Site de Benoît Melançon / Thèses canadiennes en littérature française du XVIIIe siècle

Rioux-Beaulne, Mitia, «Diderot et la productivité de l’esprit : aspects gnoséologiques, épistémologiques et esthétiques de l’invention», Montréal, Université de Montréal, thèse de doctorat, 2006, 418 p. Dir. : Daniel Dumouchel.

Diderot and the Productivity of the MindGnoseological, Epistemological and Esthetic Aspects of Invention. The basis for this thesis is the observation that the joint development of nominalism and sensualism allowed philosophers at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries to contribute to the promotion of a productive rather than contemplative conception of the mind. As this conception developed, it influenced the way people looked at the functioning of the mind, the status of concepts, and how these were manifested.

In this light, Diderot’s position is remarkable, especially given that this conception of the mind unfolds in a materialist context where productivity of the mind must be thought of as an effect of the productivity of nature. This fundamental outcome is that the entire field of activity of the mind is interpreted experimentally. Here we examine Diderot’s conception of productivity of the mind from three theoretical viewpoints.

From the viewpoint of a dynamic of the mind, we observe, initially, that Diderot’s materialism places a great deal of emphasis on the imagination as a productive source of concepts. Secondly, we observe that producing concepts leads to constructing entities (notably linguistic) that in turn affect the productivity of the mind, placing it in the domain of history. From this stems an ontology of concepts, wherein productions of the mind are seen in terms of their way of being.

From the viewpoint of a theory of science, production of concepts is seen as a progressive construction of knowledge that becomes an interpretation of nature, a construction that, well-thought-out, defines the epistemological requirements of experimental science.

By analogy, we may think of a theory of fine arts as an area fostering development an experimental aesthetic where productivity of the mind is expressed through the production of objects whose very materiality is the concept: objects that give knowledge the shape of experience.

Keywords: Philosophy • Diderot • Philosophy of Enlightenment • Gnoseology • Epistemology • Esthetic • Imagination • Mind • Science • Art

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