Because of its fragmentary, evolving, exploratory, and dialectical character, Diderot's thought has continuously resisted overall synthesis. In the ideas of "order" and "disorder," ideas important in all of eighteenth-century thought, Lester G. Crocker finds the key to an outline of a structure that leads to a genuine synthesis of Diderot's writings on philosophy, morality, politics, and aesthetics.
The tensions in Diderot's thought, Professor Crocker shows, reflect his understanding of reality itself—paradoxically, an anarchic order, a dynamic universe governed by laws but always changing in a chaotic way.
The book examines Diderot's approach to aesthetics as a human ordering response to the world, and his approach to morals and politics as practical ways of dealing with the problems of order and disorder in the context of life in society. In light of the concepts of order and disorder, the inextricable associations of all of these realms of thought in Diderot's work become clear, and a unity is perceived.
Since the problem of order and disorder was fundamental to an age faced with the dissolution of the Christian view of cosmic order, this novel approach to Diderot's work suggests new ways of understanding the Enlightenment as a whole.
Originally published in 1974.
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