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Diderot, Denis (1713–1784)

Yves Laberge


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Denis Diderot, a central figure of the great ideological revolution known as the Enlightenment , was a French author, philosopher, critic, and encyclopedist. As a radical freethinker, he was often embroiled in controversy. He is remembered above all for his pioneering attempt to synthesize all knowledge currently available in the eighteenth century: the Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (co-edited with Jean D'Alembert). Among some 200 contributors to the Encyclopédie were the most important philosophes of the Enlightenment: Condorcet , Montesquieu , Rousseau , and Voltaire . The Encyclopédie was published between 1751 and 1772, but some of its 28 volumes and supplements were condemned as impious, or for propagating unorthodox ideas, by Pope Clément XIII and the French Conseil d'état in 1759, after which the royal privilege was withdrawn and subsequent volumes were relatively ignored by contemporaries. Diderot was born to a bourgeois family in Champagne in 1713. Frustrated by the slow pace of his studies, Diderot briefly joined his father's cutlery business, but after only a few days he decided to become an Abbé. He inherited his uncle's position as canon at the local church when he was 15 years old. However, the cathedral chapter, objecting to such a young man assuming the position, blocked the appointment, so Diderot left ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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