Resentment and Reflection in Le Neveu de Rameau
This chapter examines the relationship between righteous anger and envious resentment in Diderot's satire Le Neveu de Rameau. The issue is explored in terms of whether one's personal dignity and independence can be credibly asserted, or whether there is no escape from humiliating dependence. The chapter then argues that this is an issue not only for Rameau but for the philosopher as well, who is reluctant to acknowledge his dependence on others for the material of his thought. Should the moralist therefore be grateful to those who furnish him a stimulus to reflection, thereby allowing him to avert the danger of solipsism, just as the rich man should be not be angry at the fool who amuses and fleeces him, but grateful for the lessons he learns? Diderot's countermove is to highlight the sublimity of the mind's ability to contemplate the most intellectually disturbing or morally threatening features of his world, so that external dependence is outweighed by the genius's inner independence. Like the artistic genius, the philosopher transcends both anger and gratitude through aesthetic apprehension.
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