Rameau's Nephew and D'Alembert's Dream (Penguin Classics)
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One of the key figures of the French Enlightenment, Denis Diderot was a passionate critic of conventional morality, society and religion. Among his greatest and most well-known works, these two dialogues are dazzling examples of his radical scientific and philosophical beliefs. In Rameau's Nephew, the eccentric and foolish nephew of the great composer Jean-Philippe Rameau meets Diderot by chance, and the two embark on a hilarious consideration of society, music, literature, politics, morality and philosophy. Its companion-piece, D'Alembert's Dream, outlines a material, atheistic view of the universe, expressed through the fevered dreams of Diderot's friend D'Alembert. Unpublished during his lifetime, both of these powerfully controversial works show Diderot to be one of the most advanced thinkers of his age, and serve as fascinating testament to the philosopher's wayward genius."
successfully concluded some tricky bit of business, given some good advice, read something pleasant, taken a walk with a man or woman I am fond of, spent a few instructional hours with my children, written a worthwhile page, fulfilled the duties of my position, said some tender, soft words to the woman I love and made her love me. I can think of deeds I would give everything I possess to have done. Mahomet is a sublime work, but I would rather have restored the good name of the Calas family.17 A
pieces anything successful. Sometimes the clans of Bertins, Montsauges and Vilmoriens gather, and then there is a rare old noise in the menagerie. Never were there seen so many wretched, spiteful, malevolent and truculent creatures in one place. You hear nothing but names such as Buffon, Duclos, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire, D’Alembert, Diderot, and God knows what epithets are coupled with them. Nobody is allowed to have any brains unless he is as stupid as we are. That is where the plan for
poverty of all our glory and labours! oh, how pitiful, oh, how limited is our vision! There is nothing real except eating, drinking, living, making love and sleeping…. Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse, where are you?’ ‘Here.’ Then his face became flushed. I wanted to feel his pulse, but he had hidden his hand somewhere. He seemed to be going through some kind of convulsion. His mouth was gaping, his breath gasping, he fetched a deep sigh, then a gentler one and still gentler, turned his head over on
limits of materialism in a declaration that the final meaning, the only real joys in life, are physical intake of food and drink, the pleasures of the bed and a good daily evacuation of the bowels. From this it is but a step to the vanity of all so-called culture and education, since education teaches useless subjects and teachers are by definition ignorant and second-rate, for were it otherwise they would be doing something more profitable to themselves. Rameau candidly illustrates this by an
all three of us well. And yet, doctor, keep some veils, please, let us have a certain amount of veiling!23 BORDEU: Naturally – that is, as far as the subject and my profession allow. MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: It won’t be all that difficult. But here is your coffee… drink your coffee first. BORDEU (having drunk his coffee): Your question involves physical science, morals and poetics. MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Poetics! BORDEU: Why not? The art of creating fictional beings in imitation of