Diderot, Interpreter of Nature:
Selected Writings

Translated by Jean Stewart and Jonathan Kemp
Edited and with an introduction by Jonathan Kemp



“If ever anybody dedicated his whole life to the ‘enthusiasm for truth and justice’—using this phrase in the good sense—it was Diderot.”

FRIEDRICH ENGELS.

“. . . and here
Nature's Secretary, the Philosopher.”

JOHN DONNE.



CONTENTS

  Page
Introduction    1
                      i. The Life of Diderot 8
                      ii. The Writings of Diderot                        14
                      iii. The Development of Diderot's Philosophy 20
                      iv. Diderot's Dialectic 30
   
I. From THE INDISCREET TOYS  
                       i. From Chapter XXIX. Mirzoza's Metaphysics.—The Souls          35
                       ii. Chapter XXXII. Perhaps the best and the least read in this story.
                               The Dream of Mangogul or A Journey in the Land of
                               Hypotheses     
           
38
   
II. From ON THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE 43
   
III. CONVERSATION BETWEEN D'ALEMBERT AND DIDEROT 49
   
                        D'ALEMBERT'S DREAM 64
   
                        CONCLUSION OF THE CONVERSATION 118
   
IV. PHILOSOPHIC PRINCIPLES ON MATTER AND MOTION 127
   
V. From ELEMENTS OF PHYSIOLOGY 134
   
[vii]
 
   
VI. SUPPLEMENT TO BOUGAINVILLE'S Voyage; OR, DIALOGUE BETWEEN
         A. AND B. ON THE DISADVANTAGE OF ATTACHING MORAL IDEAS
         TO CERTAIN PHYSICAL ACTIONS INCOMPATIBLE THEREWITH
 
                        i. Judgment on Bougainville's Voyage 146
                        ii. The Old Man's Farewell                  153
                        iii. Discussion between the Almoner and Orou 160
                        iv. Continuation of the Dialogue 180
   
VII. CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE ABBÉ BARTHÉLEMY AND DIDEROT 192
   
VIII. DISCOURSE OF A PHILOSOPHER TO A KING 214
   
IX. CONVERSATION OF A PHILOSOPHER WITH THE MARÉCHALE DE X. 218
   
X. RAMEAU'S NEPHEW   235
   
Notes 329
   
Bibliography     357
   
[viii]
 
   


PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

THE publishers have kindly asked us to contribute a prefatory note to this second edition, now issued more than a quarter‑century after the work was first published. We think it best that the book should be reprinted as a whole, without alteration. It represents what we loved of Diderot then and thought to be of lasting worth; as we wrote in the Introduction: "The masterpieces of world literature have a permanent value, however far we may be from the period and conditions that gave rise to them."

This book was an attempt to give a representative selection for readers of English. We have not attempted to revise the bibliography or the notes; modern readers who seek a fuller acquaintance with Diderot's writings will find no lack of more recent studies—though not, perhaps, written from our viewpoint.

Diderot wrote: "This is the fate of all men of genius: they are not at the level of their own time, they write for succeeding generations."

Those generations are now arriving. Diderot was a good man in his troubled times; he still can help to understand our own worried world. No one who reads and thinks about the selection of Diderot's writings presented here will fail to be amused and instructed; and perhaps helped to live more rationally in the present‑day world by understanding what he wrote so many years ago. Diderot still lives.

London, June 1963.

JEAN STEWART
JONATHAN KEMP

P.S. It has been pointed out to us that the translation of the title “Les bijoux indiscrets” as “The indiscrete toys” is not literal. This was done deliberately by the translators, who felt that the word "jewels" did not adequately convey the double‑ entendre of Diderot's title. Let those who would further pursue this nuance read the whole of “Les bijoux indiscrets.” All will then become clear and they can make their choice.

[ix]



BIBLIOGRAPHY

DIDEROT. Oeuvres Complètes. Edited by J. Assézat and M. Tourneux. 20 volumes. Paris, 1875‑79 (Gamier).

An excellent selection of Diderot's writings, in French, is that edited by André Billy: Bibliothéque de la Pléade. Paris, 1935 (Nouvelle Revue Franfaise), 1 vol., 1005 pages. Also 3 vols. in the series Génie de la France, Paris (Hilsum).

The above have been used for the translations.

BABELON, ANDRÉ. Editor of Diderot's Lettres à Sophie Volland, Paris, 1930 (Librairie Gallimard), 3 vols.

BERNAL, J. D. Engels and Science, 1935, Labour Monthly Pamphlet, No. 6.

BILLY, ANDRÉ. Diderot. Paris, 1932 (Les Editions de France).

DRAPER. J. W. History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, London (Watts).

ELLIS, HAVELOCK. The New Spirit, 1926 (4th ed.), London (Constable).

ENGELS, FREDERICK. Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (Anti-­Dühring), London (Lawrence & Wishart).

ENGELS, FREDERICK. Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy. London (Lawrence and Wishart).

HART, IVOR B. Makers of Science. London, 1924 (Oxford University Press).

JACKSON, T. A. Dialectics. London, 1936 (Lawrence and Wishart).

KIPLING, RUDYARD. Many Inventions. London (Macmillan).

LENIN, V. I. Materialism and Empirio‑Criticism. Collected Works, Vol. XIII. London (Lawrence & Wishart).

LENIN, V. I. Quoted in Ralph Fox, The Novel and the People, 1937 (Lawrence & Wishart), p. 33.

LUC, JEAN. Diderot. II. Paris (Editions Sociales Internationales).

LUPPOL, I. K. Diderot. Paris, 1936 (Editions Sociales Internationales).

MARX, K. and ENGELS, F. Manifesto of the Communist Party. London (Lawrence & Wishart).

MARX, K. and ENGELS, F. Selected Correspondence, 1846‑95. Ed. Dona Torr. London, 1934 (Lawrence & Wishart).

MOORE, F. J. History of Chemistry. New York, 1918 (McGraw‑Hill).

MORLEY, JOHN. Diderot. 1886 edition, 2 vols. London (Macmillan).

[357]

NIZAN, PAUL. Les Matérialistes de l'Antiquité. Democrité‑Epicure‑Lucrèce. Paris, 1936. (Editions Sociales Internationales).

PLEKHANOV, G. V. Essays in the History of Materialism. Tr. Ralph Fox. London, 1934 (John Lane).

PRENANT, MARCEL. Biologie et Marxisme. Paris, 1936 (Editions Sociales Internationales).

RESTIF DE LA BRETONNE. Monsieur Nicolas, ou Le Coeur Humain Dévoilé. Memoires Intimes. Edition of Isidore Liseux. Paris, 1883, 14 vols.

ROBERTSON, J. M. A History of Free Thought in the Nineteenth Century. 2 vols., London, 1929 (Watts).

RUDAS, L. Dialectical Materialism and Communism. 3rd Edition, 1934. Labour Monthly Pamphlet, No. 4.

WICKWAR, W. H. Baron d'Holbach; A Prelude to the French Revolution. London, 1935 (Allen and Unwin).

[358]


SOURCE: Diderot, Denis. Diderot, Interpreter of Nature: Selected Writings, translated by Jean Stewart and Jonathan Kemp, edited and with an introduction by Jonathan Kemp. 2nd ed. New York: International Publishers, 1963. viii, 358 pp. (1st ed. 1937)


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