Quotations by Diderot, Denis


Disturbances in society are never more fearful than when those who are stirring up the trouble can use the pretext of religion to mask their true designs.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
“Observations on the Drawing Up of Laws,” Letter to Catherine the Great (1774)
Added on 6-Jun-08 | Last updated 6-Jun-08
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Disturbances in society are never more fearful than when those who are stirring up the trouble can use the pretext of religion to mask their true designs.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
“Observations on the Drawing Up of Laws” (1774)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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The arbitrary rule of a just and enlightened prince is always bad. His virtues are the most dangerous and the surest form of seduction: they lull a people imperceptibly into the habit of loving, respecting, and serving his successor, whoever that successor may be, no matter how wicked or stupid.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
“Refutation of Helvétius” (1773-76)
Added on 23-Jan-08 | Last updated 23-Jan-08
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Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
“Supplement to Bougainville’s Voyage” (1796)
Added on 7-Jul-08 | Last updated 7-Jul-08
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There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 23-Oct-08 | Last updated 23-Oct-08
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There are things I can’t force. I must adjust. There are times when the greatest change needed is a change of my viewpoint.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 13-Nov-08 | Last updated 13-Nov-08
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Happiest are the people who give most happiness to others.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 27-Nov-08 | Last updated 27-Nov-08
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Happiest are the people who give most happiness to others.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 13-Jan-10 | Last updated 13-Jan-10
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Those authors into whose hands nature has placed a magic wand, with which they no sooner touch us than we forget the unhappiness in life, than the darkness leaves our soul, and we are reconciled to existence, should be placed among the benefactors of the human race.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
(Attributed)

Attributed in Maturin M. Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1884 ed.).
Added on 15-Jul-14 | Last updated 15-Jul-14
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From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Essai sur le Mérite de la Vertu [Essay on Merit and Virtue] (1745)

Diderot’s essay is a translation of Shaftesbury’s Essay on the Merit of Virtue (1699).

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Sep-14
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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.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
L’Encyclopédie, Vol. 1, “Political Authority” (article) (1751)
Added on 6-Nov-08 | Last updated 6-Nov-08
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Power acquired by violence is only a usurpation, and lasts only as long as the force of him who commands prevails over that of those who obey.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
L’Encyclopédie, Vol. 1, Article on “Political Authority” (1751)
Added on 30-Oct-08 | Last updated 30-Oct-08
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Man was born to live with his fellow human beings. Separate him, isolate him, his character will go bad, a thousand ridiculous affects will invade his heart, extravagant thoughts will germinate in his brain, like thorns in an uncultivated land.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
La Religieuse [The Nun] [Suzanne Simon] (1796)
Added on 11-Jun-08 | Last updated 11-Jun-08
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Every man has his dignity. I’m willing to forget mine, but at my own discretion and not when someone else tells me to.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Le Neveu de Rameau [Rameau’s Nephew] (1762)
Added on 2-Oct-08 | Last updated 2-Oct-08
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L’esprit de l’escalier
[Spirit of the staircase]

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Paradoxe sur le Comédien (1773-1777)


Alt trans. "Staircase inspiration." A reference to the remarks/retorts one only thinks of too late, as when descending the stairs of a building after an encounter inside.

Added on 4-Dec-08 | Last updated 21-Sep-10
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A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it. What has never been gone into impartially has never been properly gone into. Hence skepticism is the first step toward truth. It must be applied generally, because it is the touchstone.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Pensées Philosophiques [Philosophical Thoughts] (1746)

Alt trans.: "The first step towards philosophy is incredulity."

Added on 11-Sep-08 | Last updated 11-Sep-08
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We are constantly railing against the passions; we ascribe to them all of man’s afflictions, and we forget that they are also the source of all his pleasures.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Pensées Philosophiques [Philosophical Thoughts] (1746)

Alt. trans.: "One declaims endlessly against the passions; one imputes all of man's suffering to them. One forgets that they are also the source of all his pleasures."
Added on 9-Oct-08 | Last updated 2-Aug-16
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One may demand of me that I should seek truth, but not that I should find it.

[On doit exiger de moi que je cherche la vérité, mais non que je la trouve.]
 

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Pensées Philosophiques [Philosophical Thoughts], #29 (1746)

Alt. trans.: "I can be expected to look for truth but not to find it."

Added on 15-Jul-08 | Last updated 15-Jul-08
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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!

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Pensées Philosophiques [Philosophical Thoughts], ch. 5 (1746)
Added on 28-Aug-08 | Last updated 28-Aug-08
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The God of the Christians is a father who makes much of his apples, and very little of his children.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Pensées Philosophiques [Philosophical Thoughts], No. 16 (1746)
Added on 25-Sep-08 | Last updated 25-Sep-08
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And his hands would plait the priest’s entrails,
For want of a rope, to strangle kings.

[Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du prêtre,
Au défaut d’un cordon pour étrangler les rois.]
 

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
Poésies Diverses, “Les Éleuthéromanes” (1875)

Alt. trans. "His hands would plait the priest’s guts, if he had no rope, to strangle kings."

Derived from a statement attributed (but not confirmed) to Jean Meslier: "I would like — and this would be the last and most ardent of my wishes — I would like the last of the kings to be strangled by the guts of the last priest"

Variant: "Let us strangle the last king with the guts of the last priest."
[Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre / Serrons le cou du dernier roi.] 

This was attributed to Diderot in Jean-François de La Harpe,  Cours de Littérature Ancienne et Moderne (1840)

Sometimes paraphrased as, ""Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest," etc.
 

Added on 20-Nov-08 | Last updated 20-Nov-08
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