Aguaxima  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Aguaxima is a famous lemma written by Denis Diderot for the Encyclopédie. The article about the plant, which is also called Urena lobata, was published in 1751 in the first volume of the encylopedia on page 191. The entry has become famous for criticizing encyclopedic stubs and for expressing Diderot's doubts about the Encyclopédie's usefulness.

Verbatim[1]

AGUAXIMA, (Hist. nat. bot.) plante du Brésil & des isles de l'Amérique méridionale. Voilà tout ce qu'on nous en dit; & je demanderois volontiers pour qui de pareilles descriptions sont faites. Ce ne peut être pour les naturels du pays, qui vraissemblablement connoissent plus de caracteres de l'aguaxima, que cette description n'en renferme, & à qui on n'a pas besoin d'apprendre que l'aguaxima naît dans leur pays; c'est, comme si l'on disoit à un François, que le poirier est un arbre qui croît en France, en Allemagne, &c. Ce n'est pas non plus pour nous; car que nous importe qu'il y ait au Brésil un arbre appellé aguaxima, si nous n'en savons que ce nom? à quoi sert ce nom? Il laisse les ignorans tels qu'ils sont; il n'apprend rien aux autres: s'il m'arrive donc de faire mention de cette plante, & de plusieurs autres aussi mal caractérisées, c'est par condescendance pour certains lecteurs, qui aiment mieux ne rien trouver dans un article de Dictionnaire, ou même n'y trouver qu'une sottise, que de ne point trouver l'article du tout.

English translation:

Aguaxima, a plant growing in Brazil and on the islands of South America. This is all that we are told about it; and I would like to know for whom such descriptions are made. It cannot be for the natives of the countries concerned, who are likely to know more about the aguaxima than is contained in this description, and who do not need to learn that the aguaxima grows in their country. It is as if you said to a Frenchman that the pear tree is a tree that grows in France, in Germany, etc . It is not meant for us either, for what do we care that there is a tree in Brazil named aguaxima , if all we know about it is its name? What is the point of giving the name? It leaves the ignorant just as they were and teaches the rest of us nothing. If all the same I mention this plant here, along with several others that are described just as poorly, then it is out of consideration for certain readers who prefer to find nothing in a dictionary article or even to find something stupid than to find no article at all.[2]

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Aguaxima" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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