Figurative system of human knowledge  

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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.

The "figurative system of human knowledge"[1][2], (Systême figuré ses connoissances humaines. Entendement. Memoire, Raison, Imagination) sometimes known as the tree of Diderot and d'Alembert, was a tree developed to represent the structure of knowledge itself, produced for the Encyclopédie by Jean le Rond d'Alembert and Denis Diderot.

The tree was a taxonomy of human knowledge, inspired by Francis Bacon's The Advancement of Learning. The three main branches of knowledge in the tree structure are: "Memory"/History, "Reason"/Philosophy, and "Imagination"/Poetry.

Notable is the fact that theology is ordered under 'Philosophy'. The historian Robert Darnton has argued that this categorization of religion as being subject to human reason, and not a source of knowledge in and of itself (revelation), was a significant factor in the controversy surrounding the work. Additionally notice that 'Knowledge of God' is only a few horizontal nodes away from 'Divination' and 'Black Magic'.

There is another diagram based on it, called 'Essai d'une distribution généalogique des Sciences et des Arts principaux'[3], representing a more narrative genealogical distribution in a very large engraving designed by Chrétien Frédéric Guillaume Roth and engraved by Robert Bénard.

The Tree of Diderot and d'Alembert

"Detailed System of Human Knowledge" from the Encyclopédie.

  • Deviations of Nature.
  • Work and Uses of Precious Stones.
  • Work and Uses of Iron.
  • Work and Uses of Glass.
  • Work and Uses of Skin.
  • Work and Uses of Silk.
  • Spinning.
  • Milling.
  • Work like.
  • Velvet.
  • Brocaded Fabrics, etc.
  • Work and Uses of Wool.
  • Cloth-Making.
  • Bonnet-Making, etc.
  • Working and Uses, etc.
  • Science of Man.
  • Reasonable.
  • Sensible.
  • Demonstration.
  • Art of Remembering.
  • Prenotion.
  • Emblem.
  • Supplement to Memory.
  • Characters.
  • General Science of Good and Evil, of duties in general, of Virtue, of the necessity of being Virtuous, etc.
  • Metaphysics of Bodies or, General Physics, of Extent, of Impenetrability, of Movement, of Word, etc.
  • Mathematics.
  • Elementary (Military Architecture, Tactics).
  • Transcendental (Theory of Courses).
  • Mixed.
  • Physicomathematics.
  • Particular Physics.
  • Hygiene.
  • Hygiene, properly said.
  • Cosmetics (Orthopedics).
  • Athletics (Gymnastics).
  • Pathology.
  • Semiotics.
  • Treatment.
  • Judiciary Astrology.
  • Physical Astrology.
  • Imagination.
  • Profane.
  • Narrative.
  • Parable

(NOTE: THIS NEXT BRANCH SEEMS TO BELONG TO BOTH THE NARRATIVE AND DRAMATIC TREE AS DEPICTED BY THE LINE DRAWN CONNECTING THE TWO.)

See also

References

  • Robert Darnton, "Epistemological angst: From encyclopedism to advertising," in Tore Frängsmyr, ed., The structure of knowledge: classifications of science and learning since the Renaissance (Berkeley, CA: Office for the History of Science and Technology, University of California, Berkeley, 2001).
  • Adams, David (2006) 'The Système figuré des Connaissances humaines and the structure of Knowledge in the Encyclopédie', in Ordering the World, ed. Diana Donald and Frank O'Gorman, London: Macmillan, p. 190-215.
  • Preliminary discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot, Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, translated by Richard N. Schwab, 1995. ISBN 0-226-13476-8




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