The 'Éléments de physiologie' is generally viewed as the book that never was. Diderot never managed, we have been told, to synthesise his brilliant notes and jottings drawn from across the scientific disciplines into a finished text. In 'The Atheist’s Bible', Caroline Warman applies deft, tenacious and often witty textual detective work to the case, as she explores the shadowy passage and influence of Diderot’s materialist writings in manuscript samizdat-like form from the Revolutionary era through to the Restoration. Her conclusion, that Diderot’s text is in fact present within Jacques-André Naigeon’s 1823 work, 'Mémoires historiques et philosophiques sur la vie et les ouvrages de Denis Diderot', is triumphantly convincing. The book that never was has been staring us in the face all along. Its identity documents fully now in order following Warman’s tour de force, 'Éléments de physiologie' can be warmly welcomed into the Enlightenment materialist canon.
Queen Mary University of London
Overturning prevailing views that Denis Diderot's 'Éléments de physiologie' was incomplete, fragmentary, and noncirculating, Warman (Univ. of Oxford, UK) argues that this little-studied work made a significant contribution to materialist thought. In 13 chapters divided in two parts, Warman revives Diderot’s treatise as a seminal work of the Enlightenment [...] Those interested in the history of philosophy, the history of medicine, or the Enlightenment in general will find this work pivotal for understanding Diderot’s contribution to atheism and materialism.
V. Arnaud, California State University, Sacramento
Choice Connect (0009-4978), vol. 59, no. 2, 2021.