denis diderot Quotes

Denis Diderot Quotes

Birth Date: 1713-10-05 (Thursday, October 5th, 1713)
Date of Death: 1784-07-31 (Saturday, July 31st, 1784)

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Quotes

    • From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.
    • If you want me to believe in God, you must make me touch him.
    • What is this world of ours? A complex entity subject to sudden changes which all indicate a tendency to destruction; a swift succession of beings which follow one another, assert themselves and disappear; a fleeting symmetry; a momentary order.
    • Only a very bad theologian would confuse the certainty that follows revelation with the truths that are revealed. They are entirely different things.
    • Il y a un peu de testicule au fond de nos sentiments les plus sublimes et de notre tendresse la plus epuree
    • There is no kind of harassment that a man may not inflict on a woman with impunity in civilized societies.
    • Impenetrable in their dissimulation, cruel in their vengeance, tenacious in their purposes, unscrupulous as to their methods, animated by profound and hidden hatred for the tyranny of man - it is as though there exists among them an ever-present conspiracy toward domination, a sort of alliance like that subsisting among the priests of every country.
    • 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.
    • L'esprit de l'escalier
    • It has been said that love robs those who have it of their wit, and gives it to those who have none.
    • 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.
    • Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control.
    • The wisest among us is very lucky never to have met the woman, be she beautiful or ugly, intelligent or stupid, who could drive him crazy enough to be fit to be put into an asylum.
    • How old the world is! I walk between two eternities... What is my fleeting existence in comparison with that decaying rock, that valley digging its channel ever deeper, that forest that is tottering and those great masses above my head about to fall? I see the marble of tombs crumbling into dust; and yet I don't want to die!
    • I have often seen an actor laugh off the stage, but I don't remember ever having seen one weep.
    • Justice is the first virtue of those who command, and stops the complaints of those who obey.
    • Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du pretre, Au defaut d'un cordon pour etrangler les rois.
    • 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!
    • Pithy sentences are like sharp nails which force truth upon our memory.
    • The best doctor is the one you run for and can't find.
    • Distance is a great promoter of admiration!
    • We are far more liable to catch the vices than the virtues of our associates.
    • Evil always turns up in this world through some genius or other.
    • There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it.
    • 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.
    • There are things I can't force. I must adjust. There are times when the greatest change needed is a change of my viewpoint.
    • Happiest are the people who give most happiness to others.
    • 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!
    • The God of the Christians is a father who makes much of his apples, and very little of his children.
    • On doit exiger de moi que je cherche la verite, mais non que je la trouve.
    • There is no good father who would want to resemble our Heavenly Father
    • 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.
    • Only passions, and great passions, can raise the soul to great things. Without them there is no sublimity, either in morals or in creativity. Art returns to infancy, and virtue becomes small-minded.
    • Superstition is more injurious to God than atheism.
    • Scepticism is the first step towards truth.
    • To prove the Gospels by a miracle is to prove an absurdity by something contrary to nature.
    • To say that man is a compound of strength and weakness, light and darkness, smallness and greatness, is not to indict him, it is to define him.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian. Grace causes the Christian to act, reason the philosopher. Other men are carried away by their passions, their actions not being preceded by reflection: these are the men who walk in darkness. On the other hand, the philosopher, even in his passions, acts only after reflection; he walks in the dark, but by a torch. The philosopher forms his principles from an infinity of particular observations. Most people adopt principles without thinking of the observations that have produced them, they believe the maxims exist, so to speak, by themselves. But the philosopher takes maxims from their source; he examines their origin; he knows their proper value, and he makes use of them only in so far as they suit him. Truth is not for the philosopher a mistress who corrupts his imagination and whom he believes to be found everywhere; he contents himself with being able to unravel it where he can perceive it. He does not confound it with probability; he takes for true what is true, for false what is false, for doubtful what is doubtful, and probable what is only probable. He does more, and here you have a great perfection of the philosopher: when he has no reason by which to judge, he knows how to live in suspension of judgment... The philosophical spirit is, then, a spirit of observation and exactness, which relates everything to true principles...
    • Go further, and require each of them to make a contribution: you will see how many things are still missing, and you will be obliged to get the assistance of a large number of men who belong to different classes, priceless men, but to whom the gates of the academies are nonetheless closed because of their social station. All the members of these learned societies are more than is needed for a single object of human science; all the societies together are not sufficient for a science of man in general.
    • If exclusive privileges were not granted, and if the financial system would not tend to concentrate wealth, there would be few great fortunes and no quick wealth. When the means of growing rich is divided between a greater number of citizens, wealth will also be more evenly distributed; extreme poverty and extreme wealth would be also rare.
    • Are we not madder than those first inhabitants of the plain of Sennar? We know that the distance separating the earth from the sky is infinite, and yet we do not stop building our tower.
    • 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.
    • In order to shake a hypothesis, it is sometimes not necessary to do anything more than push it as far as it will go.
    • The following general definition of an animal: a system of different organic molecules that have combined with one another, under the impulsion of a sensation similar to an obtuse and muffled sense of touch given to them by the creator of matter as a whole, until each one of them has found the most suitable position for it shape and comfort.
    • The pit of a theatre is the one place where the tears of virtuous and wicked men alike are mingled.
    • Genius is present in every age, but the men carrying it within them remain benumbed unless extraordinary events occur to heat up and melt the mass so that it flows forth.
    • It is not human nature we should accuse but the despicable conventions that pervert it.
    • Poetry must have something in it that is barbaric, vast and wild.
    • When shall we see poets born? After a time of disasters and great misfortunes, when harrowed nations begin to breathe again. And then, shaken by the terror of such spectacles, imaginations will paint things entirely strange to those who have not witnessed them.
    • Shakespeare's fault is not the greatest into which a poet may fall. It merely indicates a deficiency of taste.
    • Every man has his dignity. I'm willing to forget mine, but at my own discretion and not when someone else tells me to.
    • 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.
    • Bad company is as instructive as licentiousness. One makes up for the loss of one's innocence with the loss of one's prejudices.
    • People praise virtue, but they hate it, they run away from it. It freezes you to death, and in this world you've got to keep your feet warm.
    • I discuss with myself questions of politics, love, taste, or philosophy. I let my mind rove wantonly, give it free rein to follow any idea, wise or mad that may present itself. ... My ideas are my harlots.
    • Gratitude is a burden, and every burden is made to be shaken off.
    • We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.
    • If your little savage were left to himself and be allowed to retain all his ignorance, he would in time join the infant's reasoning to the grown man's passion, he would strangle his father and sleep with his mother.
    • 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. The worst of it is the constrained posture need puts you in. The needy man does not walk like the rest; he skips, slithers, twists, crawls.
    • All abstract sciences are nothing but the study of relations between signs.
    • We are all instruments endowed with feeling and memory. Our senses are so many strings that are struck by surrounding objects and that also frequently strike themselves.
    • Do you see this egg? With this you can topple every theological theory, every church or temple in the world. What is it, this egg, before the seed is introduced into it? An insentient mass. And after the seed has been introduced to into it? What is it then? An insentient mass. For what is the seed itself other than a crude and inanimate fluid? How is this mass to make a transition to a different structure, to sentience, to life? Through heat. And what will produce that heat in it? Motion.
    • 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.
    • The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers.
    • 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.
    • Morals are in all countries the result of legislation and government; they are not African or Asian or European: they are good or bad.
    • Patriotism is an ephemeral motive that scarcely ever outlasts the particular threat to society that aroused it.
    • The possibility of divorce renders both marriage partners stricter in their observance of the duties they owe to each other. Divorces help to improve morals and to increase the population.
    • The general interest of the masses might take the place of the insight of genius if it were allowed freedom of action.
    • The decisions of law courts should never be printed: in the long run, they form a counterauthority to the law.
    • The blood of Jesus Christ can cover a multitude of sins, it seems to 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.
    • 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.
    • Jacques said that his master said that everything good or evil we encounter here below was written on high.
    • How did they meet? By chance, like everybody ... Where did they come from? From the nearest place. Where were they going? Do we know where we are going?
    • How easy it is to tell tales!
    • The first promise exchanged by two beings of flesh was at the foot of a rock that was crumbling into dust; they took as witness for their constancy a sky that is not the same for a single instant; everything changed in them and around them, and they believed their hearts free of vicissitudes. O children! always children!
    • Gaiety - a quality of ordinary men. Genius always presupposes some disorder in the machine.
    • Good music is very close to primitive language.
    • The infant runs toward it with its eyes closed, the adult is stationary, the old man approaches it with his back turned.
    • It is said that desire is a product of the will, but the converse is in fact true: will is a product of desire.
    • There is only one passion, the passion for happiness.
    • The world is the house of the strong. I shall not know until the end what I have lost or won in this place, in this vast gambling den where I have spent more than sixty years, dicebox in hand, shaking the dice.
    • The best mannered people make the most absurd lovers.
    • To do his duty somehow, always to speak well of the Prior, and let the world go its own way.
    • You have to make it happen.
    • Although a man may wear fine clothing, if he lives peacefully; and is good, self-possessed, has faith and is pure; and if he does not hurt any living being, he is a holy man.
    • If I had believed him, everything would have been turned upside down... all would have been turned topsy-turvy to make room for impractical theories.
    • 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.
    • 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 truth is, he had passed his threescore years and ten. He had lived for seventy-one years. He had eaten his supper. He had been conversing with his wife. He was reclining in his easy chair. His mind was at perfect rest. He had entered, without knowing it, the twilight of his last day. Above the horizon was the evening star, telling of sleep. The room grew still and the stillness was lulled by the murmur of the street. There were a few moments of perfect peace. The wife said, 'He is asleep.' She enjoyed his repose, and breathed softly that he might not be disturbed. The moments wore on, and still he slept. Lovingly, softly, at last she touched him. Yes, he was asleep. He had become a part of the eternal silence.
    • denis diderot

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