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

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I DIDEROT'S MORAL AND SOCIAL THOUGHT by DAVID JEFFREY LANG-DON B.A., University of Oxford, 1956 L. es L., University of Lille, 1964 M.A., McMaster University, 1965 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in the Department of FRENCH We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August, 1970 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of French  The University of British Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada Date August 20, 1970 ABSTRACT This thesis attempts to present a synthesis of the views on moral and social questions which .may he found dispersed throughout Diderot's works and correspondence. In the course of the presentation a number of alleged contradictions are either denied or resolved, and it is demonstrated that the philosopher's mature doctrine attains a substantial, though not total, unity. After his early deistic period, Diderot never departed from a materialistic and deterministic conception of the world and of man. It is inaccurate to say that on an emotional plane he rejected the determinism of which he was convinced intellectually. Moreover, between his denial of free-will and his social utilitari anism he admits no real incompatibility. In claiming that in a deterministic world the concepts of vice and virtue are meaningless and in replacing them by those of maleficence and beneficence, he retains the essential distinction between moral good and moral evil, but stresses that one must look especially to improvements in the structure of society to encourage individuals to act in the general interest. Diderot's radical criticism of the moral code prevailing in his own society, especially with regard to sexuality, should he regarded not as advocacy of an anarchism which would run counter to the whole notion of a harmonious society, hut as an appeal for a more rational.social morality. His thinking, as it relates to moral conduct in existing social contexts, and his suggestions for possible reform of the moral code are cautious and imply a considerable degree of relativism. ii A major spokesman of eighteenth-century liberalism, Diderot protests eloquently against arbitrary government and social injustice. He proclaims the principle of popular sovereignty, though he does not propose either direct or representative majority rule as an effective political solution. Disillusioned regarding the possibility of an absolutism dedicated to the general interest, he increasingly favours constitutionally limited monarchy. His vision of an anarchical, yet harmonious, society is a purely speculative ideal; for practical purposes, human imperfection renders government and legislation necessary. While fearful, of the immediate consequences of revolution, Diderot nevertheless suggests that it may well be the only means of instituting a political structure more favourable in the long run to general happiness. Although Diderot lays great emphasis on the value of individu ality, and deplores the pressures which lead to a dull uniformity of character, he stops short of condoning the kind of individuality which must express itself in anti-social acts. His admiration for the grandeur d'ame of certain criminals in no way implies moral approval of their conduct. Diderot's ethical thought is not merely critical. He rejects, extremes of moral relativism and seeks to base a universal moral . law on the nature of man and of human relations. The moral obligation of the individual to obey this law presents Diderot with a difficult problem. He tries to show that the individual's self-interest, if correctly understood', must always prompt him iii to act in accordance with the general interest. To demonstrate this proposition, Diderot is obliged to appeal to elusive subjective factors such as remorse. Even so, he is not thoroughly convinced that this doctrine of the bond between virtue and personal happiness is universally valid, for it conflicts with his recogni tion of the great variation in individual human nature. He is thus torn between his emotional need to believe a certain ethical doctrine and intellectual doubts regarding its validity. Here is the true conflict between head and heart in Diderot and the only important point upon which his ethical thought falls short of complete unity. TABLE OP CONTENTS Page INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER I Diderot and deterministic materialism 15 CHAPTER.II The ethical consequences of determinism 53 CHAPTER III Man the victim of an unnatural morality 80 CHAPTER IV Government and the governed 113 CHAPTER V Liberty and licence 145 CHAPTER VI The individual and society 172 CHAPTER VII A universal moral law 218 CHAPTER VIII Diderot's ethical dilemma 254 CONCLUSION 286 BIBLIOGRAPHY 293 INTRODUCTION Throughout the present century the writings of Diderot have attracted increasing attention from students of literature and of the history of ideas. His fictional works have earned him high regard as a literary artist, while his philosophical ideas have been judged worthy of serious scholarly consideration. His growing reputation as a thinker can no doubt be partly explained by the declining influence of that nineteenth-century school of conservative denigration which saw in him a threat to established social and moral values, but the continuing interest in his ideas must be mainly attributed to their intrinsic value and to the powerful and stimulating forms in which they find expression. It has often been said that Diderot is not a systematic thinker. If this judgment implies that his thought is chaotic, I would deny it categorically. If it means simply that he does not express his ideas in carefully constructed and logically argued treatises, it is indisputable. His opinions on most philosophical subjects are to be found scattered throughout his fictional and non-fictional works, often in the form of digressions, reflections on contemporary events or comments on other men's writings. This lack of systematization is especially apparent in his moral and social thought, which is the subject of the present 2 dissertation. My aim will be to examine his various reflections on morality and the nature of society — subjects which are inseparable in his thought — and to present the main lines of his doctrine in as clear and coherent a manner as possible. Practical considerations have prompted me to limit the scope of my enquiry by excluding, in principle, such peripheral questions as the sources of Diderot's thought, its relations to that of his contemporaries and its affinities with the views of later thinkers. I have, it is true, often found it necessary to examine his comments on other writers, since he so frequently defines his own position by his reaction to other men's ideas. Nevertheless, my sole purpose remains throughout to render an accurate account of Diderot's personal views on moral and social questions. I have further restricted the main object of my scrutiny to the doctrine which is contained in the mature writings, giving only cursory attention to the early works, in which Diderot had not yet entirely rejected the religious views which were the legacy of his Christian upbringing and education. In the works he wrote after about 1756, the date of his important letter to Lahdois concerning determinism and its ethical consequences,-'• ^ See below, pp. 58> 72-78, The precise date at which Diderot's deism gives way to atheism is difficult to establish with much certainty, since it is hard to determine the sincerity of his professions of orthodox or deistic belief in the 1740's and 50' s. As I explain in connection with the article "Droit naturel" (See below, pp. 277-79), I am inclined to think that he had definitively abandoned deism well before 1756, but I am doubtful whether positive proof of an earlier date can be furnished. 3 his doctrine (when allowance is made for prudence in published works) manifests a coherence and a consistency which seem to me to justify treating it as a single whole. I therefore have considered it undesirable to complicate the discussion of this unified doctrine by laying undue stress on the evolution or fluctuation of Diderot's opinions on certain subjects in the earlier period. I have not, however, maintained a superstitiously strict rule of excluding from consideration everything he wrote before the mid 1750's. While I deny that there is any marked transformation in Diderot's general position on moral and social questions after that time, I do allow that on points of detail there is some evolution, and I examine these cases as they arise. I am also ready to admit that his particular moral and social preoccupations were oriented toward different problems at different periods in his life. However, though I would agree that these changes in emphasis form an interesting part of Diderot's intellectual biography, I think such considerations are not essential to an account of his moral and social thought as a whole, as long as there is no incompatibility in his conclusions on the different problems he approaches. In presenting as a cohesive system ideas which in Diderot's writings appear in a highly disconnected form, I have tried to avoid arbitrarily supplying logical connections of my own devising. I have sought instead to utilize those links which Diderot himself explicitly provides, or to clarify those which are 4 implicit. Since my primary object is to elucidate rather than to evaluate the ideas I discuss, I have tried as far as possible to prevent my personal ethical opinions from colouring my approach. Diderot's philosophy has been the subject of a substantial body of critical literature. Various interesting studies examine particular aspects of his thought or assess the contribution of individual works to the total picture. Brief surveys of his moral and social thought are not lacking, in the form of articles-*-or of chapters in general studies of his writings. But no single work in this field can compare in scope and thoroughness with Pierre Hermand's Les Idees morales de Diderot, which was written 2 before the First World War. While I am conscious of my debt to the commentators who have preceded me, my conclusions are based throughout on a personal and, I hope, thorough examination of the writings of Diderot over a period of several years. In general I have not cited the opinions of other scholars in corroboration of my own analysis, though I do occasionally refer the reader to their 1 See especially Rene Hubert, "La Morale de Diderot," Revue du dix-huitieme siecle, II, 1914, pp. 328-40, and III, 1916, pp. 29-42; Eugene Meyer, "Diderot moraliste," Revue des cours et conferences, XXVI (Ire Serie), 1925, pp. 375-81, 469-80, 641-49, and XXVI (2e Serie), 1925, pp. 742-60. 2 Paris, 1923 (Reprinted 1969). 5 works for further information on a question which I have decided to treat more succinctly. I have also found it helpful at times to stress my disagreement with a particular critical view in order to make my own position clearer. The general tenor of Hermand's approach was to dispel the myth that Diderot1s moral and social thought is a tissue of contradictions and to demonstrate instead its basic coherence. Since the publication of his study, however, many scholars have clung to the opinion that Diderot's thought is self-contradictory, though they tend to see in it not a chaos, but a dichotomy. A notable example of this attitude is the view that there is in Diderot a conflict between head and heart with respect to the denial of free-will."^ Between his determinism and his exaltation.of duty and virtue, there exists, it is asserted, a contradiction of which he himself was aware and which caused him great distress.. His determinism, the argument continues, is an intellectual conviction which, on an emotional plane, he refuses to accept; when he considers its logical consequences for ethics, he is dismayed; he would like to be able to deny determinism intellectually, but finds himself unable to do so, and must content 1 Cf. Henri Lefebvre, Diderot. Paris, 1949, p. 284; Georges May, Quatre visages de Denis Diderot, Paris, 1951, pp. 148-49; Lester Crocker, The Embattled Philosopher. London, 1955, pp. 319-20 and 347. 6 himself with the conclusion that speculative theories may cease to he true when applied to real situations, in which one must listen to the reasons of the heart. For my part, I shall attempt to show that, in fact, Diderot faces up to these ethical consequences of determinism and is not deeply troubled by them. I shall argue that, whereas, for prudential and strategic reasons he often adopts in his moralistic works a terminology compatible with belief in free-will, the essential moral message of even his exoteric writings remains unaltered when it is translated into terms concordant with his authentic views. My interpretation of Diderot's position on free-will and determinism and on their ethical consequences will form the subject of my first two chapters. Another version of the view that Diderot's ideas present a dichotomy is the contention that his supposed contradictions result from a conflict between two diametrically opposed aspects of his personality. Typical of this school of thought have been the;' many influential interpretations of Le Neveu de Rameau which see the two interlocutors lui and Moi as incarnations of divergent tendencies within the author himself. In Moi we are to see the Diderot who prides himself on his virtue, but for whom virtue consists in conformity to the prevailing notions of respectability, a man more concerned with his public reputation than with the essential principles of ethics, in short, something of a hypocrite. Lui, on the other hand, is to be regarded as the embodiment of that unfettered bohemianism which might have been Diderot's mode i 7 of existence if he had not succumbed to the temptations of bourgeois respectability and the material and psychological security which it affords; at the same time, we are told, Diderot ascribes to the Nephew the ethical position to which his own materialism leads him when he follows it to its logical conclusion. Thus Lui is seen as a manifestation of Diderot's authentic self, of an alter ego, amoral but free from hypocrisy, which is generally suppressed to the subconscious level, but which emerges in the characters of his fiction or in cultural and social day dreams which his bourgeois consciousness rejects as mere paradox.^ I have not thought it necessary to offer a systematic refutation of such an interpretation of Le Neveu de Rameau. though I shall have occasion to take issue with it on several specific points. I have, on the other hand, considered it important to argue at length against the general attitude of which this analysis of the work is an example, namely that Diderot's supposed psychological duality manifests itself in an unresolved conflict between two facets of his moral and social thought. Even Hermand subscribes in some measure to this view, speaking 1 I do not claim that the interpretation of Le Neveu de Rameau which I have outlined here can be found in precisely this form in any particular critic. It is to be taken as a composite theory typifying a whole school of thought. It combines elements from such writers as Hegel (La Phenomenologie de 1'Esprit, trans. Jean Hyppolite, Paris, 1939, II, 76-84), Daniel Mornet ("La veritable signification du Neveu de Rameau," Revue des Deux Mondes, 1927, pp. 881-908) and, to quote a recent example, James Doolittle (Rameau's Nephew, a study of Diderot's Second Satire, Geneva, I960). 8 of "la contrariete qui existe, irreductible, nous semble-t-il, entre 1'individualisme de Diderot et une morale qui sera essentiellement sociale.""'" In contrast to this opinion, the whole of the central portion of my study (chapters III-VI) may he considered as an attempt to demonstrate that in fact Diderot never exalts individualism at the expense of that form of society which he considers to he most conducive to the general happiness of mankind. Thus, in my third chapter, I shall study Diderot's views on sexual morality and show that, while he challenges the desirability of most of the restrictions which custom and legis lation have placed on the expression of sexuality, he is far from condoning, even in a radically simplified society, unre strained individualism in sexual relations. Even in his Tahitian utopia, sexuality is still governed by a social ethic. Again, in the fourth and fifth chapters, which treat specifically of Diderot's views on the relation between the individual and society and between the individual arid government, I shall point out that even in his bitterest and most radical criticisms of the prevailing political and social structure he does not go so far as to cast doubt on the value of social bonds per se. Of these two chapters, the first will be devoted to Diderot's protest against unjustifiable infringements of personal liberty by government, while the second will refute the view that 1 0p_. cit., p. 116. 9 the profound motivation underlying these criticisms is a rejection of that limitation of individual freedom of action which is implied by any form of society. With respect to govern ment, I concede that it is for Diderot an unfortunate necessity and that he would like to believe that an anarchical society could maintain itself in harmony and happiness. He stresses, however, that such an arrangement is an ideal which must forever remain in the realm of speculation.1 Having dealt, in my third to fifth chapters, essentially with Diderot's plea that no arbitrary restrictions be placed on the satisfaction of needs common to all mankind, in my sixth I shall turn to his defence of the right of each individual to develop his own peculiar potentialities. Diderot's illustrations of his position generally concern individual peculiarities which present no real threat to the welfare of other people. But some 2 critics have suggested that he tends toward the view that the right to the free development and expression of individuality should be granted even to men whose peculiar propensity is to commit harmful acts. In order to demonstrate the falsity of this critical opinion, I shall examine Diderot's views on great criminals and his conception of strength of character. I shall 1 See below, pp. 158-63. p E.g. Henri Lefebvre, ojo. cit., pp. 208-09, and Charly Guyot, Diderot par lui-meme, Paris, 1953, pp. 74-76. 10 endeavour to show that, while he finds aesthetic value in the consistent development of original propensities even in criminal characters, he does not accord moral approval to criminal acts as such, and I shall further argue that there is no evidence that he claims a right for maleficent individuals to express their original personality without restriction. I shall conclude the chapter by showing that the strength of character which Diderot admires in certain great criminals pleases him still more in the virtuous man. In my last two chapters I shall leave the discussion of Diderot's plea for human liberty and turn to his views on the nature of moral obligation. In the seventh chapter, I shall deal with his claim that there is a universal and immutable moral law. On the assumption that the general interest is the right end for all individuals to pursue, Diderot deduces from the positive reality of common human nature certain moral principles which are binding on all men at all times and in all places. This "natural" morality, he claims, is the standard by which local and temporary customs and institutions must be judged. It lays down both the inalienable rights of the individual and the limits which he is morally obliged to set upon his own conduct. Diderot could conceivably have been content to consider as self-evident the basic assumption that all individuals ought to pursue the general good; in other words, he could have treated the concept of moral obligation as sui generis. He takes the view, however, that moral obligation is a psychological experience, 11 actual or potential, and therefore feels the need to justify his utilitarian principle by appealing to the hedonistic notion of enlightened self-interest. However great a sacrifice may be required, virtue is still, Diderot attempts to show, the best way to happiness for every individual. In my eighth and final chapter, I shall weigh the signifi cance of Diderot's doubts regarding the validity of this relation between virtue and happiness. He has a profound and persistent emotional need to believe that a motivation to obey the "natural" moral law arises from the depths of the individual nature of all men. But the evidence of variation in the psychological needs of individuals forces him at times grudgingly to admit that he is deluding himself. This admission certainly does not mean that he is tempted to reject the universal moral law; but if men are not, when enlightened, universally motivated to obey it, its authority seems to him to be difficult to comprehend. This is not simply an intellectual problem for Diderot. He is emotionally committed to the view that human nature, not only in a general sense, but in each individual, is basically good; but he finds it difficult to maintain this position intellectually in the face of positive evidence to the contrary. Here, rather than over the question of free-will and determinism, one may speak of a conflict between head and heart in Diderot. Since Hermand's day, much work has been done to establish a 12 correct text of Diderot's works and correspondence and I have taken full advantage of the most recent editions. For the sake of convenience, however, I refer uniformly to the Oeuvres completes edited by Assezat and Tourneux,except for works not contained therein or works of which a considerably modified 2 text appears in a more reliable edition. For the Correspondence 3 I refer to the edition by Georges Roth. Where I quote from the Oeuvres completes, I occasionally prefer a reading from another edition, in which case the change and its source will be indicated. I am also more fortunate than most of my predecessors with regard to the canon of Diderot's works. Certain long accepted attributions have been rejected. This is particularly the case with a large number of Encyclopedic articles with which Assezat or Tourneux credited Diderot. We are indebted primarily to Jacques Proust and John lough for clarifying this question.^ I have accepted Lough's view that Diderot's authorship of a considerable number of articles can be sufficiently established on internal evidence in the absence of the editorial asterisk or the testimony of Naigeon. My opinion on the attribution of 1 Paris, 1875-77. Designated hereafter by the initials "AT". 2 Thus I have referred, in the case of the Elements de physiologie. to the edition of Jean Mayer* Paris, 1964. ^ Paris, 1955- . Hereafter referred to as "Roth". ^ Cf. J. Proust, Diderot et l'Encyclopedie, Paris, 1967, pp. 117^ 49 and 532-40, and J. Lough, "The problem of the unsigned articles of the Encyclopedie," Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth  Century. XXXII, 1965, pp. 327-90. 13 individual articles to Diderot generally coincides with that of Lough; the small number of cases where I differ concern mainly articles which are irrelevant to this thesis and which I have therefore not mentioned."*" A further restriction of the canon has resulted from an 2 article by Jean de Booy which reveals that four short works attributed to Diderot by Assezat were in fact written by Mme 3 d'Epinay. These reductions of the canon have been more than compensated for by the addition of a number of new texts. These include the Lettre apologetique pour l'abbe Raynal.^ the Pages contre un 5 6 tyran. and the Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis. • .Finally, it has been demonstrated that large portions of Raynal's Histoire des For my views on the authorship of "Liberte (Morale)", see below, p. 23, note 3« p "Inventaire provisoire des contributions de Diderot a. la Qorrespondance litteraire," Dix-huitieme siecle, I, 1969, pp. 353-97. 3 The works concerned are Q^u'en pensez-vous?, La Marquise de  Claye et le comte de Saint-Albin. Cinqmars et Derville and Mon  pere et moi, all of which appear in vol. IV of the Oeuvres  completes• ^ First published by Herbert Dieckmann in his Inventaire du Fonds Vandeul, Geneva, 1951. I refer to the text presented by Paul Verniere in Oeuvres philosophiques, Paris, 1961, pp. 621-44. First published by Franco Venturi, Paris, 1937. I refer to the edition by Verniere in Oeuvres politiques, Paris, 1963, pp. 127-48. ^ Published by Georges May in Francois Hemsterhuis, Lettre sur 1'Homme et ses rapports, avec le commentaire inedit de Diderot, New Haven, 1964. 14 deux Indes, and especially of the third edition (1781), came from Diderot's pen.3" It is to be hoped that we shall not have long to wait for the presently projected edition of Diderot's complete works, and that it will encourage and facilitate critical discussion and interpretative studies. With regard to Diderot's moral and social ideas, I neither hope nor desire to have said the last word, but simply to have clarified a certain number of points by presenting them in the total context of his thought on individual conduct and the nature of society, and perhaps to have gone a little further than previous scholars in bringing out the coherence of his ideas and the dominance and compatibility of the two major facets of his position, namely his desire that the individual should be free and that society should effectively serve its essential purpose of assuring the happiness of its members. Gf. Anatole Feugere, "Raynal, Diderot et quelques autres 'Historiens des Deux Indes1," Revue d'histoire litteraire de la France. XX, 1913, pp. 343-78; Michele Duchet, "le Supplement  au Voyage de Bougainville et la collaboration de Diderot a 1'Histoire des Deux Indes," Cahiers de 1'Association Internationale  des Etudes Francaises, XIII, 1961, pp. 173-87; Yves Benot, "Diderot, Pechmeja, Raynal et l'anti-colonialisme," Europe, Jan.-Feb., 1963, pp. 137-53- I have made sparing use of Diderot's contributions to the Histoire des Deux Indes, since I think it prudent to wait until further research has established with greater certainty which particular passages can be attributed to him.' CHAPTER I DIDEROT AND DETERMINISTIC MATERIALISM No adequate discussion of Diderot's moral ideas can fail to take account of the continuity which he postulates between the physical, psychological and moral aspects of human nature. Since he considers human beings to be entirely composed of matter and in no way separate from the general material system, I shall first briefly discuss his conception of the physical world, before going on to show how man is, in his view, integrated into this scheme of things. Pascal was troubled by Descartes's picture of the material universe because it made God almost redundant. All that was required of the Prime Mover was to give a fillip to set in motion the system of matter, after which inexorable laws took charge of everything with no further help from God."^" Diderot goes a step further than Descartes. He dispenses with God completely, considering that motion is an essential attribute 2 of matter and that therefore the original fillip is not required. Thus Diderot conceives of the material universe as self-sufficient and subject to immutable laws. Thinking in terms of a corpuscular theory of matter, he expresses as follows his 1 Pensees, in Oeuvres completes, ed. Jacques Chevalier, Paris, 1954, p. 1137. 2 Cf. Principes philosophiques sur la matiere et le mouvement. AT,11, 64-70. 16 idea of the rigorous mechanism governing the ever-changing state of the physical world: Si la somme peut-etre infinie de la multitude peut-etre infinie des molecules de la nature nous etait parfaitement connue, il m'est evident que nous verrions tous les pnenomenes s'executer par des lois rigoureusement geometriques . . . .J-It follows that a given conjunction of conditions can he succeeded only by one particular new set of conditions: Je crois que la forme actuelle sous laquelle la matiere existe est necessaire et determinee, ainsi que toutes les formes diverses qu'elle prendra successivement a. toute eternite. In principle, all phenomena would be predictable if we knew completely and with perfect accuracy the conditions obtaining at one particular moment. But, in fact, predictions can never be anything but approximate and probable: On ne peut rien prononcer sur la marche d'un phenomene compris entre une seule cause et un seul effet; parce qu'il ne peut etre que le resultat d'une infinite de causes, et la cause d'une infinite d'effets.^ Associated with this doctrine of determinism in the physical 1 Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice II, p. 330. 2 Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, ed. G-. May, p. 127. 5 Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice II, p. 330. 17 universe, though perhaps not logically a part of it, is the rejection of finalism. Diderot denies that either the universe as a whole or any part of it is what it is because of some purpose which it is meant to fulfil. One of the traditional teachings of the Church was that the existence and goodness of God was manifested by the loving care with which He had furnished the world with a multitude of things conducive to the well-being of man. In such a simplistic form it never was a very solid argument, and Diderot is one of many eighteenth-century free thinkers who ridicule it. In Jacques le fataliste, the master tries to account for the insects which plague Jacques as "une nuee de petits chirurgiens ailes qui viennent avec leurs petites lancettes te piquer et te tirer du sang goutte a goutte." Jacques retorts: "Oui, mais a tort et a travers, sans savoir si j1 en ai trop ou trop peu. Faites venir ici un etique, et vous verrez si les petits chirurgiens ailes ne le piqueront pas." Similarly, in the Salon de 17.67, in his discussion with the abbe on the question of Providence, Diderot uses the particle of grit which has lodged itself in the abbe's eye as a practical example to refute the opinion that nature has been arranged with a view to the well-being of man. In fact, says Diderot, the world in which we live is partly favourable and partly unfavourable to us: Nous sommes dans la nature; nous y sommes tantot bien, tantot mal; et croyez que ceux qui louent la 1 AT, VI, 263. 18 nature d'avoir au printemps tapisse la terre de vert, couleur amie de nos yeux, sont des impertinents qui oublient que cette nature, dont ils veulent retrouver en tout et partout la bienfaisance, etend en hiver, sur nos campagnes, une grande couverture blanche qui blesse nos yeux, nous fait tournoyer la tete, et nous expose a. mourir glaces. La nature est bonne et belle, quand elle nous favorise; elle est laide et mechante, quand elle nous afflige.1 Besides, if nature were not, on balance, sufficiently conducive to our continued existence, we would simply cease to exist: Ge bel ordre qui vous enchante dans l'univers ne peut etre autre qu'il est. Vous n'en connaissez qu'un, et c'est celui que vous habitez; vous le trouvez alternativement beau ou laid, selon que vous coexistez avec lui d'une maniere agreable ou penible. II serait tout autre, qu'il serait egalement beau ou laid pour ceux qui coexisteraient d'une maniere agreable ou penible avec lui. Un habitant de Saturne, transports sur la terre, sentirait ses poumons dechires, et perirait en maudissant la nature. Un habitant de la terre, transports dans Saturne, se sentirait etouffe, suffoque, et perirait en maudissant la nature .... Not only does Diderot deny that anything in the universe possesses a finality related to man's purposes, he also asserts that neither the universe nor any of its parts has any purpose at all, and that therefore the terms good and evil cannot be applied to things in themselves: C'est qu'il n'y a ni bien ni mal absolu dans le tout; c'est que supposer dans le tout un melange de bonnes efecfe mauvaises lois, pour en deduire le bien et le mal des individus, c'est une absurdite. Le bien et le mal ne peut se dire non plus de l'univers que 1 Salon de 1767. AT, XI, 109. 2 Ibid., p. 104. 19 d'une machine particuliere oix il y aurait une partie qui en fatiguerait une autre. Since we cannot predicate good or evil of the -universe as a whole, it follows that the transformations to which it is subject cannot be said to constitute improvements or deteriorations: . . . l'ordre general change sans cesse. Les vices et vertus de l'ordre precedent ont amene l'ordre qui est, et dont les vices et les vertus ameneront l'ordre qui suit, sans qu'on puisse dire que le tout s1amende ou se deteriore. S'amender, se deteriorer sont des termes relatifs aux individus d'une espece entre eux, et aux differentes especes entre elles. The passages concerning the order of the universe which I have quoted so far evoke a completely impersonal mechanistic system and seem to exclude the possibility of an emotional response to it on the part of man. Yet some commentators have spoken of pantheism as one of the tendencies of Diderot's thought.^ The text which lends most support to such a view is Le Reve de d'Alembert. But Verniere is probably right in Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice II, p. 329. "Individus" has in this text the technical philosophical sense of "individual entities"; it does not refer to human beings. Cf. also the Encyclopedie article "Laideur, AT, XV, 410. p Ibid., p. 209. A similar passage occurs in Commentaire sur  Hemsterhuis, ed. May. p. 503. It should be noted that in these two passages the terms "vertus" and "vices" should not be taken as referring to human morality in particular, but rather to harmonious and discordant features in the universe, or perhaps to what human beings consider to be favorable or hostile to themselves. Again the "individuals" and "species" mentioned are not necessarily living beings. ^ Cf., for example, D. Mornet, Diderot, 1'homme et 1'oeuvre, Paris, Boivin, 1941, pp. 47-48. 20 remarking that Diderot's "acceptation intellectuelle du pantheisme et son image baroque de 1'immense araignee etreignant l'univers ne sont que jeux d'esprit.""*" It is true that one finds at times in Diderot, if not a truly religious or mystical feeling towards the impersonal mechanism which for him constitutes the universe, at least a certain awe, and a sense of man's insignificance. "Pardonnons a la nature qui est aveugle," he writes, "et qui a fait la partie pour le tout, et non le tout 2 pour une des parties." But despite the superficially religious tone of such passages, a careful analysis of the ideas they contain brings us back to Diderot's usual view of the -universe 3 as void of any directing purpose. Such reflections on the deterministic universe probably reveal the influence of Spinoza.^ But, whereas modern commentators recognize in Spinoza's pantheism a truly religious attitude, Diderot, like the philosophes in general, considers it to be a disguise for atheism and values it as such. He is typical of ^ Spinoza et la pensee frangaise avant la Revolution, Paris, 1954, II, 599. Verniere refers to AT, II, 142-43. 2 Roth, IX, 179 (Undated fragment). Cf. also Moi's reference to the wisdom of Nature, in Le Neyeu de Rameau, AT, V, 397, which I shall discuss in chapter VI (see below, pp. 191-92). 3 For further examples of a superficial religiosity serving as a veil for materialism, see the Encyclopedie articles "Harmonie", AT, XV, 76, and "Imparfait", AT, XV, 185. ^ P. Verniere, Spinoza et la pensee frangaise, II, 607-08, demonstrates that this influence was direct as well as from intermediary sources. 21 his age in that his metaphysical thought is merely a prelude to his thought on man. It serves, like that of Lucretius, to rid the heavens of menacing presences, and to weaken the power of their earthly representatives. For Diderot, what really matters is man. What, then, is man in the midst of this rigorously determined universe? Rejecting the notion of the spiritual human soul, to which Cartesian dualism attributed a mysterious independence from the body and an even more mysterious capacity for controlling it, Diderot asserts that man is composed of only one substance, matter. Man's consciousness is an awareness, on the part of the matter of which he is formed, of its own actual state. This awareness does not distinguish man essentially from other material beings, for sensibility (by which Diderot seems to mean self-awareness, and not simply responsiveness to stimuli) is an inherent quality of all matter. Even inanimate matter possesses an "inert" sensibility, which becomes "active" in living beings."1" What distinguishes sentient beings is that in them awareness is not momentary, but continuous. This is the result of memory, 1 Cf. Entretien entre d'Alembert et Diderot, AT, II, 106. This distinction between "inert" and "active" sensibility raises difficult problems both with regard to Diderot's exact meaning and to the validity of his views on this point. For further discussion, see, for example, Emile Callot, La philosophie de la vie au XVIIIe siecle, Paris, 1965, pp. 280-87. 22 which Diderot considers to he a physical process."** As for thinking beings, Diderot suggests that the particular type and degree of self-awareness which they possess are attributable to the special function of the brain, which acts as a unitary 2 receiving-point for information from the senses. Against the dualists' view that the spiritual soul is capable of governing the actions of the body by the operation of a faculty called the will, Diderot denies that the will, whatever it is, can operate without a cause. Thus he objects to Hemsterhuis's constant use of the term "velleite" on the grounds that this term "semble supposer en moi un acte sans cause, ce 3 que je ne saurais admettre." There can be no causeless act in man because man is a part of nature and must obey its laws: La volonte est l'effet d'une cause qui la meut et la determine; un acte de volonte sans cause est une chimere. Rien ne se fait par saut dans la nature; tout y est lie. L'animal, l'homme, tout etre est soumis a cette loi generale.4 The following argument, attributed to Jacques, demonstrates in more precise terms the impossibility of free-will: Quelle que soit la somme des elements dont je suis compose, je suis un; or, une cause n'a qu'un 1 Cf. Entretien entre d'Alembert et Diderot. AT, II, 112. 2 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 318, 319-20, et passim. 3 Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, ed. May, p. 65. ^ Elements de physiologie. ed. Mayer, p. 262. 23 effet; j'ai toujours ete une cause une; je n'ai done jamais eu qu'un effet a. produire; ma duree n'est done qu'une suite d'effets necessaires.l Similarly, in Le Reve de d'Alembert, Bordeu speaks as follows: Est-ce qu'on veut, de soi? La volonte nait toujours de quelque motif interieur ou exterieur, de quelque impression presente, de quelque reminiscence du passe, de quelque passion, de quelque projet dans l'avenir. Apres cela je ne vous dirai de la liberte qu'un mot, c^est que la derniere de nos actions est 1'effet necessaire d'une cause une: nous, tres compliquee, mais une.^ In the article "Liberte," Diderot declares that "ce que nous sommes dans 1'instant qui va suivre depend si necessairement de ce que nous sommes dans 1'instant present, qu'il est metaphysiquement impossible que nous soyons autres," and offers Jacques le fataliste. AT, VI, 180. 2 AT, II, 175- 1. G. Crocker defends free-will against Bordeu-Diderot as follows: "Actually, all he [Bordeu] has done is to stipulate a motive for every action. But 'free-will', or freedom of the self, does not mean that our acts have no causes, or that our desires are free. Freedom, if it exists, lies in the conscious control we have over the passage of impulse into action. The strongest motive we must obey. It is not determined, however, by a mechanical competition for nerve paths, but selected by the Self, by an operation of the mind, by our own decision. The mind is capable of creating or being its own cause." (The  Embattled Philosopher, p. 331*) But Crocker fails to indicate how a decision of the "Self" or the "mind" (by which he presumably means an immaterial entity) can cause effects in the human body, without the matter of which the body is composed ceasing to obey the laws which govern physical phenomena in general. His position is much the same as that of Descartes, and equally untenable. 5 AT. XV, 481. The article "Liberte (Morale)" is included in the Oeuvres completes and was therefore accepted as Diderot's by many critics until the findings of Jacques Proust and John Lough were published. (See above, p. 12.) It was assumed that motives of prudence explained any discrepancies between the views expressed in the article and Diderot's known opinions on the free-will question. Paul Verniere, in his discussion of "Liberte" 24 the following graphic illustration: Supposons une femme qui soit entrainee par sa passion in Spinoza et la pensee francaise. II, 589-91, does not question the attribution of the article to Diderot. However, once the principles of attribution on which Assezat and Tourneux based their collection of articles had been shown to be unreliable, it became abundantly evident that "Liberte" contained passages which could not possibly have been written by Diderot. Proust remarks that "il n'y a aucune raison de l'attribuer a Diderot." (Diderot  et 11 Encyclopedic, p. 311, note 72.) Proust refuses to attribute definitely to Diderot any article which does not bear the editor's asterisk, unless his authorship is vouched for by Waigeon or confirmed by some other external evidence. Lough considers such caution to be excessive and is willing to attribute numerous articles to Diderot on internal evidence. However, he still rejects "Liberte." For my part, I consider that certain portions of the article were in fact written by Diderot. A large proportion of the text consists of a confrontation of arguments in favour of free-will and others supporting determinism, the former pre sented as the opinion of the author, the latter as anticipated objections which he must refute. However, the deterministic arguments sometimes bear a strong resemblance, in phraseology as well as in thought, to texts definitely attributable to Diderot. I suggest that the article in its present form is the result of collaboration between Diderot and another writer who favoured free-will. (This may perhaps have been the abbe Yvon. See Proust, op_. cit., p. 158, note 178.) The basic text seems to have been submitted to Diderot, who interpolated objections which the other writer then answered. In favour of this hypothesis, it should be noted that, whereas we read, on p. 480: "On peut reduire tous les arguments dont Spinoza et ses sectateurs se sont servis pour soutenir cette absurde hypothese a. ces deux . . . ," we are given, after two briefly summarized Spinozistic arguments, lengthy third and fourth arguments, which judging.by both style and content, I consider to have been written by Diderot. (From p. 481: "En troisieme lieu,' ils ajoutent ..." to p. 484: ". . • d'une nature differente de celle des poids.") The first two Spinozistic arguments are answered systematically (pp. 484-85), but Diderot's interpolation is not. The writer of the article continues instead by. defending free-will on the basis of the subjective conviction of liberty. He then introduces a further objection to free-will with the sentence: "Un des plus beaux esprits de notre siecle a voulu essayer jusqu'a quel point on pouvait soutenir un paradoxe." (P. 487.) The reference, I think, is to Diderot. The defender of free-will has scarcely 25 a. se jeter tout a. l'heure entre les bras de son amant; si nous imaginons cent mille femines entierement semblables a. la premiere, d'age, de temperament, d'education, d1 organisation, d'idees, telles, en un mot, qu'il n'y ait aucune difference assignable entre elles et la premiere: on les voit egalement soumises a. la passion dominante, et precipitees entre les bras de leurs amants, sans qu'on puisse concevoir aucune raison pour laquelle l'une ne ferait pas ce que toutes les autres feront.-*-Diderot, then, denies the freedom of the will. He does not, however, deny the existence of the will. If he did so, he would find it hard to give an effective answer to the argument, to 2 which Rousseau, for example, appeals, that we have an inner begun to reply to the "paradoxe", when he is interrupted by a series of objections? (P. 489: "Mais, 1 dans ce systeme ..." to p. 491: "... sur les dispositions materielles.") These objections are then answered by the orthodox writer (pp. 491-97). The article takes on the aspect of a veritable dialogue. There is no evidence of any interpolation or intervention on Diderot's part in the remainder of the article. My conclusion is that, while the bulk of the article cannot be attributed to Diderot, it..:Lcontains several passages which can with confidence be restored to him. His contribution to the article seems not to have consisted simply of interpolations in a manuscript submitted to him; there must have been discussion between the writer of the basic text and himself. All passages from "Liberte" quoted in this thesis are taken, unless otherwise stated, from parts of the article which I consider to have been written by Diderot. 1 "Liberte", AT, XV, 481. The article "Machinal", AT, XVI, 34, which Lough accepts as Diderot's work, contains a very similar passage, as Assezat already notes. p Cf. the following passage from La Nouvelle Heloise: "J'entends beaucoup raisonner contre la liberte de l'homme, et je meprise tous ces sophismes; parce qu'un raisonneur a beau me prouver que je ne suis pas libre, le sentiment interieur, plus fort que tous ses arguments les dement sans cesse, et quelque parti que je prenne dans quelque deliberation que ce soit, je sens parfaitement qu'il ne tient qu'a. moi de prendre le parti contraire. Toutes ces subtilites de l'ecole sont vaines precisement parce qu'elles prouvent trop, qu'elles combattent tout aussi bien la verite que 26 awareness of the freedom of our will. Diderot admits that we have an awareness of the exercise of our will, hut denies that we have an awareness of its freedom. He contends that the word "will" refers to our consciousness of the motives which prompt us to perform an action: II parait a celui qui examinera les actions humaines de pres, que toute la difference des volontaires et des involontaires consiste a avoir ete, ou a. n'avoir pas ete reflechies. Je marche, et sous mes pieds il se rencontre des insectes que j'ecrase involontairement. Je marche, et je vois un serpent endormi, je lui appuie mon talon sur la tete, et je 1'ecrase volontairement. However, our awareness of the motives which prompt us to perform an action does not mean that these motives are within our control, in the sense that we can choose either to have them or not to have them. The article continues: Ma reflexion est la seule chose qui distingue ces deux mouvements, et ma reflexion, consideree relativement a. tous les instants de ma duree, et a. ce que je suis dans le moment ou j'agis, est absolument independante de moi. In "Libert^" Diderot writes: II n'y a de difference entre l'homme automate qui le mensonge, et que soit que la liberte existe ou non, elles peuvent servir egalement a prouver qu'elle n'existe pas. A entendre ces gens-la, Dieu meme ne serait pas lihre, et ce mot de liberte n'aurait aucun sens." (Ed. Mornet, Paris, 1925, IV, 246-47.) 1 Art. "Involontaire", AT, XV, 242. p Loc. cit. There is a trace here of the attitude which I shall term "pseudo-scientific fatalism". (See below, pp.31-32.) In re jecting unmotivated acts of reflexion, Diderot finds himself separating the self from its activities. But I think that this is only a verbal slip, as he so consistently rejects any kind of dualism. 27 agit dans le sommeil et l'homme intelligent qui agit et qui veille, sinon que 11entendement est plus present a. la chose; quand a. la necessite, elle est la meme. . . . L'homme n'est done pas different d'un automate? Nullement different d'un automate qui sent; c'est une machine plus composee.J-The motivation which leads us to perform a voluntary act consists of a desire or an aversion, or, where there are several conflicting desires and aversions, of the final impulse which results from 2 their combination. The will, says Bordeu in Le Reve de 3 d'Alembert, is "la derniere impulsion du desir et de 1'aversion." Partisans of free-will may perhaps object that our desires and aversions are created, at least sometimes and in part, by our will. But Diderot will have none of this: Pretendre qu'il y a dans l'ame une activite qui lui est propre, c'est dire une chose inintelligible, et qui ne resout rien. Car il faudra toujours une cause independante de l'ame qui determine cette , activite a. une chose plutot qu'a. une autre .... People claim, he remarks, "que le desir nait de la volonte; c'est le contraire; c'est du desir que nait la volonte. Le 5 desir est fils de 1' organisation . . . .11 The deterministic mechanism governing the operation of the will is often described by Diderot in psychological terms. We -""AT, XV, 482. 2 Cf. "Liberte", AT, XV, 482, where the analogy of the balance is used, as also in the letter to Landois (see below, p. 73). 3 AT, II, 175. 4 Art. "Liberte", AT, XV, 481. Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, p. 265. 28 have already noted Bordeu's claim that acts of will always arise "de quelque motif interieur ou exterieur, de quelque impression presente, de quelque reminiscence du passe, de quelque passion, de quelque pro jet dans 1' avenir."""" This is the sort of language we use when we describe the contents of our consciousness, which we know intuitively; it is not the objective language of pure materialism. Again, in the following passage from the Elements de physiologie, the determinism to which human beings are subject is expressed in terms of the psychological analysis elaborated by Locke and Condillac: Toutes les pensees naissent les unes des autres; cela me semble: evident. Les operations intellectuelles sont egalement enchainees. La perception nait de la sensation, de la perception la reflexion, la meditation, le jugement. II n'y a rien de libre dans les operations intellectuelles, ni dans la sensation, ni dans la perception ou la vue des rapports des sensations entre elles, ni dans la reflexion ou la meditation ou l1attention plus ou moins forte a ces rapports, ni dans le jugement ou 11 acquiescement a ce qui parait vrai.2 In the Refutation d'Helvetius Diderot remarks that man is subject to a double determinism, psychological and physical: Dans l'homme qui reflechit, enchainement necessaire d'idees; dans l'homme attache a telle ou telle profession, enchainement necessaire de telles ou telles idees. Dans l'homme qui agit, enchainement d'incidents dont le plus insignifiant est aussi 1 AT, II, 175. p Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, pp. 59-60. 29 contraint que le lever du soleil. Double necessite propre a. l'individu, destinee ourdie depuis l'origine des temps jusqu'au moment ou je suis .... Tout s'est fait en nous parce que nous sommes nous, -toujours nous, et pas une minute les memes. But, whereas Helvetius is led astray by taking too literally the Lockean metaphor of the tabula rasa and gives a simplistic pseudo-materialistic version of human motivation, Diderot never forgets that the only real causes are physical ones, that true materialism speaks in terms of the brain, not the mind, and of causes rather than motives. True, when he wishes to refute Helvetius's reduction of all higher motives to crudely hedonistic ones, he distinguishes between physical pleasures and those of the "entendement", or "understanding"; but he still believes that, for all the validity and usefulness of this distinction, the "entendement" itself is, in the final analysis, only the subjective awareness of highly complicated modifications of the brain, from which it has no independence. In other words, consciousness is for Diderot an epiphenomenon. He explicitly affirms that man's will and understanding are physical and are subject to the same rigid laws as the rest of the material universe: La volonte n'est pas moins mecanique que 1'entendement. . La volition precede 1'action des fibres musculaires. Mais la volition suit la sensation; ce sont deux fonctions du cerveau; elles sont corporelles. It is to this identification of the subjective world of the human mind with the objective world of matter that Diderot refers when 1 AT, II, 373. 2 Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, p. 262. 30 he says of Jacques that "la distinction d'un monde physique et d'un monde moral [i.e. a psychological world] lui semblait vide de sens." In short, man is part of the material world and conforms to the same basic laws which govern the movements of all matter. In man, matter is endowed with awareness of itself, but possesses no special faculty whereby it might suspend the operation of the laws of nature and thus free itself from its subjection to these laws. As I pointed out in my Introduction,^ many critics have claimed that such a view of man is in contradiction with Diderot's position as a moralist and that he was bitterly aware of this dilemma, feeling himself torn bbetween his intellectual convic tions and the promptings of his heart. I will attempt in my next chapter to show that, in fact, he regarded his deterministic materialism as compatible with a personal commitment to benefi cence and did not think himself illogical in exhorting others to make a similar "choice". The remainder of the present chapter will be devoted to showing that Diderot does not think that his conception of determinism entails the belief that the human 1 Jacques le fataliste. AT, VI, 180. p See above,pp. 5-6. 31 individual is merely a passive witness of his own destiny. The fragility of many of the arguments advanced by the critics to whom I have referred above will become apparent. It will facilitate our discussion to distinguish three different, though related, doctrines or attitudes regarding the degree of autonomy attributable to man, all of which play a part, of greater or lesser importance, in Diderot's thought. I shall designate these, admittedly in a rather personal and arbitrary fashion, by the following terms: 1) scientific determinism; 2) mythological fatalism; 3) pseudo-scientific fatalism. By "scientific determinism" I mean the theory, which I have already examined in Diderot's writings, that the human individual is part of the material universe and therefore subject to the same immutable laws which govern all matter. By "mythological fatalism" I mean the belief that, although we have the possibility of choosing to act in different ways, the line of conduct we adopt cannot affect the really important events in our life, since these are pre-ordained. Innumerable versions of this belief may be found in literature and in popular superstition even in the most;"advanced" contemporary societies. This type of fatalism, which Shakespeare expresses in the words "There's a Divinity which shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will," derives no support from a scientific view of the world; indeed, it is difficult to reconcile the two. 'I shall use the term "pseudo-scientific fatalism" to refer to the doctrine which sees the 32 human individual as the passive witness both of the events which take place in the physical universe (including his own body) and of the succession of his own thoughts. This view differs from scientific determinism in that it implies a kind of dualism: the self is thought of as separate from the body and even from the mind. In scientific determinism, on the other hand, the self is identified with the body and with the epiphenomenal mind. It is not free from the general chain of events, being a part of it, but neither is it entirely passive, since, like every other part of the universe it possesses its own original dynamism and thus contributes its share to the development of the whole. Let us first consider the role of mythological fatalism in Diderot's thought. We find this attitude in several texts in which Diderot complains that human beings are the playthings of destiny. He writes, for example, to Mademoiselle Jodin: . . . nous sommes tous sous la main du destin qui nous promene a son gre, qui vous a deja. bien ballottee, et qui n'a pas l'air de vous accorder sitot le repos. Vous etes malheureusement un etre energique, turbulent, et 1'on n<j! sait jamais oxi est la sepulture de ces etres-la. Diderot advises the young lady to take the direction of her life ""* Roth, IX, 25 (Feb. 10, 1769). It is perhaps surprising that Diderot should claim that the energetic soul is less master of its fate than the placid soul. Probably "energetic" has here a somewhat different connotation from when Diderot extols the "energy" of the ames fortes. (See below, pp. 19*+-200.) The latter are, presumably', less the playthings of forces exterior to them selves. But in the case under discussion, Diderot probably refers rather to capriciousness and to a tendency to violent and rapid changes; in other words, the adjectives "energique" and "turbulent" are here synonymous. 33 seriously in hand, so as to bring as much of it as possible under the control of her will: Si vous etes sage, vous laisserez au sort le moins de lisieres que vous pourrez; vous songerez de bonne heure a vivre comme vous voudriez avoir vecu. A quoi servent toutes les lecons severes que vous avez recues, si vous n'en profitez pas? Vous etes si peu maitresse de vous-meme; entre toutes les marionnettes de la Providence, vous etes une de celles dont elle secoue le fil d'archal qui l'accroche, d'une maniere si bizarre que je ne vous croirai jamais qu'ou vous etes, et vous n1 etes pas a. Paris, et vous n'y serez peut-etre pas sitot. Diderot never attempts to express this sort of fatalism with logical rigour. We may assume that it is simply a striking way of expressing the conviction that the important events and turning-points in our lives are often the result of circumstances quite outside our control, or of decisions which we ourselves make, but with insufficient consideration of their probable consequences. Pew people would claim that our experience is wholly the result of the exercise of our will; most would admit that it is the result of an interaction between events which arise from the exercise of our will and events which occur independently of it. Doubtless the proportion varies from person to person, partly because of personality differences and partly because of pure chance. Diderot urges us to increase our control over the course of our lives by the exercise of our reason. Roth, IX, 26. The use of the religious term "Providence" need not deceive us; Diderot means "destiny". 34 What I have called pseudo-scientific fatalism is harder to distinguish from the form of determinism which Diderot actually accepted, for the two doctrines have many points in common. Thus Jacques's fatalism consists of a mixture of principles which Diderot accepts and of conclusions which he derides. When Jacques, after Spinoza, expounds universal determinism and denies free-will, he is Diderot's mouthpiece. But Diderot shows that when Jacques deduces from this that it is useless to exercise prudence, he entangles himself in ridiculous contradictions. Jacques believes that since all things are pre-ordained, prudence can be of no avail, since, no matter what precautions one takes, one cannot alter the inevitable course of events. This paradox leads to absurd practical results, as the following episode illustrates. Spending the night at an inn, Jacques and his master encounter a band of dangerous brigands. Before setting off again in the morning, Jacques takes the precaution of locking the rogues in their room, so as to gain time in the event of being pursued by them. Nevertheless, he refuses to go faster than a walk, "toujours d'apres son systeme."""" His "system" tells him that human reason is incapable of knowing what fate has decreed, so that, by galloping, he and his master might run into some quite unforeseen danger. His captain, he explains, . . . croyait que la prudence est une supposition, dans laquelle 1'experience nous autorise a regarder les circonstances ou. nous nous trouvons comme causes 1 AT, VI, 18. 35 de certains effets a esperer ou a. craindre pour l'avenir. . . . Mais, disait-il, qui peut se flatter d'avoir assez d'experience? Celui qui s'est flatte d'en etre le mieux pourvu, n'a-t-il jamais ete dupe? Et puis, y a-t-il un homme capable d'apprecier juste les circonstances ou il se trouve? Le calcul qui se fait dans nos tetes, et celui qui est arrete sur le registre d'en haut, sont deux calculs bien differents. Est-ce nous qui menons le destin, ou bien est-ce le destin qui nous mene? Combien de projets sagement concertes ont manque, et combien manqueront! Combien ^ de projets insenses ont reussi, et combien reussironti Now Diderot was certainly acutely conscious of the uncer tainty of our destinies, in spite of all the care and forethought by which we attempt to direct them. But the practical conclusion he draws from this fact is quite different from Jacques's views on prudence. In the Conclusion to the Elements de physiologie, he likens life to a gambling-house. There is no certitude; one must act, must take decisions, without knowing for sure whether the results will be good or bad: "Je ne saurai qu'a la fin ce 2 que j'aurai perdu ou gagne dans ce vaste tripot . . . ." Here Diderot does not conclude that prudence is pointless, but simply laments that all our prudence can never give us a solid assurance that we are acting in the way which will produce the best results. AT, VI, 20. p Ed. Mayer, p. 307. The sentence immediately preceding this quotation, namely, "Le monde est la maison du plus fort," or, as AT has it, ". . . du fort," (IX, 428) does not seem to be logically connected with the context in which it is placed. Diderot is not concerned here with how the strong push the weak to the wall, nor with the struggle in which men must engage against nature, but with the uncertainty of all human affairs, which presumably applies to the strong as well as the weak. The emendation sug gested by Pierre Hermand (Les Idees morales de Diderot, p. 293), i.e. "Le monde est la maison du sort," fits far better, since it leads naturally to the image of the gambling-house. 36 In another text he makes more explicit the practical conclusion which he draws. Referring to the estimation of probabilities, he writes: C1 est elle qui indique le parti le plus sHr ou le moins incertain, et qui console lorsque ' evenement ne repond pas a une attente bien fondee. He continues with a remark which is closely related in thought to the passage from the Elements de physiologic which I have just quoted. "Toute notre vie," he says, "n'est qu'un jeu de hasard; 2 tachons d'avoir la chance pour nous." We should exercise all the prudence and foresight of which we are capable, and from the ethical point of view this is all that can be asked of us. Thus to Catherine II he writes: Mais a. 1'impossible nul n'est tenu. On a tout fait, lorsqu'on a cherche, trouve et mis en oeuvre les meilleurs moyens que la prudence humaine pouvait inspirer, prudence qui ne s'etend ni a la violence ni aux hasards qui sont receles dans la \:po itrine obscure du destin et qui sont au-dessus de nous. It seems reasonable, then, to take Jacques's view of the practical conclusions to be drawn from determinism with regard to the exercise of prudence as an amusing paradox and not as Diderot's own soberly held opinions. """ Plan d'une universite pour le gouvernement de Russie, AT, III, 456. Cf. also Roth, XII, 39 T^o the comtesse de Porbach; circa 1772). 2 Plan d'une universite, loc. cit. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, Paris, 1966, p. 128. 37 Another of Jacques's false opinions concerning determinism is that such a system logically implies that one should resign oneself to events. This appears to have been a conclusion which Diderot himself at times considered valid. In the letter to Landois, for example, he expounds a certain philosophy of resig nation, not only to the calamities which the forces of inanimate nature cause, but also to the harm done to us by our fellow-men. Determinism, he claims, leads to "une sorte de philosophie pleine de commiseration, qui attache fortement aux bons, qui n'irrite non plus contre le mechant que contre un ouragan qui nous remplit les yeux de poussiere.,,J" Commiseration can be regarded as a humanitarian consequence of determinism, and attachment to good people as a utilitarian consequence; I shall consider these questions in the following chapter. But the rest of the passage is concerned with quite a different attitude, namely an emotional acceptance of the inevitable course of events. Presumably Diderot does not mean that we should refrain from showing anger toward the wicked man, since, as we shall see, he thinks that anger is useful in deterring the latter's enterprises; presumably he means that we should try not to feel anger beyond the instinctive momentary reaction which we cannot control, and that there is no point in harbouring resentment against wicked men. 1 Roth, I, 214 (June 29, 1756). 38 Resignation to the inevitable course of events certainly has a great attractiveness for Diderot. He quotes approvingly the ancient Stoic prayer: "0 Destin, conduis-moi ou tu voudras, je suis pret a te suivre; car tu ne m'en conduirais et je ne t'en suivrais pas moins, quand je ne le voudrais pas.""*" He considers such resignation to be the mark of wisdom. It is doubtful, however, whether this theme ever became an integrated part of his philosophy, since he makes no attempt to show that it has any logically valid connection with determinism. Indeed, he would have found this very difficult. We may assume that the Stoics did not mean that one should make no efforts to conduct one's own life in the way one desires (since such efforts are included in the pre-ordained order of events), but rather that when one has made all possible efforts to direct one's life, one should adopt an attitude of resignation to the actual outcome. But this is a wise policy whether one believes in determinism or not. Whether a man is able to adopt it depends on his character. Diderot says that he himself can manage it at times and feels much better for it, but that he cannot achieve it consistently. He remarks in a letter to Sophie Volland: Hier je disais avec Damilaville que, quand j'etais las de voir aller les'choses contre mon gre, il me prenait des bouffees de resignation. Alors la douleur des hypocondres se defend; la bile accumulee coule doucement; le sort ne me laisserait pas une chemise au dos, que peut-etre j'en plaisanterais. Je concois 1 Roth, V, 207 (To Falconet; Dec. 4, 1765). 39 qu'il y a des hommes assez heureusement nes pour etre par temperament et constamment ce que je suis seulement par intervalle, de reflexion, et par secousses.1 In another letter, he remarks that business worries and a liver complaint have resulted in a serious bout of melancholia: Je n'y connais qu'un remede, qui malheureusement n'est pas fait pour moi; ce serait une parfaite indifference sur les choses de la vie, faire tout pour le mieux et n'en pas perdre un moment de repos ni un coup de dent, lorsque tout va mal. Mais, ma foi, je ne saurais; je m'afflige comme un sot, et mon mal empire. This personal experience is humorously transposed in a passage in Jacques le fataliste which illustrates the futility of maintaining that resignation follows logically from the cosmic order, when in fact it depends on one's character. Jacques would like to be completely indifferent to the ups and downs of life, but, try as he may, he still feels pleasure and grief. The annoying thing is that, whereas he is unshakeably ;•;steadfast on certain perilous occasions, at other times a mere trifle can upset him. He has given up the attempt, he says: . . . j'ai pris le parti d'etre comme je suis; et j'ai vu, en y pensant un peu, que cela revenait presque au meme, en ajoutant: Qu'importe comme on soit? C'est une autre resignation plus facile et plus commode.^ This sort of resignation is scarcely resignation at all, since it has no effect on one's mental state. 1 Roth, III, 245-46 (Nov. 9 and 10, 1760). 2 Roth, XII, 88 (To Francois Tronchin; July 17, 1772). 3 AT, VI, 87. 40 Jacques has his own-version of the Stoic prayer: Toi qui as fait le grand rouleau, quel que tu sois, et dont le doigt a trace toute l'ecriture qui est la-haut, tu as su de tous les temps ce qu'il me fallait; que ta volonte soit faite. Amen. This prompts his master to enquire: "Est-ce que tu ne ferais pas aussi bien de te taire?" Here Diderot is probably making fun of the religiosity of such an attitude, implying, no doubt, that prayers to an all-powerful and omniscient Christian God are equally pointless; but he is also ridiculing the idea that the doctrine of the inevitability of all events can justify resigna tion or any other practical attitude. Both the denial of the efficacy of prudence and the doctrine of submission to inevitability are aspects of pseudo-scientific fatalism in that they leave out of account that inherent activity by which the individual contributes to the total scheme of things. It may well be true that some men are pre-determined to exercise prudence and others not, but the reality of determinism does not in itself prevent a given individual either from being prudent or benefiting from his prudence. The individual is not a totally passive victim of forces exterior to himself. Resignation to misfortune is a gift which some men possess and for which they are all the happier; others cannot achieve it. But in neither case does determinism affect the question. Such resignation is 1 Ibid., p. 167. 41 only advisable when nothing further can be done to remedy the situation. If it became a constant attitude to life it would be very harmful. The critics who claim that Diderot is torn between an intellectual acceptance of determinism and an emotional faith in the reality of human liberty lay great stress on a fragment of a letter concerning the comet of 1769: Votre question sur la comete m'a fait faire une reflexion singuliere; c'est que l'atheisme est tout voisin d'une espece de superstition presque aussi puerile que l'autre. Rien n'est indifferent dans un ordre de choses qu'une loi generale lie et entraine; il semble que tout soit egalement important. II n'y a point de grands ni de petits phenomenes. la constitution Unigenitus est aussi necessaire que le lever et le coucher du soleil; il est dur de s'abandonner aveuglement au torrent universel; il est impossible de lui resister. Les efforts impuissants ou victorieux sont aussi dans l'ordre. Si je crois que je vous aime librement, je me trompe. II n'en est rien. 0 le beau systeme pour les ingratsl J'enrage d'etre empetre d'une diable de philosophie que mon esprit ne peut s'empecher d'approuver, et mon coeur de dementir. Je ne puis souffrir que mes sentiments pour vous, que vos sentiments pour moi soient assujettis a quoi que ce soit au monde, et que Naigeon les fasse dependre du passage d'une comete. Peu s'en faut que je ne me fasse Chretien pour me promettre de vous aimer dans ce monde tant que j'y serai; et de vous retrouver, pour vous aimer encore dans l'autre. C'est une pensee si douce que je ne suis point etonne que les bonnes ames y tiennent. Si Mile Olympe etait sur le point de mourir, elle vous dirait: "Ma chere cousine, ne pleurez pas, nous nous reverrons." Et puis voila ou m'a mene 42 votre perfide question sur la comete. Many commentators have taken this text very seriously, treating it as a sort of recantation on an emotional plane of the determinism which Diderot accepts intellectually. They contrive to make him appear as a being divided into two selves, perpetually in dialogue, but ultimately agreeing to differ. According to Lester Crocker, for instance, the fragment in question expresses a "conflict between [Diderot's] inexorable rationalism and an emotional heart that rebelled against the 2 conclusions of his intellect." Georges May notes of this fragment that "on le cite d'ordinaire en exemple pour faire voir que le philosophe lui-meme est quelquefois conscient du divorce 3 qui existe entre sa morale et sa metaphysique." May's own view conforms to this critical tradition. "Le merite unique . . . du fragment . . .," he claims, "est de reveler la vehemence avec laquelle [Diderot] s'eleve lui-meme contre [le] determinisme en dehors du domaine purement abstrait."4 1 Roth, IX, 154-55. The source of this text is a copy, in Naigeon's hand, of a number of detached fragments, presumably from Diderot's correspondence. Roth dates it, hypothetically, from the end of September 1769. It was formerly thought to be part of a letter to Sophie Volland, but Jean Pommier in his "Etudes sur Diderot" (Revue d'histoire de la philosophie et d'histoire generale de la  civilisation, 1942, pp. 176-80) argued convincingly that it was addressed to Mme de Maux, and this has recently been proved con clusively by Mme Lydia-Claude Hartman in her article "A propos de Sophie Volland," Diderot Studies. XII, 1969, pp. 101-02. 2 The Embattled Philosopher, p. 319. A similar view is expressed by Jean Thomas in L'Humanisme de Diderot, Paris, 1938, pp. 52-53. 3 Quatre visages de Denis Diderot, p. 148. Ibid., pp. 148-49. 43 I think it can be demonstrated that these critics are seriously mistaken regarding, in the first place, the tone of the fragment: it is not anguished soul-searching, but a whimsical paradox intended to be both amusing and thought-provoking. Their erroneous estimate of the general significance of the text seems to me to be due to an incorrect understanding of Diderot's meaning. Crocker, for example, renders the sentence "... l'atheisme est tout voisin d'une espece de superstition presque aussi puerile que l'autre," by "Atheism is close to being a kind of superstition, as puerile as the other.""*" A more literal translation is also more faithful: "Atheism is very close to a kind of superstition almost as childish as the other." Crocker seems to imply that Diderot suspects that his deterministic doctrine may really be a superstitious belief. What Diderot in fact means is that it is a delicate matter to distinguish between the determinism upon which his atheism is founded and the old astrological beliefs, which are a superstition almost as puerile as the belief in a personal immaterial being on whose will all that happens in the world depends. The interpretation of determinism which Diderot outlines in the fragment is not his true doctrine, but the convenient representation of a subtly distorted version thereof, which lends a specious credibility to the superstition regarding the influence of comets. His paradox 1 The Embattled Philosopher, p. 320. 44 rims as follows. Since all events, great and small, are linked together by a universal law, any alteration in the smallest event would entail an alteration in every part of the system. Thus one may claim that there is no real difference in importance between events which are usually considered greater or smaller. Although it is true that small events depend on great ones, it is equally true that great events depend on small ones. Any particular event may be considered as entirely entailed by the total context of events in which it is placed. Thus the human individual, who is nothing but a succession of physical events, may be seen as nothing but the inevitable result of all the events which constitute the ever-changing universe. There is in him no principle which might direct his acts, or even his thoughts, any more than there is, in someone who is swept down stream by a raging torrent, a principle which determines the direction he takes. Moreover, not only do the acts and thoughts of the human individual result from the universal context in which he is situated, but any event, great or small, which is part of this context may be said to influence them. Naigeon has, it would appear, facetiously pointed out that this doctrine is very close to the old superstition about comets and that, for all Diderot knows, he would never have fallen in love with Mme de Maux if it were not for the appearance of the comet of 1769. Diderot's actual experience of his feelings tells him, however, that his love is not imposed on him by any force exterior to himself. 45 The argument is, in fact, a sophism, because it fails to take account of the original dynamism inherent in every particle of matter, a principle which Diderot himself expounds in his Principes philosophiques sur la matiere et le mouvement. "Un atome remue le monde;" he writes, "rien n'est plus vrai; cela l'est autant que 1'atome remue par le monde: puisque 1'atome a sa force propre, elle ne peut etre sans effet.""1" Thus the analogy of the man in the torrent lends only specious support to the paradox, for, though his struggles may not be effective in saving his life, they are bound to have some effect on the direc tion he takes. In this paradoxical context, the sentence "Les efforts impuissants ou victorieux sont aussi dans l'ordre," seems to imply that man has not the slightest measure of autonomy. In fact, however, while this statement is consistent with Diderot's determinism, one may not logically conclude from it that man has no autonomy, for the fact that his autonomy is included in the universal order does not nullify it. Indeed, the sentence under discussion admits this by allowing that man's efforts may be efficacious. Naigeon would be right if he went no further than claiming that the passage of the comet must have some effect, however negligeable, on the course of events which constitutes Diderot's life. But, as for his claim that Diderot would not have fallen in love if the comet had not appeared, he might just as well assert that the comet would not have appeared if Diderot 1 AT, II, 67. 46 had not fallen in love! I think we may be sure that Diderot knows that his paradox is fallacious. He knows perfectly well that it is not true that all events in the universe have an equal effect on all others. This is evident from a passage in Le Reve de d'Alembert in which Bordeu points out to Mile de l'Bspinasse that our senses receive impressions from all parts of the universe, but that their strength is in inverse proportion to the distance of their origin."'" Several passages from different works make it clear that the cause which produces the individual's act or thought is not simply the context in which 2 he is placed, but comprises also his own nature. I think that when Diderot says, "J1enrage d'etre empetre d'une diable de philosophie . . . ," he refers not to his real deterministic doctrine, but to the particular falsified version of it which he outlines here. But what does he mean when he says that his mind cannot help approving it, though his heart rejects it? One could suppose that Diderot is merely -pretending to believe in his paradox, but I think the matter is in fact more complicated. I suggest that in formulating this paradox Diderot has momentarily become his own dupe, that he is not clearly conscious that he has crossed the fine line between scientific determinism and pseudo-scientific fatalism. The reason why so many critics have 1 AT, II, 141-42. o See above, p. 22, the quotations from Jacques le fataliste. AT, VI, 180, and from Le Reve de d'Alembert. AT, II, 175. 47 taken this fragment as the serious expression of a profound philosophical and emotional dilemma may well be that Diderot has managed to give a certain tone of sincerity to his paradox. Instead of analysing the precise way in which determinism could be distorted into fatalism, he here recalls a frame of mind in which he sometimes finds himself, when he feels that within the deterministic system, in spite of the kind of autonomy and original dynamism which it allows the individual, man is still a helpless witness of his own destiny. The following iext shows that Diderot was familiar with such a feeling: On est bien ou mal ne. On se trouve, en entrant dans le monde, jete en bonne ou mauvaise compagnie. On a des gouts honnetes ou dissolus. On est un homme d'esprit ou un sot. On a du bon sens ou l'on est un insense. On a de la sensibilite ou l'on est une pierre. On est heureux ou malheureux. La nature nous dispose a un role ou a un autre. Tres souvent les circonstances nous condamnent a. celui pour lequel nous n'etions pas faits, et sans avoir dit avec le stolcien: 0 destinl conduis-moi oil tu voudras, me  voila pret a te_ suivrel nous n'en sommes ni plus ni moins conduit s.-*-The fact that Diderot is capable of adopting such an attitude does not, I think, justify the conclusion that, either here or in the sophistical argument in the fragment concerning the comet, we have the carefully weighed position which we could call his philosophy. Nor are such feelings of emotional dissatisfaction with the situation of man in a deterministic scheme of things frequent enough to justify our seeing Diderot as split between his intellect and his heart. AT, IV, 93 (Remarks concerning a work entitled Principes  philosophiques pour servir d'introduction a la connaissance de 1'esprit et du coeur humain). 48 I think that in the fragment concerning the comet Diderot does allude to a philosophical problem which preoccupied him, but I think also that it is quite different from the dilemma to which Crocker and May refer. To make my point clear, I must quote from a passage in the article "Romains", in which a similar problem is evoked. The article opens with a reference to the "frivolous science" of augury, which provokes the following reflections: 0 combien nos lumieres sont faibles et trompeuses! Tantot c'est notre imagination, ce sont les evenements, nos passions, notre terreur et notre curiosite qui nous entraxnent aux suppositions les plus ridicules; tantot c'est une autre sorte d'erreur qui nous joue. Avons-nous decouvert, a force de raison et d'etude, quelque principe vraisemblable ou vrai, nous nous egarons des les premieres consequences que nous en tirons, et nous flottons incertains. Nous ne savons s'il y a vice ou dans le principe, ou dans la consequence; et nous ne pouvons nous resoudre, ni a. admettre l'un, ni a. rejeter 1'autre, ni a. les recevoir tous deux. Le sophisme consiste dans quelque chose de tres subtil qui nous echappe.l How, asks Diderot, could one refute purely by rational argument an augur who claimed that his art was founded on the principle that all things in nature are interconnected, and declared that he had observed a constant relation between the condition of the entrails of the sacred chickens and important events on which the fate of the empire depended? The answer is that reason alone is powerless to refute him; one is forced to have recourse to experimental verification: 1 AT, XVII, 27. 49 Et voila. mon philosophe, s'il est un peu sincere, reduit a. laisser de cote sa raison, et a, prendre le couteau du sacrificateur, ou a, abandonner un principe incontestable: c'est que tout tient dans la nature par un enchainement necessaire. . . . Qu'on rende le philosophe si subtil que 11 on voudra, si 1'augur n'est pas un imbecile, il repondra a. tout, et ramenera le philosophe, malgre qu'il en ait, a 1'experience.! There is a striking and instructive similarity between the problem with which Diderot deals in this passage from "Romains" and the question which is raised in the fragment concerning the comet. In each case the problem arises because, from a general principle which Diderot considers incontrovertible, namely the principle of universal determinism, a conclusion is drawn which he finds unacceptable though he is unable to demonstrate the falsehood of the deduction. In both texts he admits that determinism lends an apparent support to superstitious beliefs. What makes Diderot reject the augur's belief is his sense of the comparative probability of different combinations of events, a sense which results from an immense number of observations, 2 in other words, from experience. It is fortunately possible to establish by a series of experiments whether or not the inspection of chickens' entrails enables one accurately to predict the result of battles. In the fragment concerning the comet, on the other hand, all that Diderot can invoke to counter Naigeon's facetious suggestion that his love for Mme de Maux has 1 Ibid., p. 28. 2 Cf. Pensees sur 1'interpretation de la Nature, sect. Ill, AT, II, 24. 50 been the result of the passage of the comet is the evidence of his heart. This is experience, but it is not experiment. The comet will come only once in Diderot's lifetime and he will never have a way of proving that he would still have fallen in love with Mme de Maux even if it had not appeared. This is why he must remain "empetre" and continue to "enrager". To sum up my conclusions on the significance of the fragment concerning the comet, I believe that it does not express an emotional rejection of Diderot's intellectually accepted determini but reveals instead his awareness of the contradiction between the evidence of his emotional experience and the pseudo-scientific fatalism into which defective, but specious, logic sometimes leads him. The Refutation d 'Helvetius-" provides further evidence^ that Diderot believed there was a vital distinction to be made between, on the one hand, that sort of determinism in which part of the causality which governs the individual's acts and thoughts is to be found within himself, and, on the other hand, the pseudo-scientific fatalism according to which the individual is merely passive. According to Helvetius, the personality of the indi vidual is entirely the result of the influence of the environment. If two babies could be brought up so as to have an identical experience, they would, from the psychological point of view, be """ The only complete edition is that which appears in the Oeuvres  completes (AT, II, 275-4-56), under the title Refutation suivie de l'ouvrage d'Helvetius intitule 1'Homme. 51 indistinguishable. In Diderot's view, this would only be true if they were identical at birth in their physical constitution, for this endows them with peculiar predispositions and aptitudes. Thus, for Helvetius, man is a passive witness of effects produced in him by external forces, while Diderot insists on the importance of individual biological differences which interact with the influence of the environment to cause the individual to function as he does."*" In my discussion of Diderot's determinism, I have endeavoured especially to ascertain what sort of human liberty he denies when he rejects free-will and what sort of autonomy his deterministic doctrine allows the human individual. Prom what I have said, it will, I think, be clear that the notion of freedom he discards is quite different from that freedom of which, as I will show in chapters III-VI, he was the unflagging champion. The liberty which matters for Diderot is liberty from oppressive forces acting upon the individual. Man cannot but be subject to external Diderot stresses his disagreement with Helvetius over this point constantly throughout the Refutation. His general comment on Section I of De 1'Homme is as follows: "L'auteur emploie les quinze chapitres qui forment cette section a. etablir son paradoxe favori, 'que 1'education seule fait toute la difference entre des individus a peu pres bien organises . . . ,' condition dans laquelle il ne fait entrer ni la force, ni la faiblesse, ni la sante, ni la maladie, ni aucune de ces qualites physiques ou morales qui diversifient les temperaments et les caracteres." (AT, II, 276.) It should be noted that both Diderot and Helvetius use the word "education" in a very broad sense: we would say "environmental influences". 52 influences, but he cannot be happy when they exert an excessive and stifling effect on the development of those original forces which are within him. The happiness of the individual and of society depends upon a certain balance between the inherent needs and propensities of the individual and the pressures exerted upon him by society. Before turning, however, to the question of the individual's relation to society, I must examine Diderot's views on the logical consequences which the denial of free-will entails for ethics. CHAPTER II THE ETHICAL CONSEQUENCES OP DETERMINISM I endeavoured to show in the previous chapter that Diderot remains a confirmed determinist throughout his mature career. I denied, in particular, that the fragment concerning the comet provides, as so many scholars have claimed, evidence that on an emotional plane Diderot rejected the determinism of which he was convinced intellectually. In the present chapter I wish to examine his view of the significance of determinism for ethics. Here again I shall oppose the theory that he reveals an inner conflict between intellectual and emotional conviction. Contrary to the opinion of certain commentators, I shall argue that according to Diderot himself a consistent deterministic doctrine does not constitute a danger for morality or render ethical discourse meaningless, that he sees its practical consequences as rather limited and not at all distressing and in fact regards it as the only sound theoretical basis for ethics. Diderot himself was well aware of the common opinion that to deny free-will is to sap the whole foundation of ethics and to jeopardize public morality. That is the reaction he ascribes to Mile de l'Espinasse in Le Reve de d'Alembert, when Bordeu declares that no human action is free and that a human being could never act at a given moment otherwise than he in fact does. The lady exclaims in horror: 54 Mais, docteur, et le vice et la vertu? La vertu, ce mot si saint dans toutes les langues. cette idee si sacree chez toutes les nations"^ This scandalized attitude was clearly that of most people in Diderot's day. Consider, for instance, the following passage from the article "Liberte": Encore une fois, otez la liberte, vous ne laissez sur la terre ni vice, ni vertu, ni merite; les recompenses sont ridicules et les chatiments sont injustes: chacun ne fait que ce qu'il doit puisqu'il agit selon la necessite; il ne doit, ni eviter ce qui est inevitable, ni vaincre ce qui est invincible. Tout est dans l'ordre, car l'ordre est que tout cede a la necessite. La ruine de la liberte renverse avec elle tout ordre et toute police, confond le vice et la vertu, autorise toute infamie monstrueuse, eteint toule pudeur et tout remords, degrade et defigure sans ressource tout le genre humain. Une doctrine si enorme ne doit point etrepexaminee dans l'ecole, mais punie par les magistrats. This passage, which I do not consider to have been written by 3 Diderot, sums up, admittedly in a somewhat truculent manner, the traditional common-sense view that belief in determinism destroys the basis of morality and encourages vice and crime. It is in fact still the view of most people today and we find it expressed or implied by some of Diderot's recent commentators. Thus many scholars point to what they call the "contradiction" between Diderot's ethical system in writings where his determinism 1 AT, II, 176. 2 AT, XV, 501. ^ See above, p. 23, note 3, concerning the authorship of "Liberte". 55 is explicit and his attitude in works like the Entretiens sur  le Fils naturel, where, without mentioning the problem of free will and determinism, he extols virtue and vituperates vice.1 According to Georges May, Diderot is aware that there is an irreconcilable contradiction between his ethical views and his determinism. He can only escape from the latter, says May, "par un manque de rigueur dans sa dialectique, par la pirouette de Bordeu substituant aux notions de bien et de mal celles de 2 bienfaisance et de malfaisance." Unfortunately, May"does not specify on what grounds he criticizes the rigour of Diderot's logic. Contrary to such opinions, I shall attempt to demonstrate that Diderot's position is, in fact, logically consistent; that between the unorthodox ethical conclusions which he derives from his determinism and the moralizing stance he often adopts the conflict is only apparent; that he professes, quite consciously, a "double doctrine", and that the acceptability of his exoteric moral position to timorous minds is due not only to prudent concessions to orthodoxy, but also very often to a deliberate use 1 Cf. the following remark of Charly Guyot: "Quoi que Diderot puisse dire, il est difficile de ne pas voir une inconsequence entre son materialisme theorique et sa 'pratique' moralisatrice." (Diderot par lui-meme, Paris, 1953, p. 59.) It is determinism which Guyot has particularly in mind when he refers here to Diderot's materialism. See also lefebvre, op_. cit., p. 284. 2 Quatre visages de Denis Diderot, p. 149. May presumably uses the words bien and mal in the same sense as Diderot uses vice and yertu, i.e. implying free-will. 0 of traditional modes of expression the uninitiated, while at the same not inconsistent with his esoteric 56 which are calculated to deceive time they convey a message doctrine. In order that the reader may judge whether my analysis of Diderot's views on the ethical consequences of determinism is correct, I will begin by quoting in full, and without commentary, the most important texts relevant to this question: 1) le Reve de d'Alembert. AT, II, 176. In answer to Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse's query as to what becomes of the word "virtue", Bordeu replies: II faut le transformer en celui de bienfaisance, et son oppose en celui de malfaisance. On est heureusement ou malheureusement ne; on est irresistiblement entraine par le torrent general qui conduit l'un a la gloire, 1'autre a. l'ignominie. Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse: Et l'estime de soi, et la honte, et le remords? Bordeu: Puerilite fondee sur 1'ignorance et la vanite d'un etre qui s'impute a. lui-meme le merite ou le demerite d'un instant necessaire. Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse: Et les recompenses, et les chatiments? Bordeu: Des moyens de corriger l'etre modifiable qu'on appelle mechant, et d'encourager celui qu'on appelle bon. 2) Jacques le fataliste. AT, VI, 180-81. Jacques ne connaissait ni le nom de vice, ni le nom de vertu; il pretendait qu'on etait heureusement ou 57 malheureusement ne. Quand il entendait prononcer les mots recompenses ou chatiments, il haussait les epaules. Selon lui la recompense etait 11 encouragement des bons; le chatiment, l'effroi des mechants. Qu'est-ce autre chose, disait-il, s'il n'y a point de liberte, et que notre destinee soit ecrite la-haut? II croyait qu'un homme s'acheminait aussi necessairement a la gloire ou a l'ignominie, qu'une boule qui aurait la conscience d'elle-meme suit la pente d'une montagne; et que, si 1'enchainement des causes et des effets qui forment la vie d'un homme depuis le premier instant de sa naissance jusqu'a son dernier soupir nous etait connu, nous resterions convaincus qu'il n'a fait que ce qu'il etait necessaire de faire. . . . D'apres ce systeme, on pourrait imaginer que Jacques ne se rejouissait, ne s'affligeait de rien; cela n'etait pourtant pas vrai. II se conduisait a. peu pres comme vous et moi. II remerciait son bienfaiteur, pour qu'il lui fit encore du bien. II se mettait en colere contre l'homme injuste; et quand on lui objectait qu'il ressemblait alors au chien qui mord la pierre qui l'a frappe: "Nenni, disait-il, la pierre mordue par le chien ne se corrige pas; l'homme injuste est modifie par le baton." Art. "Malfaisant", AT, XVI, 57. MALFAISANT, ad. (Gram, et Morale), qui nuit, qui fait du mal. Si l'homme est libre, c'est-a-dire si l'ame a une activite qui lui soit propre, et en vertu de laquelle elle puisse se determiner a faire ou ne pas faire une action, quelles que soient ses habitudes ou celles du corps, ses idees, ses passions, le temperament, 1'a.ge, les prejuges, etc., il y a certainement des hommes vertueux et des homines vicieux; s'il n'y a point de liberte, il n'y a plus que des hommes bienfaisants et des hommes malfaisants; mais les hommes n'en sont pas moins modifiables en bien et en mal; les bons exemples, les bons discours, les chatiments, les recompenses, le blame, la louange, les lois ont toujours leur effet: l'homme malfaisant est malheureusement ne. Art. "Liberte", AT, XV, 482-83. II n'y a done plus de vicieux et de vertueux? non, si vous le voulez; mais il y a des etres heureux ou malheureux, bienfaisants et malfaisants. Et les 58 recompenses et les chatiments? II faut bannir ces mots de la morale; on ne recompense point, mais on encourage a. bien faire; on ne chatie point, mais on etouffe, on effraye. Et les lois, et les bons exemples, et les exhortations, a quoi servent-elles? Elles sont d'autant plus utiles, qu'elles ont necessairement leurs effets. Mais pourquoi distinguez-vous, par votre indignation et par votre colere, l'homme qui vous offense, de la tuile qui vous blesse? c'est que je suis deraisonnable, et qu'alors je ressemble au chien qui mord la pierre qui l'a frappe. Mais cette idee de liberte que nous avons, d'ou. vient-elle? De la meme source qu'une infinite d'autres idees fausses que nous avons! En un mot, concluent-ils [the Spinozists], ne vous effarouchez pas a. contre-temps. Ge systeme qui vous parait si dangereux, ne l'est point; il ne change rien au bon ordre de la societe. les choses qui corrompent les hommes seront toujours a supprimer; les choses qui les ameliorent seront toujours a multiplier et a fortifier. C'est une dispute de gens oisifs, qui ne merite point la moindre animadversion de la part du legislateur. Seulement notre systeme de la necessite assure a toute cause bonne, ou conforme a l'ordre etabli, son bon effet; a toute cause mauvaise ou contraire a l'ordre etabli, son mauvais effet; et en nous prechant 1'indulgence et la commiseration pour ceux qui sont malheureusement nes, nous empeche d'etre si vains de ne pas leur • ressembler; c'est un bonheur qui n'a dependu de nous en aucune fagon. 5) To these texts should be added a passage from Diderot's letter to Landois, dated June 29, 1756.Since I shall find it necessary to quote this passage later in the present chapter when commenting on the significance of the letter, considered as a whole, the reader is referred to pp. 73-7^ helow for this text. Perhaps the most striking feature of these passages is the paradoxical and provocative way in which Diderot chooses to express himself. It is as if he has deliberately set out to shock. Vice and virtue, he declares, do not exist; nothing Roth, I, 213-14. 59 deserves praise or blame; self-esteem, shame and remorse are puerilities. Immediately the reader feels his values threatened. His equanimity is not restored despite the assurance that adequate substitutes are at hand to replace what has been rejected, and that the question of free-will and determinism is a "dispute for idle people", the issue of which is of little practical importance. Let us try to analyse dispassionately the ideas which Diderot clothes in this paradoxical form. First we must note that he does not deny the distinction between good and bad acts. These qualities are defined by the effect produced, on the agent himself and on other people. Nor is there here any denial that there is a valid distinction to be made between those men who are commonly said to manifest vice and those who are commonly said to manifest virtue. What Diderot objects to is the use of the terms "vice" and "virtue"; and this is because of the special connotations which accompany them. The point is made clear in a passage which Diderot added to de Jaucourt's article "Vice": L'usage a mis de la difference entre un defaut et un vice; tout vice est defaut, mais tout defaut n'est pas vice. On suppose a. l'homme qui a un vice, une liberte qui le rend coupable a. nos yeux; le defaut tombe communement sur le compte de la nature; on excuse l'homme, on accuse la nature. Diderot substitutes the terms "bienfaisance" and "malfaisance" Encyclopedie, ou dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts  et des metiers, par une societe de gens de lettres, Paris, 1751-65, vol. XVII. 60 for those of "vice" and "vertu" because the new words are free from certain connotations which he feels to be indissociable from the old ones. "Bienfaisance" and "malfaisance" characterize actions solely by reference to the effects which the agent can expect them to produce. The words "vice" and "vertu" normally imply the free-will of the agent and the idea that we ought to punish the doer of a harmful act simply because he has done it and could have freely chosen to do otherwise. That is a reaction akin to vengeance. It is quite different from saying that we take such action against the doer of a harmful act as will tend to prevent or deter him from repeating it or deter others from acting similarly. This is Diderot's view; it is a dispassionate approach, unlike the emotional attitude normally inherent in the traditional reaction to "vice" and "virtue"; for one never pronounces the words "vertueux" and "vicieux", says Diderot, without either love or hatred."*" Similarly, when Diderot sa3rs that according to the determin istic view there is nothing in human behaviour which deserves praise or blame, he does not mean that we are behaving foolishly when we express approval or disapproval of a person's actions. The point Diderot is making is that, in so far as the terms "praise", "blame" and "deserve" imply free-will on the part of the agent, they are philosophically unjustifiable. But, with determinism, just as punishment is rejected in the form of retribution only "*" Lod . - cit. 61 to reappear in the form of deterrence, so praise and blame reappear in the guise of example, exhortation and moral training. These, like the more extreme measures which the laws prescribe, cannot fail to have their effect, because no cause can operate upon a human being without producing an effect in him, since he is part of the physical world and subject to the laws which govern it. "Et les lois, et les bons exemples, et les exhortations, 3. quoi servent-elles?" asks Diderot in "Liberte", and he answers: "Elles sont d'autant plus utiles, qu1elles ont necessairement leurs effets.""1" In the article "Modification", he writes: 11 Mo ins un etre est libre, plus on est sur de le modifier, et plus la 2 modification lui est necessairement attachee." Moreover, the effect which we produce in a person by our exhortations, reprimands, encouragements and deterrents, cannot cease operating in him: "Les modifications qui nous ont ete imprimees nous changent sans ressource, et pour le moment et pour toute la suite de la vie, parce qu'il ne se peut jamais faire que ce qui a ete une fois tel, n'ait pas ete tel."^ Par from justifying despondency, the deterministic doctrine should make us more hopeful of the security and progress of the social order; for, if we believe in free-will, we can have no certainty that any measures we take to influence the will of the potential criminal will have any effect, since, if we could be sure they would, this 1 AT, XV, 482. 2 AT, XVI, 120. Loc. cit. 62 would imply the denial of the freedom of his will; and to the extent that we think the measures we take can influence, without determining, his will, to that extent we in effect assume the freedom of his will to he limited. On the other hand, according to Diderot's view, although the measures we take may he insuffi cient or inappropriate to deter the potential criminal, their effectiveness depends entirely upon their nature and upon his nature, and not on a capricious and unpredictable decision of his will, arising out of nothing at all. On one point the passages from "liberte" and Jacques le  fataliste are contradictory, but the question is not a fundamental one. In "Liberte" we read: "Mais pourquoi distinguez-vous, par votre indignation et par votre colere, l'homme qui vous offense, de la tuile qui vous blesse? c'est que je suis deraisonnable, et qu'alors je ressemble au chien qui mord la pierre qui l'a frappe."""" Diderot is, in fact, well aware that indignation is justifiable, at least as regards its outward manifestation, because it has the practical usefulness of contri buting to the preservation of the individual. Jacques points out that anger against a man who wrongs you is not similar to a dog biting the stone which has struck it, because "la pierre mordue par le chien ne se corrige pas," whereas "l'homme injuste 2 3 est modifie par le baton." We shall see, in a later chapter, 1 AT, XV, 482. 2 AT, VI, 181. 5 See below, pp. 226-^ 229» 63 that Diderot lays great stress on instinctive resentment of injustice. When a determinist reacts spontaneously to other people's actions, without seeking to justify his reactions in the light of his philosophy, he reacts emotionally, with pleasure or anger, just as men always have. Reflecting on his reactions, he can see that they serve a useful purpose: he has therefore no reason to try to bring about a radical change in them. In this connection, it is noteworthy that Diderot rejects the Stoic ideal of ataraxia. He cites the following remark of Seneca: "Le sage n'entrera pas en colere, si l'on egorge son pere, si l'on enleve sa femme, si l'on viole sa fille sous ses yeux,""*" and replies that not only is such an attitude impossible, but the attempt to attain it would produce harmful results: "L'indignation contre le mechant, la bienveillance pour l'homme de bien, sont 2 deux sortes d'enthousiasme egalement dignes d'eloge." Probably the most disquieting part of the whole doctrine is the treatment of the feelings of the agent towards his own actions. Bordeu classes self-esteem, shame and remorse as puerilities. This seems particularly paradoxical, because it appears to imply that it would be better if people never experienced these feelings, whereas it is admitted, even in Diderot's system, that men who do not experience them tend to be maleficent. He is aware of the useful effects of self-esteem, shame and remorse, for the experience """ Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 282. 2 Ibid., p. 283. 64 of these feelings is part of that continuing process of moral decision in the individual, which he describes in his letter to Landois.1 I conclude that Diderot would have been able, if he had so wished, to make Bordeu express substantially the same views on shame and remorse in a manner less calculated to scandalize. Why then does Bordeu say that self-esteem, shame and remorse are puerilities? I think the reason is that these feelings have traditionally been given a supposedly rational justification implying free-will. The orthodox attitude is: "You have done wrong and could have done right. Therefore you ought to feel shame and remorse." Diderot, on the other hand, would say: "Whether or not you feel shame or remorse for the harm you have done cannot depend on a free decision of your will; it depends on the end-result of your various motivational conflicts. I could, if I so wished, attempt to sway this balance in favour of remorse by exhorting you; but I think it more useful to concern myself with your future actions than your past ones. I will therefore try to motivate you to beneficent conduct in the future by convincing you that if you wish to be happy — which you do — the best way is to be beneficent." I shall consider in greater 2 detail later in this thesis Diderot's attempts to demonstrate the validity of the position which I have just attributed to him. For the moment, I wish only to show that, far from conflicting 1 See below, pp. 7^-76, the quotation from Roth, I, 211-13. 2 See below, pp. 239-52. 65 with his determinism, his attempt to justify beneficence on the grounds that it is to the advantage of the person who practises it is part and parcel of the same basic position. Not only does determinism imply no harmful change in practical attitudes and behaviour, but it in no way invalidates the exhortatory function of the moralist. There is an interesting letter from Diderot to his brother the abbe, in which he replies to a letter which is not extant, but in which it is evident that the abbe has attacked his philosophy, in particular his determinism, as a negation of morality. Diderot replies in a sarcastic tone, but he nevertheless clearly expresses the way in which, according to the deterministic doctrine, moral relations between men operate, particularly with regard to the efficacy and justification of moral exhortation or reprimand: Ne parlez jamais philosophie, parce que vous n'y entendez pas plus qu'un talapoin. He, mon Dieu, oui, je sais bien que tu serais bon, doux, honhete, tolerant si tu le pouvais par toi-meme. Mais je sais bien qu'il y a quelque difference entre la tuile et l'homme qui me blessent; et cette difference est que la tuile ne se modifie pas, et que l'etre sensible est modifiable. Je te donne du bout du couteau sur le nez, comme on fait au chien gourmand. Qui sait ce que ma lettre fera sur toi? C1 est une cause qui aura necessairement son effet. Si par hasard elle te rendait bon, de mechant que tu es; doux, du plus acariatre des hommes que tu es; hormete, d'insolent; tolerant, de fanatique a toute outrance; est-ce que j'en devrais etre surpris? Nullement. Tant que tu vivras, tu ne seras pas sans ressource; et sur ce, tache de te taire sur une doctrine dont^tu ne sais pas la premiere lettre de 1'alphabet. We cannot suppose that Diderot really thought that his letter Roth, XII, 169-70 (Nov. 13, 1772). 66 would have any salutary effect on his brother; in this particular case he knew that the resistance was too great, so he does not even attempt to go about things in the manner most likely to be efficacious. In any case, the real intention of the letter is simply to annoy his brother. Yet the theory which Diderot uses here is to be taken quite seriously. The following detached note refers to the same idea: Apres avoir lu Seneque, suis-je le meme que j'etais , avant. que de le lire? Cela n'est pas, cela ne se peut. Diderot thus answers in advance the charge that a determinist must, logically, admit the futility of demonstrating that true happiness can only be enjoyed by the good man. Such objections ignore the fact that the determinism which governs men's thoughts and actions comprises not only their organic constitution, but also all the influences which have been exerted on them up to the moment at which they act. These influences include those 2 resulting from their reading of the works of moralists. Since Diderot minimizes the consequences of determinism for practical morality, one may well ask, why he lays so much stress Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice II, p. 331. 2 There is no great originality in the way Diderot reconciles the possibility that moral exhortation can be efficacious with his denial of free-will. Voltaire uses the same argument in Le Philosophe ignorant (1766), a work in which he rejects free-will: "Vous me demandez a quoi bon tout ce sermon, si l'homme n'est pas libre? D'abord je ne vous ai point dit que l'homme n'est pas libre; je vous ai dit que sa liberte consiste dans son pouvoir d'agir, et non pas dans le pouvoir chimerique de vouloir vouloir. Ensuite je vous dirai que tout etant lie dans la nature, la Providence eternelle me predestinait a ecrire ces reveries, et predestinait cinq ou six lecteurs a en faire leur profit, et cinq a six autres a. les dedaigner et a les laisser dans la foule immense des ecrits inutiles." (Ed. J. L. Carr, London, 1965, section LI, p. 92.) 67 in some works on the deterministic account of moral phenomena. It would be correct, but insufficient, to answer that he wishes to rectify a philosophical error. What disturbs Diderot and the ' philosoph.es1 generally is not error in itself, but its harmful consequences. Belief in free-will has, in his opinion, certain harmful practical effects which determinism, properly understood, helps to combat. The public attitude towards law-breakers was, he felt, imbued with a vindictiveness for which a supposed justification was provided by the doctrine of free-will. He claims that determinism, on the other hand, will make anyone who embraces it more humane in his attitude to the behaviour of others, less inclined to be revengeful and less prone to the pride and self-righteousness which lead, to excessive severity. Since Diderot's day we have grown more accustomed to legal systems which take account of the extenuating circumstances of crime, which consider the criminal, not as deliberately perverse, but as suffering from social maladjustment. Diderot justifies in advance this newer attitude: Plus on accorde a. 1' organisation, a 1'education, aux moeurs nationales, au climat, aux circonstances qui ont dispose de notre vie, depuis 1'instant ou nous sommes tombes du sein de la nature, jusqu'a. celui ou. nous existons, moins on est vain des bonnes qualites qu'on possede, et qu'on se doit si peu a. soi-meme, plus on est indulgent pour les defauts et les vices des autres; plus on est circonspect dans l'emploi des mots vicieux et vertueux, qu'on ne prononce jamais sans amour ou sans haine, plus on a de penchant a. leur substituer ceux de malheureusement et d'heureusement nes, qu'un sentiment de commiseration accompagne toujours. Vous avez pitie d'un aveugle; et qu'est-ce qu'un mediant, 68 sinon un homme qui a la vue courts, et qui ne voit pas au-dela du moment ou. il agit? Diderot himself more than once expresses the view that poverty-should be considered as in some measure attenuating crimes of theft. This is the grain of truth which is contained in this remark of Rameau's nephew: "La voix de la conscience et de 2 l'honneur est bien faible, lorsque les boyaux orient." In commenting on legal penalties in his Observations sur le Nakaz, his principles are strictly utilitarian and he rejects all vindictiveness: II m'a semble que les homines, en general, risquaient plus volontiers leur honneur que leur vie, et leur vie que leur fortune. L'honneur n'est le ressort que d'un petit nombre d'hommes, et la vie n'est rien si elle n'est pas heureuse; en consequence, de toutes les peines afflictives, les peines pecuniaires devraient etre les plus frequentes. Rarement des peines ihfamantes: l'infame est condamne a la mechancete; peu de peines capitales; parce qu'un homme a ete tue, il n'en faut pas tuer un second; 1'assassin qui est mort n'est plus bon a. rien; et il y a tant de travaux publics auxquels il'. peut etre condamne! Beaucoup de peines ^ pecuniaires dont partie serait appliquable a. 1'offense. 4 In her Instruction to the legislative assembly which deliberated, without tangible result, in 1767-68, Catherine II refers to the death penalty as an "espece de talion qui fait que la societe Prom Diderot's addition to de Jaucourt's article "Vice", Encyclopedie, vol. XVII. 2 Le Neveu de Rameau, AT, V, 422. 3 In Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, Paris, 1963, pp. 373-74. ^ Instruction de S. M. I. pour la commission chargee de dresser le projet d'un nouveau code de lois, Saint-Petersburg, 1769. This work is often referred to by the Russian name Nakaz. 69 refuse la surete a un citoyen qui en a prive ou a voulu en priver un autre."1 Diderot's remarks are intended in part as a refutation of the Empress's view. His humanitarianism, however, is tempered by a broad utilitarianism which balances pity for the criminal against the need to protect the public. This can be seen in his p reflections on Beccaria's Traite des delits et des peines. While affirming his sympathy with the humanitarian sentiments which inspire this work, he refuses to reject the death penalty on principle if it can be shown to be a truly effective and necessary deterrent. The second, and probably more important, reason why Diderot is so insistent, in certain texts, on denying free-will and drawing the ethical conclusions which we have discussed, is that the ideas of free-will and of merit and demerit are fundamental to the Church's doctrine of punishments after death. Now the Church's precepts contain much that Diderot detests. The peculiarly Christian ethical values, as he understands them, are not derived rationally from positive reality, but are arbitrary. If one discounts the theory of an innate moral conscience, as Diderot constantly does, general obedience to arbitrary moral precepts can only be obtained through compulsion by the authority of custom or by threats of supernatural or temporal punishment. 1 Quoted by Verniere, Oeuvres politiques, p. 374, note 1. 2 AT, IV, 61-62. 70 For Diderot, the authority of custom and positive law is acceptable and necessary as long as it enforces principles of conduct justified by the natural needs of man. Beyond this limit, it is the cause of much human misery. The Church, as an institution exercising oppressive authority over men's lives, is abhorrent to Diderot,1 and his stand on free-will should be seen as part of his efforts to undermine the doctrinal foundations of ecclesiastical power, and thus to promote the freedom and happiness of man. The control exercised by Church and State was too stringent to allow the battle for men's minds to be waged openly. Out of mere prudence Diderot limits the frank expression of deterministic views to writings not intended for publication, at least during his life-time, though he often allowed his manuscripts to circulate in a restricted circle of kindred spirits. This does not mean, however, that the works addressed to the general public were merely a vehicle for hypocritical attitudes designed to placate the authorities and strengthen the allegiance of the unenlightened to the established order. The occasional bows to dogma and revelation are no doubt insincere, but the moralizing is genuine. In works like Le Fils naturel or the Essai sur les  regnes de Claude et de Neron, on every page of which the words "vice" and "virtue" appear, Diderot is sincere. 1 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 288-89; Discours d'un philosophe a. un~roi, AT, IV, 33-36; Plan d'une universite pour  le gouvernement de Russie, AT, III, 510-11. 71 Like Pythagoras, Diderot professed a "double doctrine", comprising an exoteric and an esoteric form. The exoteric doctrine is not simply a camouflage designed to deceive the curious, to ward off the hostility of public opinion or to allay the suspicions of the authorities; it is a satisfactory practical doctrine, the theoretical basis of which is defective and makes concessions to speculative error, but which the philosopher considers suitable for the majority of men, who would not under stand the strict theory aright and would tend to draw from it erroneous and harmful practical conclusions. For this reason, Pythagoras insisted on his disciples spending several years studying and practising the exoteric doctrine before being 2 initiated into his system in its entirety. There are in the writings of Rousseau interesting echoes of Diderot's distinction between his openly professed views and his esoteric doctrine. See Diderot's article "Pythagorisme", AT, XVI, 495-96. 2 The following frequently quoted passage from a letter to d'Alembert concerning the three dialogues centred around Le Reve de d'Alembert both confirms and is illuminated by the view that Diderot consciously professes a double doctrine: "... mais je le supplie par votre bouche de ne me juger qu'apres m'avoir medite, de ne prendre aucun extrait de cette informe et dangereuse production dont la publicite disposerait sans ressource de mon repos, de ma fortune, de ma vie et de mon honneur, ou de la juste opinion qu'on a congue de mes moeurs, de se rappeler la difference d'une morale illicite et d'une morale criminelle, et de ne pas oublier que l'homme de bien ne fait rien de criminel, ni le bon citoyen d'illicite; qu'il est une doctrine speculative qui n'est ni pour la multitude, ni pour la pratique; et que si, sans etre faux, on n'ecrit pas tout ce que l'on fait, sans etre inconsequent on ne fait pas tout ce qu'on ecrit." (Roth, IX, 157-58 [Sept., 17691.) 72 In the Reveries du promeneur solitaire, Jean-Jacques refers disparagingly to the double morality of the philosophes: Cette morale sans racine et sans fruit qu'ils etalent pompeusement dans des livres ou dans quelque action d'eclat sur le theatre sans qu'il en penetre jamais rien dans le coeur ni dans la raison; [et] cette autre morale secrete et cruelle, doctrine interieure de tous leurs inities a laquelle 1'autre ne sert que de masque, qu'ils suivent seule dans leur conduite et qu'ils ont si habilement pratiquee a mon egard."1 In the Confessions, Rousseau refers to the principle that "1'unique devoir de l'homme est de suivre en tout les penchants de son coeur", claiming that this is "la doctrine interieure 2 dont Diderot m'a tant parle, mais qu'il ne m'a jamais expliquee." Fortunately for the reputation of Diderot and the other philosophes, the opinion of Rousseau on the nature of their esoteric and exoteric doctrines and on the relation between the two is in no way authoritative. The whole of the present thesis can be considered as an attempt to show that, in Diderot, at least, the two doctrines, when rightly interpreted, are compatible. To conclude the present chapter, I shall discuss a text in which Diderot himself illustrates the fundamental equivalence of the exoteric and esoteric forms of his ethics, namely his letter Qeuvres completes, Pleiade edition, Paris, 1959, I, 1022. 2 Qeuvres completes, ed. cit., I, 468. For further information on Rousseau's references to the double morality of the philosophes. see ibid.. I, p. 468, note 2, and p. 1022, note 1. 73 to Landois, In the following passage he expounds the ethical consequences of determinism: Regardez-y de pres, et vous verrez que le mot liberte est un mot vide de sens; qu'il n'y a point, et qu'il ne peut y avoir d'etres libres; que nous ne sommes que ce qui convient a l'ordre general, a. 1' organisation, a. 1'education, et a. la chaine des evenements. Voila. ce qui dispose de nous invinciblement. On ne concoit non plus qu'un etre agisse sans motif, qu'un des bras d'une balance agisse sans 1'action d'un poids; et le motif nous est toujours exterieur, etranger, attache ou par une nature ou par une cause quelqonque qui n'est pas nous. Ce qui nous trompe, c'est la prodigieuse variete de nos actions, jointe a. 1'habitude que nous avons prise tout en naissant de confondre le volontaire avec le libre. Nous avons tant loue, tant repris, nous 1'avons ete tant de fois, que c'est un prejuge bien vieux que celui de croire que nous et les autres voulons, agissons librement. Mais s'il n'y a point de liberte, il n'y a point d'action qui merite la louange ou le blame. II n'y a ni vice, ni vertu, rien dont il faille recompenser ou chatier. Diderot's position on this point may appear to contradict that adopted in later writings. See, for example, the passages from Le Reve de d'Alembert and Jacques le fataliste, quoted above, p. 23. In these texts it is clear that the cause of a man's actions is not external to himself: it is himself. Each of his acts.is the result of the totality of his being at that moment, and this is in its turn the result of the interaction between tendencies internal to his physical organisation and influences of external origin. Diderot's position in the letter to Landois can, however, scarcely be fundamentally different from this, since here too he includes the physical organisation of the body among the forces which "dispose [ nt] de nous invinciblement". The human individual participates in the "ordre general"', in the "chaine des evenements", in two ways, one of which Diderot denotes by the word "organisation", the other by the word "education". I think, therefore, that when he says that the motive which causes our acts is always exterior to ourselves, and is not ourselves, we must assume that the word "nous" has another sense than in the passage from Le Reve de d'Alembert. In the present passage "nous" does not denote our total being, but the self as Descartes conceives it, in other words, an immaterial principle which the partisans of free-will postulate and presume to be the origin of free deci sions. Diderot not only denies that our motives originate from such a principle, but — though he does not explicitly say so here — he denies that it even exists. What gives rise to the common supposition that a self, so conceived, exists, is, in Diderot's opinion, simply our consciousness of some of the processes which take place in our body, in particular in our brain. 74 Qu'est-ce qui distingue done les hommes? La bienfaisance et la malfaisance. Le malfaisant est un homme qu'il faut detruire et non punir; la bienfaisance est une bonne fortune, et non une vertu. Mais quoique l'homme bien ou malfaisant ne soit pas libre, l'homme n'en est pas moins un etre qu'on modifie; c'est par cette raison qu'il faut detruire le malfaisant sur une place publique. De la. les bons effets de l'exemple, des discours, de 1'education, du plaisir, de la douleur, des grandeurs, de la misere, etc.; de la, une sorte de philosophie pleine de commiseration, qui attache fortement aux bons, qui n'irrite non plus contre le mechant que contre un ouragan qui nous remplit les yeux de poussiere. II n'y a qu'une sorte de causes, a proprement parler; ce sont les causes physiques. II n'y a qu'une sorte de necessite; c'est la meme pour tous les etres, quelque distinction qu'il nous plaise d'etablir entre eux, ou qui y soit reellement. More often than not, the letter to Landois is quoted only 2 for this exposition of materialistic and deterministic views. But it is important to note that, immediately preceding these remarks, there is a passage in which Diderot adopts an attitude very similar to that which we find in his moralistic writings: Aux yeux du peuple, votre morale est detestable. C'est de la petite morale, moitie vraie, moitie fausse, moitie etroite aux yeux du philosophe. Si j'etais un homme a. sermons et a. messes, je vous dirais: Ma vertu ne detruit point mes passions; elle les tempere seulement et les empeche de franchir les lois de la droite raison.1 Je connais tous les avantages pretendus d'un sophisme et d'un mauvais procede, d'un sophisme bien delicat, d'un procede bien obscur, bien tenebreux; mais je trouve en moi une egale repugnance a, mal raisonner et a. mal faire. Je suis entre deux puissances, dont l'une me montre le bien et 1'autre m'incline vers le mal. II faut prendre parti. 1 Roth, I, 213-14. p Pierre Hermand, for instance, cites only the explicitly deterministic passage just quoted. (0p_. cit.. passim.) 75 Dans les commencements, le moment du combat est cruel; mais la peine s'affaiblit avec le temps. II en vient un ou. le sacrifice de la passion ne coute plus rien. Je puis meme assurer par experience qu'il est doux; on en prend a. ses propres yeux tant de grandeur et de dignitei la vertu est une maitresse a. laquelle on s'attache autant par ce qu'on fait pour elle, que par les charmes qu'on .lui croit. Malheur a vous si la pratique du bien ne vous est pas assez familiere, et si vous n'etes pas assez en fonds de bonnes actions pour en etre vain, pour vous en complimenter sans cesse, pour vous enivrer de cette vapeur, et pour en etre fanatique. Nous recevons, dites-vous, la vertu comme le  malade recoit un remede auquel il prefererait, s'il en etait cru, toute autre chose qui flatterait son appetit. Cela est vrai d'un malade insense. Malgre cela, si le malade avait eu le merite de decouvrir lui-meme sa maladie; celui d'en avoir trouve, prepare le remede, croyez-vous qu'il balancat a le prendre, quelque amer qu'il fut, et qu'il ne se fit pas un honneur de sa penetration et de son courage? Qu'est-ce qu'un homme vertueux? C'est un homme vain de cette espece de vanite, et rien de plus. Tout ce que nous faisons, c'est pour nous. Nous avons l'air de nous sacrifier, lorsque nous ne faisons que nous satisfaire. Reste a. savoir si nous donnerons le nom de sages ou d'insenses a. ceux qui se sont fait une maniere d'etre heureux aussi bizarre en apparence que celle de s'immoler. Pourquoi les appellerions-nous insenses, puisqu'ils sont heureux, et que leur bonheur est si conforme au bonheur des autres? Certainement ils sont heureux; car quoi qu'il leur en coute, ils sont toujours ce qui leur coute le moins. Mais si vous voulez bien peser les avantages qu'ils se procurent, et surtout les inconvenients qu'ils evitent, vous aurez bien de la peine a. prouver qu'ils sont deraisonnables. Si jamais vous 1'entreprenez, n'oubliez pas d'apprecier la consideration des autres et celle de soi-meme tout ce qu'elles valent. N'oubliez pas non plus qu'une mauvaise action n'est jamais impunie; je dis jamais, parce que la premiere que l'on commet dispose a une seconde, celle-ci a. une troisieme, et que c'est ainsi qu'on s'avance peu a. peu vers le mepris de ses semblables, le plus grand de tous les maux. Deshonore dans une societe, dira-t-on, je passerai dans une autre ou. je saurai bien me procurer les 76 honneurs de la vertu: erreur. Est-ce qu'on cesse d'etre mechant a. volonte? Apres s'etre rendu tel, ne s'agit-il que d'aller a cent lieues pour etre bon, ou que de s'etre dit: Je veux l'etre? -^Le pli est pris; il faut que l'etoffe le garde. Perhaps the reason why commentators have g-enerally neglected this passage is that Diderot introduces his remarks with the words "Si j'etais un homme a, sermons et a. messes, je vous dirais . . . ." But the moral position he proceeds to take has, in fact, none of the specific characteristics which he rejects in the traditional religious ethic; it is not tainted with authoritarianism, nor does it preach the arbitrary and anti-natural moral code which Diderot condemns in the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville and many other texts. What Diderot's viewpoint here has in common with that of religious moralists is rather that he considers moral decisions introspectively, analysing them in terms of moral sentiments, passions, desires, psychical pleasures and pains. His purpose is to refute certain remarks contained in a manuscript which Landois had communicated to him and which is not extant. From Diderot's letter, it would appear that Landois had doubted that men ever love virtue for itself, but only for the advantages that may be derived from it. Diderot quotes him as saying that "Nous recevons la vertu comme le malade recoit un remede," that is to say, as something which we would sooner do without if we could. Now Diderot himself is an ethical hedonist, but the conception of pleasure on which his hedonism is based is very broad. In fact his hedonism is, in the final 1 Roth, I, 211-13. 77 analysis, truistic: he is able to claim that the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain are the only possible motives of human actions because, in effect, he defines pleasure as the satisfaction derived from doing what we most want to do.""* Thus, in the passage under consideration, he analyses the motivation of the virtuous man, that is to say, the man who apparently makes painful sacrifices in order to remain just or to act beneficently, and he asserts that such a man never ceases to act in the way which will cause him the least personal dissatis faction. This is not to deny the reality of the virtuous man's 2 sacrifices; on balance he makes what for him is the least sacrifice possible. It should be noted that this exposition of the process of motivation in the virtuous man implies as total an exclusion of free-will as does the overtly deterministic passage. There is, it is true, sufficient imprecision in the language used at the beginning of the passage to permit of an interpretation in which free-will plays a part; and one might well assume that this was the true implication, were it not for the context in which these lines are placed. But when one reads the paragraph beginning "Qu'est-ce qu'un homme vertueux?" it becomes clear that the "parti" which has to be taken cannot be the result of an undetermined "*" Diderot' s doctrine is really ethical egoism clothed in the terminology of ethical hedonism. For a more detailed discussion of his theory of motivation, see below, p. 271. 2 See below pp. 21*4-15. 78 choice, but is the inevitable result of one's nature. A man either is, or is not, sufficiently virtuous, by nature or by upbringing, to win the battle against the evil to which he is prompted by his passions and his self-interest, superficially understood. The theory of motivation which Diderot uses is, though expressed in subjective terms, completely mechanistic. It is based on that refined sort of hedonism of which I have already spoken: "Tout ce que nous faisons, c'est pour nous. Nous avons l'air de nous sacrifier, lorsque nous ne faisons que nous satisfaire."""" Indeed, when, having completed his defence of the good man's love of virtue, Diderot discards the preacher's 2 manner for that of the philosopher and declares that "le mot de liberte est un mot vide de sens," he is not contradicting the position he has just taken; he is merely translating it from subjective into objective terms. Thus the disciple, having mastered the exoteric doctrine, is led into the circle of the initiated, where he may view the total truth now divested of the garb of metaphor and ambiguity in which it had been clothed. At the close of this second chapter, we have reached an ^ Roth, I, 212. 2 In the letter, the link between the two passages I have quoted is provided by the following sentence: "C'est ici, mon cher, que je vais quitter le ton de predicateur.pour prendre, si je peux, celui de philosophe." (Roth, I, 213.) 79 appropriate point at which to take stock of the discussion so far. My outline of Diderot's conception of the psycho-physiological nature of man will, I think, provide the initial orientation necessary for a correct understanding of his views on morality. I hope, further, to have successfully attacked the common miscon ception that Diderot was divided within himself with regard to determinism, a misreading which has served to bolster many incorrect interpretations of his ethics. His denial of free-will helps, in a negative way, to define his ethical position, since it sets the latter apart from theories which treat the notion of free-will as a necessary part of any meaningful concept of moral obligation. If the reader accepts the interpretation of Diderot's concept of moral obligation which I propose in the last two chapters of this study, he will concede, I think, that it does not depend on the notion of free-will. The reader must decide for himself whether such a concept of moral obligation is philosophically adequate. An investigation of these questions, important as they are, can be considered introductory to the principal object of my enquiry. In the following chapters I shall approach directly Diderot's specific views regarding the form of society which men should strive to achieve and the kind of individual behaviour which they should permit or encourage. CHAPTER III MAN THE VICTIM OP AN UNNATURAL MORALITY The very notion of society, in the sense of a structure of cooperative relations embracing in its entirely the mode of life of a group of human beings, implies the conformity of individual conduct to certain prescriptions and restrictions, the precise nature of which will depend, in each particular society, on the ends towards which its activity is directed. Since, for Diderot, there is no other acceptable goal for human society than the greatest general happiness of man in this world, and since he considers human happiness to result from the satisfaction of human needs, the only morality he will subscribe to is that which is founded on the needs which Nature has inscribed in man. He holds the Church responsible for the inculcation and imposition of an arbitrary and unnatural ethic which places unjustifiable restrictions on the satisfaction of basic human needs. The arbitrariness of the religious approach to rules of conduct is, in Diderot's view, revealed with the greatest clarity in the absurd observances which constitute the religious cult itself. Although such ritual practices, at least in Christianity, do not in themselves have an adverse effect on the welfare of others, Diderot believes that, because of the excessive importance 81 which, in his opinion, is often accorded them, they result in a falsification of the natural scale of moral values: Madame la marechale, demandez au vicaire de votre paroisse, de ces deux crimes, pisser dans un vase sacre, ou noircir la reputation d'une femme honnete, quel est le plus atroce?. II fremira d'horreur au premier, criera au sacrilege; et la loi civile, qui prend a. peine connaissance de la calomnie, tandis qu'elle punit le sacrilege par le feu, achevera de hrouiller les idees et de corrompre les esprits.-1-While the importance attached to religious observances is both a cause and a symptom of the perversion of moral values, the principal evils arise from other aspects of the religious ethic. These are, first, asceticism in its broadest connotation and, secondly, a particular kind of asceticism constituted by the peculiar ideal of sexual abstinence or sexual fidelity to a single partner. It is appropriate to begin by examining Diderot's attitude to asceticism in general. Diderot is willing to admit the acceptability of many of the ethical precepts contained in the gospels and preached from the pulpits. But he insists that this part of Christian morality, namely the part which proclaims the ideals of justice and beneficence, is not specifically religious. The specifically religious part consists in the mortification of the body in this life in the hope of thereby pleasing God and meriting happiness in a future life. It is this ascetic ideal which Diderot finds unacceptable. Even if God does exist, why should He be pleased """ Entretien d'un philosophe avec la marechale de j_ j_ , AT, II, 518. 82 by the sufferings of his creatures? Diderot's answer to this question is very much in keeping with the new wave of thinking in his century which sought to rehabilitate the passions and justify the pursuit of man's happiness on this earth. Diderot's rejection of asceticism does not mean, however, that he approves of a frantic hedonism. Moderation here is necessary. In La Promenade du Sceptique (1747), an allegory in which three different ways of life are represented by three paths, the right path to choose is that of philosophic moderation (called the path of the chestnut-trees); the path of thorns, i.e. Christian asceticism, and the path of flowers, i.e. the life of immoderate pleasure, ruinous to health, both lead to unhappiness.""" Diderot's rejection of the self-inflicted discomfort of long prayer and fasting is expressed in letters to his father and his sister Denise. He pleads with them not to ruin their health in this fruitless manner; it is far better for them to take good care of themselves and express their piety by helping 2 unfortunate people in a tangible way. It is in the monasteries, however, that he finds the most terrible instances of senseless self-mortification: La Promenade du Sceptique consists of a "Discours preliminaire" followed by three sections: "L'allee des epines" (AT, I, 189-214); "L'allee des marronniers" (AT, I, 215-35); "L'allee des fleurs" (AT, I, 236-50). Roth, I, 180-82 (To his relations and friends in langres; Jan. 6, 1755); Roth, XI, 201-02 (To his sister Denise; Oct. 14, 1771); Correspondance inedite, ed. Andre Babelon, Paris, 1931, pp. 140-41 (To his sister Denise; Nov. 29, 1778). 83 Quelles voixl quels crisi quels gemissements! Qui a renferme dans ces cachots tous ces cadavres plaintifs? Quels crimes ont commis tous ces malheureux? les uns se frappent la poitrine avec des cailloux; d1autres se dechirent le corps avec des ongles de fer; tous ont les regrets, la douleur et la mort dans les yeux. Qui les condamne a. ces tourments?J-The question of monastic life brings us to the problem of sexuality. The novel La Religieuse is more than a protest against forced vocations; it is a warning against the evil psychological effects which often result from the denial of normal social and sexual life which monasticism entails. The young people who become monks or nuns are frequently unaware of the extent of the sacrifice which they have undertaken. They often mistake their awakening sexuality for a spiritual vocation: C'est une ferveur passagere qui tient.. quelquefois a 1*ennui d'un temperament qui fait effort pour se developper dans l'un et dans 1'autre sexe, ou qui, s'etant developpe, porte a. de nouveaux besoins dont on ignore l'objet, ou qu'on ne saurait satisfaire, qui entraine tant de jeunes et malheureuses victimes de leur inexperience au fond des cloitres ou elles se croit appelees par la grace, et ou. ellesgne rencontrent que la douleur et le desespoir. Not only in the particular case of monasticism, but with respect to the whole structure of the institutions regulating sexual life, Diderot voices persistent and eloquent protests Pensees philosophiques (1746), AT, I, 129. 2 Art. "Passager", AT, XVI, 206. 84 against restraints which he considers destructive of human happiness. Many texts could he quoted to illustrate this point, but the most important is the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. Here Diderot portrays a society in which most of the taboos and restric tions which limit the expression of sexuality in European society are unknown. In Tahiti, marriages are only as permanent as the partners desire. No legal formalities are involved in unions of this type and the structure of society is such that neither the separated parents nor their .offspring suffer unduly from a divorce. The children simply follow one or other parent, according to certain customary rules, into their new unions. The concept of incest is unknown. Marriages between brothers and sisters are approved of, and sexual relations between father and daughter or mother and son, though uncommon because of the discrepancy in age, are in no way taboo. Most important, the idea that there is anything intrinsically shameful in the sexual act would be entirely absent from the Tahitian mentality, were it not that the chaplain of Bougainville's expedition has succeeded already in instilling this notion into some of the young islanders."*" For the Tahitian Orou, the sexual act is "un plaisir innocent, auquel 2 nature, la souveraine maitresse, nous invite tous." Tahitian marriages do not imply a promise of sexual exclusiveness between husband and wife. Orou is proud of being frequently called upon 1 AT, II, 216. 2 Ibid., p. 220. 85 to father the children of Tahitian maids: "II y a dix mille hommes ici plus grands, aussi robustes; mais pas un plus brave que moi; aussi les meres me designent-elles.. :J souvent a. leurs filles."1 Freedom from sexual exclusivity is not the prerogative of males alone. Part of Orou's hospitality to the chaplain consists in offering him the favours not only of his three daughters, but also of his wife, a proceeding in which the women participate without reluctance. When Orou hears of the sexual fidelity which is required of marriage partners in Europe, he is shocked. Such precepts are contrary to nature, for they imply that a being endowed with feelings, thought and liberty can become the property of another. This is to confuse human beings with inanimate objects: Ne vois-tu pas qu'on a confondu, dans ton pays, la chose qui n'a ni sensibilite, ni pensee, ni desir, ni volonte; qu'on quitte, qu'on prend, qu'on garde, qu'on echange sans qu'elle souffre et sans qu'elle se plaigne, avec la chose qui ne s'echange point, ne. s'acquiert point; qui a liberte, volonte, desir; qui peut se donner ou se refuser pour un moment; se donner ou se refuser pour toujours; qui se plaint et qui souffre; et qui ne saurait devenir un effet de commerce, sans qu'on oublie son„caractere, et qu'on fasse violence a. la nature? The fundamental tyranny exercised over mankind by the tradi tional sexual ethic consists, says Diderot, in arbitrarily ' 1 Ibid., p. 232. 2 Ibid., p. 224.. 86 attaching notions of right and wrong to actions which are in themselves morally indifferent"!"" and which are urged upon all human beings by their own ineradicable nature. Such prohibitions can never succeed in changing human nature, but in the meantime man is torn apart by the conflict between the demands of his nature and the warning of dire consequences attendant on disobe dience to the artificial morality to which he has been subjected. His suffering is even greater because the prohibitions have become interiorized and man's conflict is within himself. Diderot symbolizes this process by the image of the war in the cavern: Voulez-vous savoir l'histoire abregee de presque toute notre misere? La voici. II existait un homme naturel: on a introduit au dedans de cet homme un homme artificiel; et il s'est eleve dans la caverne une guerre civile qui dure toute la vie. Tantot l'homme naturel est le plus fort; tant6t il est terrasse par l'homme moral et artificiel; et, dans l'un et l'autre cas, le triste monstre est tiraille, tenaille, tourmente, etendu sur la roue; sans cesse gemissant, sans cesse malheureux, soit qu'un faux enthousiasme de gloire le transporte et l'enivre, ou qu'une fausse ignominie le courbe et l'abatte.2 It must be stressed that the antagonists in this internal struggle are not, on the one hand, impulses which are vfmtrinsi-cally harmful to others, as tendencies to cruelty or domination would be, and, on the other hand, prohibitions intended to ensure that behaviour is compatible with social life; instead, it is a Cf. the subtitle of the Supplement: "Dialogue entre A. et B. sur 1'inconvenient d'attacher des idees morales a certaines actions physiques qui n'en comportent pas." 2 Ibid., p. 246. 87 battle between intrinsically harmless tendencies and arbitrary prohibitions unnecessary to the maintenance of a satisfactory society. In the expression "l'homme moral et artificiel" we must take the word "moral" to refer specifically to an arbitrary and unjustifiable morality, in short, to an artificial morality, and not to the essential distinction between right and wrong conduct; this distinction Diderot never denied, and indeed he frequently proclaims it with great eloquence. It is important to note that, in the Tahiti of the Supplement, there are, in fact, certain prohibitions regarding sexual conduct, particularly with respect to sexually immature or sterile persons, and some individuals are occasionally guilty of infringing them.1 Orou admits, moreover, that though rivalry for a sexual partner between men is, in practice, almost always terminated by the woman's choice, if one of her suitors were to use violence against her, 2 this would be a serious offense. The imposition of the unnatural and harmful sexual morality which has afflicted the inhabitants of Europe from time immemorial 1 Ibid., p. 235. p Ibid., p. 236: "La violence d'un homme serait une faute grave; mais il faut une plainte publique, et il est presque inouz qu'une fille ou qu'une femme se soit plainte." It may be objected that this statement of Orou is contradicted by some later remarks of B: "On a consacre la resistance de la femme; on a attache l'ignominie a. la violence de l'homme; violence qui ne serait qu'une injure legere dans Tahiti, et qui devient un crime dans nos cites." Pp. 244-45.) However the cases are different. Orou refers to the violence of a man who possesses by force a woman who has chosen another man. B, on the other hand, refers to a man's violence towards a woman who has no objection to him personally, but is afraid of the consequences of the sexual act; his violence forces her to do what her senses already prompt her to do. 88 is attributed by Diderot to the action of the civil and religious authorities, whose end is not the general welfare of society but their own private advantage. To shackle man with all these prohibitions and to make him, so to speak, his own jailer by injecting them into his very conscience is the means by which a small group of individuals have gained domination over their fellow-men: . . . ce n'est pas pour vous, mais pour eux, que ces sages legislateurs vous ont petri et maniere comme vous l'etes. J'en appelle a toutes les institutions politiques, civiles et religieuses: examinez-les profondement; et je me trompe fort, ou vous verrez l'espece humaine pliee de siecle en siecle au joug qu'une poignee de fripons se promettait de lui imposer. Mefiez-vous de celui qui veut mettre de l'ordre. Ordonner, c'est toujours se rendre le maitre des autres en les genant. I have confined my discussion so far to the views on sexual morality which Diderot expresses in the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. Wow it must be admitted that in certain other texts he takes a position which appears to be completely opposed to the radical principles expounded in this work. It seems astonishing that the same writer who evokes approvingly the young Tahitian&:'j 2 unabashed performance of the sexual act should be able to write 1 Ibid., p. 247. 2 Ibid., p. 216. 89 the following lines: On a dit que la plus belle couleur qu'il y eut au monde, etait cette rougeur aimable dont 1'innocence, la jeunesse, la sante, la modestie et la pudeur coloraient les joues d'une jeune fille; et l'on a dit une chose qui n'etait pas seulement fine, touchante et delicate, mais vraie . . . It is thus not too surprising that many critics have considered Diderot's position on sexual morality to be yet another example of the basic dichotomy of his ethics. However, the attitudes they adopt towards this contradiction vary. His detractors accuse him of immorality in his radical views and of hypocrisy in the orthodox preachings of works like Le Fils naturel. Critics more favourably disposed often prefer to view these different positions as, respectively, genuine and superficial. Diderot's genuine position, they claim, is the radical one, as it is grounded in his deeper, truer nature; his orthodox pronouncements are the result either of prudence, or of a superficial, rationalized conformism; they arise not from hypocrisy, but from self-deception. I think that this second interpretation is closer to the truth, but that it is inaccurate on two counts. First, it supposes Diderot to be less aware of the true nature of his own thought than I believe to be the case; secondly, it fails to recognize that his love of virtue is as passionate,' and as deep as his love of liberty. The view I take in this study is that there is no real 1 Essai sur la peinture, AT, X, 471. 90 contradiction in Diderot's position on sexual morality. I will, of course, concede that his attitude is marked by a considerable degree of moral relativism, a point which can be illustrated by various passages from the correspondence. In several letters he remarks on the talents, charm and dignity of a young girl of the Volland circle, Jeanne Chevalier. He is disgusted when the villainous Villeneuve declares that he sees no reason why a man should not "instruct" this young innocent: "Je la regardais, et je pensais au fond de mon coeur que c'etait un ange et qu'il faudrait etre plus mechant que Satan pour en approcher avec une pensee deshonnete."""" On the other hand, he criticizes Mme le Gendre, Sophie Volland's sister, not for having a sentimental liaison, but for imprudently exchanging letters with her inamorato and for keeping him dangling on a string without ever satisfying 2 his hopes for the physical consummation of their relationship. This same moral relativism can be seen in the widely different advice on sexual conduct which Diderot gives to his daughter and to the young actress Mile Jodin. He explains to Angelique that when a man declares his love to a young lady, what he is really saying is: Mademoiselle voudriez-vous bien, par complaisance pour moi, vous deshonorer, perdre tout etat, vous bannir de la societe, vous renfermer a jamais dans 1 Roth, III, 68 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 15, 1760). 2 Roth, II, 290-91 (To Sophie Volland; Oct. 20, 1759). Cf. Roth, VII, 190-92 (To Viallet; 1767). 91 un couvent et faire mourir de douleur votre pere et votre mere?l On the other hand, to Mile Jodin his advice is less exacting: Presentez toujours mon respect a. Monsieur le Comte. Cultivez vos talents. Je ne vous demande pas les moeurs d'une vestale, mais celles dont il n'est permis a personne de se passer: un peu de respect pour soi-meme. II faut mettre les vertus d'un galant homme a la place des prejuges auxquels les femmes sont assujetties.^ The count, who is the "galant homme" in question, is the actress's lover. In an earlier letter Diderot had written: On reproche rarement a. une femme son attachement pour un homme d'un merite reconnu. Si vous n'osez avouer celui que vous aurez prefere, c'est que vous vous en mepriserez vous-meme, et quand on a du mepris pour soi, il est rare qu'on echappe au mepris des autres. Vous voyez que, pour un homme qu'on compte entre les philosophes, mes principes ne sont pas austeres: c'est qu'il serait ridicule de proposer a une femme de theatre la morale des Capucines du Marais.3 He stresses quite explicitly the moral relativism on which he bases his advice: Je ne suis pas un pedant; je me garderai bien de vous demander une sorte de vertus presque incompatibles avec l'etat que vous avez choisi, et que des femmes du monde, que je n'en estime ni ne meprise davantage pour cela, conservent rarement au sein de 1'opulence et loin des seductions de toute espece dont vous etes environnee. Le vice vient au devant de vous; elles vont au devant du vice. Mais songez qu'une femme n'acquiert le droit de se defaire des lisieres que 1'opinion attache a. son sexe que par des talents 1 Roth, VIII, 231 (To Sophie Volland; Nov. 22, 1768). 2 Roth, IX, 41 (March 24, 1769). 5 Roth, V, 101 (To Mile Jodin; Aug. 21, 1765). 92 superieurs et les qualites d1esprit et de coeur les plus distinguees. II faut mille vertus reelles pour couvrir un vice imaginaire. Plus vous accorderez a. vos gouts, plus vous devez etre attentive sur le choix des objets.l It is clear that underlying Diderot's relativism with respect to sexual behaviour there is a constant moral principle, namely, that one should do no real harm either to oneself or to another person. The particular kind of behaviour which is in fact harmful varies according to the social position and psychological state of the individuals concerned. Public opinion, reputation and social acceptance are of great, though varying, importance. In eighteenth-century France, a married woman who did not love her husband and who had enough experience of life and of society to understand what she stood to lose or to gain risked far less by having an affair than did a young innocent who fell prey to a seducer. Similarly, in Diderot's day, an actress, provided she was successful in her profession, could live on the fringes of polite society. Though she could scarcely ever aspire to full acceptance, she might win that degree of respect which could be accorded to one of her profession. Diderot's point of view is that if a young lady has chosen to be an actress and is content with this social position, she can allow herself to flout conven tions to a point which would bring total ostracism to a young bourgeoise. The universal standard which Diderot applies, and 1 Ibid., p. 101. 93 which limits his moral relativism, is the actual happiness of the individual. The effect of one's actions on another person depends on that person's psychological needs. These needs may be unnatural, i.e. not essential to human nature. They may even be a probable source of unhappiness because they are likely to be unfulfilled. Normally, they include the desire for acceptance by the social group to which the individual belongs; but the conditions which this social group attaches to the granting of its acceptance may be purely conventional, prejudiced, arbitrary and, indeed, even contrary to individual happiness. However, the virtuous man, i.e. the man who wishes to avoid harming others, will not consider himself justified in ignoring these psychological and social needs of the individuals with whom he has dealings, but will admit that, however unnatural and, in principle, harmful these needs may be, they are none the less real, and that failure to respect them can cause real suffering. This is the meaning of the practical conclusions on sexual morality which B formulates at the end of the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville: Nous parlerons contre les lois insensees jusqu'a ce qu'on les reforme; et, en attendant, nous nous y soumettrons. . . . Disons-nous a nous-memes, crions incessamment qu'on a attache la honte, le chatiment et l'ignominie a des actions innocentes en elles-memes; mais ne les commettons pas, parce que la honte, le chatiment et l'ignominie sont les plus grands de tous les maux. Imitons le bon aumonier, moine en France, sauvage dans Tahiti. . . . Et surtout etre honnete et sincere jusqu'au scrupule avec des etres fragiles 94 qui ne peuvent faire notre bonheur, sans renoncer aux avantages les plus precieux de nos soeietes.l The closing pages of the Supplement also contain an interesting reference to several characters from two of Diderot's short fictional works: B: ... Tant que les appetits naturels seront sophistiques, comptez sur des femmes mechantes. A: Comme la Reymer. B: Sur des hommes atroces. A: Comme Gardeil. B: Et sur des infortunes a. propos de rien. A: Comme Tanie, mademoiselle de La Chaux, le chevalier Desroches et madame de La Carliere. II est certain qu'on chercherait inutilement dans Tahiti des exemples de la depravation des deux premiers, et du malheur des trois derniers.2 The two speakers cite these characters as examples of the evil produced in civilized European society by the sophistication of natural desires, a process resulting, at least as far as sexuality is concerned, from the attachment of arbitrary moral ideas to actions which are in themselves morally indifferent. The sophis ticated appetites, it should be understood, are those of the "infortunes" as well as those of the two harmful characters. The sophisticated appetites of the latter concern matters other than sexuality, in Mme Reymer greed for wealth and in Gardeil ambition; with respect to their sexual behaviour, they are much closer to the natural character of man than are their victims. 1 AT, II, 249. 2 Ibid., pp. 248-49. Tanie, Mine Reymer, Gardeil and Mile de La Chaux appear in Ceci n'est pas un conte (AT, V, 311-32); Desroches and Mme de La Carliere, in Sur 1'inconsequence du jugement public  de nos actions particulieres (AT, V, 335-57). 95 In the four unhappy characters the sophistication of natural appetites takes the form of a need for fidelity and exclusivity in love relationships. In the Tahiti of the Supplement. where the tendency for liaisons to be impermanent is generally accepted, Tanie would not feel the need to devote himself exclusively to a woman who treats him shabbily, nor Idle de La Chaux to sacrifice herself to a man by whom she is exploited and then abandoned. In Tahiti, therefore, Mme Reymer and Gardeil would have been unable to take advantage of them.1 Tanie and Mile de La Chaux are, in fact, people who have taken to heart the unnatural morality of the Christian European tradition, while Mme Reymer and Gardeil are only superficially affected by it. In the Introduction to his edition of the "contes", Jacques Proust writes: "En apparence, Mile de La Chaux est une femme naturelle, qui n'hesite pas a. sacrifier ses biens, sa reputation, sa sante, pour le bonheur de l'homme qu'elle aime." On the contrary, Mile de La Chaux is not even apparently a natural woman: her appetites are sophisticated. But the point is that they are none the less real. Gardeil is wrong in supposing that they are merely superficial. Wot having experienced that kind of love himself, he supposes, when she faints on hearing him brutally confirm the end of their liaison, that it is pure sham or at least no more than superficial autosuggestion. Here again I think that 1 It is also reasonable to assume that in Tahiti Mme Reymer and Gardeil would never have developed the greed and ambition which motivate their conduct towards their victims. 2 Quatre Contes, ed. J. Proust, Geneva, 1964, p. lxvi. 96 M. Proust has mistaken the point. Mile de La Chaux1s behaviour during this scene is, he claims, merely une attitude theatrale, convention]!elle. . . . C'est Gardeil qui est charge de la demystification salutaire. A Diderot qui s'empresse autour de la jeune femme spectaculairement pamee il repond avec un beau cynisme, en souriant et haussant les epaules: "Les femmes ne meurent pas pour si peu; cela n'est rien, cela se passera. Vous ne les connaissez pas, elles font de leur corps tout ce qu'elles veulent." Cela vaut le: "Elles pleurent toutes quand elles veulent" de 1 *interlocuteur fictif, au sujet de la pantomime desesperee de Mme Reymer. De Mme Reymer a. Mile de La Chaux, il n'y a pas de difference de nature. L'une et 1'autre ont des appetits sophistiques, mais la premiere en a admis une fois pour toutes le principe et en joue deliberement, alors que la seconde souffre de les avoir et ne peut en tolerer la manifestation chez les autres.1 But surely there is a big difference between Mme Reymer's feelings for Tanie and those of Mile de La Chaux for Gardeil. Tanie no doubt attracts and satisfies Mme Reymer sexually, but so do other men; she does not feel any exclusive need for his love. Her despair is pure play-acting. Mile de La Chaux, on the other hand, has a real, even if unnatural need for the exclu sive possession of Gardeil. No one else can replace him for her, as is shown by the fact that she will not accept Dr Le Camus as a substitute, even though she has, apparently, everything to gain by the exchange. Gardeil is wrong in thinking that her fainting fit is not genuine or that it is merely a superficial effect of calculated auto-suggestion. File de La Chaux probably hopes that the spectacle of her suffering will have the effect of softening Gardeil's heart, but she does not need to simulate Ibid., pp. lxiii-lxiv. 97 grief or shock. As for Gardeil, he stands condemned not for the waning of his passion for her, hut.for his ingratitude and his failure to fulfil the obligations of friendship. In effect, Mme Reymer and Gardeil practise the sexual morality which is natural to man, the morality of Tahiti, in a society where artificial moral attitudes have resulted in the development, in many people, of unnatural psychological needs, and where, as a result, the practice of natural morality does real harm. Mme de La Carliere is another example of the sophistication of sexual needs, with this difference, that even stronger in her than her need for Desroches's exclusive love is her desire to maintain a certain kind of public reputation. Her dominant motivation is not so much her desire for emotional security as it is her pride in appearing to the public as a woman who refuses to submit passively to a man's deception. She could simply forgive Desroches and all would be well, for he is no Gardeil and not only remains faithful to his friendship for her, but never ceases to love her in spite of his episodic sexual experience with another woman. Mme de La Carliere certainly suffers because of her "appetits sophistiques": she is not another Mme Reymer. Yet she is not simply a victim, like Mile de La Chaux, but is •unjust and vindictive towards Desroches. The case of Mme de La Pommeraye in Jacques le fataliste is rather similar to that of Mme de La Carliere. Again, her sexuality 98 is dominated by "appetits sophistiques", and, again, she is much concerned with maintaining her public image and salving her vanity. But her vindictiveness is even greater than that of Mme de La Carliere. The latter is content to shame Desroches by denouncing his infidelity in'public and by breaking off her relations with him. Mme de la Pommeraye goes as far as to contrive and implement a lengthy and complicated plot whereby she succeeds in marrying the marquis des Arcis to a prostitute masquerading as a virtuous young lady. Desglands is another of these characters who have an unnatural need for the exclusive and permanent possession of another person. Like Mme de La Carliere and Mme de La Pommeraye, he is not the kind of person to submit passively when the chosen object of his love fails to live up to these high demands. However, in his case, it is not on the woman who has ceased to love him that he takes vengeance, but on his rival. The "veuve galante" who is the object of Desglands's passion is an example of purely natural morality; she accepts the fact that her sexual passion changes its object at intervals. She does not, however, seek to exploit her sexual partners, as do Mme Reymer and Gardeil, and she distin guishes between her sexual passion of the moment and the permanent obligations of friendship and gratitude. Diderot sometimes comments bitterly on the institution of marriage, "ce maudit lien conjugal."1 But, admitting that European 1 Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 265. Cf. Roth, IV, 122 (To Sophie Volland; Aug. 29, 1762)7 Roth, VI, 25-26 (To Sophie Volland; Jan. 18, 1766); Salon de 1769, AT, XI, 436. 99 society is in fact based upon it and that no amount of wishing will make it suddenly disappear, he gives considerable thought to the best ways of minimizing its disadvantages. If it were ensured that there was at least an initial compatibility of character between marriage partners, much unhappiness would be avoided. Diderot opposes the practice of forcing children against their will to marry persons of their parents' choice. It is impossible that there should be compatibility where from the beginning there is a marked dislike. However, he does not advocate simply that parents should abdicate their authority over their children with respect to the choice of a marriage partner. It often happens that because of their inexperience young people make a foolish choice. Diderot thinks that it is not only a parent's right, but his duty to guide his child's choice and, if necessary for the child's happiness, to forbid a choice which he considers disastrous. With regard to the marriage of his own daughter Angelique, he explains his principles as follows: Je suis le maitre de mon enfant; mais c'est a. condition que j'userai de mon autorite pour faire son bonheur; et puis dans le cas dont il s'agit, 1'autorite des peres est tout a, fait subordonnee aux droits naturels des enfants. II ne faut pas que ma fille prenne un epoux dont elle ne voudrait pas. II ne faut pas qu'elle prenne un epoux dont je ne voudrais pas. II faut qu'elle, sa mere et moi, nous soyons d'accord. D'apres ces principes, tout va bien.-'-There will, of course, always be cases when a parent has a difficult and painful decision to make, when, for example, a son 1 Roth, X, 30-31 (To his sister Denise; March 5, 1770). 100 wishes to marry a woman who seems very suitable as far as character and education are concerned, but where disparity in fortune and social standing threaten grave consequences. Such cases cannot be solved by a general rule of thumb.. It is the lonely responsibility of the parent to make his decision in the light of all the evidence available to him, carefully estimating the probable consequences of the marriage and the probable reaction of the young couple to these consequences. The dilemma of a parent in this position is illustrated in Le Pere de famille. The fact that Sophie turns out to be a rich heiress means that the father's fears are unfounded, but that does not alter in the slightest the moral issue with which the play is concerned. The father can and must base his decision only on the knowledge which he possesses. Diderot is not taking sides here on the general question whether or to what extent parents should restrict the liberty of their children with respect to the choice of a marriage partner. He assumes, as we have seen, that parents have a right and a duty to exercise their legal authority over their children where they consider that their children's happiness is at stake, but this is a very generalized principle. He offers no solution in Le Pere de famille as to the precise circumstances which justify the exercise of this right. Each case must be evaluated separately. I do not think one is justified in supposing that Diderot favours either the son or the father in their disagreement. Although the circumstances of his own marriage 101 can scarcely have failed to be in his mind when he conceived and wrote the play, this does not give us any grounds for supposing that he is advocating either the total submission of children to parental authority or the total freedom of children to marry whomever they choose. Nor have we any reason for seeing in this play a piece a these simply because the son's arguments are based on a criticism of social prejudices which Diderot himself condemned."'" The father too is well aware that they are prejudices and deplores their existence, but he thinks that to flout them may have grave consequences for one's happiness. This view is similar to those which we have seen that Diderot takes regarding the practical application of his radical principles with respect to sexual morality. On the other hand, we cannot assume that Diderot considers that the father's decision to forbid the marriage is the right one. The happy and unexpected ending of the play dispenses Diderot from giving any indication as to how the marriage of these two young people against the father1s will would have fared. Diderot is not proposing a solution to the problem: his aim is to portray the agonizing cas de conscience 2 with which the father is faced. It is ironical that in the case 1 Cf. the end of the article "Convenance", AT, XIV, 222. 2 My interpretation of Le Pere de famille differs considerably from that proposed by Roger Lewinter in his article "L'exaltation de la vertu dans le theatre de Diderot", Diderot Studies, VIII, 1966, pp. 141-51. In his opinion, Diderot favours the position of the father, who represents social order. Having taken this view, M. Lewinter is obliged to consider the denouement unsatis factory because it does not resolve the conflict in the way he supposes Diderot's thesis to require. 102 of Diderot's own marriage, his father's opposition proved to be justified, though not for the reasons which his father gave: it was not his wife's lack of fortune which made her an unsuitable partner, but her lack of education, the difference in their religious attitudes and a general incompatibility of character. Thus the outcome of the marriage proved both Diderot and his father wrong. My account of Diderot's radical criticism of the accepted norms of sexual morality must be completed by an examination of the opinions which he lends to Bordeu regarding various acts generally classed as perversions. Bordeu contends that mastur bation, homosexuality and bestiality cannot be condemned if one considers them in the light of purely utilitarian principles. He prefaces his remarks to Mile de 1'Espinasse on these delicate topics with the following caution: Nous sommes seuls, vous n'etes pas une begueule, vous n'imaginerez pas que je veuille manquer au respect que je vous dois; et, quel que soit le jugement que vous portiez de mes idees, j'espere de mon cote que vous n'en conclurez rien contre l'honnetete de mes moeurs. Later, referring to his liberal opinions concerning masturbation, he remarks: 1 Suite de l'Entretien, AT, II, 183. 103 Je n'oterais pas mon chapeau dans la rue a l'homme suspecte de pratiquer ma doctrine; il me suffirait qu'on l'appelat un infame. Mais nous causons sans temoins et sans consequence; et je vous dirai de ma philosophie ce que Diogene tout nu disait au jeune et pudique Athenien contre lequel il se preparait a lutter: "Mon fils, ne crains rien, je ne suis pas si mechant que celui-la."1 Bordeu's circumspection is easily explained. He fears the loss of public esteem which he would incur if it were thought that he personally practised his radical doctrine; he is also aware that, even if he were not suspected of practising it himself, he would be blamed for propagating immoral opinions. He would incur the penalties which society attaches to the offence of flouting what it considers to be seemly conduct. This is what he means when he says: ". . . ce serait fouler aux pieds toute decence, attirer sur soi les soupcons les plus odieux, et commettre un crime de lese-societe que de divulguer ces principes Bordeu does not mean that there is anything deeply immoral in divulging a doctrine which, after all, he does not think is itself immoral. Nor does he think there is anything sacred in the prejudices of society. What he means is that these prejudice are so strong that a man would do himself great harm by publicly criticizing them. The prejudices would not thereby be destroyed, probably hardly even weakened, but the critic would suffer 1 Ibid., p. 186. 2 Ibid., p. 186. 104 ostracism or worse.1 It is quite natural that even while conversing so frankly with Mile de 1'Espinasse, Bordeu should be careful to allay any suspicions she might have that he actually practises any of the perversions which he mentions. He would no doubt be similarly cautious even if he were not sincere in claiming that his actual conduct makes no concessions to his theoretical opinions. The question is beside the point and need 2 not concern us. Before we leave the subject of Diderot's views on sexual morality, it will be useful to examine more closely the distinc tion he makes between the ideal natural morality which is univer sally suited to the human species and the practical morality which constitutes beneficence in the social order prevailing in the Europe of his day. Georges May contends that Diderot never intended the ideas We shall see later (see below, p. 238 ) that Diderot defines duty in terms of the happiness of the agent. From this point of view, by risking ostracism through the public expression of his opinions, Bordeu would be neglecting a duty. 2 A point of detail worth mentioning before we leave this topic is that when Bordeu has declared masturbation not to be contrary to utilitarian morality, Mile de 1'Espinasse exclaims: "Voila une doctrine qui n'est pas bonne a. precher aux enfants." (AT, II, 185.) Bordeu replies: "Ni aux autres." Reading between the lines, one can see that whereas Mile de 1'Espinasse thinks it would be a bad thing in itself if the practice became more widespread among children as a result of the divulgation of Bordeu's doctrine, Bordeu's reply may not mean simply that he agrees and thinks the spread of masturbation would be a bad thing among older people too, but rather that the person who disseminated this doctrine would have much to fear from these older people. 105 on free love in the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville or Bordeu1s views on perversions to he taken as his carefully considered opinions. They are just the results of the logical application of his materialism to human behaviour, "la pointe extreme ou. l'entraine une metaphysique materialiste qui, toute sincere qu'elle est, tourne a, l'absurde lorsqu'on 1'applique au domaine ethique."1 According to May, Diderot in fact rejects these unorthodox conclusions: his materialism "s'arrete au seuil de la morale. A partir de la, le philosophe devient un sentimental." In the light of our discussion so far, this opinion seems to me to be quite unwarranted. What is true, is that Diderot does not advocate the immediate translation of his theoretical views into libertarian practice. Bordeu is quite explicit about this, as we have seen. He gives few indications of what practical changes in sexual morality his radical theory might justify. He is less guarded with respect to masturbation than to homosexuality and bestiality. But here he simply reflects the greater leniency of public opinion towards the first of these three practices. Diderot is not campaigning for toleration of sexual deviations so much as objecting to the irrational motives for which they are condemned. These acts are, he claims, not intrinsically evil. If they are to be punished or otherwise discouraged, it should be because they have harmful effects. 1 Quatre visages de Denis Diderot, p. 144. 2 Loc. cit. 106 Diderot is inclined to see in them primarily symptoms of the unsatisfactory sexual life which society has imposed on man. They are substitutes for the natural sexual enjoyment which Tahitian mores allow and which is so restricted in Europe. Other critics have seen in Diderot the tendency to admit that for a privileged few there is a special moral code. Thus Daniel Mornet remarks that "la morale sociale de Diderot s'acheverait, s'il avait pris soin d'etre plus explicite, en une morale qui reserve les droits des inadaptes et meme en une 1 2 morale des chefs." In an earlier chapter I quoted a letter to d'Alembert referring to a revised version of the three dialogues of 1769. In this text Diderot speaks of "une doctrine speculative qui n'est ni pour la multitude ni pour la pratique." Having quoted this passage, Paul Verniere remarks: "la morale de Diderot, on le voit, comportait une casuistique qui n'allait pas sans 4 danger." Perhaps so, but one could wish Verniere were more explicit. What exactly is this casuistry and what and for whom is the danger? One can well understand that the reference to a speculative doctrine unsuitable for the multitude might be mis understood. A hasty reader might, for example, suppose that Diderot thinks it permissible for certain people to practise "** Diderot 1'homme et 11 oeuvre, p. 65. 2 See above, p. 71, note 2. 5 Roth, IX, 15 (Sept. 1769). ^ Oeuvres philosophiques, p. 373, note 1. 107 behaviour the generalization of which would be undesirable. This would make Diderot a sort of moral elitist and would be the complete negation of a universal morality. But it is quite clear that he means, in fact, that the speculative doctrine is to be divulged only to a few wise men, who would not be inclined to use it as a pretext for maleficent conduct, and not to be put into direct practice by anyone. The "doctrine speculative" concerning sexual morality is part of the esoteric doctrine to which I referred in an earlier chapter.1 We have "seen that, although Diderot criticizes very radically the accepted norms of sexual morality, he stresses that the individual who considers the happiness of others will refrain from flouting these norms as long as they are in force. But the principle of obeying senseless laws while protesting against them does not preclude their eventual abrogation. It is clear that Diderot would favour certain reforms in the institutions and attitudes in which the oppressive sexual ethic is embodied. It is not, however, a simple matter to assess the extent of the reforms which he would consider possible and desirable over a fairly long term. He leaves unexamined the various possibilities which lie between the standards of the Tahitian utopia, which he probably considered forever beyond the reach of advanced societies, and the few timid reforms which he wanted to see immediately applied in eighteenth-century France. 1 See above, p. 71. 108 Any reform would not only have to overcome the resistance of powerful institutions such as the Church, hut would also he faced with the great difficulty of changing the deeply rooted prejudices of the general public. Towards the end of the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville, B defines the most desirable system of morality as one founded on the common needs of man. He thinks that this would be easily attained if most societies were not in fact already dominated by irrational moral attitudes: B: . . . je croirais volontiers le peuple le plus sauvage de la terre, le Tahitien qui s1 en est tenu scrupuleusement a la loi de nature, plus voisin d'une bonne legislation qu'aucun peuple civilise. A: Parce qu'il lui est plus facile de se defaire de son trop de rusticite, qu'a nous de revenir sur nos pas et de reformer nos abus. B: Surtout ceux qui tiennent a 1'union de l'homme avec la femme.l The only hope, Diderot implies, is for slow and gradual reform made possible by a progressive change in the climate of public opinion. The key factor in the reform of sexual morality is thus the struggle for influence over the minds of men. The campaign against the Church was a necessary preliminary to any reforms in sexual legislation and custom. People's attitudes would not change until the authority of the chief source of their prejudices was undermined. Diderot wrote at a time when the main task was to change the 1 AT, II, 241. 109 attitudes of men sufficiently for them even to begin to recognize the need for a reform of sexual morality. It is understandable that he should not have addressed himself to detailed questions regarding precisely what kind of reforms should be undertaken, how much progress should be attempted at a given time, and so on. These are all questions which must depend on the actual state of public opinion and on the psychological attitudes generally prevailing. It is not surprising, therefore, that Diderot should formulate few precise demands for legislative reform in the domain of sexuality. The only related proposal which he does make is that divorce should be legalized, that it should be granted by-civil courts, and that divorced persons should be permitted to remarry. He admits that making suitable provision for the up bringing of the children of divorced parents presents a difficult problem. It is noteworthy that these proposals are not found in the Encyclopedie or in any work which might come to the notice of the French authorities, but rather in writings intended for the private scrutiny of Catherine II.1 If we sum up our findings regarding Diderot's position on sexual morality, we see, first that his most radical statements on an appropriate sexual ethic are intended to be taken as literally 1 Cf. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 204-05 (Memoir XL, "Du divorce"); Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., pp. 435-36. 110 true. He really believes that mankind would be happier if European society were so structured that sexual morality followed Tahitian lines. Such a system would not eliminate all restrictions on individual sexual behaviour, but all unnecessary and harmful constraints would be abandoned. However, Diderot does not propose this ideal for immediate practical application. The traditional sexual ethic has become so entrenched both in institutions and legislation and in individual feelings that artificial, but real, needs exist which cannot be ignored. Any reform programme would therefore have to be both cautious and unhurried. Men must be content for the most part with a practical sexual ethic relative to varying individual needs and susceptibilities and so to prevailing social structure, legislation and custom. Diderot's exaltation of the "natural" sexual ethic is a polemical weapon which he uses to criticize the prevailing orthodoxy in the interests of preparing public opinion for certain reforms of a fairly moderate sort. He is too practical a thinker to see any point in campaigning for acceptance of Tahitian mores even as a distant goal for European society. The resistance from all quarters would be so great as to make this a futile venture. But much improvement can be made by eliminating the worst abuses, such as forced and premature religious vocations and marriages of convenience, by propagating more comprehensive attitudes towards sexual misconduct and by facilitating divorce. Even if it were to prove ultimately possible, it is doubtful whether Diderot would have approved of Ill the complete abandonment of all aspects of "artificial" sexual morality. He sees the development of the need for life-long sexual partnership as a source of good as well as of evil. It has caused suffering by making men and women emotionally vulnerable; but it has also produced, in certain people, a degree of altruism, or of cooperative conduct, a sensitivity to the needs of others, a delicacy of conscience, which do credit to mankind and which might not otherwise have been attained: Voulez-vous que je vous dise une verite qui vous frappera, quoique diametralement opposee a. vos idees? C'est que le sens moral s'est perfectionne parmi nous, a. un point qui passe de beaucoup la portee du commun des individus; ils ont, ces etres en qui le sens moral s'est perfectionne, une langue que la multitude n'entend pas; ils font des distinctions dont le grand nombre se moque; ils se font des scrupules auxquels la plupart n'entendent rien. les hommes charnels appellent cela du oCeladonisme en amour, du Jansenisme en amitie, de la sottise en affaires, de la pedanterie en vertu ou en probite.J-The establishment and progress of civilized society, Diderot claims, have produced many vices and crimes; but the suffering these have caused has been compensated for by the development of 2 many moral qualities which have enriched human relationships. Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis. pp. 509-11. Diderot does not intend the expression sens moral to be taken literally as referring to an innate moral faculty. See below, pp. 25^-55. Cf. the following passage from the Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de  Neron: "J'oserais assurer que la purete de la morale a suivi les progres des vetements depuis la peau de la bete jusqu'a l'etoffe de soie. Combien de vertus delicates que l'esclave et le sauvage ignorent! Si l'on croyait que ces vertus, fruits du temps et des lumieres, sont de convention, l'on se tromperait; elles tiennent a. la science des moeurs comme la feuille tient a. l'arbre qu'elle embellit." (AT, III, 430.) 2 Cf. Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. -JO?. . With respect to sexual morality, as in other domains, mankind advance towards civilization has had advantages and drawbacks It seems that, in Diderot's view, wisdom lies in seeking a compromise solution which would eliminate the worst evils and yet preserve the most valuable benefits; to hope to achieve a perfectly happy state for mankind is chimerical. CHAPTER IV GOVERNMENT AND THE GOVERNED Prom our study of Diderot1s ideas regarding the system of morality ideally appropriate to the human species, we may conclude that he believed that the society of his day infringed upon what he considers to be an essential prerogative of man, namely the right to behave in accordance with human nature. Diderot's charge that European society exerts upon its members pressures which conflict with some of the fundamental requisites for human happiness must now be placed in the context of his general doctrine concerning the structure of society. We shall see later"1" that he approves in theory of an anarchical but harmonious society; he does not, however, believe that such a system is a practical possibility. Consequently, he reduces the question of the structure of society mainly to the problem of the relations between government and the governed. The most explicit formulations of his conception of the nature and function of government are found in the articles "Autorite politique", "Cite" and "Citoyen". In the two last-mentioned articles, the concept of the contract, though not explicitly mentioned, is clearly implied. In the political state, "les actes de la volonte et 1'usage des forces sont resignes a une personne physique ou a un ftre moral, pour la surete, la """ See below, pp. 158-63. 114 tranquillite interieure et exterieure, et tous les autres avantages de la vie.""*" Diderot stipulates, however, that though this resignation of individual wills to the sovereign authority-is total in degree, it only concerns certain activities, and not all aspects of human life: D'etre moral souverain etant par rapport au citoyen ce que la personne physique despotique est par rapport au sujet, et l'esclave le plus parfait ne transferant pas tout son etre a son souverain; a plus forte raison le citoyen a-t-il des droits qu'il se reserve, et dont il ne se depart jamais.^ A distinction is also made between the government (whether it be a moral or a physical person) as the public sovereign power and the government as a private corporate power possessing domains and other material interests. In this second sense, it is not superior to the private individual citizen and should not receive preference over him and before the law. In the article "Autorite politique" it is explicitly stated that all legitimate political authority has its source in the consent of those who have submitted to it by virtue of a contract, formal or tacit, between themselves and the person to whom they 4 have granted it. The authority which the prince thus receives from his subjects is always limited by natural law and the fundamental laws of the State: 1 "Cite", AT, XIV, 187. 2 "Citoyen", AT, XIV, 193. •5 ' Doc. cit. 4 AT, XIII, 392. 115 La puissance qui vient du consentement des peuples suppose necessairement des conditions qui en rendent 1'usage legitime, utile a. la societe, avantageux a. la republique, et qui la fixent et la restreignent entre des limites; car l'homme ne doit ni ne peut se , donner entierement et sans reserve a un autre homme . . . These general considerations on the nature of government evoke an ideal of society characterized by harmony and cooperation in the pursuit of general well-being. Diderot contrasts this ideal with the sad reality: Le mot de societe fait concevoir un etat de reunion, de paix, de concours des volontes de tous les individus vers un but commun, le bonheur general. La chose est exactement le contraire. C'est un etat de guerre; guerre du souverain contre ses suiets; guerre des sujets les uns contre les autres.2 This state of war has two origins. In the first place, it is due to the failure of government to enact and apply legislation safeguarding civil liberty. An essential requisite of a satis factory society is to assure the civil liberty of all citizens, 3 which means the freedom of their persons and of their property. Of these two parts of civil liberty, the more fundamental is personal freedom, the right to dispose of one's person without compulsion from anyone else. "La premiere propriete est la 4 5 personnelle." This right is the inalienable prerogative of man. M AT, XIII, 392-93. p Observations sur le Wakaz, in Qeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, p. 401. 3 J Cf. Plan d'une universite, AT, III, 518, and Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit. p. 403. 4 Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 406. 5 La Religieuse, AT, V, 88. 116 and the idea that one person should ever he the property of another is unthinkable: . . . jamais un homme ne peut etre la propriete d'un souverain, un enfant la propriete d'un pere, une femme la propriete d'un mari, un domestique la, propriete d'un maitre, un negre la propriete d'un colon. Consistent with this general principle, Diderot condemns the institution of slavery. He deplores the fact that in the European colonies human beings are reduced to the condition of 2 beasts of burden. Diderot's additions to the third edition (1781) of Raynal's Histoire des deux Indes denounce not only the slave trade and the institution of slavery, but the whole notion of colonization in areas where indigenous populations are already 3 established. This is also the point of view adopted in the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. "Nous sommes libres;" the old Tahitian tells the departing Bougainville, "et voila que tu as enfoui dans notre terre le titre de notre futur esclavage. Tu n'es ni un dieu, ni un demon: qui es-tu done, pour faire des esclaves? . . . Tu n'es pas esclave: tu souffrirais la mort plutot que de l'etre, et tu veux nous asservirl"4 In the Observations sur le Nakaz, Diderot insists that the Russian serfs should be given their liberty. He bitterly criticizes """ Fragments echappes du portefeuille d'un philosophe, AT, VI, 450. Cf. also Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. 345. 2 Suite de l'Entretien, AT, II, 190. Cf. also Roth, IX, 196-97 (To Mme de Maux; Nov., 1769). 3 See Yves Benot, "Diderot, Pechmeja, Raynal et l'anticolonialisme," Europe, Jan. - Feb., 1963, pp. 149-53. 4 AT, II, 214. 117 the Empress's projected code, which neglects to make any provision for this reform.1 Second only in importance to personal liberty is the security of property. Although Diderot occasionally speaks of the ideal state of society as one in which there would be no personal 2 property and everything would be held in common, he implies at the same time that such a system would require a degree of cooperation or of natural abundance which is, in practice, unattainable. Nature demands that to earn their livelihood men 3 shall engage with her in a constant struggle, and it is to ensure that the individual shall enjoy the fruits of his own labour that property must be held sacred. Diderot follows Locke in basing 4 the right to property on labour. If property is not secure, there can be neither laws nor justice. Diderot praises the physiocrat Mercier de la Riviere for having demonstrated that "toute legislation bonne ou mauvaise se resolvait en dernier lieu par favoriser et attaquer la propriete. Grand criterium de toute loi.''6 1 Ed. cit., pp. 386 and 457. 2 See below, pp.158-61. 3 Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 402. 4 Cf. The Second Treatise of Government, ed. T. Peardon, New York, 1952, p. 17; Entretien d'un pere avec ses enfants, AT, V, 297; Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 239. 5 \ Roth, XI, 122 (Reponse au neuvieme chef d'accusation de M. Luneau.) 6 Roth, VII, 76 (To Damilaville; June or July 1767). 118 It would be incorrect to suppose that Diderot defends the principle of the security of property in order to champion the propertied classes against the landless masses. For one thing, he considers the peasants as the true owners of their land despite the official legal position according to which the proprietor was the "seigneur". But in any case, Diderot is not defending a particular distribution of property; he is concerned instead with the security of all property from attack either by individuals or by the government. This position leads him, it is true, to defend the sanctity of property against certain proposals tending towards the equalization of wealth. Thus he rejects Helvetius's suggestion that, when a family diminishes in number, it should be required to give up some of its property to neighbouring families of greater size. Diderot points out that "cette cession forcee disposant du fruit de mon industrie blesse le droit de propriete."**" He does admit, however, that there are limits to the sanctity of property. Morellet, in his refutation of Galiani's work on the corn trade, claims that the exportation of corn surpluses abroad must not be interfered with, since, however much this corn is needed within the country, it is the property of the producers to dispose of as they please. Diderot is horrified by such callousness: Ce principe est un principe de tartare, de cannibale, et non d'un homme police. Est-ce que le sentiment 1 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 441. 119 d'human!"te n'est pas plus sacre que le droit de propriete qu'on enfreint en paix, en guerre, en une infinite de circonstances, et pour lequel M. l'abbe [Morellet] nous preche le respect jusqu'a. nous exposer a nous tuer, a. nous egorger, a. mourir de faim?1 Diderot makes an illuminating distinction between the sanctity of property rights from infringement by individuals and the precedence of the public interest over individual property rights: Le droit de propriete est sacre de particulier a particulier, et s'il n'est pas sacre, il faut que la societe se dissolve. C'est le contraire de ce droit de particulier relativement a. la societe. Ce n'est rien, car si c'etait quelque chose, il ne se ferait rien de grand, d'utile a. la societe; la propriete de quelques particuliers croisant sans cesse les vues generales, elle tendrait a. sa ruine, parce que le droit de propriete de quelques particuliers croiserait sans cesse les moyens de son opulence, de sa force et de sa su.rete.2 There can be no civil liberty, no security of person or property, unless there is equality before the law. Diderot stresses this point to Catherine II: Mais surtout des lois, des lois si generales qu'elles n'exceptent personne. La generality de la loi est un des plus grands principes de l'egalite des sujets. Que personne ne puisse impunement en frapper, en maltraiter, en injurier grievement un autre. L'homme le plus vii prend de la hauteur, du courage, de la fermete, quand il sait qu'il a un defenseur dans la loi. Employee surtout votre commission a. etablir cette sorte d'egalite legale; elle est si naturelle, si Apologie de l'abbe Galiani. in Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, p. 118. Cf.. also ibid.. pp. 85 and 90-91. 2 Ibid., p. 99. 120 humaine, qu'il n'y aurait que des betes feroces qui pussent s 'y refuser. Similarly there must be equality before taxation. The nobility should enjoy no exemptions: Qu'on attache de grands honoraires aux fonctions de la noblesse; qu'on lui accorde des rangs de preseance, des marques honorifiques, des statues, etc., mais aucun de ces privileges qui distinguent les nobles aux pieds des tribunaux, ou qui les affranchissent de 1'impot. La loi et le fisc ne doivent faire exception de personne, pas meme du prince du sang. II n'y a p que ce moyen de remedier a la noblesse hereditaire. Diderot is adamant in his condemnation of privileges of all kinds, whether the beneficiaries are the nobility, the clergy, 3 the magistracy, or the trade guilds. He condemns the hunting rights of the nobles, by virtue of which the peasants are forbidden to shoot any game which despoils their crops.4 He also protests against the right of the seigneurs to levy dues from their peasants for the maintenance of community bakeries. In most areas the peasants were now equipped with their own ovens and the institution of the "four banal" had outlived its original justi fication and become a mere pretext for a burdensome tax. "Tous les paysans de ma province," Diderot observes, "ont des fours. 5 Les fours banaux sont des servitudes et des fleaux." 1 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 63. p Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., pp. 429-30. 3 Cf. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 5 and pp. 149-54; Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 366. 4 Apologie de Galiani, ed. Verniere, 92; art. "Chasse", AT, XIV, 111. Apologie de Galiani, ed. cit., p. 97. 121 Although the importance he attaches to the security of property implies acceptance of a certain inequality in wealth, Diderot disapproves of excessive inequality. He protests against the exactions of the fermiers generaux and expresses disgust at their vulgar display of ill-gotten wealth.1 Meanwhile, he points out, the peasants are often reduced to dire poverty. A poor-painting by Halle elicits the following aside: Les jambes des rameurs grel.es a faire peur; a. effacer avec la langue. Dans nos campagnes les mieux ravagees par I'intendance et la ferme, dans la plus miserable de nos provinces, la Champagne pouilleuse; la, ou. 1'impot et la corvee ont exerce toute leur rage; la, ou le pasteur, reduit a la portion congrue, n'a pas un liard a. donner a. ses pauvres; a la porte de l'eglise ou du presbytere, sous la chaumiere ou. le malheureux manque de pain pour vivre, et de paille pour se coucher, 1'artiste aurait trouve de meilleurs modeles.2 Many eighteenth-century writers reacted to this situation by condemning luxury. . The general prevalence of poverty was due, they thought, to the frittering away of resources by the opulent few. Other writers replied by defending luxury on the grounds that it gave employment to large numbers of people and thus was a way of redistributing wealth. This is the view put forward by Mandeville in The Fable of the Bees and adopted by Voltaire in Le Mondain. Diderot's position differs from both these views. He distinguishes between two kinds of luxury. There can be a good kind of luxury, based on a general opulence which enables 1 Roth, VIII, 183-84 (To Sophie Volland; Oct. 1, 1768). 2 Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 29. 122 people, once they have satisfied their essential needs, to devote resources to inessential pleasures, "tous ces vices charmants qui font le honheur de l'homme dans ce monde-ci et sa damnation eternelle dans l'autre.""*" But, in reality, instead of this happy state of general opulence, a few people are very rich and most are very poor. Besides which, the system of government is such that merit and virtue lead nowhere, whereas wealth without either leads everywhere. The only way to obtain public respect is to display one's wealth, or, at least to simulate wealth. Thus luxury becomes in many cases a mask which conceals a real indigence. Ostentatious expenditure is preferred to the satisfaction of essential needs: Toute la societe est pleine d'avares fastueux. On loue une premiere loge a. 1'Opera et l'on emprunte le livret. On garde deux ou trois equipages et l'on neglige 1'education de ses enfants. On a un bon cocher, un excellent cuisinier et un mauvais precepteur. On veut que la table soit somptueuse et l'on ne marie pas ses filles.2 Diderot's position on this whole question is aptly summed up in the following passage from the Memoires pour Catherine II: II s'etablit, par mille funestes moyens qu'il est inutile d'exposer, une incroyable inegalite de fortune entre des concitoyens. II s'y forme un centre d'opulence reelle; autour de ce centre d'opulence reelle, il existe une immense et vaste misere. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 156. 2 Ibid., pp. 148-49. Cf. Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 89: ". . . il y a deux sortes de luxe: l'un qui nait de la richesse et de l'aisance generale, l'autre de 1'ostentation et de la misere . . ." 123 Chez cette nation, par un concours de mille circonstances, le merite, la bonne education, les lumieres et la vertu ne menent a. rien. L'or rnene a. tout. L'or qui mene a. tout est devenu le Dieu de la nation. II n'y a qu'un vice, c'est la pauvrete. II n'y a qu'une vertu, c'est la richesse. II faut etre riche ou meprise. Si l'on est effectivement riche, on montre sa richesse par tous les moyens imaginables. Si l'on n'est pas riche, on veut le devenir par toutes les voies imaginables. II n'y en a point de deshonnete. Si l'on n'est pas riche, il n'y a rien qu'on ne fasse pour cacher son indigence. Inequality in wealth would not cause great harm, Diderot thinks, if it could be ensured that money gave access only to material and aesthetic satisfactions and not to political power or to privilege before the law. The best way to achieve this would be to abolish the sale of offices and institute instead public competitions to fill posts in the government and administra tion: . . . nulle recompense au talent et a. la vertu, nulle ressource pour oter a. l'or son attrait et sa puissance sans le concours, meme aux places les plus importantes.2 In another of the memoirs he wrote for Catherine II, Diderot, imagining himself crowned King Denis, proposes various reforms and is optimistic about their effect: Que doit-il arriver sous mon regne, si, apres avoir releve et enrichi ma nation, je prends quelque precaution pour que l'or ne soit pas le dieu de mon pays, et que, par le concours aux places, j'assure quelque recompense au merite et a. la vertu? Ne puis-Ed. Verniere, pp. 145-46. Note the similarity with the satire of society in Le Neveu de Rameau. Cf. AT, V, 471-72. 2 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 127. Cf. also ibid., pp. 48-49; Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, pp. 433, 435. 124 je me flatter, ainsi qu'Henri IV, que mes paysans de Brie auront le dimanche une poule dans leur pot? If the various measures which Diderot proposes were adopted, there would exist that equality before the law which is necessary to protect the civil liberty and property of each individual against the aggression of others. But the individual must also be rendered secure from the oppressive exactions of government itself. Governments tend constantly to exceed the limits of the power conceded to them by the individuals from whom they derive all their authority. It will be clear from my earlier 2 remarks on the articles "Cite"" and "Citoyen" that Diderot's conception of the relations between government and governed in no way justifies a totalitarian state. Government is oppressive whenever it exceeds the minimum of activity and interference necessary for the performance of its essential functions. These concern "la surete generale et la tranquillite interieure, le soin des armees, l'entretien des forteresses, 11 observation des lois," — in other words, national defence and the application of civil and criminal law (in order that individuals may be protected from one another). In this way the general security of the whole community is assured, and the persons and property of individuals are protected. But, insists Diderot, each individual possesses a portion of the total wealth over which **" Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 154-55. 2 See above, pp. 113-1^. J Fragments echappes, AT, VI, 449. 125 he has a right of use and abuse and with which the government must not interfere, even in the individual's own interest. The necessary governmental function of protecting the nation from foreign invasion or internal disorder already provides the executive authority with too frequent an excuse for curtailing the liberty of citizens; economic efficiency should not, Diderot pleads, become a further pretext for government intervention: Partout ou vous verrez chez les nations l'autorite souveraine s'etendre au dela de cette partie de police, dites qu'elles sont mal gouvernees. Partout ou. vous verrez cette partie de police exposer le citoyen a. une surcharge d'impots, en sorte qu'il n'y ait aucun reviseur national du livre de recette et de depense de l'intendant ou souverain, dites que la nation est exposee a. la depredation. 0 redoutable notion de l'utilite publiquel Parcourez les temps et les nations, et cette grande et belle idee d'utilite publique se presentera a votre imagination sous 1'image symbolique 'd'un Hercule qui assomme une partie du peuple aux cris de joie et aux acclamations de 1'autre partie, qui ne sent pas qu'incessamment elle tombera ecrasee sous la meme massue aux cris de joie et aux acclamations des individus actuellement vexes.! In this spirit of minimum government, King Denis announces an extensive programme for the restriction of royal expenditure, with a view to lightening the burden of taxation. A major cause of oppressive taxation, and one which Diderot frequently denounces, is aggressive militarism. This has the further harmful consequence of giving the monarch an excuse for maintaining a standing army, which he can then use to repress internal dissent. A typical example of such militarism is provided Fragments echappes, AT, VI, 449-50. ) Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 149-54. 126 by the government of Frederick II,"*" whom Diderot characterizes as "-un politique ambitieux, sans foi, pour qui il n'y a rien de sacre, un prince sacrifiant tout, meme le bonheur de ses sujets, p a. sa puissance actuelle, 1'eternel boute-feu de 1'Europe." The remedy Diderot proposes for such militarism is that standing armies be abolished and their essential role of defending the national territory against foreign invasion be fulfilled by a citizen army. He admits that there is little chance that any monarch would ever willingly enact such a measure. Indeed, he envisages the citizen army as a defence as much against internal tyranny as against foreign invasion: Sous quelque gouvernement que ce fut, le seul moyen d'etre libre ce serait d'etre tous soldats; il faudrait que dans chaque condition le citoyen eut deux habits, 1'habit de son etat et 1'habit militaire. Aucun souverain n'etablira cette education. ... II n'y a de bonnes remontrances que celles qui se feraient la baionnette au bout du fusil.* I have considered so far Diderot's conception of the ideal relationship between government and the governed, and his criticisms Cf. Pages contre un tyran, in Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere pp. 147-48. 2 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 36. ^ Politique des souverains, in Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, p. 173. Cf. Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. ext., pp. 442-43, and the apostrophe to the American insurgents included in the Essai  sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron (1778), AT, III, 324-25. 127 of the relation actually prevailing in the states of eighteenth-century Europe. These criticisms and proposed reforms are not specifically related to particular forms of government, except in so far as tyranny is excluded as being essentially incompatible with individual freedom. However, Diderot gave considerable thought to the best practical form of government, and during his career his views on this question show a certain evolution. In the Refutation d'Helvetius, Diderot admits that democracy is the best form of government, but doubts whether it is a practical possibility in states large- enough to be secure from foreign attack: . . . le gouvernement democratique supposant le concert des volontes, et le concert des volontes supposant les hommes rassembles dans un espace assez etroit, je crois qu'il ne peut y avoir que de petites republiques, et que la surete de la seule espece de societe qui puisse etre heureuse sera toujours precaire.-'-It should be noted that this conception of democracy, like that 2 of Rousseau, demands direct participation of all citizens in decisions affecting the general interest. What are nowadays called democracies would no doubt be classed; by Diderot as elective 3 aristocracies. For practical purposes, Diderot grants that 1 AT, II, 390. p Cf. Le Contrat social, III, chap. 4, in Qeuvres completes (Pleiade), Paris, 1964, pp. 404-06. 5 Cf. d'Holbach's article "Representants", AT, XVII, 12: "Dans un Etat purement democratique, la nation, a proprement parler, n'est point representee; le peuple entier se reserve le droit de faire connaitre ses volontes dans les assemblies generales, composees de tous les-citoyens; mais des que le peuple a choisi des magistrats qu'il a rendus depositaires de son autorite, ces magistrats deviennent ses representants; et suivant le plus ou le moins de pouvoir que le peuple s'est reserve, le gouvernement devient ou une aristocratie, ou demeure une democratie." 128 there must he a distinction between the general body of citizens and those persons who hold political authority. His reflections on systems of government are always concerned with the best way to ensure that the personnel of government carry out their necessary functions without allowing their personal interests to take precedence over the general interest. In the opinion of Jacques Proust, during the period when he was mainly occupied with the Encyclopedie, i.e. 1750-65, Diderot's preference was for absolute monarchy."*" It may, perhaps, be true that at this time Diderot, like Voltaire, espoused-the. these  royale and saw in the various corps intermediaires (which Montesquieu advocated especially as checks on the power of the executive) not the noble guardians of the interests of the people, but the representatives of the selfish interests of privileged-groups. It is difficult, however, to be certain of Diderot's preferences regarding practical political arrangements judging only on the basis of what he writes in his Encyclopedie articles. The three which I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, "Autorite politique", "Cite" and "Citoyen", deal mainly in general terms with the political structure of societies, without clearly expressing any preference for one or other particular -gorm of government. Where there is a more specific reference to particular political arrangements, one has to make considerable allowance for prudence and, perhaps, irony. Take, for example, the allusion ""* Diderot et 1'Encyclopedie, p. 348. 129 to kings near the end of the article "Droit naturel": . . . puisque des deux volontes, l'une generale et 1*autre particuliere, la volonte generale n'erre jamais, il n'est pas difficile de voir a laquelle il faudrait, pour le bonheur du genre humain, que la puissance legislative appartint, et quelle veneration l'on doit aux mortels augustes dont la volonte particuliere reunit et l'autorite et 1'infaillibilite de la volonte generale. The final remark is ambiguous, since it can be taken to imply-either that kings do in fact represent the general will, or that, when they do, they deserve veneration. Diderot himself never believed that any monarch necessarily expressed the general will, but for a considerable part of his career he seems to have hoped that, when informed by enlightened public opinion, they would conform their policies to the general interest. This hope finds expression, for example, in his evocation of the popular king 2 Henri IV in "Autorite politique". During the later 1750's and the 1760's Diderot seems gradually to have lost whatever confidence he may have had in the French monarchy, considering Louis XV and the future Louis XVI as personally incompetent and the regime as in constant danger of degenerating into despotism. In the early 1770's he remarks in a memoir to Catherine II: Notre monarque est bien caduc. Les dernieres annees d'un long regne d'un grand roi ont souvent gate les premieres; jamais les dernieres annees d'un long 1 AT, XIV, 300-01. On Diderot's views on the general will, see below, pp. 22 3-29. 2 AT, XIII, 396-99. 130 regne d'un roi ordinaire, pour ne rien dire de pis, n'ont repare les desastres des annees precedentes. Ainsi nous avons peut-etre encore du chemin a faire vers la decadence. Mais qui sait notre sort sous le regne suivant? Moi, personnellement, j'en pense mal. Puisse-je me tromper! Puisse-t-il ne pas toujours chasser sans voir goutte. In 1771 Diderot writes to John Wilkes announcing the decadence 2 and approaching ruin of the French state. In his "Essai historique sur la police de la France", he traces the decline of political liberty in France since the Middle Ages. Since the reign of Louis XIV, the royal power has been in effect absolute, but while the Parlements remained in existence a certain exterior appearance of liberty was preserved. Now, with Maupeou's coup d'etat abolishing these bodies, the great spider's web bearing an image of liberty revered by the multitude has been torn apart and 3 tyranny revealed for all to see. Although Diderot had no great liking for the actual political attitudes of the former Parlements, he now realizes that there must be constitutional checks on royal power and that one cannot rely on the benevolence of the monarch to ensure that he respects the fundamental laws of the State and the general will of the people. His earlier ideal of the popular monarch able to impose his will in order to make the Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 40-41. Diderot alludes successively to Louis XIV, Louis XV and the future Louis XVI, who was passionately fond of hunting, but short-sighted. 2 Roth, XI, 210-11 (Oct. 19, 1771) and p. 223 (Nov. 14, 1771). ^ Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 20. 131 general interest triumph over the selfish interests of individuals and groups is, at least in theory, hard to distinguish from enlightened despotism; but since then he has witnessed both the practical failure of the French monarchy to promote the public interest by introducing essential reforms and the militaristic policies of the "enlightened" Frederick II. He now thinks of absolute power as potential, if not actual, tyranny. He had supposed that, provided the monarch were well enough informed concerning the state of national affairs and public needs, if he were constantly confronted with what the Physiocrats called "1'evidence", he could be relied upon to pursue wise policies. As late as 1767, he had praised Mercier de la Riviere for proclaiming that "1'evidence" was the sole counterforce to tyranny.1 Now he has lost this confidence; he writes shortly after the death of Louis XV: L'evidence n'empeche ni le jeu de l'interet ni celui des passions; un- commercant deregle voit evidemment qu'il se ruine, et ne se ruine pas moins. Un souverain sentira qu'il tyrannise ou par lui-meme ou par ses ministres, et n'en tyrannisera pas moins. Est-ce 2 1'evidence qui a manque en France sous le regne passe? To hold tyranny in check, one must apply the physical counterforce of a political body, such as the English parliament. In answer to contemporary thinkers like Helvetius, who considered that absolutism was an evil only if it was unenlightened, 1 Roth, VII, 76 (To Damilaville; June or July 1767). p Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 359. 3 Ibid.. p. 359. 132 Diderot criticizes the very notion of enlightened despotism. Catherine II, in her Instruction to the legislative assembly of 1767-68,"*" defines absolutism in such a way as to imply that the pursuit of the general interest is an essential aspect of it: Quel est l'objet d'un gouvernement absolu? Ce n'est certainement point de priver les homines de leur liberte naturelle, mais de diriger leurs actions vers le plus grand de tous les biens. Diderot replies that the important question is not what is the "object" of absolute government, but what is its effect: "Son effet est de mettre toute liberte et toute propriete dans 3 l'absolue dependance d'un seul."^ Enlightenment and benevolence cannot be part of the essence of absolutism as a political system; they must always depend on the personality of the reigning monarch. Even if he personally pursues wise and just policies, he leaves his successor free to undo all the good he has done. An hereditary ruler combining to an equal degree the qualities of justice, enlightenment and strength of character is a rarity. But even when chance places such a person on the throne, it does not follow that he should be given a free hand. The nation must not lose the habitual courage to question royal policies and to consent only to their rationality and not to authority per se. Even Diderot's much-admired Seneca disappoints him in one passage, where the Roman philosopher declares that there is no point in a "*" See above, p. 68, note h. p Quoted in Oeuvres politiques, ed Verniere, p. 354, note 1. 3 Observations sur le fflakaz, ed. cit., p. 354. 133 ruler giving reasons to justify his edicts, since the subject needs only to obey. Diderot protests that "une societe d'hommes n'est pas un troupeau de betes: les traiter de la meme maniere, c'est insulter a. l'espece humaine."1 Arbitrary rule has a corrupting effect on the spirit of the nation: A mesure qu'un peuple perd le sentiment de la liberte et de la propriete, il se corrompt, il s'avilit, il penche vers la servitude. Quand il est esclave, il est perdu; il ne se croit plus meme proprietaire de sa vie. II n'a plus de notion precise de juste et d'injuste. Sans le fanatisme qui lui inspire la haine pour les autres contrees, il n'aurait plus de patrie. Partout ou ce fanatisme ne subsiste plus, les grands songent a. s'expatrier; et les petits ne sont retenus que par la stupidite qui les engourdit; ils ressemblent aux chiens malheureux qui vont cherchant la maison ou. ils sont battus et mal nourris.^ Even when despotism is enlightened and benevolent, this process of degradation still takes place. Thus, paradoxically, a succession of benevolent despots would be a great evil, for it would sap the nation's belief in its rights and its courage to defend them, leaving it a passive victim to the blatant tyranny which must sooner or later befall it. Diderot warns Catherine II of the misfortune which a succession of three enlightened despots would spell for Russia: . . . ces trois despotes excellents accoutumeraient la nation a. l'obeissance aveugle; sous leurs regnes les peuples oublieraient leurs droits inalienables; ils tomberaient dans une securite et une apathie funestes; ils n'eprouveraient plus cette alarme continuelle, la conservatrice necessaire de la liberte. Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 264. Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 440. 134 Ce pouvoir absolu qui, place dans la main d'un bon maitre, faisait tant de bien, le dernier de ces bons maitres le transmettrait a un me'chant, et le lui transmettrait scelle par le temps et par 1'usage; et tout serait perdu. The only real, permanent, good which could possibly ensue from the rule of an enlightened despot would be his abdication of arbitrary power and the institution of a system of government in which the powers of the ruler and the rights of the ruled were laid down in a written constitution. For this initial establishment of the guarantees of political liberty the absolute ruler is at a great advantage, if only he makes a firm resolve to take such a step. In this respect the Russian empress sadly disappointed Diderot: Je vois dans 1'Instruction de Sa Majeste Imperiale un projet d'un code excellent; mais pas un mot sur le moyen d'assurer la stabilise de ce code. J'y vois le nom de despote abdique; mais la chose conservee, mais le despotisme appele monarch ie. Diderot's attitude to Catherine II in no way constitutes an abandonment of his hatred of despotism. He seems to have felt gratitude towards his benefactress and admiration for her intelli gence and strength of character without approving of the nature of her power. He long cherished the belief, or at least the hope, that she would 'ultimately institute a limited monarchy. Both in the memoirs which he periodically submitted to her during his """ Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., pp. 354-55. Cf. also Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 117-18; Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 381-82. 2 Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 457. 135 stay in Russia and in the Observations sur le Nakaz, he freely expresses his condemnation of absolutism, his belief in the sovereignty of the people and his approval of limited monarchy."1" In the memoirs, he is careful to avoid offending the susceptibility of an authoritarian woman, but behind the apparent ingenuousness of remarks like the following, there is a challenge to the inner conscience of the Empress: Que si l'on proposait a. Sa Majeste Imperiale de voir subitement la constitution de 1'empire russe transformed dans la constitution anglaise, je doute fort qu'elle le refusat. Libre pour le bien qu'elle veut, liee pour le mal qu'elle ne veut pas, en effet, qu'y perdrait-elle?2 In the Observations sur le Nakaz, which remained in the author's possession until his death, when they were sent to Russia with his library and manuscripts, it is apparent that Diderot has retained few illusions regarding Catherine. Does she, he asks, or does she not, intend to give up the despotic power which she certainly possesses at present? If she does, let it be clearly written into the Constitution, and let her devise, in consultation with the nation, means of preventing any future ruler from usurping absolute power. The Empress should examine her conscience: Si en lisant ce que je viens d'ecrire et en ecoutant sa conscience, son coeur tressaillit de joie, elle ne veut plus d'esclaves; si elle fremit, si son sang se 1 The first article of the Observations sur le Nakaz (ed. cit., pp. 343-44) is particularly outspoken on these points. p Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. "Verniere, p. 123. 136 retire, si elle palit, elle s'est crue meilleure qu'elle n'etait.-*-Small wonder Catherine II was annoyed! when she finally read the Observations sur le Nakaz after the author's death, for she had failed to carry out her announced intention of providing Russia with a written Constitution. The relation between the propaganda of the philosophes and the French Revolution has been the subject of much dispute among historians for over a century and a half. I do not intend to add to this debate, but the question of Diderot's attitude to various possible forms of regime raises the related matter of 3 his views on the popular overthrow of'an established government. Diderot's writings contain no precise statements as to the course which he would like political events to take in France if the existing government failed to institute reforms. He suggests that the situation is so bad that piecemeal reforms cannot remedy it: "les mauvais usages multiplies sans fin et inveteres sont Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 345. "Tressaillit" is an obsolete form of the present tense often used by eighteenth-century writers. p Cf. Verniere's remarks in Oeuvres politiques, pp. 333-34. 3 The poem les Eleutheromanes could be treated in this section, since it contains a warning to tyrants that their excesses are likely to provoke violent popular rebellion. I have preferred, however, to discuss this text in the following chapter (pp. 165-71) because it has sometimes provided specious support for the view that Diderot is at heart an anarchist who doubts the value of social order. 137 devenus respectables par leur duree et irreformables par leur nombre."1 In a similar vein, he writes to Catherine II: Qu'un peuple est heureux, lorsqu'il n'y a rien de fait chez lui! Les mauvaises et surtout les vieilles institutions sont un obstacle presque invincible aux bonnes.2 In several passages he evokes the myth of Medea. Lamenting, in a letter to John Wilkes, the cultural decadence of France, he remarks: On me demandait un jour comment on rendait la vigueur a une nation qui l'avait perdue. Je repondis: comme Medee rendit la jeunesse Lson pere, en le depecant et en le faisant bouillir. The sanguinary character of this myth may suggest that Diderot has in mind a frenzy of blood-letting, but we must not allow our knowledge of the actual course taken by the French Revolution to colour our understanding of pre-revolutionary writings. In all probability, Diderot hopes that the crisis will take the form of an abrupt and radical change in national policy, implemented perhaps by the existing government and bringing about a sudden redistribution of wealth and power; this would cause hardship to many people, but would in the long run do much good. This inter pretation is supported by the following passage: Notre droit coutumier est immense. II est lie avec l'etat et la fortune de tous les particuliers. Celui qui projetterait le re'nversement de ce colosse ebranlerait 1 Roth, IV, 108 (To Sophie Volland; Aug. 19, 1762). p Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 4. 5 Roth, XI, 223 (Nov. 14, 1771). 138 toutes les proprietes. II n'acheverait pas son entreprise sans commettre une foule d'injustices criantes. II souleverait infailliblement tous les differents ordres de l'Etat. Je le ferais pourtant, car je pense qu'il faut faire un grand mal d'un moment pour un plus grand bien qui dure. With regard to revolution in the form of a popular uprising, it is true that Diderot claims that an oppressed nation has.the right to rebel against a tyrannical government: S'il n'est point de gouvernement ou des circonstances urgentes n'exigent 1'infraction des lois naturelles, la violation des droits de l'homme et l'oubli des prerogatives des sujets, il n'y en a point ou certaines conjonctures n'autorisent la resistance de ceux-ci; d'ou naxt 1'extreme difficulte de definir et de circonscrire avec exactitude le crime de haute trahison. Qui est-ce qui se rendit coupable de lese-majeste? fut-ce les Romains ou Meron?2 But this was not a startlingly novel point of view. It had 3 already been propounded by Locke and others. Besides, Diderot is very cautious in defining the conditions justifying the exercise of this right. One must, however, allow for caution in a published work, and there is little reason to doubt that Diderot was favourably disposed to revolutionary action by the people against a tyrannical government provided such action proved effective. In the first edition of his Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, published in 1778, he acclaims the American Revolution 4 enthusiastically. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 3. p _ Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Heron, AT, ill, 102-03. 3 Cf. The Second Treatise of Government, chap. XIX, "Of the dis solution of government," ed. cit., pp. 119-39. 4 Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de E'er on, AT, III, 324-25. 139 Yet although he thinks that popular rebellion can be instrumental in momentarily overthrowing tyranny, he has no faith in the ability of the common people to bring about any durable reform. He despises the "peuple" for its ignorance, its prejudices, its lack of any firm principles, of all nobility of spirit: "L'homme peuple est le plus sot et le plus mediant des hommes: se depopulariser, ou se rendre meilleur, c'est la meme chose.""'' This attitude does not imply class snobbery; any lowly born man who has risen above the popular level, not in wealth, but in intellectual and moral qualities, is worthy of esteem. Such a man is, by definition, no longer a member of the "peuple", 2 in the pejorative sense which Diderot sometimes gives the term. But the masses, as they in fact are, cannot be relied upon to bring about any amelioration in their lot or that of mankind. If their unrest should provide the crisis which Diderot thinks is necessary to shake French society from its torpor, it will inevitably be up to the intellectuals, the philosophes, to propose practical means of achieving a freer and more just social and political system. There have been many rebellions, and much bloodshed, over the centuries, but no good has ever come of such turmoil because no constructive policy for reform guided these movements of revolt: Les hommes, las d'etre mal, ont quelquefois assomme avec leurs chaines le maitre cruel qui a trop abuse 1Ibid., p. 263. Cf. also ibid., p. 164 and the article "Multitude", AT, XVI, 137. 2 Diderot's views on the "peuple" are clarified in an excellent article by Roland Mortier, "Diderot et la notion de 'peuple'," Europe, Jan.-Feb., 1963, pp. 78-88. 140 de son autorite et de leur patience, mais il n'en est resulte aucun bien ni pour eux ni pour leurs descendants, parce qu'ils ignoraient ce que le philosophe pretend leur apprendre d'avance, ce qu'ils ont a, faire pour etre mieux.! When eventually the really fruitful revolution comes, it will be because there is a sufficient body of enlightened opinion to give a rational, constructive direction to policies and events. The philosophic movement will have brought about that "revolution dans les esprits" which Diderot hoped would be the result of the 2 Encyclopedie. The mission of the philosopher is to inform men of their inalienable rights, to denounce religious fanaticism and militarism: "II prepare aux revolutions, qui surviennent toujours a l'extremite du malheur, des suites qui compensent le sang 3 repandu." Diderot's analysis of the political situation in Prance in the 1760's and 70's appears to distinguish two divergent trends. He becomes more and more convinced that the French monarchy is irremediably tyrannical; but at the same time he asserts that the spirit of liberty is awake and, indeed, is typical of the times in which he lives. The authorities, he suggests, should not be surprised at this when they allow the publication in France of a work such as the lettres d'un fermier de Pennsylvanie aux habitants 1 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 235. Cf. Roth, VIII, 113 (To Falconet; Sept. 6, 1768). 2 Roth, IV, 172 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 26, 1762). 3 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 235. 141 de 1'Amerique septentrionale (1769): On nous permet la lecture de ces choses-la, et l'on est etonne de nous trouver, au bout d'une dizaine d'annees, d'autres homines. Est-ce qu'on ne sent pas avec quelle facilite des ames un peu genereuses doivent boire ces principes et s'en enivrer? Ah! mon ami, heureusement les tyrans sont encore plus imbeciles qu'ils ne sont mechants; ils disparaissent; les lecons des grands hommes fructifient, et 1'esprit d'une nation s'agrandit. In another review article written at about the same time, he denounces a writer who has pronounced the eighteenth century morally corrupt and in all respects inferior to the seventeenth. Diderot defends his century on the grounds of its scientific and cultural advances, the rise in the general level of enlightenment, and, above all, for the spirit of liberty which pervades the nation: Maudit soit 1'impertinent qui rend la nation responsable des desordres qui cesseront avec la race des belitres qui la gouvernent. . . . Maudit soit 1'impertinent qui ne voit pas que les Francais n'ont jamais respire un sentiment plus profond et plus reflechi de la liberte.^ In a letter to Princess Dashkoff, he sums up the political situation during the struggle between Maupeou and the Parlements. If the royal authorities give way, the forces opposing despotism will feel their strength and this could lead to the total over throw of the absolute power of the monarchy. If, however, all the Parlements are dissolved and replaced by small tribunals composed of creatures of the ministry, there will no longer be any barrier 1 AT, IV, 89. 2 AT, VI, 373. 142 to oppose to total despotism. We have seen how Diderot subsequently confirms this view of the significance of Maupeou's coup d'etat;1 at the time of this letter he is still hopeful that the spirit of liberty which has struck so many blows against the power and influence of the Church will also prevail against secular oppression: Chaque siecle a son esprit qui le caracterise. L'esprit du notre semble etre celui de la liberte. La premiere attaque contre la superstition a ete violente, sans mesure. Une fois que les hommes ont ose d'une maniere quelconque donner l'assaut a. la barriere de la religion, cette barriere, la plus formidable qui existe comme la plus respectee, il est impossible de s'arreter. Des qu'ils ont tourne des regards menacants contre la majeste du ciel, ils ne manqueront pas, le moment d'apres, de les diriger contre la souverainete de la terre. Le cable qui tient et comprime l'humanite est forme de deux cordes: l'une ne peut ceder sans que 1'autre vienne a. rompre.2 Both the conquest of liberty in the face of oppression and its maintenance under good government depend upon the free expres sion of opinion. It is this basic freedom which permits the formulation of the will of the people, of which, in satisfactory political systems, it is essential that the government be informed. Frederick II having declared that men's duty is always to respect the form of government of their country, Diderot remarks that it is one thing to obey the laws, but quite another to remain silent 1 See above p. 130. 2 Roth, XI, 20 (April 3, 1771). 143 when the laws are bad: "... comment le legislateur reconnaitra-t-il le vice de son administration, le defaut de ses lois, si personne n'ose elever la voix?"**" On the other hand, when governments become oppressive and neglect the general interest, the expression of public opinion is the means whereby the spirit of liberty and of resistance to tyranny is kept alive. When governments effectively silence writers, oppression reaches its p culmination, for the people lose even their will to resist it. It was probably in his dealings with the royal and ecclesi astical censorship that Diderot was personally most aware of the heavy hand of absolutism. His imprisonment at Vincennes and the long battle which he fought against the ecclesiastical authorities to bring the Encyclopedie before the public are well known. It is hard to imagine what his writings and those of the other philosophes would have been like if they had been free to publish whatever they pleased. He himself was conscious that the necessity of circumspection in published writings not only obliged authors to edulcorate their opinions, but tended in the long run to result in a drying-up of the well of new and bold ideas; one could avoid this danger in some measure by writing only for posthumous publication: La contrainte des gouvernements despotiques retrecit 1 Pages contre un tyran, in Oeuvres politiques. ed. Verniere, p. 144. 2 Cf. Memoires pour Catherine ll, ed. Verniere, p. 100. 144 1*esprit sans qu'on s'en apercoive: machinalement on s'interdit une certaine classe d'idees fortes, comme on s'eloigne d'un obstacle qui nous blesserait; et lorsqu'on s'est accoutume a cette marche pusillanime et circonspect, on revient difficilement a une marche audacieuse et franche. On ne pense, on ne parle avec force que du fond de son tombeau; c'est la qu'il faut se placer, c'est de la. qu'il faut s'adresser aux hommes. Celui qui conseilla au philosophe de laisser un testament de mort, eut une idee utile et grande.-*-It might seem at this point that we have reached the end of our discussion of Diderot's position regarding the structure of society and the relations between government and the governed. However, certain of his writings have sometimes been construed as implying on his part a profound tendency to prefer to a harmonious society based on the principle of the restriction of individual action a state of anarchy in which individuals could satisfy their desires within the limits of their personal strength. I find it therefore necessary to devote a further chapter to an examination of the texts which have been mainly responsible for suggesting this, in my view, erroneous interpretation. Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 219. Cf. this similar remark in Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 235: "Quelle difference entre la pensee d'un homme dans son pays et la pensee d'un homme a. neuf cents lieues de sa cour! Aucune des choses que j'ai ecrites a Petersbourg ne me serait venue a. Paris. Combien la crainte retient le coeur et la tete! Quel singulier effet de la liberte et de la securitel" 2 See, for example, Jean Fabre's edition of Le Neveu de Rameau, Geneva, 1950, Introduction, pp. lxxvi-lxxxi. CHAPTER V LIBERTY AND LICENCE The most important criticism which has been levelled against Diderot as an ethical thinker is that the two most strongly-marked tendencies of his moral thought, his exaltation of individual freedom and his stress on the need for social cooperation, remain 1 2 in unresolved contradiction. Some critics would have us believe that the practical message which Diderot consciously strove to communicate to mankind consists solely of his social ethic, whereas the individualistic doctrine is an expression of anti-social, or at least amoral, tendencies, which, though suppres sed in his everyday life and in most of his writings, well up to the surface of his consciousness at odd moments. His moderation regarding proposals for practical reform or the correct conduct for the individual in the present state of public morality has been viewed as only a mask of prudent conformism or perhaps a veneer of self-deception, beneath which lies his true self, impatient of all social or moral restraints imposed upon the spontaneous impulses of his nature. Diderot thus is made to appear superficially good, but dull, and, at a profounder level, delightfully wicked. In the course of the preceding chapters, I have had occasion 1 Cf. J. Reinach, Diderot. Paris, 1894, pp. 172-75. 2 E.g. L. Ducros, Diderot, l'homme et 1'ecrivain, Paris, 1894, pp. 325-31. 146 to question this interpretation with respect to several particular aspects of Diderot's thought.1 My exposition of his theory of the relations between the individual and government and of his views on sexual morality will, I hope, already have shown that in his ethical thought the claims of the individual and of society are assigned their respective limits. But the criticism to which I refer has been made, sometimes categorically, sometimes in an attenuated form, by so many students of Diderot's thought, and it is such a fundamental question, that I propose to devote the present chapter to a more systematic refutation, paying special attention to those works which lend themselves most readily to this kind of misinterpretation. The writings with which we shall be mainly concerned are those in which Diderot exploits themes derived from the current of primitivism so influential in his day. Although not all these texts explicitly refer to the state of nature, they all bear a close relation to this ill-defined and variable notion. It will therefore be useful, first of all, to examine briefly the main forms which this concept takes in the literature with which Diderot was familiar. For the purposes of our discussion, it is especially important to distinguish two different conceptions of the state of nature which may be termed the .juristic and the cultural senses. By the juristic sense I mean the hypothetical state of human existence 1 See, for example, pp. 89, 106. 147 in which men are conceived as "unbound by the reciprocal principles of conduct which constitute the social bond. By the cultural sense I mean the state of society in which the arts and sciences have made relatively little progress.1 The distinction between these two conceptions of the state of nature will prove useful in our discussion, but it will also be necessary to place those themes which refer strictly to one or other of these notions in a wider context, namely the general category embracing all conceptions of a state of human existence, whether treated as fictional, historical or'hypothetical, which is opposed in one or several ways to the state of civilization found in Europe and other advanced parts of the world. This broader category would include the various Utopias, such as those described in Diderot1s day by Morellet in Le Code de la Nature and by Dom Deschamps in Le Vrai Systeme. It also includes descriptions of primitive societies given by travellers or to be found in the writers of antiquity. The reason why we shall find it useful to enlarge the field of discussion in this way is that, while the juristic concept of the state of nature did serve as an aid to logical analysis of the structure and functions of society and social groups, probably an even more important function of the state of nature for many 1 I am indebted for this distinction, and the terms used, to an article by. the late A. 0. Love joy in his Essays in the History  of Ideas, New York, I960, p. 15. My definition of the juristic state of nature is, however, a little different from his, since I refer to the pre-social state, whereas he refers to a state preceding . the establishment of government. 148 writers was as a source of contrasting premises from which either to justify or to criticize the prevailing form of society. Hoboes's intention, for instance, in describing the state of nature as a war of all against all in which human existence was "nasty, brutish and short", is to denounce the sort of anarchy which he had experienced during the English Civil War, an anarchy which had made reality approach this state, and to justify the absolutist form of government which he considered to be the best bulwark against such anarchy. Voltaire's vision of the state of nature in Le Mondain, while peaceful enough, is made to seem unattractive by its lack of material comfort and its cultural barrenness, for Voltaire is defending the refined culture of his day against the attacks of the opponents of luxury. Needless to say, all the Utopias are intended to criticize actual society in one way or another and this is the case too with Diderot's use of primitivistic or Utopian themes. For this reason it will be necessary to treat both these types of theme together, whether or not they refer explicitly to the state of nature. It is true that Diderot moves from one concept of the state of nature to another in a confusing way and does not clearly distinguish between his primitivistic and Utopian visions. For our present purposes, however, it will not be necessary to untangle this skein except in the few instances where such confusion might affect the issue of our enquiry. Our immediate aim is to see whether or not Diderot's use of all or any of these themes implies 149 an individualism which contradicts the principles on which he himself founds the existence and maintenance of society. The most important example of Diderot's use of primitivistic themes is the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville. It must be noted at-'the outset that the Tahitian society which he depicts, though much simpler than European society, is not characterized by individual licence, but by the rule of law. Indeed, in Tahiti obedience to law attains a degree of consistency unknown in Europe. It will perhaps be objected that in Tahiti it is natural lav; which is obeyed, and that this, unlike the laws of civilized societies, places no restraints on the individual. However, this is not true. The laws which govern the conduct of the Tahitians, being strictly founded on natural law, place no unnecessary or arbitrary restraints on them, and, indeed, restrict them as little as possible, but nevertheless they do impose certain restrictions. This fact emerges quite clearly from Orou's description of Tahitian society."'" Orou also expounds the general principles of natural law in such a way as to leave no doubt that it does not condone individual licence: """ E.g. "L'aumonier: Vous avez done aussi vos libertines? J'en suis bien aise. Orou: Nous en avons meme de plus d'une sorte. . . ." (AT, II, 232.) Orou goes on to explain that sexual relations are forbidden to sterile women, who must wear a black veil, to women at the time of menstruation, when they wear a grey veil, and to the sexually immature of both sexes. There are some individuals who infringe these rules, "... car, partout ou il y a defense, il faut qu'on soit tente de faire la chose defendue et qu'on la fasse." (AT, II, 235.) 150 Veux-tu savoir, en tous temps et en tous lieux, ce qui est bon et mauvais? Attache-toi a la nature des choses et des actions; a. tes rapports avec ton semblable; a. 1'influence de ta conduite sur ton utilite particuliere et le bien general. Tu es en delire, si tu crois qu'il y ait rien, soit en haut, soit en bas, dans l'univers, qui puisse ajouter ou retrancher aux lois de la nature. Sa volonte eternelle est que le bien soit prefere au mal, et le bien general au bien particulier. Tu ordonneras le contraire; mais tu ne seras pas obei. Tu multiplieras les malfaiteurs et les malheureux par la crainte,' par les chatiments et par les remords; tu depraveras les consciences; tu corrompras les esprits; ils ne sauront plus ce qu'ils ont a. faire ou a. eviter. Troubles dans l'etat d'innocence, tranquilles dans le forfait, ils auront perdu l'etoile polaire dans leur chemin.l The intention behind the portrait of Tahitian society in the Supplement is, then, not to proclaim and exalt individual liberty in the face of social order, but to protest against certain failings of civilized society. These defects are primarily its laws and customs concerning sexuality. This question has already been discussed in chapter III, where we observed how Diderot reconciles his radical theoretical thought in the area of sexuality with a practical doctrine of a fairly moderate kind. The portrayal of Tahitian society in the Supplement is also the vehicle for criticism of the role of property in European society. But, as 2 I remarked in the last chapter, this point is made in a rather half-hearted way, compared with the vehemence of the criticism of European sexual institutions. I have already pointed out Diderot's Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville, AT, II, 225. See above, p. 117. See above, pp. 117-19. 151 emphasis on the importance of the security of private property. His position is that if, as is the case in all advanced societies, the happiness of the individual is dependent on his possessing a certain property, this possession must he rendered secure. When, in certain writings, Diderot toys with the other solution, that of communal ownership, he is not contradicting his usual stress on the security of property: where there is no individual property, there is no need to secure it. In the Supplement little space is, in fact, devoted to this question. The old Tahitian, in the harangue he delivers as Bougainville's expedition departs, declares: "Ici tout est a tous; et tu nous as preche je ne sais quelle distinction du tien et du mien. ""*" We learn later that "les travaux et les recoltes s'y faisaient en commun. L'acception du mot propriete y etait tres etroite." This presumably means that there was some form of personal property, perhaps clothing and movable objects, and that dwellings were the property of individual families, but that there was little or no 3 personal or family property in the form of land. But, for our present discussion, it is above all important to note that there is no indication here of a purely individualistic ethic. On the contrary, such a system could not function without the obedience 1 AT, II, 214. 2 AT, II, 240. 3 I of course refer to Diderot's version of Tahiti and not to what might have been the historical facts of the case. Cf. Verniere's remarks in Oeuvres philosophiques, p. 466, note 2. 152 of all individuals to a system of rules regulating the organisation of agricultural work and the distribution of the harvests. The interlocutor B goes so far as to suggest that only in Tahiti has there ever prevailed that general obedience to laws which Diderot calls moeurs.1 There is, then, no evidence, either in the Tahitian system of communal ownership or in the laws governing sexual morality, of unfettered individual licence or anarchy. The Tahitian way of life corresponds not to the juristic concept of the state of nature, but to a cultural concept. The Tahitians are described as un peuple assez sage pour s'etre arrete de lui-meme a. la mediocrite, ou assez heureux pour habiter un climat dont la fertilite lui assurait un long engourdissement, assez actif pour s'etre mis a. l'abri des besoins absolus de la vie, et assez indolent pour que son innocence, son repos et sa i'.i felicite n'eussent rien a. redouter d'un progres trop rapide de ses lumieres.2 However, in the discussion between A and B at the end of the work, the juristic concept makes its appearance. Condemnation of the conventional sexual morality which prevails in Europe leads B to illustrate the resulting psychological suffering by the image of the constant struggle of natural man to throw off the domination of "l'homme moral et artificiel.Now this image fits in logically 1 AT, II, 240. For a similar definition of moeurs, see Observations  sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 372. 2 AT, II, 240. 3 AT, II, 246. The passage is quoted above, p. 86. 153 with Diderot's message in the Supplement regarding sexual morality; and when A asks B whether it would be better to "civiliser l'homme, ou l'abandonner a son instinct,""'" we expect B to remain within the context of sexual morality in his reply. He does not do so, however, but quickly enlarges the whole discussion to include not only laws regulating sexual relations, but all laws regulating any kind of inter-personal relations. In fact, B suggests that the whole institution of society may very well be less conducive to human happiness than total anarchy. In doing so, he invokes the juristic concept of the state of nature: "Je considere les hommes non civilises comme une 2 multitude de ressorts epars et isoles." Society, on the other hand, is a machine in which these springs have been made to act and react against each-other, so that they are constantly weakening and breaking. Now, clearly, this anarchical state of individual isolation, which B suggests is preferable to society, is not at all the model according to which Tahitian society functions. The latter, as we have seen, is not an anarchical but rather a well-ordered society, which differs from European society in being culturally less advanced and at the same time free from the bad legislation governing sexuality and property in Europe. Yet it appears that B is not aware that the contrast to which he points between 1 AT, II, 246. 2 AT, II, 247. 154 pre-social anarchy and advanced societies is of a different nature from that, stressed throughout the work, between Tahiti and Europe. After the comparison between pre-social anarchy and society, the discussion deviates once again, this time to a comparison between primitive existence and advanced civilization in the cultural sense. A tries to get B to admit clearly that he thinks men are "d'autant plus mechants et plus malheureux qu'ils sont plus civilises."1 B, true to his strategy of suggesting without categorically affirming, replies: Je ne parcourrai pas toutes les contrees de l'univers; mais je vous avertis seulement que vous ne trouverez la condition de l'homme heureuse que dans Tahiti, et supportable que dans un recoin de 1'Europe.2 This corner of Europe is Venice, where the common people are kept in extreme ignorance by the ruling aristocracy, but where sexual morality is comparatively free from artificial constraints. Here, the main theme of the Supplement, sexual morality, emerges once again. It can be seen from the preceding analysis that in the closing pages of the Supplement, while at first glance it seems that the two interlocutors are discussing a single topic, namely the comparison between primitivism and civilization, on closer inspection this apparent simplicity of theme dissolves into a confusing variety of comparisons between different pairs of concepts. Rather than jump to the conclusion that Diderot has 1 AT, II, 248. 2 AT, II, 248. 155 simply lost command of his subject at this point, let us consider whether some useful artistic results may have been derived by the writer from this confusion. We cannot assume that what either interlocutor says is the soberly held opinion of Diderot himself. B is propounding a paradox which, Diderot would probably admit, is partly true and partly false. In refusing to affirm, but giving reasons to support, his paradox, B uses precisely the method which Diderot recommends for writers who wish to make paradoxical ideas acceptable to their readers. Helvetius's De 1'Esprit is, he says, too methodical and as a result the paradoxes it contains are revealed as blatant untruths: . . . il n'y a rien qui veuille etre prouve avec moins d'affectation, plus derobe, moins annonce qu'un paradoxe. Un auteur paradoxal ne doit jamais dire son mot, mais toujours ses preuves: il doit entrer furtivement dans l'ame de son lecteur, et non de vive force. C'est le grand art de Montaigne, qui ne veut jamais prouver, et qui va toujours prouvant, et me ballottant du blanc au noir, et du noir au blanc. It may well be that the way the discussion between A and B slips from one conception of the state of nature to another is a deliberate means by which the author hopes to make B's paradox appear more acceptable. Too great an analytical rigour here might be a literary fault. The question arises, of course, why Diderot should be interested in propounding a paradoxical opinion which he did not, in the final analysis, consider valid. I suggest that he wishes 1 Reflexions sur le livre de 1'Esprit, AT, II, 272. 156 to make his readers concede that such a preference for primitive ways of life and even pre-social anarchy over the material comforts and cultural refinements which they enjoyed and valued was at least worthy of serious consideration. His aim is to disturb their complacency and perhaps to make them more ready to question those aspects of their own society which left so much to be desired. The eighteenth-century wealthy classes, conscious and proud of their refined culture and of the advances which were constantly being made in the level of civilization, would at first find such a suggestion preposterous. Yet many of them were already becoming sufficiently blase about their highly artificial way of life to appreciate, on reflection, the element of truth contained in such a paradox. In another text, Diderot remarks how the mansions of the rich, in themselves the very antithesis of the primitive life, are deliberately surrounded by specially planted trees, so as to simulate man's primeval forest environment, while the walls of their richly decorated rooms are hung with paintings depicting scenes of pastoral life.1 Diderot is personally more concerned with defects of modern civilization such as oppressive sexual regulations and political and social injustice, rather than with the boredom and emotional aridity of the rich, evils which, after all, they can remedy if they 2 choose. But he wishes to take advantage of his readers' readiness 1 Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 112. 2 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 427-32. 157 to listen to the primitivistic paradox in order to bring these deeper evils to their attention. The comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of the primitive and civilized states occurs frequently in other writings of Diderot. He often puts forward as his own view the opinion voiced by A in the Supplement, that there is a fixed limit to the degree of happiness of the human race (as opposed to that of particular individuals, some of whom may, of course, be happier than others), so that every benefit derived from a step towards civilization is offset by an equivalent loss. Some times he concludes that the balance leans in favour of the primitive life, but more often he gives the verdict to civilization. Sometimes he suggests, as he does in the Supplement, that a half way stage might be the best for human happiness.1 I am not p suggesting that Diderot did not seriously ponder over this question." or that his asking it was never anything but a way of provoking his reader's thought. But such reflections do not express in Diderot a positive attraction for primitive, uncultured, existence or unbridled individualism; rather they are symptoms of his despondency at the misery and oppression which accompany too often the civilized values he loved so much. Whatever stand he takes regarding the minimum extent of complication desirable in 1 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 431-32. 2 In the Refutation d'Helvetius, among examples of problems which, despite his persistent efforts, have proved beyond his capacity to solve, Diderot cites the question "D'etat sauvage est-il preferable a. l'etat police?" (AT, II, 346.) 158 social structure and in culture, it cannot be argued that he positively favours an anarchical way of life in which individuals are laws unto themselves. His true position derives from his criticism of the defects of existing societies. If the actual system of institutions and legislation reaches a certain degree of injustice and oppression, it becomes contradictory to the very-essence of law and social order, which is to secure the happiness and the liberty of the individual. In such extreme cases it may well be true that total anarchy would be preferable. This is what Diderot means when he writes: II n'y a point de societe sans loi. C'est par la loi que le citoyen jouit de sa ville, et le republicain de sa republique. Mais si les lois sont mauvaises, l'homme est plus malheureux et plus mechant dans la societe que dans la nature. As I pointed out in dealing with his political and economic 2 ideas, Diderot's ideal of government is one of minimum interfer ence, the laisser-faire State. He considers laws of any sort, or at least their promulgation and enforcement, to be an unfortunate necessity: ". . .la necessite de faire des lois est toujours une chose facheuse; elle suppose des actions ou mauvaises en elles-memes ou regardees comme telles, et donne lieu a une 3 infinite d'infractions et de chatiments.H> He would prefer a world where men lived in harmony without need of coercion. He 1 Art, "Cyniques", AT, XIV, 261. See above, pp. 12h-25. 3 Art, "Chasse", AT, XIV, 110. 159 is delighted with the Utopian picture of such a world painted by the Benedictine monk Dom Deschamps: Un moine appele Dom Deschamps m'a fait lire un des ouvrages les plus violents et les plus originaux que je connaisse. C'est l'idee d'un etat social ou l'on arriverait en partant de l'etat sauvage, en passant par l'etat police, au sortir duquel on a 1'experience de la vanite des choses les plus importantes, et ou l'on concoit enfin que l'espece humaine sera malheureuse tant qu'il y aura des rois, des pretres, des magistrats, des lois, un tien, un mien, les mots de vices et de vertus. Jugez combien cet ouvrage, tout mal ecrit qu'il est, a du. me faire de plaisir, puisque je me suis retrouve tout a coup dans le monde pour lequel j'etais ne. An examination of the work to which Diderot refers, namely Le 2 Vrai Systeme, reveals quite clearly that the ideal social state for which he claims to be by nature suited is not one in which every individual pursues his own happiness at the expense of whoever is too weak to resist him, but one in which all men are free from misconceptions and prejudices regarding the nature of their true happiness, and therefore cooperate with their fellow-men. In this ideal world there are no laws because no laws are needed; there are no words for vice and virtue because vice does not exist; there are no kings, priests or magistrates because there is no need for a superior authority to impose obedience to laws; there is no private property because such an institution is not required to ensure that a man shall enjoy the fruits of -1 Roth, IX, 245 (Fragment; probably 1769). Cf. also AT, VI, 439 (Remarks on Le Temple du bonheur). 2 Dom Deschamps, Le Vrai Systeme, ou le mot de 1'enigme metaphysique  et morale, ed. J. Thomas and F. Venturi, Geneve, 1939. 160 his labour. This vision is certainly anarchistic in the exact sense of the term, but it is not open to the charge of amoralism or unfettered individualism.""" It is perhaps surprising that Diderot should be so appreciative of the ideas of Dom Deschamps, since many of them run counter to his own views. He surely cannot have found much satisfaction in the monk's subtle metaphysics. It is, moreover, hard to believe that the author of the Refutation d'Helvetius would accept the view that individual differences are mainly attributable to social influences and should relish the prospect of everyone being so similar in the "etat de moeurs" as to be practically interchangeable. Nor would he have admitted that the destiny of free men could ever be fulfilled without a dynamic culture. Diderot has for gotten all these ideas of Dom Deschamps and has remembered only his attack on the oppressive forces in the actual state of society and his vision of a world in which harmony is achieved without compulsion. Diderot does not take Dom Deschamps's ideas too seriously. He sees in them "un beau paradoxe". The Utopian "etat de moeurs" 2 is, he admits, "diablement ideal". Presumably he means that it would be practically impossible to find a way of changing'. """ It is worth noting, perhaps, that the anarchism which Diderot praises here is very different from the theories expounded in the majority of eighteenth-century Utopias. Morelly's communistic state, for instance, far from being anarchistic, is a highly regimented society. Cf. Kingsley Martin, The Rise of French  Liberal Thought, New York, 1954, pp. 242-46. AT, VI, 439 (Remarks on Le Temple du bonheur). 161 from the present state to the way of life advocated by Dom Deschamps, since men have been conditioned by their upbringing to seek their own advantage in every way which the laws do not positively prevent, and have come to associate the possession of private property with freedom and happiness. In other words, the whole psychology of men would have to be changed. Dom Deschamps contends that the abolition of laws, and, in particular, those on which the institution of property is based, would produce this necessary psychological change. But Diderot could never accept such a view, since he thinks that there will always be a certain number of individuals who are so constituted as to be incapable of pursuing their own interest in cooperation with others, and still more people whose passions are too strong for them to control unless their reason is reinforced by fear of punishment. In order that the general welfare may be protected against such people, laws will always have to be promulgated and enforced.""" If all men were perfect and could trust each other implicitly, no laws would be necessary, but in practice laws are needed for To judge from a letter from Dom Deschamps to his friend the marquis de Voyer, it appears that, in his conversations with the Benedictine, Diderot raised such practical objections to the monk's Utopian "etat de moeurs". Dom Deschamps remarks that Diderot believes man to be "moitie mechant par nature et moitie par etat social." Dom Deschamps, who thinks that the evil in man is caused entirely by the structure of society, makes fun of Diderot's attitude on this point: "On dit cet homme athee, mais on a tort. II se croit mechant par le grand diable d'enfer, des qu'il se croit mechant par nature; et croire cela c'est croire au grand diable d'enfer. Or, qui croit n'est point athee, et je ne vois pas pourquoi il craint la police a, ce titre." (Roth, IX, 106 Aug.' 13, 1769 .) 162 the maintenance of a general standard of morality. Diderot remarks that "si la vertu d'un particulier peut se soutenir sans appui, il n'en est pas de meme de la vertu d'un peuple."1 There is, in practice, need of a coercive force to compel those who are not sufficiently motivated by love of virtue andv a sense of duty to behave in accordance with the general good, and thereby with their own self-interest rightly understood. Another reason for the general enforcement of laws is that, in fact, unless they are generally enforced, it is doubtful whether it will be in the true interest even of an individual who is aware of their justice and conformity with the general good to obey them when other individuals infringe them. In the memoir "De la morale des rois," Diderot explains that, in their relations with each other, sovereigns are still in the juristic state of nature, there being no superior authority to constrain them collectively to just behaviour; so that, while some of them recognize the principle of justice in international affairs, even these are often obliged to disregard this principle in practice because they have no assurance that the other sovereigns will respect it.^ These two reasons clarify Diderot's remark in the article "Grecs": . . . qu'est-ce que la voix de la conscience, sans l'autorite et la menace des lois? les loisI les lois! voila la seule barriere qu'on puisse elever contre les passions des hommes; c'est la volonte generale qu'il faut opposer aux volontes particulieres: et 1 Roth, II, 55 (To the Princess de Nassau-Saarbruck; May or June 1758). p Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 231 and 234. 163 sans un glaive qui se meuve egalement sur la surface d'un peuple, et qui tranche ou fasse baisser les tetes audacieuses qui s'elevent, le faible demeure expose a. 1'injure du plus fort; le tumult e regne, et le crime avec le tumulte; et il vaudrait mieux, pour la surete des hommes, qu'ils fussent epars, que d'avoir les mains libres et d'etre voisins.l It is clear, in the light of what we have just said, that this • passage does not deny the validity of the principle of justice or claim that it originates in positive legislation. It is also evident from this text that Diderot is not advocating anarchy when he refers to a state of isolated existence, but is simply pointing out that such a state would be preferable to a cohesive existence without the enforcement of general laws. In some texts Diderot states categorically that to bring men closer together and to strengthen the bonds between them is always desirable. He writes to Catherine II, for example: Dans une societe d'hommes quelconque, plus les parties en sont eparses, moins elles sont rapprochees, plus cette societe est eloignee de la veritable notion de societe; moins elles se soutiennent, moins elles s'entraident, moins elles sont fortes; moins elles luttent avantageusement et contre l'ennemie constante de l'homme, la nature, et contre les ennemies accidentelles, les societes adjacentes, plus le tout est voisin de l'etat sauvage.2 But in texts like this there is the implicit assumption that the society under discussion is a well-ordered society, one which corresponds to the ideal conception of that state. We should not 1 AT, XV, 57. Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 176. Some changes have been made in the punctuation. 164 be misled by Diderot's frequently bitter criticism of his own society and his doubts as to whether it is at all preferable to primitive anarchy: he never for one moment loses sight of the kind of civilized society he desires and towards the creation of which all his efforts as a thinker and propagandist are directed. The perfect society would not create a new. type of human nature, but would preserve and protect those admirable and valuable qualities which are natural to man and would allow some of them to develop to a degree which is impossible in the absence of social bonds. Diderot imagines savage man, living in isolated family groups, to be admirable in his independence and in his sense of dignity and personal value. But man in such conditions is ignorant and must pit his own unaided strength against nature; he can never hope to achieve the cultural advances the germs of which lie dormant in his nature but will only develop if he enjoys leisure and security. These he can never obtain except through cooperating with other men, which means forming a society.1 The man who is subjected to unjust, tyrannical government is a slave. It would be better for him if he lived the savage life in the pre-social state of nature. But the free citizen, the man who, in obeying laws, is in fact conforming to his own judgment of what conduct is best for him as a member of a cooperative group, preserves the same dignity and pride in his own liberty as the savage possesses. Consider the following portrait of savage man: 1 Plan d'une universite. AT, III, 429-30. 165 Un air de fierte mele de ferocite. Sa tete est droite et relevee; son regard fixe. II est maitre dans sa foret. Plus je le considere, plus il me rappelle la solitude et la franchise de son domicile.1 Republican man is remarkably similar to savage man in his dignity and sense of freedom: la republique est un etat d'egalite. Tout sujet se regarde comme un petit monarque. L'air du republicain sera haut, dur et fier. In the light of the texts which we have just examined, I 3 propose now to discuss the meaning of a work which some critics have adduced as evidence of a fundamental leaning towards individualistic anarchism, namely Les Eleutheromanes (1772). Diderot explains in the "argument" which precedes the poem that he wrote it on the occasion of receiving for the third year in succession the bean which traditionally confers an honorary kingship at Twelfth-night. Treating this trivial circumstance with mock-seriousness, he is caught up by the gravity of the symbolic interpretation which he gives to this offer of a crown, and his justification for immediately abdicating his royal power raises the work from the level of light society verse to that of 1 Essai sur la peinture, AT, X, 487. 2 Ibid., AT, X, 487. E.g. Karl Rosenkranz, Diderot1s Leben und Werke, Leipzig, 1866, II, 351; Ernest Seilliere, Diderot, Paris, 1944, pp. 93-94. 166 a philosophical poem. He begins by affirming that absolute power is a very dangerous thing because men who are not corrupted by it are extremely rare. It would be presumptuous, he feels, to suppose that he could himself wield absolute power without succumbing to the temptation of injustice. Supposing he should become another Caligula! The hated name is a signal for the poet to call upon tyrants to behold the danger of revolt which is forever threatening them. Awake and listen, he calls to the oppressor: . . . et tu sauras qu'en ton moindre sujet, Ni la garde qui t'environne, Ni l'imposant hommage qu'on rend a. ta personne N'ont pu de s'affranchir etouffer le projet.1 So far there is nothing here which goes beyond the generalities of Diderot's oft-repeated condemnation of political tyranny. But the next passage, in which the poet evokes natural man impatient of all authority, restive beneath the bonds imposed by society, unwilling either to impose or to submit to laws, is certainly disquieting. Here, if anywhere, one may ask whether Diderot's ideal is a world in which individual freedom reigns so uncontrolled as to leave no basis for right and wrong except the ability of the stronger man to impose his will on the weaker. It will be necessary to quote the whole passage before commenting on it: L'enfant de la nature abhorre l'esclavage; Implacable ennemi de toute autorite, II s'indigne du joug; la contrainte l'outrage; 1 AT, IX, 14. 167 Liberte, c'est son voeu; son cri, c'est Liberte. Au mepris des liens de la societe, II reclame en secret son antique apanage. Des moeurs ou grimaces d'usage Ont beau servir de voile a. sa ferocite; Une hypocrite urbanite, Les souplesses d'un tigre enchaine dans sa cage, Ne trompent point l'oeil du sage; Et, dans les murs de la cite, II reconnait l'homme sauvage S'agitant sous les fers dont il est garrotte. On a pu l'asservir, on ne l'a point dompte. Un trait de physionomie, Un vestige de dignite Dans le'fond de son coeur, sur son front est reste; Et mille fois la tyrannie, Inquiete ou trouver de la securite, A pali de 1'eclair de son oeil irrite. C'est alors qu'un trone vacille; Qu'effraye, tremblant, eperdu, D'un peuple furieux le despote imbecile Connait la vanite du pacte pretendu. Repondez, souverains: qui l'a dicte, ce pacte? Qui l'a signe? qui l'a souscrit? Dans quel bois, dans quel antre en a-t-on dresse l'acte? Par quelles mains fut-il ecrit? L'a-t-on grave sur la pierre ou l'ecorce? Qui le maintient? la justice ou la force? De droit, de fait, il est proscrit. J'en atteste les temps; j'en appelle a tout age; Jamais au public avantage L'homme n'a franchement sacrifie ses droits; S'il osait de son coeur n'ecouter que la voix, Changeant tout a coup de langage, II nous dirait, comme I'hote des bois: "La nature n'a fait ni serviteur ni maitre; "Je ne veux ni donner ni recevoir de lois." Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du pretre, Au defaut d'un cordon pour etrangler les rois.x As Assezat points out, this poem was not published until 1795, so that there is no reason to suppose that it had any influence on the excesses of the French Revolution. Nor need we suppose that the final lines of the passage quoted indicate Ibid., pp. 15-16. The division into strophe, antistrophe and epode has been omitted, since it seems arbitrarily to interrupt what is in fact a continuous development of ideas. 168 any lurking bloodthirstiness in Diderot. What he is saying is that if men were not conditioned to behave in an orderly, submis sive manner, they would revolt against their oppressors in as savage a way as might their uncivilized ancestors in the forests of yore. As in the .Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville, Diderot shows us a natural man languishing enchained in the heart of civilized man, but now the special reference is not to sexual constraints, but to political tyranny. The ferocity of this natural man does not mean that true human nature is indiscriminately aggressive, but simply that when, as in the savage state, man is not inhibited by an acquired reluctance to resort to violence and is not indoctrinated with respect for authorities unworthy of it, he will use force to win or maintain his freedom. Although in civilized man this will to freedom has been mastered, it has not been destroyed and only the physical power of the tyrant can prevent it from breaking loose. The "so-called pact" to which Diderot refers is not the tacit contract by which individual wills are abandoned in favour of an authority which shall execute the general will. Instead, Diderot refers here to the Hobbesian1 There is, admittedly, no explicit reference here to Hobbes him self. Leland Thielemann, in "Diderot and Hobbes," Diderot Studies, II, 1952,.po239, notes the rarity of Diderot's comments on Hobbes's defence of absolute monarchy and on his conception of the political contract, and rightly observes that "of all the contexts in which Diderot referred explicitly to Hobbes, the one in which his convic tions differed most completely and most consistently from those of the English philosopher was at the same time the one in which he mentioned Hobbes least often." "Few of [Diderot's] political ^writings however," Thielemann continues, "even though they did not expressly name Hobbes, failed to make clear the uncompromisable differences between the Hobbesian and the liberal theories of political government." Cf. Thielemann's subsequent remark: "The great liberating concept of the social contract . . . had been 169 concept of a contract of submission by virtue of which the subjects give up all their rights in exchange for the guarantee by the monarch of the maintenance of public order. This view of govern ment is totally opposed to Diderot's conception of the relations between subjects and sovereign, as he expresses it in the articles "Autorite politique," "Cite" and "Citoyen."1 Diderot does not agree with Hobbes that the natural state of man is a war of all against all, and considers such a doctrine to be dangerous because it provides a specious justification for tyranny. When he writes in les Eleutheromanes: "Jamais au public avantage / L'homme n'a franchement sacrifie ses droits," Diderot means not that man has never freely abandoned his right to pursue his own personal advantage at the expense of all other men — Diderot consistently refuses to concede that man ever possessed 2 such a right, even in the state of nature — but that man has never, in exchange for a "public advantage" consisting solely of the guarantee that society will not lapse into a war of all against all, spontaneously abandoned his right to be free from the injustice which others might wish to exercise towards him. Diderot agrees 3 with Locke that the anarchy of nature, though spoiled by the perverted to the uses of ruling despots who were now pretending that their despotism was legal. In the poem Les Eleutheromanes, Diderot merely echoed the sentiments of Ramsay [See AT, IV,.54.1 in challenging the despots to produce the document." (Ibid., p. 244.) 1 See above, pp. 113-15. See below, p. 226. 3 Cf. The Second Treatise of Government, ed. Peardon, chap. II, sect. 13, pp. 9-10. 170 actions of a certain number of vicious men against whose enter prises the just man has no recourse except to whatever strength he may possess, is not necessarily worse than a form of civilized society in which injustice is written into the laws and institu tionalized inequality encourages crime: J'oserais presque assurer qu'il se commet plus de crimes en un jour a. Paris que dans toutes les forets des sauvages en un an. D'ou il s'ensuivrait qu'une societe mal ordonnee est pire que l'etat sauvage. Pourquoi non?1 Thus Les Eleutheromanes is not a protest against law in general, but against unjust laws enforced by tyrannical powers. Justice precedes all positive laws, being a principle inseparable 2 from the nature of man. To make one's conduct conform to natural law is not to give up one's freedom, whereas to submit to acts in which another person infringes natural law is to be enslaved. The potential advantage of the social state over the state of nature is that the social state can provide a mechanism for compelling such men as have tendencies towards unjust conduct to respect the freedom of their fellows. What Diderot laments and what makes him at times regret the savage existence where a small number of hideous crimes have to be balanced against the lack of organized oppression and of injustice sanctioned by positive laws, is that in actual fact civilized societies have consecrated the bondage of man by enforcing not natural law, but ""* Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 401. 2 See below, p. 233. 171 an artificial and arbitrary morality and the dominance of small groups of people over the general mass of mankind. We may sum up the argument put forward in this chapter by saying that Diderot never contests the desirability of a justly ordered society, but condemns only unjust and oppressive social systems. He denies that obedience to just laws and moral principles detracts from the true freedom of man. Indeed, no man is truly free unless he has become the slave of duty. "II vaut mieux etre mort que fripon;" he retorts in a letter to Jean-Jacques, "mais malheur a, celui qui vit et qui n'a point de devoir dont il soit esclave!"1 Many years later, in the Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, he writes the following imaginary dialogue: —Pour etre heureux, il faut etre libre: le bonheur n'est pas fait pour celui qui a d'autres maitres que son devoir. —Mais le devoir n'est-il pas imperieux? et s'il faut que je serve, qu'importe sous quel maitre? —II importe beaucoup: le devoir est un maitre dont on ne saurait s'affranchir sans tomber dans le malheur; c'est avec la chaine du devoir qu'on brise toutes les autres. -1 Roth, I, 235 (March 14, 1757). 2 AT, III, 314. CHAPTER VI THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY My last three chapters have been concerned with Diderot's plea that morality and the structure of society should be founded on the common nature of mankind, so that the essential needs of men might be satisfied without arbitrary restrictions. I have stressed that this demand for freedom does not apply to men as individuals, but rather as members of a common species, and that the freedom claimed for each member of the social group is limited by the freedom of the other members. However, Diderot is well aware that the nature of each individual combines, on the one hand attributes common to all human beings and, on the other, certain peculiar characteristics. What I now propose to discuss is the degree of freedom which Diderot would accord the individual in the satisfaction of his special needs and the development of his particular potentialities. Diderot's view of what we might term characterological individuality is founded on his conception of the physical nature of man. Human beings are highly diverse in their general bodily make-up and, what is especially important as regards character, in the structure of their brain and of their "diaphragm", which 173 Diderot considers to be the centre of a physical system corres ponding to emotional sensibility."*" From these physiological differences there results a great diversity in physical, emotional and intellectual needs and aptitudes, and one would expect that if these needs and aptitudes were not subjected to constraints which tend to produce uniformity, there would be a great range of behaviour and life-styles. But Diderot observes that, within a given social group, men manifest a tedious sameness, in contrast to which he finds any kind of originality refreshing. He loves to portray in his fictional writings characters like Rameau's nephew, who can be relied upon to think and act differently from the next man. We are told that the fatalist Jacques is "un franc original, ce qui arriverait plus souvent parmi les hommes, si 1'education d'abord, ensuite le grand usage du monde, ne les. usaient comme ces pieces d1argent qui, a force de circuler, 2 perdent leur empreinte." This is a favourite image with Diderot. We find it again in the Refutation d'Helvetius, where Diderot suggests that the great uniformity of spirit and character which foreigners notice in the French is due to their extreme sociability: "ce sont des pieces dont 1'empreinte s'est usee par un frottement 3 continu." It may be considered strange that Diderot should decry 1 Cf. Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, pp. 48 and 138; Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 333-37 and 365-67. 2 AT, VI, 192-93-5 AT, II, 382. 174 sociability in this way, since he does not appear to have been troubled by the inaptitude for social relations which made Rousseau's life so wretched. Diderot's letters provide ample evidence of the great enjoyment he found, for example, in the society of the d'Holbach circle. But this contradiction is only apparent. He was, in fact, shy of strangers. He writes to Mme d ' Epinay: Vous croyez done que ma sauvagerie est une pretendue sauvagerie; que je n'ai que la peau de l'ours, mais que la personne n'est pas dessous. C'est que vous prenez tous pour un brave celui qui n'est qu'un poltron revolte. Je fais dans 1'occasion, comme tout le monde, de necessite vertu. Mais il n'y a qu'a. me regarder dans le premier moment, et l'on verra comment a l'approche d'un inconnu, mes joues tombent et ma huppe se releve. Je suis tout effarouche et j'en ai bien l'air. The fact is that Diderot really enjoyed social contact only with people whom he knew well enough to be truly himself, who put him at his ease and accepted him for what he was. "Je vous jure," he remarks in the same letter, "que je ne suis nulle part heureux, qu'a la condition de jouir de mon a/me, d'etre moi, moi 2 tout pur." He was unwilling to undergo those largely unconscious modifications of personality by which people adjust to each other until they all approach what he would have considered to be the same dull common denominator. He was proud of possessing individual characteristics of manners and behaviour which could raise a smile 1 Roth, VII, 170 (Oct., 1767). 2 Ibid., p. 171. 175 from those unused to such deviations from accepted norms. When Garat wrote to him apologizing for having published in the Mercure a somewhat caricatural account of a meeting with the philosopher, Diderot inserted in the text of his Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron a paragraph reassuring the journalist: II y a de la verite dans le plaisant recit de notre premiere entrevue; je m'y suis reconnu, et j'ai ri du vernis leger d'ironie poetique qu'il y a repandu, et qui l'a rendu piquant. On sera tente de me prendre pour une espece d'original; mais qu'est-ce que cela fait? Est-ce done un si grand defaut que d1avoir pu conserver, en s'agitant sans cesse dans la societe, quelques vestiges de la nature, et de se distinguer par quelques cotes anguleux de la multitude de ces uniformes et plats galets qui foisonnent sur toutes les plages?l To his beloved Sophie he writes: II est vrai que vous etes un peu baroque; mais c'est que les autres ont eu beau se frotter contre vous, ils n'ont jamais pu emousser tout a fait votre asperite naturelle, et j'en suis bien aise. J'aime mieux votre surface anguleuse et raboteuse, que le poli maussade et commun de tous ces gens du monde. Au milieu de leur bourdonnement sourd et monotone, si vous ietez un mot dissonant, il frappe et on le remarque. A different image serves to praise the baroness d'Holbach for similar qualities: Cette femme est originale. Elle a des choses tres fines, et tout a. cote des naivetes. Peu de monde, mais en revanche rien de cette uniformite si decente et si maussade qui donne a un cercle de femmes du monde l'air d'une douzaine de poupees tirees par des fils d'archal.3 **" AT, III, 392. Garat's pen-portrait is reproduced from the Mercure of Peb. 15, 1779 in AT, I, xxi-xxii. 2 Roth, III, 265 (Nov. 25, 1760). 5 Roth, IV, 82 (To Sophie Volland; July 31, 1762). 176 On learning that Sophie's sister Mme Le Gendre has resolved to acquire social graces, Diderot expresses his disappointment that she should deliberately try to replace her most estimable qualities with superficial charms which would make her indistinguishable from the multitude of well-trained society women: Si la resolution qu'elle a prise de s'apprivoiser tient encore, dites-lui de prendre garde de semer des fleurettes sur une belle etoffe pleine et unie. II faut bien du gout et de l'art pour faire serpenter une guirlande autour d'une colonne sans detruire sa noblesse. Toutes ces petites vertus de societe auxquelles elle ne se pliera jamais de bonne grace ne vont point avec la franchise et la severite de son caractere. Madame Le Gendre, mon Uranie, jolie, polie, attentive, prevenante, affable, souriante, souple, reverencieuse? Cela ne se peut. Eh! qu'elle reste comme nature l'a faite: grave, serieuse, noble et pensante. Nature l'a faite grande et noble: et la voila qui veut se faire petite et jolie. In his Essai sur la peinture, Diderot defines true grace as "cette rigoureuse et precise conformite des membres avec la nature de l'action." Quite different is the conventional grace which a dancing master teaches. If the famous Marcel were to find one of his pupils standing in the slouching pose of the classical statue of Antihous, he would insist that the young man adopt an attitude more in keeping with his own pre-conceived rules of deportment: . . . lui portant une main sous le menton et 1'autre sur les epaules: "Allons done, grand dadais, lui dirait-il, est-ce qu'on se tient comme cela?" Puis, lui repoussant les genoux avec les siens, et le relevant par-dessous les bras, il ajouterait: "On dirait que Roth, IV, 95 (To Sophie Volland; Aug. 8, 1762). 177 vous etes de cire, et que vous allez fondre. Allons, nigaud, tendez-moi ce jarret; deployez-moi cette figure; ce nez un peu au vent." Et quand il en aurait fait le plus insipide petit-maitre, il commencerait a. lui sourire, et a. s'applaudir de son ouvrage. The teacher of deportment here symbolizes the despotism of social pressures, which bring about a break between the deep springs of thought and action in the individual and his actual behaviour, replacing what would be his spontaneous mode of expression by manners modelled on a common pattern, and eventually atrophying the original personality. Diderot disliked the highly stylized type of dancing in vogue in his time and would have preferred a dance which took the form of an imitation of some human activity. 2 He himself, he claims, lacked all aptitude for dancing. But one suspects that this claim may rather have been a symbolic refusal. At any rate, it seems likely that his inability to dance had acquired that value in Diderot's mind. "On apprend a. danser a 1'ours;" he writes, "mais l'ours qui danse est un animal bien malheureux. On ne m'apprendra jamais a. danser." While the whole of social life exerts this constant pressure towards uniformity, it is in the upbringing of children that the 1 AT, X, 489. 2 Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 333. 5 Ibid., p. 384. 178 greatest and most irrevocable damage is done. Children are too strictly regimented, too much trouble is taken to ensure that they are well behaved, according to adult standards, well groomed, always reasonable, never straying from the patterns of expression and conduct acceptable in their parents' social world. Diderot pleads for a freer upbringing, allowing children to develop their originality: J'eus le courage de dire hier au soir a. Mme Le Gendre qu'elle se donnait bien de la peine pour ne faire de son fils qu'une jolie poupee. Pas trop el^ver est une maxime qui convient surtout aux garcons. II faut un peu les abandonner a l'energie de nature. J'aime qu'ils soient violents, etourdis, capricieux. Une tete ebouriffee me plait plus qu'une tete bien peignee. Laissons-leur prendre une physionomie qui leur appartienne. Si j'apercois a travers leurs sottises un trait d'originalite, je suis content. Nos petits ours mal leches de province me plaisent cent fois plus que tous vos petits epagneuls si curieusement dresses. Quand je vois un enfant qui s'ecoute, qui va la tete bien droite, la demarche bien composee, qui craint de deranger un cheveu desa frisure, un pli de son habit, le pere et la mere s'extasient et disent: Le joli enfant que nous avons la! Et moi je dis: II ne sera jamais qu'un sot.l In a memoir written for Catherine II, Diderot describes the edu.cation of the pupils at the Ecole des Cadets, one of the Empress's newly founded educational institutions. Vigorous physical exercises will give the cadets strength of body, courage and a healthy constitution capable of withstanding the rigours of the harsh Russian climate. Their training in the social graces might be considered deficient by people who judge according to Roth, V, 65 (To Sophie Volland; July 25, 1765). 179 the standards of fashionable French society. Diderot imagines a conversation between himself and a Parisian "elegant". The French fop doubts whether these young Russians possess "cette politesse qui annonce une jeunesse liberalement eievee et qui plait meme encore lorsqu'elle ne tient pas ce qu'elle promet."1 The children of the French upper classes, he continues, acquire at an early age the grace and politeness of high society because, instead of being kept continually in the company of their tutors and of companions of their own age, they are introduced early in life to fashionable circles. Their parents instil in them the desire to create a pleasing impression, and they model themselves on the adults who surround them. The Russian cadets, on the other hand, brought up in the rough-and-tumble of their classmates' company, with little opportunity to observe the social behaviour of polite adults, cannot fail to exhibit a rustic gaiety lacking all finesse; they will inevitably rush around like young animals, with loud voices and a bold manner, except when, in unfamiliar company, 'they become stupidly shy. Diderot, casting himself in the role of a Russian Spartan, retorts to the inhabitant of the new Athens that any disadvantages which the cadets' upbringing may have as regards their adaptation to the demands of polite society are more than compensated by the preservation of their originality: Chez nous, Athenien, mon ami, on ne veut pas que les enfants soient polis et manieres comme tes poupees; et tu crois qu'un homme qui a conserve un peu du gout 1 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 215. 180 de la veritable nature n'aime pas mieux la franchise, la liberte, les sauts, les cris, 1'impetuosite, les tiraillements de ces especes de petits sauvages-la que les reverences cadencees, les pieds portes en avant ou retires en arriere de tes insipides petits mannequins? Mets tes jolis precieux marmots dans des boites. les notres ne sont pas faits pour cela. Tu recules a. 1'aspect de leurs cheveux ebouriffes et de leurs vetements dechires. C'est ainsi que j1etais quand j'etais plus jeune, et c'est ainsi que je plaisais, meme aux femmes et aux filles de ma province. Elles m'aimaient mieux debraille, sans chapeau, quelquefois sans chaussure, en veste et pieds nus, moi, fils d'un forgeron, que ce petit monsieur bien vetu, bien poudre, bien frise, tire a. quatre epingles, le fils de madame la presidente du bailliage; parce que mes bonnes provinciales avaient de la raison, de la simplicite, et un gout naturel pour la sante, pour la liberte, pour les qualites vraiment estimables. Elles voyaient que deux polissons comme moi, laches sur une douzaine de petits presidents en miniature, les auraient mis en deroute. Elles voyaient a. ma boutonniere la marque de mes progres dans les etudes, et un enfant qui montrait son ame par un mot net et franc, et qui savait mieux donner un coup de poing que faire une reverence, leur plaisait plus qu'un mol, lache, faux et effemine petit flagorneur. Ce que tu cultives si soigneusement dans tes petits enfants, les notres 11apprendront en deux ans dans le monde, avec cette difference que leurs premieres annees auront ete mieux employees, et qu'ils conserveront a jamais 1'empreinte de leur originalite propre. Tous vos petits enfants semblent avoir ete fondus dans'le meme joli moule. lious voulons que les notres, sort is divers des mains de la nature, restent divers. Tu prepares des modeles a. Boucher, nous en preparons a Van Dyck. Tu eleves des courtisans, nous elevons, nous, des magistrats et des soldats. Pais comme tu voudras, mais ne dedaigne pas sottement ce que les autres font. Tu as ton but et ils en ont un autre, ou plutot tu n'en as point et ils en ont un. Tu veux avoir des agreables, et ils veulent, eux, avoir des hommes.l Diderot blames not only the usual training in manners, but also the intellectual education given to children in the colleges in his day. This education was based very largely on the study Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 216-17. 181 of Latin. Although himself an excellent Latinist, he considered the almost exclusive study of this ancient tongue to he quite unsuited to the needs and aptitudes of the majority of pupils. They not only failed to reap the benefits this training could offer to the very few who were fitted for it, but whatever natural aptitudes they may have possessed remained undeveloped and atrophied.1 It was Helvetius's contention that the way children turn out is entirely the responsibility of their teacher, who has the power, provided he has the required knowledge of his subject and of the pedagogical art, to make of his pupils what he will. To this Diderot replies: Je ne connais pas de systeme plus consolant pour les parents et plus encourageant pour les maitres. Voila son avantage. Mais je n'en connais pas de plus desolant pour les enfants qu'on croit egalement propres a. tout; de plus capable de remplir les conditions de la societe d'hommes mediocres, et d'egarer le genie qui ne fait bien qu'une chose; ni de plus dangereux par 1'opiniatrete qu'il doit inspirer a des superieurs qui, apres avoir applique longtemps et sans fruit une classe d'eleves a. des objets pour lesquels ils n'avaient aucune disposition naturelle, les rejetteront dans le monde ou ils ne seront plus bons a. rien. On ne donne pas du nez a. un levrier, on ne donne pas la vitesse du levrier a. un chien-couchant; vous aurez beau faire, celui-ci gardera son nez, et celui-la. gardera ses jambes.2 True education is quite a different matter: En quoi consiste done 1'importance de 1'education? Ce n'est point du tout de faire du premier enfant 1 Plan d'une universite pour le gouvernement de la Russie, AT, III, 469-73, 485. 2 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 277. 182 communement bien organise ce qu'il plait a ses parents d'en faire, mais de l'appliquer constamment a la chose a. laquelle il est propre: a 1'erudition, s'il est doue d'une grande memoire; a. la geometrie, s'il combine facilement des nombres et des espaces; a. la poesie, si on lui reconnait de la chaleur et de 1'imagination; et ainsi des autres sciences: et que le premier chapitre d'un bon traite d'education doit etre de la maniere de connaitre les dispositions naturelles de 1'enfant.x This refusal of Diderot's to believe with Helvetius that all men are basically the same and that they become what they are, both morally and intellectually, through the sole agency of environmental influences, is more than a disagreement on a point of psychological theory. For Helvetius, this doctrine makes possible a shining hope for the future happiness of the human race: only if one believes that there are in men no ineradicable tendencies militating against the eventual triumph of knowledge and goodness can one have faith that the application of scientific knowledge to the relations between man and his environment and between man and man will some day put an end to ignorance and injustice. Helvetius places his trust in enlightened rulers possessing sufficient knowledge of human psychology and of the art of managing and manipulating men to be able to direct them of necessity to virtuous social behaviour, and thus to happiness. Diderot agrees that an appropriate system of education and legis lation would be the best means of improving the general standard of morality, but he denies that original individual dispositions could ever be completely eliminated, and asserts that, even in 1 Ibid., AT, II, 374-75. 183 the best organized state, there would always be a certain number of persistently maleficent individuals, just as there will always be some men whose altruism exceeds the duties imposed by laws and social pressures."1" Diderot seems to suspect that Helvetius's theory might be used to provide a specious pretext for all the kinds of despotism, political, social and educational, which he deplores. He feels also that the attempt to obliterate individual differences would mean a great loss of human potential both for intellectual and artistic achievement and for moral excellence. The plea- that social pressures should not be allowed to destroy individual differences has led some critics to see in Diderot a fundamental contradiction between the importance he attaches to individuality and the social ethic which he so often proclaims. Pierre Hermand expresses this critical position as follows: . . . nous n'essayerons pas de nier la contrariete qui existe, irreductible, nous semble-t-il, entre 11individualisme de Diderot et une morale qui sera essentiellement sociale: 1'existence meme et le maintien de la societe ne sont-ils pas lies a. ce conformisme, — resultat de 1'education et des multiples contraintes collectives, — a tout cela contre quoi s'insurge Diderot?^ 1 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 314-15. 2 Op. cit., p. 116. 184 But this judgment is by no means as incontrovertible as Hermand imagines. Diderot does not claim that the original dispositions of the individual should be allowed to develop in an environmental vacuum; indeed, he realizes that this is inconceivable. In Le Neveu de Rameau, both Lui and Moi1 agree that some kind of moral education is necessary, since it is impossible for man, a social animal, to subsist, either individually or as a member of a group, if the basic physical drives, as they grow more powerful with physical maturity, are not tempered by the development of reason. This is the meaning of Moi's remark regarding Lux's young son: Si le petit sauvage etait abandonne a. lui-meme, qu'il conservat toute son imbecillite et qu'il reunit au peu de raison de 1'enfant au berceau la violence des passions de l'homme de trente ans, il tordrait le cou a son pere et coucherait avec sa mere.2 The best form of moral education, as Diderot conceives it, involves placing the child in an environment in which he is obliged by the realities of social relations to temper his own spontaneous impulses in order to obtain the maximum satisfaction compatible Some explanation is perhaps required regarding my use of the names Lui and Moi. Le Neveu de Rameau takes the form essentially of an interview between Jean-Francois Rameau, nephew of the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, and a narrator, whom numerous details invite us to identify with the author. In the dialogue portions of the work, the speakers are designated by the pronouns "Lui" and "Moi". I prefer to use the word Moi, rather than to refer to Diderot by name, since I wish to avoid giving the impres sion that the remarks addressed to Rameau are necessarily to be taken as the author's true opinions. Although I do not accept the view that Moi represents a self-caricature of certain hypocritically conformist tendencies which Diderot discerns in himself (cf. Doolittle, o_p_. ext., passim.), I readily admit that there is a degree of differentiation, deliberate, I think, between the image of himself which Diderot offers us in Moi and the image which, from our total knowledge of him, we may suppose that he considered himself to present sub specie aeternitatis. 2 AT, V, 474. 185 with his continued integration in the social group. On this point Lui differs from Moi only in his contention that moral education should teach the child to adapt to the corrupt society which actually exists, whereas Moi holds that it is preferable for children to be brought up in a social and moral environment which fits them less for the existing state of society than for an ideal society in which men would cooperate in the pursuit of their common welfare.1 In reacting against the stereotyping of character, Diderot does not mean to suggest that no restraints should be placed on basic human urges. The Russian cadets, for example, receive a large part of their moral education from the social relationships in which they interact with their fellow-cadets on a footing of equality, a better school for virtue than the hierarchical adult society into which the young Parisians are early introduced and which provides such excellent training in flattery and deceit. The question whether Diderot's "individualism" conflicts with his social ethic cannot, however, be decided solely by referring to the texts quoted so far in this chapter, texts in which Diderot criticizes the artificial uniformity of manners and 1 Cf. AT, V, 471-73. 186 character imposed by social pressures. Other critics have voiced an opinion similar to that of Hermand, but in a more extreme form, quoting as evidence various passages in which Diderot expresses admiration for individuals who have preserved the original energy of their nature, even when their conduct is anti social. The following remarks of Jean Pabre are a good example of this approach: Pour se rassurer, plus encore que par gout du paradoxe, [Diderot] cherche volontiers a. justifier, sur le plan de la moralite, son admiration pour les grandes ames, meme criminelles: le spectacle de 1'energie est toujours salutaire, meme dans le mal (Cf. Salon de 1765, AT, X, 342: "Je ne hais pas les grands crimes . . ."; Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 118; Article "Laideur", AT, XV, 410, etcT) Da haine de la mediocrite le pousse jusqu'a esquisser une apologie du crime: ne sont meprisables que ces hommes — la majorite helas! — dans lesquels "il n'y a pas assez d'etoffe, ni pour faire un honnete homme, ni pour faire un fripon." "Si les mSchants n'avaient pas cette energie dans le crime, les bons n'auraient pas la meme energie dans la vertu." Tarquin garantit Scaevola, et Damiens Regulus. . . . Les scrupules moraux ne tiennent guere devant l'esthetique et cette consideration: de 1'unite, essentielle a la definition du Beau. "Vous le savez, vous, ma Sophie, vous le savez, vous, mon amie. Un tout est beau lorsqu'il est un; en ce sens Cromwell est beau, et Scipion aussi, et Medee, et Aria, et Cesar, et Brutus. ..." (10 aout 1759)1 More recently, David Punt has contended, in a similar vein, that in Diderot there is a conventional morality, founded upon the restraint of conventional rules and maxims, both legal and polite. . . . There is also a more fundamental or natural morality, as illustrated in the Supplement au  Voyage de Bougainville. . . . The acquired morality of Edition of Le Neveu de Rameau, pp. 213-14. The references are Pabre's. 187 conventions is transcended by the morality founded on the integrity of the person and its uninhibited expres sion, a morality in which, Diderot sometimes suggests, even the great criminal may participate. "L'atrocite de 1'action vous porte au-dela du mepris," claims the nephew of Rameau (AT, V, 457). It is this morality of integrity to which is opposed the hypocritical, i.e. that which is in internal conflict with itself, hence inhibited, and which gives rise only to petty ideas and petty acts, whether it be a question of petty virtues or petty crimes. "On prise en tout 1'unite de caractere," says the nephew again (AT, V, 453).1 These remarks of Fabre and Funt are rather imprecise and 2 ambiguous, but their implication seems to be that Diderot considered as the highest ideal for human conduct not social cooperation but the vigorous and uninhibited deployment of the origitasal forces of the individual nature. His ideal world would thus presumably be caracterized by agressive competition between individuals for survival and domination. Such interpretations are, I think, erroneous. The scholars who have proposed them have probably been deceived by Diderot's predilection for para doxical forms of expression. I shall attempt to show in the remaining part of this chapter that a careful analysis of Diderot's text does not bear out the charge that he at times subscribes to an immoralistic ethic of individual efficacy running counter to his social ethic. "Oh'..the conception of the 'vicieux' in Diderot", in Diderot  Studies, X, 1968, pp. 58-59. 2 E.g. Fabre's comment, "les scrupules moraux ne tiennent guere devant 1'esthetique . . . ," and Funt's use of the words "transcended" and "participate". 188 In many of the passages which are frequently mentioned as instances of such an ethic of individual efficacy, Diderot's real concern seems to be related to the simultaneous presence of both good and evil in the world. It will be convenient first to examine certain texts in which he deals with the presence of both good and evil in the same individual, and then to consider other passages in which he refers instead to the occurence of good and evil separately, in different individuals. In one of the letters to Sophie Volland, the discussion is centred on Lovelace, hero of Richardson's novel Clarissa. It appears from Diderot's remarks that Sophie and her sister Mme Le Gendre reacted to Lovelace by wishing him to be destroyed as an evil being. Diderot counters by declaring that the ladies have been too hasty in weighing up the balance of good and evil in Clarissa's seducer; all is not evil in Lovelace's character: C'est que ce Lovelace est d'une figure charmante, qui vous plait comme a. tout le monde, et que vous en avez dans 1'esprit une image qui vous seduit; c'est qu'il a de 1' elevation dans 1'a.me, de 1'education, des connaissances, tous les talents agreables, de la legerete, de la force, du courage; c'est qu'il n'y a rien.de vii dans sa sceleratesse; c'est qu'il vous est impossible de le mepriser; c'est que vous prefereriez mourir Lovelace, de la main du capitaine Morden, a vivre Solmes; c'est qu'a. tout prendre, nous aimons mieux un etre moitie bon moitie mauvais, qu'un etre indifferent. Nous esperons de notre bonheur ou de notre adresse d'esquiver a. sa malice et de prof iter dans 1'occasion de sa bonte. C'royez-vous que quelqu'un sous le ciel eut ose impunement faire souffrir a. Clarisse la centieme partie des injures que Lovelace lui fait? C'est quelque chose qu'un persecuteur qui, 189 en meme temps qu'il nous tourmente, nous protege contre tout ce qui vous environne et nous menace. Et puis, c'est que vous avez un pressentiment que cet homme, qui s'est endurci pour une autre, se serait adouci pour vous. As is frequently the case when Diderot poses moral problems for Sophie and her sister, his aim is to amuse and tease them and also, probably, to criticize the conventionality of their moral attitudes. The serious point which emerges, however, from his remarks in the letter under discussion is that Lovelace is only a particularly striking example of the general truth that good and evil are intermingled in human nature, and that therefore it is often a very difficult matter to decide whether there is more good or more evil in an individual. Diderot in no way denies the immorality of Lovelace's conduct towards Clarissa; nor does he suggest that the many admirable qualities which the charming scoundrel possesses exonerate him for his wickedness. Rather Diderot contests the conventional tendency to classify individuals as either all good or all bad. The problem of the correct attitude to take towards characters in which good and evil qualities are found concomitantly is also Diderot's main concern in the well-known passage from Le Neveu de Rameau where Lui and Moi discuss men of genius who manifest moral defects in their private lives. According to Lui, such men, apart from the single field of activity in which they excel, are good 1 Roth, III, 317-18 (Sept. 28, 1761). 190 for nothing: "ils ne savent ce que c'est que d'etre citoyens, peres, meres, parents, amis."""" Thus, continues Lui, it is in the interest of any individual to resemble them as far as possible, but not to wish them to be common. Moi concedes that men of genius are often maleficent in their private lives, but argues that they are beneficent through their achievements. When one weighs the benefits and disadvantages which such men bring to mankind, one must conclude that the good they do greatly exceeds the evil. He takes as an example Racine: Mais Racine? Celui-la certes avait du genie, et ne passait pas pour un trop bon homme. . . . Lequel des deux prefereriez-vous? ou qu'il eut ete un bon homme, identifie avec son comptoir, comme Briasson, ou avec son aune, comme Barbier, faisant regulierement tous les ans un enfant legitime a sa femme, bon mari, bon pere, bon oncle, bon voisin, honnete commercant, mais rien de plus; ou qu'il eut ete fourbe, traitre, ambitieux, envieux, mechant, mais auteur d'Andromaque, de Britannicus, d'Iphigenie, de Phedre, d'Athalie? . . . Pesez le mal et le bien. Dans mille ans d'ici, il fera verser des larmes; il sera 1'admiration des hommes, dans toutes les contrees de la terre. II inspirera l'humanite, la commiseration, la tendresse. On demandera qui il etait, de quel pays, et on l'enviera a la Prance. II a fait souffrir quelques etres qui ne sont plus, auxquels nous ne prenons presque aucun interet; nous n'avons rien a redouter ni de ses vices, ni de ses defauts. II eut ete mieux sans doute qu'il eut recu de la nature la vertu d'un homme de bien avec les talents d'un grand homme. C'est un arbre qui a fait secher quelques arbres plantes dans son voisinage, qui a etouffe les plantes qui croissaient a. ses pieds; mais il a porte sa cime jusque dans la nue, ses branches se sont etendues au loin; il a prete son ombre a. ceux qui venaient, qui viennent et qui viendront se reposer autour de son tronc majestueux; il a produit des fruits d'un gout exquis, et qui se renouvellent sans cesse.2 1 AT, V, 392. 2 AT, V, 395-97. 191 In order to judge, therefore, whether mankind is better or worse off for the existence of men of genius whose private conduct is wicked, we must take a long-term' view: . . . oublions pour un moment le point que nous occupons dans l'espace et dans la duree; et etendons notre vue sur les siecles a venir, les regions les plus eioignees et les peuples a. naitre. Songeons au bien de notre espece; si nous ne sommes point assez genereux, pardonnons au moins a la nature d'avoir ete plus sage que nous. As in the case of Lovelace, Diderot-Moi does not deny that Racine's private conduct was maleficent; he claims, however, that the total effect of Racine's acts for mankind as a whole is over whelmingly beneficial. The question here raised is not that of the moral judgment to be passed on particular acts, but rather whether one is justified in criticizing a natural order in which good and evil are often inextricably mingled, in this case in the same being. Moi believes, it is true, that one can find examples of the genius who is free from notable moral defects; it is clear, nevertheless, from his comments on Voltaire and Greuze that he recognizes a certain correlation between moral deficiency and genius. Voltaire's sensitivity to criticism arises from the same psychological source as the artistic sensibility which enables him to create the characters of his tragedies. Similarly, Greuze's vanity has the same origin as the enthusiasm which accounts for his talent as a painter: Si vous jetez de l'eau froide sur la tete de Greuze, vous eteindrez peut-etre son talent avec sa vanite. 1 AT, V, 397. 192 Si vous rendez de Voltaire moins sensible a la critique, il ne saura plus descendre dans l'ame de Merope, il ne vous touchera plus.x The cases of Lovelace and Racine concern primarily the presence in the same individual of qualities which are respectively beneficent and maleficent towards others. The Salon de 1767 contains some reflections which, while relating to a similar theme, deal with qualities which are respectively harmful and beneficial to the individual who possesses them. Here too it was Diderot's belief that Nature tends to balance good qualities with bad. Reflecting on the kind of personal character which brings its possessor happiness, Diderot contrasts the balance, the lack of strong passions, the mediocrity, which shield a man equally from blame and envy with, on the other hand, the tendency to fly to extremes, the strong passions, the acute sensibility, which result in a mixture of exaltation and unhappiness. But why is it, he asks, that, for all the apparent or real disadvantages of sensibility, no one would willingly give up his share of it and become mediocre? He takes as examples of mediocrity and sensibility two contrasting characters from Piron's comedy La Metromanie. M. Baliveau, a rich bourgeois, is eager for the solid advantages afforded by wealth, bent on exercising a petty tyranny over those near him, and totally devoid of idealism. His nephew Damis, on the other hand, who has. adopted the significant pseudonym of M. de l'Empiree, lives above his means, neglects his law studies, 1 AT, V, 397. 193 but is generous and sets no value on money for its own sake or for its material advantages; his eyes are fixed on literary-fame; in his personal relations he is honorable and kind. While his uncle is scheming to have him imprisoned, the young man contrives to overcome the obstacles impeding the happy marriage of his friend Dorante.1 Diderot comments as follows: Heureux, cent fois heureux, . . . M. Baliveau, capitoul de Toulouse! c'est M. Baliveau, qui boit bien, qui mange bien, qui digere bien, qui dort bien. G'est lui qui prend son cafe le matin, qui fait la police au marche, qui perore dans sa petite famille, qui arrondit sa fortune, qui preche a ses enfants la fortune; qui vend a. temps son avoine et son ble; qui garde dans son cellier ses vins, jusqu'a ce que la gelee des vignes en ait amene la cherte; qui sait placer surement ses fonds; qui se vante de n'avoir jamais ete enveloppe dans aucune faillite; qui vit ignore; et pour qui le bonheur inutilement envie d'Horace, le bonheur de mourir ignore fut fait. M. Baliveau est un homme fait pour son bonheur et pour le malheur des autres. Son neveu, M. de l'Empiree, tout au contraire.2 I think it will be clear from the three passages which I have cited so far that Diderot does not wish to question the validity of an ethic of beneficence or to propose new and unorthodox criteria for judging particular actions. His meditation has quite another object. The problem he examines is whether one should criticize the natural order for producing evil alongside of good. Moi, in Le Neveu de Rameau, defends not the evil that I base this description of the two characters on the text of Piron's play, to which one must, I think, return in order to understand what Baliveau and M. de l'Empiree represent for Diderot. For an example of a misinterpretation of Baliveau, see Seilliere, op. cit., pp. 264-65. 2 Salon de 1767, AT, XI, 126. 194 men of genius do in their private lives, hut rather Nature for creating this mixture of good and evil in them. I think it unnecessary here to examine in detail the arguments put forward by lui and Moi with respect to the simultaneous presence of good and evil in the world and in man. Mod's final conclusion — and, I think, that of the author — is that it is unreasonable to pass a value judgment on the actual order of the universe since it is the only possible order: Acceptons done les choses comme elles sont. Voyons ce qu1elles nous coutent, et ce qu'elles nous rendent, et laissons la. le tout que nous ne connais sons pas assez pour le louer ou le blamer, et qui n'est peut-etre ni bien ni mal, s'il est necessaire, comme beaucoup d'honnetes gens l'imaginent. So far we have considered passages in which Diderot reflects on the coexistence of good and evil in the same individual. There are, however, several important passages, relating to a similar theme, but which illustrate his concern with the presence of both good and evil in the human race when they occur separately, in different individuals. Here too we shall see that the main object of Diderot's enquiry is to determine whether one should criticize the natural order which has brought about this state of affairs. His answer to this last question emerges most clearly from a letter to Sophie Volland: 1 AT, V, 398. 195 Si les mechants n'avaient pas cette energie dans le crime, les bons n'auraient pas la meme energie dans la vertu. Si "l'homme affaibli ne peut plus se porter aux grands maux,.il ne pourra plus se porter aux grands biens. En cherchant a. 1'amender d'un cote, vous le degraderez de 1'autre. Si Tarquin n'ose violer lucrece, Scoevola ne tiendra pas son poignet sur un brasier ardent. Cela est singulier; on est en general assez mecontent des choses, et l'on n'y toucherait pas sans les empirer.l The reference to amending human nature means here, I think, imagining it in an improved form. Diderot never doubted the advisability of taking practical measures to ameliorate the actual conduct of individuals. He may have gone so far as to question the desirability of a type of education which so weakened the fibre of human nature as to render men incapable of either great crimes or of great heroism; but he never suggests that society should cease to apply laws and to enforce them by punishing wrong-doers. Although the passage I have quoted is immediately preceded by the remark "Je ne puis m'empecher d'admirer la nature humaine, meme quelquefois quand elle est atroce," I do not think this implies moral approval of crime on Diderot's part. It is, however, easy to see how the paradoxical form of such a remark might be misleading. I shall have more to say presently about this admiration of Diderot's for energy in crime. The following passage also deals with the theme of the presence of good and evil in different individuals and proposes 1 Roth, III, 98 (Sept. 30, 1760). Henri Lefebvre, having quoted this passage, exclaims: "On croit rever; ou done est passe le moraliste? En bonne forme, voila un tres beau plaidoyer pour les mechants." (Op., cit., p. 229,) 196 a similar account of the interdependence of these moral opposites: . . . c'est que les grandes et sublimes actions et les grands crimes'portent le meme caractere d'energie. Si un homme n'etait pas capable d'incendier une ville, un autre homme ne serait pas capable de se precipiter dans un gouffre pour la sauver. Si l'ame de Cesar n'eut pas ete possible, celle de Caton ne l'aurait pas ete davantage. l'homme est ne citoyen tantot du Tenare, tantot de l'Olympe; c'est Castor et Pollux; un heros, un scelerat; Marc-Aurele, Borgia: diversis  studiis ovo prognatus e_odem.± Once again, like that previously quoted, this passage is immedi ately preceded by a startlingly paradoxical remark: "Je hais toutes ces petites bassesses qui ne montrent qu'une ame abjecte, mais je ne hais pas les grands crimes . . . .11 Here too there is not, I think, any implication of moral approval of great crimes, any belief that the great criminal transcends common humanity to such a degree that he earns the right to be judged by a different moral law. Diderot is merely pointing out that if one wishes the natural order to produce heroes, one has to accept having great villains as well; we need not approve of them, but we must reconcile ourselves to an order of things in which they inevitably exist. With regard to the presence of good and evil in different individuals, Diderot's point is, in fact, much the same as the one he makes with regard to the concomitance of ^ Salon de 1765. AT, X, 342. Diderot alludes to the legend of Manlius Curtius, who plunged on horseback into an abyss in order to save the city of Rome. Presumably the man who burned the city is Nero. The twin brothers Castor and Pollux, born from Leda's egg, were respectively mortal and immortal. 197 good and evil in the same individual. He does not propose that we should judge the evil personal qualities of certain men of genius or the maleficent energy of great criminals according to a different moral standard from that which is applied to ordinary men. Diderot is concerned with the universal scheme of things, and concludes that it makes no sense to pass value judgments on human nature as a whole; one must accept it, as one must accept the fundamental order of the universe. As a final example of Diderot's reflections on a world order in which heroes and great criminals exist side by side, let us examine his remarks on Damiens, the would-be assassin of Louis XV: Qu'il y ait eu parmi nous un homme qui ait ose attenter a la vie de son souverain; qu'il ait ete pris; qu'on l'ait condamne a etre dechire avec des ongles de fer, arrose d'un metal bouillant, trempe dans le bitume enflamme, etendu sur un chevalet, demembre par des chevaux; qu'on lui ait lu cette sentence terrible, et qu'apres 1'avoir entendue, il ait dit froidement: "La journee sera rude"; a 1'instant j'imagine aussi qu'il respire a cote de moi une ame de la trempe de celle de Regulus, un homme qui, si quelque grand interet, general ou particulier, l'exigeait, entrerait sans palir dans le tonneau herisse de pointes.1 I shall have further remarks to make on this passage later. For the moment I wish only to stress that here again Diderot's position is that in the actual order of the world there is an interconnection between the existence of great criminals and great heroes, that one cannot have one without the other. Roth, III, 141-42 (To Sophie Volland: Oct. 14-15, 1760). 198 The explanation Diderot gives for the interdependence of good and evil, whether in the physical world, in the same human individuals, or separately in different individuals, is that good and evil have the same origin. He expounds this theory most fully in a note to le Proselyte repondant par lui-meme (c. 1763): J'ai vu de savants systernes, j'ai vu de gros livres ecrits sur l'origine du mal; et je n'ai vu que des reveries, le mal tient au bien meme; on ne pourrait oter l'un sans 1'autre; et ils ont tous les deux leur source dans les memes causes. C'est des lois donnees a. la matiere, lesquelles entretiennent le mouvement et la vie dans l'univers, que derivent les desordres physiques, les volcans, les tremblements de terre, les tempetes, etc. C'est de la sensibilite, source de tous nos plaisirs, que resulte la douleur. Quant au mal moral, qui n'est autre chose que le vice ou la preference de soi aux autres, il est un effet necessaire de cet amour-propre, si essentiel a. notre conservation, et contre lequel de faux raisonneurs ont tant declame. Pour qu'il n'y ait pas de vices sur la terre, c'est aux legislateurs a faire que les hommes n'y trouvent aucun interet.l In a second note, Diderot declares that it is inconceivable that a world should exist without evil: Je ne sais s'il peut y avoir un systeme ou. tout serait bien; mais je sais bien qu'il est impossible de la concevoir. Otez la faim et la soif aux animaux, qu'est-ce qui les avertira de pourvoir a. leurs besoins? Otez-leur la douleur, qu'est-ce qui les previendra sur ce qui menace leur vie? A l'egard de l'homme, toutes ses passions, comme l'a demontre un philosophe de nos jours, ne sont que le developpement de la sensibilite physique. Pour faire que l'homme soit sans passions, il n'y a pas d'autre moyen que de le rendre automate. Pope a tres bien prouve, d'apres Leibniz, que le monde ne saura.it etre que ce qu'il est; mais lorsqu'il en a AT, II, 85, note 1. 199 conclu que tout est bien, il a dit une absurdite; il devait se contenter de dire que tout est necessaire.^ With. regard to meral evil and human suffering these remarks confirm the ideas of Moi concerning Voltaire and Gfreuze and those of Diderot regarding the benefits and disadvantages which a M. de l'Empiree derives from the gift of sensibility. The source of moral evil and of moral good is self-love, which is fundamentally the tendency of all organisms to strive to continue their own existence. This self-love is guided by sensibility, which in its origin is a physical phenomenon inseparable from the organism and which in its developed form gives rise to the human passions. In order to refute completely the view that Diderot tended towards immoralistic individualism, it will be necessary to examine in some detail his ideas concerning the passions. As early as 1746, in the Pensees philosophiques, Diderot declares his preference for strong passions, the first five.sections of the work being devoted to this theme. The following selection will give an idea of Diderot's point of view: Ibid., p. 85, note 2. Assezat identifies the "philosophe de nos jours" as Condillac. Cf. Voltaire's Preface to the Poeme sur le  desastre de Lisbonne of 1755 (Melanges, Pleiade edition, Paris, 1961, pp. 301-03). All these reflections of Did erot's concerning good and evil in the universe should be seen in the context of the controversy regarding optimism in the decade around 1760. 200 On declame sans fin contre les passions; on leur impute toutes les peines de l'homme, et l'on oublie qu1elles sont aussi la source de tous ses plaisirs. C'est dans sa constitution un element dont on ne peut dire ni trop de bien ni trop de mal. Mais ce qui me donne de l'humeur, c'est qu'on ne les regarde jamais que du mauvais cote. . . . Cependant il n'y a que les passions, qui puissent elever l'ame aux grandes choses. Sans elles, plus de sublime, soit dans les moeurs, soit dans les ouvrages; les beaux-arts retournent en enfance, et la vertu devient minutieuse. . . . les passions sobres font les hommes communs. . . . Les passions amorties degradent les hommes extraordinaires. La contrainte aneantit la grandeur et l'energie de la nature. Voyez cet arbre; c'est au luxe de ses branches que vous devez la fraicheur et l'etendue de ses ombres: vous en jouirez jusqu'a. ce que l'hiver vienne le depouiller de sa chevelure. Plus d'excellence en poesie, en peinture, en musique, lorsque la superstition aura fait sur le temperament l'ouvrage de la vieillesse. We shall see later that Diderot does insist that in their expression strong passions should be subjected to some form of restraint. But I would like to concentrate for the moment on his 'preference for strong rather than weak passions. I would not seek to deny that he prefers a world in which there is a mixture of extremes in good and evil to a world in which moral mediocrity is the rule. He prefers the energy which gives rise either to great crimes or to great heroism rather than the moral weakness which makes a man incapable either of marked altruism or of a sufficiently resolute selfishness to act in a decidedly malevolent way. It is in this sense that he hates "toutes ces petites bassesses qui ne montrent qu'une ame abjecte," but does not hate great crimes, because of the quality of energy which, " 2 like acts of heroism, they manifest. 1 AT, I, 127-28. 2 See above, p. 196. Cf. also the rather similar remark in his letter to Sophie Volland dated Sept. 30, 1760, quoted above, p. 19-5. 201 With the "energetic" character, whether good or evil, Diderot contrasts the mediocre man: Tenez, mon amie, votre Desmarets n'etait bon a. rien. II n'y avait pas assez d'etoffe ni pour faire un honnete homme ni pour faire un fripon. S'il n'est pas encore completement stupide, cela ne tardera pas a. venir. Au reste, un coup d'oeil sur les inconsequences et les contradictions des hommes, et l'on voit que la plupart naissent moitie sots et moitie fous. Sans caractere comme sans physionomie, ils ne sont decides ni pour le vice ni pour la vertu. Ils ne savent ni immoler les autres ni se sacrifier; et soit qu'ils fassent le bien, soit qu'ils fassent le mal, ils sont malheureux et j'en ai pitie. It is true, on the other hand, that according to Diderot, it is precisely the mediocre mass of mankind, lacking a pronounced natural disposition either to cooperative or to anti-social behaviour, which can be influenced by edxication and legislation: II est un phenomene, constant dans la nature, auquel Helvetius n'a pas fait attention, c'est que les ames fortes sont rares, que la nature, ne fait presque que des etres communs; que c'est la raison pour laquelle les causes morales subjuguent si facilement 1'organisation. It is this fact which justifies our hope for the general improve ment of the standard of human morality through the agency of good government and an appropriate educational system. But the kind of virtue, if it deserves the name, which results from careful nurture is not what fills Diderot with enthusiasm or makes him proud to belong to the human race. He is more impressed Roth, III, 97-98 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 30, 1760). 2 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 393. 202 by that virtue which springs spontaneously from the original seed of the individual nature. Diderot's preference for a world in which all is not mediocrity, but where there are instances of great heroism, inevitably balanced by other instances of great villainy, may no doubt be rejected by some moralists, who consider that a state of harmonious mediocrity would be more conducive to the happiness of society as a whole. I think, however, that much could be said on either side of the question and that it would be wrong to reach the hasty conclusion that Diderot's position is immor-alistic. When we consider, for example, all the passages in which Diderot speaks of the concomitance in the natural order of great crimes and great heroism, we find that his attitude toward different types of great criminal varies. For instance, when he contrasts Marcus Aurelius and Borgia, Manlius Curtius and Nero,"'" his attention is. concentrated, as regards the villains, on one quality only, their "energy", which here seems to mean the strength of the passions. This quality pleases him, he explains, for two reasons. One is that it provides him with an aesthetically pleasing spectacle: "On en fait de beaux tableaux et de belles tragedies." The other reason is that the existence in some men of violent passions directed toward evil affords an "*" See above, p. 196. 2 Salon de 1765, AT, X, 342. 203 assurance that there exist in other men equally strong passions directed toward good. I do not think one can suppose that Diderot has any actual moral admiration for a Nero or a Borgia, in the sense that he would like to resemble them. In other cases, however, it seems that he feels a true moral admiration for at least certain aspects of the character of a criminal. He admires, for instance, Damiens's courage in the face of his terrible sentence. Such admiration does not denote immoralism. Diderot himself clarifies in the following passage the distinction between approval of criminal ends and admiration for the intellectual or psychological qualities which are deployed in their pursuit: Une seule chose peut nous rapprocher du mechant; c'est la grandeur de ses vues, l'etendue de son genie, le peril de son entreprise. Alors, si nous oublions sa mechancete pour courir son sort; si nous conjurons contre Venise avec le comte de Bedmar, c'est la vertu qui nous subjugue encore sous une autre face. In this context we must, in my view, take the word "vertu" to mean something different from justice, which is the way Diderot, true to his social ethic, usually defines it. Here it has a meaning closer to its etymological sense and refers to whatever qualities are considered desirable in a man. This meaning is broader than that of beneficence or justice, for it includes also the intellectual and psychological characteristics which make a man efficient in carrying out his designs. In short, the word refers to qualities which, from the point of view of social morality, are neutral. My interpretation is confirmed, I think, 1 Salon de 1767. AT, XI, 118. 204 by a closely parallel passage in the article "laideur": Une chose est belle ou laide sous deux aspects differents. La conspiration de Venise dans son commencement, ses progres et ses moyens nous fait eerier: Quel homme que le comte de Bedmar! qu'il est grand! La meme conspiration sous les points de vue moraux et relatifs a l'humanite et a la justice nous fait dire qu'elle est atroce, et que le comte de Bedmar est hideux!x Diderot's conception of what is admirable in human character is complicated by the fact that at times he appeals to the principle of unity of character. In a letter to Sophie Volland, he remarks: Un tout est beau lorsqu'il est un. En ce sens, Cromwell est beau, et Scipion aussi, et Medee, et Aria, et Cesar, et Brutus.2 This principle of unity, however, is rather different from the principle on which is founded Diderot's admiration for Damiens or the comte de Bedmar. In such men Diderot finds qualities which he would like to possess; but it is clear from certain portraits IN LJL© Neveu de Rameau that he would not feel this way about all characters possessing unity. Such unity may be found in weak as well as in strong characters, in base souls as well as in noble ones, a fact which is illustrated by Bouret and Palissot, in whom Rameau's nephew finds a unity of character of which he himself falls short. Their perfection in baseness may possibly be the 1 AT, XV, 410. 2 Roth, II, 208 (Aug. 11, 1759). 205 source of a certain aesthetic pleasure for the observer, but, if one can speak at all of their inspiring admiration, it is certainly not the sort of admiration with which Damiens1s courage fills Diderot, reminding him as it does of the courage of a Regulus. We remember that Rameau, having failed to elicit from Moi anything other than amused contempt for Palissot and Bouret, tries again with his anecdote concerning the renegade of Avignon.x The scoundrel in question gains the confidence of a rich Jew, still privately practising • hils"1 , religion, and pretends to be converted to Judaism; whence the appelation "renegade". After some time has elapsed, he secretly denounces the Jew to the Inquisition and makes off with his fortune on the pretext of keeping it safe from the authorities. Meanwhile the Jew is burned at the stake. The main difference between the case of the renegade and those of Palissot and Bouret is that his act is infinitely more heinous. He is an example of those extremes in vice which give Diderot the assurance that there will exist in other men equal extremes of virtue, whereas Bouret and Palissot partake rather of the mediocrity of a Desmarets. However, we are not tempted to identify ourselves with the renegade. The only quality which we might perhaps wish to possess in equal measure is his intelligence; but even this we class rather as guile and have little sympathy with it. One would not, in the case of the renegade, speak of -"la grandeur de ses vues, l'etendue de son 1 AT, V, 454-56. 206 genie", as Diderot does with regard to the comte de Bedmar. As for courage, there is no evidence that the renegade possesses any. He has worked out such a clever plan that he does not need to he courageous. It may be possible to derive a certain aesthetic pleasure from contemplating the unfolding of his nefarious scheme, just as one might from observing a series of clever chess moves; the degree of his wickedness may well astonish one; but there is no question, either for Diderot or for his reader, of feeling a positive attraction for the qualities of his personality. It is true, admittedly, that, in the following remarks, Diderot lends lui, as so often throughout the dialogue, certain of his own ideas: S'il importe d'etre sublime en quelques genres, c'est surtout en mal. On crache sur le petit filou, mais on ne peut refuser une sorte de consideration a un grand criminel: son courage vous etonne, son atrocite , vous fait fremir. On prise en tout 1'unite de caractere. All these ideas are Diderot's own, and I think that he would have been ready to defend them as compatible with his belief in beneficence. But lui parts company with the author when he illustrates these principles by the example of the renegade in such a way as to imply that moral considerations are irrelevant to the case. Apart from the fact that the renegade lacks the "sublime" qualities of a Damiens, Lui's approach is unacceptable to Moi because it is an attempt to substitute aesthetic judgments for moral ones in a case where the latter seem of infinitely greater importance to a man of virtue. 1 AT, V, 453. 207 Lui's tactics in the dialogue are largely dictated by his desire to attain in the philosopher's eyes a significance which will raise him above mere contempt. To this end he presents himself as an artist in flattery and in the manipulation of people. Admitting, however, that he himself falls short of perfection in baseness and immorality, he attempts to gain at least Moi's recognition of the excellence of other more consummate examples. For a while Moi is amused, but on hearing the anecdote of the renegade his amusement gives way to horror: Je commencais a supporter avec peine la presence d'un homme qui discutait une action horrible, un execrable forfait, comme un connaisseur en peinture ou en poesie examine les beautes d'un ouvrage de gout, ou comme un moraliste ou un historien releve et fait eclater les circonstances d'une action herolque.1 This is precisely the reaction Lui was hoping to elicit from Moi. The latter's horror is proof that he no longer sees Lui as merely a despicable nonentity. Surely, in the eyes of the reader too, Lui arouses a more positive feeling than mere contempt; but this does not mean that the reader is thereby an immoralist at heart, or that he approves morally of the Nephew's character or conduct. If "energy", for Diderot, is not to be equated simply with unity of character, what meaning does he give the term? It might be supposed, since he often expresses his approval of strong 1 AT, V, 457. 208 passions, that "energy" consists of their uninhibited expression. Yet it seems that there is a difference between his attitude to a Nero and to a Damiens or a comte de Bedmar. The answer, I believe, is that Diderot conceives of a type of energy which is more admirable than the unrestrained discharge of passion. It is a controlled energy, resulting from a certain equilibrium in the personality, which renders the individual not only more efficient in acting upon the exterior world, but also more self-sufficient, more independent of circumstances. Thus Diderot admires Damiens because he is capable of submitting to the most terrible fate without being dismayed. Early in his career, Diderot seems to look to a balance between opposing passions to achieve the coordination which results in this inner strength: Ge serait done un bonheur, me dira-t-on, d'avoir les passions fortes. Oui, sans doute, si toutes sont a l'unisson. Etablissez entre elles une juste harmonie, et n'en apprehendez point de desordres. Si l'esperance est balancee par la crainte, le point d'honneur par 1'amour de la vie, le penchant au plaisir par l'interet de la sante, vous ne verrez ni libertins, ni temeraires, ni laches.1 This conception is one which Diderot seems to have subsequently discarded. Perhaps he felt that such a balance between opposing Pensees philosophiques, AT, I, 128. The notion of a balance of opposing passions seems to have been an influential idea among early eighteenth-century moralists. Verniere observes in a note on this passage (Oeuvres philsophiques, p. 11, note 2) that Diderot may well have been influenced on this point by the Nouveaux  dialogues (1711) of Remond de Saint-Mard, who, with his brother Remond le Grec, author of a Dialogue de la volupte (1736), was a well known apologist of the passions. 209 forces might result in personalities marked by chronic indecison or by that moral mediocrity which he detested. Furthermore, at least one of the motives which he lists, namely the need or desire to conserve one's health, is rarely a passion. It is more accurately described as a rational motive. In mentioning it, Diderot allows another conception of the control of the passions to intervene, one which he develops fully in later writings, where he appeals to a regulating force superior to the passions and of a different nature, namely the will, conceived as the executive agent of the reason. He thus reverts to the position of Descartes in the Traite des -passions. The following passage from the section of that work entitled "En quoi on connait la force ou la faiblesse des ames" is particularly interesting in this respect, since here Descartes specifically states his pre ference for the regulation of the passions by reason rather than by other passions: C'est par le succes de ces combats que chacun peut connaitre la force ou la faiblesse de son ame; car ceux en qui naturellement la volonte peut le plus aisement vaincre les passions et arreter les mouvements du corps qui les accompagnent ont sans doute' les ames les plus fortes; mais il y en a qui ne peuvent jamais eprouver leur force, parce qu'ils ne font jamais combattre leur volonte avec ses propres armes, mais seulement avec celles que lui fournissent quelques passions pour resister a quelques autres. Ce que je nomme ses propres armes sont des jugements fermes et determines touchant la connaissance du bien et du mal, suivant lesquels elle a resolu de conduire les actions de sa vie; et les ames les plus faibles de toutes sont celles dont la volonte ne se determine point ainsi a suivre certains jugements, mais se laisse continuellement emporter aux passions presentes, lesquelles, etant souvent contraires les unes aux autres, la tirent tour a. tour a leur parti et, 1' employant 210 a. combattre contre elle-meme, metteni l'ame au plus deplorable etat qu'elle puisse etre. Probably Diderot's reflections on human physiology, a subject which had interested Descartes too, caused him to feel the inadequacy of a conception of "energy" and human greatness which stressed only the strength of the passions and neglected the idea of a superior moderating force. Bordeu, in Le Reve de d'Alembert, expounds a theory of the nervous system in which information from the senses is carried along a network of threads to the brain, which in its turn transmits orders through the nerve threads, thus causing actions. The nerve threads are likened to branches and the brain to a trunk. Bordeu explains that there is variation from person to person as to the relative dominance of the trunk or the branches, the character of the person differing accordingly: Le principe ou le tronc est-il trop vigoureux relativement aux branches? De la. les poetes, les artistes, les gens a. imagination, les hommes pusillanimes, les enthousiastes, les fous. Trop faible? De la. ce que nous appelons les brutes, les betes feroces. Le systeme entier lache, mou, sans energie? De la les imbeciles, le systeme entier energique, bien d'accord, bien ordonne? De la. les bons penseurs, les philosophes, les sages.^ Clearly we have here a different conception of "energy" from that which would equate it with strong passions. It is broadly true that the passions are here represented by the strength of the x Traite des passions, article 48, Pleiade edition, Paris, 1953, p. 720. 2 AT, II, 169-70. 211 influence of the nerve threads, though perhaps this equation is not entirely accurate, since, for example, enthusiasts are classed with those in whom the trunk is too powerful relative to the branches. The nerve threads seem to represent at one and the same time the influence of external reality and the basic physiological needs. The trunk also seems to have a double meaning. It appears to represent, on the one hand, tendencies which exist within the personality independently of external reality, tendencies to create inner appearances, and, on the other hand, the capacity for obtaining a balanced picture of external reality from the often exaggerated reports arriving through the nerve threads. In this second meaning the trunk represents reason. This, it seems, is the aspect of the trunk's activity which dominates, or at least counterbalances, the influence of the nerve threads in the clear thinkers, the philosophers and the sages. Bordeu subsequently explains more precisely how the great man attains his strength: Le grand homme, s'il a malheureusement recu cette disposition naturelle Cexcessive sensibility], s'occupera sans relache a, l'affaiblir, a la dominer, a se rendre maitre de ses mouvements et a conserver a 1'origine du faisceau tout son empire. Alors il se possedera au milieu des plus grands dangers, il jugera froidement, mais sainement. Rien de ce qui peut servir a. ses vues, concourir a. son but, ne lui echappera; on l'etonnera difficilement; il aura quarante-cinq ans; il sera grand roi, grand ministre, grand politique, grand artiste, surtout grand comedien, grand philosophe, grand poete, grand musicien, grand medecin; il regnera sur lui-meme et sur tout ce qui l'environne. II ne craindra pas la mort, peur, comme a dit sublimement le stolcien, qui 212 est une anse que saisit le robuste pour mener le faible partout ou il veut; il aura casse l'anse et se sera en meme temps affranchi de toutes les tyrannies du monde. Greatness, thus defined, is no guarantee of beneficence. But, as I have stressed throughout this discussion, there is no reason for supposing that Diderot approves morally of the actions of a "great", but maleficent man. A good illustration is his attitude to Frederick II, in whom he saw greatness joined with wickedness.2 In his letter on education addressed to the comtesse de Forbach, Diderot distinguishes between "fermete" (which, according to Bordeu's account, would be identical with greatness) and "la veritable grandeur". The truly great man, Diderot here affirms, possesses the same qualities as the truly good man: La justice et la fermete; la justice, qui n'est rien sans la fermete; la fermete, qui peut etre un grand mal sans la justice; la justice, qui regie la bienfaisance et qui arrete le murmure; la fermete, qui donnera de la teneur .a. sa conduite, qui le resignera a sa destinee et qui 1'elevera au dessus des revers.^ Wo doubt this issue is really only terminological. It all depends whether or not one includes justice or beneficence in the definition of greatness. The important point for our discussion is that Diderot effectively distinguishes between, on the one hand, that 1 AT, II, 171. p Cf. Correspondance inedite, ed. Andre Babelon, Paris, 1931, I, 220 (To Mme d'Epinay; April 9, 1774). 5 Roth, XII, 37. (To the comtesse de Forbach; ca. 1772.) 213 strength of the personality which makes a man master of himself and therefore master of his fate (in the sense that he can control his reactions to circumstances), and, on the other hand, the combination of this quality with beneficence and justice. There are no grounds for supposing that Diderot does not prefer the latter; nor, as far' as I can see, is there any immoralism in feeling admiration for the first quality even when it is accompanied by maleficence. let us now review the conclusions we have so far reached concerning Diderot's preferences with regard to the individual personality. We have seen that he prefers unity of character to that lack of coordination which results in weakness; and he prefers powerful impulses to weak ones. The combination of these two ideals results in a personality in which powerful impulses are kept in check by an interior dominating force. This gives a man resoluteness in carding out his purposes and inner strength in the face of the blows of fate. Up to this point these prefer ences of Diderot's may be termed aesthetic, since moral judgments concern, in his view, the social effects of acts, and the qualities listed so far may be socially either beneficent or maleficent. 1 Diderot does not appeal here to the notion of free-will. Whether an individual can achieve such self-mastery or not will depend upon the interaction of external influences and the original forces of his nature. 214 However, Diderot's highest ideal for individual development includes also beneficence. This, in order to be effective, demands, when circumstances are difficult, much the same qualities of inner coordination and strength which he finds aesthetically pleasing. The just and beneficent man, which is how Diderot defines the virtuous man, employs his energy of soul not only in opposing external difficulties, but also in an interior combat. It is the servant of his reason in its constant struggle not to destroy, but to temper his passions.1 In the Essai sur les regnes de  Claude et de Neron, Diderot protests against a certain over-complacent moral naturalism which he finds in certain writings of Seneca: "La nature nous a formes pour la vertu ..." C'est le prejuge d'un homme de bien qui a oublie ce qu'il a fait d'efforts et de sacrifices pour devenir vertueux. Combien de passions violentes et naturelles dans le franc sauvagel Dans l'etat police, mille vicieux pour un sage . . . "le chemin de la vertu n'est ni raide ni escarpe. . ." Le chemin de la vertu est taille dans un roc escarpe. Celui que de longs et penibles travaux ont conduit a. son sommet, s'y tient difficilement: apres avoir longtemps gravi, il marche sur une planche etroite et elastique, entre des precipices.2 This conception of virtue as requiring a sacrifice does not con flict with Diderot's oft-repeated contention that enlightened self-interest always justifies virtuous conduct.-5 The compatibility See the letter to Landois, quoted above, p. 7*+« 2 AT, III, 288. See also Plan d'une universite, AT, III, 431-32, and Eloge de Richardson, AT, V, 214. 3 Diderot's arguments in support of this doctrine will be discussed in the next chapter. See below, pp. 239-52. 215 of the two principles is clearly illustrated in the following passage: . . . l'oeuvre du bonheur ne s'accomplit pas sans peine; la vertu est presque toujours un sacrifice penible de soi; la probite demande de la force, du courage, une vue bien claire, bien nette de ses propres interets bien entendus, l'oubli du moment, dont la recompense incertaine n'est que dans 1'avenir.1 The fact that virtue requires a short-term sacrifice means that, in the man who understands the necessity of this sacrifice for the ultimate attainment of the greatest possible personal happiness, there arises a battle between reason, and the demand of the passions for immediate satisfaction. The stronger the passions which drive him toward maleficent actions, the more difficult it is for his reason to overcome them. Some men are good naturally and without notable effort, but many must achieve goodness "en travaillant 2 sur eux-memes". In le Fils naturel, Diderot portrays in Dorval precisely this inner struggle and the final triumph of virtue. The strikingly paradoxical form in which Diderot couches his remarks on the great criminals should not make us forget the numerous passages in which he expresses his admiration for heroic virtue. Thus he relates, for instance, how a black slave in one of the colonies, when commanded by his master to hang some fellow-slaves who had run away and been recaptured, cut off his own hand 3 in a gesture of refusal. We must recall also his admiration for 1 Pages contre un tyran, in Qeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, p. 137. Cf. also Sssai sur le merite et la vertu, AT, I, 60, note. 2 Roth, VII, 202 (To Viallet; Oct. or Nov. 1767). 3 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 409. The anecdote is repeated in the Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 313. 216 calm fortitude with, which Socrates sacrificed his life to remain true to his principles,1 and his constant allusions to the heroes of antiquity, to Codrus, Curtius, Regulus and Cato of Utica. In fact, to take a broad view of Diderot's writings as a whole, there is no doubt that while he admires strength of character whether it occurs in virtuous men or in criminals, he prefers that it should be joined with virtue. This is not to imply that the qualities of character admired by Diderot are all directly concerned with beneficence. On the contrary, strength of character, the power to overcome one's own weaknesses and to remain undaunted by the blows of fate, is a value whose justification is independent of considerations of social utility. Nevertheless, heroic virtue remains Diderot's highest ideal for the individual character. It may perhaps be objected finally that the inner struggle between reason and the passions which Diderot considers to be the necessary preliminary to virtuous action is precisely that war in the cavern between natural man and artificial and moral man 2 which B in the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville deplores. I do not think, however, that this is a valid parallel, for the man of whom B speaks is not the individual, but man in general, as he exists in European society. His "natural" aspect is not to be equated with the uncontrolled passions nor his "artificial and 1 Cf. De la poesie dramatique, AT, VII, 314-16. See above, p. 86. 217 moral" aspect with the demands of the ideal social morality. Instead, the "natural" aspect may be taken as including such limits on self-expression as are inseparable from social existence — the kind of limits one finds even in the Tahitian Utopia — while the "artificial and moral" aspect refers to restrictions which are not essential to a satisfactory society, but are arbitrary, since they are not dictated by man's inherent needs either as an individual or as a social being. On the contrary, these needs, in their dual aspect, are the source of a moral law which Diderot considers neither arbitrary nor "artificial", but natural. This law, he affirms, takes precedence over strictly individual impulses and propensities. We must now proceed to the examination of Diderot's conception of this natural moral law and its relation to the positive laws actually in force in various societies. 104 constitution was not perfectly well timed.M? In part this concern reflected opinion in the mother country where the ideal articulated by Blackstone and De Lolme of an independent Commons acting as a balancing organ in the constitution all but disappeared in the reaction to the Revolution after 1792. Only if the King and landed aristocracy maintained sufficent "influence" to control the Commons and in general exercised predominant political power, could England be saved from Jacobinism. Moreover the old notion that opposition to government by organized factions implied disloyalty had been revived and was ex ploited with effect by Pitt»s supporters to suggest that the Foxite Whigs were collaborating with the enemy.^ Simi lar authoritarian attitudes prevailed among the English in Lower Canada. The English assemblymen with virtual un animity supported all legislative measures proposed by the Governor or Executive Councillors and willingly conferred powers on the Executive at the expense of the judiciary,9 ?Ke nt to Dalrymple, 1 Dec. 1792, n. 2 above. <* See e.g. Brown, The French Revolution, ch. IV, passim; Archibald S. Foord, His Majesty's Opposition. 1714- 1330 (Oxford, 1964), 415-20. 9See e.g. p. 65-66 above. CHAPTER VII A UNIVERSAL MORAL LAW So far I have considered Diderot mainly as a critical thinker in ethics. I have shown, however, that his critical attitude towards many orthodox values does not lead him to moral nihilism, and that his condemnation of much that characterizes the European society of his day (or our own, for that matter) does not imply that he questions the desirability of social bonds which favour the development of what is valuable in human nature. In this chapter I wish to study in some detail his attempt to establish a doctrine of universal ethical values. Such an ethic is social in that it concerns the individual's relations with his fellows, but it is not, as Diderot conceives it, at variance with the moral obligations of man as they would be in a state where there were not yet any positive laws or reciprocal conventions. In Diderot, social morality and natural morality are, ideally, the same. Diderot has no sympathy with that extreme scepticism which denies even the ultimate distinction between the notions of good and evil. Deductive reason, he claims in the article "Pyrrhonienne", must be used with sobriety; for a point is reached at which reason casts the maximum possible light on a question and beyond which further subtleties merely cloud the issue: Lorsque, de consequences en consequences, j'aurai conduit un homme a. quelque proposition evidente, je cesserai de disputer, je n'ecouterai plus celui qui niera 1'existence des corps, les regies de la logique, le temoignage des sens, la distinction 219 du vrai et du faux, du bien et du rnal, du plaisir et de la peine, du vice et de la vertu, du decent et de 1'indecent, du juste et de 1'injuste, de l'honnete et du deshonnete.x Diderot is far from wishing to replace the old certainties by a mere void. In fact, his objection to traditional morality, both religious and secular, is not that - it lays down rigid universal principles, but, on the contrary, that it is inconsistent and lacks any firm basis. One of Diderot's main aspirations as a moralist is to establish immutable and universal ethical principles. For Diderot the formulation of a doctrine of universal moral values was not simply an intellectual ambition but a deeply felt emotional need. It may perhaps seem strange that this should be so, since the theme of incessant and ineluctable change in nature and in man is so prominent in his writings, and inconstancy is at times regarded by him as one of those natural prerogatives of the 2 individual which it is an act of oppression to negate. 1 AT, XVI, 491-92. 2 Of. Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville, AT, II, 224: "Rien, en effet, te parait-il plus insense qu'un precepte qui proscrit le changement qui est en nous; qui commande une Constance qui n'y peut etre, et qui viole la liberte du male et de la femelle, en les enchainant pour jamais l'un a l'autre; qu'une fidelite qui borne la plus capricieuse des jouissances a un meme individu . . .?" 220 But, on the whole, his insistence on mutability is accompanied by an acute feeling of regret. This is perceptible in a passage from Jacques le fataliste in which the vows of fidelity of mortal lovers are contrasted with the signs of perpetual change visible everywhere in the universe of which they are part: Le premier serment que se firent deux etres de chair, ce fut au pied d'un rocher qui tombait en poussiere; ils attesterent de leur Constance un ciel qui n'est pas un instant le meme; tout passait en eux et autour d'eux, et ils croyaient leurs coeurs affranchis de vicissitudes. 0 enfants! toujours enfants!± A letter to Falconet reveals even more explicitly the anguish with which awareness of mutability fills Diderot. Does not Falconet, he asks, feel for his sculpture, for his beautiful Pygmalion, a father's attachment to his children? Est-ce que tu n'es pas pere? Est-ce que tes enfants ne sont pas de chair? Est-ce que, quand tu t'es epuise sur un morceau qui te satisfait, apres le souris d'approbation, ne te vient-il pas sur la levre un soupir de regret que, passe le present tribut precaire du jour, tout sera fini demain pour l'ouvrier et pour l'ouvrage? Et certes, regardant et voyant ces pieds, ces mains, ces tetes, ces membres si delicats, je me suis quelquefois eerie douloureusement: Pourquoi faut-il que cela finisse? Et c'etait du plus profond de mon coeur. . . . J'ai dit de ton ouvrage ce que j'ai quelquefois dit de Voltaire meme, de l'homme, lorsque son poeme m'enchantait, et que je pensais a. la caducite qui le touche . . .: Pourquoi faut-il que cela meure?2 It is this same anguish, and not any serious hypothesis reconciling materialism with the possibility of immortality, which Diderot expresses in the following lines: •"•AT, VI, 117. 2 Roth, VI, 38-39 (Jan. 27, 1766). 221 0 ma Sophie, il me resterait done un espoir de vous toucher, de vous sentir, de vous aimer, de vous chercher, de m'unir, de me confondre avec vous, quand nous ne serons plus! S'il y avait dans nos principes une loi d'affinite, s'il nous etait reserve de composer un etre commun, si je devais dans la suite des siecles refaire un tout avec vous, si les molecules de votre amant dissous venaient a s'agiter, a se mouvoir et a. rechercher les votres eparses dans la naturel Laissez-moi cette chimere; elle m'est douce; elle m'assurerait l'eternite en vous et avec vous.x This desire for permanence, Diderot suggests, may he an essential part of human nature: L*animal n'existe que dans le moment; il ne voit rien au dela. L'homme vit dans le passe, le present et l'avenir. Dans le passe pour s'instruire; dans le present pour jouir; dans l'avenir pour se le preparer glorieux a. lui-meme et aux siens. II est de sa nature d'etendre son existence par des vues, des projets, des attentes de toute espece. The human spirit is "un esprit dont les elans sont toujours vers 3 l'infini." Supposing an astronomer were to prove conclusively that in a thousand years' time the earth will be destroyed by a collision with a comet, all cultural and intellectual ambition would languish, perhaps even power and glory would cease to motivate men; everyone would simply cultivate his garden and plant his cabbages: "Sans nous en douter, nous marchons tous a l'eternite."4 The chemist Venel, who ceases working on his 1 Roth, II, 284 (To Sophie Volland; Oct. 15 [?], 1759). 2 Roth, VI, 259-60 (To Falconet; Aug. 5, 1766). 5 Roth, V, 208 (To Falconet; Dec. 4, 1765). 4 Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, Appendice I, p. 327 (Fragment entitled "Influence de la brievete du temps sur les travaux des hommes.") 222 analysis of the medicinal waters of France as soon as the govern ment ceases paying him, puzzles and disturbs Diderot. How can a man be so lacking in idealism? How can a man live so exclusively in the present moment, unmindful of anything but its fleeting pleasures? II boit, il mange, il dort; il est profond dans la pratique de la morale de Salomon, la seule qui lui paraisse sensee pour des etres destines a. n'etre un jour qu'une pincee de poussiere. There is little evidence from Diderot's writings of a physical horror of death or annihilation. What he feels seems rather to be a need to believe that human existence and endeavour are in some way meaningful. Immortality or an after-life, literally understood, are not necessary; what is required is belief that, though the individual passes into nothingness, he contributes to a permanent achievement and upholds unchangeable values. It is in this light that we must see Diderot ';s insistence on posterity and the infallible judgment which it will pass on us. We will not be conscious of it personally, but in all other respects it has the same significance as the "next world" has 2 for the religious man. As a basis for morality, religion is inadequate, since it provides no consistent universal principles. While still in his 1 Voyage a Bourbonne. AT, XVII, 342. 2 Roth, VI, 67 (To Falconet; Feb. 15, 1766). 223 early deistic stage, Diderot contrasts the variability of particular cults with the universality of natural morality.1 Many years later we find him condemning the incoherence of the 2 moral principles contained in the Bible and inveighing against the inconsistency of the morality championed by the priest: Sa justice ou celle de Dieu, ou des livres inspires, est celle des circonstances. II n'y a point de vertus qu'il ne puisse fletrir, et point de forfaits qu'il ne puisse sanctifier; il a des autorites pour et contre. True morality cannot change in this way; it is permanent, not arbitrary. What is claimed to be the will of God can provide no basis for it, since man must use his own reason to decide whether the demands made on him in God's name are just or not. Christianity, then, has been put to the test and found wanting. It does not provide that sure foundation for the principles governing the conduct of life for which Diderot felt such a passionate need. He marks this rejection, while at the same time affirming that it is a positive and constructive step, by postulating the existence of a secular Trinity in place of the religious one. To Voltaire he writes: Ce qui me plait des freres, c'est de les voir presque tous moins unis encore par la haine et le mepris de celle que vous avez appelee 1'infame que par 1'amour de la vertu, par le sentiment de la bienfaisance et par le gout du vrai, du bon et du beau, espece de .trinite qui vaut un peu mieux que la leur.? 1 De la suffisance de la religion naturelle, AT, I, 272-73. 2 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, pp. 112-13. 3 Plan d'une universite, AT, III, 511. 4 Roth, IV, 176-77 (Sept. 29, 1762). 224 This theme of the secular trinity, which appears in several subsequent writings,1 is not a mystical idea, but a rhetorical device which crystallizes in a striking form Diderot's insistence that there exist certain universal values, unaffected by circum stances and vicissitudes, by the unceasing flux of things. The first person of the new trinity, "le vrai", requires, perhaps, some elucidation. Although Diderot explains nowhere in precise terms what he means by it, it is clear, from the various contexts in which he uses it, that it concerns primarily general propositions rather than matters of contingent fact. Diderot is not averse to those white lies which are so often necessary to spare other people, or oneself, pain or embarrassment.' In Pages contre un tyran, he endorses the exception which d'Holbach makes in favour of such "mensonges officieux" in his Essai sur  les pre.juges. On the other hand, regarding those truths which affect the happiness of the human race, he shares d'Holbach1s conviction that . . . il est d'un philosophe, d'un homme de bien, d'un ami de ses semblables, de les annoncer sans management; . . . c'est que le mensonge ne peut avoir que des suites facheuses en corrompant le jugement et la conduite; c'est que le mensonge est a. 1' origine de toutes nos calamites; c'est que le bien qu'il produit est passager et faible et que les suites en sont longues et toujours funestes; 1 Cf., for example, Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 249: ". . . il est une trinite contre laquelle les portes de l'enfer ne prevaudront jamais: le vrai qui engendre le bon, et le beau qui procede de l'un et de 1'autre." p Cf. Monsieur Hardouin in Est-il bon, est-il mechant? 225 c'est qu'il n'y a aucun exemple que la verite ait ete nuisible ni pour le present ni pour l'avenir. The "truth" which Diderot includes in his secular trinity is, then, first and foremost the truth about human nature and the human condition. The falsehoods to which it is opposed are those prejudices regarding human nature and social relations which are embodied in the traditional sexual ethic and the ideal of moral austerity, and in the established system of political and social inequality. The truth about man is that each individual has an equal right with his fellow-men to his share in the common happiness and that he cannot obtain his share without helping his fellow-men to obtain theirs. The pursuit of individual happiness, the equality of men, and the bond between beneficence 2 and happiness, these are the basic tenets constituting "le vrai". We can perhaps best illustrate Diderot's conception of the second person of the secular trinity, "the good", by studying his refutation of the view that morality is essentially a matter of preserving public order, that therefore virtue consists in obeying whatever positive laws are in force, and, finally, that without the formulation of positive laws there would not exist any princi ples of morality. The Tahitian Orou points out to Bougainville's chaplain that the arbitrary decisions of magistrates and priests cannot alter the just or unjust nature of actions: Oeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, p. 139. Cf. the following remarks of Moi in le Neveu de Rameau, AT, V, 394: ". . . je crois que si le mensonge peut servir un moment, il est necessairement nuisible a la longue, et qu'au contraire la verite sert necessairement a. la longue, bien qu'il puisse arriver qu'elle nuise dans le moment." 2 See below, p. 239-226 . . . sont-ils maitres du bien et du mal? Peuvent-ils faire que ce qui est juste soit injuste, et que ce qui est injuste soit juste? depend-il d'eux d'attacher le bien a des actions nuisibles, et le mal a des actions innocentes ou utiles? Tu ne saurais le penser, car, a ce compte, il n'y aurait ni vrai ni faux, ni bon ni mauvais, ni beau ni laid; du moins, que ce qu'il plairait a. ton grand ouvrier, a tes magistrats, a tes pretres, de prononcer tel; et, d'un moment a. l'autre, tu serais oblige de changer d'idees et de conduite. Diderot insists against Helvetius that there is a distinction between justice and injustice which even savage men must have recognized before the existence of any general convention: Je serais assez porte a, croire que le sauvage qui enleve au sauvage la provision de fruits qu'il a faite, s'enfuit, et que par sa fuite il s'accuse lui-meme d'injustice, tandis que le spolie, par sa colere et sa poursuite, lui fait le meme reproche.^ Expressed in this form, Diderot's view is open to obvious objec tions. One can easily imagine a variant of this scene in which the aggressor stands his ground, confident that he has nothing to fear from a weaker savage, while the latter takes to his heels to avoid a fight. The conclusion Diderot draws is, however, less easy to refute: "Les lois ne nous donnent pas les notions de 3 justice; il me semble qu'elles les supposent."^ In the Entretien d'un pere avec ses enfants, Diderot raises the question whether, in circumstances where one believes a greater effective good will result from infringing a positive law Supplement au "Voyage de Bougainville, AT, II, 224-25. 2 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 355. 3 loc. cit. 227 than from obeying it, one is justified in breaking the law. Several cases are discussed, the crucial one being, I think, that which was faced by Diderot's father many years before. On the death of a rich priest, he receives from the priest's poor relations an authorization to undertake certain legal formalities pending their arrival. While making an inventory of the priest's property, he discovers a will naming as sole heir a rich Parisian bookseller. He wonders whether to destroy the will. The book seller does not need the money, whereas it could alleviate the desperate situation of the priests' relations. Besides, a pile of unopened letters from the bookseller and the age of the will make it highly probable that the priest had changed his mind and had simply forgotten to destroy the will. It seems to Diderot's father that the only argument against doing so is that it would mean breaking a law. Hesitating, however, to trust his own judgment, he consults a highly respected casuist, Father Bouin, who pronounces that the positive law must take precedence over any assessment of probable good or ill effects. Submitting, it appears, more to the casuist'.s authority than to his arguments, Diderot's father refrains from destroying the will. He witnesses the despair of the poor relations and is dismayed at the callous ness of the heir, who refuses to help them in any way. In the conversation with his children, the old man admits that he still feels troubled by the decision which he took. Yet how, he asks, could he reject the authority of Father Bouin? The young Diderot boldly declares that his father's decision was wrong, that he 228 should have been guided by natural equity instead of by the letter of the law. He admits that his own attitude is one which it would be dangerous to publicize, because the majority of people are not wise enough to make right decisions on the basis of natural equity and it is better that they should consider themselves strictly bound by the letter of the law. But, he whispers to his father at the end of the dialogue, "a la rigueur il n'y a point de lois pour le sage Toutes etant sujettes a des exceptions, c'est a lui qu'il appartient de juger des cas ou il faut s'y soumettre ou s ' en af franchir.1,1 This does not mean that ultimately all moral decisions result from the arbitrary volition of an individual. The young-Diderot of the dialogue claims that when the wise man makes a moral decision, he is obeying the universal human reason in which he participates: Mon pere: Tu aurais prefere ta raison a la raison publique; la decision de l'homme a celle de l'homme de loi. Moi; Assurement. Est-ce que l'homme n'est pas anterieur a l'homme de loi? Est-ce que la raison de.M'espece humaine n'est pas tout autrement sacree que la raison d'un legislateur?^ This "reason of the human species" is what, in the article "Droit naturel", Diderot calls the "general will". Natural law, he says, has its source in the general will of the human species: C'est a la volonte generale que l'individu doit s'adresser pour savoir jusqu'ou il doit etre homme, 1 AT, V, 307-08. 2 AT, V, 301. 229 citoyen, sujet, pere, enfant, et quand il lui convient de vivre ou de mourir. C'est a elle a fixer les limites de tous les devoirs. Vous avez le droit naturel le plus sacre a. tout ce qui ne vous est point conteste par l'espece entiere. . . . Tout ce que vous concevrez, tout ce que vous mediterez sera bon, grand, eleve, sublime, s'il est de l'interet general et commun. The general will may be consulted dans les principes du droit ecrit de toutes les nations policees; dans les actions sociales des peuples sauvages et barbares; dans les conventions tacites des ennemis du genre humain entre eux, et meme dans 1'indignation et le ressentiment, ces deux passions que la nature semble avoir placees jusque dans les animaux pour supplier au defaut des lois sociales et de la vengeance publique. However, realizing no doubt that this evidence is often contradic tory and that it can provide reliable guidance only after it has been sifted and interpreted, Diderot goes on to state that the general will of the human species is present in each individual as "un acte pur de 1'entendement qui raisonne dans le silence des passions sur ce que l'homme peut exiger de son semblable, et sur ce que son semblable est en droit d'exiger de lui."'' I do not propose to discuss Diderot's specific views on the third person of the secular trinity, "le beau", since his aesthetic AT, XIV, 299-300. 2 Ibid., p. 300. 5 Ibid., p. 300. 230 theory is beyond the scope of my subject. Let us instead examine in greater detail what he understands by the immutability, or universality, of values. First of all, universal values are those which do not change with time and place. In a letter to the actress-novelist Mme Riccoboni, Diderot rejects the view that there are different and equally valid standards of excellence for theatrical works in different countries. With this affirmation of the universality of literary values he couples that of the universality of moral principles: Je ne connais et ne suis dispose a, recevoir de loi la-dessus que de la verite. Votre dessein serait-il de faire de 1'action theatrale une chose technique qui s'ecartat tantot plus, tantot moins de la nature, sans qu'il y eut aucun point fixe, en dela et en deca duquel on put 1'accuser d'etre faible, outree, ou fausse ou vraie? livrez-vous a. des conventions nationales, et ce qui sera bien a. Paris sera mal a. Londres, et ce qui sera bien a. Paris et a. Londres auj.ourd' hui, y sera mal demain. Dans les moeurs et dans les arts, il n'y a de bien et de mal pour moi, que ce qui l'est en tout temps et partout. Je veux que ma morale et mon gout soient eternels.x In the Observations sur le Nakaz, he takes his stand against the political relativism to which Catherine II, under the influence 2 of Montesquieu, subscribed: La Russie est une puissance europeenne. Peu importe qu'elle soit asiatique ou europeenne. Le point 1 Roth, II, 95 (Nov. 27, 1758). 2 x Cf. Verniere's Introduction to the Observations, in Oeuvres  politiques, p. 331, and Yves Benot's remarks in Textes politiques, Paris, I960, p. 33. 231 important, c'est qu'elle soit grande, florissante et durable. Les moeurs sont partout des consequences de la legislation et du gouvernement; elles rie sont ni africaines ni asiatiques ni europeennes, elles sont bonnes ou mauvaises. On est esclave sous le pole ou il fait tres froid. On est esclave a Constantinople ou il fait tres chaud; il faut que partout un peuple soit instruit, libre et vertueux. Ce que Pierre Ier apporta en Russie, s'il etait bon en Europe, etait bon partout. Sans nier 1'influence du climat sur les moeurs, l'etat actuel de la Gfrece et de l'ltalie, l'etat futur de la Russie montreront assez que les moeurs bonnes ou mauvaises ont d'autres causes. Ces Scythes si jaloux de leur liberte, s'ils existaient encore, occuperaient auelques provinces ou russes ou voisines de la Russie. Diderot's intransigence on this point must be seen as a reaction against the political and social conservatism for which he suspects that Montesquieu's relativism is being used as a pretext. He would like to feel certain that, when Catherine II speaks of making legislation conform to the spirit of the nation, this is not just an excuse for taking no action to mitigate the absolutism of the Russian government, to diminish the excessive inequality between the classes or to grant the serfs their personal freedom: C'est a la legislation a suiyre 1'esprit de la nation. Je ne crois pas cela; c'est a. la legislation a. faire 1'esprit de la nation. Je sais bien que Solon suivit 1'esprit de sa nation; mais Solon n'etait pas despote, mais Solon n'avait pas affaire a, un peuple serf et barbare. Quand on peut tout et qu'il n'y a rien de fait, il ne faut pas s'en tenir aux meilleures lois qu'un peuple peut recevoir: il faut lui donner les meilleures lois possibles. In Qeuvres politiques, ed. Verniere, pp. 349-50. Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., pp. 370-71. 232 Despite this insistence on the universality and immutability of natural law, Diderot recognizes the necessity for positive laws to vary according to local and temporal circumstances and admits that to reconcile this variability with the immutability of natural law presents a tricky problem: Voici pourtant une difficulte. les lois naturelles sont eternelles et communes. les lois positives ne sont que des corollaires des lois naturelles. Done les lois positives sont egalement eternelles et communes. Cependant, il est certain que telle loi positive est bonne et utile dans une circonstance, nuisible et mauvaise dans telle autre; il est certain qu'il n'y a point de code qu'il ne faille reformer avec le temps. Cette difficulte n'est peut-etre pas insoluble; mais il faut la resoudre.l In speaking of positive laws as "corollaries," rather than as "applications," of natural laws, Diderot makes the problem appear more difficult than it need be. To judge from other passages in the same work, he does in fact think of positive laws as applica tions of unchanging natural laws to particular circumstances. We see this in the following passage: Au reste, je ne crois pas que 1'evidence ni aucun autre moyen puisse rendre les lois immuables; je les crois non pas toutes, mais quelques-unes du moins, abandonnees aux vicissitudes des circonstances. La position actuelle d'un Etat inspire une loi tres sage; et cette loi dependante de la circonstance serait tres nuisible si la position venait a changer.2 The variations arising from the application of natural law to changing circumstances can be seen most frequently, says Diderot, in the case of the criminal law: 1 Ibid., p. 353. Cf. also ibid., p. 436 (section CXX). 2 Ibid., p. 359. 233 C'est surtout la portion criminelle du. code qui, sans cesser d'etre une consequence de la loi naturelle, souffre et doit souffrir de frequentes corrections. Les circonstances doivent souvent faire varier les rapports des delits aux peines, parce qu'elles font varier la nature des delits.1 It may perhaps seem that Diderot could easily have resolved the whole problem by considering natural law as defining general principles of justice, while admitting that these might be observed in a variety of ways according to circumstances. Indeed, this is the point of view which he adopts in his Reflexions sur le livre de 1'Esprit, when he rejects Helvetius's contention that there is no absolute justice or injustice: Ce paradoxe est faux en lui-meme, et dangereux a etablir: faux parce qu'il est possible de trouver dans nos besoins naturels, dans notre vie, dans notre existence, dans notre organisation et dans notre sensibilite qui nous exposent a la douleur, une base eternelle du juste et de 1'injuste, dont 1'interet•general et particulier fait ensuite varier la notion en cent manieres differentes. C'est, a la verlte, 1'interet general et particulier qui metamorphose i1 idee de juste et d'injuste; mais son essence en est independante. It seems, however, that Diderot was reluctant to concede that natural law could not be formulated in any more precise way. Perhaps he felt that if it could be given a more definite content the appeal to it against the injustices of the existing social and political system would have a greater persuasive force. This hypothesis receives some support from the following passage, in which he claims that, whereas many laws must be temporary and 1 Ibid., p. 376. 2 AT, II, 270. 234 variable, those which safeguard civil liberty and the security of property and ensure that taxation is levied equitably are immutable: . . . il n'y a point de code dont la sagesse puisse etre eternelle .... II faut rappeler les lois a l'examen, parce qu'il y a deux sortes de bonheur. Un bonheur constant qui tient a la liberte, a la surete des proprietes, a la nature de l'impot, a sa repartition, a sa perception, et qui distingue les lois eternelles. Un bonheur accidentel, variable et momentane, qui demande une loi momentanee; un etat de choses qui passe. Ce bonheur, cet etat de choses passe; la duree de la loi deviendrait funeste, il faut la revoquer. The second attribute of a universal ethical principle is that it does not vary with the identity of the moral agent. That all men's actions must be judged by the same ethical standard is taken for granted throughout Diderot's writings. It is implicit, in particular, in his insistence that laws must 2 apply equally to all citizens. It may, therefore appear contra dictory for him to write, in his memoir "De la morale des rois": "Je doute que la justice des rois, et par consequent leur morale, 3 puisse etre la meme que celle des particuliers. ..." However, Diderot does not mean that the essential principles of justice are different for a king, but that the lack of any superior agency to enforce them equally on all his fellow-sovereigns means that Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 236. Both the "eternal" and the temporary laws to which Diderot refers here are, of course, equitable laws. He clearly did not think that the unjust laws regulating taxation in eighteenth-century France were, or should be, permanent. 2 See above, pp. 119-20. 3 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 231. 235 there is a great pressure on him to take precautionary measures which conflict with ideal justice. It is certain that Diderot himself sees no contradiction in his position, for, only a few pages later in the same memoir, he affirms that God's notion of justice cannot rationally be supposed to differ from ours: "Mais qui vous a dit que Dieu devait etre un souverain comme vous l'imaginez?" Le sens commun; car s'il y a deux notions de souverainete et de bienfaisance, l'une pour lui et 1'autre pour moi, il y aura deux notions de vice et de vertu, deux notions de justice, deux morales, une morale celeste et une morale terrestre. Sa morale ne sera plus la mienne, et j'ignorerai ce qu'il faut que je fasse pour conformer mes actions a ses principes et pour lui plaire.x The third requirement which must be fulfilled for moral principles to be universal is that they must not vary according to the identity of the recipient of the action. Again, this is implicit in the demand that the law must be applicable equally to all citizens. But not only does the duty of justice and beneficence take no account of difference of class and wealth, it also transcends national barriers. Recommending to Hume a Frenchman newly arrived in London, Diderot invokes the bond of 2 fraternity which nature has established between all men, and in a later letter addresses the Scottish philosopher in the following terms: Ne verrons-nous jamais finir ces aversions nationales qui resserrent dans un petit espace l'exercice de la bienfaisance? Et qu'importe que cet homme soit ne en deca. ou au dela. d'un detroit: en est-il moins un 1 Ibid., p. 233. Cf. also Roth, II, 192 (To Sophie Volland; Aug. 3, 1759). 2 Roth, VII, 220 (Nov. 24, 1767). 236 homme? N'as-tu pas les merries besoins? n'es-tu pas expose aux memes peines, avide du meme bonheur? Pais done pour lui ce qu'il est en droit d'attendre de toi sur une infinite de rapports immuables, eternels et independants de toutes les conventions. Je trouve Polypheme plus excusable d'avoir mange les compagnons d'Ulysse, que la plupart de ces petits Europeens, qui n'ont que cinq pieds et demi, et deux yeux, qui se ressemblent en tout, et qui ne s'en devorent pas moins. Mon cher David, vous etes de toutes les nations, et vous ne demanderez jamais au malheureux son extrait baptistaire. Je me flatte d'etre, comme vous, citoyen de la grande ville du monde.x Aristotle, Diderot remarks, places brigandage in the category of hunting, a scandalous view: Je suis tente de rayer du nombre des sages un legislateur assez etranger au sentiment d'humanite, pour defendre le vol et 1'injustice a. trois ou quatre milles a la ronde, et le permettre au dela.2 So far our discussion in this chapter has been concerned primarily with illustrating Diderot's belief in universal ethical principles. We have still to see what kind of conduct these principles prescribe for the individual, what, in other words, constitutes right action. Diderot gives a double answer to this question. The Tightness of an action consists in its conformity, on the one hand, with / 1 Roth, VIII, 15-16 (Feb. 22, 1768). 2 Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, 396-97. 237 the interest of the individual, and, on the other hand, with the general good. The Tahitian Orou puts the case as follows: Veux-tu savoir, en tous temps et en tous lieux, ce qui est bon et mauvais? Attache-toi a la nature des choses et des actions; a. tes rapports avec ton semblable; a. 1'influence de ta conduite sur ton utilite particuliere et le bien general.1 It may be objected that to base morality, at one and the same time, on individual interest and the general good is unsatis factory, since it fails to resolve one of the major problems of ethics, the frequent conflict between individual advantage and the common weal. This objection can best be answered by analysing a formula in which Diderot clarifies the relationship between individual happiness and the general welfare: "II n'y a qu'une seule vertu, la justice; un seul devoir, de se rendre heureux. ,,2 • • • The first part of this double formula defines right action, while the second defines obligation to perform right action. To define virtue as justice has two implications, which may be termed negative and positive. Negatively such a definition implies the exclusion of various kinds of conduct which have sometimes been considered to be admirable, e.g. asceticism and self-maceration, scrupulous performance of religious rites, a magnificent manner of living, aggressiveness, the point of honour, and unquestioning loyalty to a group. The positive meaning of 1 Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville, AT, II, 225. 2 Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 231. A similar formula appears at the end of the Elements de physiologie, ed. Mayer, p. 308. 238 justice, for Diderot, is well-ordered beneficence. It often happens that beneficence is so ill-judged as to produce, all told, more evil than good. This can happen, for instance, when a magistrate's clemency towards a criminal endangers the lives of countless people.1 The second part of Diderot's definition of morality is necessary because his deterministic conception of human psychology does not permit him to conceive of moral obligation, or duty, as belonging to a different category from desire: Nous sommes tout aussi passifs dans le desir et le . devoir. Dans le desir, car il a un objet qui se presente a. moi aussi involontairement qu'un objet physique a mes sens, et dont ou la presence ou le ressouvenir me meut tout aussi involontairement. Et ainsi du devoir, ou du bonheur qui m'est propre et que je considere sous un certain point de vue qui m'invite ou m'eioigne d'une action. L'idee de mon bonheur, et tout ce qui s'ensuit ou vient au moment ou je m'y attends le moins, ou • ne vient pas, ou produit un effet ou n'en produit point..2 Thus Diderot is bound to consider the individual's desire for happiness as the only basis of his moral obligations; for duty can have no other meaning. It is in this sense that he affirms: "Je veux etre heureux, est le premier article d'un code anterieur a. toute legislation, a tout systeme religieux;" and: "II n'y a qu'un devoir, c'est d'etre heureux. Puisque ma pente naturelle, Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. 333. Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. 311. Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 371. 239 invincible, inalienable, est d'etre heureux, c'est la source et la source unique de mes vrais devoirs, et la seule base de toute bonne legislation.""*" These statements in no way imply amoral individualism. Underlying them is the assumption of a natural harmony between the true happiness of each individual and general happiness. When Diderot defines ethics as "la science qui fait decouler de l'idee du vrai bonheur, et des rapports actuels de l'homme avec ses semblables, ses devoirs et toutes les lois 2 justes," everything turns on the meaning of the word vrai. It implies that individuals are often motivated by a false idea of their own happiness, which prompts them to perform apparent, instead of true, duties. In Diderot's system, then, duty is enlightened desire; it is what one would inevitably do if one understood perfectly one's true interests. The big problem which remains for Diderot is to show that this harmony between the true happiness of the individual and conduct conducive to general happiness does in fact obtain, even when positive laws are unjust or where the "force legitime" is not efficacious in enforcing them consistently on all. In order to refute Helvetius's claim that "un homme communement bien organise est capable de tout", Diderot cites himself as an example of a man who, possessing in abundance the qualities necessary for successful ethical thought and motivated """ Memoires pour Catherine II, ed. Verniere, p. 235. 2 Plan d'une universite, AT, III, 490-91. 240 by a strong desire for achievement in that field, has nevertheless found several ethical problems completely beyond his power to solve. The first instance he quotes is precisely the problem to which I have just alluded: . . . je suis convaincu que dans une societe meme aussi mal ordonne que la notre, ou le vice qui reussit est souvent applaudi, et la vertu qui echoue presque toujours ridicule, je suis convaincu, dis-je, qu'a tout prendre, on n'a rien de mieux a faire pour son bonheur que d'etre un homme de bien.l He would dearly like to be able to write a convincing defence of this last proposition: C'est une question que j'ai meditee cent fois et avec toute la contention d'esprit dont je suis capable; j'avais, je crois, les donnees necessaires; vous 1'avouerai-je? je n'ai pas meme ose prendre la plume pour en ecrire la premiere ligne. Je me disais: Si je ne sors pas victorieux de cette tentative, je deviens l'apologiste de la mechancete: j'aurai trahi la cause de la vertu, j'aurai encourage l'homme au vice.2 Diderot is quite accurate in stating that he never penned a complete and thorough demonstration of the connection which he postulates between happiness and virtue. However, from the numerous passages in which he approaches one aspect or another of the question, we can form a composite picture of what might have been his attempt at such a demonstration. This is what I propose to do in the following pages. Diderot found the society in which he lived a depressing x Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 345. 2 Loc. cit. Cf. Roth, II, 106-09; X, 60; AT, II, 345, 510; V, 215, 427; VI, 439; XII, 316. 241 spectacle of moral corruption in which the good man often failed to receive his just deserts, while unscrupulous men were frequently-rewarded. Nor did he find any consolation in his reading of history: . . . l'on voit a chaque ligne le crime heureux a, cote de la vertu opprimee, la mediocrite recompensed a-cote du talent persecute, 1'ignorance sous la pourpre, le genie sous des haillons, le mensonge honore, la verite dans les fers.! In another letter, he remarks bitterly: J'ai dit quelque part que l'homme de bien ressemblait aux parfums dont on n'obtenait une odeur deiicieuse qu'en les broyaht. Cela est vrai. Mais cela n'est-il pas bien consolant pour le parfum broye? Son sort est done de recreer l'odorafc du mechant. Rameau's nephew thinks that the undeniable misfortune of many good men and the success of many wicked ones is a peremptory argument against virtue: Lui: . . . Mais, a. votre compte, il faudrait done etre d'honnetes gens? Moi: Pour etre heureux, assurement. Lui: Cependant je vois une infinite d'honnetes gens qui ne sont pas heureux et une infinite de gens qui sont heureux sans etre honnetes. 3 Moi: II vous semble. "II vous semble." Diderot's way of answering the objection is precisely to show that the evidence from history and the contem porary scene regarding the relation between virtue and happiness is illusory. The virtuous men who seem to be unhappy are not 1 Roth, VI, 94 (To Falconet; Feb. 15, 1766). 2 Roth, IX, 179 (To Mme de Maux [?]; probably Autumn 1769). 5 Le Neveu de Rameau, AT, V, 426-27. 242 really unhappy, and the wicked men who seem to be happy are really -unhappy. Let us consider the various ways in which Diderot accounts for this discrepancy between appearances and reality. To begin with, one has to take into account not just one moment in the life of a man, but the over-all picture. If one allows sufficient time to pass, the anomalies due to chance are rectified: C'est, mon ami, que la mechancete n'a que son moment. C'est qu'il faut tot ou tard que la peine boiteuse atteigne le coupable qui fuit devant elle. . . . Laisse faire les mechants; fais le bien; attends, et sois heureux.l 2 Admittedly, crime may procure a momentary pleasure. In its immediate consequences its advantages often outweigh its draw backs. If this were not so, no one would commit any crimes. But in the long run vice destroys happiness. Even when a crime goes completely undetected and entails, at least overtly, no unpleasant consequences for the doer, it nevertheless begins or confirms the habit of criminal conduct and so increases the chances of eventual punishment: . . . apres une mauvaise action, on est bien plus voisin d'une seconde; apres deux mauvaises actions, bien plus voisin encore d'une troisieme. On en fait done -trois, on en fait done mille, et l'on tombe dans le chatiment et le mepris que 1'on merite.3 1 Roth, VIII, 108 (To Falconet; Sept. 6, 1768). 2 Cf. Roth, VI, 13 (To Falconet; Jan. 10, 1766). 5 Roth, IV, 146 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 9, 1762). 243 Ih.i another letter to Sophie, to account for the fact that some wise men meet with constant failure and some foolish men constant success, Diderot invokes the laws of probability. In a conversa tion in which he had taken part the following question had arisen: Comment il arrivait que des sots reussissaient toujours, et que des gens de sens echouaient en tout, en sorte qu'on dirait que les uns semblaient de toute eternite avoir ete predestines au bonheur, et les autres a l'infortune. Je repondis que la vie etait un jeu de hasard; que les sots ne jouaient pas assez longtemps pour recueillir le salaire de leur sottise, ni les gens senses, celui de leur circonspection. Ils quittent les des lorsque la chance allait tourner; en sorte que, selon moi, un sot fortune et un homme d'esprit malheureux sont deux etres qui n'ont pas assez vecu.-'-Since, in Diderot's opinion, a wicked man is a man not wise enough to see where his best interests lie, one may, I think, apply the idea of this passage to the inevitable, though sometimes tardy, retribution which awaits all wicked men. Admitting, then, that the vagaries of chance are often responsible for a certain delay in the arrival of the natural punishments which befall the vicious man and of the benefits which naturally accrue to the virtuous man, we must now ask what exactly is the nature of these rewards and punishments in Diderot's view. The apparent plausibility of the objection raised hy Rameau's nephew is due to a common misconception of happiness. He equates it with worldly success, that is to say, with money, power and the pleasures which these can procure, and hopes that his son 1 Roth, III, 98-99 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 30, 1760). Cf. AT, IV, 91; AT, IX, 206. 244 will be "heureux, ou, ce qui revient au meme, honore, riche et puissant."X The philosopher denies the Nephew's premise, claiming to be one of those "strange people" ("gens bizarres") who do 2 not regard wealth as the most precious thing in the world. In the Refutation d'Helvetius, Diderot makes a similar ironical use of the word bizarrerie. Helvetius asks: "Pourquoi si peu d'hommes honnetes?" and replies: "C'est que l'infortune poursuit • presque partout la probite." Helvetius's point is that this situation should be remedied by appropriate changes in legislation. Diderot, for his part, is not content to say that enlightened self-interest would motivate men to virtue given a suitable form of legislation; he wishes to prove in addition that virtue is the best path to happiness even in the most corrupt and unjust society: II n'y a point de peuple si generalement corrompu qu'on n'y puisse trouver quelques hommes vertueux; parmi ces hommes vertueux il n'y en a peut-etre pas un seul qui ne fut parvenu aux honneurs et a la richesse par le sacrifice de la vertu. Je voudrais bien savoir par quelle bizarrerie ils s'y sont refuses, quel motif ils ont eu de preferer une probite indigente et obscure au vice opulent et decore.-^ There are several passages which illustrate well Diderot's conviction that wealth is very often not what men most desire. The Salon de 1769, for example, contains the following anecdote. The painter Hall, commissioned to paint the portraits of two young 1 te Neveu de Rameau, AT, V, 472. 2 Ibid., p. 478. 5 AT, II, 425. 245 princes, brings with, him several miniatures. While he is painting one of the princes, the other looks at the miniatures and is struck by the portrait of a young peasant girl: "La jolie personnel s'ecria le prince. — II est vrai, dit 1'artiste; aussi ai-je eu grand plaisir a. la peindre. — Elle vous a done donne bien de 1'argent? (N'etes-vous pas emerveille de cette belle reflexion, mon ami?) — Non, monseigneur, elle n'etait pas en etat de me payer; c'est moi qui l'.ai payee d'avoir bien voulu se prefer a. la fantaisie que j'avais de la peindre. — Ce portrait vous fait done grand plaisir? — Un plaisir infini, monseigneur ..." A cette reponse, savez-vous ce que fait monseigneur? II prend le portrait et le met en pieces.L Presumably, Hall's willingness to work for his personal satisfaction without monetary reward is felt by the young prince to contradict the scale of values on which his own life is founded. The boy refuses to accept the idea that, since a painter can know a sort of happiness which a prince's wealth could never buy, being a prince confers no essential superiority. He therefore seeks to destroy the source of the painter's happiness. In a letter to Princess Dashkoff, Diderot expresses an ideal of happiness in which wealth and public office are unimportant: Pour moi, il y a tant de choses dont je puis aisement me passer, qu'il ne m'en coute pas de mepriser les richesses. Un morceau de pain, noir ou blanc peu importe, un pot d'eau claire, quelques livres, un ami, et de temps en temps les charmes d'un petit entretien feminin; voila, avec une conscience tranquille, tout ce qu'il me faut. Les honneurs qui n'amenent pas avec eux des devoirs sont de purs badinages crees AT, XI, 451-52. 246 tout expres pour amuser de grands enfants. L'age n'est plus pour moi ou ces choses-la pouvaient me plaire, quoique, a la verite, en jetant un regard en arriere sur le passe, je ne me rappelle pas le moment ou elles ont pu avoir pour moi beaucoup d'attrait. The reason why wealth and honours do not necessarily bring happiness is that they neither provide peace of mind nor compensate for the lack of it; for peace of mind is, in Diderot's view, the essential constituent of happiness. In his long letter to the Princess of Nassau-Saarbruck, written in 1758, he says that if he were entrusted with the education of the Princess's children he would teach them "que le bonheur peut etre aussi a celui qui scie le marbre et qui coupe la pierre; que la puissance ne donne pas la paix de l'ame, et que le travail ne l'ote pas." In a letter to Sophie Volland, he contrasts the happy life of the simple, honest farmer Jean-Jacques-Nicolas Bled with the wretched existence of the rich landowner Caesar-Alexandre-Victor de Soyecourt, a dishonoured man, who, amid his gilded panelling, 3 is consumed by shame and boredom. What does Diderot consider necessary for the enjoyment of that inner contentment which in his view constitutes happiness? It is not simply the consciousness of one's virtue that produces 1 AT, XX, 43 (To Princess Dashkoff; Jan. 25, 1774). 2 Roth, II, 53 (May or June 1758). 5 Roth, IV, 198-99 (Oct. 17, 1762). Cf. Constance's contempt for the trappings of worldly success in Le Fils naturel, AT, VIl,'70. 247 this feeling. We shall show later that this consciousness, though a sine qua non of contentment, is not sufficient alone to procure the most complete happiness. Diderot refuses to go as far as the Stoics in identifying virtue and happiness: L'homme heureux du stolcien est celui qui ne connait d'autre bien que la vertu, d'autre mal que le vice; qui n'est ni abattu ni enorgueilli par les evenements; qui dedaigne tout ce qu'il n'est ni le maitre de se procurer, ni le maitre de garder, et pour qui le mepris des voluptes est la volupte meme. Voila. peut-etre l'homme parfait; mais l'homme parfait est-il l'homme de la nature?1 Diderot prefers the doctrine of Epicurus, who considers that pleasures, both physical and psychological, can increase our happiness, provided we are not enslaved by them. Physical pain is an evil and physical pleasures, in moderation, contribute to a man's contentment. But more important still are the non-physical pleasures, those one may find in aesthetic appreciation, in companionship, friendship and love, and in the practice of beneficence. Rameau's nephew goes too far when he says that all is vanity except for physical pleasures, good wine, 2 delicious food, beautiful women and soft beds. The philosopher's position is more nuanced: Je ne meprise pas les plaisirs des sens, j'ai un palais aussi, et il est flatte d'un mets delicat ou d'un vin delicieux; j'ai un coeur et des yeux, et j'aime a voir une jolie femme, j'aime a. sentir sous ma main la fermete et la rondeur de sa gorge, Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Weron, AT, III, 315. Le Neveu de Rameau. AT, V., 423. 248 a presser ses levres des miennes, a. puiser la volupte dans ses'regards, et a. en expirer entre ses bras; quelquefois avec mes amis une partie de debauche, meme un peu tumultueuse, ne me deplait. pas; mais, je ne vous le dissimulerai pas, il m'est infiniment plus doux encore d'avoir secouru le malheureux, d'avoir termine une affaire epineuse, donne un conseil salutaire, fait une lecture agreable, une promenade avec un homme ou une femme chere a. mon coeur, passe quelques heures instructives avec mes enfants, ecrit une bonne page, rempli les devoirs de mon etat, dit a celle que j'aime quelques choses tendres et douces qui amenent ses bras autour de mon cou. Among the psychological pleasures which the philosopher exalts, the most important is the joy of beneficence. He continues, in the passage just quoted, by affirming that he would rather be the rehabilitator of the memory of Galas then the author of Mahomet. Referring to the education which he is giving his daughter, Diderot writes to Sophie Volland: Et puis nos promenades, la petite bonne et moi, vont toujours leur train. Je me proposal dans la derniere de lui faire concevoir qu'il n'y avait aucune vertu qui n'eut deux recompenses: le plaisir de bien faire, et celui d'obtenir la bienveillance des autres. . . .2 Another of his correspondents receives the following exhortation: Vous etes jeune, vous avez l'ame honnete et sensible; accoutumez-vous de bonne heure au plaisir de faire le bien, aux indifferents, aux amis, au pauvre, au riche, a. l'homme heureux, a. l'homme malheureux, aux ennemis, aux bons, et meme aux mechants. Quand vous aurez goute de cette satisfaction, vous ne pourrez plus vous en passer.5 1 Ibid., pp. 425-26. 2 Roth, IX, 127 (To Sophie Volland; Aug. 31, 1769). 5 Roth, XI, 221 (To the abbe de Langeac; ca. end of 1771). The phrase "aux ennemis" seems to be misplaced; logic would require it to be placed in the vicinity of "aux amis". 249 Diderot himself declares that he is "possede du demon de la bienfaisance"."'" He is drawing on his own experience when he asks the Marechale: "We pensez-vous pas qu'on peut etre si heureusement p ne, qu'on trouve un grand plaisir a faire le bien?" For Diderot, then, psychological pleasures are more important than physical ones. Indeed, as regards the physical side of man's nature, he is more concerned with the avoidance of pain than with the enjoyment of pleasures. Thus he calls good health 3 the corner-stone of happiness. But peace of mind is, in his opinion, even more essential: Apres la connaissance de la verite et 1'amour de la vertu, les deux plus grands biens de l'homme sont la paix et la sante; mais la paix avant la sante. On ne jouit pas de la sante sans la paix, et l'on voit quelquefois celui qui a la paix, sourire dans la douleur. Tranquillity of conscience is more important than either-physical or psychological pleasures, because these may be poisoned by remorse if they are contrary to virtue, whereas the man who retains a good conscience, though suffering physically and mentally, can still at least prefer his lot to that of a man living amid luxury and pleasure, but tormented by guilt and self-contempt: "II reste . . . dans ces coeurs-la. une particule sensible que le 1 Roth, XII, 92 (To Francois Tronchin; July 17, 1772). 2 Bntretien d'un philosophe avec la marechale de . . ., AT, II, 510. 3 Essai sur la peinture, AT, X, 485. 4 Roth, II, 57. (To the Princess de Nassau-Saarbrilck; May or June, 1758). 250 ver ronge sans cesse et ne detruit jamais.""1" Remorse is the greatest 2 of all sufferings. In le Fils naturel, Dorval, in order to persuade Rosalie that they must give up their love, stresses the unhappiness which remorse and shame would bring them: Songez, mademoiselle, qu'une seule idee facheuse qui nous suit, suffit pour aneantir le bonheur; et que la conscience d'une mauvaise action est-la plus facheuse de toutes les idees. Quand nous avons commis le mal, il ne nous quitte plus; il s'etablit au fond de notre ame avec la honte et le remords; nous le portons en nous, et il nous tourmente.5 Diderot's theory of the inevitable remorse of the wicked man helps him refute the objection that wickedness is often crowned with success: Dans les societes corrompues, les avantages du vice sont evidents; son chatiment est au fond du coeur, on ne l'apercoit point. C'est presque le contraire de la vertu.4 The peace of the soul which constitutes the essence of happiness can be known only by the virtuous man: "La serenite n'habite que dans l'ame de l'homme de bien; il fait nuit dans l'ame du 5 mechant." If wicked men merely despised virtue, it would be hard to account for the phenomenon of remorse, but, according to Diderot, """Roth, IV, 211 (Oct. 31, 1762). 2 Roth, IX, 179 (To Mme de Maux [?]; probably Autumn 1769). 3 AT, VII, 78. 4 Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Heron, AT, III, 252. 5 Pensees detachees sur la peinture, AT, XII, 86. 251 they always respect and admire virtue in the depth of their hearts Lorsque je vois un scelerat capable d'une action heroftque, je demeure convaincu que les hommes de bien sont plus reellement hommes de bien, que les mechants ne sont vraiment mechants; que la bonte nous est plus indivisiblement attachee que la rnechancete; et, qu'en general, il reste plus de bonte dans l'ame d'un mechant, que de rnechancete dans l'ame des bons. He is convinced that "il n'y a point de mechant qui n'ait souvent desire d'etre bon, et que le bon ne desira jamais d'etre mechant." In the same work he writes: "On peut haEr un homme vertueux dont la presence nous en impose; mais je ne crois pas que le plus mechant des hommes puisse hair la vertu et la verite, non plus que trouver beau ce qui est hideux." Virtue, then, even when it conflicts with a man's material interest, at least exempts him from remorse and brings him peace of mind and self-respect. "II n'y a de felicite que pour l'homme dont la conscience est en paix," writes Diderot to his brother;4 and to General Betsky: "je ne connais rien dans ce monde dont un homme qui a pour soi 1'attestation du censeur que la nature a place au-dessous de la mamelle gauche puisse se laisser affecter \ 5 jusqu'a un certain point." It is the consciousness of his virtue Entretiens sur le Fils naturel. AT, VII, pp. 127-28. Cf. Roth, III, 281 (To Sophie Volland; Dec. 1, 1760). p Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 172. 5 Ibid., p. 358. 4 Roth, XII, 134 (Sept. 25, 1772). ^ AT, XX, 61 (June 9, 1774). Diderot is speaking metaphorically when he refers to the heart in this way. As we shall see in the next chapter (pp. 25^-55)> ne does not believe in the doctrine of a special moral sense. The conscience is, in his view, not an innate faculty, but is of experiential origin. 252 we are told, which consoles Seneca when he has lost all the other precious things in life.1 In a letter to Vernes, Diderot extols the virtuous man: Ah! monsieur, etendez cet homme sur de la paille, au fond d'un cachot. Chargez-le de chaines. Accumulez sur ses memhres toute la variete des tourments. Vous en arracherez peut-etre des gemissements; mais vous ne l'empecherez point d'etre ce qu'il aime le mieux. Privez-le de tout. Faites-le mourir au coin d'une rue, le dos appuye contre une borne, et vous ne l'empecherez pas de mourir content. Diderot sums up his justification of virtue by affirming that good men have no reason for envying the lot of the wicked or for thinking that there is any injustice in the worldly success which often attends their wickedness, for the wicked man is sufficiently punished by the very fact that he is wicked. Hence this prayer of a Muslim philosopher: 0 mon Dieu, pardonne aux mechants, parce que tu n'as rien fait pour eux, puisque tu les as laisses devenir mechants. Les bons n'ont rien de plus a te demander, parce qu'en les faisant bons, tu as tout fait pour eux. •> Such is Diderot's attempt to derive from a certain conception Bssai sur les regnes de Claude et de Heron, AT, III, 136. 2 Roth, II, 108 (Jan. 9, 1759). 5 Roth, IV, 172 (To Sophie Volland; Sept. 26, 1762). Cf. also Roth, III, 118 (To Sophie Volland; Oct. 7, 1760); Addition aux  Pensees philosophiques, section xii, ed. Verniere, p. 59; Salon de 1769, AT, XI, 45. 253 of human nature positive principles of duty which apply to all men. Since he constantly stresses that this is a task in which he is not sure that he has succeeded, the question arises whether he is fully convinced of the truth of the propositions he is trying to prove or whether he merely has a strong desire to believe them. I shall devote my next and final chapter to seeking an answer to this question. CHAPTER VIII DIDEROT'S ETHICAL DILEMMA In the course of my analysis of Diderot's attempt to base a universal ethic on enlightened self-interest, I have had occasion to note1 certain misgivings on his part regarding his chances of success in this venture. To complete the picture of his ethical thought, it will be necessary to examine the significance of these doubts. We have seen that, in order to remain faithful to his deterministic account of human psychology, Diderot defines moral obligation in terms of the happiness of the agent, and, further, that an evaluation of the agent's true happiness must take into account the elusive factor of remorse, low, to claim that the man who acts against the general interest will inevitably feel remorse implies the existence in all men of a moral conscience. Our present enquiry must begin with a discussion of Diderot's doctrine concerning the origin and development of this moral conscience. It would perhaps have simplified his problem if he had been willing, along with several of the moralists with whose writings he was familiar, to consider that knowledge of moral principles was innate, or at least that it was acquired by the exercise of 1 See above, pp. 239-1+0. 255 a special moral faculty which received knowledge of the moral world in much the same way as the faculty of vision receives knowledge of the visible world. But Diderot consistently rejects both these views. In the Supplement au Voyage de Bougainville, A remarks that the law of nature is a law which we bring with us into the world "gravee au fond de nos coeurs." B corrects him: Cela n'est pas exact. Nous n'apportons en naissant qu.'.unesimilitude d' organisation avec d'autres etres, les memes besoins, de l'attrait vers les memes plaisirs, une aversion commune pour les memes peines: voila. ce qui constitue l'homme ce qu'il est, et doit fonder la morale qui lui convient.l In his commentary on Hemsterhuis, Diderot rejects the Dutch philosopher's theory that there exists a special moral faculty the function of which is to make moral judgments. These are made, says Diderot, by the same organ which makes all other judgments, i.e. the brain: "Ce n'est point un organe particulier; ce n'est toujours que la raison, ou la faculte intuitive appliquee • a. un nouvel objet; il est vrai que cette application donne de l'exercice au diaphragme, aux muscles, aux nerfs, a. toute la machine."2 Another theory current in the eighteenth-century is that human beings have a natural sympathy for others of their species. In Diderot there are a few references to the existence in man of a principle of benevolence, with which is associated a complementary principle of self-love. The clearest text is the following: 1 AT, II, 241. p Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. 241. 256 II y a dans la nature de 1'homme deux principes opposes: 11 amour-propre qui nous rappelle a, nous, et la bienveillance qui nous repand. Si 1'un de ces deux ressorts venait a se briser, on serait ou mechant jusqu'a la fureur, ou genereux jusqu'a la folie. It is not quite clear, however, whether this benevolence is innate or acquired through experience. If it is acquired, we have merely a variant of the experiential explanation of the moral conscience which we shall discuss later. If it is viewed as innate, it is still not in itself a sufficient explanation of the development of the moral conscience, since the function of the latter would, on this theory, presumably consist in establishing some proportion between the two principles of benevolence and self-love, when they are in conflict. Nor, in fact, does Diderot seem to base his theory of the origin of the moral conscience on these two principles. For Diderot, the moral conscience — in other words, an awareness of the obligation to respect the principles of justice — is the result of the individual's experience, from his earliest infancy. This experience shows him that he needs the cooperation of other people, and that in order to obtain it he must behave toward others as he would have them behave toward himself. The individual soon realizes that other people are basically similar to himself and have the same needs as he has. He realizes that they need him as much as he needs them. It is this similarity in """ Roth, II, 52 (To the Princess de Nassau-Saarbruck; May or June 1758). 257 physical and psychological constitution between men — Diderot calls it "identite Cor "similitude"J d'organisation"1 — which explains the universality of the notions of justice, friendship, fidelity and the other virtues. The common weakness of men confronted by nature has necessitated their cooperation; hence society has arisen. For society is, essentially, "une lutte commune et concerted contre des dangers communs, et naissant du sein de la nature meme qui menace l'homme de cent cotes differents". In other words, recognition of ethical principles is really only a refined form of self-interest. Remarking that Helvetius defines man as an animal who combines ideas, Diderot enquires: "Quelles idees combine-t-il, si ce n'est celles de son repos, de son bonheur, de sa securite, idees tres voisines de la notion de 3 justice?" One might object that ideas can be very close to each other without being identical. Diderot would answer, presumably, that, in his opinion, enlightened self-interest is in fact identical with the acceptance of the duty to be just, since, in his doctrine, the only duty, in the final analysis, is to seek one's own happiness. This text continues with an argument designed to answer the objection that only weak men are motivated to justice by enlightened self-interest: 1 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 356: ". . .la morale est fondee sur 1'identite d'organisation, source des memes besoins, des memes peines, des memes plaisirs, des memes aversions, des memes desirs, des memes passions." Cf. AT, VI, 444. 2 Fragment eehappes, AT, VI, 444-45. 5 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 355-56. 258 Si un homme seul etait plus fort que tous les hommes qui l'entourent, peut-etre vieillirait-il sans avoir d'autres idees claires que celles de la force et de la faiblesse; mais il ne tarde pas a connaitre le ressentiment, puisqu'il l'eprouve, et a savoir que la fleche qui le frappera par derriere traversera sa poltrine, l'etendra mort sur place, et que cette fleche peut partir de la main d'un enfant. Qu'en conclura-t-il? Qu'il est dangereux de faire injure k 1'enfant.1 These quotations from the Refutation d'Helvetius might lead one to suppose that Diderot thinks that the moral knowledge derived from experience always takes the form of consciously formulated general principles which are then applied to particular cases. 'This, however, does not seem to have been his carefully considered opinion. He points out that men knew what justice required of them in particular circumstances long before any general principle of justice had been formulated: II n'y a pas de science plus evidente et plus simple que la morale pour 1'ignorant; il n'y en a pas de plus epineuse et de plus obscure pour le savant. C'est peut-etre la seule ou l'on ait tire les corollaires- les plus vrais, les plus eloignes et les plus hardis, avant que d'avoir pose des principes. Pourquoi cela? C'est qu'il y a des heros longtemps avant qu'il y ait des raisonneurs. C'est le loisir qui fait les uns, c'est la circonstance qui fait les autres: le raisonneur se forme dans les ecoles, qui s'ouvrent tard; le heros nait dans les perils, qui sont de tous les temps. . . . Souvent il faudrait un long discours au philosophe pour demontrer ce que l'homme du peuple a subitement senti.^ Diderot reports to Sophie "Volland the opinion which he had express in a conversation about "instinct", a word which, he says, is ^ Ibid., p. 356. p Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Heron, AT, III, 313-14. Cf. Observations sur le Hakaz, ed. cit., p. 405, where a similar point is made with regard to principles of political justice. 259 constantly applied to taste and to morality, but which is never defined: Je pretendis que ce n'etait en nous que le resultat d'une infinite de petites experiences qui avaient commence au moment ou nous ouvrimes les yeux a la lumiere, jusqu'a. celui ou, diriges secretement par ces essais dont nous n'avions plus la memoire, nous prononcions que telle chose etait bien ou mal, belle ou laide, bonne ou mauvaise, sans avoir aucune raison presente a 1'esprit de notre jugement favorable ou d e favorable.1 This view is in line with his general theory of human action. He does not believe that conscious logic, either deductive or inductive, is the typical way in which the human mind puts into effect the lessons of experience and so directs action efficaciously. The following passage explains how he conceives the typical relation between experience and judgment or action: Qu.!.est-ce done que le gout? Une facilite acquise par des experiences reiterees, a. saisir le vrai ou le bon, avec la circonstance qui le rend beau, et d'en etre promptement et vivement touche. Si les experiences qui determinent le jugement sont presentes a la memoire, on aura le gout eclairs; si la memoire en est passee, et qu'il n'en reste que 1'impression, on aura le tact, 1'instinct. Michel-Ange donne au dome de Saint-Pierre de Rome la plus belle forme possible, le geometre de la Hire, frappe de cette forme, en trace l'epure, et trouve que cette epure est la courbe de la plus grande resistance. Qui est-ce qui inspira cette courbe a Michel-Ange, entre une infinite d'autres qu'il pouvait choisir? I1experience journaliere de la vie. U'est elle qui suggere au maitre charpentier, aussi surement qu'au sublime Euler, 1'angle de l'etai avec le mur qui menace ruine; c'est elle qui lui a appris a donner a l'aile du moulin 1'inclinaison la plus favorable au mouvement de rotation; c'est elle qui fait souvent entrer, dans son calcul subtil, des elements que la geometrie de l'Academie ne saurait saisir.2 1 Roth, IV, 125 (Sept. 2, 1762). 2 Essai sur la peinture, AT, X, 519. The examples Diderot cites here are also used in the letter to Sophie which I have just quoted. 260 Diderot's theory of the development of the moral conscience provides, it is true, a plausible explanation of the phenomenon of remorse; but it fails to offer any assurance that this phenomenon must occur universally or that, in cases where remorse is experienced, the suffering it causes will necessarily be greater than the sacrifice entailed by virtue. May there not exist some individuals in whom the combination of original propensities and social experience has resulted in their particular brand.of happiness being incompatible with virtue, even when all due allowance is made for feelings of remorse? For Diderot's ultimate dilemma is this: how can he base duty on the dictates of individual happiness and at the same time affirm that all men have the same duties, unless he is ready to assert that the true happiness of all individuals is the same? That Diderot had grave doubts concerning the validity of this last assertion is clear from his remarks on a book entitled Le Temple du Bonheur. He relates how one day, as he is enjoying the pleasures of country life at d'Holbach's estate, he is delighted to witness the arrival of his friend Galiani. The abbe, however, refuses to stay a moment longer than his commission requires. "Je hais la campagne a la mort," he explains, "et je me jetterais dans ce canal si j'etais condamne a. passer ici un quart d'heure de plus."""" This is enough to convince Diderot how 1 AT, VI, 438. 261 different is one man's happiness from another's. Such reflections may, perhaps, seem innocuous enough, since a man's preference for town or country life need not affect his moral conduct. But Diderot goes on to apply the principle of the individual character of happiness directly to the question of ethics: Mais quoii est-ce que la pratique de la vertu n'est pas un sur moyen d'etre heureux? . . . Won, parbleu, il y a tel homme si malheureusement ne, si violemment entraine par 1'avarice, 1'ambition, 1'amour desordonne des femmes, que je le condamnerais au malheur si je lui prescrivais une lutte continuelle contre sa passion dominante. Mais cet homme ne sera-t-il pas plus malheureux par les suites de sa passion que par la lutte qu'il exercera contre elle? Ma foi, je n'en sais rien, et je vois tous les jours des hommes qui aiment mieux mourir que de se corriger.l The text continues with a specific allusion to Diderot's long-cherished hope of demonstrating the link between virtue and happiness: J'etais bien jeune lorsqu'il me vint en tete que la morale entiere consistait a. prouver aux hommes qu'apres tout, pour etre heureux, on n'avait rien de mieux a. faire dans ce monde que d'etre vertueux; tout de suite je me suis mis a. mediter cette question, et je la medite encore. In the light of Diderot's preceding remarks, this can only mean that he doubts whether the virtue-happiness bond holds true in all cases, even when one takes into account the suffering of remorse. This is a problem which must necessarily arise for a moralist who contends that "notre propre bonheur est la base de x Ibid., pp. 438-39. 2 Ibid., p. 439. 262 tous nos vrais devoirs", and who then finds himself obliged to admit that "il y a autant de manieres d'etre heureux qu'il y a d' individus. I have already pointed out that, according to Diderot, all psychological phenomena correspond to material modifications in 2 the body, and more particularly in the brain. It follows that, in the final analysis, what defines the happiness peculiar to a given individual is his total bodily state, what Diderot calls "organisation". In his attempt to construct a universal ethic, he accords great importance, as we have seen, to the principle of the identity of organisation. But, as he constantly points out to Helvetius, this identity is only approximate. As early as 1757, in the essay De la poesie dramatique, he remarks that we can scarcely wonder if men's judgments concerning truth, goodness and beauty are neither uniform nor consistent, since men differ so much organically and psychologically and since a given indivi dual undergoes so many changes in the course of his life. For Diderot, who has so passionate a need to believe in permanent and universal values, the dilemma is acute: l'homme est-il done condamne a. n'etre d'accord ni avec ses semblables, ni avec lui-meme, sur les seuls objets qu'il lui importe de connaxtre, la verite, la bonte, la beaute? Sont-ce la des choses locales, momentanees et arbitraires, des mots vides de sens? 1 Observations sur le Nakaz, ed. cit., p. 404. 2 See above, p. 22. See above, p. 233. 263 N'y a-t-il rien qui soit tel? Une chose est-elle vraie, "bonne et belle, quand elle me le parait? Et toutes nos disputes sur le gout se resoudraient-elles enfin a cette proposition: nous sommes, vous et moi, deux etres differents; et moi-meme, je ne suis jamais dans un instant ce que j'etais dans un autre?1 Diderot further reflects on this question in the Salon de 1767. First he points out that the very identity of organisation which defines a species defines also its morality and limits the applicability of this morality to the species in question: Tout tend a. son bonheur; et le bonheur d'un etre ne peut etre le bonheur d'un autre... La morale se renferme done dans l'enceinte d'une espece... Qu'est-ce qu'une espece?... Une multitude d'individus organises de la meme maniere... Quoi! 1'organisation serait la base de la morale!... Je le crois...2 Next, admitting that a species is not composed of exactly identical individuals, he draws the ethical consequences of this fact: . . . je pensais que s'il y avait une morale propre a. une espece d'animaux et une morale propre a une autre espece, peut-etre dans la meme espece y avait-il une morale propre a. differents individus, ou du moins a differentes conditions ou collections d'individus semblables . . . .* The example Diderot chooses to illustrate these remarks is AT, VII, 391-92. Diderot proposes that we find the required universal standards of truth, goodness and beauty in an ideal of humanity which must be formed in the imagination from elements actually existing in nature. He does not, unfortunately, explain how we are to select the appropriate elements, or how different individuals could agree on this selection. If he means that forming the proposed ideal is to be the task of an elite of wise men, how could the conclusions of such a minority be binding for all men? It seems, therefore, that the initial problem remains unsolved. 2 AT, XI, 124. Ibid., p. 124. 264 the artist. To attain the sublime in his works, the artist, or the poet, must constantly seek extremes and avoid that golden mean which in everyday life is the road to happiness. But Diderot's meditation is not long confined to the nature of the artist's creative activity. Even though the work in which this text is placed is concerned primarily with aesthetic judgments, here he is reflecting on an ethical question. His example, which, he declares a few lines earlier, is chosen so as not to scandalize his reader "par un exemple trop serieux", quickly changes character. What he is really concerned with are men who, not in artistic productions, but in their real lives, are poets: II ne faut point faire de la poesie dans la vie. les heros, les amants romanesques, les grands patriotes, les magistrats inflexibles, les apotres de religion, les philosophes a toute outrance, tous ces rares et divins insenses font de la poesie dans la vie, de la leur malheur. Here and in the page which follows there is an inextricable mixture of literalness and irony. It is quite clear that all Diderot's sympathy is for.these "divine madmen". Not only does he honour them for the benefits they bestow on mankind, but he finds their character admirable per se. He would like to resemble them; no doubt he knows that at times he has. But he knows at the same time that these people suffer as a result of their single-mindedness. let this is not Diderot's last word on the matter. The onlooker who does not share these men's ideals cannot weigh 1 Ibid., p. 125. 265 against their obvious sacrifices and misfortunes the satisfactions which they themselves experience. Diderot's experience is wide enough to embrace both points of view: "Je faisais en moi-meme l'eioge de la mediocrite qui met egalement a l'abri du blame et de l'envie, et je me demandais pourquoi cependant personne ne voudrait perdre de sa sensibilite et devenir mediocre?""'" It will be noticed that some of these "divine madmen" are men whose moral conscience makes demands on them which exceed those which the majority of honest, law-abiding citizens experi ence. The question therefore arises, how the theory of the origin and development of the moral conscience which I outlined earlier in this chapter can account for cases such as these. We can, indeed, broaden the question to include the problem posed by all kinds of behaviour which are commonly described as altruistic. How does it come about that some men, for example, consider themselves bound by a principle of justice even beyond the group in which their self-interest can be an operative motivation? Similarity of organisation and the need for cooperation in the struggle against nature explain the recognition of rules of conduct within a group, but they do not make inevitably for the application of these rules to outsiders. Diderot points this out himself: Voila. l'origine des liens particuliers et des vertus domestiques; voila. l'origine des liens generaux et 1 Ibid., p. 125. 266 des vertus publiques; voila la source de la notion d'une utilite personnelle et publique; voila la source de tous les pactes individuels et de toutes les lois; voila la cause de la force de ces lois dans une nation pauvre et menacee; voila la cause de leur faiblesse dans une nation tranquille et opulente; voila la cause de leur presque nullite d'une nation a 1'autre.x We have already seen that Diderot himself will not countenance such a limitation of the field of application of the principles of justice. The difficulty could partly be solved by saying that once contact has been made with another individual or group, the possibility of reciprocity, either cooperative or retaliatory, cannot be ruled out, and that this is sufficient reason for extending the principle of justice to all mankind. This explana tion does not, however, account for the fairly widespread concern for the welfare of posterity, a concern which forms an important part of Diderot's personal moral commitment. Nor does an account of the moral conscience which relies solely on enlightened self-interest explain how it happens that some men acquire a positive preference for just conduct and do not conform to it simply as a prudential calculation. Diderot often quotes examples from ancient history of personal sacrifice for the sake of the group, when not to make the sacrifice would not have meant punishment or even blame from the group. That certain people feel themselves morally obligated beyond what society at large considers to be the "call of duty" is hardly deniable. It will be recalled that one of the ideas of landois 1 Fragments echappes, AT, VI, 445. 267 which Diderot rejects is that men receive virtue grudgingly, as a patient does his medicine.""" This same letter to landois provides, I think, Diderot's answer to the problem. He describes the man committed to virtue as a man who has a special kind of vanity, who constantly congra tulates himself on possessing the inner strength necessary to make the sacrifices entailed by pursuing the general interest in preference to his particular interest. The origin of this "vanity" must lie in the transformation of a purely prudential attachment to justice into an independent motivation. This is consistent with the doctrine of the autonomy of acquired psychological drives with which Diderot counters Helvetius's attempt to reduce all 2 human motivation to basic physical needs. I think this doctrine explains Diderot's position in another text in which he rejects an entirely prudential account of the moral conscience: J'avouais bien que la crainte du ressentiment etait bien la plus forte digue de la rnechancete; mais je voulais qu'a ce motif on en joignit un autre qui naissait de 1'essence meme de la vertu, si la vertu n'etait pas un mot; je voulais que le caractere ne s'en effacat jamais entierement, dans les ames meme les plus degradees. Je voulais qu'un homme qui preferait son interet propre au bien public sentit plus ou moins qu'on pouvait faire mieux et qu'il s'estimat moins de n'avoir pas la force de se sacrifier.^ These remarks do not imply that love of virtue is innate, but that 1 Roth, I, 212 (June 29, 1756). See above p. 76. 2 Cf. Refutation d'Helvetius. AT, II, passim. 5 Roth, III, 281 (To Sophie Volland; Dec. 1, 1760). 269 from the theoretical point of view, it is as much a contradiction of.' the universality of morality as the absence or deficiency of the moral conscience in some men. The two cases seem, in fact, to be linked in Diderot's thought in the passage from the Salon  de 1767 which I have been discussing. When he says he has chosen the example of the ethic appropriate to the artist so as to avoid a more scandalous example, I think he is alluding precisely to the antithesis of those benefactors of mankind to whom his reflections on the artist almost immediately bring him. The really scandalous example would be the wicked man who delights in his wickedness. Diderot's experiential doctrine of the origin and development of the moral conscience thus fails to give one a solid assurance that in certain individuals the interaction of their original dispositions and their experience will not result in a defective development of the moral conscience. Extreme cases will be rare, for even where the generalizing process referred to earlier fails to operate, social pressures are usually strong enough to produce at least a veil of prudent conformism. But in certain cases of mental derangement, where reality is unable to make itself adequately felt, one will find delight in maleficence in an undisguised form. Such is the case of the "wild beast" who murders a capuchin monk and revels in watching the contortions of his 268 once a commitment to just and cooperative conduct has been established in infancy and early childhood, it henceforth persists as an independent force in the personality, and even when, later on, other motivations outweigh it, it makes itself felt in the form of remorse. The process by which the commitment to moral rules becomes independent of prudential self-interest appears in the following passage to consist of the generalization of the rule to include the moral agent himself objectively and on a footing of equality with other moral agents: Nous ne pouvons exister longtemps sans concevoir des idees d'ordre et de desordre, de bienfaisance et de malfaisance, d'amour et d'aversion en nous et dans les autres. II est impossible que nous ne jugions pas nos propres actions, en les comparant a ces idees. II est impossible que nous ne nous avouions pas a nous-memes leur conformite ou opposition a. ces idees; et voila. la conscience qui juge. Il est impossible que nous nous refusions le mepris que nous aurions pour un autre qui les auraient commises; et voila le remords qui nait. II est impossible que nous entendions les autres detester ces actions et ceux qui les ont commises sans rougir; et voila. la honte; sans craindre d'etre decouverts et d'en etre chaties; et voila. le malaise du malfaiteur.1 In this way, Diderot succeeds in making his theory of motivation sufficiently complex to account for those individuals whose conscience makes greater demands on them than is the case with the average man; but this does not really help him to establish the universality of the principle of moral obligation. True, moral heroism, is not usually considered to present a problem, but, Commentaire sur Hemsterhuis, p. 315. 270 dying victim."'" In Nero we see an inborn malevolence eventually overcoming the superimposed education: Claude etait ne bon; des courtisans pervers le rendirent mechant: . Neron, ne mechant, ne put jamais devenir bon sous les meilleurs instituteurs. la vie de Claude est parsemee d'actions louables: il vient un moment ou. celle de Neron cesse d'en offrir. However, besides such instances of positive malevolence, there are numerous cases where it would appear that the influence of an ethic generally accepted, and sanctioned (albeit imperfectly) by legislation, has as its sole effect the desire to avoid punishment. Diderot's works offer a whole portrait-gallery of characters in whom there is no interior commitment to beneficence. Among these characters one should distinguish on the one hand men like Gousse and Father Hudson, whose personal ethic is unorthodox, who seem not to have arrived at a clear general principle of conduct and who therefore appear as beings alternately determined by good and by evil motives, and on the other hand characters like the Lui of Lui et Moi, Palissot and the renegade of Avignon, who, for all one can tell, are devoid of the capacity •5 to derive pleasure from an act which benefits another. But the 1 Refutation d'Helvetius, AT, II, 408. p Essai sur les regnes de Claude et de Neron, AT, III, 61. J For G-ousse, see Jacques le fataliste, AT, VI, 69-71; for Father Hudson, see ibid., pp. 183-92; for Palissot, see Le Neveu de  Rameau, AT, V, 450-51; for the renegade of Avignon, see above, p . 205. The dialogue Lui et Moi appears in AT, XVII, 481-85. 271 problem whether a man may possibly be so constituted that his true happiness does not necessarily require him to be beneficent is most strikingly posed by Rameau's nephew, though scarcely in the most straightforward manner, since we can never be sure that his analysis of his own nature is correct: he may be attempting to deceive his interlocutor, and he may be himself deceived. The Nephew's claim is that he is essentially indifferent to moral values: . . . dans un sujet aussi variable que les moeurs, il n'y a d'absolument, d'essentiellement, de generalement vrai ou faux; sinon qu'il faut etre ce que l'interet veut qu'on soit, bon ou mauvais, sage ou fou, decent ou ridicule, honnete ou vicieux.l Those critics who have supposed that in le Neveu de Rameau Diderot faces up to the logical consequences for ethics of his own deterministic materialism would presumably find support for their view in the passage I have just quoted. Now, it is true that Diderot's theory of motivation can be expressed in these terms, but there is a difference between his theory of motivation and his theory of moral obligation. The concept of interest on which the latter is based is that of true, as opposed to apparent, interest. Strictly speaking, for Diderot to admit that his ethic does not apply momentarily is a truism, because his determinism requires him to hold that every action actually performed is that which at the moment when it occurs costs the agent least; in other words, one always obeys the strongest motivation. The theory of 1 le Neveu de Rameau, AT, V, 443-44. 272 ethical value is, and can only be, concerned with the effect of conduct over a considerable period of time, ideally the whole life of the agent. The Nephew's parting remark, "Rira bien qui rira le dernier," is paralleled by the following remarks from the Conclusion of the Elements de physiologie: "Je ne saurai qu'a. la fin ce que j'aurai perdu ou gagne dans ce vaste tripot, oil j'aural passe une soixantaine d'annees le cornet a la main, tesseras agitans."x It is, of course, quite possible that the Nephew too is thinking of the long-term conception of interest. In this case, his statement is indeed a challenge to Diderot's ethical position, since it implies a denial of the philosopher's contention that true happiness, that is to say long-term self-interest, always dictates a policy of beneficence. It seems to me that the real challenge which the Nephew represents for Diderot is not, therefore, the necessary logical outcome of the principle of determinism, since the virtue-happiness equivalence is not logically incompatible with determinism; nor is it the logical outcome of Diderot's materialism, since this is not concerned solely with physical pleasures. Rather, the issue is an empirical one: are men what Diderot would like to believe them to be, or are they as the Nephew sees them? The refusal of the author to provide the answer to the ethical riddle posed by his work should not be taken as proof that the 1 Ed. Mayer, p. 307. Cf. Plan d'une universite, AT, III, 456: "Toute notre vie n'est qu'un jeu de hasard; tachons d'avoir la chance pour nous." 273 Nephew represents an aspect of Diderot's personality which he normally suppressed, but which continued to strive for release nevertheless, and to which he gave oblique expression in the creations of his imagination. There are none but superficial resemblances between Diderot and the Nephew. Above all, Rameau does not represent the free being Diderot would like to be; on the contrary, he is servile and dependent. The worm has turned,1 momentarily, it is true, but Rameau's present refusal to humiliate himself by begging for the forgiveness and continued hospitality of the patrons who have ejected him is but the exception which proves the rule to which his life conforms. How long x^an we expect him to maintain his defiant stance? It may well be true that Diderot had to combat within himself the desire to throw off conventional morality; but this is not at all the meaning of the Nephew's position. Rather, his morality consists of a precise conformity to the standards of behaviour generally 2 prevailing in the society which he frequents. With such a AT, V, 430: "Moi: . . . votre dignite me fait rire. Lui: Chacun a la sienne. Je veux bien oublier la mienne, mais a ma discretion et .non a. l'ordre d'autrui. Faut-il qu'on puisse me dire: Rampe, et que je sois oblige de ramper? C'est 1'allure du ver, c'est la mienne; nous la suivons l'un et 1'autre quand on nous laisse aller, mais nous nous redressons quand on nous marche sur la queue; on m'a marche sur la queue, et je me redresserai. 2 Cf. AT, V, 419: "Moi: Et pourquoi employer toutes ces petites viles ruses-la? Lui: VilesI et pourquoi, s'il vous plait? Elles sont d'usage dans mon etat; et je ne m'avilis pas en faisant comme tout le monde. Ce n'est pas moi qui les ai inventees, et je serais bizarre et maladroit de ne pas m'y conformer." 274 character Diderot, at any level of his being, can have had little sympathy. The true meaning of Le Neveu.de Rameau cannot be expressed by reducing it to a clear-cut affirmation of an ethical principle, of any sort. But, if anything is certain, it is that it does not imply any doubt on Diderot's part concerning his personal moral commitment. The main ethical significance of the figure of the Nephew is that he embodies a challenge to Diderot's proposed universal ethic. If the Nephew is really what he claims to be, then human nature is not what Diderot would like to think it is, or perhaps there is no universal human nature at all. But in the dialogue this problem is ultimately left unresolved. In the Salon de 1767, Diderot himself points out that any attempt to justify a universal ethic must be based on a certain conception of human nature:. Que suis-je?... Qu'est-ce qu'un homme?... Un animal?... Sans doute; mais le chien est un animal aussi; le loup est un animal aussi. Mais l'homme n'est ni un loup ni un chien... Quelle notion precise peut-on avoir du bien et du mal, du beau et du laid, du bon et du mauvais, du vrai et du faux, sans une notion preliminaire de l'homme?... Mais si l'homme ne peut se definir... tout est perdu. Combien de philosophes, faute de ces observations si simples, ont fait a l'homme la morale des loups, aussi betes en cela que s'ils avaient 275 prescrit aux loups la morale de l'hommeI1 Let us consider for a moment Diderot's passing query, whether any definition of man is possible. For his purposes, neither a rough practical definition, nor the various definitions proposed by anatomists or anthropologists, are sufficient. Diderot needs a definition capable of serving as a basis for his pre-conceived idea of an ethic which is universally appropriate to mankind. Thus his doubt concerning the possibility of a definition of msn is just another way of expressing his doubt as to the success of his attempt to demonstrate that enlightened self-interest justifies an ethic of social cooperation. Diderot's main aspiration as an ethical thinker is to replace the authority of divine will or of positive law, which, in his opinion, subjects man to moral bondage, by an authority which, having its source within the individual himself, is compatible with his moral freedom, while at the same time it transcends the individual by its simultaneous presence in all men. Thus the young Diderot in the Entretien d'un pere avec ses enfants resolves to be guided by the "reason of the human species", in which he participates, to quote "Droit naturel", by "a pure act of the """ AT, XI, 124. Diderot is presumably thinking particularly of Hobbes, one of whose maxims was homo homini lupus. The objections which he later raised to Helvetius's doctrine also stress the error of treating man as if he were one of the animals. Helvetius equates human motivation with that of animals in general, seeing men as prompted in all things by the desire for sensual pleasure and aversion for physical pain. Diderot complains that this may be true of the lower animals, but that in man one cannot deny other kinds of motivation: "II me faut des causes propres a l'homme."' (AT, II, 300.) 276 understanding reasoning in the silence of the passions.""'" But Diderot only succeeds in eliminating the arbitrariness of the moral decisions of individuals by adopting an arbitrary definition of man and refusing to attribute human status to any individuals who do not conform to this definition. Thus, in "Droit naturel", he writes: J'apergois d'abord une chose qui me semble avouee par le bon et par le mechant, c'est qu'il faut raisonner en tout, parce que l'homme n'est pas seulement un animal, mais un animal qui raisonne; qu'il y a par consequent dans la question dont il s'agit des moyens de decouvrir la verite; que celui qui refuse de la chercher renonce a la qualite d'homme, et doit etre traite par le reste de son espece comme une bete farouche; et que la verite un fois decouverte, quiconque refuse de s'y conformer est insense ou mechant d'une mechancete morale.2 It seems to me that two objections can be raised to this position. First, who shall decide what is reason and what is unreason? Secondly, by excluding certain unreasonable or morally wicked men from the human species, has Diderot not already abandoned the quest for a completely universal ethic? It would indeed appear that the universal moral principles which he postulates in "Droit naturel" are, in effect, binding only for those whom he considers to be "rational". I say "rational", rather than "virtuous", because Diderot wishes his ethic to apply to the wicked also, provided that they are rational, for, if they are, he believes that they 1 See above pp. 228-29. 2 AT, XIV, 298. 277 will say, like Medea: "Video meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor." The article "Droit naturel" poses a particular problem which I shall now discuss because the solution I propose has an impor tant bearing on the question of Diderot's success or failure in establishing a universal ethic. This problem concerns particu larly the following paragraph: II est evident que si l'homme n'est pas libre, ou que si ses determinations instantanees, ou meme ses oscillations, naissant de quelque chose de materiel qui soit exterieur a son ame, son choix n'est point l'acte pur d'une substance incorporelle et d'une faculte simple de cette substance, il n'y aura ni bonte ni rnechancete raisonnees, quoiqu'il puisse y avoir bonte et rnechancete animales; il n'y aura ni bien ni mal moral, ni juste ni injuste, ni obligation ni droit. D'ou l'on voit, pour le dire en passant, combien il importe d'etablir solidement la realite, je ne dis pas du volontaire, mais de la liberte, qu'on ne confond que trop ordinairement avec le volontaire.2 I tkink it is clear that Diderot intends any censor, and indeed any orthodox reader, to understand that this paragraph is an affirmation of dualism and of free-will. However, what he in fact does is to state the ethical consequences which would be entailed by deterministic materialism and to point out that, if one is to avoid these consequences, one must establish the reality of free-will. "Droit naturel" appeared in volume V of the Encyclopedie in September 1755 and the letter to landois dates from June 1756. Is it likely that Diderot's views on the question of free-will and determinism should have changed so radically in """ Diderot is fond of quoting or alluding to this verse of Ovid; e.g. Roth, VII, 205-06 (To Viallet; Oct. or Nov. 1767). 2 AT, XIV, 297. 278 this interval of nine or ten months? Admittedly, it is not impossible — especially if we assume that at the earlier date Diderot was already perfectly familiar with the arguments on both sides, but had not yet taken the final step of adhering to the deterministic doctrine. This would account for the great similarity in the way he formulates the question in the two texts, particularly with respect to the distinction between voluntary actions and free-will. I find this solution, however, very hard to accept. As early as 1753, in De 1'Interpretation de la Nature, he points out that Maupertuis's attribution of sensibility to matter leads, if one draws the logical conclusions consistently, to a materialistic monism. Diderot is not sincere in claiming that in pointing to these consequences he is simply showing that Maupertuis's hypothesis, since it leads to consequences incompa tible with the Christian conception of God, must be erroneous. Verniere notes1 that Maupertuis, undeceived by Diderot's show of orthodoxy, remarks ironically in a work of 1756: "Si l'on etait moins persuade de la religion de l'auteur de 1'Interpretation  de la nature, on pourrait soupconner que son dessein n'est pas tant de detruire l'hypothese que d'en tirer ces consequences qu'il appelle terribles." If then, in 1753, Diderot was willing to accept a materialistic account of the soul, how