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La "Lettre sur les aveugles"

Le matérialisme dans la Lettre sur les aveugles

Jean-Claude Bourdin


Materialism in the Letter on the Blind
One of the aspects of the fascination exercised by the Letter on the Blind is the presence at its heart of a speech which expresses the increasingly enthusiastic and ecstatic vision inhabiting the blind Saunderson. This vision, which places him outside and above the world, allows him to imagine and conceive the formation of living beings and worlds according to categories whch exclude any intelligence, intention or choice. They emerge from the untangling of an original material chaos and perpetually form themselves and engender forms in which order and regularity still coexist with agitation, disorder and revolutions. This vision, seen by many readers as materialistic, has seemed to express Diderot’s espousal of a less speculative or literary materialism than that to be found in his previous writings. We here show that this is not the case and that it is difficult to affirm that Diderot is a materialist in the Letter. However, the form of Saunderson’s speech indicates that Diderot is moving towards the elaboration of a plan or a basis of thinking for an opernly conjectural materialism.

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Electronic reference

Jean-Claude Bourdin, « Le matérialisme dans la Lettre sur les aveugles », Recherches sur Diderot et sur l'Encyclopédie [Online], 28 | 2000, Online since 18 June 2006, connection on 20 January 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Jean-Claude Bourdin

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