(Sculpture of Diderot by Jean-Antoine Houdon, 1771)
Denis Diderot (October 5, 1713 - July 31, 1784) was a French philosopher, art critic and writer. He was a prominent figure during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder, chief editor and contributor to the Encyclopédie along with Jean le Rond d'Alembert. Diderot also contributed to literature, notably with Jacques le fataliste et son maître (Jacques the Fatalist and his Master), which was influenced by Laurence Sterne's novel Tristam Shandy in challenging conventions regarding novels and their structure and content, while also examining philosophical ideas about free will. Diderot is also known as the author of the dialogue Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau's Nephew), upon which many articles and sermons about consumer desire have been based. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)
Bad company is as instructive as licentiousness. One makes up for the loss of one's innocence with the loss of one's prejudices.
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.
Every man has his dignity. I'm willing to forget mine, but at my own discretion and not when someone else tells me to.
Evil always turns up in this world through some genius or other.
From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.
Happiest are the people who give most happiness to others.
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.
If there is one realm in which it is essential to be sublime, it is in wickedness. You spit on a petty thief, but you can't deny a kind of respect for the great criminal.
In any country where talent and virtue produce no advancement, money will be the national god... Wealth will be the highest virtue, poverty the greatest vice.
In order to shake a hypothesis, it is sometimes not necessary to do anything more than push it as far as it will go.
It has been said that love robs those who have it of their wit, and gives it to those who have none.
Justice is the first virtue of those who command, and stops the complaints of those who obey.
Let us strangle the last king with the guts of the last priest.
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.
Morals are in all countries the result of legislation and government; they are not African or Asian or European: they are good or bad.
One may demand of me that I should seek truth, but not that I should find it.
Only a very bad theologian would confuse the certainty that follows revelation with the truths that are revealed. They are entirely different things.
Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.
Patriotism is an ephemeral motive that scarcely ever outlasts the particular threat to society that aroused it.
Pithy sentences are like sharp nails which force truth upon our memory.
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.
Skepticism is the first step towards truth.
The good of the people must be the great purpose of government.
The more man ascends through the past, and the more he launches into the future, the greater he will be, and all these philosophers and ministers and truth-telling men who have fallen victims to the stupidity of nations, the atrocities of priests, the fury of tyrants, what consolation was left for them in death? This: That prejudice would pass, and that posterity would pour out the vial of ignominy upon their enemies. O Posterity! Holy and sacred stay of the unhappy and the oppressed; thou who art just, thou who art incorruptible, thou who findest the good man, who unmaskest the hypocrite, who breakest down the tyrant, may thy sure faith, thy consoling faith never, never abandon me!
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.
The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers.
There are things I can't force. I must adjust. There are times when the greatest change needed is a change of my viewpoint.
There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge available to us: observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation... Our observation of nature must be diligent, our reflection profound, and our experiments exact.
There is no kind of harassment that a man may not inflict on a woman with impunity in civilized societies.
There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it.
There is only one passion, the passion for happiness.
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.
Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control.
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.
We are far more liable to catch the vices than the virtues of our associates.
We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.
What a hell of an economic system! Some are replete with everything while others, whose stomachs are no less demanding, whose hunger is just as recurrent, have nothing to bite on.
What is this world of ours? ... a fleeting symmetry; a momentary order.