Caroline Warman

Published On


Page Range

pp. 17-60

Print Length

43 pages

2. ‘Toutes les imperfections de l’inachèvement’

The Mystification about the Manuscript Fragments

  • Caroline Warman (author)
Chapter Two maps current scholarship on the Éléments de physiologie and traces the existing view of this text as a bundle of working notes back to Diderot himself. Within the foreword to an early draft of the Éléments, Diderot recounts the story of an author who, interrupted by death, leaves behind an incomplete piece of writing made from ‘scattered and separate scraps of paper’. Warman argues that Diderot was alluding here to Blaise Pascal’s posthumous Pensées, a puzzling collection of fragments that represented Pascal’s defence of Christianity. This chapter subsequently identifies common reference points between Pascal’s and Diderot’s writings such as animalistic instinct, physical pleasure, and bodily monstrosity. Warman concludes by stating that Diderot positioned Pascal as a ‘crucial interlocutor’ in order to present his own Éléments as an atheistic response to - and rebuttal of - religious accounts of man and nature.


Caroline Warman