Quotes

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 320

Illustration of PDF document

Download Rameau's Nephew Study Guide

Subscribe Now

We swallow whole the lie which flatters us and sip drop by drop a truth set down before us.

Here, Rameau's nephew explains to the narrator how he exchanges his outrageous conversation for a "good time": fools, he states, will pay to listen to him talk. When the narrator asks how he gets people to accept what he has to say, the nephew responds, above, by stating that he mixes bits of truth with large amounts of flattery.

Nothing is so insipid as a sequence of perfect chords. There has to be something which acts as a spur, which breaks up the light and scatters its rays.

Diderot, mocking a world in which the "vices" of wealth and stupidity are admired more than rationality or good sense, comically has Rameau's nephew approve these vices. As Rameau's nephew discusses educating a child, he says that while it is important that the child be brought up with vices, it is also important that he have a sense of "proportion:" to be able to avoid dishonor, shame, and legal problems. This ability to dodge the consequences of vices, he says, with comic cynicism, is what makes a person interesting, what "breaks up the light."

The best order of things, in my view, is one in which I had to exist. Who cares about the most perfect of worlds, if I'm not on it?

The narrator and Rameau's nephew are discussing why God didn't make a more perfect world: why didn't he, the nephew asks, make the great people of the world good as well as great? Using the popular "best of all possible worlds" philosophy, the narrator says we have to have bad elements in this world to perceive the good. The nephew mocks the whole concept of a best world by saying that all that matters is that he is alive in the word. This shines a light on humankind's essential egotism.

Previous

Analysis