Version classiqueVersion mobile

The Atheist’s Bible

Caroline Warman


Texte intégral

1This book is about Denis Diderot’s late work, the Éléments de physiologie. It argues, against the prevailing view, that this treatise made a substantial contribution to materialist thought, offering ways of explaining a human being without recourse to the divine and also without reducing human complexity or doing away with awe and wonder. These ways were physiological. The prevailing view accepts that Diderot planned to do something like this, but considers that unfortunately he did not complete his project. I argue that he did, and I explain not only why I think this, but also what led to the prevailing view that he did not, and why that particular story is illuminating in itself. Another aspect of the prevailing view is that it is accepted that even in its unfinished form, this work would have been of importance and interest to readers of the time, if only it had circulated and been read instead of being hidden away in two copies in the inaccessible private archives of Diderot’s daughter and Catherine II of Russia, his patron. I argue that it did circulate, was read, and did have a decisive influence as early as the 1790s, and also that it was published, in an admittedly slightly odd form, in 1823. To help this rather argumentative study make its case, I offer a connected digital edition of this first publication, Jacques-André Naigeon’s Mémoires historiques et philosophiques sur la vie et les ouvrages de Denis Diderot, which can be accessed here:​index.htm.

2A quick word on the translations: every quoted text is followed by an English translation, with both languages equal on the page. This is to make it as accessible as possible to any interested reader, whether francophone or anglophone or somewhere in between. The translations are drawn from published works where possible, but in the many cases where there is none, I keep the translated text as close to the original as possible (while hopefully still making sense), specifically to facilitate access to the French for those who wish to toggle between the two.


Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search