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Title: Diderot and d'Holbach : a theory of determinism
Author: Sciuto, Ruggero
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 6475
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis offers a detailed analysis of Diderot and d'Holbach's argument for determinism, identifying its building blocks in the Causal Principle, Causal Necessitation, and the Laws of Nature. Diderot and d'Holbach's argument differs significantly from present-day ones and may therefore problematise our modern understanding of determinism. This work next examines how determinism affects both thinkers' ideas about ethics and society, paying considerable attention to their rejection of the notion of Moral Freedom, and to aesthetic and political questions. Finally, it examines those aspects of Diderot's and d'Holbach's thought that seemingly undermine their theory of determinism (for example, their complex understanding of causality); these aspects, however, may be easily reconciled with Diderot and d'Holbach's faith in determinism, given that both thinkers posit the existence of a gap between ontology and epistemology, between reality and humans' perception of it. This thesis sheds new light on Diderot and d'Holbach's metaphysics and on their position in relation to key figures in European philosophy, including Aquinas, Hobbes, Spinoza, Malebranche, Leibniz, and Hume. By identifying connections between Diderot and d'Holbach on the one hand, and thinkers such as Malebranche on the other, this work argues for a reconsideration of the Christian component of Diderot's and d'Holbach's culture, and it also challenges Jonathan Israel's notion of 'Radical Enlightenment'. This thesis further highlights similarities and differences between Diderot's and d'Holbach's writings and philosophy, concluding that, whilst the two thinkers may disagree on specific points, their general attitude towards such notions as determinism, causation, and freedom, is ultimately very similar. The Enlightenment is a period that favours intellectual exchange and collaboration, and Diderot's and d'Holbach's works, as the product of a collaborative philosophical enquiry, perfectly exemplify this phenomenon.
Supervisor: Cronk, Nicholas Sponsor: University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available