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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index D > Denis Diderot Quotes

Denis Diderot
(5 Oct 1713 - 31 Jul 1784)

French encyclopedist.


Science Quotes by Denis Diderot (5 quotes)

Do you see this egg? With this you can topple every theological theory, every church or temple in the world.
— Denis Diderot
'Conversation Between d'Alembert and Diderot,' D'Alembert's Dream (written 1769, published 1830). Reprinted in Selected Writings, ed. Lester G. Crocker (1966).
Science quotes on:  |  Church (56)  |  Do (1908)  |  Egg (69)  |  See (1081)  |  Temple (42)  |  Theology (52)  |  Theory (970)  |  World (1774)

I picture the vast realm of the sciences as an immense landscape scattered with patches of dark and light. The goal towards which we must work is either to extend the boundaries of the patches of light, or to increase their number. One of these tasks falls to the creative genius; the other requires a sort of sagacity combined with perfectionism.
— Denis Diderot
Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature and Other Philosophical Works (1753/4), ed. D. Adams (1999), Section XIV, 42.
Science quotes on:  |  Creative (137)  |  Dark (140)  |  Experiment (695)  |  Extend (128)  |  Fall (230)  |  Genius (284)  |  Goal (145)  |  Immense (86)  |  Increase (210)  |  Landscape (39)  |  Light (607)  |  Must (1526)  |  Number (699)  |  Observation (555)  |  Other (2236)  |  Picture (143)  |  Realm (85)  |  Require (219)  |  Sagacity (10)  |  Science (3879)  |  Task (147)  |  Vast (177)  |  Work (1351)

Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.
— Denis Diderot
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Elevate (12)  |  Great (1574)  |  Passion (114)  |  Soul (226)  |  Thing (1915)

The focal points of our different reflections have been called “science”’ or “art” according to the nature of their “formal” objects, to use the language of logic. If the object leads to action, we give the name of “art” to the compendium of rules governing its use and to their technical order. If the object is merely contemplated under different aspects, the compendium and technical order of the observations concerning this object are called “science.” Thus metaphysics is a science and ethics is an art. The same is true of theology and pyrotechnics.
— Denis Diderot
Definition of 'Art', Encyclopιdie (1751). Translated by Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer (1965), 4.
Science quotes on:  |  According (237)  |  Action (327)  |  Art (657)  |  Aspect (124)  |  Call (769)  |  Compendium (5)  |  Concern (228)  |  Contemplate (18)  |  Different (577)  |  Ethic (40)  |  Ethics (50)  |  Formal (33)  |  Govern (64)  |  Governing (20)  |  Language (293)  |  Lead (384)  |  Logic (287)  |  Merely (316)  |  Metaphysics (50)  |  Name (333)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Object (422)  |  Observation (555)  |  Order (632)  |  Point (580)  |  Pyrotechnic (2)  |  Reflection (90)  |  Rule (294)  |  Science (3879)  |  Science And Art (184)  |  Technical (43)  |  Theology (52)  |  Use (766)

We have three principal means: observation of nature, reflection, and experiment. Observation gathers the facts, reflection combines them, experiment verifies the result of the combination. It is essential that the observation of nature be assiduous, that reflection be profound, and that experimentation be exact. Rarely does one see these abilities in combination. And so, creative geniuses are not common.
— Denis Diderot
In On the Interpretation of Nature (1753).
Science quotes on:  |  Combination (144)  |  Combine (57)  |  Common (436)  |  Creative (137)  |  Essential (199)  |  Experiment (695)  |  Fact (1210)  |  Facts (553)  |  Gather (72)  |  Mean (809)  |  Means (579)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Observation (555)  |  Principal (63)  |  Profound (104)  |  Reflection (90)  |  Result (677)  |  See (1081)



Quotes by others about Denis Diderot (1)

Euler was a believer in God, downright and straightforward. The following story is told by Thiebault, in his Souvenirs de vingt ans de sιjour ΰ Berlin, … Thiebault says that he has no personal knowledge of the truth of the story, but that it was believed throughout the whole of the north of Europe. Diderot paid a visit to the Russian Court at the invitation of the Empress. He conversed very freely, and gave the younger members of the Court circle a good deal of lively atheism. The Empress was much amused, but some of her counsellors suggested that it might be desirable to check these expositions of doctrine. The Empress did not like to put a direct muzzle on her guest’s tongue, so the following plot was contrived. Diderot was informed that a learned mathematician was in possession of an algebraical demonstration of the existence of God, and would give it him before all the Court, if he desired to hear it. Diderot gladly consented: though the name of the mathematician is not given, it was Euler. He advanced toward Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction:
Monsieur, (a + bn) / n = x, donc Dieu existe; repondez!

Diderot, to whom algebra was Hebrew, was embarrassed and disconcerted; while peals of laughter rose on all sides. He asked permission to return to France at once, which was granted.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1878), 251. [The declaration in French expresses, “therefore God exists; please answer!” This Euler-Diderot anecdote, as embellished by De Morgan, is generally regarded as entirely fictional. Diderot before he became an encyclopedist was an accomplished mathematician and fully capable of recognizing—and responding to—the absurdity of an algebraic expression in proving the existence of God. See B.H. Brown, 'The Euler-Diderot Anecdote', The American Mathematical Monthly (May 1942), 49, No. 5, 392-303. —Webmaster.]
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Advance (280)  |  Algebra (113)  |  All (4108)  |  Amused (3)  |  Ask (411)  |  Atheism (9)  |  Belief (578)  |  Believer (25)  |  Check (24)  |  Circle (110)  |  Consent (14)  |  Contrive (10)  |  Converse (8)  |  Conviction (97)  |  Court (33)  |  Deal (188)  |  Demonstration (113)  |  Desirable (33)  |  Desire (204)  |  Direct (225)  |  Doctrine (75)  |  Leonhard Euler (35)  |  Europe (43)  |  Existence (456)  |  Exposition (15)  |  Follow (378)  |  France (27)  |  Freely (13)  |  Gladly (2)  |  God (757)  |  Good (889)  |  Grant (73)  |  Gravely (2)  |  Guest (5)  |  Hear (139)  |  Hebrew (10)  |  Inform (47)  |  Invitation (11)  |  Knowledge (1529)  |  Laughter (31)  |  Learn (629)  |  Learned (235)  |  Lively (17)  |  Mathematician (387)  |  Mathematicians and Anecdotes (141)  |  Member (41)  |  Name (333)  |  North (11)  |  Peal (2)  |  Perfect (216)  |  Permission (7)  |  Personal (67)  |  Plot (11)  |  Possession (65)  |  Return (124)  |  Rose (34)  |  Russia (13)  |  Say (984)  |  Side (233)  |  Story (118)  |  Straightforward (10)  |  Suggest (34)  |  Tell (340)  |  Throughout (98)  |  Tone (22)  |  Tongue (43)  |  Toward (45)  |  Truth (1057)  |  Visit (26)  |  Whole (738)  |  Young (227)  |  Younger (21)


See also:
  • 5 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Diderot's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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