Sunday, May 10, 2009

43 Denis Diderot

Next to Rousseau and Voltaire Diderot can be regarded as the third great representative of the Enlightenment. The 'Enlightenment' refers to ideas and attitudes , which emerged at the end of the 17th century and in the 18th century in Europe.

Within the Enlightment we encounter contradictory ideas, rationalism against empiricism, but all are focused on destroying the dogmatic power of religion and at freeing oneselves from the chains of superstition by use of reason.

And the dominance of religion had been severe during the past centuries. On the other hand we should not forget that it was the church that preserved all intellectual values and education in Europe during the Middle Ages.

As I said before...this 17th century is such a pivot in the development of Western philosophy. It should be interesting to study the political and economical developments of those times. Try to relate them with this philosphical development.

The thinkers of the Enlightenment had the opinion that truth can be found by a combination of reason, empirical observation and a sound dose of systematic and critical doubt.

They cherished the fundamental belief, that in essence there was a rational progress of development in the universe.

And in this world Diderot lived. A brilliant mind, educated by the Jesuits (of course;-). He got a job to translate an English encyclopedia into French. Diderot

did...that is to say...he wrote his own encyclopedia.

He must have been a briliant organisator, the perfect manager for this job. He invited all great minds of his time to contribute articles. He wrote a lot himself too. And so they created an encyclopedia, which described all principles of the sciences of their time, based on the modern, rationalistic philosophy and a belief in the progress of human research.

Diderot supported a materialistic atheism. He was an admirer of Locke and he certianly knew Hume, so that may explain his choice, but it cost him three months in prison.

It is amazing to read (tho only in general) what opposition there was against the publication of the Encyclopedia. I'd love to dig into that deeper, to find out what group(s) in power were so opposed, and what was their fear, although the answer to that is simple....loss of power.

It is so exciting to see that this 17th century is the real age of KNOWLEDGE, not of belief, which dominated the previous centuries. men broke free from that..gathered knowledge in an Encyclopedia.

Diderot was a remarkable man, who had all kinds of insights which we would call modern. He speculated on the origin of life, for which there was no need for a devine intervention.

Diderot believed that once it is granted that sensitivity is a property of matter and that matter thereby develops increasing complexity and specialization, it then follows thatt thought can best be understood as a property of that highly complex and specified material organ, the brain.

When you read about his ideas then you experience the excitement of his aera. The overview he had, the insights. I have said it several times before.....this has been the most exciting moment in the history of mind in Europe.

Diderot died in Paris six years after Voltaire and Rousseau, with whose names his name is inextricably linked as a leader of the was 1784, less than 250 years ago.

The Discussion

[13:26] Herman Bergson: So far on Diderot..:-)
[13:26] Herman Bergson: If you have remarks or questions, plz feel free..
[13:26] Khayyam Kurosawa: hey dont forget he visited holland! didnt he
[13:26] Herman Bergson: He did indeed on his way to Russia..
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: :) all good philosophers it seems visited holland
[13:27] Rodney Handrick: It's amazing to see that in the span of time these ideas are pretty recent
[13:27] Khayyam Kurosawa: yes how they became ' good'
[13:27] Osrum Sands: we still bath in their afterglow
[13:27] Khayyam Kurosawa: thats how...
[13:27] Herman Bergson: Yes Osrum....feels likethat...
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: the availablity of this Enclyoedie to the masses seems to have frigntend the monarcy and the church
[13:28] Khayyam Kurosawa: ok herman..tell me more about his atheism please
[13:28] Cailleach Shan: Would you say the invention of the encyclopedia was on a par with Google in terms of obtaining knowledge
[13:28] Osrum Sands: they had read Bacon - Knowledge is power
[13:28] Rodney Handrick: I agree...knowledge to the masses is key!
[13:29] Swimming Submariner: hi all, hope you dont mind me joining....
[13:29] Rodney Handrick: "accurate knowledge"
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: wasnt Diderot a religious chameleon?
[13:29] Herman Bergson: Ok....just a moment...
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: welcome Swimming
[13:29] Rodney Handrick: I think so Ari
[13:29] Herman Bergson: Hold on...
[13:30] Herman Bergson: Diderot was educated by the jesuits...
[13:30] Cailleach Shan: lol
[13:30] Herman Bergson: and that seems to be a good education to become anti church
[13:30] Rodney Handrick: well that answers that question about religious ideology
[13:30] Herman Bergson: we have seen that before..
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: I think he traveled from that to atheism to deism and beyond
[13:31] Herman Bergson: But I recall some incident with the Catholic church in Diderot's life that pissed him off...
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: oh yes
[13:31] Herman Bergson: forgot what it was about...
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: he was a threat to them naturally
[13:32] Herman Bergson: besides that...he was a not a believer in metaphysical entities..
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: The Church is never happy with new ideas... even today priests are silenced if their ideas conflict with traditional thinking.
[13:32] Herman Bergson: as I mentioned in my lecture....he said that thoughts could be products of a material brain
[13:33] Khayyam Kurosawa: so he was the first cognitive scienticst in a way...
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: this is said to be one of his quotes: "Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."
[13:33] Rodney Handrick: That's because their true intention is to keep the masses in ignorance!
[13:33] Khayyam Kurosawa: ah that was him?? i love that one
[13:33] Osrum Sands: But it does change the Vatican II
[13:33] Herman Bergson: well..Khayyam..I wouldnt say that..Hume was close to it too...
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: all part of the enlightenment
[13:34] Herman Bergson: it was that time......
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: Love the quote Ari... that just leaves the
[13:34] Khayyam Kurosawa: but Hume had more doubts about how real it all was
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: lol
[13:35] Herman Bergson: We have learned during our lectures there no philsosopher had the final answer..:-)
[13:35] Osrum Sands: 37
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: and I think Diderot said that many times
[13:35] Osrum Sands: no 42
[13:35] Osrum Sands: sorry shall shut up
[13:36] Cailleach Shan: What is the final question!
[13:36] Herman Bergson: Well...what we may observe here is that materialism always had been regarded as a dangerous philosophy
[13:36] Herman Bergson: and in the case of Diderot...he also pointed at a kind of relativism associated with it
[13:37] Khayyam Kurosawa: yes...since it might get mixed up with determinism
[13:37] Rodney Handrick: hmm...
[13:37] Herman Bergson: yes indeed...that was an issue for Diderot too
[13:38] Herman Bergson: the general theory is something like this...
[13:39] Herman Bergson: material things are interrelated by causality....they bump into eachother
[13:39] Herman Bergson: like balls on a snooker table..
[13:39] Herman Bergson: that leaves is with a few problems...
[13:40] Herman Bergson: first problem..who caused the first bump...
[13:40] Herman Bergson: second problem is..
[13:40] Osrum Sands: and who designed the billard table
[13:40] Herman Bergson: when all objects bump into eachother other the first bump..all bumps can be predicted by calculation..
[13:41] arabella Ella: why is the second one a prob herman?
[13:41] Herman Bergson: if that is so and man is only matter...can we have free will then?
[13:41] Herman Bergson: for we are no more than a bunch of bumping molecules
[13:42] arabella Ella: wow brilliant
[13:42] Herman Bergson: so all that I do is the result of this chain of bumps
[13:42] Khayyam Kurosawa: we have free will within the boundries of certain chemically set limits.....
[13:42] arabella Ella: so did the prob of determinism scare him?
[13:42] Khayyam Kurosawa: excuse the english herman
[13:42] Osrum Sands: determined ? dont think so !
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: but we only assume that the effect will be the same as before
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: limits...that we are aware of at the moment
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: free will may alter the effect
[13:43] Herman Bergson: Just a moment...
[13:43] Herman Bergson: I just gave you a very sketchy description of the materialistic reasoning...
[13:44] Rodney Handrick: yes...what is that? lol
[13:44] Herman Bergson: it creates tons of questions...
[13:45] Khayyam Kurosawa: determinism and free will dont have to be in conflict do they?
[13:45] Herman Bergson: It depends on how you define free...
[13:46] Khayyam Kurosawa: and the extend of the free will...
[13:46] Khayyam Kurosawa: if free will is programmed to a certain extend...its determined that you have it.....
[13:46] Khayyam Kurosawa: so you jsut run into some boundries maybe
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Yes..Hume himself had trouble with determinism and free will.
[13:46] jaz123 Trilling is Online
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: That's a contradiction isn't it.... programmed free will.
[13:47] Khayyam Kurosawa: not,re free will is the result of a program that leave you to choose things
[13:47] Osrum Sands: appears to be
[13:47] arabella Ella: but how free are we really? surely we are not as free as we think we are
[13:47] Khayyam Kurosawa: like the computer on mars...whats it called
[13:47] Khayyam Kurosawa: its left to take its own decisions...
[13:47] Cailleach Shan: So... who wrote the programme?
[13:47] Khayyam Kurosawa: its programmed to have a certain free will
[13:47] Khayyam Kurosawa: people did
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: we are as freee as natures laws will allow us to be
[13:48] Herman Bergson: will is a serious candidate as a subject for a lecture...
[13:48] Rodney Handrick: yes it is
[13:48] Cailleach Shan: Sure is..... first we would have to agree on a definition.
[13:48] Khayyam Kurosawa: yes good one aristotle
[13:48] Osrum Sands: Khay how does the analagy - I am free to walk around the train but the train is not free to go where ever it wants, how does that seem to you
[13:49] Khayyam Kurosawa: yeah......thats ok
[13:49] Osrum Sands: is limited freedom really freedom
[13:49] Herman Bergson: well....let me summarize this issue...
[13:49] Cailleach Shan: No... it's an illusion.
[13:50] Khayyam Kurosawa: true...i would not take a train then......but a bird or something
[13:50] Rodney Handrick: have the constraints of the natural laws
[13:50] Khayyam Kurosawa: if we compare it to humans
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: but is waht we have
[13:50] Khayyam Kurosawa: human brain i mean
[13:50] Khayyam Kurosawa: we are free to walk around the bird but the brid cant leave earth....thats a better analogy
[13:50] Herman Bergson: The main issue here is as old as philosophy...
[13:51] Osrum Sands: our limited minds
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: In my mind I am as free as I want to be
[13:51] Rodney Handrick: Because the bird is bound by the laws of nature
[13:51] Khayyam Kurosawa: yes
[13:51] Cailleach Shan: Give us the 'main issue' again Herman. I'm
[13:51] Herman Bergson: let me resume....:-)
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: go Herman
[13:52] Osrum Sands: the idea of freedom 'from' or 'to' enters here I think
[13:52] Osrum Sands: sorry
[13:52] Herman Bergson: We live in a material world....even the old Greek knew that
[13:52] Herman Bergson: the concept of causality is also univerally causes effects..
[13:53] Herman Bergson: there is always a neceasary relation between cause and effect...
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Hume took a very critical look at that...but the matter stays..
[13:54] Herman Bergson: now..when all things...and I really mean All things are causally related
[13:54] Herman Bergson: there nothing happens without a cause....
[13:54] Herman Bergson: and here we have full determinism....
[13:54] arabella Ella: but Hume had different ideas concerning causation didn't he?
[13:54] Herman Bergson: you can apply this line of reasoning on the macro and microworl..
[13:55] Herman Bergson: only in an empirical way, Arabella..
[13:55] Herman Bergson: the thing is...
[13:56] Herman Bergson: man has also an inclination to think of...well give it a name..a metaphysics that transcends this material causality
[13:56] Herman Bergson: the idea that there is more than just matter...
[13:57] Herman Bergson: and in this 17th century you see how far the Western mind has is open to a materialist theory of reality and in case of Diderot even of mind
[13:58] Herman Bergson: this is really a turningpoint...
[13:58] Osrum Sands: see Karl Marx
[13:58] Herman Bergson: yes Aristotle...
[13:58] Herman Bergson: we can see all who come next from this perspective...
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd is Online
[13:59] Herman Bergson: so ..if you want to dig soem deeprer into thei smatter......try to get info on determinism...
[13:59] Herman Bergson: free will will defintely be a paragraph in what you find
[13:59] Herman Bergson:
[14:00] Herman Bergson: goo dplace to look
[14:00] Herman Bergson: and
[14:00] Herman Bergson: you go a lot to study..:-)
[14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: yes and ech webstie will leads us to another in search of knowledge
[14:01] Khayyam Kurosawa: herman! dank je was to go now
[14:01] Khayyam Kurosawa: all of you..see you next time
[14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Kha
[14:01] Herman Bergson: Bye Khayyam
[14:01] Khayyam Kurosawa: how do i get invited for this btw?
[14:01] Cailleach Shan: Bye Khay
[14:01] Osrum Sands: herman my net security tells me that iep has spy ware
[14:01] Herman Bergson: thnx for your contribution to the discussion
[14:02] Herman Bergson: That is very odd Osrum..
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: Khayyam go to the group and join
[14:02] Osrum Sands: just tried it and thats what popped up
[14:02] Khayyam Kurosawa: ok.......
[14:03] Herman Bergson: Well thank you all for your atention and good discussion..:-)
[14:04] AristotleVon Doobie: Thanks you Heramn
[14:04] Osrum Sands: Herman would you say that the metaphysical / material issue is only one then your definition of the material is limited
[14:04] Swimming Submariner: thanks for such a great subject matter.... I'm at the next one :)
[14:04] Siren Fall: Thanks, herman. :)
[14:04] Mickorod Renard: thank you v much
[14:04] arabella Ella: thank you herman for another very interesting lecture and discussion
[14:04] Mickorod Renard: i really enjoyed it herman
[14:04] Swimming Submariner: me too thanks....
[14:05] Herman Bergson: thnx all...I am glad you enjoyed our class...esp the new people present
[14:05] Rodney Handrick: thanks Herman...
Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-02-19 18:15:40

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