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Rameau's Nephew / D'Alembert's Dream

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  1,481 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
One of the key figures of the French Enlightenment, Denis Diderot was a passionate critic of conventional morality, society and religion. Among his greatest and most well-known works, these two dialogues are dazzling examples of his radical scientific and philosophical beliefs. In Rameau's Nephew, the eccentric and foolish nephew of the great composer Jean-Philippe Rameau ...more
Paperback, 237 pages
Published October 28th 1976 by Penguin Books (first published 1769)
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Aug 05, 2009 Bruce rated it liked it
Denis Diderot was one of the foremost figures of the French Enlightenment, living from 1713-1784. Rameau’s Nephew is an imaginary dialogue between Diderot and the nephew of the composer, Rameau, who compares himself to Diogenes, the Cynic philosopher.

Here is an interesting assertion made within this dialogue: If we repudiate the circumstances under which we currently find ourselves, we repudiate our own existence, because our own existence is among the consequences of the circumstances that are
Jan 11, 2014 Zadignose added it
Shelves: 18th-century
Rameau's Nephew is an examination of the dilemma of a social-hanger-on, an intellectual near-genius, who is just short of becoming a great man, but who is also a sort of product of a degenerate society, who can't manage to rise above the demands of his stomach, and so he has to behave in a somewhat craven way. He's somewhat short of greatness... but he's also somewhat short of complete depravity. He has a mind and inclination to become a very talented devil and rogue, but yet at the same time he ...more
Feb 11, 2015 Marina rated it it was amazing
So, there's this crazy violin player that busks in my subway station. He's probably in his mid-forties, and in the many months that I have known him, I have only seen him in one set of clothes. When he plays, you can tell that he was probably classically trained as a kid, and showed great promise as a young man. Then, something or another must've gone wrong, and now here he is, playing violin on the Q train platform at the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station in Brooklyn every day, hard ...more
Pierre E. Loignon
Cet excellent ouvrage de Diderot a été connu du public d’une très étrange manière. Ce n’est, en effet, qu’en 1805, par le biais d’une traduction allemande (faite par nul autre que Goethe) qu’il sera publié pour la première fois. Pour ce qui est de la version originale, elle attendra encore plus de quinze ans avant de paraître.
On y trouve le récit « biographique » d’une rencontre entre l’auteur et Jean-François Rameau. Bien que les deux hommes soient tous deux fatalistes, qu’ils ont tous deux réu
erica wissick
Jun 18, 2012 erica wissick rated it it was amazing
I'm inclined to believe that Diderot's Rameau's Nephew was written of his lover.

"Did I admire him? Yes, I did admire. Was I moved to pity? I was moved. But a streak of derision was interwoven with these feelings and denatured them. [...] He would show me every conceivable thing. He wept, laughed, sighed, looked placid or melting or enraged. He was a woman in a spasm of agony, a wretched man sunk in despair, a temple being erected, birds growing silent at sunset, waters murmuring through cool an
Feb 16, 2010 Tyler rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Anyone; Thinkers
The subjects are interesting but the discussion has a dated feel. Rameau's Nephew is at heart a debate on the worth of virtues and moral systems as opposed to pure self interest. D'Alembert's Dream is a debate that anticipates Darwin by a century by trying to knock down a teleological view of reality. Striking in this last book are Diderot's astonishingly modern comments about masturbation and same-sex attraction.
Dec 12, 2010 Craig rated it really liked it
Each work I finish of Diderot's push him deeper into my mind/soul, and higher in my esteem of his amazing range and intellect. Such a range and intellect can be found in Rameau's Nephew and D'Alembert's Dream.
In Rameau, a dialog between what one may assume is Diderot and Rameau's Nephew, a sycophant describes his views on music and society. The discussion also digs into moral values and attacks opponents of the Encyclopedie. We wear many masks and take on different roles as the situation requir
John Jr.
Nov 06, 2011 John Jr. rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, fiction
Withheld by Diderot during his lifetime, much admired by Goethe, used by Hegel in his Phenomenology of Spirit to illustrate a point, Rameau's Nephew is a portrait of two characters, really: one is called Diderot and is much like the author, making this book a precursor to contemporary fictions in which the author (or someone bearing his name) appears as a character; the other is the nephew of a famous composer and is drawn from life as well. The point of the exercise is the latter--more precisel ...more
Roger Burk
Dec 21, 2012 Roger Burk rated it really liked it
"Man is merely a frequent effect, a monstrosity is a rare one, but both are equally natural, equally inevitable, equally part of the universal and general order" (p. 181). Thus raves the renowned and historical scientist d'Alembert in his sleep, after discussing with Diderot the consequences of a purely materialist account of life. So with startling precocity Diderot gives us the dreadful consequences of the anti-spiritual side of the Enlightenment. Romanticism is refuted in advance: "Mademoisel ...more
Sep 02, 2016 Alexander rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, france
Two interesting dialogues by Diderot that leave the reader with the strong impression that Diderot was an engaging artist but, like many other figures of the French Enlightenment and unlike those of the Scottish Enlightenment, was not really a very powerful philosopher. The two dialogues are each interesting, however, as I said, and ably illustrate some of the challenges that the French Enlightenment struggled with. Diderot often seems to have used his dialogues as ways to grapple with the more ...more
Jun 09, 2013 Matt rated it liked it
Devil take me if I really know what I am. As a rule my mind is as true as a sphere and my character as honest as the day: never false if I have the slightest interest in being true, never true if I have the slightest interest in being false. I say things as they come to me; if sensible, all to the good, but if outrageous, people don’t take any notice. I use freedom of speech for all it’s worth. I have never reflected in my life, either before speaking, during speech or after. And so I give no of
Douglas Dalrymple
Dec 20, 2012 Douglas Dalrymple rated it liked it
There’s a lot of name-dropping in Rameau’s Nephew, which is maybe why Diderot never published the book while living. It recounts a long, probably fictitious conversation between Diderot himself and the brilliantly unsavory person named in the title, the real-life down-at-heels nephew of the French baroque composer Rameau.

When not performing intricate pantomimes and discoursing on musical theory, Rameau’s nephew (who does most of the talking) explains how he makes his living as a sponge and buffo
Philippe Billé
Dernièrement j'ai lu Le neveu de Rameau, déniché sur une étagère de chez mon hôte, dans une vieille édition de poche mal brochée à la colle, dont les feuilles brunies se détachaient à mesure que je les tournais. Les premières pages m'ont enchanté, vraiment, puis le charme est retombé et je me suis un peu forcé pour terminer. J'aime bien la forme générale du texte, un dialogue entre «Moi» (l'auteur) et «Lui» (un original déclassé), j'aime le ton et les jolies tournures de l'époque, les aperçus de ...more
Feb 20, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing
Denis Diderot was a man misplaced for the age. Living in the 1700s he was restricted to voicing his opinions about science, life, sex, and social relations because of the implications it would have raised. Because of this most of his work was never published until after his death and the copies of his work seem to have defied the odds so that they COULD get published. For example, D'Alembert's Dream was only made into two copies. One was sent to a friend of Diderot, Grimm, and the other was dest ...more
May 28, 2015 Arukiyomi rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001-books
This was not for me. A philosophical treatise comparing the viewpoints of a moralist with an amoralist set up as a chance meeting of two guys in a cafe. I found the whole thing pretty tedious to listen to although Diderot occasionally put together a nimble turn of phrase that made me chuckle.

I appreciate that this was an important book at the time, mostly because it pushed the boundaries of what was considered possible in a novel, and it was influential for that. On the whole though, this was on
May 31, 2013 Chris rated it liked it
3.5 stars - probably more if you're interested in the period, philosophy or the history of biology/medicine.

*Rameau's Nephew* is the meatier piece. There is debate about what Diderot intended this conversation to represent. The correct answer is less important than pondering the question. Is it a conversation between parts of consciousness ( it does contain a sneak peak of the Oedipus complex 100 years before Freud's birth)? Rameau's Nephew espouses a philosophy of life at stark contrast to Dide
Monty Milne
Sep 28, 2015 Monty Milne rated it liked it
A very odd book. I can't quite work out what it is all meant to be about...a satire on those who attacked Diderot and his disciples? A discussion of disagreements in musical fashion? The problem is that some of the disagreements satirised seem trivial and that because of where I am sitting, or is that part of the satire? And is there some deeper philosophical musing which I am too dim to grasp, or is it all just a way of whiling after an afternoon in conversation with an amusingl ...more
Darran Mclaughlin
This is ok but it isn't a patch on Jaques the Fatalist, which is one of the most incredible novels ever written. Rameau's Nephew is a philosophical dialogue which reminds me of the Maxims of La Rochefocauld, Kierkegaard, Knut Hamsum and Notes from the Underground. Rameau's nephew is frankly amoral and his dialogue with Diderot undermines the conventional morality and beliefs of his society. D'Alembert's dream is a dialogue in which the characters discuss the notion of a materialist interpretatio ...more
Apr 17, 2016 Kim rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics, not-again
I have lots of book lists. Lists of classics. Top 100 classics, top 50 classics, American, 18th century, 19th century, etc. all kinds of lists. But whenever I come across a book on one of my "you must read this book before you die" lists that has the word philosophy anywhere on it, I should skip over it. I have decided I simply hate philosophy.

Rameau's Nephew was no different for me. It asked questions that I don't know the answer to and really don't care. It was a conversation between two peop
Jun 02, 2016 Martin rated it liked it
Well this one was interesting on the 1,001 Books to Read list. It wasn't epistolary, had nothing to do with pining lovers, nobody died of a broken heart, and it wasn't the size of a factory cornerstone.

Instead it was a philosophical conversation between two gentlemen, who really enjoy music and art, (though they don't discuss anything to a true conclusion), and who admire how women shake their moneymakers. What's not to like?

Oh sure, I have a soft spot for this because I wrote a very similarly-t
Daniel Klawitter
Dec 27, 2014 Daniel Klawitter rated it really liked it

"One swallows the lie that flatters, but sips the biter truth drop by drop."

"The best order of things, to my way of thinking, is the one I was meant to be part of, and to hell with the most perfect of worlds if I am not of it."

" is as easy to be a man of intelligence and look silly as to conceal a fool behind a clever-looking face."

"A beard is all you need to be a sage."

"...even in the smallest things stupidity is so rife and so powerful that you can't change it without the hell of a fuss."
Rameau's Nephew: 4 stars.
This conversation is really incredibly interesting, because not only does it bring up important moral questions, it also offers us a great insight into 18th-century French society. Many artists, politicians, actresses etc that were famous back then are mentioned, and I just love seeing these people through the eyes of someone who lived at the same time. Also, Rameau is one of my favourite composers, so hurrah for the title.

D'Alembert's Dream: 2 stars.
Discussion of physic
Apr 20, 2010 Audrey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, philosophy
Rameau's Nephew is wonderful. It's witty and funny, and except for a few incidental details, feels like a contemporary conversation. I was less enamored of D'Alembert's Dream, but it could be interesting from a history of science point of view. Still, I'm impressed by Diderot's range. What really comes through most of all is Diderot's personality, especially his intellectual curiosity and playfulness. He's now at the top of my "who would you have dinner with" list (not that I keep a list like th ...more
Dec 30, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it
Diderot is one of the great enlightenment figures that no one has heard of. The father of the Enclyclopedia, he is also a great author whose works call into question even the ideals of his enlightenment peers. As a book, Rameau's Nephew touches upon some of the same self satisfied philosophy that Voltaire targets in Candide, but Diderot's work here is far more interesting, funny and compelling as a refutation of the simplistic everything happens for a reason reassurance.
Aug 16, 2007 Chauncey rated it it was amazing
Rameau's Nephew is a fun, short read. It's a nice depiction of a person who embodies a cynical take on social intercourse. The title character essentially is happy to act how people expect him to act, even if this makes him appear inconsistent or contradictory. He believes we essentially wear different masks for different occasions and that talk of consistency of character or morals is ultimately beside the point.
Sep 18, 2011 julieta rated it it was ok
Shelves: europa
I read this book about 10 years go, and I couldn't remember what impression it had made on me. Now I know why. Its pretty easy to forget, I really could not get into it, maybe its just I am not that much into philosophy just now. And it seems a little outdated to me. I likes Rameaus nephew more, but I do not find it to be of Diderots best or more representative books. ...more
Jim Booth
Feb 14, 2015 Jim Booth rated it really liked it
Diderot's most well known piece, the dialogue "Rameau's Nephew," is a discourse on what good behavior is - delivered with droll irony by one who has found being good beyond his capabilities....

See the rest of the review at - link available at my Goodreads page. Thanks for stopping by!
Czarny Pies
Oct 01, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ceux qui le trouve sur la liste des lectures d'un cours qu'ils doivent suivre.
Recommended to Czarny by: Le Professeur Aubrey Rosenberg.
Shelves: french-lit
Le Neveu de Rameau est reflexion sur le conflit entre la vertu et le mal dans la forme d'un dialogue de virtuouse entre un philosophe qui est partisan de la vertu et le fictif neveu du celebre compositeur Rameau qui est un escroc cynique. On arrive jamais aux conclusions bien entendu mais la conversation frénétique est bien savoureuse.
Started off okay, lost me in the middle, and only became coherent at the end after I had a glass of wine. Since I doubt I can take a glass of wine in with me to the comprehensive exam, I’m giving it one star. Sorry, Diderot.
Frank Cardenas
Nov 05, 2007 Frank Cardenas rated it liked it
I read it also as a requirement to my BA degree; unfortunately, I don't recall a lot of the book, the title remind me of this guy surviving in a very complex French society, what I can remember, though, is the passionate teacher who taught us French Literature.
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Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent persona during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie.

Diderot also contributed to literature, notably with Jacques le fataliste et son maître (Jacques the Fatalist and his Master), which emulated Laurence Sterne in challenging conventions
More about Denis Diderot...

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“For me, my thoughts are my prostitutes.” 23 likes
“The best order of things, as I see it, is the one that includes me; to hell with the most perfect of worlds, if I'm not part of it.” 8 likes
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