, however, a simple matter to assess the extent of the reforms which he would consider p o s s i b l e and d e s i r a b l e over a f a i r l y l o n g term.  He leaves unexamined the v a r i o u s  which l i e between the standards  possibilities  of the T a h i t i a n u t o p i a , which he  probably considered f o r e v e r beyond the reach of advanced s o c i e t i e s , and  the few t i m i d reforms which he wanted to see  a p p l i e d i n eighteenth-century 1  See above, p. 71.  France.  immediately  108 Any  reform would not only have to overcome the r e s i s t a n c e  of powerful i n s t i t u t i o n s such as the Church, hut would a l s o he faced with the great d i f f i c u l t y of changing the deeply p r e j u d i c e s of the general p u b l i c .  rooted  Towards the end of the  Supplement au Voyage de B o u g a i n v i l l e , B d e f i n e s the most d e s i r a b l e system of m o r a l i t y as one founded on the common needs of man. He t h i n k s that t h i s would be e a s i l y a t t a i n e d i f most s o c i e t i e s were not i n f a c t already dominated by i r r a t i o n a l moral a t t i t u d e s : B: . . . j e c r o i r a i s v o l o n t i e r s l e peuple l e plus sauvage de l a t e r r e , l e T a h i t i e n q u i s en e s t 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 . 1  A: Parce q u ' i l l u i e s t plus f a c i l e de se d e f a i r e de son trop de r u s t i c i t e , qu'a nous de r e v e n i r sur nos pas et de reformer nos abus. B: Surtout ceux q u i tiennent a 1'union de l'homme avec l a femme.l The  only hope, Diderot i m p l i e s , i s f o r slow and gradual  made p o s s i b l e by a progressive  reform  change i n the climate of p u b l i c  opinion. The key f a c t o r i n the reform  of sexual m o r a l i t y i s thus the  s t r u g g l e f o r i n f l u e n c e over the minds of men.  The campaign  a g a i n s t the Church was a necessary p r e l i m i n a r y to any reforms i n sexual l e g i s l a t i o n and custom.  People's a t t i t u d e s would not  change u n t i l the a u t h o r i t y of the c h i e f source of t h e i r was  prejudices  undermined. Diderot wrote a t a time when the main task was to change the  1  AT, I I , 241.  109 a t t i t u d e s of men  s u f f i c i e n t l y f o r them even to begin to recognize  the need f o r a reform of sexual m o r a l i t y .  I t i s understandable  that he should not have addressed h i m s e l f to d e t a i l e d questions r e g a r d i n g p r e c i s e l y what kind of reforms how  much progress should be attempted  should be  undertaken,  at a given time, and so on.  These are a l l questions which must depend on the a c t u a l s t a t e of p u b l i c o p i n i o n and on the p s y c h o l o g i c a l a t t i t u d e s g e n e r a l l y prevailing.  I t i s not s u r p r i s i n g , t h e r e f o r e , that Diderot should  formulate few p r e c i s e demands f o r l e g i s l a t i v e reform i n the domain of  sexuality.  The only r e l a t e d proposal which he does make i s  that d i v o r c e should be l e g a l i z e d , that i t should be granted byc i v i l c o u r t s , and that d i v o r c e d persons should be permitted to remarry.  He admits  that making s u i t a b l e p r o v i s i o n f o r the  b r i n g i n g of the c h i l d r e n of d i v o r c e d parents presents a problem.  up-  difficult  I t i s noteworthy that these proposals are not found i n  the Encyclopedie or i n any work which might come to the n o t i c e of the French a u t h o r i t i e s , but r a t h e r i n w r i t i n g s intended f o r the p r i v a t e s c r u t i n y of Catherine I I .  I f we  1  sum up our f i n d i n g s r e g a r d i n g Diderot's p o s i t i o n on  sexual m o r a l i t y , we  see, f i r s t that h i s most r a d i c a l  statements  on an a p p r o p r i a t e sexual e t h i c are intended to be taken as l i t e r a l l y Cf. Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , pp. 204-05 (Memoir XL, "Du d i v o r c e " ) ; Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , pp. 43536. 1  110 true.  He r e a l l y b e l i e v e s t h a t mankind  European  w o u l d be h a p p i e r i f  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  Tahitian lines.  followed  Such a system would n o t 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 ,  b u t a l l u n n e c e s s a r y and h a r m f u l  c o n s t r a i n t s w o u l d be a b a n d o n e d . t h i s i d e a l f o r immediate  However, D i d e r o t  practical application.  does n o t The  traditional  s e x u a l e t h i c has become so e n t r e n c h e d b o t h i n i n s t i t u t i o n s 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 , n e e d s e x i s t w h i c h c a n n o t be i g n o r e d . t h e r e f o r e h a v e t o be b o t h c a u t i o u s content  Any r e f o r m  and u n h u r r i e d .  f o r t h e 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  propose  and  but  real,  programme w o u l d Men  must be  ethic relative  t o v a r y i n g i n d i v i d u a l n e e d s 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 c u s t o m . e x a l t a t i o n of the " n a t u r a l " sexual w h i c h he u s e s t o c r i t i c i z e of preparing  in  ethic i s a polemical  He  weapon  the p r e v a i l i n g orthodoxy i n the i n t e r e s t s  p u b l i c opinion f o r c e r t a i n reforms of a  moderate s o r t .  Diderot's  fairly  i s t o o p r a c t i c a l a t h i n k e r t o s e e any  point  c a m p a i g n i n g f o r a c c e p t a n c e o f 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 be so g r e a t  society.  The r e s i s t a n c e f r o m a l l q u a r t e r s  as t o make t h i s a f u t i l e  venture.  B u t much i m p r o v e m e n t  c a n be made by e l i m i n a t i n g t h e w o r s t a b u s e s , s u c h a s f o r c e d premature r e l i g i o u s v o c a t i o n s propagating  more c o m p r e h e n s i v e  and by f a c i l i t a t i n g  divorce.  would  and  and m a r r i a g e s o f c o n v e n i e n c e , by a t t i t u d e s towards s e x u a l  misconduct  E v e n i f i t were t o p r o v e 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  of  I l l  the complete abandonment of a l l aspects of " a r t i f i c i a l " morality.  He sees the development  sexual  of the need f o r l i f e - l o n g  sexual p a r t n e r s h i p as a source of good as w e l l as of e v i l .  I t has  caused s u f f e r i n g by making men and women emotionally v u l n e r a b l e ; but i t has a l s o produced, i n c e r t a i n people, a degree of a l t r u i s m , or of cooperative conduct, a s e n s i t i v i t y to the needs o f others, a d e l i c a c y of conscience, which do c r e d i t t o mankind and which might not otherwise have been a t t a i n e d : Voulez-vous que j e vous d i s e une v e r i t e q u i vous frappera, quoique diametralement opposee a. vos idees? C'est que l e sens moral s'est p e r f e c t i o n n e parmi nous, a. un point q u i passe de beaucoup l a portee du commun des i n d i v i d u s ; i l s ont, ces e t r e s en q u i l e sens moral s'est p e r f e c t i o n n e , une langue que l a multitude n'entend pas; i l s font des d i s 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 p l u p a r t n'entendent r i e n . l e s hommes charnels a p p e l l e n t c e l a du oCeladonisme en amour, du Jansenisme en a m i t i e , de l a s o t t i s e en a f f a i r e s , de l a pedanterie en v e r t u ou en probite. J  The establishment and progress of c i v i l i z e d s o c i e t y , Diderot c l a i m s , have produced many v i c e s and crimes; but the s u f f e r i n g these have caused has been compensated  f o r by the development of  many moral q u a l i t i e s which have enriched human r e l a t i o n s h i p s .  2  Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis. pp. 509-11. Diderot does not i n t e n d the expression sens moral t o 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 f a c u l t y . See below, pp. 25^-55. C f . the f o l l o w i n g passage from the E s s a i s u r l e s regnes de Claude et de Neron: " J ' o s e r a i s 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 s o i e . Combien de v e r t u s d e l i c a t e s que l ' e s c l a v e e t l e sauvage i g n o r e n t ! S i l ' o n c r o y a i t que ces v e r t u s , f r u i t s du temps et des lumieres, sont de convention, l ' o n 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 ' a r b r e q u ' e l l e embellit." (AT, I I I , 430.) 2  Cf. Commentaire s u r Hemsterhuis, p. - J O ? . .  With respect to sexual morality,  as i n o t h e r domains, mankind  a d v a n c e t o w a r d s c i v i l i z a t i o n h a s had a d v a n t a g e s and d r a w b a c k s I t seems t h a t , i n D i d e r o t ' s v i e w , wisdom l i e s i n s e e k i n g a compromise yet  s o l u t i o n which would e l i m i n a t e  p r e s e r v e t h e most v a l u a b l e b e n e f i t s ;  the worst e v i l s  and  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 m a n k i n d i s c h i m e r i c a l .  CHAPTER IV GOVERNMENT AND THE GOVERNED  Prom our study of D i d e r o t s ideas r e g a r d i n g the system of 1  m o r a l i t y i d e a l l y a p p r o p r i a t e to the human s p e c i e s , we may  conclude  that he b e l i e v e d that the s o c i e t y of h i s day i n f r i n g e d upon what he c o n s i d e r s to be an e s s e n t i a l p r e r o g a t i v e of man, namely the r i g h t to behave i n accordance w i t h human nature.  Diderot's  charge that European s o c i e t y exerts upon i t s members pressures which c o n f l i c t w i t h some of the fundamental r e q u i s i t e s f o r human happiness  must now be placed i n the context of h i s g e n e r a l d o c t r i n e  concerning the s t r u c t u r e of s o c i e t y .  We s h a l l see later" " that 1  he approves i n theory of an a n a r c h i c a l but harmonious s o c i e t y ; he does not, however, b e l i e v e that such a system i s a p r a c t i c a l possibility.  Consequently, he reduces the question of the  s t r u c t u r e o f s o c i e t y mainly  to the problem of the r e l a t i o n s  between government and the governed. The most e x p l i c i t f o r m u l a t i o n s of h i s conception of the nature and f u n c t i o n of government are found " A u t o r i t e p o l i t i q u e " , " C i t e " and "Citoyen". mentioned a r t i c l e s , the concept  i n the a r t i c l e s In the two l a s t -  of the c o n t r a c t , though not  e x p l i c i t l y mentioned, i s c l e a r l y i m p l i e d .  In the p o l i t i c a l  state,  " l e s actes de l a volonte et 1 ' u s a g e des f o r c e s sont r e s i g n e s a une  personne physique ou a un f t r e moral,  """ See below, pp. 158-63.  pour l a s u r e t e , l a  114 t r a n q u i l l i t e i n t e r i e u r e et e x t e r i e u r e , et tous l e s autres avantages de l a vie.""*" Diderot  s t i p u l a t e s , however, that though  t h i s r e s i g n a t i o n of i n d i v i d u a l w i l l s to the sovereign  authority-  i s t o t a l i n degree, i t only concerns c e r t a i n 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 c i t o y e n ce que l a personne physique despotique e s t par rapport au s u j e t , et l ' e s c l a v e l e plus p a r f a i t ne t r a n s f e r a n t pas tout son e t r e a son souverain; a plus f o r t e r a i s o n l e c i t o y e n a - t - i l des d r o i t s 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 a l s o made between the government (whether i t be a moral or a p h y s i c a l person) as the p u b l i c sovereign the government as a p r i v a t e corporate and  other m a t e r i a l i n t e r e s t s .  power possessing  power and domains  In t h i s second sense, i t i s not  s u p e r i o r to the p r i v a t e i n d i v i d u a l c i t i z e n and should not r e c e i v e preference  over him and before  the law.  In the a r t i c l e " A u t o r i t e p o l i t i q u e " i t i s e x p l i c i t l y  stated  that a l l l e g i t i m a t e p o l i t i c a l a u t h o r i t y has i t s source i n the consent of those who have submitted to i t by v i r t u e of a c o n t r a c t , formal  or t a c i t , between themselves and the person to whom they  4 have granted i t .  The a u t h o r i t y which the p r i n c e thus r e c e i v e s  from h i s subjects i s always l i m i t e d by n a t u r a l law and the fundamental laws of the S t a t e : 1  " C i t e " , AT, XIV, 187.  2  "Citoyen",  AT, XIV, 193.  •5 ' Doc. c i t . 4  AT, X I I I , 392.  115 La puissance qui v i e n t du consentement des peuples suppose necessairement des c o n d i t i o n s qui en rendent 1'usage l e g i t i m e , u t i l e a. l a s o c i e t e , avantageux a. l a republique, et qui l a f i x e n t et l a r e s t r e i g n e n t entre des l i m i t e s ; car l'homme ne d o i t n i ne peut se , donner entierement et sans reserve a un autre homme . . . These general c o n s i d e r a t i o n s on the nature of government evoke an i d e a l of s o c i e t y c h a r a c t e r i z e d by harmony and i n the p u r s u i t of g e n e r a l w e l l - b e i n g . i d e a l with the sad  cooperation  Diderot c o n t r a s t s t h i s  reality:  Le mot de s o c i e t e f a i t concevoir un etat de reunion, de paix, de concours des volontes de tous l e s i n d i v i d u s vers un but commun, l e bonheur g e n e r a l . La chose est exactement l e c o n t r a i r e . C'est un e t a t de guerre; guerre du souverain contre ses s u i e t s ; guerre des s u j e t s l e s uns contre l e s a u t r e s . 2  This s t a t e of war has two  origins.  In the f i r s t  i s due to the f a i l u r e of government to enact and apply safeguarding c i v i l l i b e r t y .  place, i t legislation  An e s s e n t i a l r e q u i s i t e of a s a t i s -  f a c t o r y s o c i e t y 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 t h e i r persons  and of t h e i r property.  Of these two p a r t s of c i v i l l i b e r t y , the more fundamental i s personal freedom, the r i g h t to dispose of one's person  without  compulsion from anyone e l s e . "La premiere p r o p r i e t e est l a 4 personnelle." This r i g h t i s the i n a l i e n a b l e p r e r o g a t i v e of M  man.  AT, X I I I , 392-93.  p p.  Observations 401.  sur l e Wakaz, i n Qeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , ed. V e r n i e r e ,  3  Cf. Plan d'une u n i v e r s i t e , AT, l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . p. 403. J  4  Observations  5  La R e l i g i e u s e , AT, V,  I I I , 518, and Observations  sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , 88.  p.  406.  sur  5  116 and  the i d e a that one  another i s  person should  ever he the property  of  unthinkable:  . . . jamais un homme ne peut etre l a p r o p r i e t e d'un souverain, un enfant l a p r o p r i e t e d'un pere, une femme l a p r o p r i e t e d'un mari, un domestique l a , p r o p r i e t e d'un maitre, un negre l a p r o p r i e t e d'un colon. Consistent  with t h i s general p r i n c i p l e , Diderot  the i n s t i t u t i o n of s l a v e r y .  He deplores  condemns  the f a c t that i n the  European c o l o n i e s human beings are reduced to the c o n d i t i o n of 2 beasts of burden.  Diderot's  a d d i t i o n s to the t h i r d e d i t i o n  (1781) of Raynal's H i s t o i r e des deux Indes denounce not only s l a v e trade and  the  the i n s t i t u t i o n of s l a v e r y , but the whole n o t i o n  of c o l o n i z a t i o n i n areas where indigenous populations  are  already  3  established.  This i s a l s o the point of view adopted i n the  Supplement au Voyage de B o u g a i n v i l l e .  "Nous sommes l i b r e s ; "  the  o l d T a h i t i a n t e l l s the departing B o u g a i n v i l l e , "et v o i l a que as e n f o u i dans notre t e r r e l e t i t r e de notre f u t u r Tu n'es  n i un dieu, n i un demon:  esclaves? p l u t o t que  . . . Tu n'es  pas  esclavage.  qui e s - t u done, pour f a i r e  esclave:  tu  des  t u s o u f f r i r a i s l a mort  de l ' e t r e , et t u veux nous a s s e r v i r l "  In the Observations sur l e Nakaz, Diderot  4  i n s i s t s that  the  Russian s e r f s should be given t h e i r 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. a l s o Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. 345. S u i t e de l ' E n t r e t i e n , AT, I I , 190. (To Mme de Maux; Nov., 1769).  2  Cf. a l s o Roth, IX, 196-97  3  See Yves Benot, "Diderot,  Europe, Jan. - Feb., 1963, 4  AT,  II,  214.  Pechmeja, Raynal et l ' a n t i c o l o n i a l i s m e , "  pp. 149-53.  117 the Empress's p r o j e c t e d code, which n e g l e c t s to make any p r o v i s i o n for this  reform.  1  Second only i n importance to personal l i b e r t y i s the s e c u r i t y of property.  Although Diderot o c c a s i o n a l l y speaks of the i d e a l  s t a t e of s o c i e t y as one i n which there would be no personal 2 property and e v e r y t h i n g would be held i n common,  he i m p l i e s at  the same time that such a system would r e q u i r e a degree of cooperation or of n a t u r a l abundance which i s , i n p r a c t i c e , unattainable.  Nature demands that to earn t h e i r l i v e l i h o o d  men  3  s h a l l engage with her i n a constant s t r u g g l e ,  and i t i s to ensure  that the i n d i v i d u a l s h a l l enjoy the f r u i t s of h i s own labour that property must be held sacred.  Diderot f o l l o w s Locke i n basing 4  the r i g h t to property on l a b o u r .  I f property i s not secure,  there can be n e i t h e r laws nor j u s t i c e .  Diderot p r a i s e s the  p h y s i o c r a t Mercier de l a R i v i e r e f o r having demonstrated that "toute l e g i s l a t i o n bonne ou mauvaise se r e s o l v a i t en d e r n i e r l i e u par f a v o r i s e r et attaquer l a p r o p r i e t e .  Grand c r i t e r i u m de toute  loi.'' Ed. c i t . , pp. 386 and 457. See below, p p . 1 5 8 - 6 1 . 6  1  2  3  Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 402. C f . The Second T r e a t i s e of Government, ed. T. Peardon, New York, 1952, p. 17; E n t r e t i e n d'un pere avec ses enfants, AT, V, 297; Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 2 3 9 . 4  5 Roth, XI, 122 6  \ (Reponse au neuvieme chef d'accusation de M. Luneau.)  Roth, V I I , 76 (To D a m i l a v i l l e ; June or J u l y 1767).  118 I t would be i n c o r r e c t to suppose that Diderot defends the p r i n c i p l e of the s e c u r i t y of property i n order to champion the p r o p e r t i e d c l a s s e s against the l a n d l e s s masses.  For one t h i n g ,  he considers the peasants as the true owners of t h e i r land d e s p i t e the o f f i c i a l l e g a l p o s i t i o n a c c o r d i n g to which the p r o p r i e t o r was the "seigneur".  But i n any case, Diderot i s not defending a  p a r t i c u l a r d i s t r i b u t i o n of property; he i s concerned i n s t e a d with the s e c u r i t y of a l l property from a t t a c k e i t h e r by i n d i v i d u a l s or by the government.  This p o s i t i o n leads him, i t i s true, to  defend the s a n c t i t y of property against c e r t a i n proposals towards the e q u a l i z a t i o n of wealth.  tending  Thus he r e j e c t s H e l v e t i u s ' s  suggestion t h a t , when a f a m i l y diminishes  i n number, i t should  be r e q u i r e d to g i v e up some of i t s property to neighbouring f a m i l i e s of g r e a t e r s i z e .  Diderot p o i n t s out that " c e t t e c e s s i o n  f o r c e e disposant du f r u i t de mon i n d u s t r i e b l e s s e l e d r o i t de propriete."**"  He does admit, however, that there are l i m i t s to  the s a n c t i t y of property.  M o r e l l e t , i n h i s r e f u t a t i o n of G a l i a n i ' s  work on the corn trade, claims that the e x p o r t a t i o n of corn surpluses abroad must not be i n t e r f e r e d with, s i n c e , however much t h i s corn i s needed w i t h i n 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 c a l l o u s n e s s : Ce p r i n c i p e est un p r i n c i p e de t a r t a r e , de cannibale, et non d'un homme p o l i c e . Est-ce que l e sentiment 1  R e f u t a t i o n d'Helvetius , AT, I I , 441.  119 d'human!"te n'est pas plus sacre que l e d r o i t de p r o p r i e t e qu'on e n f r e i n t en paix, en guerre, en une i n f i n i t e de c i r c o n s t a n c e s , et pour l e q u e l M. l'abbe [ M o r e l l e t ] nous preche l e respect jusqu'a. nous exposer a nous tuer, a. nous egorger, a. mourir de faim? 1  D i d e r o t makes an i l l u m i n a t i n g d i s t i n c t i o n between the  sanctity  of property r i g h t s from infringement by i n d i v i d u a l s and  the  precedence of the p u b l i c i n t e r e s t over i n d i v i d u a l property  rights:  Le d r o i t de p r o p r i e t e 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 f a u t que l a s o c i e t e se d i s s o l v e . C'est l e c o n t r a i r e de ce d r o i t de p a r t i c u l i e r r e l a t i v e m e n t a. l a s o c i e t e . Ce n'est r i e n , car s i c ' e t a i t 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 s o c i e t e ; l a p r o p r i e t e de quelques p a r t i c u l i e r s c r o i s a n t sans cesse l e s vues generales, e l l e t e n d r a i t a. sa r u i n e , parce que l e d r o i t de p r o p r i e t e 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 f o r c e et de sa su.rete.2 There can be no c i v i l l i b e r t y , no s e c u r i t y of person property, unless there i s e q u a l i t y before the law.  or  Diderot  s t r e s s e s t h i s p o i n t to Catherine I I : Mais s u r t o u t des l o i s , des l o i s s i generales q u ' e l l e s n'exceptent personne. La g e n e r a l i t y de l a l o i est un des plus grands p r i n c i p e s de l ' e g a l i t e des s u j e t s . Que personne ne puisse impunement en f r a p p e r , en m a l t r a i t e r , 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 la loi. Employee surtout v o t r e commission a. e t a b l i r c e t t e s o r t e d ' e g a l i t e l e g a l e ; e l l e est s i n a t u r e l l e , s i Apologie de l'abbe G a l i a n i . i n Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 118. Cf.. a l s o i b i d . . pp. 85 and 90-91. 2  I b i d . , p.  99.  120 humaine, q u ' i l n'y a u r a i t que des betes f e r o c e s q u i pussent s 'y r e f u s e r . S i m i l a r l y there must be e q u a l i t y before t a x a t i o n .  The n o b i l i t y  should enjoy no exemptions: Qu'on attache de grands honoraires aux f o n c t i o n s de l a noblesse; qu'on l u i accorde des rangs de preseance, des marques h o n o r i f i q u e s , des statues, e t c . , mais aucun de ces p r i v i l e g e s q u i d i s t i n g u e n t l e s nobles aux pieds des tribunaux, ou q u i l e s a f f r a n c h i s s e n t 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 p r i n c e du sang. I I n'y a p que ce moyen de remedier a l a noblesse h e r e d i t a i r e . D i d e r o t i s adamant i n h i s condemnation of p r i v i l e g e s of a l l kinds, whether the b e n e f i c i a r i e s a r e the n o b i l i t y , the c l e r g y , 3  the magistracy,  or the trade g u i l d s .  He condemns the hunting  r i g h t s of the nobles, by v i r t u e of which the peasants to  shoot any game which d e s p o i l s t h e i r c r o p s .  4  are f o r b i d d e n  He a l s o p r o t e s t s  a g a i n s t the r i g h t of the seigneurs to l e v y dues from t h e i r peasants  f o r the maintenance of community b a k e r i e s .  the peasants  were now equipped  In most areas  with t h e i r own ovens and the  i n s t i t u t i o n of the "four banal" had o u t l i v e d i t s o r i g i n a l  justi-  f i c a t i o n and become a mere p r e t e x t f o r a burdensome tax.  "Tous  les  paysans de ma province," Diderot observes,  "ont des f o u r s .  Les f o u r s banaux sont des s e r v i t u d e s et des f l e a u x . " 1  5  Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 63.  p  Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , pp. 429-30. 3 Cf. Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 5 and pp. 14954; Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 366. 4  Apologie de G a l i a n i , ed. V e r n i e r e , 92; a r t . "Chasse", AT, XIV,  111.  Apologie de G a l i a n i , ed. c i t . , p. 97.  121 Although the importance he attaches to the s e c u r i t y of property i m p l i e s acceptance of a c e r t a i n i n e q u a l i t y i n wealth, D i d e r o t disapproves of excessive i n e q u a l i t y .  He p r o t e s t s a g a i n s t  the exactions of the f e r m i e r s generaux and expresses disgust at t h e i r v u l g a r d i s p l a y of i l l - g o t t e n w e a l t h .  1  Meanwhile, he p o i n t s  out, the peasants are o f t e n reduced to d i r e poverty.  A poor-  p a i n t i n g by H a l l e e l i c i t s the f o l l o w i n g a s i d e : Les jambes des rameurs grel.es a f a i r e peur; a. e f f a c e r avec l a langue. Dans nos campagnes l e s mieux ravagees par I'intendance et l a ferme, dans l a plus miserable de nos p r o v i n c e s , l a Champagne p o u i l l e u s e ; l a , ou. 1'impot et l a corvee ont exerce toute l e u r rage; l a , ou l e pasteur, r e d u i t a l a p o r t i o n 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 p a i n pour v i v r e , et de p a i l l e pour se coucher, 1 ' a r t i s t e a u r a i t trouve de m e i l l e u r s modeles.2 Many eighteenth-century w r i t e r s r e a c t e d to t h i s  situation  by condemning l u x u r y . . The g e n e r a l 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 w r i t e r s r e p l i e d by defending l u x u r y on the grounds  that i t gave employment to l a r g e numbers of people and thus a way  of r e d i s t r i b u t i n g wealth.  was  This i s the view put forward by  Mandeville i n The Fable of the Bees and adopted by V o l t a i r e i n Le Mondain.  D i d e r o t ' s p o s i t i o n d i f f e r s from both these views.  He d i s t i n g u i s h e s between two kinds of l u x u r y .  There can be a  good kind of l u x u r y , based on a g e n e r a l opulence which enables 1  Roth, V I I I , 183-84 (To Sophie V o l l a n d ; Oct. 1,  2  Salon de 1767,  AT, XI,  29.  1768).  122 people, once they have s a t i s f i e d t h e i r e s s e n t i a l needs, to devote resources to i n e s s e n t i a l pleasures, "tous ces v i c e s charmants qui font l e honheur de l'homme dans ce monde-ci et sa damnation e t e r n e l l e dans l'autre.""*" of t h i s happy s t a t e of general opulence, r i c h and most are very poor.  But, i n r e a l i t y , i n s t e a d a few people are very  Besides which, the system of  government i s such that merit and v i r t u e l e a d nowhere, whereas wealth without  e i t h e r leads everywhere.  The only way  p u b l i c r e s p e c t i s to d i s p l a y one's wealth, simulate wealth.  to o b t a i n  or, at l e a s t to  Thus l u x u r y becomes i n many cases a mask which  conceals a r e a l indigence.  Ostentatious expenditure i s p r e f e r r e d  to the s a t i s f a c t i o n of e s s e n t i a l needs: Toute l a s o c i e t e est p l e i n e d'avares fastueux. On loue une premiere loge a. 1'Opera et l ' o n emprunte le livret. On garde deux ou t r o i s equipages et l ' o n n e g l i g e 1'education de ses enfants. On a un bon cocher, un e x c e l l e n t c u i s i n i e r et un mauvais precepteur. On veut que l a t a b l e s o i t somptueuse et l ' o n ne marie pas ses f i l l e s . 2 D i d e r o t ' s p o s i t i o n on t h i s whole question i s a p t l y summed up i n the f o l l o w i n g passage from the Memoires pour Catherine I I : I I s ' e t a b l i t , par m i l l e funestes moyens q u ' i l est i n u t i l e d'exposer, une i n c r o y a b l e i n e g a l i t e de fortune entre des concitoyens. I I 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 e x i s t e une immense et vaste misere. Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p.  156.  I b i d . , pp. 148-49. Cf. Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 89: ". . . i l y a deux s o r t e s de l u x e : l ' u n qui n a i t de l a r i c h e s s e et de l ' a i s a n c e generale, l ' a u t r e de 1 ' o s t e n t a t i o n et de l a misere . . ." 2  123 Chez c e t t e n a t i o n , par un concours de m i l l e c i r c o n s t a n c e s , l e merite, l a bonne education, l e s lumieres et l a v e r t u ne menent a. r i e n . L'or rnene a. t o u t . L'or q u i mene a. tout est devenu l e Dieu de l a n a t i o n . I I n'y a qu'un v i c e , c'est l a pauvrete. I I n'y a qu'une v e r t u , c'est l a r i c h e s s e . II faut etre riche ou meprise. S i l ' o n est effectivement r i c h e , on montre sa r i c h e s s e par tous l e s moyens imaginables. S i l'on n'est pas r i c h e , on veut l e devenir par toutes l e s v o i e s imaginables. I I n'y en a point de deshonnete. S i l ' o n n'est pas r i c h e , i l n'y a r i e n qu'on ne fasse pour cacher son indigence. I n e q u a l i t y i n wealth would not cause great harm, Diderot t h i n k s , i f i t could be ensured  that money gave access only to  m a t e r i a l and a e s t h e t i c s a t i s f a c t i o n s and not to p o l i t i c a l power or to p r i v i l e g e before the law.  The best way  to achieve  this  would be to a b o l i s h the s a l e of o f f i c e s and i n s t i t u t e i n s t e a d p u b l i c competitions to f i l l  posts i n the government and a d m i n i s t r a -  tion: . . . n u l l e recompense au t a l e n t et a. l a v e r t u , n u l l e ressource pour o t e r 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 i m p o r t a n t e s .  2  In another of the memoirs he wrote f o r Catherine I I , D i d e r o t , imagining h i m s e l f crowned King Denis, proposes and i s o p t i m i s t i c about t h e i r  v a r i o u s reforms  effect:  Que d o i t - i l a r r i v e r sous mon regne, s i , apres a v o i r r e l e v e et e n r i c h i ma n a t i o n , je prends quelque p r e c a u t i o n pour que l ' o r ne s o i t pas l e d i e u de mon pays, et que, par l e concours aux p l a c e s , j'assure quelque recompense au merite et a. l a vertu? Ne p u i s Ed. V e r n i e r e , pp. 145-46. Note the s i m i l a r i t y with the s a t i r e of s o c i e t y i n Le Neveu de Rameau. Cf. AT, V, 471-72. 2 Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 127. Cf. a l s o 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 B r i e auront l e dimanche une poule dans l e u r pot? I f the v a r i o u s measures which Diderot proposes were adopted, there would e x i s t that e q u a l i t y before the law which i s necessary to  p r o t e c t the c i v i l l i b e r t y and property of each i n d i v i d u a l  a g a i n s t the aggression of others. be rendered itself.  But the i n d i v i d u a l must a l s o  secure from the oppressive exactions of government  Governments tend c o n s t a n t l y to exceed the l i m i t s of  the power conceded to them by the i n d i v i d u a l s from whom they derive a l l their authority.  I t w i l l be c l e a r from my 2  remarks on the a r t i c l e s "Cite"" and  "Citoyen"  earlier  that D i d e r o t ' s  conception of the r e l a t i o n s 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 i n t e r f e r e n c e necessary f o r the performance of i t s e s s e n t i a l f u n c t i o n s . concern  These  " l a surete generale et l a t r a n q u i l l i t e i n t e r i e u r e , l e  s o i n des armees, l ' e n t r e t i e n des f o r t e r e s s e s , 1 o b s e r v a t i o n des 1  lois," of  —  i n other words, n a t i o n a l defence and the a p p l i c a t i o n  c i v i l and c r i m i n a l law  ( i n order that i n d i v i d u a l s may  p r o t e c t e d from one another).  In t h i s way  the general s e c u r i t y  of  the whole community i s assured, and the persons  of  i n d i v i d u a l s are p r o t e c t e d .  i n d i v i d u a l possesses  and  property  But, i n s i s t s D i d e r o t , each  a p o r t i o n of the t o t a l wealth over which  **" Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , pp. 154-55. 2 See above, pp. 1 1 3 - 1 ^ . J  be  Fragments echappes, AT, VI,  449.  125 he has a r i g h t of use and abuse and with which the government must not i n t e r f e r e , even i n the i n d i v i d u a l ' s own necessary  interest.  The  governmental f u n c t i o n of p r o t e c t i n g the n a t i o n from  f o r e i g n i n v a s i o n or i n t e r n a l d i s o r d e r a l r e a d y provides the  executive  a u t h o r i t y with too frequent an excuse f o r 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 f u r t h e r p r e t e x t f o r government i n t e r v e n t i o n : Partout ou vous v e r r e z chez l e s nations l ' a u t o r i t e souveraine s'etendre au d e l a de c e t t e p a r t i e de p o l i c e , d i t e s q u ' e l l e s sont mal gouvernees. Partout ou. vous v e r r e z c e t t e p a r t i e de p o l i c e exposer l e c i t o y e n a. une surcharge d'impots, en s o r t e q u ' i l n'y a i t aucun r e v i s e u r n a t i o n a l du l i v r e de r e c e t t e et de depense de l ' i n t e n d a n t ou souverain, d i t e s que l a n a t i o n est exposee a. l a depredation. 0 redoutable n o t i o n de l ' u t i l i t e p u b l i q u e l Parcourez l e s temps et l e s n a t i o n s , et c e t t e grande et b e l l e idee d ' u t i l i t e publique se presentera a v o t r e imagination sous 1'image symbolique 'd'un Hercule qui assomme une p a r t i e du peuple aux c r i s de j o i e et aux acclamations de 1'autre p a r t i e , qui ne sent pas qu'incessamment e l l e tombera ecrasee sous l a meme massue aux c r i s de j o i e et aux acclamations des i n d i v i d u s actuellement vexes.! In t h i s s p i r i t  of minimum government, King Denis announces an  extensive programme f o r the r e s t r i c t i o n of r o y a l expenditure,  with  a view to l i g h t e n i n g the burden of t a x a t i o n . A major cause of oppressive t a x a t i o n , and  one which Diderot  f r e q u e n t l y denounces, i s aggressive m i l i t a r i s m . f u r t h e r harmful  This has  the  consequence of g i v i n g the monarch an excuse f o r  m a i n t a i n i n g a standing army, which he can then use to r e p r e s s internal dissent.  A t y p i c a l example of such m i l i t a r i s m i s provided  Fragments echappes, AT, )  VI, 449-50.  Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , pp. 149-54.  126 by the government of F r e d e r i c k II,"*" whom Diderot c h a r a c t e r i z e s as "-un p o l i t i q u e ambitieux,  sans f o i , pour q u i i l n'y a r i e n de  sacre, un p r i n c e s a c r i f i a n t t o u t , meme l e bonheur de ses s u j e t s , p  a. sa puissance a c t u e l l e , 1 ' e t e r n e l boute-feu de 1'Europe." The remedy D i d e r o t proposes f o r such m i l i t a r i s m i s that standing armies be a b o l i s h e d and t h e i r e s s e n t i a l r o l e of defending the n a t i o n a l t e r r i t o r y a g a i n s t f o r e i g n i n v a s i o n be f u l f i l l e d c i t i z e n army.  He admits that there i s l i t t l e  by a  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 a g a i n s t i n t e r n a l tyranny as a g a i n s t f o r e i g n i n v a s i o n : Sous quelque gouvernement que ce f u t , l e s e u l moyen d'etre l i b r e ce s e r a i t d'etre tous s o l d a t s ; i l f a u d r a i t que dans chaque c o n d i t i o n l e c i t o y e n eut deux h a b i t s , 1'habit de son e t a t et 1'habit m i l i t a i r e . Aucun souverain n ' e t a b l i r a c e t t e education. . . . I I n'y a de bonnes remontrances que c e l l e s q u i se f e r a i e n t l a baionnette au bout du f u s i l . *  I have considered so f a r D i d e r o t ' s conception of the i d e a l r e l a t i o n s h i p between government and the governed, and h i s c r i t i c i s m s Cf. Pages contre un tyran, i n Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , ed. V e r n i e r e pp. 147-48. 2 Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 36. ^ P o l i t i q u e des souverains, i n Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 173. Cf. Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. ext., pp. 442-43, and the apostrophe to the American i n s u r g e n t s i n c l u d e d i n the E s s a i sur l e s regnes de Claude et de Neron (1778), AT, I I I , 324-25.  127 of the r e l a t i o n a c t u a l l y p r e v a i l i n g i n the s t a t e s of eighteenthcentury 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 r e l a t e d to p a r t i c u l a r forms of government, i n so f a r as tyranny i s excluded as being e s s e n t i a l l y with i n d i v i d u a l freedom.  except  incompatible  However, Diderot gave c o n s i d e r a b l e  thought to the best p r a c t i c a l form of government, and d u r i n g h i s career h i s views on t h i s question show a c e r t a i n e v o l u t i o n . In the R e f u t a t i o n d ' H e l v e t i u s , 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 s t a t e s large- enough to be secure from foreign attack: . . . l e gouvernement democratique supposant l e concert des v o l o n t e s , et l e concert des volontes supposant l e s hommes rassembles dans un espace assez e t r o i t , je c r o i s q u ' i l ne peut y a v o i r que de p e t i t e s r e p u b l i q u e s , et que l a surete de l a seule espece de s o c i e t e qui puisse e t r e heureuse s e r a toujours precaire.-'I t should be noted 2 of Rousseau,  that t h i s conception of democracy, l i k e that  demands d i r e c t 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  d e c i s i o n s a f f e c t i n g the general i n t e r e s t .  What are nowadays  c a l l e d democracies would no doubt be classed; by Diderot as aristocracies. 1  AT,  II,  3  elective  For p r a c t i c a l purposes, Diderot grants that  390.  p Cf. Le Contrat s o c i a l , I I I , chap. 4, i n Qeuvres completes ( P l e i a d e ) , P a r i s , 1964, pp. 404-06. Cf. d'Holbach's a r t i c l e "Representants", AT, XVII, 12: "Dans un E t a t purement democratique, l a n a t i o n , a proprement p a r l e r , n'est point representee; l e peuple e n t i e r se r e s e r v e l e d r o i t de f a i r e c o n n a i t r e ses volontes dans l e s assemblies generales, composees de tous l e s - c i t o y e n s ; mais des que l e peuple a c h o i s i des magistrats q u ' i l a rendus d e p o s i t a i r e s de son a u t o r i t e , ces magistrats deviennent ses representants; et suivant l e plus ou l e moins de pouvoir que l e peuple s'est r e s e r v e , l e gouvernement devient ou une a r i s t o c r a t i e , ou demeure une democratie." 5  128 there must he a d i s t i n c t i o n between the general body of c i t i z e n s and those persons who  hold p o l i t i c a l a u t h o r i t y .  His  reflections  on systems of government are always concerned with the best to ensure t h a t the personnel of government c a r r y out necessary  f u n c t i o n s without  a l l o w i n g t h e i r personal  to take precedence over the general  way  their interests  interest.  In the o p i n i o n of Jacques Proust, d u r i n g the p e r i o d when he was  mainly  occupied with the Encyclopedie,  preference was  f o r absolute monarchy."*"  I t may,  that at t h i s time D i d e r o t , l i k e V o l t a i r e , r o y a l e and  saw  i . e . 1750-65, Diderot's  espoused-the. these  i n the v a r i o u s corps i n t e r m e d i a i r e s (which  Montesquieu advocated e s p e c i a l l y  as checks on the power of the  executive) not the noble guardians  of the i n t e r e s t s  but the r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s of the s e l f i s h i n t e r e s t s groups.  perhaps, be true  of  of the  people,  privileged-  I t i s d i f f i c u l t , however, to be c e r t a i n of Diderot's  preferences r e g a r d i n g p r a c t i c a l p o l i t i c a l arrangements judging only on the b a s i s of what he w r i t e s i n h i s Encyclopedie The  three which I mentioned at the beginning of t h i s  "Autorite politique",  " C i t e " and  articles.  chapter,  "Citoyen", d e a l mainly  i n general  terms with the p o l i t i c a l s t r u c t u r e of s o c i e t i e s , without  clearly  expressing any preference f o r one or other p a r t i c u l a r -gorm of government.  Where there i s a more s p e c i f i c r e f e r e n c e to  p o l i t i c a l arrangements, one has to make c o n s i d e r a b l e f o r prudence and,  perhaps, i r o n y .  ""* D i d e r o t et 1'Encyclopedie,  p.  allowance  Take, f o r example, the  348.  particular  allusion  129 to kings near the end of the a r t i c l e " D r o i t n a t u r e l " : . . . puisque des deux v o l o n t e s , 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 v o i r a l a q u e l l e i l f a u d r a i t , pour l e bonheur du genre humain, que l a puissance l e g i s l a t i v e a p p a r t i n t , et q u e l l e v e n e r a t i o n l ' o n d o i t aux mortels augustes dont l a volonte p a r t i c u l i e r e r e u n i t 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, s i n c e i t can be taken t o implye i t h e r that kings do i n f a c t represent the general w i l l , when they do, they deserve v e n e r a t i o n .  or t h a t ,  Diderot h i m s e l f never  b e l i e v e d that any monarch n e c e s s a r i l y expressed  the general  will,  but f o r a c o n s i d e r a b l e part of h i s career he seems to have hoped t h a t , when informed  by enlightened p u b l i c o p i n i o n , they would  conform t h e i r p o l i c i e s to the general i n t e r e s t .  This hope f i n d s  expression, f o r example, i n h i s evocation of the popular k i n g 2 H e n r i IV i n " A u t o r i t e p o l i t i q u e " . During the l a t e r 1750's and the 1760's Diderot seems g r a d u a l l y to have l o s t whatever confidence he may have had i n the French monarchy, c o n s i d e r i n g Louis XV and the f u t u r e Louis XVI as p e r s o n a l l y incompetent and the regime as i n constant danger of degenerating  i n t o despotism.  In the e a r l y 1770's he remarks i n  a memoir to Catherine I I : Notre monarque est b i e n caduc. Les d e r n i e r e s annees d'un l o n g regne d'un grand r o i ont souvent gate l e s premieres; jamais l e s d e r n i e r e s annees d'un l o n g AT, XIV, 300-01. below, pp. 22 3-29. 1  2  AT, X I I I , 396-99.  On D i d e r o t ' s views on the general w i l l , see  130 regne d'un r o i o r d i n a i r e , pour ne r i e n d i r e de p i s , n'ont repare l e s 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 q u i s a i t notre s o r t sous l e regne suivant? Moi, personnellement, j'en pense mal. P u i s s e - j e me tromper! P u i s s e - t - i l ne pas toujours chasser sans v o i r goutte. In 1771  Diderot w r i t e s to John Wilkes announcing the decadence 2  and approaching  r u i n of the French s t a t e .  sur l a p o l i c e de l a France", l i b e r t y i n France Louis XIV,  In h i s " E s s a i h i s t o r i q u e  he t r a c e s the d e c l i n e of p o l i t i c a l  s i n c e the Middle Ages.  Since the r e i g n of  the r o y a l power has been i n e f f e c t absolute, but  while  the Parlements remained i n existence a c e r t a i n e x t e r i o r appearance of l i b e r t y was  preserved.  Now,  with Maupeou's coup d'etat  a b o l i s h i n g these bodies, the great s p i d e r ' s web  b e a r i n g an image  of l i b e r t y revered by the multitude has been t o r n apart 3 tyranny r e v e a l e d f o r a l l to see.  Although  and  Diderot had no  great  l i k i n g f o r the a c t u a l p o l i t i c a l a t t i t u d e s of the former Parlements, he now  r e a l i z e s that there must be c o n s t i t u t i o n a l checks on  r o y a l power and  that one cannot r e l y on the benevolence of the  monarch to ensure that he r e s p e c t s the fundamental laws of the State and the general w i l l of the people.  His e a r l i e r i d e a l of  the popular monarch able to impose h i s w i l l i n Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , pp. a l l u d e s s u c c e s s i v e l y to Louis XIV, Louis XV and XVI, who was p a s s i o n a t e l y fond of hunting, but 2  Roth, XI, 210-11 (Oct. 19, 1771)  and p. 223  ^ Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p.  order to make the 40-41. Diderot the f u t u r e Louis short-sighted.  (Nov. 20.  14,  1771).  131 g e n e r a l i n t e r e s t triumph over the s e l f i s h i n t e r e s t s of i n d i v i d u a l s and groups i s , at l e a s t i n theory, hard to d i s t i n g u i s h from enlightened despotism; but s i n c e 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 p u b l i c i n t e r e s t by i n t r o d u c i n g e s s e n t i a l 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" F r e d e r i c k I I .  He now  t h i n k s of  absolute power as p o t e n t i a l , i f not a c t u a l , tyranny.  He  had  supposed that, provided the monarch were w e l l enough informed concerning the s t a t e of n a t i o n a l a f f a i r s and p u b l i c needs, i f he were c o n s t a n t l y confronted with what the P h y s i o c r a t s c a l l e d "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 p r a i s e d Mercier de l a R i v i e r e f o r  p r o c l a i m i n g that "1'evidence" Now  was  the s o l e counterforce to  he has l o s t t h i s confidence; he w r i t e s s h o r t l y a f t e r  death of Louis  tyranny.  1  the  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 v o i t evidemment q u ' i l se r u i n e , et ne se r u i n e pas moins. Un souverain s e n t i r a q u ' i l t y r a n n i s e ou par lui-meme ou par ses m i n i s t r e s , et n'en t y r a n n i s e r a pas moins. Est-ce 1'evidence q u i a manque en France sous l e regne passe? 2  To h o l d tyranny  i n check, one must apply the p h y s i c a l counterforce  of a p o l i t i c a l body, such as the E n g l i s h parliament. In answer to contemporary t h i n k e r s l i k e H e l v e t i u s , considered that a b s o l u t i s m was 1  Roth, VII, 76  an e v i l only i f i t was  (To D a m i l a v i l l e ; June or J u l y 1767).  p Observations 3  I b i d . . p.  sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p.  359.  359.  who  unenlightened,  132 D i d e r o t c r i t i c i z e s the very n o t i o n of enlightened Catherine  despotism.  I I , i n her I n s t r u c t i o n to the l e g i s l a t i v e assembly of  1767-68,"*" d e f i n e s absolutism i n such a way as t o imply that the p u r s u i t of the general i n t e r e s t i s an e s s e n t i a l aspect  of i t :  Quel e s t l ' o b j e t d'un gouvernement absolu? Ce n'est certainement p o i n t de p r i v e r l e s homines de l e u r l i b e r t e n a t u r e l l e , mais de d i r i g e r l e u r s a c t i o n s vers l e plus grand de tous l e s b i e n s . Diderot r e p l i e s that the important  question i s not what i s the  " o b j e c t " of absolute government, but what i s i t s e f f e c t :  "Son  e f f e t e s t de mettre toute l i b e r t e et toute p r o p r i e t e dans 3  l ' a b s o l u e dependance d'un s e u l . " ^  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 p e r s o n a l i t y of the r e i g n i n g monarch. Even i f he p e r s o n a l l y pursues wise and j u s t p o l i c i e s , he leaves h i s successor f r e e to undo a l l the good he has done.  An h e r e d i t a r y  r u l e r combining to an equal degree the q u a l i t i e s of j u s t i c e , enlightenment and s t r e n g t h of c h a r a c t e r i s a r a r i t y . when chance places such a person on the throne, that he should be given a f r e e hand.  But even  i t does not f o l l o w  The n a t i o n must not l o s e  the h a b i t u a l courage to question r o y a l p o l i c i e s and to consent only to t h e i r r a t i o n a l i t y and not to a u t h o r i t y per se. Even D i d e r o t ' s much-admired Seneca d i s a p p o i n t s him i n one passage, where the Roman philosopher d e c l a r e s that there i s no point i n a "*" See above, p. 6 8 , note h. p Quoted i n Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s , ed V e r n i e r e , p. 354, note 1. 3  Observations  sur l e fflakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 354.  133 r u l e r g i v i n g reasons  to j u s t i f y h i s e d i c t s , s i n c e the subject  needs only t o obey.  Diderot p r o t e s t s that "une s o c i e t e 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." c o r r u p t i n g e f f e c t on the s p i r i t  1  A r b i t r a r y r u l e has a  of the n a t i o n :  A mesure qu'un peuple perd l e sentiment de l a l i b e r t e et de l a p r o p r i e t e , i l se corrompt, i l s ' a v i l i t , i l penche vers l a s e r v i t u d e . Quand i l est esclave, i l est perdu; i l ne se c r o i t plus meme p r o p r i e t a i r e de sa v i e . I I n'a plus de n o t i o n p r e c i s e de j u s t e et d'injuste. Sans l e fanatisme q u i l u i i n s p i r e l a haine pour l e s autres contrees, i l n ' a u r a i t plus de patrie. Partout ou ce fanatisme ne s u b s i s t e p l u s , l e s grands songent a. s ' e x p a t r i e r ; et l e s p e t i t s ne sont retenus que par l a s t u p i d i t e 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 n o u r r i s . ^ Even when despotism of degradation of benevolent  i s enlightened and benevolent,  s t i l l takes p l a c e .  this  process  Thus, p a r a d o x i c a l l y , a s u c c e s s i o n  despots would be a great e v i l , f o r i t would sap  the n a t i o n ' s b e l i e f i n i t s r i g h t s and i t s courage t o defend  them,  l e a v i n g i t a passive v i c t i m to the b l a t a n t tyranny which must sooner or l a t e r b e f a l l i t .  Diderot warns Catherine I I of the  misfortune which a s u c c e s s i o n o f three enlightened despots  would  s p e l l f o r Russia: . . . ces t r o i s despotes e x c e l l e n t s accoutumeraient l a n a t i o n a. l ' o b e i s s a n c e aveugle; sous l e u r s regnes l e s peuples o u b l i e r a i e n t l e u r s d r o i t s i n a l i e n a b l e s ; i l s tomberaient dans une s e c u r i t e et une apathie funestes; i l s n'eprouveraient plus c e t t e alarme c o n t i n u e l l e , l a c o n s e r v a t r i c e n e c e s s a i r e de l a l i b e r t e . E s s a i sur l e s regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, I I I , 264. Observations  sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 440.  134 Ce pouvoir absolu q u i , place dans l a main d'un bon maitre, f a i s a i t tant de bien, l e d e r n i e r de ces bons maitres l e t r a n s m e t t r a i t a un me'chant, et l e l u i t r a n s m e t t r a i t 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 p o s s i b l y ensue from  the r u l e of an enlightened despot would be h i s a b d i c a t i o n of a r b i t r a r y 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 r i g h t s of the r u l e d  were l a i d down i n a w r i t t e n c o n s t i t u t i o n . establishment  For t h i s  initial  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 f i r m r e s o l v e to take such a step. disappointed  In t h i s respect the Russian  empress sadly  Diderot:  Je v o i s dans 1 ' I n s t r u c t i o n de Sa Majeste Imperiale un p r o j e t d'un code e x c e l l e n t ; 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 v o i s l e nom de despote abdique; mais l a chose conservee, mais l e despotisme appele monarch i e . D i d e r o t ' s a t t i t u d e to Catherine  II i n no way  an abandonment of h i s hatred of despotism.  He  constitutes  seems to have f e l t  g r a t i t u d e towards h i s b e n e f a c t r e s s and admiration  f o r her  gence and  of the  s t r e n g t h of c h a r a c t e r without  of her power.  approving  intellinature  He l o n g cherished the b e l i e f , or at l e a s t the hope,  that she would 'ultimately i n s t i t u t e a l i m i t e d monarchy. the memoirs which he p e r i o d i c a l l y submitted  Both i n  to her d u r i n g h i s  """ Observations sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , pp. 354-55. Cf. a l s o Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , pp. 117-18; R e f u t a t i o n d ' H e l v e t i u s , AT, I I , 381-82. 2 Observations  sur l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p.  457.  135 s t a y i n R u s s i a and i n t h e O b s e r v a t i o n s expresses  s u r l e Nakaz, he f r e e l y  h i s condemnation o f a b s o l u t i s m ,  s o v e r e i g n t y of the people  his belief  and h i s a p p r o v a l  of limited  i n the monarchy." " 1  I n t h e memoirs, he i s c a r e f u l t o a v o i d o f f e n d i n g t h e 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, b u t b e h i n d  of  remarks l i k e  conscience  the apparent  ingenuousness  the f o l l o w i n g , there i s a challenge to the inner  o f t h e Empress:  Que s i l ' o n p r o p o s a i t a. Sa M a j e s t e I m p e r i a l e de v o i r s u b i t e m e n t l a c o n s t i t u t i o n de 1'empire r u s s e t r a n s f o r m e d dans l a c o n s t i t u t i o n a n g l a i s e , j e d o u t e 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 v e u t p a s , en e f f e t , qu'y p e r d r a i t elle? 2  In the Observations  s u r l e Nakaz, w h i c h r e m a i n e d i n t h e a u t h o r ' s  p o s s e s s i o n u n t i l h i s death, his  l i b r a r y and m a n u s c r i p t s ,  retained  few i l l u s i o n s  when t h e y were s e n t t o R u s s i a i t i s apparent  regarding Catherine.  with  t h a t D i d e r o t has Does s h e , he a s k s ,  o r does she n o t , i n t e n d t o g i v e up t h e d e s p o t i c power w h i c h she certainly  possesses  a t present?  I f she does, l e t i t be  clearly  w r i t t e n i n t o t h e C o n s t i t u t i o n , and l e t h e r d e v i s e , i n c o n s u l t a t i o n with  t h e n a t i o n , means o f p r e v e n t i n g any f u t u r e r u l e r  u s u r p i n g a b s o l u t e power.  The Empress s h o u l d  from  examine h e r c o n s c i e n c e :  S i en l i s a n t ce que j e v i e n s d ' e c r i r e e t en e c o u t a n t s a c o n s c i e n c e , s o n c o e u r t r e s s a i l l i t de j o i e , e l l e ne v e u t p l u s d ' e s c l a v e s ; s i e l l e f r e m i t , s i s o n s a n g se The f i r s t a r t i c l e o f t h e O b s e r v a t i o n s s u r l e Nakaz ( e d . c i t . , pp. 343-44) i s p a r t i c u l a r l y o u t s p o k e n on t h e s e p o i n t s .  1  p  Memoires pour C a t h e r i n e  I I , ed. "Verniere, p. 123.  136 retire, s i elle palit, q u ' e l l e n'etait.-*-  elle  s'est crue m e i l l e u r e  S m a l l wonder C a t h e r i n e I I was annoyed! when she f i n a l l y Observations failed  s u r l e Nakaz a f t e r  the author's death,  read the  f o r she had  t o c a r r y o u t h e r announced i n t e n t i o n o f p r o v i d i n g R u s s i a  with a written Constitution.  The  r e l a t i o n between t h e p r o p a g a n d a o f t h e p h i l o s o p h e s and  t h e F r e n c h R e v o l u t i o n h a s b e e n t h e s u b j e c t o f much d i s p u t e among h i s t o r i a n s f o r o v e r a c e n t u r y and a h a l f . add  t o t h i s debate,  I do n o t i n t e n d t o  but the question of Diderot'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 o f regime r a i s e s t h e r e l a t e d matter o f 3  his  v i e w s on t h e p o p u l a r o v e r t h r o w  of'an established  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 c o u r s e w h i c h he would l i k e  political  t h e e x i s t i n g government f a i l e d  events  statements  the s i t u a t i o n  i s so bad t h a t p i e c e m e a l  it:  " l e s mauvais u s a g e s m u l t i p l i e s  sans  as t o t h e  t o take i n France i f  to i n s t i t u t e reforms.  that  government.  reforms  He  suggests  cannot  remedy  f i n et i n v e t e r e s sont  O b s e r v a t i o n s s u r l e Nakaz, ed. c i t . , p. 345. "Tressaillit" i s an o b s o l e t e f o r m o f t h e p r e s e n t t e n s e o f t e n u s e d by e i g h t e e n t h century w r i t e r s . p  Cf.  V e r n i e r e ' s r e m a r k s i n Oeuvres p o l i t i q u e s ,  pp. 333-34.  3  The poem l e s E l e u t h e r o m a n e s c o u l d 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 t h a t t h e i r excesses a r e l i k e l y t o provoke v i o l e n t p o p u l a r r e b e l l i o n . I have p r e f e r r e d , however, t o d i s c u s s t h i s t e x t i n t h e f o l l o w i n g c h a p t e r (pp. 1 6 5 - 7 1 ) b e c a u s e i t h a s sometimes p r o v i d e d s p e c i o u s s u p p o r t f o r t h e v i e w t h a t D i d e r o t i s a t h e a r t a n a n a r c h i s t who d o u b t s t h e v a l u e o f s o c i a l order.  137  devenus r e s p e c t a b l e s par l e u r duree e t i r r e f o r m a b l e s par l e u r nombre."  1  I n a s i m i l a r v e i n , he w r i t e s t o C a t h e r i n e I I :  Qu'un peuple e s t 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 s u r t o u t 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 o b s t a c l e presque i n v i n c i b l e aux bonnes. 2  I n 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 W i l k e s , the c u l t u r a l decadence of F r a n c e , he remarks: On me a une Medee et en  demandait un j o u r comment on r e n d a i t l a v i g u e u r n a t i o n q u i l ' a v a i t perdue. Je r e p o n d i s : comme r e n d i t l a jeunesse L s o n p e r e , en l e depecant l e faisant b o u i l l i r .  The s a n g u i n a r y c h a r a c t e r of t h i s myth may suggest t h a t D i d e r o t has i n mind a f r e n z y of b l o o d - l e t t i n g , but we must not a l l o w our knowledge of the a c t u a l course taken by the French R e v o l u t i o n t o c o l o u r our u n d e r s t a n d i n g of p r e - 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 , D i d e r o t hopes t h a t the c r i s i s w i l l t a k e 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 w e a l t h and power; t h i s would cause h a r d s h i p t o many p e o p l e , but would i n the l o n g r u n 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 e s t immense. I I e s t l i e avec l ' e t a t e t l a f o r t u n e de tous l e s p a r t i c u l i e r s . Celui qui p r o j e t t e r a i t l e re'nversement de ce c o l o s s e e b r a n l e r a i t 1  R o t h , IV, 108 (To Sophie V o l l a n d ; Aug. 19,  1762).  p Memoires pour C a t h e r i n e I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 4. 5  R o t h , X I , 223 (Nov. 14,  1771).  138 toutes l e s p r o p r i e t e s . I I n'acheverait pas son e n t r e p r i s e sans commettre une f o u l e d ' i n j u s t i c e s criantes. I I s o u l e v e r a i t i n f a i l l i b l e m e n t tous l e s d i f f e r e n t s ordres de l ' E t a t . Je l e f e r a i s pourtant, car j e pense q u ' i l f a u t f a i r e un grand mal d'un moment pour un plus grand bien q u i dure. With regard to r e v o l u t i o n i n the form of a popular u p r i s i n g , it  i s t r u e that Diderot claims that an oppressed n a t i o n has.the  r i g h t to r e b e l a g a i n s t a t y r a n n i c a l government: S ' i l n'est point de gouvernement ou des c i r c o n s t a n c e s urgentes n'exigent 1 ' i n f r a c t i o n des l o i s n a t u r e l l e s , l a v i o l a t i o n des d r o i t s de l'homme et l ' o u b l i des p r e r o g a t i v e s des s u j e t s , i l n'y en a p o i n t ou c e r t a i n e s conjonctures n ' a u t o r i s e n t l a r e s i s t a n c e de c e u x - c i ; 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 c i r c o n s c r i r e avec exactitude l e crime de haute t r a h i s o n . Qui est-ce q u i se r e n d i t coupable de lese-majeste? f u t - c e 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. 3  a l r e a d y been propounded by Locke  and others.  I t had  Besides,  Diderot  i s very cautious i n d e f i n i n g the c o n d i t i o n s j u s t i f y i n g the e x e r c i s e of t h i s r i g h t .  One must, however, allow f o r c a u t i o n i n a published  work, and there i s l i t t l e reason f a v o u r a b l y disposed  to r e v o l u t i o n a r y a c t i o n by the people against  a t y r a n n i c a l government provided In the f i r s t  to doubt that Diderot was  such a c t i o n proved  e d i t i o n of h i s E s s a i sur l e s regnes de Claude et de  Neron, published i n 1778, he acclaims enthusiastically.  the American R e v o l u t i o n  4  Memoires pour Catherine p  effective.  I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 3. _  E s s a i sur l e s regnes de Claude et de Heron, AT, i l l ,  102-03.  3 Cf. The Second T r e a t i s e of Government, chap. XIX, "Of the d i s s o l u t i o n of government," ed. c i t . , pp. 119-39. 4  E s s a i sur l e s regnes de Claude et de E'er on, AT, I I I , 324-25.  139 Yet although  he t h i n k s that popular r e b e l l i o n can be  i n s t r u m e n t a l 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 b r i n g about any durable reform.  He despises the "peuple" f o r i t s ignorance, i t s  p r e j u d i c e s , i t s l a c k of any f i r m p r i n c i p l e s , of a l l n o b i l i t y of spirit:  "L'homme peuple e s t l e plus sot et l e plus mediant des  hommes:  se d e p o p u l a r i s e r , ou se rendre m e i l l e u r , c'est l a meme  chose.""''  This a t t i t u d e does not imply c l a s s 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 p e j o r a t i v e sense which Diderot sometimes gives the term. But  the masses, as they i n f a c t are, cannot be r e l i e d upon to  b r i n g about any a m e l i o r a t i o n i n t h e i r l o t or that of mankind. I f t h e i r unrest should provide the c r i s i s which Diderot i s necessary  thinks  to shake French s o c i e t y from i t s t o r p o r , i t w i l l  i n e v i t a b l y 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 a c h i e v i n g a f r e e r and more j u s t s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l system.  There have been many r e b e l l i o n s , and much  bloodshed, over the c e n t u r i e s , but no good has ever come of such t u r m o i l because no c o n s t r u c t i v e p o l i c y f o r reform guided  these  movements of r e v o l t : Les hommes, l a s d'etre mal, ont quelquefois assomme avec l e u r s chaines l e maitre c r u e l q u i a t r o p abuse I b i d . , p. 263. Cf. a l s o 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 e x c e l l e n t a r t i c l e by Roland M o r t i e r , "Diderot et l a n o t i o n de 'peuple'," Europe, Jan.-Feb., 1963, pp. 78-88. 1  140 de son a u t o r i t e et de l e u r patience, mais i l n'en est r e s u l t e aucun b i e n n i pour eux n i pour l e u r s descendants, parce q u ' i l s i g n o r a i e n t ce que l e philosophe pretend l e u r apprendre d'avance, ce q u ' i l s ont a, f a i r e pour e t r e mieux.! When e v e n t u a l l y the r e a l l y f r u i t f u l r e v o l u t i o n 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  o p i n i o n to  g i v e a r a t i o n a l , c o n s t r u c t i v e d i r e c t i o n to p o l i c i e s and The  events.  p h i l o s o p h i c movement w i l l have brought about that " r e v o l u t i o n  dans l e s e s p r i t s " which Diderot hoped would be the r e s u l t of the 2 Encyclopedie.  The mission of the philosopher i s to inform  men  of t h e i r i n a l i e n a b l e r i g h t s , to denounce r e l i g i o u s f a n a t i c i s m and militarism:  " I I prepare aux r e v o l u t i o n s , qui surviennent  toujours  a l ' e x t r e m i t e du malheur, des s u i t e s qui compensent l e sang 3 repandu." D i d e r o t ' s a n a l y s i s of the p o l i t i c a l s i t u a t i o n i n Prance i n the 1760's and 70's  appears to d i s t i n g u i s h two  He becomes more and more convinced  divergent  trends.  that the French monarchy i s  i r r e m e d i a b l y t y r a n n i c a l ; but at the same time he a s s e r t s that the s p i r i t of l i b e r t y i s awake and, i n which he l i v e s .  indeed,  i s t y p i c a l of the times  The a u t h o r i t i e s , he suggests,  should not  be  s u r p r i s e d at t h i s when they allow the p u b l i c a t i o n i n France of a work such as the l e t t r e s d'un  f e r m i e r de Pennsylvanie  Memoires pour Catherine I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p. 235. V I I I , 113 (To F a l c o n e t ; Sept. 6, 1768). 1  2  3  Roth, IV, 172  (To Sophie V o l l a n d ; Sept. 26,  Memoires pour Catherine  I I , ed. V e r n i e r e , p.  1762). 235.  aux  habitants  Cf. Roth,  141 de 1'Amerique s e p t e n t r i o n a l e (1769): On n o u s permet l a l e c t u r e de c e s c h o s e s - l a , e t l ' o n e s t e t o n n e de nous t r o u v e r , au b o u t d'une d i z a i n e d ' a n n e e s , d ' a u t r e s homines. E s t - c e qu'on ne s e n t pas a v e c q u e l l e f a c i l i t e des ames un peu g e n e r e u s e s d o i v e n t b o i r e c e s p r i n c i p e s e t s'en e n i v r e r ? Ah! mon a m i , h e u r e u s e m e n t l e s t y r a n s s o n t e n c o r e p l u s i m b e c i l e s q u ' i l s ne s o n t m e c h a n t s ; 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 g r a n d s hommes f r u c t i f i e n t , e t 1 ' e s p r i t d'une n a t i o n s ' a g r a n d i t . In another review  a r t i c l e w r i t t e n a t a b o u t t h e same t i m e ,  d e n o u n c e s a w r i t e r who m o r a l l y c o r r u p t and  has  pronounced the e i g h t e e n t h  i n a l l respects  Diderot defends h i s century  i n f e r i o r t o the  above a l l ,  century seventeenth.  on t h e g r o u n d s o f i t s s c i e n t i f i c  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 and,  he  f o r the s p i r i t  and  enlightenment,  of l i b e r t y which pervades the n a t i o n :  Maudit s o i t 1'impertinent q u i rend l a n a t i o n responsable des d e s o r d r e s q u i c e s s e r o n t a v e c l a r a c e des b e l i t r e s qui l a gouvernent. . . . Maudit s o i t 1'impertinent qui ne v o i t pas que l e s F r a n c a i s n ' o n t j a m a i s r e s p i r e un s e n t i m e n t 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  s i t u a t i o n d u r i n g t h e s t r u g g l e b e t w e e n Maupeou and I f t h e r o y a l a u t h o r i t i e s g i v e way, will  f e e l t h e i r s t r e n g t h and  throw of the a b s o l u t e  the  Parlements.  the f o r c e s opposing despotism  t h i s could l e a d to the t o t a l  power o f t h e monarchy.  P a r l e m e n t s a r e d i s s o l v e d and  political  I f , however, a l l the  r e p l a c e d by s m a l l t r i b u n a l s composed  o f c r e a t u r e s o f t h e 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 1  AT,  IV,  89.  2  AT,  VI,  373.  over-  barrier  142 to  oppose t o t o t a l d e s p o t i s m .  confirms at  We  h a v e s e e n how  Diderot  subsequently  t h i s v i e w o f t h e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f Maupeou's c o u p d ' e t a t ;  the time  o f t h i s l e t t e r he  l i b e r t y w h i c h has  is still  h o p e f u l t h a t the s p i r i t  s t r u c k so many b l o w s a g a i n s t t h e power  i n f l u e n c e of the Church w i l l  1  of  and  also prevail against secular  oppression:  Chaque s i e c l e a s o n 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 s e m b l e e t r e c e l u i de l a l i b e r t e . La premiere attaque contre l a s u p e r s t i t i o n a ete v i o l e n t e , s a