Alembert's Dream (part two)

From Hmolpedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The three main characters of part two, the "Dream", of Diderot's Alembert's Dream dialogue, the first part being Julie Lespinasse, the salon hostess whose provides a home to Alembert, and doctor Theophile Bordeu, discussing what Alembert has said in his feverish state of dreaming, with Diderot having frustrated his brain with his "rocks are sentient" argument, the previous day.

In famous publications, Alembert's Dream (part two) (LH:3) refers to part two the "Dream" of Diderot's 1769 Alembert's Dream, which is preceded by the "Conversation", and followed by the "Sequel" or Alembert's Dream (part three).

Overview

The scene of part two is in Alembert’s bedroom in the morning. Alembert is sleeping in a bed with curtains around it. Doctor Bordeu and Julie Lespinasse are sitting near the bed.

  • Julie Lespinasse (1732-1776)[1] [age 37]: Alembert's friend / mistress (or so Alembert falsely believes), nurse, and salon hostess; Alembert had resided in her home for several years, at this point.
  • Theophile Bordeu (1722-1776)[2] [age 47]: a distinguished doctor, noted for work on the pulse[3]; had contributed to the Encyclopedia in 1756; having destated (died) three years prior, he mainly serves as "mouthpiece for Diderot's arguments".[4]

Bordeu, of note, is said to have been an early advocate of "vitalism", believing that the glands possessed a special vital force.[5] This may have played in here, as Diderot was an anti-vitalist materialist, and may have been what sparked the publication into existence [?].

Alembert, after the first day's conversation with Diderot, goes into a fever and utters seemingly unreasonable hallucinations, to which Lespinasse and Bordeau react to.

Translation | Part two | Dream

The following is part two of Alembert's Dream, aka the "Dream" part:

# Person French English
Bordeu Eh bien  ! qu'est-ce qu'il y a de nouveau ? Est-ce qu'il est malade ? All right, then, is there anything new? Is he ill?
Lespinasse Je le crains ; il a eu la nuit la plus agitée. I’m afraid so. He’s had a very disturbed night.
Bordeu Est-il éveillé ? Has he woken up?
Lespinasse Pas encore. Not yet.
Bordeu (Après s'être approché du lit de d'Alembert et lui avoir tâté le pouls et la peau).

Ce ne sera rien.

[after going to D’Alembert’s bed and feeling his pulse and skin]

It won’t be anything.

Lespinasse Vous croyez ? You don’t think so?
Bordeu J'en réponds. Le pouls est bon... un peu faible... la peau moite... la respiration facile. Believe me. The pulse is good . . . a little faint . . . the skin is damp . . . his breathing is easy . . .
Lespinasse N'y a-t-il rien à lui faire ? Is there nothing we can do for him?
Bordeu Rien. Nothing.
Lespinasse Tant mieux, car il déteste les remèdes. So much the better. He hates medicines.
Bordeu Et moi aussi. Qu'a-t-il mangé à souper ? So do I. What did he eat for supper?
Lespinasse Il n'a rien voulu prendre. Je ne sais où il avait passé la soirée, mais il est revenu soucieux. He didn’t want to eat anything. I don’t know where he spent the evening, but he came back concerned about something (but he came back with something on his mind) {but he came back worried}.
Bordeu C'est un petit mouvement fébrile qui n'aura point de suite. He has a slight fever—it won’t lead to anything.
Lespinasse En rentrant, il a pris sa robe de cham­bre, son bonnet de nuit, et s'est jeté dans son fauteuil où, il s'est assoupi. As he came back in, he put on his dressing gown and his night cap and threw himself in his armchair, where he dozed off.
Bordeu Le sommeil est bon partout; mais il eût été mieux dans son lit. Sleep is always beneficial. But it would have been better if he’d been in bed.
Lespinasse Il s'est fâché contre Antoine qui le lui disait, et il a fallu le tirailler une demi-heure pour le faire coucher. He got angry with Antoine for telling him that—we had to pester him for half an hour to make him get to bed.
Bordeu C'est ce qui m'arrive tous les jours, quoique je me porte bien. That happens to me every day, although my health is good.
Lespinasse Quand il a été couché, au lieu de repo­ser comme à son ordinaire, car il dort comme un enfant, il s'est mis à se tourner, à se retourner, à tirer ses bras, à écarter ses couvertures, et à parler haut. When he was in bed, instead of lying peacefully the way he usually does, for he sleeps like a child, he began to turn, rolling around and waving his arms. He threw off his blankets and started to talk out loud.
Bordeu Et qu'est-ce qu'il disait? de la géométrie? What was he talking about? Was it geometry?
Lespinasse Non; cela avait tout l'air du délire. C'était, en commençant, un galimatias[6] de cordes vibrantes et de fibres sensibles. Cela m'a paru si fou que, résolue de ne le pas quitter de la nuit et ne sachant que faire, j'ai approché une petite table du pied de son lit, et me suis mise à écrire tout ce que j'ai pu attraper de sa rêvasserie. No. It all sounded delirious. At the start it was a lot of nonsense about vibrating strings and sensitive fibers. It all seemed so foolish to me, but since I’d decided not to leave him during the night and not knowing what to do, I went to a small table at the foot of his bed and started to write down everything I could catch of his dream talk.
Bordeu Bon tour de tête qui est bien de vous. Et on peut voir cela ? Clever thinking on your part. Can we see the result?
Lespinasse Sans difficulté; mais je veux mourir, si vous y comprenez quelque chose. Of course. But I’ll stake my life you’ll not understand any of it.
Bordeu Peut-être. Perhaps.
Lespinasse Docteur, êtes-vous prêt? Are you ready, doctor?
Bordeu Oui.
Lespinasse Écoutez. “ Un point vivant ... Non, je me trompe. Rien d'abord, puis un point vivant... A ce point vivant il s'en applique un autre, encore un autre; et par ces applications successives il résulte un être un, car je suis bien un, je n'en saurais douter. (En disant cela, il se tâtait partout). Mais comment cette unité s'est-elle faite? - Eh! mon ami, lui ai-je dit, qu'est-ce que cela vous fait ? Dormez.” Il s'est tu. Après un moment de silence, il a repris comme s'il s'adressait à quelqu'un: “Tenez, Philosophe, je vois bien un agrégat, un tissu de petits êtres sensibles, mais un animal !... un tout ? un système un, lui, ayant la conscience de son unité? Je ne le vois pas, non, je ne le vois pas... ” Docteur, y entendez-vous quelque chose ? Listen — “A living point . . . No, I’m wrong. Nothing at first, then a living point . . . Another living point attaches itself to this one, and then another—and from these successive conjoinings a single living unity (unified being) {being one} results, for I am certainly a unity. Of that I have no doubt. . . .” (As he was saying this, he was feeling himself all over). “But how is this unity created?” (“My friend,” I said to him, “what does that matter to you? Go to sleep.” He stopped talking. After a moment of silence, he started up again as if he was talking to someone) . . . “All right, philosopher, I can grasp an aggregate, a tissue of small sensitive beings, but an animal . . . a totality, a unified system, on its own, with an awareness of its own unity? That I don’t understand. No, I don’t understand it at all. . . .” Doctor, is there something in that you understand?
Bordeu À merveille. Yes, it makes excellent sense.
Lespinasse Vous êtes bien heureux. “ Ma difficulté vient peut-être d'une fausse idée. ” You’re really lucky. “Perhaps my difficulties come from a false notion. . . .”
Bordeu Est-ce vous qui parlez? Is this you talking now?
Lespinasse Non, c'est le rêveur. Je continue... Il a ajouté, en s'apostrophant lui-même: “Mon ami d'Alembert, prenez-y garde. Vous ne supposez que de la contiguïté où il y a continuité. ” Oui, il est assez malin pour me dire cela... Et la formation de cette continuité? Elle ne l'embarrassera guère. “ Comme une goutte de mercure se fond dans une autre goutte de mercure, une molécule sensible et vivante se fond dans une molécule sensible et vivante. - D'abord il y avait deux gouttes, après le contact il n'y en a plus qu'une. - Avant l'assimilation il y avait deux molécules, après l'assimilation il n'y en a plus qu'une. - La sensibilité devient commune à la masse commune. En effet, pourquoi non ? - Je distinguerai par la pensée sur la longueur de la fibre animale tant de parties qu'il me plaira, mais la fibre sera continue, une. - Oui, une. -

Le contact de deux molécules homogènes, parfaitement homo­gènes, forme la continuité... et c'est le cas de l'union, de la cohésion, de la combinai­son, de l'identité la plus complète qu'on puisse imaginer. - Oui, Philosophe, si ces molécules sont élémentaires et simples ; mais si ce sont des agrégats, si ce sont des composés ? - La combinaison ne s'en fera pas moins, et en conséquence, l'identité, la continuité... - Et puis l'action et la réaction habituelles... - Il est certain que le contact de deux molécules vivantes est tout autre chose que la contiguïté de deux masses inertes. - Passons, passons ; on pourrait peut-être vous chicaner ; mais je ne m'en soucie pas ; je n'épilogue jamais.  ” Cependant, reprenons. “ Un fil d'or très pur, je m'en souviens, c'est une comparaison qu'il m'a faite ; un réseau  homogène, entre les molécules duquel d'autres s'interposent et forment peut-être un autre réseau homogène, un tissu de matière sensible, un contact qui assimile, de la sensibilité active ici, inerte là, qui se communique comme le mouvement, sans compter, comme il l'a très bien dit, qu'il doit y avoir de la différence entre le contact de deux molé­cules sensibles et le contact de deux molécules qui ne le seraient pas ; et cette différence, quelle peut-elle être ?... une action, une réaction habituelles... et cette action et cette réaction avec un caractère particulier... Tout concourt donc à produire une sorte d'unité qui n'existe que dans l'animal... Ma foi, si ce n'est pas là de la vérité, cela y ressemble fort.... ” Vous riez, docteur ; est-ce que vous trouvez du sens à cela ?

No, it’s the dreamer. I’ll keep going . . . He then added, challenging himself, “My friend, D’Alembert, be careful. You’re assuming there is only contiguity where there is continuity . . . Yes . . . He is clever enough to tell me that . . . And how is this continuity formed? That will hardly create a problem for him . ... Just as a drop of mercury fuses itself with another drop of mercury, so a sensitive and living molecule fuses itself with a sensitive and living molecule . . . At first there were two drops—after the contact there is only one . . . Before the assimilation there were two molecules; after the assimilation there is only one . . . The sensitivity becomes common to the common mass . . . And, indeed, why not? . . . In my thinking about the length of an animal fibre, I can distinguish as many parts as I like, but the fibre will remain a continuous, a unity . . . yes . . . a unity.

The contact between two homogeneous molecules, perfectly homogeneous, creates the continuity . . . and it’s an example of the most complete union, cohesion, combination, and identity one could imagine . . . Yes, philosopher, if these molecules are elementary and simple . . . but what if they are aggregates, if they are compounds? . . . The combining will still take place no less than before along with the resulting identity and continuity . . . and then the usual action and reaction . . . It’s certain that contact between two living molecules is something completely different from the contiguity of two inert masses . . . Let’s move on, not bother with that . . . One could perhaps take issue with you, but I’m not worried about that . . . I’ve never been one to keep on debating the issue. However, let’s get back to the point. A wire made of very pure gold—that’s one comparison I remember he made to me—a homogeneous network. Between its molecules other molecules interpose themselves and perhaps form another homogeneous network, a tissue of sensitive matter, a contact which absorbs active sensitivity from here and latent sensitivity from there and which passes itself on like a movement, without accounting for the fact, as he has firmly pointed out, that there must be some difference between the contact of two sensitive molecules and the contact of two molecules which have no sensation, and this difference—what can it be? . . . a customary action and reaction . . . and this action and this reaction with a unique character . . . That way everything comes together to produce a sort of unity which exists only in an animal. . . . My goodness, if this is isn’t the truth, it’s really similar to it.” You’re laughing, doctor. Do you find any sense in that?

Bordeu Yes, a lot.
Lespinasse So he’s not losing his mind?
Bordeu Not at all.
Lespinasse After this preamble, he started to shout, “Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse! Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse!” “What do you want?” “Have you sometimes seen a swarm of bees going out of their hive? . . . The world, or the general mass of matter, is the hive. . . Have you seen them move out to the end of a tree branch to form a long cluster of small winged animals, all hooked to one another by their feet? . . . This cluster is a being, an individual, an animal of some sort . . . But these clusters all have to be similar to each other . . . Yes, if he allowed only one homogenous material. . . . Have you seen them?” “Yes, I’ve seen them.” “You have seen them?” “Yes, my friend, I tell you I have.” “If one of these bees decides somehow to pinch the bee to which it is hanging, what do you think will happen? Tell me.” “I have no idea.” “Tell me, anyway . . . So you don’t know, but the philosopher knows . . . yes, he does. If you ever see him—and you’ll either see him or you won’t, because that’s what he promised—he’ll tell you that the second bee will pinch the one next to it, that in the entire cluster there would be as many sensations aroused as there are small animals, that the totality will get aroused, shift itself, change position and shape, that a noise will arise, small cries, and that someone who had never seen a group like that arrange itself would be tempted to assume it was an animal with five or six hundred heads and a thousand or twelve hundred wings. . . .” Well, doctor?
Bordeu Good. Do you know that this dream is really beautiful? You did well to write it down.
Lespinasse Are you dreaming as well?
Bordeu So little that I’d almost commit myself to tell you what follows.
Lespinasse I’ll challenge you on that.
Bordeu You challenge me?
Lespinasse Yes.
Bordeu And if I get it right?
Lespinasse If you get it right I promise you . . . I promise I’ll consider you the greatest fool on earth.
Bordeu Look at your pages and listen to me. “A man who took this cluster for an animal would be wrong.” But, Mademoiselle, I assume he went on talking to you. “Do you wish him to judge more soundly? Do you wish to transform the cluster of bees into a single unique animal? Soften the feet by which they hold themselves together. Change them from the contiguous condition they are in so that they become continuous. Between this new state of the cluster and the earlier one there is certainly a marked difference. And what might this difference be other than that now it is a totality, a unified animal; whereas, before it was only an assembly of animals? . . . All our organs. . . .”
Lespinasse All our organs!
Bordeu “For anyone who has practised medicine and made a few observations . . .”
Lespinasse What comes next!
Bordeu What next? “. . . Are only distinct animals which the law of continuity holds together in a general state of sympathy and unity, a single identity.”
Lespinasse I’m amazed—that’s it, and almost word for word. So now I can confirm for all the world that there is no difference between a doctor who’s awake and a philosopher who’s dreaming.
Bordeu People suspect that already. It that all?
Lespinasse No, no. You’re not there yet. After that nonsense of yours or his, he said to me, “Mademoiselle.” “Yes, my friend.” “Come here . . . closer . . . closer . . . I have something to ask you.” “What is it?” “Take this cluster, the one there—you see it clearly over there—right there. Let’s conduct an experiment.” “What?” “Take your scissors—do they cut well?” “Perfectly.” “Move close to the cluster, but gently, very gently, and cut these bees apart. But be careful not to cut them in the middle of their bodies. Cut right at the place where they are joined together by the feet. Don’t be afraid of anything—you’ll hurt them a little, but you won’t kill them . . . Very good. Your actions are as deft as a fairy’s. . . Do you see how they fly away, each one in a different direction? They fly off one by one, two by two, three by three. How many of them there are! If you’ve understood me well . . . have you understood me well?” “Really well.” Now, assume . . . assume . . .” My word, doctor, I understood so little of what I was writing down. He spoke in such a low voice, and this section of my paper is so scribbled I can’t read it.
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse
Bordeu
Lespinasse

(work-in-progress)

Translation | Part Three: Sequel

See main: Alembert's Dream (part three)

(add summary)

Discussion

An image of a swarm of something, each with its own will, that forms the pattern of a bird flying, attempting to capture the idea of Alembert’s Dream (1769), and Diderot's swarm of bees model of will, matter, and consciousness.[7]

The characters discuss the origin of life:

“Nothing at first, then a living point … Another living point attaches itself to this one, and then another—and from these successive conjoinings a single living unity results, for I am certainly a unity …. It’s certain that contact between two living molecules is something different from the contiguity of two inert masses … and this difference—what could it be? … a customary action and reaction … That way everything comes together to produce a sort of unity which exists only in an animal … My goodness, if this isn’t the truth, it’s really close to it.”
— Denis Diderot (1769), Alembert’s Dream (character: Lespinasse, §2.#)[8][9]

Diderot outlines the view, via the characters, that a human is a type of "thinking matter" built something akin to a cluster of bees, each with its own will:

“While there is only one consciousness, there is an infinity of wills.”
— Denis Diderot (1769), Alembert’s Dream (character: [name], pg. #); Oeuvres, Volume One: Philosophie (pg. 917)

Bordeau explains to Lespinasse that there is no difference between living and dead matter, and that life is movement, echoing Holbach’s definition.[4]

End matter

See also

References

  1. Julie Lespinasse – Wikipedia.
  2. Theophile Bordeu – Wikipedia.
  3. Note: the French editor footnotes: Bordeu is the author of Recherches sur le pulse (1756), which determined his contemporaries to deal with much more attention than they did until then with the prognoses that can be drawn from the intensity of the blood flow.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Diderot, Denis. (1669). D’Alembert’s Dream (Le Reve D’Alembert); in: Rameau’s Nephew and Diderot’s Dream (§:131-237) (translator: Leonard Tancock) (Introduction, pgs. 133-34). Penguin, 1964.
  5. Lagerkvist, Ulf. (2003). Pioneers of Microbiology: and the Nobel Prize (pg. 5). World Scientific
  6. Galimatias – Merriam-Webster.
  7. Morettiti, P.F.; Affatati, Alice. (2021). “Knowledge-based Support to Policy” (Ѻ), Conference Paper, Research Gate, Mar.
  8. Ball, Philip. (2011). Unnatural: the Heretical Idea of Making People (pg. 125-26). Vintage Books.
  9. Chai, Leon. (2019). The Romantic Foundations of the American Renaissance (pg. 228). Cornell.

Translations

  • Diderot, Denis. (1669). D’Alembert’s Dream (Le Reve D’Alembert [manuscript]); in: Rameau’s Nephew and Diderot’s Dream (§:131-237) (translator: Leonard Tancock). Penguin, 1964.
  • Diderot, Denis. (1769). D’Alembert’s Dream (translator: Ian Johnston) (abs) (§1: Diderot and Alembert Conversation (txt); §2: Alembert’s Dream (txt); §3: Sequel (txt)). Publisher, 2014.

External links

Theta Delta ics T2.jpg