Unit 1, Post 2 by Kennedy Petties

“I see first of all one thing that seems to me to be acknowledged both by good and evil persons: that we must reason in everything because man is not simply an animal but an animal who reasons. There are consequently in the question at hand means for discovering the truth. Whoever refuses to look for the truth renounces his human status and must be treated by the rest of his species like a ferocious beast; once the truth is discovered, whoever refuses to conform to it is either mad or bad in a moral sense. . . .”

I chose Diderot’s section on Natural Law because upon originally encountering it, I didn’t understand the message Diderot aimed to convey. After my first read, I believed he was saying that anyone who didn’t agree with him was a ferocious beast and had lost their connection with humanity. Upon looking further into Diderot’s philosophy that enlightenment comes from the acquiring of knowledge, despite religious affiliations, bigotry, or previous ties to certain information, I came to understand more of his message. I researched his philosophy on how all humans go through different developmental stages, physically and mentally. Diderot tried to communicate that anyone who refuses the pursuit of knowledge and the acceptance of the reality they lived in was not human – an animal that reasons. I think this connects to his bigger claim that enlightenment is a human phenomenon based on the fact we have the ability to think and use reason other than simply the rules of brute nature. I think Diderot says “Whoever refuses to look for the truth renounces his human status and must be treated by the rest of his species like a ferocious beast” to say that when we engage with the willfully ignorant we give humanity to those that refuse to acknowledge the humanity in others. I think this passage helps address the question of “What is humanity?”. Diderot describes humanity as the search for and acceptance of the truth despite the conflictions it may create within yourself.

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