Table of contents:
- Childhood and youth
- Rejection of the career of the priest
- Work on the "Encyclopedia"
- Manifesto of the Enlightenment
- Philosophical views
- Attitude towards politics
- Ramo's nephew
- Travel to Russia
Denis Diderot is an intellectual of his time, a French writer and philosopher. He is best known for his Encyclopedia, which he completed in 1751. Along with Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau, he was considered one of the ideologists of the third estate in France, a popularizer of the ideas of the Enlightenment, which are believed to have paved the way for the French Revolution of 1789.
Childhood and youth
Denis Diderot was born in 1713. He was born in the small French town of Langre. His mother was the daughter of a tanner and his father was a knife maker.
Parents decided that Denis Diderot would become a priest. To do this, they sent him to a Jesuit college, from which he graduated in 1728. Two years earlier, the boy officially became an abbot. Biographers note that during this period the hero of our article was an extremely religious person, constantly fasted and even wore a sackcloth.
Arriving in Paris to complete hisEducation, he entered the Jesuit College of Louis the Great, a little later, in all likelihood, in the Jansenite educational institution - d'Harcourt. Here he received the profession of a lawyer, as his father encouraged him to pursue a legal career. Presumably, it was precisely the conflicts that arose between the Jansenites and the Jesuits that turned him away from the chosen path.
In 1732, Denis Diderot received a master's degree from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Paris. Instead of a career as a priest, he seriously considers becoming a lawyer, but as a result prefers the lifestyle of a freelance artist.
Rejection of the career of the priest
In a brief biography of Denis Diderot, attention should be paid to his personal life. In 1743 he marries Anne Toinnete Champion, who owns a linen shop.
At the same time, it is reliably known that marriage did not prevent him from having affairs with other women. It is believed that he had a romantic relationship in the mid-1750s with Sophie Vollan, for whom he retained an affection almost until his death.
After the wedding, Denis Diderot, whose biography is quite interesting and full of all sorts of ideas, at first made money through translations. In the 40s he worked with the most famous works of Stenian, Shaftesbury, James. His first independent literary works belong to the same period. They testify to the courage and mature mind of a rather young author. In 1746, his "Philosophical Thoughts" were published, and later - "Alleys, or Skeptic's Walk", "Letter on the Blind in Edification of the Sighted","Indiscreet Treasures". Apparently, already by this time Diderot had turned into a deist, and soon - into a convinced materialist and atheist. At that time, these books by Denis Diderot were classified as free-thinking, for which he was arrested in 1749. He served his sentence in the Château de Vincennes.
Work on the "Encyclopedia"
Working on the "Encyclopedia" Diderot first encountered in 1747. The idea of the metropolitan publisher Breton to translate into French the so-called "General Dictionary of Crafts and Sciences" appeared a few years ago. But no editor could do the job.
Didro worked with d'Alembert on the project. As a result, one of them came up with the idea to completely abandon the translation of the English dictionary, and prepare an independent edition that will be unique. In any case, it was thanks to Diderot that the work on the Encyclopedia acquired the scope that turned it into a real manifesto of the Enlightenment.
Over the next quarter of a century, the hero of our article continues to oversee the work on the book of knowledge, which by that time has grown to 17 volumes of articles alone, which accompany eleven more volumes of illustrations. Even considering the biography of Denis Diderot briefly, you need to dwell on a large number of obstacles that he managed to overcome on his way. In addition to the already mentioned imprisonment, it is also the suspension of work for reasons beyond the control of the editor, a crisis, due towhich D'Alembert left the project, the ban of the publication and its careful and scrupulous censorship.
It wasn't until 1772 that the first edition of the Encyclopedia was finally completed. Almost all the great minds of the Enlightenment that were in France at that time took part in its creation - Voltaire, Holbach, Rousseau, Montesquieu.
Manifesto of the Enlightenment
The result of their joint work was a universal body of modern knowledge. Separately, it should be noted that in articles devoted to political topics, no preference was deliberately given to any of the forms of government. And the praises that the authors addressed to the Geneva Republic were accompanied by remarks that such a state structure is possible only for relatively small territories, to which France itself does not belong. The pages of the Encyclopedia were dominated by pluralism in its purest form, because writers in some articles advocated a limited monarchy, while in others they adhered to the absolute version, seeing only in it the basis of social welfare.
At the same time, it was separately noted that subjects have the right to resist despots, and kings should obligatorily obey the law, help the poor and disadvantaged, defend the faith of their people.
The "Encyclopedia" openly criticized the way of life of the nobles. At the same time, the authors of the articles noted that they recognize and support the need for the existence of a social hierarchy in society. Representatives of the bourgeois they mercilesslycriticized for craving for positions and career growth, as well as greed, financiers were recognized as a parasitic part on the body of the third estate.
The authors of the "Encyclopedia" advocated easing the lot of the common people. However, to achieve this goal, they did not call for the establishment of democracy in the country, but appealed to the government, drawing the attention of officials and ministers to the need for reforms in education, the economy (fair taxation, the fight against poverty).
The main ideas of Denis Diderot in the field of philosophy were formulated by him back in 1751 in the treatise "Letter on the deaf and dumb as an edification to those who hear." In it, he considers the problem of cognition in the context of the symbolism of words and gestures.
In 1753 he publishes "Thoughts on the explanation of nature", which he creates in the image and likeness of the works of Bacon, arguing with the rationalist philosophy of Leibniz and Descartes. For example, he refuted the theory of innate ideas.
When the philosophy of Denis Diderot was formed, he categorically denied the dualistic doctrine dedicated to the bifurcation of the spiritual and material principles. He argued that in the world there is only matter that can have sensitivity, and all the diverse and complex phenomena that occur in real life are the result of the movement of its particles. Confirmation of this can be found in the quotes of Denis Diderot:
Religion prevents people from seeing because it forbids them to see under pain of eternal punishment.
Take awaya Christian fears hell and you will take away his faith.
The God of Christians is a father who treasures his apples extremely, and very little his children.
In his philosophical views, there were also thoughts about the influence of various external factors on the individual. Among the ideas of Denis Diderot, one can find the assertion that a person is exclusively what his environment and upbringing can make of him. Moreover, each action that he performs is a necessary act in the general worldview.
Attitude towards politics
Considering the worldview of Denis Diderot, the main thoughts and ideas of the philosopher and writer, it should be noted that, according to political convictions, he was a supporter of enlightened absolutism, agreeing with Voltaire in this. Diderot also refused to trust the masses, whom he considered incapable of solving state and moral issues.
In his opinion, the ideal political system is a monarchy ruled by a sovereign endowed with philosophical and scientific knowledge. Diderot was convinced that the union of philosophers and rulers was not only possible, but necessary.
At the same time, his own materialistic teaching was directed against the clergy. The ultimate goal was to place state power in the hands of philosophers.
In this Diderot was wrong. As can be judged from history, the monarchs respected the philosophers, but did not allow them to have a real influence on practical politics. For example, when Diderot arrived in Russia in 1773, responding to the invitation of Catherine II,they spent hours talking sublimely, but at the same time the Russian Empress was skeptical about his projects to destroy luxury at court, direct the released funds to the needs of the people, and also to organize free universal education.
Didro received a large amount of money from Catherine for his library, while he was given a salary for its maintenance.
Actively engage in creativity Diderot begins in the 50s. He publishes two plays - "Father of the Family" and "Bad Son, or Trials of Virtue". In them, he categorically renounces the rules of the then dominant classicism, seeking to create a petty-bourgeois, bourgeois-sentimental drama, which he succeeds as a result. Conflicts that arise between representatives of the third estate come to the fore in most of his works, their way of life and behavior in the most ordinary environment are described.
His classic works include the story "The Nun", about which we will tell in more detail, the novels "Ramo's Nephew", "Jacques the Fatalist and His Master". For most contemporaries, these books remain unknown, since the author practically fails to print them during his lifetime.
It is worth noting that all these works are united by realism, amazing prudence and a transparent, extremely clear style of narration. Reading Diderot's works has always been easy, because they almost completely lack verbal embellishments.
Mostlyhis works can be found rejection of the church and religion, commitment to humanistic goals, idealized ideas about human duty.
The aesthetic and philosophical principles that Diderot proclaims can be traced in his attitude to fine arts. From 1759 to 1781, he regularly published reviews of the Parisian salons in his friend Grimm's handwritten newspaper, which is called the Literary Correspondence. It is sent by subscription to influential princes and monarchs.
This is one of Diderot's most famous works. It depicts the depraved morals that reign in the convent. In The Nun by Denis Diderot, the story is told from the perspective of a young novice who is unaware of her feelings.
Critics note in this work an amazing combination of psychological truth with extremely bold naturalism for that time. All this makes the story of Denis Diderot "The Nun" one of the best prose works of the XVIII century, at least in France. In addition, this is an excellent example of anti-religious propaganda.
The impetus for writing this book was a real story that the author learned about. In the 50s of the XVIII century, the secrets of the convent were exposed. In pre-revolutionary France, church life was one of the most exciting and urgent topics.
The story itself begins with an episode in which the main character Suzanne, who is an illegitimate child, is forcibly sent to a women'smonastery. In fact, her own mother betrays her, but the girl still loves her, does not reveal the secrets of her origin, although this could help her free herself. Instead, she makes several attempts to escape the hermitage in order to gain freedom, one of which ends well.
Another famous work of Diderot is the novel Rameau's Nephew. Many literary critics consider him the pinnacle of creativity of the hero of our article.
The novel itself is written in the form of a dialogue between the author and the nephew of the composer Rameau, who was very popular at that time in France. The relative begins to talk with admiration about theft and parasitic life at the expense of others. The younger Ramo appears in the work as the personification of the selfishness that exists in modern society.
Travel to Russia
Catherine II, who corresponded and was on friendly terms with Voltaire, was interested in Diderot's work on the famous Encyclopedia. As soon as she took the throne, she immediately offered to transfer the publication to Russia. Behind this was hidden not only her desire to strengthen her reputation, but also an attempt to satisfy the interest of the educated and enlightened part of Russian society in this work.
Diderot refused this offer, but agreed to sell his unique library to the Empress for 50,000 livres. Moreover, the books themselves remained at his complete disposal until the end of his life. He became the curator of works in his house in the status of the personal librarian of the Empress.
At the invitation of Catherine, he stayed inPetersburg from October 1773 to March 1774. During this time, he was elected an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg.
When he returned to France, he wrote several essays on the possible introduction of Russia to European civilization. His skeptical statements about Catherine's policy aroused her anger, but they became known in Russia after the philosopher's death.
In 1784 he died in Paris at the age of 70.