The Atheist's Bible: Diderot's 'Éléments de physiologie' - cover image


Caroline Warman

Published On





  • English

Print Length

442 pages (x+432)


Paperback156 x 31 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1.21" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 35 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1.38" x 9.21")


Paperback1838g (64.83oz)
Hardback2241g (79.05oz)



OCLC Number





  • HP
  • DSB
  • DN
  • 3J


  • PHI000000
  • LIT004150
  • LIT024030


  • B825


  • Diderot
  • philosophy
  • man
  • matter
  • mind
  • body
  • emotion
  • perception
  • human
  • soul
  • materialism
  • nature
  • Naigeon
  • Enlightenment

The Atheist's Bible

Diderot's 'Éléments de physiologie'

  • Caroline Warman (author)
Winner of the R. Gapper Book Prize 2021 for Best Book in French Studies.
‘Love is harder to explain than hunger, for a piece of fruit does not feel the desire to be eaten’: Denis Diderot’s Éléments de physiologie presents a world in flux, turning on the relationship between man, matter and mind. In this late work, Diderot delves playfully into the relationship between bodily sensation, emotion and perception, and asks his readers what it means to be human in the absence of a soul.

The Atheist’s Bible challenges prevailing scholarly views on Diderot’s Éléments, asserting its contemporary philosophical importance, and prompting its readers to inspect more closely this little-known and little-studied work. This book is accompanied by a digital edition of Jacques-André Naigeon’s Mémoires historiques et philosophiques sur la vie et les ouvrages de Denis Diderot (1823), a work which, Warman argues, represents the first publication of Diderot’s Éléments, long before its official publication date of 1875.

The Atheist’s Bible constitutes a major contribution to the field of Diderot studies, and will be of further interest to scholars and students of materialist natural philosophy in the Age of Enlightenment and beyond.


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.

Colin Jones

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.


Caroline Warman

Lecturer in French at University of Oxford