Diderot, Balzac and the Physiology of Love

Marian Skrzypek

Diderot follows Hobe’s materialistic tradition, which sees love as the manifestation of the energy of nature. He wishes to tame this brute and wild nature, and praises the society of the Tahitians, where the wife is not as yet privately owned by her husband. Another source of the notion of the energy of nature in Diderot is platonian eros considered as the creative cosmical force. In Platon Diderot fi nds also the physiological explanation of love. In this respect, he continues deliberations about enthusiasm undertaken by Plato and Shaft esbury. For Diderot, enthusiasm is a romantic notion. The reflection on hysteria leads Diderot to formulate the notion of alienation. Balzac as a reader of Diderot classifies women’s neuroses as romantic neuroses, melancholic in nature, and classic neuroses, which are aggressive in nature. In the latter, he detects women’s subconscious emancipatory revolt.


Keywords: Diderot · Balzac · alienation · love · human comedy · energy of nature · subconsciousness · marital infidelity · neuroses · romanticism · community of women

Marian Skrzypek — Professor emeritus at IFiS Pan. Romanist and historian of philosophy and religion. He specialized in the Enlightenment Thought, chiefly French and Polish. Author of the monographs on Diderot, Holbach, Maréchal; he also translated their works into Polish. He wrote: French Enlightenment and rudiments of religious studies (1989); he also published within the book series „700 years of Polish thought” a volume regarding Polish philosophy between 1700 — 1763. Laureate of the French Academic Palms.   »  

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