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Denis Diderot (1713–1784)
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There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge available to us: observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination. Our observation of nature must be diligent, our reflection profound, and our experiments exact. We rarely see these three means combined; and for this reason, creative geniuses are not common.
When superstition is allowed to perform the task of old age in dulling the human temperament, we can say goodbye to all excellence in poetry, in painting, and in music.
To attempt the destruction of our passions is the height of folly. What a noble aim is that of the zealot who tortures himself like a madman in order to desire nothing, love nothing, feel nothing, and who, if he succeeded, would end up a complete monster!
Wandering in a vast forest at night, I have only a faint light to guide me. A stranger appears and says to me: "My friend, you should blow out your candle in order to find your way more clearly." This stranger is a theologian.
At an early age I sucked up the milk of Homer, Virgil, Horace, Terence, Anacreon, Plato and Euripides, diluted with that of Moses and the prophets.
But if you will recall the history of our civil troubles, you will see half the nation bathe itself, out of piety, in the blood of the other half, and violate the fundamental feelings of humanity in order to sustain the cause of God: as though it were necessary to cease to be a man in order to prove oneself religious!
Superstition is more injurious to God than atheism.
If there were a reason for preferring the Christian religion to natural religion, it would be because the former offers us, on the nature of God and man, enlightenment that the latter lacks. Now, this is not at all the case; for Christianity, instead of clarifying, gives rise to an infinite multitude of obscurities and difficulties.
Gentleness and peacefulness regulate our proceedings; theirs are dictated by fury. We employ reason, they accumulate faggots. They preach nothing but love, and breathe nothing but blood. Their words are humane, but their hearts are cruel.
I believe in God, although I live very happily with atheists.... It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley; but not at all so to believe or not in God.
One must be oneself very little of a philosopher not to feel that the finest privilege of our reason consists in not believing in anything by the impulsion of a blind and mechanical instinct, and that it is to dishonour reason to put it in bonds as the Chaldeans did. Man is born to think for himself.
I am more affected by the attractions of virtue than by the deformities of vice; I turn gently away from the wicked and I fly to meet the good. If there is in a literary work, in a character, in a picture, in a statue, a beautiful spot, that is where my eyes rest; I see only that, I remember only that, all the rest is well-nigh forgotten. What becomes of me when the whole work is beautiful!
It seems to me that if one had kept silence up to now regarding religion, people would still be submerged in the most grotesque and dangerous superstition ... regarding government, we would still be groaning under the bonds of feudal government ... regarding morals, we would still be having to learn what is virtue and what is vice. To forbid all these discussions, the only ones worthy of occupying a good mind, is to perpetuate the reign of ignorance and barbarism.
Scepticism is the first step towards truth.
From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.
The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers.
No man has received from nature the right to give orders to others. Freedom is a gift from heaven, and every individual of the same species has the right to enjoy it as soon as he is in enjoyment of his reason.
In any country where talent and virtue produce no advancement, money will be the national god. Its inhabitants will either have to possess money or make others believe that they do. Wealth will be the highest virtue, poverty the greatest vice. Those who have money will display it in every imaginable way. If their ostentation does not exceed their fortune, all will be well. But if their ostentation does exceed their fortune they will ruin themselves. In such a country, the greatest fortunes will vanish in the twinkling of an eye. Those who don't have money will ruin themselves with vain efforts to conceal their poverty. That is one kind of affluence: the outward sign of wealth for a small number, the mask of poverty for the majority, and a source of corruption for all.
Every man has his dignity. I'm willing to forget mine, but at my own discretion and not when someone else tells me to.
The most dangerous madmen are those created by religion, and ... people whose aim is to disrupt society always know how to make good use of them on occasion.
There is not a Musselman alive who would not imagine that he was performing an action pleasing to God and his Holy Prophet by exterminating every Christian on earth, while the Christians are scarcely more tolerant on their side.
Which is the greater merit, to enlighten the human race, which remains forever, or to save one's fatherland, which is perishable?
Patriotism is an ephemeral motive that scarcely ever outlasts the particular threat to society that aroused it.
The good of the people must be the great purpose of government. By the laws of nature and of reason, the governors are invested with power to that end. And the greatest good of the people is liberty. It is to the state what health is to the individual.
It has been said that love robs those who have it of their wit, and gives it to those who have none.
It is raining bombs on the house of the Lord. I go in fear and trembling lest one of these terrible bombers gets into difficulties.
Mankind shall not be free until the last king is strangled in the entrails of the last priest.
We are a free people; and now you have planted in our country the title deeds of our future slavery. You are neither god nor demon; who are you, then, to make slaves? Orou! You understand the language of these men, tell us all, as you have told me, what they have written on this sheet of metal: "This country is ours." This country yours? And why? Because you have walked thereon? If a Tahitian landed one day on your shores, and scratched on one of your rocks or on the bark of your trees: "This country belongs to the people of Tahiti" -- what would you think?
There comes a moment during which almost every girl or boy falls into melancholy; they are tormented by a vague inquietude which rests on everything and finds nothing to calm it. They seek solitude; they weep; the silence to be found in cloister attracts them: the image of peace that seems to reign in religious houses seduces them. They mistake the first manifestations of a developing sexual nature for the voice of God calling them to Himself; and it is precisely when nature is inciting them that they embrace a fashion of life contrary to nature's wish.
Let us not talk of that great and beautiful spectacle which was never made for me! ...
Mme La Maréchale: Are you not Monsieur Crudeli?
A man had been betrayed by his children, by his wife, and by his friends; some disloyal partners had ruined his fortune, and had plunged him into poverty. Pervaded with a profound hatred and contempt for the human race, he left society and took refuge alone in a cave. There, pressing his fists into his eyes, and contemplating a revenge proportional to his grievances, he said: "Evil people! What shall I do to punish them for their injustice and to make them all as unhappy as they deserve? Ah! if it were possible to imagine it -- to intoxicate them with a great fantasy to which they would attach more importance than to their lives, and about which they would never be able to agree!" Instantly he rushed out of thc cave, shouting, "God! God!" Echoes without number repeated around him, "God! God!" This fearful name was carried from pole to pole, and heard everywhere with astonishment. At first men prostrated themselves, then they got up again, asked each other, argued with each other, became bitter, cursed each other, hated each other, cut each other's throats, and the fatal wish of the misanthropist was fulfilled. For such has been in the past, such will be in the future, the story of a being at all times equally important and incomprehensible.
In order to shake a hypothesis, it is sometimes not necessary to do anything more than push it as far as it will go.
There is only one virtue, justice; only one duty, to be happy; only one corollary, not to overvalue life and not to fear death.
The first step towards philosophy is incredulity.
Parlement: The Venom of Criminal Opinions
"[Pensées Philosophiques] presents to restless and reckless spirits the venom of the most criminal and absurd opinions that the depravity of human reason is capable of; and by an affected uncertainty places all religions on almost the same level, in order to finish up by not accepting any."
Bishop: Hell Now Vomits its Venom in Torrents
"Up till now Hell has vomited its venom, so to speak, drop by drop. Today there are torrents of errors and impieties which tend toward nothing less than the submerging of Faith, Religion, Virtues, the Church, Subordination, the Laws, and Reason. Past centuries have witnessed the birth of sects that, while attacking some Dogmas, have respected a great number of them; it was reserved to ours to see impiety forming a system that overturns all of them at one and the same time."
Attorney General: Materialism Nourishes Moral Corruption
"There is a project formed, a Society organized, to propagate materialism, to destroy Religion, to inspire a spirit of independence, and to nourish the corruption of morals."
D'Alembert: Worn Out by the Opposition
"I am worn out by the insults and vexations that this work brings down on us."
Modern Jesuits: Most Formidable Against Religion
"The most formidable machine that was ever set up against religion."
Ingersoll: Diderot: Christ was Guilty of Suicide
"Diderot took the ground that, if orthodox religion be true Christ was guilty of suicide. Having the power to defend himself he should have used it."
Ingersoll: Diderot's Mind Was at Perfect Rest
"Of course it would not do for the church to allow a man to die in peace who had added to the intellectual wealth of the world. The moment Diderot was dead, Catholic priests began painting and recounting the horrors of his expiring moments. They described him as overcome with remorse, as insane with fear; and these falsehoods have been repeated by the Protestant world, and will probably be repeated by thousands of ministers after we are dead.
The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea
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