Phantasms of Materialism

  • Jure Simoniti
Keywords: Denis Diderot, materialism, spiritual phantasms, absolute periphery, redoubling, Descartes


Under the name “phantasms of materialism” the paper gathers more or less »literary« moments of Diderot’s œuvre, among others: talking genitals, a body that becomes a head, storytelling, atheism as social posing, a spider that centres the fibres of the world, the great scroll in which everything is written down. Spiritual entities such as speech, chatter, narration, audience, a big head or even the Encyclopedia, the great book of everything, seem to be an irreducible pendant to the materialistic world-view. Thus, the question arises: Why the disenchanted materialist universe requires phantasms that arouse emphatically spiritual connotations? The analysis shows that Diderot’s method of conversation, compared to Cartesian doubt, dissolves the field of absolute negativites, established by differences and oppositions of metaphysical notions, back to the field of relative affirmations. Where Cartesian certainty and truth relies on a self-evident subject, Diderot can offer only a world without centre, a world of total affirmation and absolute periphery. It is structurally impossible to guarantee a place of truth in such a world, therefore the possibility of differentiation of true and false statements can only be founded in a phantasmatic redoubling in the spiritual sphere, in the sphere of the written, of books and conversation.


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How to Cite
Simoniti J. Phantasms of Materialism. FV [Internet]. 2016Feb.6 [cited 2020Jul.10];32(1). Available from: