Denis Diderot

On the need for his Encyclopédie from 1750 (see here):

As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes. When that time comes, a project, until then neglected because the need for it was not felt, will have to be undertaken.


Thanks to encyclopedic ordering, the universality of knowledge, and the frequency of references, the connections grow, the links go out in all directions, the demonstrative power is increased, the word list is complemented, fields of knowledge are drawn closer together and strengthened; we perceive either the continuity or the gaps in our system, its weak sides, its strong points, and at a glance on which objects it is important to work for one’s own glory, or for the greater utility to humankind. If our dictionary is good, how many still better works it will produce.

category: people

Created on August 29, 2017 at 05:30:43. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.