Denis Diderot

Biography : Born in Langres in 1713; educated by Jesuits (1728-1732). His Pensees philosophiques ('s-Gravenhage 1746), in which he attacked both atheism and the received Christianity, were burned by order of the Parliament of Paris. Following the publication of the Letter on the Blind, in which he questioned the existence of God, Diderot was imprisoned for three months, first in the Bastille, later in Vincennes. In 1745 he had vecome the editor of l'Encyclopedie; the first volume was published in 1751, the 17th and last volume in 1772. The project found a great resonance, finding subscribers even in faraway Russia, but suffered from financial problems. In 1759, Madame Geoffrin, hostess of one of the most famous salons in Paris, donated a considerable sum and thus made a continued publication of the Encyclopedia possible. The encyclopedia also ran into difficulty with the censors; at one time the publisher was arrested and Diderot, previously informed, had the printing plates removed to save them from confiscation.
In 1765 Diderot sold his personal library to Catherine the Great, Czarina of Russia; he visited Catherine in St. Petersburg in 1773. He died in Paris in 1784.

List of publications

1745 . . Essai sur le merite et la vertu (translation of Lord Shaftesbury's Inquiry Concerning Virtua and Merit)
1746-1748 . . Dictionnaire de medecine (translation of Robert James' Medicinal Dictionary )
1746 . . Pensees Philosophiques (Philosophical Thoughts)
1749 . . Lettre sur les aveugles (Letter on the Blind)
1751-1772 . . L'Encyclopedie
1751 . . Lettre sur les sourds et muets
1753 . . Pensees sur l'interpretation de la nature (Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature)
1757 . . Le fils naturel (The Natural Son)
1758 . . Le pere de famille (Father of the Family)
1761 . . Le neveu de Rameau

In the Encyclopedia, Diderot and his co-editor d'Alembert ignored topics political and historical. He shared much social and political criticism with his contemporary philosophers, but did not opt for a certain political constitution most suited to improve the situation. He was critical of christian teaching and of slavery.

Article Denis Diderot, from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy; from Books and Writers
DOCUMENTS Online Edition of the Encyclopedie, from ARTFL, at Univ. of Chicago

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 12th 2003, last revised on November 14th 2004

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