Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context

This book connects the philosophy of the Marquis de Sade—one of the most notorious, iconic, and yet poorly-understood figures within the history of European thought—with the broader themes of the Enlightenment. Rather than seeing himself as a mere pornographer, Sade understood himself as continuing the progressive tradition of French Enlightenment philosophy. Sade aspired to be a philosophe. This book uses intellectual history and the history of philosophy to reconstruct Sade’s philosophical ‘system’ and its historical context. Within the period’s discourse of sensibility Sade draws on the philosophical and the literary to form a relatively sophisticated ‘system’ which he deploys to critically engage with the two major strands of eighteenth-century ethical theory: the moral sense and natural law traditions. This work is of interest to: ‘Continental’ Philosophy, Critical Theory, French Studies, the History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy, Literary Studies, the History of Moral Philosophy, and Enlightenment Studies.

107 downloads 5K Views 3MB Size

Recommend Stories

Empty story

Idea Transcript

Henry Martyn Lloyd



Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context

Henry Martyn Lloyd

Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context

Henry Martyn Lloyd School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry University of Queensland Saint Lucia, QLD, Australia

ISBN 978-3-319-97195-7 ISBN 978-3-319-97196-4  (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2018950417 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Martin Johann Schmidt Ugrabitev Sabink. © Art Collection 3/Alamy Stock Photo This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

To my favourite, my beloved, Jo Boom.


The Marquis de Sade, Two Hundred (and Four) Years Later The Marquis de Sade. A name that everyone knows and no one speaks, the hand trembles in writing it, and when we say it, the ears ring at the dismal sound. Enter if you dare in this pool of blood and vices. It takes great courage to address this biography, which will take its place among the most soiled and the filthiest. Let us then take our courage in both hands, you and I. Le Marquis de Sade. Voilà un nom que tout le monde sait et que personne ne prononce, la main tremble en l’écrivant, et quand on le prononce, les oreilles vous tintent d’un son lugubre. Entrons si vous l’osez dans cette mare de sang et de vices. Il faut un grand courage pour aborder cette biographie, qui pourtant prendra sa place parmi les plus souillées et les plus fangeuses. Prenons donc notre courage à deux mains, vous et moi. (Janin 1834, p. 1)

In 1834 it was possible to begin a short account of Sade’s bibliography and criminal trials like this. No longer. Two hundred years after his death uses of Sade’s name proliferate. Interest in him continues to grow. Search suggestions from (France), (Germany), (UK), and (Australia) all make as their first suggestion that the “Marquis de” be completed with “Sade.” “Lafayette” is generally suggested second, except in the UK, where it vii



is third, and at (USA), which suggests him first, no doubt reflecting his role in the American Revolutionary War. At least on this rough estimation Sade’s name is now very often and easily used; he is the most famous of all marquis. Following the lead of Xavier de Sade who reclaimed the aristocratic title in the 1940s, Donatien Alphonse François’s descendants are no longer ashamed of him but rather openly associate themselves with him and his oeuvre (Parry 2016; Perrottet 2016). And why not, when it is even said that “Sade is, in a way, [the French] Shakespeare” (Pierre Guyotat quoted in Lichfield 2016)? Many of the uses of Sade’s name are simple exercises in branding. Hugues, the current Comte de Sade, seems quite content to use his famous name for merely commercial ends. €35,00 can buy you a bottle of Marquis de Sade Brut Champagne. He has a line of brandies and cognacs, including some that are extremely expensive. By contrast, the €18,00 Vallée du Rhône seems a little risky. And I wonder what Justine would think about having a line of sub-premium wines from the Vallée de la Loire named after her: she seems from the novels to be a teetotaller, although I suppose if she were to drink it would be on a budget.1 Meanwhile the is an Australian-based retailer of leather and fetish wear, corsetry, and burlesque costumes. Predictably, the site describes Sade as the author of the “original 50 Shades of Grey” and as “the father of BDSM.”2 Many other uses of his name genuinely refer to the historical person. Sade’s notoriety is understandable. His life is certainly among the most extraordinary to have left a mark on the historical record and it is not without justification that it is said that “the best of Sade’s novels is still his life” (Pierre Lepape quoted in Delon 2014, p. xvii). It is understandable then that there has been an industry of Sade biographies: without turning to the second-hand market there are at least eight biographies currently available in either French or English. Many of these are written for a curious general reading public attracted by Sade’s notoriety and the whiff of sex and scandal. Others are works of high scholarship with Maurice Lever’s (1991) carefully researched and written study still the definitive work. There have been something like twenty films or plays inspired by or about Sade or his writing.3 Many of them are a mixture of biography and soft pornography. Pasolini’s Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975) which grafts Sade’s novel onto fascist Italy is the ultimate incarnation



of the idea that political art may justifiably inflict as much trauma on its audience as possible. It is perhaps the most banned film ever made. Probably the best of the films are Peter Brook’s 1967 adaptation of Peter Weiss’s play Marat/Sade, and Quills, a 2000 adaptation by Philip Kaufman of Doug Wright’s play starring Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush with the support of Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, and Michael Caine. Rush was nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for this film. Doug Write was nominated for a Golden Globe for the best screenplay. I met Geoffrey Rush several years ago in the foyer of a hotel on Sydney’s Oxford Street. When I rather rudely introduced myself and told him I was working on this book he was quick-witted enough to distance himself from the artistic license taken by the film. Sade was, he noted, enormously obese. While no confirmed images of Sade survive we have no reason to think he looked anything like as attractive as Rush. (Although like Rush, Sade could apparently be surprisingly charming when he chose to be.) Rush was right that the film is highly stylized and romanticized. It continues the long-established tradition of seeing Sade as a hero of writing and a martyr to freedom of speech. The film generally emphasizes the (supposedly) naughty, titillating, and funny aspects of the works. Although it stays away from the full horror of Sade’s writing it does at least acknowledge the potential dangers latent in them and asks, even if it does not answer, the question of whether Sade’s oeuvre was really better written than not. Sade’s name then is certainly not one which nobody speaks or which is only written with a trembling hand. Rather the opposite. Donatien Alphonse François de Sade has become one of the most notorious, iconic, and yet, far more often talked about than read, one of the most poorly-understood figures in the history of Western thought. Interest in Sade takes decidedly different forms depending on the linguistic culture. Of course there are exceptions to these generalisations. But Anglophone interest in him and in his work largely treats Sade as a one-man chamber of grotesques. Sade has often been used by prejudiced Britains and North-Americans to mark the decadence of French intellectual and political culture. Since the nineteenth century Sade has in France often served as a means for variously marking either the decadence of the ancien régime or that of the revolutionary Republicans that replaced them (see Delon 1990, p. xxiv). It is easy enough then for Anglo-American readers to adopt both these contradictory meanings



and so take Sade as symbolic of French profligacy in general. In broad Anglophone intellectual culture, Sade is not then taken seriously. There is at least one important exception to this generalisation: “Continental” philosophy.4 The Anglophone who does take Sade seriously is highly likely to have inherited an understanding of Sade from reading, in translation, one of the many French maîtres à penser who make him central to aspects of their thought. Indeed, this is the history of my own reading of Sade in whom I initially became interested through my reading of Foucault and particularly Bataille. In my personal experience, this interest in Sade has often served for “Analytic” philosophers as a prime example of French intellectual indulgence and indiscipline, thereby serving to confirm their prejudices against French thought in general and widening Anglophone philosophy’s nasty and unedifying “Analytic-Continental” divide. Students of “Continental” philosophy rarely read French well so they are limited to the available translations of key works. For a long time, the Anglophone reader could generally only find Sade available in the Grove press edition of his libertine works. The edition is of poor quality, with cheap paper, binding, and printing; they are not books made to sustain serious study and disintegrate with repeated use. Far more significantly, the translations themselves by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse are of extremely low quality and the literary merits of Sade’s prose are entirely lost in them. They help make plausible the analogy between Sade’s novels and Fifty Shades of Grey. Sade’s most significant non-libertine work—Aline et Valcour—remains untranslated and is almost completely unknown.5 For the convenience of monolingual readers, in this book I reference the Grove Press translation: even as new translations of Sade’s work become available it remains the canonical English-language edition. However, I often enter into a critical discussion of the translation. I also often adjust the translations. Little of this Anglophone interest however captures the importance of Sade in Francophone intellectual culture and so in French Studies even as it occurs within Anglophone Universities; poking fun as I have at Hugues de Sade’s attempts to monetise his famous name does nothing to capture the seriousness with which Sade is treated in France. There are two particularly striking markers of this. First, from October 2014 to January 2015, and with the express intention of marking the bicentenary of Sade’s death, the Musée



d’Orsay, France’s second most important art gallery, staged a major exhibition curated by Annie Le Brun which featured Sade’s legacy—Sade: Attacking the Sun (Sade : attaquer le soleil). The exhibition coincided with the public displays elsewhere in Paris of the original hand-written manuscript of One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom which had been purchased by a French manuscript dealer and museum owner for a reported €7 million (Willsher 2016). The magnificent colour catalogue of the exhibition is accompanied by a series of Le Brun’s (2014) essays which make clear the themes that connect the exhibited works to each other and to Sade. An Anglophone visitor could be forgiven for their surprise at finding Sade in such company as Goya, Delacroix, Ingres, Degas, Cézanne, Rodin, or indeed Picasso, let alone his being presented as the source of a single tradition in which they all participated. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon—often taken to be the single most important work of modern art—had for its original title Le Bordel philosophique, a direct allusion, Le Brun assures us, to Sade’s La philosophie dans le boudoir (Le Brun 2014, p. 141). The visitor’s surprise would perhaps be justified insofar as Sade himself did not leave behind any paintings, drawings, or sculptures and the illustrations which were published in his works hardly feature in the collection. And the Anglo visitor may have been surprised to find, despite the warnings that “the violent [not to mention pornographic] nature of some of the works and documents may shock some visitors,” the exhibition visited by teenagers, school groups armed with clipboards and worksheets, giggling and shy one moment, and the next immersed, open mouthed, in the lewd and pornographic images before them.6 For Le Brun—and the fact that this exhibition was held at the Musée d’Orsay shows the extent to which this is now a mainstream view in France—Sade completely transformed the history of literature and the plastic arts and it is her aim to demonstrate the effects of this transformation on all forms of aesthetic expression. Within Francophone intellectual culture, Sade has become the name that marks any aesthetics of the body, of transgression, of desire, of sexuality. To represent the un-representable, to show the un-showable. Sade’s project is an absolute that upsets forever the question of the limits of meaning and that necessarily interrogates the history of representation.



Représenter l’irreprésentable, montrer l’inmontrable. Le projet sadien est un absolu qui bouleverse à jamais la question des limites du sens et interroge nécessairement l’histoire de la représentation. (Guy Gogeval in Le Brun 2014, p. 11)

In the French tradition Sade—the divin marquis—has become the patron saint of any modernist, even Picasso, who can be said to make a similar attempt. The second marker I want to invoke is another deliberate celebration of the bicentenary of Sade’s death, the release of a fourth volume of Sade’s works in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (Delon 2014, p. xxii). There is no English-language equivalent of the Pléiade. The books are small, octavo rather than folio, but otherwise they resemble the print edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica: case bound in leather, very thin paper with a small elegant font, expensive, they usually come protected by a white slipcase. Intentionally they look like small bibles; they are the kind of books that children inherit from their parents. The Pléiade are also ubiquitous, almost all good French book shops have them, often on display in a locked glass cabinet. They are the sign of any serious shop. They are critical editions with extensive notes, annotations, and scholarly introductions; there is enormous prestige in being the editor of a volume. In the French context, they materially instantiate canonicity, dignity, and intellectual gravitas. The inclusion of an author in the Pléiade is a highly significant moment. That this particularly applies to Sade is a point made explicit by Michel Delon in his introduction to the first volume where he traces the history of the “freeing” of Sade’s works from censure and clandestine distribution to their being inducted into the Pléiade (Delon 1990). The introduction is in large part a reception history of the oeuvre in which Delon traces critical responses to Sade from the earliest attempts to censor him, through to the developing interest that psychologists and criminologists took in his work, to his discovery by the avant-garde including writers such as Apollinaire and the Surrealists and also by many of the figures who have been now been turned into “Continental” philosophers (p. xliv–xlvi). Le Brun’s earlier work on Sade, a work which is broadly continuous with the approach she takes in her exhibition catalogue, features in Delon’s history (Le Brun 1986). It is significant that while Delon acknowledges that it is thanks to the enthusiasts that the oeuvre has become available, he also distances



himself from their methods of reading Sade (Delon 1990, p. xlvi). There has been, he notes, a division in the critical responses to Sade’s oeuvre. Beginning in the 1960s, eighteenth-century literary scholars began to read Sade professionally and in the manner they would read any other author. Delon locates his own work in the Pléiade as being the culmination of this tradition. And so he marks the distinction between professional readers and the enthusiasts—Le Brun included—for whom the most basic point of the divin marquis is that he simply cannot be read as any other author (pp. xlvii–xlix). For all Delon’s work to differentiate his own method of reading Sade from that of Le Brun, it needs to be noted that they both are unified in their fundamental commitment to literature: Le Brun foregrounds the “pleasures of the text” and the affective response of the reader to their provocations; Delon by contrast takes a disinterested scholarly and historicist approach to the texts as works of literature. My study cuts across both these approaches and so across much of the critical literature on Sade. I do this by deploying an impeccably Anglophone mode of intellectual inquiry—contextual intellectual history. And I do so by moving the oeuvre from the domain of literature to that of the history of philosophy. Intellectual history as a mode of intellectual inquiry has been steadily gaining ground in the humanities, particularly in the United States and the UK, but also in Germany and Italy. It has not however been widely taken up in France, certainly not in history departments where social history dominates, and not in philosophy departments, where historical texts are read, although not in such a way as to take the context in which they were written as primary for their contemporary interpretation (Lilti 2014). The one exception to this general tendency has been in literary studies and Michel Delon’s introduction to the Pléiade can serve as evidence of this change: there are now available many high-quality studies which historicise Sade’s oeuvre and treat him within the context of eighteenth-century literature.7 In such instances that Sade’s philosophy has been taken seriously in a contextual manner such commentaries have generally gestured towards Sade’s specific engagements with particular figures in his philosophical context the effect of this is necessarily unsystematic.8 Sade studies has been dominated in France by literary studies and elsewhere by French studies. I will by contrast treat Sade’s oeuvre from within the discipline of the history of philosophy. It is well known that Sade aspired to be a philosophe. What is remarkable is that, notwithstanding all the attention Sade has received, no one has yet reconstructed in



detail Sade’s actual philosophical “system.” The approach that I take in this study of course produces significant methodological complexities, in the first instance those pertaining to the difference between literature and philosophy as it existed in the eighteenth-century context. But these matters are not for discussing in a preface; I will often turn to them in the course of the work proper. I do not want to give the impression that Sade is taken seriously in all Francophone or Francophile contexts, although contemporary counter-examples are quite hard to come by.9 This is Michel Onfray, sounding very much like a conservative Anglo-American Eurosceptic: I wished to solve a particular enigma that appears to contain a greater enigma still and to reflect on the construction of legends in the world of ideas in general and of philosophy in particular. How, given that the Marquis de Sade who was undoubtedly a feudal philosopher, monarchist, misogynist, chauvinist, and an anti-Semite, whose existence was that of a recidivist sex offender having on his proven record reprehensible acts, was able, and could still present as the emblem of the freethinker libertarian and feminist, emancipationist and republican, a philosopher of the Enlightenment at the same time as an avant-garde thinker? This enigma seems to me as staggering as that which would make of a Nazi dignitary an emblematic figure of the liberation of mankind! For the good reputation of Sade undeniably constitutes an intellectual monstrosity. Je souhaiterais résoudre une énigme ponctuelle qui semble contenir une énigme plus grande encore et réfléchir à la construction des légendes dans le monde des idées en général et de la philosophie en particulier. Comment, en effet, le marquis de Sade qui fut incontestablement un philosophe féodal, monarchiste, misogyne, phallocrate, antisémite, dont l’existence fut celle d’un délinquant sexuel multirécidiviste ayant à son active nombre de faits avérés et répréhensibles, a pu, et peut encore, passer pour l’emblème du libertin libertaire et féministe, émancipateur et républicain, un philosophe des Lumières en même temps qu’un penseur d’avant-garde? Cette énigme me paraît aussi stupéfiante que celle qui ferait d’un dignitaire national-socialiste une figure emblématique de la libération du genre humain! Car la bonne réputation de Sade constitue indéniablement une monstruosité intellectuelle. (Onfray 2014, 31–32. Italic in the original.)

It is not a criticism of Onfray to say that he is a polemicist, and an entertainer, rather than a scholar: he is self-consciously what Anglos might call a “pop-philosopher,” a Gallic version of Alain de Botton. And so there



is no point looking to his book for an intellectually satisfying solution to this enigma. Suffice it to note that the enigma has two parts. The second part has been responded to in great detail including by Delon and by Marty (2011) in a work simply entitled Why Did the Twentieth Century take Sade Seriously?10 It is the first part of the enigma which has not received sufficient scholarly attention largely because of a failure to treat carefully Sade’s philosophical ideas. Without a careful contextual reconstruction of Sade’s philosophical “system” it remains impossible for us to know what Sade actually thought. Referring to Justine, Geoffrey Rush, playing Sade, shouts “it’s a fiction, not a moral treatise.” What I show in this study is that Sade’s novels—including Aline et Valcour, Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu, but particularly Histoire de Juliette on which I will often focus—taken in their historical and philosophical context, are both fictions and moral treatises. The bulk of the intellectual work of Sade’s philosophical “system” is that of moral philosophy. It is only after this “system” has been reconstructed that we will be able to know whether or not Sade’s good reputation does constitute an intellectual monstrosity. I will undertake that reconstruction in this book. Brisbane, Australia

Henry Martyn Lloyd


1. Accessed 24 February 2018. 2. Accessed 24 February 2018. 3. For a serious discussion of these films, which this is not intended to be, and others of the ways Sade has been “canonised” in the twentieth century see Steintrager (2016, pp. 263–98). 4. I do not think it is controversial to understand “Continental” philosophy as being an Anglophone tradition, primarily North American but also Australian and British. See for example Cusset (2008). 5. It is worth mentioning that this is beginning to change, a mark of the extent to which Sade has become mainstream. Oxford World’s Classics has begun to issue retranslated editions of some of Sade’s major works—although not yet his chef d’œuvre, Histoire de Juliette. Penguin Books have released a new translation of The 120 Days of Sodom and Philosophy in the Boudoir. Although still in cheap paperbacks, here Sade’s writings occupy a place on the lists next to the greatest of the world’s literature and philosophy.



6. 7.  At the least, a list of examples must include: Cryle (1994), Meeker (2006), Steintrager (2004, 2016), Vila (1998), and Warman (2002). 8. Very few of the traditions that have taken Sade seriously have extended this to a serious consideration of his relationship with his philosophical context. The major counter-examples to this are the work of Deprun (1990), as well as briefer works by Naville (1962) and Châtelet (1972). Jean Deprun, particularly in his short essay “Sade Philosophe,” however leaves much work left to be done, work which is undertaken in this study. Notwithstanding its considerable merits, Michel Delon has not provided in the Pléiade a systematic reconstruction of Sade’s own philosophy or a reconstruction of the detail of Sade’s engagement with the moral philosophy of his period. No major study has reconstructed the specific detail of this engagement or the extent to which this engagement entailed positive philosophical doctrines such that it can be cautiously described as a philosophical “system.” This has accordingly continued the tendency to hold that Sade is either a novelist uninterested in a systematic engagement with the philosophy of his period, or that Sade is an “anti-philosopher” whose response to the philosophy of his period is wholly libidinal not at all philosophical. Of course much turns on what exactly is meant here by philosophical “system”: this issue is discussed in detail in chapter two of this study (Châtelet 1972; Deprun 1990; Delon 1990, 1995, 1998, 2014; Naville 1962). 9. For a brief discussion of some of the tensions that Sade provokes in contemporary French intellectual cultures see Kozul (2014, pp. 102–3). 10. See also Steintrager (2005).

References Châtelet, Noëlle. 1972. “Avant-propos.” In Systeme de l’agression : textes politiques et philosophiques, edited by Noëlle Châtelet. Paris: Aubier-Montaigne. Cryle, Peter. 1994. Geometry in the Boudoir: Configurations of French Erotic Narrative. London: Cornell University Press. Cusset, Francois. 2008. French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Delon, Michel. 1990. “Introduction.” In Sade: Œuvres Volume I, edited by Michel Delon, IX–LVIII. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Delon, Michel. 1995. “Introduction.” In Sade: Œuvres Volume II, edited by Michel Delon, IX–XIX. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.



Delon, Michel. 1998. “Introduction.” In Sade: Œuvres Volume III, edited by Michel Delon and Jean Deprun, IX–XIX. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Delon, Michel. 2014. “Préface.” In Sade: Justine et autres romans, edited by Michel Delon and Jean Deprun, IX–XXIII. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Deprun, Jean. 1990. “Sade Philosophe.” In Sade: Œuvres Volume I, edited by Michel Delon, LIX–LXIX. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Janin, Jules. 1834. Le marquis de Sade. Paris: Les marchands de nouveautés. Kaufman, Philip. 2000. Quills. Kozul, Mladen. 2014. “Sade and the Medical Sciences: Pathophysiology of the Novel and Rhetoric of Contagion.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 102–20. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Le Brun, Annie. 1986. Soudain un bloc d’abîme, Sade: Introduction aux œuvres complètes. Paris: Jean-Jacques Pauvert. Le Brun, Annie. 2014. Sade: Attaquer le soleil. Paris: Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie & Éditions Gallimard. Lever, Maurice. 1991. Donatien Alphonse Francois, marquis de Sade. Paris: Fayard. Lichfield, John. 2016. Marquis de Sade: rebel, pervert, rapist…hero? 2014 [cited 1 June 2016]. Available from europe/marquis-de-sade-rebel-pervert-rapisthero-9862270.html. Lilti, Antoine, and Will Slauter. 2014. “Does Intellectual History Exist in France?: The Chronicle of a Renaissance Foretold.” In Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History, edited by Darrin M. McMahon and Samuel Moyn, 56–74. New York: Oxford University Press. Marty, Éric. 2011. Pourquoi le XXe siècle a-t-il pris Sade au sérieux? Paris: Seuil. Meeker, Natania. 2006. Voluptuous Philosophy: Literary Materialism in the French Enlightenment. New York: Fordham University Press. Naville, Pierre. 1962. “Sade et la philosophie.” In Marquis de Sade, Œuvres complètes. Paris: Editions Tête de Feuilles. Onfray, Michel. 2014. La Passion de la méchanceté : sur un prétendu divin marquis. Paris: Éditions Autrement. Parry, Hannah. 2016. “Descendants of Notorious 19th Century Writer the Marquis de Sade Reclaim his Title After 200 Years of Disowning Novelist.” Daily Mail Australia [cited 1 June 2016]. Available from Pasolini, Pier Paolo. 1975. Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma. Perrottet, Tony. 2016. “Who Was the Marquis de Sade?” Smithsonian magazine‚ 2015 [cited 1 June 2016]. Available from http://www.smithsonianmag. com/history/who-was-marquis-de-sade-180953980/.



Steintrager, James A. 2004. Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Steintrager, James A. 2005. “Liberating Sade.” Yale Journal of Criticism 18 (2): 351–79. Steintrager, James A. 2016. The Autonomy of Pleasure: Libertines, License, and Sexual Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press. Vila, Anne C. 1998. Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Warman, Caroline. 2002. Sade: From Materialism to Pornography. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Willsher, Kim. 2016. “Original Marquis de Sade scroll returns to Paris.” The Guardian‚ 2014 [2 June 2016]. Available from http://www.theguardian. com/world/2014/apr/03/marquis-de-sade-scroll-120-days-sodom-paris.


The true genesis of this project may have been in my becoming aware of the importance of Sade though my study of Foucault and Bataille as an undergraduate in philosophy at the University of Queensland—perhaps it was my reading of James Miller’s The Passion of Michel Foucault (1993) as a holidaying backpacker on a camel safari in the Rajasthan desert. There were several who taught me during this formative period and who stimulated in me the desire to pursue further study, but I particularly want to thank Michelle Boulous Walker for being such an inspiration to me then and since. But the source of a river is not in a drop of rain. And so it is probably better to say that the headwater of this project was my walking into Peter Cryle’s office in the hope he would take on the supervision of my doctorate. Peter convinced me that, rather than doing a Ph.D. on Bataille in relation to the entirety of human thought, it was better to concentrate on the relationship between Sade, Bataille, and Foucault. I may one day finish that project, but it now seems unlikely. Over many years Peter has been an inspiration to me, and a valued and trusted mentor. More than any other individual his influence on my intellectual development is evidenced in the pages of this book. I thank him for this. Peter was at the time the director of the Centre for the History of European Discourses (now the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities) at the University of Queensland. I have benefited from exposure to the Institute’s extremely talented pool of ECR Post-Docs and xix



Senior Research Fellows. Thank you specifically to Ian Hunter who has done more than I think he knows in helping me form my identity as both an intellectual historian and a historian of philosophy. There are very many who deserve thanks for being my mentors, teachers, counsellors, advisors, advocates, fellow-travellers, supporters, shoulders-to-cry-on, or drill sergeants, or who have in many other ways assisted me in the completion of this project. Among these I would like to name: Peter Anstey, Riccardo Carli, Stephen Gaukroger, Kim Hajek, Laura Roberts, James Schmidt, James A. Steintrager, Naomi Stekelenburg, Ann Thompson, Kate Tunstall, Anne Vila, Nicolas Voeltzel, Anik Waldow, Ryan Walter, and Caroline Warman. Thank you all. Begun as a doctoral dissertation, this work was completed with the assistance of an Honorary Research Fellowship in Philosophy at The University of Queensland, an Australian Academy of the Humanities Travelling Fellowship, and a Junior Research Fellowship in Enlightenment Studies at The University of Sydney. Thank you to April James and Brendon George from Palgrave Macmillan. I owe thanks too to several anonymous reviewers whose comments have been invaluable in assisting me to develop this work beyond what it otherwise would have been. Earlier versions of material from this book are being republished here with the permission of the copyright holders. This includes, Springer Nature which allowed me to reprint “The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment,” and “Sensibilité, Embodied Epistemology, and the French Enlightenment,” from Lloyd, H. M. ed., The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment, (Heidelberg, London & New York: Springer Dordrecht, 2013). It includes Taylor and Francis, which have given permission for the use of “‘Je n’ai jamais vu une sensibilité comme la tienne, jamais une tête si délicieuse!’: Rousseau, Sade, and Embodied Epistemology”, Intellectual History Review, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 327–342. And Cambridge University Press which have allowed to reuse sections of “Philosophical Anthropology and the Sadean Moral ‘System’; or, Sade and the Question of Enlightenment Humanism” from, Representing Humanity in the Age of Enlightenment, Alexander Cook, Ned Curthoys and Shino Konishi eds., (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2013).



But most importantly, I cannot give enough thanks to Jo Boom. You are my home, my rest, my comfort. I do not know how I would have done this without your support. Henry Martyn Lloyd

Brisbane, Australia May 2018

References Lloyd, Henry Martyn. 2013a. The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment. Edited by Henry Martyn Lloyd. Dordrecht and London: Springer. Lloyd, Henry Martyn. 2013b. “Philosophical Anthropology and the Sadean Moral ‘System’; or, Sade and the Question of Enlightenment Humanism.” In Representing Humanity in the Age of Enlightenment, edited by Alexander Cook, Ned Curthoys, and Shino Konishi. London: Pickering & Chatto. Lloyd, Henry Martyn. 2013c. “Sensibilité, Embodied Epistemology, and the French Enlightenment.” In The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment, edited by Henry Martyn Lloyd, 171–93. Dordrecht and London: Springer. Lloyd, Henry Martyn. 2014. “Je n’ai jamais vu une sensibilité comme la tienne, jamais une tête si délicieuse!: Rousseau, Sade, and Embodied Epistemology.” Intellectual History Review 25 (3): 327–42. Miller, James. 1993. The Passion of Michel Foucault. New York: Simon & Schuster.


Part I  Introduction 1

The Problem of Sade 3 References 17


Sade’s Philosophical “System” 21 Les Idées reçues 28 References 43

Part II The Body of Sensibility: Ontology, Epistemology, Genre 3

Sensibility, Vitalist Medicine, and Embodied Epistemology 49 Medical Vitalism and Embodied Epistemology 53 Philosophical Particularism 61 The Enlightenment’s “Rational” and “Empirical” Subjects 65 References 78


Sensibility, Genre, and the Roman philosophique 83 Imagined Observing 91 References 103 xxiii



Part III Moral Sense, Pleasant Sensations, and Libertine Sensibility 5

Moral Sense Theory in the French Enlightenment 113 References 129


Rousseau’s Knowing Heart, Sade’s Knowing Body 131 Sade’s Epistemology of Intensity 136 The Sadean Critique of the Moral Sense Theory 141 References 148


Heart and Head, Love and Libertinage, in Histoire de Juliette 151 Coda 160 References 165

Part IV The Authority of Nature: Sade’s Use and Critique of the Natural Law Tradition 8

Natural Law, and the Law and Voice of Nature 169 References 179


Living It Up in the State of Nature: Sade Contra Hobbes and Rousseau 181 On the Irrationality of the Social Contract 182 Nature’s Single Precept; The “Golden Rule” 190 References 198

10 Sadean Natural Law in Histoire de Juliette 201 References 226



Part V Ethical Self-Fashioning and the Problem of Libertine Sociability in Histoire de Juliette; or, Histoire de Juliette comme roman d’apprentissage 11 Sade’s Theory of Libertine Askesis 231 References 254 12 Juliette’s Ambiguous Apprenticeship 257 “It Is Only You, My Angel, […] That I Forgive for Loving Me”: The Limited Success of Juliette’s Affective Self-Cultivation 257 “Even [Libertines] Worship Something Like Virtue in Their Lairs”: The Problem of Libertine Sociability 265 References 280 Part VI  Conclusion 13 Against the Dialectic of Enlightenment; or, How Not to Read Kant Avec Sade 283 References 294 Index 297




Rather than retranslating all the quotations that I have used in this book I have almost always relied on existing translations, especially where they are easily available. This includes using the Grove Press translations of Sade by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse. These translations are not what they ought to be but, even as new translations of Sade’s work replace them, they continue to be the canonical English-language edition of Sade. At times in this work, I make a critical discussion of the Grove Press translations serve my argument. At other times I have adjusted the translations, often substantially. For the ease of reference of the monolingual reader however, I have always quoted the Grove Press page numbers.





The Problem of Sade

The problem posed to historians of the Enlightenment by the work of Donatien Alphonse François de Sade (1740–1814) has yet to be adequately addressed. The Marquis de Sade’s infamy has been firmly established by the excesses of his literary/pornographic imagination. The problem he poses for historians is not grounded in his extremely violent pornography or with his gratuitous hyperbole per se, but with the difficulty of giving an account of Sade’s thought given the context within which it was situated. In its most simple form, the problem is this: how are we to reconcile Sade’s philosophy with the broader themes of the period? The problem is complex but I hope that without excessive reductionism it can be brought into focus by examining the issue of Enlightenment humanism. The association of the Enlightenment with humanism has been a long-lived historiographical theme. Both the importance of the connection and its persistence may be marked by the 1971 collection of essays by Peter Gay which simply took the ­philosophes to be the Party of Humanity. For Gay “the Enlightenment” and “humanism” were effectively synonyms. “The word humanism,” Gay wrote, Is rich in overtones, but the philosophes could claim to be humanists in all the senses of that word: they believed in the cultivation of the classics, they were active in humanitarian causes, and in the widest philosophical sense, they placed man in the centre of their moral universe. (Gay 1971, p. 289) © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




If contemporary historiography is inclined to find Gay’s relatively simple equivalence a little hasty, the association of the Enlightenment with “the human,” or perhaps more sophisticatedly with talk about “humanity,” nevertheless continues to be a persistent feature of historiography on the period (Cook et al. 2013, p. 1). Antony Pagden, to invoke one relatively recent example, has argued that The key terms of understanding almost every modern conflict over how to define and understand “humanity”—modernism, postmodernism, universalism, imperialism, multiculturalism—ultimately refer back to some understanding of the Enlightenment. (Pagden 2013, 5)

And Pagden too finds contemporary humanitarianism originating in what he understands to be the Enlightenment “project” (see, for example, Pagden 2013, pp. 345, 349). The word “humanisme” was not available in its contemporary meaning in eighteenth-century French. The term “humaniste” was: it designated the Renaissance humanists and, correspondingly for the Encyclopédie a “young man who follows a course of studies called the humanities” (Morvan 2005a, b; Diderot and D’Alembert 1765). Beyond this meaning, however, Peter Gay invoked the two senses of the term “humanism”: the ethical/political sense linked to the contemporary term “humanitarian” and the philosophical/anthropological sense, the science of the human.1 In both of these senses, Enlightenment humanism may be taken to have been the centralising or privileging of humankind in the order of nature particularly vis-à-vis the supernatural or the transcendent. But if the Enlightenment was synonymous with humanism then Sade’s œuvre poses a contextual problem, for if anybody in the period was prima facie not a humanist it was Sade. In the words of Dolmancé the philosopher-hero of La philosophie dans le boudoir: Get it into your head once and for all […] that what fools call humaneness is nothing but a weakness born of fear and egoism; that this chimerical virtue, enslaving only weak men, is unknown to those whose character is formed by stoicism, courage, and philosophy. (Sade 1965a, p. 360) Retiens donc une fois pour toutes que […] ce que les sots appellent l’humanité n’est qu’une faiblesse née de la crainte et de l’égoïsme ; que cette chimérique vertu, n’enchaînant que les hommes faibles, est inconnue de ceux dont le stoïcisme, le courage et la philosophie forment le caractère. (Sade 1998, pp. 172)



In the period, the word humanité, when it did not refer collectively to “human nature,” meant “kindness, [or] sensibility to the misfortune of others” (Morrissey 1798; Morvan 2005c). It was in this ethical/political sense that humanité was prominently ascribed to the philosophe in Du Marsais’s highly influential 1743 pamphlet “Le Philosophe” (Du Marsais 1743, p. 194).2 Even as Sade was an enthusiastic participant in the period’s philosophical/anthropological project, Sade sought to critique this moral/political project. At least then on this provisional measure, Sade is, and is not, part of the Enlightenment. Attempts to respond to the problem posed by Sade have generally followed two opposing strategies; to paraphrase Caroline Warman, Sade has tended to mean “either nothing or everything, he has tended to be seen at the extremes of the spectrum” (Warman 2002, p. 13). Both extremes are inadequate. The first strategy effectively dismisses the problem by dismissing Sade as a serious Enlightenment thinker worthy of sustained scholarly consideration. Often this is done by simply ignoring Sade’s oeuvre. Peter Gay, in working to substantiate his idea that the Enlightenment is synonymous with humanism, at least recognises the problem posed by Sade. He does not however consider it for long, writing that rather than being part of the Enlightenment, Sade’s thought was a vicious parody of it: “Sade was not an heir but a caricature of the philosophes. […] There is little point in turning a tedious voluptuary into an archetypal thinker” (Gay 1971, p. 285). And thus is the Sadean oeuvre briskly excluded from the Enlightenment. The second strategy is the exact opposite of brisk dismissal: Sade has been included in the Enlightenment by historians of the period the better to substantiate critiques of it and locate the crisis of modernity in it. Gay’s dismissal of Sade was a direct response to Lester Crocker, for whom: Sadism is a dark pool formed by those streams of eighteenth-century philosophy which flow into it. There is nothing in Sade’s nihilism which, in essence or in embryo, is not also found in [the period]. The differences are great; but they are differences in degree, thoroughness, universality, consistence. (Crocker 1963, pp. 398–99)

That is, Crocker over-identifies Sade with the Enlightenment in an attempt to place it on the slippery slope of nihilism, a slope which he found leading inevitably not just to Sade, but to Robespierre, Nietzsche, and of course Hitler: “that Sade foretold the course of the crisis of



Western civilization [was] obvious” for Crocker (1963, p. 420). With Adorno and Horkheimer (and others), he too read Kant avec Sade: for Crocker, the positing of man as an end and not a means made possible, perhaps even necessitated, the reversal of this maxim (Horkheimer and Adorno 1996; Crocker 1963, p. 408).3 The problem Sade’s oeuvre poses to intellectual historians is exacerbated by the uses it was put to in the twentieth century, particularly by the French avant-garde, and following them by much contemporary theory and criticism. A detailed investigation of this use lies outside the scope of this study which will focus on the eighteenth century. And in any event much of this work has already been done by Michel Delon, Caroline Warman, and more recently by Éric Marty who has written the most significant single-volume study of Sade’s twentieth-century reception (Delon 1990; Marty 2011; Warman 2002, pp. 5–20; see too McMorran 2014; Steintrager 2005, 2016, pp. 263–98). For Marty, Sade’s readers have formed two distinct waves. There were in the nineteenth century some effective readers of Sade—he notes, for example, Stendhal—but the century did not, in Marty’s terms, take Sade “seriously.” All that was available was a profoundly incomplete oeuvre and one which had not been republished since the end of the eighteenth century (Marty 2011, pp. 8–10). And so after Sade’s work had effectively been lost to the nineteenth century, the first wave was marked by early twentieth-century readers. Serious critical attention started with Guillaume Apollinaire who held that “[Sade] who may well count for nothing during the nineteenth-century may well come to dominate the twentieth” (Marty 2011, p. 11).4 Following Apollinaire and Jean Paulhan, Sade became the “divin marquis.” Sade’s fame further increased following his use by the Surrealists: André Breton, the movement’s most significant theoretician, expressly conceived of Surrealism as a project which sought to subvert the “reign of logic” and give primacy to the critical and imaginative faculties of the unconscious through the practice of automatism, the “dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations” (Breton 1978a, pp. 116, 122). For the Surrealists, the greatest subversive of all times was Sade: anti-religious and anti-bourgeois, they identified with Sade’s atheism and what they took to be his sense of class revolt. Sade was revered as a “heroic god” (Lamarche 2007, p. 59). Robert Desnos claimed that the Surrealists’ “present aspirations were basically formulated by Sade”;



for Maurice Heine “the spirit of Sade is living among us”; and finally and perhaps most simply Breton himself described Sade as “surrealist in sadism” (Rosemont in: Breton 1978b, p. 373). Central to the Surrealist reading of Sade was the idea that he subverted the prevailing rational order through satire and humour. The Surrealists’ Sade was funny and Breton famously included Sade in his anthology of black humour; for his part, Marty notes that “one cannot be a poorer reader of Sade than André Breton is here” (Marty 2011, p. 16). Marty is probably right about this, although we should note that there have been many others who have enthusiastically competed for the title of the poorest reader of Sade. The second wave of interest in Sade, and that which Marty is himself interested in, began in the 1940s with a series of publications by Klossowski, Bataille, Blanchot, and Adorno and Horkheimer (Marty 2011, p. 12). It was followed by texts written by Beauvoir, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, Sollers, Barthes, and Levinas. Following the Second World War interest in Sade changed. No longer was he taken to be a thinker of eros or of an erotic utopia. The post-holocaust generation wanted to understand extremely, limits, and violence and to this end attention focused on Sade grew intense (Warman 2002, p. 5). What was now foregrounded was the Sadean nightmare, death, torture, and a version of Sade which found in his oeuvre the destruction of reason by itself (Marty 2011, p. 19). It was no longer writers, novelists, and poets who led interest in Sade, but philosophers. Or rather “anti-philosophers” as Bataille called them. Sade became the name which designated the troubles of modernity; Marty’s book recounts a history whereby the Sadean text became “absolutely modern” and it is this that for him constitutes taking Sade “seriously” (Marty 2011, pp. 21, 26). There are three significant points to be made here. First: the Enlightenment has been, and continues to be, a period during which some highly contested ideas came to the fore. Within this broader contestation, Sade has often been taken by those would locate something like the “crisis of modernity” in the period, to be a definitive symptom of that crisis.5 And insofar as Marty equates those who “take Sade seriously” with those who take Sade to be “absolutely modern,” he is both reflecting on and continuing this tradition. As I have noted, for those who do not see Sade as nothing, he tends to become everything, particularly he becomes the most significant symptom of “enlightened modernity.”



Second, that Sade has been taken to be an anti-philosopher—even the anti-philosopher par excellence—is highly significant.6 Georges Bataille, and the manner by which he appropriated Sade for his own intellectual purposes, is the central figure here. Notwithstanding Bataille’s original call to take Sade seriously, he, in fact, distances himself from Sade’s expressed philosophy: Bataille is derisive about the tendency of Sade’s heroes to Indulge in long twisted talk to show they are right. […] But although their opinions may correspond with de Sade’s philosophy, taken as a whole they have no coherence. […] In this way they fall short of the profound silence peculiar to violence, for violence never declares either its own existence or its right to exist; it simply exists. (Bataille 1986, p. 188) Ils se laissent aller à de longs discours où ils démontrent qu’ils on raison. […] Mais leurs jugements, bien qu’ils répondent à la pensée de Sade, ne sont pas cohérents entre eux. […] Ainsi manquent-ils à ce profond silence qui est le propre de la violence, qui jamais ne dit qu’elle existe, et jamais n’affirme un droit d’exister, qui toujours existe sans le dire. (Bataille 1987a, pp. 186–87)

Or even more overtly: Let this be clear: nothing would be more fruitless than to take Sade literally, seriously. From whichever angle we approach him, he eludes us. Of the various philosophies he attributed to his characters we cannot retain a single one. (Bataille 1985, p. 110) Entendons-nous ; rien ne serait plus vain que de prendre Sade, à la lettre, au sérieux. Par quelque côté qu’on l’aborde, il s’est à l’avance dérobé. Des diverses philosophies qu’il prête à ses personnages, on ne peut retenir aucune. (Bataille 1987b, p. 245)

Bataille’s Sade is more than a theorist of “mere” eroticism; he is a theorist of aberrance, a theorist of evil (Bataille 1985, p. 116; 1986, p. 127). It is precisely his theorising—that is Sade and his characters’ explicit philosophising—which is for Bataille is the source of his failure. Bataille’s Sade is a heterologist; he is a theorist of the erotic, where the erotic is understood as the desire to merge with, or subsume, the other; this is understood by Bataille as the desire for death. Fundamental to Bataille’s ontology is the association of rationality with the homogeneous. Heterology as Bataille conceives of it does



not attempt to subsume the aberrant into the order of rationality or homogeneity, but rather attempts to maintain it in its heterogeneity.7 So for Bataille: Sade’s doctrine is nothing more or less than the logical consequence of these moments that reason does not know. By definition, excess stands outside reason. Reason is bound up with work and the purposeful activity that incarnates its laws. (Bataille 1986, p. 168) En son entier, la pensée de Sade est la conséquence de ces moments qu’ignore la raison. Par définition, l’excès est en dehors de la raison. La raison se lie au travail, elle se lie à l’activité laborieuse, qui est l’expression de ses lois. (Bataille 1987a, p. 168)

Sade expresses the truth of desire: or he tries to, but for Bataille, the truth of desire precludes access to the homogenous rational mind. For Bataille, Sade is not coherent; this is not because he is a theorist of the heterological (which is by definition incoherent) (Bataille 1985, p. 120): Sade is incoherent because he tries to make the irrational available to philosophy (Bataille 1985, p. 124). The only way Bataille can make sense of this is to equate Sade’s speechifying, not with the tyrant but (rather implausibly) with the language of the victim (Bataille 1986, p. 190). Sade, and his philosopher-heroes, speak; Bataille would rather they did not. Sade speaks, but his is the mouthpiece of a silent life, of utter and inevitably speechless solitude. The solitary man for whom he speaks pays not the slightest heed to his fellows; in his loneliness he is a sovereign being, never called to account, never needing to justify himself to anyone. (Bataille 1986, pp. 188–89) Sade parle, mais il parle au nom de la vie silencieuse, au nom d’une solitude parfaite, inévitablement muette. L’homme solitaire dont il est le porte-parole ne tient compte en aucune mesure de ses semblables : c’est dans sa solitude un être souverain, ne s’expliquant jamais, ne devant de comptes à personne. (Bataille 1987a, p. 187)

The point is this, and it applies to most if not all of Sade’s readers from this period: Bataille is not at all interested in Sade’s own philosophical project, the existence of which Bataille actively laments.



It is worth pausing here to briefly consider just how long the shadow is that Bataille casts over Sade studies. Witness Eliane Robert Moraes who, notwithstanding Bataille’s expressly stated refusal to take seriously, perhaps to read at all, what amounts to hundreds, even thousands, of pages of the Sadean oeuvre, nonetheless celebrates Bataille as Sade’s “perfect implied reader” (Moraes 2014, p. 49). Or Lucienne Frappier-Mazur (1996) who, deliberatly associating herself with Bataille’s heterology as a faithful reading of Sade (p. 180), interprets Sade’s works as porngraphic but not philosphical novels, even as she complains that the philosophical “dissertations [in Sade] are so frequent and lengthy that they delay the pornographic effect” of the text (pp. 104–5).8 Or most recently William S. Allen who, in a work subtitled (with an obvious wink in the direction of Kant) Sade’s Critique of Reason (2018), reiterates uncritically Bataille’s construction of Sade as the patron of heterology. Reading Blanchot and Bataille as one, Allen writes that “if Sade had a philosophy”—and the use of the conditional makes it very clear that Allen thinks he does not— “it would be vain to look for it elsewhere than in Maurice Blanchot’s [1947] study [À la rencontre de Sade]” (p. 80).9 Allen’s major theme is that Sade develops a “materialist critique of reason” where “materialism” just means Bataille’s “base materialism” (pp. 118–19; see also p. 91). What Sade has developed is a full-scale critique of reason that affects any understanding of the place of thought within the world, and within society, and does so through the medium of an extremely violent and sexual literature. (Allen 2018, p. 3)

Sade’s works are not just “a lasting challenge to the claims of Enlightenment reason” (p. 4), or even a challenge to morality, they are for Allen a challenge “to thought as such” (p. 23; see also pp. 16, 19). Indeed, such is the length of Bataille’s shadow over Sade studies that even the normally impeccable (and historicist) Caroline Warman has been seduced by the idea that there is no “real philosophy in Sade” (Warman 2014, p. 83). It must be briefly noted—and I will return to this issue in the following chapter—that these approaches to Sade all have in common a commitment to literary studies even if, as in the case of William S. Allen, it is to literary studies as “theory.” For example, Warman’s conclusion that there is “no real philosophy in Sade” is not the product of an express commitment to Bataille’s heterology, but rather is a feature



of her reading of the philosopher in Sade as a materialist character-type within a work of literature (Warman 2014, p. 77). The philosopher as fictionalised by Sade is “a man of [material] action and sensation.” For Sade, she writes, “thought is nothing in itself”; the Sadean philosopher has no “interiority,” and so their “appearance is [their] philosophy” (p. 85). Warman is right insofar as it goes—she is, after all, describing the characterisation of the philosopher within Sade’s novels. But in ignoring what Sade’s characters actually say, or in Aline et Valcour what they write, Warman is ignoring the possibility that the author is producing in the novels a genuine philosophical “system.” In this Warman too is living in Bataille’s long shadow. The third significant point that I would like to draw out from the way in which Sade was used by the twentieth-century avant-garde is the importance of the myth of Sade for ways in which he was interpreted. The Sadean myth which was forged then and which survived for that matter till the Second World War, was very simple but powerful. It makes of Sade an absolute victim, but a sombre victim who will provide the more or less conscious model for writers like Céline or much later Genet. The myth of a revolutionary Sade, radical, quasi-cause of the Revolution since the true-and-false legend was spread according to which it was because of his yells, since he was imprisoned in the Bastille, his appeals to the citizens which he had launched with the aid of a megaphone, a “tin funnel,” that the people of Paris had taken the Bastille on the 14 July 1789; the myth of a faceless Sade, the myth of a Sade whose last wish was to “make vanish all traces of his earthly presence” and “make his memory fade from the minds of men.” The myth of a quasi-communist Sade, of a Sade who was the innocent victim of all powers, monarchical power, republication power, revolutionary power, Napoleonic power […] The figure that was deployed to whitewash his image in a manner sometimes naïve or angelic, and this especially done by the monks of Sadism, as by the great editors and biographers Maurice Heine and Gilbert Lely, who defined Sade as “the most horribly slandered genius in human history” and whose existence was able to be considered “heroic”: saint Sade. La mythologie sadienne qui se forge alors, et qui survivra d’ailleurs à la Seconde Guerre mondiale, est très simple mais forte. Elle fait de Sade une victime absolue, mais une victime noire qui servira de modèle plus ou moins conscient pour des écrivains comme Céline ou plus tard Genet. Mythe d’un Sade révolutionnaire, radical, quasi-cause de la Révolution puisque se diffuse la vraie et fausse légende selon laquelle ce serait du fait



de ses cris, alors qu’il est embastillé, de ses appels aux citoyens qu’il aurait lancés à l’aide d’un porte-voix, un « tuyau de fer-blanc » que le peuple de Paris aurait pris la Bastille le 14 juillet 1789 ; mythe d’un Sade sans visage ; mythe d’un Sade dont le dernier vœu est de « faire disparaitre toute trace de sa présence terrestre » et « que sa mémoire s’efface de l’esprit des hommes ». Mythe d’un Sade quasi-communiste, d’un Sade innocent et victime de tous les pouvoirs, du pouvoir monarchiste, du pouvoir républicain, du pouvoir révolutionnaire, du pouvoir napoléonien […] Figure que l’on s’emploie à dédouaner d’une manière parfois naïve ou angélique, et cela surtout du fait des bénédictins du sadisme, comme ses grand éditeurs and biographes, Maurice Heine et Gilbert Lely, qui définissent Sade comme « le génie le plus atrocement calomnié de l’histoire des hommes » et dont l’existence peut être qualifiée d’ « héroïque » : saint Sade. (Marty 2011, pp. 13–14)

That Sade’s oeuvre has generally been read in conjunction with his biography—and with a heavily mythologised biography at that—has been noted too by Warman.10 She particularly notes the irony of this: even as they claimed to be taking Sade seriously, his writing was not considered on its own merits; “not even Barthes could bring himself to apply his theory of the death of the author to Sade: his book Sade, Fourier, Loyola is as much a series of pen portraits of Sade as of insight into his work” (Warman 2002, p. 12). It is striking that it was Sade himself who initiated the idea that his oeuvre ought to be read through the lens of his biography. Aline et Valcour was initially written between 1785 and 1788 during Sade’s incarceration in the Bastille. Aided by the knowledge of hindsight, and in order to emphasise its “prophetic zeal,” Sade reworked the text in ways that, given the Revolutionary politics of the time, were obviously self-serving (Delon 1998, pp. 1196–1200; Lever 1993, pp. 406, 474– 75). When the novel was published in 1795 its alternative title was The Philosophical Novel, Written in the Bastille one Year Before the Revolution of France. Sade stresses again the circumstances of the novel’s composition in the front matter, emphasising that “the manner in which, oppressed by ministerial despotism, our author foresaw the revolution, is absolutely extraordinary, and must throw on his work a very lively nuance” (Sade 1998, p. 388). And Sade even goes so far as to remind the forgetful reader of this several times during the novel, generally in “editorial” notes which comment on the letters and so which address the



reader directly (pp. 447, 541, 701, 851–52.) Sade then is overt in using his biography to burnish his credentials as a critic of the ancien régime and to (apparently) ground the politics of the novel: in contrast to the Rousseauian utopia of Tamoé, the kingdom of Butua is to be read as a dystopic satire of the ancien régime. Commentators on the novel have happily, if naïvely, followed Sade’s suggested interpretation.11 And many others have continued to take Sade’s biography as the key to interpreting his oeuvre. The problem of Sade, the problem of reconciling his thought with his context, has then been exacerbated by uses that Sade has been put to in the twentieth century and by the current state of Sade studies. For her part Warman proposes to take Sade seriously by reading his work, “not by itself, but according to itself and its context” (2002, p. 12).12 Warman’s point is that in the deployment of Sade since the 1940s his materialism, and his engagement with the materialist philosophes, has not been taken into account. This is right. But I would add that for contextual intellectual history there are in fact more significant aspects of Sade’s milieu than materialism. Specifically there are two aspects which are absolutely essential to understanding his project neither of which can be reduced to materialism: first, the discourse of sensibility which extended widely across the period and so brought together elements of the “Radical Enlightenment” with its more conservative elements, and second, eighteenth-century moral philosophy. These aspects will be central to this book. The problem of Sade is particularly a problem posed to historians of philosophy. We need to be conscious not to retrospectively impose on the period contemporary understandings of what it is to be a philosopher, but Anthony Pagden is right to stress that “the Enlightenment, as its proponents insisted time and again, was above all else a ‘century of philosophy’” (Pagden 2013, 8). Participants in the period were “conscious that they were living through a century of ‘light’ or ‘philosophy’” (Pagden 2013, p. 9). And there are very good reasons to consider Sade as a philosophe (or perhaps: as a philosophe manqué); Sade saw himself as an heir to the Enlightenment “project.” To invoke just one striking example from Histoire de Juliette, in a footnote to a speech by Noirceuil on nature’s need for destruction Sade addresses the reader directly and claims only to be making explicit a truth which they knew but which the period’s “ignorance and tyranny” prevented from elucidating13:



Kind La Mettrie, profound Helvétius, wise and knowing Montesquieu, why then, so understanding of this truth, have you only indicated towards it in your divine books? Oh century of ignorance and tyranny, what harm have you done to human knowledge, and in what slavery you hold back the greatest geniuses of the universe! Let us dare then to speak today, since we have the power; and since we owe the truth to mankind, let us dare to unveil it entirely. (Sade 1968, p. 334) Aimable La Mettrie, profond Helvétius, sage et savant Montesquieu, pourquoi donc, si pénétrés de cette vérité, n’avez-vous fait que l’indiquer dans vos livres divins? Ô siècle de l’ignorance et de la tyrannie, quel tort vous avez fait aux connaissances humaines, et dans quel esclavage vous reteniez les plus grands génies de l’univers! Osons donc parler aujourd’hui, puisque nous le pouvons ; et, puisque nous devons la vérité aux hommes, osons la leur dévoiler tout entière. (Sade 1998, p. 175)

That this is somewhat disingenuous—at the very least Sade is misrepresenting the philosophes in question—is not the point: Sade was a selfstyled philosophe and his thought is highly continuous with others marked by the same term; he used the term “les lumières” to associate himself with something like the “party of philosophy” (Sade 1965b, p. 332); he had a carefully considered philosophical anthropology; and Sade deliberately characterised his novelistic project, a project inseparable from his philosophical project, in terms of a science of the human, specifically as a study of the truth of the human heart: It is nature that must be seized when one labours in this genre, it is the heart of man, the most unique of her works […] the profound study of which is so necessary to the novelist, and the novel, the faithful mirror of this heart, must necessarily trace its every fold. (Sade 1966, p. 107) C’est donc la nature qu’il faut saisir quand on travaille ce genre, c’est le cœur de l’homme, le plus singulier de ses ouvrages, […] dont la profonde étude est si nécessaire au romancier, et que le roman, miroir fidèle de ce cœur, doit nécessairement en tracer tous les plis. (Sade 1987, pp. 39–40)14

Sade was then an eager participant in the period’s philosophical/anthropological humanism, and as such his thought is continuous with his context in relatively unproblematical ways. I show in this study that the key “ingredients” of the Sadean “system” were readily available to him in the philosophy of the period such that, conceptually at least, the Sadean



synthesis itself was far from unprecedented. Given this, and given the perhaps surprising sophistication of his philosophical “system,” we cannot solve the problem of Sade by simply ignoring or dismissing him from the period. As such Gay’s treatment of Sade is clearly simplistic. As well as showing Sade’s continuity with his period, this study also develops an image of Sade as a theorist of surprising originality. As I show the most original aspects of his philosophical “system” are not those governed by his materialism or even by his atheism, aspects which have often taken to be the most important ingredients of his oeuvre.15 This is to say that while these aspects are highly significant, they are not original to his work but are shared by much of the “Radical Enlightenment.” Rather, it is Sade’s engagement with the moral and political thought of his period that constitutes the most original aspect of his philosophical “system.” This engagement is mostly negative or critical. But Sade does have a positive aspect to his moral thought; it is incorrect to describe him as an ethical nihilist as he does have a clear ethos (and lays out explicit libertine mores). And so as well as being highly continuous with his period, Sade was also a strident critic of many aspects of the Enlightenment “project.” Specifically, he is a strident critic of the philosophes’ moral/political project.16 And so to simply argue as Crocker has that there was nothing in Sade which was not also found in his period is to seriously underestimate Sade’s originality. It is then also an oversimplification to say that Sade is entirely continuous with his period, let alone to take him as its epitome. Sade’s oeuvre challenges simplistic understandings of the Enlightenment meta-narrative, the idea that the Enlightenment was an age of reason and of humanism in their contemporary meanings. It goes without saying that the Enlightenment can no more be understood to be a single coherent movement than can the other great historiographical periods. There are a great many well-justified ways of pluralising the Enlightenment. For current purposes it is worth pulling apart (insofar as this is possible) Enlightenment humanism into its two key strands: for Cook, Curthoys, and Konishi the two key aspects are constituted by, first, the “science of man” as a philosophical/scientific project, and second, humanism as a moral/political project (2013, p. 1). Their key point in doing this is to argue that it is not completely clear how these two projects relate to each other and the two strands not only often pull apart, but are sometimes set one against the other. Sade’s oeuvre may be the best example of this.



The Enlightenment concept of “humanity” is best understood not as a shared intellectual supposition, whether useful or pernicious, but as a field of conflict in which competing visions of human life and political organisation were mobilized. (Cook et al. 2013, p. 3)

It is certainly true to say that the tensions generated by the various modes of thinking the human which were dominant in the eighteenth century are clearly illustrated by Sade’s oeuvre. But this observation does not in itself solve the problem posed by Sade to scholars of the period. Questions of detail remain: how did Sade’s thought separate the strands of Enlightenment humanism from each other and set them against each other? In order to respond to the problem of Sade a historiographical reconstruction of Sade’s philosophical “system” is first required.


1. This division is made particularly prominent by Cook et al. (2013). 2. The pamphlet also speaks also in terms of the philosophe’s love of “la société civile.” 3. See also Crocker (1959, p. 376), Durante (1997, pp. 9–11), and Hénaff (1999, p. 287). I will return in the conclusion to discuss Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment in some detail. 4. See also Warman (2002, p. 5). 5.  One striking example of this comes from Marcel Hénaff who holds that “the Sadean text is not only a major sign of its times but also, and perhaps more than anything else—through its frequently intolerable excesses—one of the most enigmatic and disquieting testimonies of the fate of our own civilisation. […] Which is why […] it is utterly ludicrous to take Sade literally, to read his fictions as programs for crime and perversion. But this is what is still going on in some centres of thinking (or unthinking)” (Hénaff 1999, p. xii; see also pp. 4–5, 289). See also Le Brun (1990, pp. xii, 5). I will turn in the conclusion of this book to discuss in this context Horkheimer and Adorno’s famous Dialectic of Enlightenment (2002). 6. Perhaps the most significant counter-example to this tendency is that of Jean Deprun (1990). 7. “Bataille’s Sade is not concerned with reason” (Roche 2006, p. 170). More strongly I think the point is that for Bataille, Sade ought not to be interested in reason. 8. See also Hénaff (1999, p. 1).



9. “À la rencontre de Sade” was republished by Blanchot as “La raison de Sade” in Lautréamont et Sade (Blanchot 2004). The extent to which on this point Allen reads Blanchot and Bataille together is made clear in the note on p. 190. 10. Examples of this tendency include: Airaksinen (1995, p. 8), Frappier-Mazur (1996, pp. 5–6), Le Brun (1990, pp. xii, 18–21), and Roger (1976, pp. 13–16, 29, 91–101). 11. See for example: Fink (1980, p. 73) and Lever (2009). 12. See also Delon (1990). 13. See also Warman (2002, pp. 93–94, 98–100). 14. See also Sade (1968, pp. 1108, 1046; 1998, pp. 1184, 1129). 15. For example: Hénaff (1999, esp. pp. 24–32). 16. Annie Le Brun (1990 [1986]) assumes the Nietzschean idea that the death of God implies the death of systematic morality. And so she praises Sade’s total atheism, his “definitive atheism” (p. 212), as it contrasts with others of the atheist/materialists philosophes who do not abandon morality. As I show however Sade’s rejection of morality does not follow axiomatically from his atheism, rather Sade has to argue systematically against the ethical humanism of the period’s broader atheist/materialist context.

References Airaksinen, Timo. 1995. The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. London and New York: Routledge. Allen, William S. 2018. Without End: Sade’s Critique of Reason. London and New York: Bloomsbury. Bataille, Georges. 1985 [1957]. Literature and Evil. Translated by Alastair Hamilton. London and New York: Marion Boyars. Bataille, Georges. 1986 [1957]. Erotism: Death and Sensuality. Translated by Mary Dalwood. San Francisco: City Lights Books (Original edition, L’Erotisme 1957). Bataille, Georges. 1987a. “L’Érotisme.” In Georges Bataille Œuvres complètes Vol X, 7–265. Paris: Gallimard. Bataille, Georges. 1987b. “La Littérature et le mal.” In Georges Bataille Œuvres complètes Vol IX, 171–316. Paris: Gallimard. Blanchot, Maurice. 2004. Lautréamont and Sade. Translated by Stuart Kendall and Michelle Kendall. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Breton, Andre. 1978a. “What Is Surrealism?” In What Is Surrealism? Selected Writings, edited by Franklin Rosemont, 112–40. London: Pluto Press. Breton, Andre. 1978b. What Is Surrealism? Selected Writings. Edited by Franklin Rosemont. London: Pluto Press.



Cook, Alexander, Ned Curthoys, and Shinon Konishi. 2013. “The Science and Politics of Humanity in the Eighteenth Century: An Introduction.” In Representing the Human in the Age of Enlightenment, edited by Alexander Cook, Ned Curthoys, and Shinon Konishi, 1–14. London: Pickering & Chatto. Crocker, Lester G. 1959. An Age of Crisis: Man and World in Eighteenth Century French Thought. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. Crocker, Lester G. 1963. Nature and Culture: Ethical Thought in the French Enlightenment. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press. Delon, Michel. 1990. “Introduction.” In Sade: Œuvres Volume I, edited by Michel Delon, IX–LVIII. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Delon, Michel, ed. 1998. Sade: Œuvres. Vol. I. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Deprun, Jean. 1990. “Sade Philosophe.” In Sade: Œuvres Volume I, edited by Michel Delon, LIX–LXIX. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Diderot, Denis, and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, eds. 1765. “Humaniste.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, 8: 348. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Du Marsais, César Chéneaux. 1743. “Le Philosophe.” In Nouvelles libertés de penser, 173–204. Amsterdam. Durante, Danile Castillo. 1997. “Sade ou l’ombre des lumières.” In EighteenthCentury French Intellectual History, edited by Marc Goldstein and Roland Bonnel, Vol. 7. New York and Paris: Peter Lang. Fink, Beatrice C. 1980. “Narrative Techniques and Utopian Structures in Sade’s ‘Aline et Valcour’.” Science Fiction Studies 7 (1): 73–79. Frappier-Mazur, Lucienne. 1996 [1991]. Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade. Translated by Gillian C. Gill. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Gay, Peter. 1971. The Party of Humanity: Essays in the French Enlightenment. New York: W. W. Norton. Hénaff, Marcel. 1999 [1978]. Sade: The Invention of the Libertine Body. Translated by Xavier Callahan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 1996. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Translated by John Cumming. New York: Continuum Publishing. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press.



Lamarche, Pierre. 2007. “The Use Value of G.A.M.V. Bataille.” In Reading Bataille Now, edited by Shannon Winnubst, 54–72. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Le Brun, Annie. 1990 [1986]. Sade: A Sudden Abyss. Translated by Camille Naish. San Francisco: City Light Books. Lever, Maurice. 1993. Sade: A Biography. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. London and New York: Harcourt Bracea. Lever, Maurice, ed. 2009. Marquis de Sade: Écrits Politique. Paris: Bartillat. Marty, Éric. 2011. Pourquoi le XXe siècle a-t-il pris Sade au sérieux? Paris: Seuil. McMorran, Will. 2014. “The Marquis, the Monster, and the Scientist: Sade, Sexology, and Criticism.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 121–38. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Moraes, Eliane Robert. 2014. “The Reader in the Boudoir.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 36–51. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Morrissey, Robert, ed. 1798. “Humanité.” In Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. University of Chicago, ARTFL Encyclopédie Projet. Morvan, Danièle, ed. 2005a. “Humanisme.” In Dictionnaire Culturel en Langue Française, 1727. Paris: Dictionnaires Le Robert. Morvan, Danièle, ed. 2005b. “Humaniste.” In Dictionnaire Culturel en Langue Française, 1727–30. Paris: Dictionnaires Le Robert. Morvan, Danièle, ed. 2005c. “Humanité.” In Dictionnaire Culturel en Langue Française, 1730. Paris: Dictionnaires Le Robert. Pagden, Anthony. 2013. The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Roche, Geoffrey. 2006. “Black Sun: Bataille on Sade.” Janus Head 9 (1): 157–80. Roger, Philippe. 1976. Sade: La philosophie dans le pressoir. Paris: Bernard Grasset. Sade, D. A. F. 1965a [1795]. “Philosophy in the Bedroom.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 184–367. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1965b [1795]. “Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen, If You Would Be Republicans.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 296–339. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1966 [1799]. “Reflections on the Novel.” In The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 97–116. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1968 [1797]. Juliette. Translated and Edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse. New York: Grove Press.



Sade, D. A. F. 1987. “Idée sur les romans.” In Les Crimes de l’amour: Nouvelles héroïques et tragiques précédées d’une Idée sur les romans, edited by Michel Delon, 27–51. Paris: Gallimard. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795]. “La Philosophie dans le boudoir, ou Les Instituteurs immoraux.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 1–178. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Steintrager, James A. 2005. “Liberating Sade.” Yale Journal of Criticism 18 (2): 351–79. Steintrager, James A. 2016. The Autonomy of Pleasure: Libertines, License, and Sexual Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press. Warman, Caroline. 2002. Sade: From Materialism to Pornography. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Warman, Caroline. 2014. “A “Little Short Fat Man, Thirty-Five Years of Age, Inconceivably Vigorous, and Hairy as a Bear”: The Figure of the Philosopher in Sade.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 77–86. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.


Sade’s Philosophical “System”

In this book, I will always use scare quotes whenever I refer to Sade’s philosophical “system”: the term is useful—even critical—but I also want to maintain a distance from it. Addressing why this is, and what it means to describe Sade’s intellectual project as a philosophical “system” I hope serves as a useful vehicle by which to frame this study and introduce its themes. The OED understands the word “system” to refer in the first instance to “an organised or connected group of objects.” Examples given include uses in physics where it might designate the “solar system,” and in biology where it may refer to “a set of organs or parts in an animal body of the same or similar structure, or subserving the same function,” for example the nervous, muscular, digestive, respiratory, or reproductive systems. Or it may also refer to the “animal body as an organised whole.” We may also use the term to refer to an “a set of principles” including a scheme or method. Again what is important here is the idea of both multiplicity and organisational unity: a system may be “the set of correlated principles, ideas, or statements belonging to some department of knowledge or belief” or more usefully for the present purposes “a connected and regularly arranged scheme of the whole of some subject; a comprehensive body of doctrines, conclusions, speculations, or theses.” Note that this is broadly consistent with understandings contemporary to Sade, specifically in Condillac’s A Treaties on Systems and in d’Holbach’s System of Nature (Condillac 1982; d’Holbach 1781). We know that Sade owned and was heavily influenced by this latter work. © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




And so it is not surprising, as Philippe Mengue has shown, that Sade himself occasionally used the descriptor “system” to describe his own philosophical work, both in his personal letters and elsewhere (Mengue 1996, pp. 13–14).1 Philosophers and historians of the tradition are likely to speak of a “philosophical system” when referring to either a single oeuvre (as organised by the author function), or to a school, or perhaps a historical period, where all, or at least most of, the main aspects depend on each other in such a way as to make it an interconnected, mutually dependent whole. Size is likely to be important and we are unlikely to use the term unless the object we are talking about covers many, if not most, of the traditional central fields of philosophy. The system will likely have a series of core commitments without which it fails but weaknesses in peripheral ideas may not be enough to cause the whole to disintegrate. The key metaphor here is perhaps a biological or bodily system: the circulatory system may survive the loss of quite a few capillaries but not of the heart or the aorta. Paradigmatically, in deploying the term historians of philosophy might gesture towards Plato, Aristotle, perhaps medieval Scholasticism, Kant, and particularly to Hegel. Many of the master-thinkers of “Continental” philosophy may be described as producing a system. We are however much less likely to use the d ­ escriptor for philosophical reactions against these including philosophical Naturalism or Pragmatism (although we may talk of them as forming a “tradition”). I think we are unlikely to use the term to describe current practices in “analytic” philosophy where the contemporary professional tends to work on (relatively) discreet problems, not on an interconnected whole as a whole. And of course, much of the “analytic” tradition is a rejection of grand metaphysical system-building especially that of Idealism and the holism it implies. Accordingly, we generally use the term to refer to a system of speculative metaphysics and generally avoid using it when describing one of the tradition’s periodic critiques of such metaphysics. A philosophical system then probably has a collection of speculative metaphysical commitments including some core commitments that do most of the conceptual labour; concomitant with this, it probably has a robust philosophical anthropology. Additionally, the system will likely also have peripheral commitments which may include a moral and/or political philosophy and perhaps a philosophical aesthetics all of which are likely to be generated by or be conceptually subservient to the core



metaphysical commitments. Conceptual coherence is a very ­important or perhaps even a necessary criterion for the descriptor: if the v­arious elements do not fit together to form a functioning whole—even if only in the idealised, rather than the actual, whole—there is no system to be described. Can we then use the term to refer to Sade; does Sade have a philosophical “system”? I will begin with the affirmative case, will then discuss the negative, and in the end, leave the question unanswered (hence my continued use of scare quotes). This study will reconstruct from the Sadean oeuvre and its intellectual context a relatively sophisticated structure of interdependent ideas which can be described as a philosophical “system.” This includes at its centre a series of speculative metaphysical commitments, Sade’s much vaunted materialism and atheism. However caution is warranted here as it is not completely clear that this aspect of the “system” can be well described as Sade’s. Rather Sade uses it in common with many of the most prominent thinkers of the progressive or “Radical Enlightenment,” most particularly d’Holbach who is perhaps the most systematic theorist of the materialist atheism of this period.2 This aspect of Sade’s thought is very significant—this book will often invoke what I will call the theory of transmutational materialism which is a substantial feature of Sade’s theory of natural law—but materialism is not as important for understanding Sade’s “system” as previous commentators have generally held. Much more significant is Sade’s philosophical anthropology. Sade was deeply immersed in what I will describe in Part II as the discourse of sensibility, and the body which is located at the very centre of his “system” is very much the eighteenth-century’s body of sensibility. As I show, Sade has his own version of the body of sensibility; particularly his collapsing of the “pleasure/pain binary” into an epistemology of intensity is distinctive and is a very important feature of his “system.” The point is this: the discourse of sensibility is much more widely deployed in the period than merely in materialist philosophy and within it brings together theorists of very diverse metaphysical persuasions: the body of sensibility may have been conceived of in terms of reductionist materialism. Or it may have been understood to also possess an immaterial and immortal soul. Or a particular author may have simply bypassed questions of theology and speculative metaphysics and simply engaged in their particular intellectual practice: this particularly applied to the médecins philosophes who will feature prominently in Part II. By



foregrounding the body of sensibility rather than materialist metaphysics this study brings Sade together with aspects of Enlightenment thought not usually understood to be part of the “Radical Enlightenment,” particularly—surprisingly perhaps—this study will often bring Sade into dialogue with Jean-Jacques Rousseau: this book demonstrates that very often it was Rousseau who was Sade’s principal inspiration and interlocutor. Fed or supported by these core elements of Sade’s “system” are a significant number of interconnected and mutually supporting peripheral features: most significant is Sade’s moral philosophy. Undoubtedly Sade transmuted eighteenth-century materialism into pornography.3 But there is a very great deal more to his “system” than this. Far more significantly, in order to authorise his literary/pornographic imagination, Sade felt the need to engage with the major strands of eighteenth-century moral philosophy. This mostly critical engagement constitutes for the historian of philosophy the most interesting and original aspect of his thought. It seems obvious in hindsight but no one has yet shown this with detailed scholarly work: Sade qua philosopher is absolutely obsessed with moral theory.4 To put this key point in another form: while Sade shares most of his metaphysical commitments with the materialists of the “Radical Enlightenment,” the philosophes, even the most radical of them, are humanists in the moral/political sense. To invoke just one significant example—significant because he has often been taken to be a major influence on Sade—La Mettrie in his Système d’Épicure (1750) outlines the intention of his work in overtly moral and sentimental terms: As for the others, those for whom religion is only what it is, a fable, as I cannot restrain them with ties which have been broken, I shall try to seduce them with generous feelings and inspire in them that greatness of soul which defeats everything; and putting forward the claims of humanity, which precede everything, I shall show those cherished, sacred relations which are more touching than the most eloquent speech. I shall show a wife or a mistress in tears, and heartbroken children who will be left by their father’s death without education on the face of the earth. Who would not listen to such touching cries from the graveside? Who would not reopen his dying eyes? What coward refuses to carry a burden that is useful to several people? What monster sees his only aim as freeing himself, thanks to a momentary pain, from the most sacred of duties by tearing himself from his family, his friends, and his country! (La Mettrie 1996, pp. 109–10)



Les autres, ceux pour qui la religion n’est que ce qu’elle est, une fable, ne pouvant les retenir par des liens rompus, je tâcherai de les séduire par des sentiments généreux, de leur inspirer cette grandeur d’âme, à qui tout céde; enfin faisant valoir les droits de l’humanité, qui vont devant tout, je montrerai ces relations chères & sacrées, plus pathétiques que les plus éloquents discours. Je ferai paraître une épouse, une maîtresse en pleurs; des enfants désolés, que la mort d’un père va laisser sans éducation sur la face de la terre. Qui n’entendrait des cris si touchants du bord du tombeau ? Qui ne rouvrirait une paupière mourante? Quel est le lâche qui refuse de porter un fardeau utile à plusieurs? Quel est le monstre, qui par une douleur d’un moment, s’arrachant à sa famille, à ses amis, à sa patrie, n’a pour but que de se délivrer des devoirs les plus sacrés! (La Mettrie 1751, pp. 356–57)5

Sade will have none of this. It is on moral grounds that he strives to distance himself from his intellectual context and it is here that I think we find Sade is at his most philosophically interesting and original. Two aspects are important: theories of “natural” morality, where naturalness is generally understood, as by La Mettrie in the above quotation, in terms of a moral sense that exists prior to social convention; and theories of “artificial” morality which are contract-based moralities and are in the period the continuation of early-modern traditions of natural law. This book will deal with each in detail in parts three and four, respectively. But as I often stress, these two aspects of the period’s moral thought converge and the division is more historiographical than historical. Again, this supports the idea that in Sade’s response to them there is a philosophical “system.” Sade’s moral thought is not entirely critical and he develops something like a positive moral theory, an ethos and a structure of libertine mores. These constitute some of the most idiosyncratic—and it has to be said implausible—aspects of his philosophical “system.” Once more the connectedness of his ideas is significant. First, eighteenth-century theories of moral sense are inseparable from aesthetics: the good and the beautiful are unified in the body of sensibility and its affects. Sade’s aesthetics of the abhorrent is fundamental here and constitutes a major aspect of his positive response to moral sense theory. This aspect of Sade’s thought has drawn a great deal of attention and some, for example the Surrealists, Bataille, and many following them, have taken it to be the whole of Sade’s contribution: I discuss this aspect of Sade’s “system” in the coda to Part III. Second, Sade has a positive version of natural law



theory with which he attempts to argue that destruction is the most significant of nature’s wishes. In this argument Sade does rely very heavily on the metaphysics of transmutational materialism. And finally, Sade has an elaborate theory of ethical self-cultivation. As I show in Part V, Sade’s philosophical “system” produces a philosophical askesis. In itself this is not surprising or particularly original as it is a key aspect of much eighteenth-century thought. However, the details of Sade’s askesis develop from his moral philosophy and his ontology of the body and are highly particular to his oeuvre. There are then some compelling reasons to speak of a philosophical “system” in Sade. But there are also at least two compelling reasons to avoid doing so. First, if Sade has a “system” it is one in which the philosophical is necessarily imbricated with the literary. I return to this point often in this work: Sade’s genre of choice was the philosophical novel, the roman philosophique. In making this choice, Sade is precisely of his time: I show in chapter four that there were compelling philosophical reasons for intellectuals of the period to choose this genre, reasons grounded in the body of sensibility and in the epistemology which it implies. In this we can also see the influence of Rousseau. There are three points to be made here. First, I have already gestured towards the philosophical importance of Sade’s aesthetics of the abhorrent which is a response to theories of moral sense insofar as they equate the sense of the good with the sense of the beautiful. Simply, the nature of philosophical aesthetics is not such as to allow Sade to prove philosophically that the abhorrent can be aesthetically pleasing: Sade must convince his reader in the aesthetical/literary mode and only then use philosophical aesthetics to explain the reader’s actual aesthetical experience. And this is what he attempts. Second, as I show in chapter twelve, Sade’s critique of moral philosophy generates a problem of the other, particularly a problem of libertine sociability. Sade does not find a philosophical or theoretical solution to this problem; rather, and specifically in his Histoire de Juliette, the problem is the conceptual engine that drives the narrative. Third, Sade uses the literary element of his writing to distance himself the philosophical speeches he gives his characters. Further, it is not clear that there is a singular libertine archetype for Sade. Again I discuss this in detail in chapter twelve. It is not then the case that in the Sadean novel the philosophical and the literary merely cohabit: rather they are inextricably intertwined such that if there is in the oeuvre a philosophical “system” it is one in which the philosophical and the literary merge. I noted



above that internal coherence is an important feature of a philosophical system. If the only way to understand Sade’s “system” as (attempting to be) coherent is to realise that it contains within it a melange of philosophy and literature, it is the term “philosophical” which now comes under intolerable strain: at best it can only be a philosophical-literary “system.” The second reason for not thinking of Sade as a systematic philosopher is that Sade’s argumentative strategy is often either ambidextrous or, less generously, self-contradictory. Again coherence is the issue here. Sade often proceeds by way of a pair of conditional arguments without using the indicative in either case. The fact that Sade distances himself from his arguments by giving them to literary characters rather than “speaking in his own voice” is central to this strategy. There are two significant examples of this tendency which I will invoke to serve my present purpose. The first example comes from Part III of this book: On the one hand, Sade argues that if we do genuinely experience effects of the moral sense then this is because they have been implanted in us by institutions of civil society and so they are not natural. This allows Sade to argue that moral sense does not, in fact, generate veridical obligations and should be worked against rather than cultivated. On the other hand, Sade argues that if the moral sense is natural it is merely self-interested and so is therefore not moral. That is, Sade avoids a clear commitment as to whether the moral sense is natural or not. The second example is from Part IV: on the one hand Sade, referencing d’Holbach among others, associates himself with a genuine philosophical atheism and sides with philosophy and materialism against religious superstition; on the other hand Sade associates himself with the idea that if there is a God he is evil and so is worthy of abhorrence, not veneration. Either argument leads to the outcome Sade wants—theology cannot generate moral obligation—but Sade cannot have it both ways—God cannot be both evil and non-existent—and in the end Sade is not completely clear which of the two positions he actually takes to be the case and does not clearly affirm either. It is not my intention to provide a sustained philosophical critique of Sade’s “system”: that it is, as a “system,” in serious error is for me a point which is far too obvious to bother making in detail. And in any event, following the detailed historiographical and reconstructive work that I have done for this study I am content to let someone else shoot the fish that I have carefully trapped in the barrel. Rather than make much of Sade’s conceptual incoherence it is far more interesting, and far



more appropriate to the oeuvre and to the modes by which philosophy was conceived of by thinkers in the period, to say that Sade is philosophically ambidextrous. This too is an inescapable feature of his philosophical “system” even as it makes the use of that term highly problematical: I will, therefore, continue to use scare quotes.

Les Idées reçues Although I do not in this study critique Sade’s “system” directly or philosophically I do nonetheless hope to have achieved something very substantial by carefully situating the oeuvre within the history of philosophy. In the reminder of this chapter, I want to emphasise the significance of the approach that I have taken and the novelty of the results for Sade scholarship. While it is widely acknowledged that Sade was, or at least aspired to be, a philosophe it is significant that Sade scholarship has nonetheless been dominated by literary studies.6 Most of the critical commentary has focused on the aesthetical or figural aspects of his project and has focused on Sade as a romancier. At the most superficial level then this study simply makes a claim to include Sade within the contemporary practice of the history of philosophy. This work may then appear to be merely another unedifying instance of a “boundary” dispute between disciplines. I am careful however to show the fundamental interconnectedness of philosophy and literature within the Sadean oeuvre: if there is no strict “boundary” within the oeuvre then by implication there ought not to be a disciplinary “boundary” between genres in contemporary reconstructions of the oeuvre. Yet the litterateur—that is, literary historians who, I anticipate, will be well represented among the readers of this book— will perhaps object that this study, insofar as it reconstructs the properly philosophical reasons that underpin Sade’s literary/pornographic ambitions, does privilege philosophy over literature and so evidences a partisan commitment to one discipline over the other. The point would be fairly made: there is no escaping the fact that this project begins as a history of philosophy and so inevitably ends there. However, insofar as this work does reclaim Sade for the history of philosophy it needs to be made clear that this is no mere “boundary” dispute. Substantive issues are at stake. There are several points to be made which emphasise the importance of this book for Sade studies and its scope as a project of revisionist intellectual history.



The first point has to do with the fraught matter of identifying Sade’s authentic voice. Will McMorran has directly addressed the problematic question of the masks of Sade. “Sade criticism,” he writes, Has generally perpetuated the impression of a corpus divide between the superficially respectable (and therefore inauthentic) Sade of the short fiction, the theatre, and the historical novels, and the openly libertine (and therefore authentic) Sade of works such as La philosophie dans le boudoir, Les cent vingt journées de Sodome, and the Histoire de Juliette. This impression of a mask work by the author in certain works and removed in others is often reinforced by Sade himself in the manner in which he r­ ecycles material. (McMorran 2013a, p. 1121)

That is, the Sadean narrator sometimes purports to “attack the values expounded by some of the libertines” and at other times reverses this position by claiming they reveal the truth. “If the mask of the earlier version has been discarded in the later version, it is not quite clear what, if anything, has been revealed: does the narrator of the later, overtly libertine, text speak for the author, or is it just another mask?” (p. 1121). McMorran is here reiterating an established trope in Sade criticism: particularly we may note Philippe Roger who in the opening pages of his La philosophie dans le pressoir plays with the idea that Sade has no face/visage and so there can therefore be no faithful image of him but only a fantasmatic or imaginary one (Roger 1976, pp. 13–15).7 The difficulty of identifying an unmasked Sade who speaks in his own voice (to further blend McMorran’s already well-mixed metaphor) authorises, perhaps even encourages, readings of the libertine novels that take them to be parodies. Lucienne Frappier-Mazur, to invoke just one of the most explicit of these approaches, understands Sade’s parody as conveying a subversive, innovative, and plural discourse: “The essence of the text is parodic because the Sadean imaginary doubles the parodic structures characteristic of the orgy motif, that is, circularity and specularity, transgression, inversion, heterogeneity” (Frappier-Mazur 1996, p. 2., italic in original; see also pp. 75–76).8 The idea of an essential Sadean polyvocity is fundamental to Frappier-Mazur’s approach and, among other things, reinforces the idea that Sade does not speak in his own voice; all we can find in Sade is a parodic play of masks. Approaches of this sort are a sophistication of the tendency in the post-Surrealist uptake to see Sade as deeply and fundamentally funny.9 Roger, for example, sees Sade as an



ironist and a humourist and complains about people who just do not get the joke (Roger 1976, p. 189).10 For Philippe Sollers, “all that Sade has written is humour” (quoted in: Camus and Roger 1983, p. 11). Laying aside the thoroughly uninteresting question of whether or not Sade is attempting to be funny, it is without question that parody is a significant aspect of the Sadean oeuvre, most obviously in Sade’s inversion of the novel of sensibility. It also is without question that Sade in writing philosophical novels uses a variety of literary personae including the persona of the narrator. But it is not clear that McMorran is justified in concluding that Sade “the author and his intentions remain hidden” or that “long before Barthes, Sade imagines the author exiting the scene to be replaced by autonomous text” (McMorran 2013a, pp. 1134, 1133).11 I will return to this point below. For his part McMorran develops the idea of the fundamental polyvocity of the Sadean text not in terms of parody or humour but rather in terms of the idea that “the Sadean text suggest that it was never, for him, anything other than a harmless fantasy” (McMorran 2013a, p. 1133). In so doing he is associating himself with one the most significant of the critical canon’s idées reçues. This is a mode of reading Sade established by Roland Barthes after whom critics have often held that the violence of the Sadean text stays safely within the confines of the text itself, that “Sade’s violence is indeed that of language,” that the “only ‘real’ cruelty in Sade is that working in the body of a language,” and that Sade “only harms language.”12 And so for Roger the Sadean text is about the passage to writing (Roger 1976, p. 87). Sade is safe, because his pedagogy is all about writing; Sade is committing an act of violence against classical rhetoric/language and that is all (Roger 1976, pp. 190, 209; see also pp. 203–23).13 Hénaff too holds that “Sade does violence to classical language” (Hénaff 1999, pp. 7–8; see also pp. 82–83). The only real victim of Sade is the supposedly “natural bond between author and hero” (Hénaff 1999, p. 7). If the Sadean violence does exist, it consists first of all (and perhaps only) in repeated injury to the symbolic body of the established order, in the rape of a language forced to take on horror stories and take in shameful words, in the provocation to tell of evil’s triumph, in the unmetaphorical depiction of the forbidden. (Hénaff 1999, p. 8)

Accordingly, Hénaff seems to be genuinely mystified as to why Sade’s texts were greeted with prohibition (Hénaff 1999, p. 285).



While being one of the most prominent features of Sadean criticism, the idea that Sadean violence is safely confined within the writing itself is not universally shared. McMorran elsewhere laments that there have been very few exceptions to the “it’s all about language” rule arguing that “it is about time that Sadean criticism made room for the reader as well as the text, and for the ethical and affective questions that the process of reading Sade inevitably raises” (McMorran 2013b, p. 232).14 He turns to reader response theory and to the often very real, often very unpleasant, effect Sade has on his reader. In taking this approach he is following Annie Le Brun who also criticises the idea that the Sadean text is only a “literary game” (Le Brun 1990, p. 7; see also pp. 126–29). For her, “the illusion of literary autonomy could prove most useful in protecting us from whatever literary thing is likely to devastate us internally”; the experience of reading Sade is for her that of being drawn into the abyss (Le Brun 1990, see, for example, pp. 11–17). Le Brun is in turn following the lead of Bataille for whom the effect of reading Sade is the whole point of doing so (Le Brun 1990, p. 13). For Bataille to refuse to be affected by the Sadean text is to refuse to take the text seriously. Well-established traditions of literary studies may encourage these opposing modes of reading Sade, that of focusing on the response of the reader to the affects generated by the text, or conversely of understanding the text only in terms of its rhetorical or formal structures. In fact these traditions of literary scholarship may well presuppose the conclusions reached. For my part I hope to show that there are significant payoffs to be had by reading Sade from within the contemporary disciplines of intellectual history and the history of philosophy. There are good reasons to think that in reconstructing the philosophical “system” I have moved beyond the polyvocity of the texts qua literature and identified a voice which, if not that of the “authentic” Sade, is at least the philosophical voice that he intended to be heard speaking with. I show in this book that there is a relatively coherent philosophical “system” to be found in Sade’s oeuvre. In reconstructing this “system” I am able to show which, and to what extent, the various Sadean characters speak for this “system” and which do not. I can show for example that when the narrator claims to attack the libertine values established by another persona they contradict the Sadean “system” and, insofar as they do, so are being disingenuous. Justine’s voice is not consistent with the “system,” Juliette’s voice generally is, and so we may conclude that in the main she speaks for Sade. Or, to turn to Aline et Valcour, Sade’s most equivocal



novel, I can show that in the context of Sade’s philosophical “system” it is clear that Sade’s sympathies (or at least the “system’s” sympathies) in fact lie with the novel’s libertines, not with their victims. In terms of the famous lettres XXXV and XXXVIII, the novel within the novel that tells the story of Sainville and Léonore, I can show that it is the “dystopia” of the kingdom of Butua, it’s ruler Ben Mâacoro, and his “mouthpiece” Sarmiento, and not the “utopia” of the kingdom of Tamoé and its virtuous “lawgiver” Zamé, that illustrate the Sadean “system” (Sade 1998b, pp. 525–724, 737–954). By carefully situating Sade within the ongoing traditions of philosophy I hope to achieve two things. First, I show that the Sadean “system” is strongly normative and didactic in both its negative or critical, and its positive modes. Hyperbole (and parody) notwithstanding, there is no more evidence that Sade intended his own philosophy to remain merely and safely within the text than that any other philosopher in the tradition has intended this. In this sense, I hope to show that the violence of the oeuvre is indeed serious and is not, or at least was not intended by its author to be, merely a matter of language, rhetoric, or even of aesthetics. Sade did intend his writing to affect the reader. But beyond this, the effect he sought was to convince the reader that they ought to actually emulate the libertine characters in his novels. It is naïve to suppose otherwise. Second, by reconstructing the manner in which Sade intended the text to operate—that is by showing how the text operates as philosophy in the proper sense—I hope simultaneously to take a moral and philosophical distance from the text. This is perhaps my own ambidextrous strategy: I seek in this book to take the oeuvre seriously in order to distance myself from it. I have read Sade in his philosophical context the better to now leave him there: the Sade that I have reconstructed is certainly not the archetypal figure of modernity.15 If there are significant payoffs to be had in reading Sade through the history of philosophy it is nonetheless not yet clear that this book has, in claiming Sade for this history of philosophy, moved beyond a mere “boundary” dispute: the litterateur would be quite right to point out that when an author adopts a philosophical persona in order to write/ narrate a given text they still adopt a persona: they still wear a mask. And there is nothing preventing the litterateur deploying techniques of literary scholarship in order to critique the modes by which this mask is created. Yet to take this approach would be to say less and less about the specifics of the Sadean oeuvre and would increasingly critique the



philosophical tradition per se. Ongoing traditions of philosophy presume that in writing a philosophical text—in putting on the mask of a philosopher—the author intends to convince their reader of the theory, argument, position, or system which is presented in the text. That the author almost never completely succeeds in doing this, that the author may later change their mind, or that the author’s philosophical position is almost never consistent with their life as they actually lived it (this, particularly for authors of moral philosophy) is largely beside the point. That a philosophical persona remains a persona does not, for the history of philosophy, alter the fact that the author who operates with such a persona intended to present the position as they presented it. Further, something quite profound—and strongly revisionist for Sade scholarship—has been achieved by simply showing that there is a philosophical “system” in Sade. In demonstrating this I show that much, perhaps even most, of the established critical literature misinterprets or distorts the historical Sade. This is the second of the major idées reçues which I seek to revise in this book. I note in the previous chapter that Bataille is not interested in Sade’s own philosophical project, but rather actively laments it. I also note that Breton expressly conceived of Surrealism as a project which sought to subvert the “reign of logic” and gave primacy to the unconscious and that he appropriated Sade to this end. These deployments of the meaning of Sade established an idée that has until now largely gone unchallenged in Sade criticism: the very widely held belief that Sade qua philosopher is a philosopher of unreason or of the irrational, that Sade is a critic of and not a proponent of Enlightenment reason.16 And so for Roger, “Sade is not in politics, nor a theorist. No more than Nietzsche. His words do not construct” (Roger 1976, p. 221). Hénaff, as is common, treats the philosophical speeches in Sade as digressions (Hénaff 1999, p. 292). Sade has a doctrine? When we pull “philosophical” statements from Juliette and hold them up next to the theses (or assumptions) of Locke, Rousseau, or Kant, we draw Sade into a debate that is not and cannot be his own. (Hénaff 1999, p. 290)17

Further, recognising somewhat grudgingly the effect of the text on the reader, he holds that



On the one hand, despite all our methodological precautions concerning the autonomy of the text, it certainly has to be acknowledged that the Sadean universe as such […] is utterly odious, intolerable, to be rejected unconditionally. On the other hand, however, it must be recognised that this universe, being the stuff of fiction, is never offered either as truth or as an object for imitation. (Hénaff 1999, p. 284)

Le Brun too takes the irrationality of Sade to be fundamental, hence the “abyss” into which the oeuvre throws her. In reading Sade, she writes, “I came to prefer emotions and sensations to ideas, convinced that ideas would lead nowhere” (Le Brun 1990, pp. xi–xii). As always for her the response of the reader to the text is central: what is important in reading Sade is that this “physical revolt—[which] threatened […] the coherence of all thought—was the actual foundation of Sade’s thought” (Le Brun 1990, p. xvi). No logical or philosophical system can get hold of Sade, “because any philosophical interpretation ended up shattering against his thought.” The philosophical speeches too are for Le Brun contradictory: [Sade’s] characters – all acting in the name of reason – never fail to justify, abundantly and with ever more logical theoretical elaboration, the most contradictory positions. His characters, yes; but not Sade, who provokes and plays with their contradictions, as if seeking to establish the absence of any grounds for reason, and so implicitly denounce its pretentions to universality. (Le Brun 1990, p. 53) Such is the incontrovertible law of desire to which reason must continually submit, since desire always finds every reason to justify its very thought, in its own fraudulent will to generality. That is Sade’s incredible outrageousness – at the very outset he erodes the cornerstone of reason on which everybody else is staking all. I’m not sure that we can measure, even today, the full extent of this outrage. […] This essential revolt of the mind against reason […] runs through Sade’s whole work like a trail of gunpowder. (Le Brun 1990, pp. 53–54)

“Sade’s only aim is to show an infinite number of contradictory truths” (Le Brun 1990, p. 103). Sade can then only be read as poetry (Le Brun 1990, p. xvii).18 The tradition of reading Sade as the philosopher of unreason has moved in parallel with a very significant tendency—again established by the Surrealists—to read Sade as a theorist of the unconscious, that is to read him in terms of the psychoanalytic tradition, as an



anticipator of Freud.19 My complaint here is twofold: first, it is deeply and problematically anachronistic to read psychoanalytic concepts back into the Sadean oeuvre. Second, it seems barely tolerable that critics should insist on the fundamental incoherence of the Sadean text, and so insist on the poetic, latent, or psychoanalytic reading, when the manifest philosophical content has yet to be recognised. By taking the time to reconstruct the philosophical “system” that is in the oeuvre I have shown that Sade is not, in fact, a theorist of unreason. Nor is he incoherent. Nor does he deploy libertinage/desire against reason, or against the Enlightenment, or against the symbolic order. His oeuvre does not constitute an essential revolt against Enlightenment reason, rather it uses Enlightenment reason to attempt a systematic critique of the moral philosophy of his context. For Sade, philosophy is the ally of desire; philosophical critique enables his literary/pornographic project. I hope it is not churlish or truculent to point out that the two major idées reçues that I am seeking to undo with this study—first, that the violence in Sade is a violence only to language or that Sade only has intentions apropos of writing, and second, that Sade, insofar as he is a philosopher, is a philosopher of unreason or irrationality or is avant la lettre a theorist of something like the Freudian Id—are both ideas which literary readings of Sade would produce. In both instances these idées are largely presupposed by traditions of literary scholarship and are in turn reinscribed by the critical works produced. Yet significantly, the idea that Sade is a philosopher of the irrational is sufficiently pervasive as to have been reproduced in the most widely available work which does treat Sade from within the tradition of philosophy, Timo Airaksinen’s The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade (1995).20 The results are highly problematic. The speed with which Airaksinen frees himself from the obligation of taking Sade’s actual philosophical project seriously is quite remarkable. Sade had plenty of time to study during his life, and he was indeed a wellread and educated person. But it is not known exactly what he read and who influenced him most; and he uses scientific authority capriciously. If we want to place Sade within a tradition, it should not be conceived in terms of the historical and personal influences which shaped his thought, but rather in terms of his spiritual home. This spiritual home seems to be the darker side of philosophical ethics, a kind of neglected vision of human perversity beyond the healing effect of moral teaching. (Airaksinen 1995, p. 17)



In fact the contents of Sade’s La Coste library had been published two years before this quote (Lever 1991, 1993a), Maurice Lever’s still-authoritative biography of Sade had been published in 1991 and translated in 1993 (Lever 1993b), and the first volume of Michel Delon’s Bibliothèque de la Pléiade edition of Sade had been published in 1990. And notwithstanding these specific examples of resources which would have been available to Airaksinen, Sade often directly references the sources from which he was drawing and to which he was responding. The point is not that Airaksinen’s scholarship is less than careful— although it certainly is—but rather that it presumes to already know what Sade’s philosophical project is and that it is at base irrational. Sade is a kind of moralist, but because he deals with a subject matter which is buried deep in the Id, it would be silly to think that he could provide a neutral description of the facts. Instead of science or ontology, one finds a rich assemblage of metaphors and other rhetorical devices, used in a narrative which works like no other text. (Airaksinen 1995, p. 1)21

Airaksinen feels little need to take Sade’s manifest philosophy seriously, rather for him “Sade is actually a philosopher in disguise”; “Sade tries to break all norms”; “Sade possesses no alternative values”; “Sade aims at confusion and nothingness”; and “the perverse [Sadean] motive is such that the agent transcends the limits of reason while reaching towards mere nothingness” (pp. 5, 14, 16, 25, 44). Airaksinen presumes that the “paradoxical” nature of Sade’s philosophy is grounded in his attempt to exemplify the wicked will—that is, the will which wills evil for the sake of evil—and that this, not Sade’s actual philosophical context, is Sade’s “spiritual home” (p. 3). The philosophical tradition has since the very beginning contained within it the idea that the wicked will is not possible. In the Meno Plato describes Socrates as arguing that no one knowingly desires what is bad or harmful to them. The conceptual structure of desires simply does not allow it, and so the wicked will is not rationally or conceptually possible.22 It is analytically true that what we think is good is what we desire and that what we desire is what we think is good. And so the person who wills or desires evil can only do so because they believe in error that it is, in fact, good for them: they desire evil for the sake of some good and not for evil’s own sake. Yet the very idea which Airaksinen presumes is at the heart of the Sadean oeuvre and establishes its basic incoherence “is the



problem which faces us when we try to understand the nature of evil and the wickedness of the will” (Airaksinen 1995, p. 13). This is why Airaksinen presumes that Sade’s works form an “incoherent philosophical treatise” (Airaksinen 1995, p. 13).23 After freeing himself from the need to rely on Sade’s actual writing Airaksinen produces an entirely speculative interpretation of Sade using, for example, Edgar Allan Poe to define “Sadean” perversion and not Sade himself (pp. 21–23). This tendency intensifies with further clarification of the “conceptual tool”—i.e. the “wicked will”—needed to understand Sade’s philosophy (pp. 26–44). The chapter proceeds with reference to Hobbes, Aristotle, Kant, Freud, and others, only offering one short quote from Sade (on the silencing of conscience) as evidence that Sade was, in fact, trying to articulate the wicked will in the sense Airaksinen presumes (p. 34). The pattern established the book provides almost no actual evidence which may lead the reader to think that Airaksinen’s presentation of Sade’s philosophy is anything like that held by Sade or contained in his oeuvre. My own work demonstrates that Sade is a proponent of no such thing as the wicked will. The Sadean heroes’ love of evil and vice is— of course—the love of evil as a good: often that good is the pleasure or intensity of the heroes’ corporeal sensations, but Sade also attempts to justify the good as he understands it as being established by the laws and desires of nature. Briefly, we may note that much of the problem of Airaksinen’s analysis stems from a failure to understand the realist definition of crime in Sade. I outline this aspect of Sadean natural law in Part IV of this book. At least insofar as it has claims to represent the historical Sade, a very large part of Sade scholarship, perhaps the major part since the Surrealists, has then traded on one or both of at least two fundamental errors. These errors are corrected in this study by my use of intellectual history and the history of philosophy as the methodological lenses through which to approach the oeuvre in its historical context. The substantive work of this book is grouped into four parts. I begin in Part II by outlining the intellectual and philosophical context of Sade’s oeuvre in terms of the discourse of sensibility and the body of sensibility which was its object. The part outlines key features of the period’s ontology and epistemology and the effects of both of these on the genre in the period. Particularly, I show the philosophical reasons that underlie the tendency to use the philosophical novel rather than more abstract



and systematic treatises. This part will hardly mention Sade directly at all.24 Parts three and four focus on the period’s moral philosophy and on Sade’s response to it. Part III focuses on theories of “natural” morality, particularly theories centred on the moral sense; Part IV focuses on theories of “artificial” morality and on traditions of natural law. These parts reconstruct what is I think most interesting and original in the Sadean philosophical “system.” Part V draws the previous chapters together into a sustained reading of Sade’s chef d’oeuvre, Histoire de Juliette. That I take Histoire de Juliette to be Sade’s most important work may come as something of a surprise as it is generally Les cent vingt journées de Sodome, Sade’s most (in)famous and iconic work, that is ascribed key importance.25 And perhaps for Sade’s twentieth-century readers, it has been.26 This is in part because the work’s own astonishing history is so easily integrated into, and is reinforced by, the myth of Sade. It is also because the text is perhaps the most significant in terms of Sade’s aesthetics of the abhorrent which has so often been the dominant concern of those interested in reading Sade. However, this study is in the first instance concerned with Sade’s philosophical “system,” and only then with his aesthetics, and this changes the relative importance of the texts within the oeuvre. Les cent vingt journées de Sodome was written in the Bastille “beginning on October 22, 1785 and finished in thirty-seven days” (Sade 1998, p. 383). This makes it the earliest piece of Sade’s major writing to have survived.27 I do not want to dismiss the work. But it is important to recognise Aline et Valcour as another early work that certainly eclipses Les cent vingt journées de Sodome in terms of its philosophical sophistication, if not in many other regards, including according to the standards Sade sets himself in Idée sur les romans (Sade 1987). Although not published until 1795 the initial version of Aline et Valcour was written in the Bastille between 1785 and 1788 (Lever 1993b, pp. 406, 474–75). The work is rarely read today, very rarely commented on, and remains untranslated.28 But it is nonetheless the most significant of Sade’s “non-pornographic” writings. That it is one of Sade’s most sophisticated pieces of philosophical writing ought not to be a surprise given that Sade subtitled it, perhaps rather arrogantly, “le roman philosophique”: that is, not “a”, but “the philosophical novel.” In its own terms the text is equivocal and this has allowed its readers to be (mis)led in their interpretation of it by voice of the narrator. That this equivocal stance is a deliberate authorial construction is made clear, not by the (disingenuous)



framing of the novel, but rather in a footnote hidden within it, a note that should, I think, be read in the broader context of Sade’s theory of sensibility: This epistolary collection is not a moral treatise of which all the parts must correspond and be bound; formed by different people, this collection offers, in each letter, the way of thinking of the one who writes, or of the persons whom this writer sees, and of whom he reports the ideas: so, rather than disentangling the contradictions or repetitions, inevitable things in such a collection, the wiser reader must play around with or occupy the different systems presented for and against, and adopt the ones that best promote him, or his ideas, or his inclinations. Ce recueil épistolaire n’est point un traité de morale dont toutes les parties doivent se correspondre et se lier; formé par différentes personnes, ce recueil offre, dans chaque lettre, la façon de penser de celui qui écrit, ou des ­personnes que voit cet écrivain, et dont il rend les idées: ainsi, au lieu de s’attacher à démêler des contradictions ou des redites, choses inévitables dans une pareille collection, il faut que le lecteur, plus sage, s’amuse ou s’occupe des ­différents systèmes présentés pour ou contre, et qu’il adopte ceux qui ­favorisent le mieux, ou ses idées, ou ses penchants. (Sade 1998, p. 824)

There is a development of Sade’s philosophical writings from the mid1780s to that of the late 1790s, and this equivocal stance is not sustained across the whole Sadean oeuvre. As I note above, in the context of the “system” as a whole, Aline et Valcour loses its polyvocity. It becomes more-or-less clear which of the philosophical ideas are part of the larger “system” and which are not: specifically, the speeches by Sarmiento are as consistent with the “system” as are the speeches of most of Sade’s philosopher-heroes. I will accordingly refer to Sade’s first philosophical novel relatively often even if only in the notes. The most significant texts for this study then are Aline et Valcour, Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu (that is, I will use the second edition from 1791), and La philosophie dans le boudoir, but the most important of all will be Histoire de Juliette which will often be the focus of my attention. Juliette is Sade’s longest extant work and his most mature both in terms of the philosophical content of the work and in terms of the narrative structure. The fifth part of this study outlines Sade’s own theory of corporeal sensibility and his theory of affective ­self-cultivation, that is his philosophical askesis. Finally the part demonstrates the



ambiguous effects of Sade’s “system” as they are personified in the novel; having reconstructed Sade’s philosophical “system,” Part V provides a philosophically informed reading of Sade’s most significant philosophical novel. The conclusion to this book turns from Sade’s oeuvre itself, to the importance of Sade for Enlightenment studies broadly construed. It crucially engages with Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment and with the “Kant avec Sade” trope that it initiated; the chapter engages directly with the ways that Sade has been deployed in “Continental” philosophy, Critical Theory, and related disciplines which have often used Sade to foster a profound anti-Enlightenment bias.


1. See also Steintrager (2016, pp. 6–8). 2. See d’Holbach (1781). Caroline Warman’s study focuses very heavily on this aspect of Sade, his materialism and the extent to which he shared it with his context. Warman also uses the term “system” to describe Sade’s thought although in doing so she gestures quite narrowly to Sade’s materialist metaphysics (2002, pp. 69, 78–79, 81). See also Durante (1997, p. 12) and Le Brun (1990, pp. xi, xv) The term “Radical Enlightenment” is somewhat problematic. Often it refers to the work of Jonathan Israel, work which in turn has frequently been called into question. I invoke the term here rather loosely. 3. As Warman (2002) has shown. See also Meeker (2006, 2014). 4. But in fact the obviousness of this has not been apparent. This is James A. Steintrager (2016): “Radical libertines such as Sade—and others by implication—were ultimately less interested in an ethics of the pleasurable than in the pleasurable as an end in itself” (p. 144). The major theme of his book is to show “the autonomy of pleasure,” by which Steintrager means that pleasure was a social system that was autonomous from, to invoke some of his major examples, religion, morality, and also philosophical reason (p. 19). To do this Steintrager covers a broad swathe of early modern libertine culture and beyond, although Sade is his pre-eminent example. For my part, focusing closely on Sade’s philosophical “system” I show the extent to which Sade—that is, Sadean pleasure—was intensely interested in the ethics. More broadly my reconstruction of the discourse of sensibility in Part II shows the extent to which pleasure was inextricably linked to wider philosophical concerns within the period. 5. La Mettrie’s influence on Sade has often been overstated and Caroline Warman is correct to say that it is less important to Sade than more



contemporary medical theorists including those I refer to in chapter two of this book (Warman 2002, p. 287). 6. On Sade as philosophe, see particularly Deprun (1990). It has to be recognised there are exceptions to the general tendency of Sade scholarship to be dominated by literary studies including works in cultural history which has also taken up and deployed his work, for example Carter (1979). Steintrager’s (2004, 2016) work on Sade bridges literary and cultural history. However the dominance of literary studies in Sade criticism is true even of the suggestively named text Sade: La philosophie dans le pressoir by Philippe Roger (1976). I will discuss below the major exception to this general trend The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade by Timo Airaksinen (1995). 7. See also Hénaff (1999, p. 284). 8. See too Pfersmann (1983). 9. See, for example, Frappier-Mazur (1996, pp. 106, 134–39). 10. See also Le Brun (1990, p. 39). 11. See also Frappier-Mazur (1996, p. 76). 12. McMorran (2013b, p. 230) is here quoting respectively Laurence Lynch, Geoffrey Bennington, and Philippe Roger. This has idea has recently been reiterated by Allen (2018, pp. 17–18, 119–20). 13. See also Durante (1997, p. 22) and Pfersmann (1983, p. 89). 14. See also Moraes (2014, p. 43). 15. This, in deliberate contrast to figures such as William S. Allen who read Sade, not so much through modernism, but as a modern himself (Allen 2018, pp. 20–23, 127, 143). 16. See, for example, Durante (1997, pp. 10–11), Allen (2018, p. 4; see also pp. 16, 19, 23). 17. Particularly insofar as this book shows the specific engagements between Rousseau and Sade I show Hénaff to be incorrect on this point. 18.  I show in the previous chapter the extent to which William S. Allen (2018) has unselfconsciously continued this tradition of reading Sade. 19.  There are many examples of this including: Airaksinen (1995) and Frappier-Mazur (1996, see particularly pp. 4, 6–7). 20. Airaksinen in fact reproduces both of the idées reçues I am tracing here also holding that Sade’s cruelty is ultimately merely fictional: “when one reads Sade, it is clear that real-life cruelty is not the point. Sade’s fictional violence, bad manners, sex, and terror may be utilised equally well, no real violence is needed” (1995, p. 159; see also p. 8). 21. Within Francophone literature Etienne Pierre’s Le boudoir de la mort takes a very similar approach to Airaksinen insofar as, following a quick and vary careless treatment of the actual philosophical issues which are play in the Sadean oeuvre or its philosophical context, Pierre concludes that Sade



“s’agirait plutôt de déraison puisque toute son œuvre se fond sur l’idée que la raison doit s’effacer devant les passions” (Pierre 2015, p. 163). 22.  Meno (78a–b). The argument is repeated in the Protagoras (358c–d). This basic idea is the foundation of Socratic ethics as it is contained in the early Platonic dialogues. 23. See also pp. 12–13, 15, 18. In this Airaksinen is echoed by William S. Allen (2018) who also reads Sade in terms of the wicked will (pp. 106–8, 123). 24.  The reader, particularly if they have a narrow interest in Sade rather than a broad interest in the Enlightenment, may wonder what the point is of the length and detail in part two. It is perhaps unfair to single her out, but the part’s importance may be illustrated with the assistance of Natania Meeker’s Voluptuous Philosophy: Literary Materialism in the French Enlightenment (2006). Meeker reads Sade from within the Enlightenment tradition of neo-Lucretian materialism. She understands Enlightenment materialism as dominated by an “intense preoccupation with the objectification and rationalisation of matter” (p. 2; see also p. 11). And Meeker seems to uncritically adopt Horkheimer and Adorno’s idea that subject of Enlightenment is constituted by a pure scientific positivism that views “anything which does not conform to the standard of calculability and utility […] with suspicion” (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, p. 3) and which holds that “anything that cannot be resolved into numbers, and ultimately into one, is illusion” (p. 4; see, for example, Meeker 2006, pp. 2, 5). Yet Meeker also foregrounds that the key neo-Lucretian texts she studies—her principle examples are La Mettrie and Sade—are constituted by the “intrinsically poetic pleasures” that are found in reading them (Meeker 2006, p. 9). “Put bluntly,” she then argues, “this means that even the most overtly scientific forms of materialism are caught up in strategies of representing matter that highlight either its difference from, or its involvement in, the tropes that serve to describe it” (p. 5). Her study then is of the “rift […] between a materialism that is intrinsically figural and a materialism that seeks to distance itself from figure in its unpredictable effects on readers,” or as she also puts it her study is of the “profound diremption at the heart of eighteenth-century French representations of matter” (p. 6). I show however in part two that within the discourse of sensibility, the subject of the French Enlightenment, the subject of sensibility, whether or not it was constructed in materialist terms, was certainly not understood in positivist terms. I show that even if the subject was considered in materialist terms, it was not constructed in terms of an “intense preoccupation with the objectification and rationalisation of matter.” And I show that rather than there being a “profound diremption” or “dissociation” between the literal and the figurative representations of the eighteenth-century’s subject, the two are in fact powerfully implicated and utterly consistent with each



other. This consistency, and the extent to which it shows Sade’s oeuvre to be highly continuous with his period, is a very important feature of this study of Sade’s philosophical “system.” Needless to say, Sade’s critical engagement with the ethics of the French Enlightenment, his epistemology of intensity, and his aesthetics of the abhorrent, which includes his extensive hyperbole, leave him a very long way indeed from anything that could be construed as Lucretius’s Epicurean ethics. 25. For example Durante sees Les cent vingt journées de Sodome as the “clef de voûte” of the oeuvre (Durante 1997, p. 20). Anne Le Brun is also good example of this tendency as she asserts that “everything begins with The One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom” and massively privileges this text in her interpretation of the entire oeuvre (Le Brun 1990, pp. 1–2). 26.  Although there have been exceptions to this general rule including Frappier-Mazur (1996) who recognises that Juliette is the “coming of age of the Sadean novel” (p. 1). 27. The short piece Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond dates from 1782 (Delon 1998, p. 1118). 28. Although there are surprisingly few examples, the text has received some commentary including by Edmiston (2013, pp. 141–94) and Fink (1980).

References Airaksinen, Timo. 1995. The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. London and New York: Routledge. Allen, William S. 2018. Without End: Sade’s Critique of Reason. London and New York: Bloomsbury. Camus, Michel, and Philippe Roger, eds. 1983. Sade: Écrire la crise. Paris: Pierre Belfond. Carter, Angela. 1979. The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History. London: Virago. Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de. 1982 [1746]. “A Treatise on Systems.” In Philosophical Writings of Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, 1–151. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates. d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry. 1781 [1770]. Système de la nature ou des loix du monde physique & du monde moral. Vol. 1. London. Delon, Michel, ed. 1998. Sade: Œuvres. Vol. I. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Deprun, Jean. 1990. “Sade Philosophe.” In Sade: Œuvres Volume I, edited by Michel Delon, LIX–LXIX. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.



Durante, Danile Castillo. 1997. “Sade ou l’ombre des lumières.” In EighteenthCentury French Intellectual History, Vol. 7, edited by Marc Goldstein and Roland Bonnel. New York and Paris: Peter Lang. Edmiston, William F. 2013. Sade: Queer Theorist. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Fink, Beatrice C. 1980. “Narrative Techniques and Utopian Structures in Sade’s ‘Aline et Valcour’.” Science Fiction Studies 7 (1): 73–79. Frappier-Mazur, Lucienne. 1996 [1991]. Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade. Translated by Gillian C. Gill. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Hénaff, Marcel. 1999 [1978]. Sade: The Invention of the Libertine Body. Translated by Xavier Callahan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press. La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1751. “Système d’Épicure.” In Ouvres philosophiques, 378–412. Londres [i.e. Berlin]: Jean Nourse. La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1996 [1750]. “The System of Epicurus.” In Machine Man and Other Writings, edited by Ann Thomson, 89–116. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Le Brun, Annie. 1990 [1986]. Sade: A Sudden Abyss. Translated by Camille Naish. San Francisco: City Light Books. Lever, Maurice. 1991. Donatien Alphonse Francois, marquis de Sade. Paris: Fayard. Lever, Maurice, ed. 1993a. Catalogue de La Coste. Vol. 2, Papiers de famille: Le marquis de Sade et les siens (1761–1815). Paris: Fayard. Lever, Maurice. 1993b. Sade: A Biography. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. London and New York: Harcourt Brace. McMorran, Will. 2013a. “Behind the Mask? Sade and the Cent Vingt Journées de Sodome.” The Modern Language Review 108 (4): 1121–34. McMorran, Will. 2013b. “The Sound of Violence: Listening to Rape in Sade.” In Representing Violence in France, 1760–1820, edited by Thomas Wynn, 229–49. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Meeker, Natania. 2006. Voluptuous Philosophy: Literary Materialism in the French Enlightenment. New York: Fordham University Press. Meeker, Natania. 2014. “Sade at the End of the World.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 87–101. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Mengue, Philippe. 1996. L’Ordre sadien: loi et narration dans la philosophie de Sade. Paris: Kime. Moraes, Eliane Robert. 2014. “The Reader in the Boudoir.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 36–51. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.



Pfersmann, Andreas. 1983. “L’Ironie romantique chez Sade.” In Sade: Écrire la crise, edited by Michel Camus and Philippe Roger, 85–95. Paris: Pierre Belfond. Pierre, Etienne. 2015. Le boudoir de la mort, ou l’imposture de Sade, Ouverture Philosophique. Paris: Éditions L’Harmattan. Roger, Philippe. 1976. Sade: La philosophie dans le pressoir. Paris: Bernard Grasset. Sade, D. A. F. 1987. “Idée sur les romans.” In Les Crimes de l’amour: Nouvelles héroïques et tragiques précédées d’une Idée sur les romans, edited by Michel Delon, 27–51. Paris: Gallimard. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1785]. “Les Cent Vingt Journées de Sodome, ou l’École du libertinage.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 13–383. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Steintrager, James A. 2004. Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Steintrager, James A. 2016. The Autonomy of Pleasure: Libertines, License, and Sexual Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press. Warman, Caroline. 2002. Sade: From Materialism to Pornography. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.


The Body of Sensibility: Ontology, Epistemology, Genre


Sensibility, Vitalist Medicine, and Embodied Epistemology

To say that the body is at the centre of Sade’s philosophy does not in itself say very much. It has often been the case that Sade’s materialism has been taken to be the most significant aspect of his philosophical project and insofar as materialism seeks to represent the human it generally does so by foregrounding embodiment (see, for example, Meeker 2006; Warman 2002, p. 21; 2014). And Sade was a pornographer. So it seems trite to point out that corporeality is central to the oeuvre: has anybody ever written pornography without bodies being the central to the work? There is however very much more to say than this. The body at the centre of Sadean thought is not his alone but rather is common to large sections of the eighteenth-century thought. Sade appropriated this body in highly idiosyncratic ways but the body of sensibility was a particularly eighteenth-century idea and to a very large extent it was this body that provided Sade with the most significant aspect of his “system”: the object at its centre. I show in this book that this very particular eighteenth-century understanding of embodiment enabled the Sadean philosophical “system.” Rather than say that insofar as Sade was a pornographer the body was significant for his thought, it is then better to say that the eighteenth-century’s highly particular understanding of corporeality was the enabling condition for Sade’s philosophical pornography. I begin the substantive historiographical work of this book by outlining in this chapter key features of the eighteenth-century’s body of sensibility and of the discourse of sensibility within which this body was constructed as an object of knowledge. The discourse of sensibility © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




was very broadly deployed across the mid- to late-eighteenth century, particularly in France. Sensibility was central to the period’s aesthetics, epistemology, medicine, natural sciences, and social and philosophical anthropologies. In this book, I reconstruct Sade’s philosophical project as it was situated within mid- to late-eighteenth-century French philosophy. I show in some detail the manner in which Sade drew from and responded to his philosophical context. This is to say, this is a work in the history of philosophy and the particular historiographical method it deploys is that of contextual intellectual history. This part lays out many of the key features of this context; it hardly mentions Sade directly but is be foundational for the study which follows. This part has two chapters. This chapter reconstructs the ontology and epistemology of the eighteenth-century’s body of sensibility. It does this by showing the importance of medical vitalism for the period’s philosophical anthropology. Under the single power of sensibility this ontology draws together the passive power of the body to sense with the active power of the body to respond including with the passions and with reason. It examines the implications of this for what I will call the period’s philosophical particularism and for the period’s epistemology more broadly. Chapter 4 turns to the implications of this ontology of the body for genre in the period, for the manner in which philosophy was, or could be, written. Specifically, I show that the relationship between the body of sensibility and the eighteenth-century’s philosophical novel was not accidental but rather was heavily determined. It is a still predominant, if now much criticised, view of early-modern philosophy that it reached its zenith in Kant. From the towering achievement of the first Critique’s (1781) “synthesis” of “British empiricism” and “Continental rationalism” a metanarrative has been retrospectively imposed on all that came before it. As Knud Haakonssen has argued, this “epistemological paradigm” is grounded in the idea that “the theory of knowledge is at the core of all sound philosophy,” that epistemology constitutes “the true prima philosophia.” The broad structure of this metanarrative is very familiar: The epistemological approach divided post-Renaissance philosophy into two major schools or directions, namely, rationalism, and empiricism. The former had commonly been seen as characteristic of the European continent, though one of the defining features of eighteenth-century



philosophy, on this view, was that France gradually switched from Cartesian rationalism to Lockean empiricism, embodied by Condillac. Germany, however, was supposed to maintain a continuous development of rational system-building through Leibniz, Wolff, and their followers and opponents. In contrast, the English-speaking world was seen to pursue the empiricist view in ever-finer detail from Bacon to Hobbes through Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. (Haakonssen 2006, p. 7)

Note Condillac’s place in this story: it is broadly accepted that Condillac “adopted Locke’s empiricism as the basis of his own philosophy” (Knight 1968, p. 8; see also Yolton 1991, pp. 4, 72–74, 210). Note too that Condillac is taken here to be representative of French epistemology as a whole. Haakonssen continues, noting that The epistemological paradigm for early-modern philosophy has been an immensely powerful vehicle for scholarship and for the self-understanding of the discipline of philosophy. Nevertheless, the paradigm is arguably at considerable variance with the philosophical self-understanding common in that period, and this […] suggests that it is part of the philosophical historian’s task to question it. (Haakonssen 2006, p. 13)

Such questioning can take two forms: first, it can involve questioning the extent to which epistemology was in fact divided between something like “British empiricism” and “Continental rationalism”; second, it can question the extent to which the theory of knowledge was in the period “first philosophy.” In moving to reconstruct the theory of knowledge as it existed in the French Enlightenment this part will participate in both these modes of questioning. It will do so initially by noting two general points. First, it is only a very superficial understanding of the terms “rationalism” and “empiricism” that fixes them into a mutually exclusive binary. Nuanced understandings recognise that the two terms may each identify different and complementary features of a single theory of knowledge. Accordingly, research into the details of views actually held invariably shows a melange of archetypally “rationalist” and “empiricist” views. This was particularly the case in France which the epistemological paradigm itself sees as moving during the period from Cartesian “rationalism” to Lockean “empiricism.” The difficulty of separating “rationalism” from “empiricism” in reconstructions of the period is exacerbated by the fact that the two terms are actually part of the nineteenth-century



reconstructions of the period and were not part of its self-understanding. Further, the two terms do not map cleanly onto the terms which the period did use—for example, “experimental” and “speculative” natural philosophy—and even if they did, an exclusory binary is still not evident. Epistemology of the period was in a “state of flux” and this was reflected in what Peter Anstey has described as “vagueness or indeterminacy” even in the categories which were part of the period’s self-understanding (Anstey 2005, esp. pp. 220, 238). Second, even without forcing the theory of knowledge to take on the structure of an exclusive binary, by imposing on the period an idea of what constitutes “proper” epistemology, the “epistemological paradigm” obscures the importance for the history of French philosophy of the discourse of sensibility. It obscures, that is, the period’s actual theory of knowledge. For, while I do think the theory of knowledge was a very important part of the foundation of much of the period’s philosophy, it was not the case as the epistemological paradigm implies that either the French Enlightenment broadly construed or the discourse of sensibility narrowly construed understood knowledge in merely Lockean terms. It is particularly important to note here the movement away from the mechanist/corpuscularian matter theory which underpinned Locke’s epistemology. Mechanistic matter theory was in decline in the mid- to late-eighteenth century and there were at least two main responses to this decline: neo-mechanism (as found for example in d’Alembert, Condorcet, Lagrange, and Laplace) and Enlightenment vitalism (Reill 2005, pp. 5–7, 33–70).1 central features of the discourse of sensibility. This was particularly the case in France in the second half of the eighteenth century. As this chapter shows, the change to a vitalist theory of matter had important effects within an ostensibly Lockean framework.2 If in the discourse of sensibility as it was manifest in France in the second half of the eighteenth century the theory of knowledge was “first philosophy,” then it was so in terms largely set by Enlightenment vitalism and by the médecins philosophes. At least here, for the discourse of sensibility, the master discourse was medicine (see Morris 1990); in the terms of the Encyclopédie “this science is more important than any other” (Diderot and D’Alembert 1765d, p. 11: 315). It is hard to overestimate the influence of medicine for the period and for the philosophes: for the Encyclopédie, to quote Anne Vila, “the enlightenment truly was a medical matter” and particularly for the 1765 volumes, medicine specifically meant vitalist medicine (Vila 1998, pp. 80–110).3



In brief, the Vitalists’ influence began when, determined to undermine the “ordinary” medicine of their day, Bordeu, Venel, and Barthez moved in the late 1740s and 1750s to Paris. Going “to school alongside Diderot, d’Holbach, and Rousseau at the Jardin Royal,” they loosely joined forces with the philosophes, “Bordeu in particular [making] a powerful impression on the Encyclopaedist circle.” By the mid-eighteenth century, Montpellier vitalists were active in Parisian medical journalism and publishing, in the court, and in the salons, particularly d’Holbach’s. Although they never “sought to lead the philosophes in their campaigns against religious and philosophical tradition […] there can be no doubt that they left their mark on the Holbachian coterie” (Williams 2003, pp. 124–38, 147). Building on these initial points this chapter begins in its first part by examining the interaction between medical vitalism and sensibility understood as both a passive and active power of the living body. I will here begin to tease out not what is continuous between Locke and the French Enlightenment but to what was added to Locke’s thought by the period—i.e. a theory of active matter—and what the effects of this addition were. In the second section, I examine the implications of this understanding of the body of sensibility for what has been called the period’s “philosophical particularism” and for its practice of science. Here the body of sensibility was constructed as always particular, as possessing not only different sensibility between various parts of the body but differences between particular individuals; the ability of theory of sensibility to be the unifying ground within a discourse that proliferated particularity is the focus of this section. The chapter moves in the third part from considering the body of sensibility as the object of knowledge to considering it as the subject that knew: I do this firstly in terms of the Enlightenment’s much touted “rational” subject, and secondly in terms of the “empirical” subject.

Medical Vitalism and Embodied Epistemology The most significant reference to sensibility in the Encyclopédie was the major (almost 17,000 word) article “Sensibilité, Sentiment (Médecine)” (Fouquet 1765). The article was written by Henri Fouquet, a minor figure associated with the faculty of medicine at Montpellier and an acquaintance of Diderot and D’Alembert whom he had met at the Collège Royal and the Jardin du Roi in Paris (Dulieu 1952). Fouquet’s



article was categorised “Médecine” but it encompassed themes which were unselfconsciously metaphysical. The article and its placement in the Encyclopédie are important because they demonstrate the manner in which the discourse of sensibility underpinned and unified topics which prima facie may be thought to have been quite disparate. There was an astonishing breadth in the speculative concept elucidated in the rather ecstatic tones of the article’s opening: for Fouquet sensibility or sentiment was “the faculty of feeling, the principle of sensitivity, or the very feeling of the parts, the basis and conserving agent of life, animality par excellence, the most beautiful, the most singular phenomenon of nature (la faculté de sentir, le principe sensitif, ou le sentiment même des parties, la base & l’agent conservateur de la vie, l’animalité par excellence, le plus beau, le plus singulier phénomène de la nature)” (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 38). For Fouquet sensibility was in, or a property of, a living body: it was that which preserves life. Diderot, elsewhere in the Encyclopédie, defined sensibility simply as that which opposes death4; sensibility simply was life. Fouquet’s article was consistent with a self-standing text of similar theme, Antoine Le Camus’s La Médecine de l’esprit (1769).5 Le Camus, named docteur régent of the conservative Paris faculty of medicine in 1745 and appointed to the chair of surgery in 1766, showed in this text the extent to which “Montpellier” vitalism had by the 1760s penetrated French medical thought (Vila 1998, pp. 43–79, 81; see also Rey 2000, pp. 252–55). The text clearly illustrated what it was to be a médecin philosophe: the first of the three-book treatise, La Logique des médecins, surveyed the metaphysical foundations of medical theory and focused particularly on the understanding/entendement and the will/volonté, and on causes in general including the physical causes which influenced the mind (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 10). Commencing with a brief introduction on the understanding (“the general faculty of knowing (connaître)”), a discussion which rapidly deferred to Locke (“chief of the Philosophes”), and which noted that understanding consists of sense and reflection (which importantly ought not to be understood as independent of corporeal motions), the text rapidly arrived at the first substantive chapter: De la Sensibilité & des Sensations (On Sensibility and Sensations). Before knowing, it is necessary to feel; before feeling, it is necessary to be sensitive. It is thus necessary to speak of sensibility before examining the sensations, which are the origin of our knowledge. A difficult subject, but



worthy of research by any Philosophe. While one need not go out of oneself to grasp it, one must have pondered on the whole of nature to treat it pertinently. Avant de connaître il faut sentir ; avant de sentir il faut être sensible. Il est donc nécessaire de parler de la sensibilité avant d’examiner les sensations qui sont le principe de nos connaissances. Matière difficile, mais digne des recherches de tout Philosophe. Si l’on ne doit pas sortir de soi-même pour la saisir, il faut avoir médité sur toute la nature pour en traiter pertinemment. (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 19)

Or as he explained elsewhere: “sensibility and the sensations [are] the simplest properties of our bodies, which contribute the most to the operations of understanding (l’entendement), and [are] necessarily linked to them.” Sensibility was the “force of all our knowledge (connaissances), just as it was the source of all our passions” (Le Camus 1769, pp. 2: 83, 84). “Force” here was understood as the “tonic force” (force tonique) and was differentiated from the elastic and muscular forces. Le Camus also used the term “vital force” (force vitale) to describe it.6 This force is a continual tendency to shortening, sometimes even an actual shortening. Its action is inseparable from life, only lasts while life remains and is the first principle of sensibility. Cette force est une tendance continuelle au raccourcissement, quelquefois même un raccourcissement actuel. Action qui est inséparable de la vie, qui ne dure qu’autant que la vie subsiste & qui est le premier principe de la sensibilité. (Le Camus 1769, pp. 1: 21–22)

The force particularly pertained to animals and to the sensible parts of the body but not, for example, to bones. The causes which elicited the response of tonic fibres were either exterior or interior impressions which were the passions. The tonic force emanated from the nerves and gave sensibility to the whole body. And so for Le Camus too “sensibility only lasts as long as life, and life only lasts as long as tonic action persists” (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 34). There were two main aspects to the power of sensibility—it was both passive and active—and Fouquet in particular made this explicit. In the first instance sensibility was essentially passive: “a power reduced [from potential] to an action, […] it essentially consists of a purely animal intelligence, which discerns the use or the harm in physical objects



(une puissance réduite en acte, […] elle consiste essentiellement en une ­intelligence purement animale, qui discerne l’utile ou le nuisible, des objets physiques)” (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 38). In this sense, as the power to discern external objects, for Fouquet, sensibility was the ontological basis of sensations (“sentiment, sensatio, sensus.”) For Le Camus too, sensibility was the precondition of the ability to sense passively: “sensibility is the aptitude to receive impressions from objects” (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 19). We say that a sentiment is an impression excited in the soul by sensations, and that sensations are affections of the body caused by a change which occurred on the occasion of a movement produced by the presence of objects, or [sensations are] equivalent to that which is excited by the presence of objects. Nous disons que le sentiment est une impression excitée dans l’âme par les sensations, & que les sensations sont des affections du corps causées par un changement qui est arrivé à l’occasion d’un mouvement produit par la présence des objets, ou équivalent à celui qu’exciterait la présence des objets. (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 35)

By defining sensibility in this way, the narrower philosophical idea of sensation was brought within its scope and Fouquet’s article incorporated the much shorter articles “Sens (Métaphysique)” and “Sensations (Métaphysique),” articles which constituted relatively orthodox presentations of Locke’s theory of sensation (Diderot and D’Alembert 1765b, c). In terms of the ongoing tradition of Lockean empiricism the ostensible orthodoxy of these two articles may well give the impression that, at least at this point, the French Enlightenment was more or less faithfully Lockean. And to a point it was. But there was something else going on too. Note that neither sense nor sensation had ontologically primacy here: sensibility did, and the ability to passively receive sensations of external objects was only one of sensibility’s two major aspects. Sensibility’s second major aspect was its activity: “action or mobility, is only the mute expression of this same sentiment, that is, the impulsion which carries us towards these objects, or away from them (la seconde action ou la mobilité, n’est que l’expression muette de ce même sentiment, c’est-à-dire, l’impulsion qui nous porte vers ces objets, ou nous en éloigne)” (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 39). The examples that Fouquet gives here are of “lower” animals. The point was important: animals, even simple ones,



“dilate themselves, open out, so to speak, draw themselves up, become aroused (eriguntur), at the approach of objects that they recognise as useful to them, or which pleasantly flatter their sensibility” (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 38). Sensibility here was a responsive power and as such it extended well beyond the five passive senses (see Singy 2006). In fact for the discourse of sensibility the “five” sense organs were not necessarily privileged: they were only several of a very great variety of centres and types of sensibility (and arguably several of the less important). Specifically, for Fouquet, the heart, diaphragm, or “epigastric region” (région épigastrique) was one of the primary centres of sensibility and was particularly associated with the passions and with the moral sense. In sensing pleasure, the sensitive soul/âme sensitive agreeably moved, widened, swelled, and the feeling of pleasure spread. In sorrow, sadness, or terror the soul temporally withdrew to the core of the body (Fouquet 1765, pp. 15: 40, 42; see also Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 45). There was continuity here with articles such as “Sens moral, (Moral.),” articles which, without Fouquet’s article showing the concept which subsumed them, may today be read as having nothing in common with the metaphysical articles on sense or sensation (Jaucourt 1765a, p. 15: 28). Moral sense here was defined in terms continuous with that of the body of sensibility: Moral sense […] the name given by the savant Hutcheson to that faculty of our soul, which, in certain cases, discerns promptly good and moral evil by a kind of sensation and by taste, independently of reasoning and of reflection. It is this that other moral philosophers call the moral instinct, a sentiment, type of penchant or natural inclination which brings us to approve certain things as good or laudable, and to condemn others as bad and reprovable, independently of all reflection. Sens moral, (Moral.) nom donné par le savant Hutcheson à cette faculté de notre âme, qui discerne promptement en certains cas le bien & le mal moral par une sorte de sensation & par goût, indépendamment du raisonnement & de la réflexion. C’est là ce que les autres moralistes appellent instinct moral, sentiment, espèce de penchant ou d’inclination naturelle qui nous porte à approuver certaines choses comme bonnes ou louables, & à en condamner d’autres comme mauvaises & blâmables, indépendamment de toute réflexion. (Jaucourt 1765a, p. 15: 28; see also Jaucourt 1765b)



Le Camus made this explicit too: [Sensibility] is that which gives rise to tenderness for relatives, pity for the destitute, piety towards the Creator, friendship for one’s fellows, love for [someone of] different sex, humanity towards one’s neighbour, gratitude towards benefactors, resentment for affronts, respect for virtue. C’est elle [la sensibilité] qui donne de la tendresse pour les parents, de la pitié pour les misérables, de la piété pour le Créateur, de l’amitié pour ses semblables, de l’amour pour un sexe différent, de l’humanité pour son prochain, de la reconnaissance pour les bienfaiteurs, du ressentiment pour les affronts, du respect pour la vertu. (Le Camus 1769, p. 2: 85)

The manner in which moral sense was here a “movement of the heart,” or “interior sensation,” which operated independently of reflection is significant (Jaucourt 1765a, p. 15: 28). This book will often return to this theme, but particularly in Part III. For Fouquet, then, sensibility had active and passive aspects. Very importantly, however, he noted that the difference between these aspects was the work of the imagination alone: it was “in this double relationship of actions so closely linked together, that only the imagination can follow them or distinguish them, that sensibility should be considered, and its phenomena assessed. (C’est dans ce double rapport d’actions si étroitement liées entr’elles, que l’imagination peut seule les suivre ou les distinguer, que la sensibilité doit être considérée, & ses phénomènes estimés)” (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 38; see also Boury 2008, p. 523). This union of what otherwise might be thought of as separate categories—passive reception of sensation and active response—was fundamental to the discourse of sensibility as it was influenced by vitalist medicine. But rather than addressing the breadth of this idea across the period, and in order to begin to mark explicitly the differences between the thought of the period and Locke’s, I want to show the importance in relation to the emblem of French epistemology, Condillac, specifically to the Traité des sensations (1754). In brief, Condillac sought to show in his elaborate philosophical fiction that a statue-man, possessing just the faculty of sensation and without the (Lockean) faculty of rationality, could develop a mind (Condillac 1970/1821–1822, p. 10). Condillac’s statue was “organised on the inside like us” although initially deprived of the five external senses; but the statue was alive, and to be alive here was to have sensibility (Condillac 1970/1821–1822, p. 39). Condillac was building



on vitalist presuppositions at least in this minimal sense.7 And so in keeping with sensibility’s two aspects, when given senses, the statue was not just given power to sense external objects, it had the power to remember or retain those sensations. And it had the power to respond. This active power was the grounds for the arousing of the statue’s passions. For Condillac, sensations were inherently either pleasant or painful. This produced desires and these desires led to the development of rational thought processes including abstract ideas (Condillac 1970/1821–1822, pp. 45–47, 70–71, 74).8 As far as the philosophes were concerned Condillac was relatively conservative. Not so Helvétius who realised and developed the radical potential of the Traité. I will return to Helvétius in the opening of this chapter’s third part and in Chapter 4 and discuss De l’esprit in some detail. Here, partly in order to introduce themes which will be central to the rest of this chapter, partly in order to make manifest the relationship between this chapter and broader themes in the period, it is worth noting that the discourse of sensibility contained within it unease as to the implications of sensibility and contestation as to its meaning. Although several examples could be invoked here I will use the case of Diderot and his 1758 Réflexions sur le livre de l’esprit (Diderot 1875–1877). Helvétius’s De l’esprit was an extravagant exultation of the body of sensibility, the usefulness of passions, and the perfectibility of the mind. The text made visible the implications of Condillac’s ostensibly conservative Traité. Building on the sensationist idea that sensations were either pleasant or painful, Helvétius argued that individuals and groups made judgements based on the agreeableness of impressions and the usefulness or uselessness of ideas. Personal interest dictated the judgement of individuals. Collective interest dictated the judgement of groups (Helvétius 1758, pp. 46–48, 54). Concomitantly, Helvétius was enormously optimistic about the perfectibility of the mind: genius, he argued, was an effect of education rather than a gift of nature (Helvétius 1758, pp. 251, 473–44).9 Whereas the pessimism of Samuel-Auguste Tissot was a medical-hygienic counterweight to Helvétius’s optimism, Diderot’s response was predicated on traditional philosophical concerns. Diderot began by showing that if, as Helvétius took it to be, “sensibility is a general property of matter,” then what followed was the collapse of the faculties: “to perceive, to reason, [and] to judge, is to feel” (Diderot 1875–1877, p. 272; see also p. 267). Although Diderot elsewhere celebrated the possibility of sensibility as a general and essential property of matter, here



he worried about the implications of this idea: “considering the mind (esprit) relative to error and to truth, M. Helvétius convinces himself that there is no false mind (esprit)”; truth was established by the extent to which something was useful or interesting.10 For Diderot this failed to recognise the equivalence between uninteresting and useless geometrical scribbling and of the grandeur of the Newtonian laws of celestial bodies, in both cases “the sagacity is the same, but the interest is another matter, as is the public esteem” (Diderot 1875–1877, p. 269). Continuing this theme for moral considerations, Diderot worried that for Helvétius, “there is neither justice, nor absolute injustice” and that he did not understand that there was “an eternal basis to what is just and unjust.” Finally, for Diderot, Helvétius ignored the fact of natural variations which were not subject to willed change, that “a slight alteration in the brain reduces the genius to a state of imbecility,” and that l’homme de génie and l’homme ordinaire may develop from the same cause (Diderot 1875–1877, pp. 270–72). Broadly then, the point is that even in the period’s progressive philosophy there was unease caused by the implications of the reduction of the faculty of rationality to sensibility. Students of Locke will find much in Condillac that they recognise; it is not accidental that the period is understood to be, and perhaps dismissed as, Lockean. I want to draw attention here not to what was continuous between Locke and the French Enlightenment, but to what was added to Locke by the period, and to the effects of this addition. Notwithstanding his famous hypothesis of thinking matter, Locke’s account of matter was in fact mechanistic and corpuscular (Yolton 1991, p. 38; Tipton 1996, pp. 78–81). Contrastively in the French Enlightenment living matter (sometimes all matter) was understood in terms of vitalism and sensibility. The point here is that ascribing active properties to matter (i.e. in the âme sensitive) had the effect of muddying the ontological waters. And this was the case even for theorists for whom the âme raisonnable was not itself thought of in materialist terms (as was the case for Fouquet and Le Camus). This produced effects for the period’s theory of knowledge which have been little commented upon. Partly this is because they lead to a change in emphasis, if not philosophical substance; Locke did, even if relatively briefly, consider sensation in the form of pleasure and pain and this was linked by him to the response of the passions (Locke 1690, Book II, Chapter 20). And it was within the conceptual space of Locke’s “thinking matter” that were situated the broad series of vitalist responses to mechanism which were a major



part of the French Enlightenment and which have been documented elsewhere.11 Yet this change in emphasis was significant for a number of reasons. First, it oversaw a breakdown of what may retrospectively be thought of as rigid genre divisions, allowing, for example, the novel to be understood as a properly philosophical/scientific genre. As I argue below, within the discourse of sensibility especially as it was manifest in France, the medical/scientific genius was understood in ways which were highly proximate to, perhaps even indistinguishable from, the artistic/ moral genius. Second, the discourse of sensibility allowed the medicalised body to develop a very particular epistemological importance. And third, the rhetoric of the period elevated the particular; the discourse of sensibility worked to universalise the particular and celebrate the genius (philosopher, natural scientist, etc.) in their particularity.

Philosophical Particularism The implications of this were considerable, particularly for what Jessica Riskin has called the period’s “philosophical particularism” and for the practice of science (Riskin 2002, p. 145). As it was printed in the Encyclopédie Fouquet’s article is fourteen pages long. To this point, I have focused only on the first three pages, and on considerations which Fouquet himself designated as being “purely metaphysical” and “speculative.” He then clearly marked a move to discussions of particular observations of phenomena, the “particular effects of sensibility,” observations which constituted the major part of his article (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 40). That is, after discussing in metaphysical terms the power which unifies them, the article’s main focus was on the sensitive body’s specific, distinctive, diverse, and unusual phenomena. Sensibility was the unifying concept behind the diversity of the five external senses and explained the differences of each in terms of their particular sensibility: the eyes are sensitive to light, the ears to sound; the eyes see, they do not hear.12 And sensibility was the unifying grounds of much greater diversity than this. I have already mentioned the sensibility of the heart and the implications for moral sense; I will return to these aspects of sensibility in the next part. Digestion too depended on the particular sensibility of the stomach. Importantly, this particularity did not just differentiate the sensibility of the stomach from other regions of the body, but differentiated one stomach from another. This was a question of the taste/goût of particular stomachs, a



fact which Fouquet ascribed to differences in secretions. The emphasis here is on “remarkable variations.” Further, differences in temperament were regarded as the result of differently modified organs and of the habits associated with their operation (Fouquet 1765, pp. 15: 41–45). This trope was absolutely fundamental to the Encyclopédie and to the thought of the period more broadly. This is from Le Roy’s article “Homme (Morale)”: The faculty of feeling probably belongs to the soul, but it only exercises its functions through the intervention of the material organs, which together make up our body. From this arises a natural difference between men. The tissue of fibres not being the same in all, some must have certain organs which are more sensitive, and consequently, must receive from objects which affect [those organs] an impression whose force is unknown to others. Our judgements and our choices are but the result of a comparison between the different impressions we receive. They are thus as little alike from one man to another as those very impressions. These variations must give to each man a kind of particular aptitude which distinguishes him from others by his inclinations, just as he is [distinguished] from the outside by his facial features. Hence, we can conclude that our judgement of others’ conduct is often unjust, and that the advice we give them is even more often useless. My reason is inaccessible to that of a man who doesn’t feel in the same way as I do, and if I take him for a madman, he has every right to regard me as an imbecile. La faculté de sentir appartient sans doute à l’âme ; mais elle n’a d’exercice que par l’entremise des organes matériels dont l’assemblage forme notre corps. De là naît une différence naturelle entre les hommes. Le tissu des fibres n’étant pas le même dans tous, quelques-uns doivent avoir certains organes plus sensibles, & en conséquence recevoir des objets qui les ébranlent, une impression dont la force est inconnue à d’autres. Nos jugements & nos choix ne sont que le résultat d’une comparaison entre les différentes impressions que nous recevons. Ils sont donc aussi peu semblables d’un homme à un autre que ces impressions mêmes. Ces variétés doivent donner à chaque homme une sorte d’aptitude particulière qui le distingue des autres par les inclinations, comme il l’est à l’extérieur par les traits de son visage. De là on peut conclure que le jugement qu’on porte de la conduite d’autrui est souvent injuste, & que les conseils qu’on lui donne sont plus souvent encore inutiles. Ma raison est étrangère à celle d’un homme qui ne sent pas comme moi ; & si je le prends pour un fou, il a droit de me regarder comme un imbécile. (Le Roy 1765, p. 8: 275)13



The notion that the natural diversity of humans was founded on embodied difference was a significant theme too for Le Camus; “the human mind is a real chameleon, tak[ing] on all the colours of the objects which surround it” (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 383). There is nothing isolated in nature. Everything is linked to everything; and man, this being whose pride would separate him from the others, is so strongly united to the air, to fire, to the earth, that he ceases to be if he is separated from these elements which keep him alive, which contribute to his health, and which modifying his body in different ways, [and] must necessarily modify his mind in different ways. Everything which produces, surrounds, or maintains our body, can thus bring about notable changes in our souls. Il n’est rien de désuni dans la nature. Tout s’y lie à tout : & l’homme, cet être que son orgueil voudrait séparer des autres, y est tellement uni à l’air, à l’eau, au feu, à la terre, qu’il cesse d’être si on le sépare de ces éléments qui lui conservent la vie, qui contribuent à sa santé, & qui modifiant différemment son corps, doivent nécessairement modifier différemment son esprit. Tout ce qui produit, environne, ou entretient nos corps, peut donc apporter des changements notables dans nos âmes. (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 291)

In the entire second book of the treatise Le Camus expanded at great length on the differences of la generation (i.e. inherited traits), sex, climate, seasons, education, temperament (an analysis which continued the traditional classification in accord with the four humours), le régime de vivre (which included diet, exercise, sleep, and so forth), age, and general health. This list of influencing factors seems relatively stable across these texts. For its part, Fouquet’s article extrapolated on differences in “sensibility at different ages [and] in different sexes,” in the “quality of the air and the impressions of some other external bodies,” on the “influence of the stars,” and on “sensibility in relation to climate” (Fouquet 1765, pp. 15: 46–49; La Mettrie 1996, pp. 8–9). Similarly, for Le Camus: The same senses in different individuals are organised in diverse ways, which makes them susceptible to pleasure or to pain on receiving the same impressions. The music which pleases some, displeases others; some colour agreeable to one, is detested by another; somebody eagerly seeks out a given smell, whereas somebody else avoids it with horror. Dishes are



more or less delicious, more or less bad, for different palates. Age, which changes all constitutions, at the same time, changes the way of feeling of the same organs in the same individuals. From this it follows that tastes change, and that we no longer have the same affections. […] It is for all these reasons that we can say that every organised being has its own way of feeling. Les mêmes sens dans différents individus ont des diversités dans leur organisation, qui les rendent susceptibles de plaisir, ou de douleur en recevant les mêmes impressions. La musique qui plaît aux uns, déplaît aux autres ; telle couleur agréable à l’un, est détestée par l’autre; celui-ci recherche telle odeur avec empressement, tandis que celui-là la fuit avec horreur. Les mets sont plus ou moins délicieux, plus ou moins mauvais selon les différents palais. L’âge qui change toutes les constitutions, change en mêmes tems la manière de sentir des mêmes organes des mêmes individus. De là vient que les goûts changent, & qu’on n’a plus les mêmes affections. […] C’est pour toutes ces raisons qu’on peut dire que chaque être organisé à sa manière de sentir. (Le Camus 1769, pp. 1: 46–47)

Here we can begin to see the way the category of sensibility diversified and that it did so in decidedly un-Lockean ways. This is paralleled in Fouquet’s discussion of the particular effects of music and the experience of beauty, all of which was “a disposition of the organs, a matter of taste in the feeling soul which is affected in this or that manner (une disposition dans les organes, une affaire de goût dans l’âme sensitive qui s’affecte de telle ou telle manière)” (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 45). This understanding of what it was to sense was carried across to other articles in the Encyclopédie. Specifically, the fact that our sentiment or sensibility was agreeably affected by the beautiful and the harmonious was a feature of the articles “Sens (métaphysique)” and “Plaisir (morale)” (Diderot and D’Alembert 1765a, b, pp. 12: 689, 691). The examples given were indicative of the types of judgement which were at stake: they focused on experiences of colour or music which pleased one but displeased another. They did not focus on perceptions which differed in terms of the hue or pitch of the colour or notes. This was a feature too in Jean Senebier’s (1775) L’Art d’observer, a text which “arguably represents the formalised sum of the eighteenth century art of observation” (Singy 2006, p. 54) and which is discussed in more detail below (Senebier 1775, pp. 1: 111–12).14 I want to mark the link to theories of moral sense as this feature was key to the discourse of sensibility; sense, and the diversity of sensations, were understood in what we may today think



of as the observer’s aesthetical/moral response to a phenomenon rather than the objective/instrumental. Again, I develop this point below. In Part V I discuss Sade’s own version of the body of sensibility. I show that beyond many of the differences which were of interest to the period Sade was particularly interested in the temperamental difference between the libertine and the non-libertine body, that is, the difference between the body disposed to vice and that disposed to virtue. The part also reconstructs in detail Sade’s own philosophical askesis, his libertine régime de vivre. Within the discourse of sensibility, the focus on embodied particularity was summarised well by Senebier: The same causes therefore produce in each People and in each man the same effects, provided that we note the modifications that each of these causes can receive from the particular state of each People or of each man, and the circumstances in which they can exist. Les mêmes causes produiront donc sur chaque Peuple & sur chaque homme les mêmes effets, pourvu qu’on remarque les modifications que chacune de ces causes peut recevoir de l’état particulier de chaque Peuple, ou de chaque homme, & des circonstances dans lesquelles ils peuvent être. (Senebier 1775, pp. 2: 251–52)15

The sensible body, understood as the object which was produced by the discourse, was constructed as particular and diverse. Significantly—and this is the point at which the period’s theory of knowledge becomes central to the considerations of this chapter—the object of the discourse was also the subject who knew; the period’s knowledge-seeker was also understood in terms of the discourse of sensibility and so in particular terms.

The Enlightenment’s “Rational” and “Empirical” Subjects Without implying that there is an exclusive disjunction in operation— rather, as I stress above, one of the fundamental ideas of this chapter is that in the epistemology of French Enlightenment the two coexist— the remainder of this chapter will illustrate the implications of this philosophical particularism for what can be understood as the period’s “rational” and “empirical” subjects.



First: this focus on embodied particularity had significant implications for the Enlightenment’s much touted “rational” subject. Le Camus made it very clear that he was not a materialist, that he was “not unaware that the soul is a contingent, rational, spiritual, and immortal substance” (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: xv). Specifically, he was an occasionalist (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 93; Yolton 1991, p. 69). Belief in a “rational and immortal soul” was maintained by Fouquet (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 39). So too for Senebier who “regretted the atheist orientation taken by French philosophy and thought that the only true philosophy must serve as a basis for Christianity, not undermine its foundations” (Marx 1974, p. 210). There is no reason to think this (relative) orthodoxy was disingenuous: the rational soul did play a role here even if was mostly a formal role. Against the particularity and malleability of the sensible body, the immortal soul provided stability, transportability, and literally for Le Camus “homogeneity” (Le Camus 1769, p. 2: 403). This emphasis on the stabilising role of the rational soul was however in stark contrast to themes of the particularity and malleability of the body which were the main concern of the discourse of sensibility. In thematic terms, the idea of the rational/ immaterial soul in fact played a very small role: “if we consider that God must have created souls as essentially the same, as His goodness encourages us to believe, souls must only be modified differently through their union with the body” (Le Camus 1769, pp. 1: 7–8). And so Le Camus wrote, that notwithstanding his knowledge of the immaterial rational soul, “I also know that due to truly mechanical causes, the soul is helped or constrained in its operations, that often due to causes of the same nature, it is diverted in its functions independent of its will” (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: xv). His emphasis in the text was then not on the universality of reason, but on the particularity of the body and its effects, including its particular effects on reasoning. On five people with one (different) sense each: “they would have two sentiments in common, pleasure and pain, but they would still reason differently on the nature of these general and universal modes” (Le Camus 1769, p. 2: 119; see also Senebier 1775, pp. 98–99). This fact was emphasised in the most overt statement of his occasionalism: God alone is the efficient cause of our ideas, because He is the only being capable of producing movement by himself and of acting on minds and on bodies; but God only excites ideas in our souls according to the dispositions of our bodies: the dispositions of our bodies are thus the occasional causes of our ideas.



Dieu seul est la cause efficiente de nos idées, parce qu’il est le seul être capable de produire par lui-même le mouvement, & d’agir sur les esprits & sur les corps ; mais Dieu n’excite des idées dans nos âmes qu’en conséquence des dispositions de nos corps: les dispositions de nos corps sont donc les causes occasionnelles de nos idées. (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 93)

Similarly, Fouquet allowed a place for the rational soul by separating from our intellectual judgements the manner by which our organs attained knowledge: From this [the habits of organs] can also arise this animal movement [which is] always founded on the habits of our sensibility, renewed by its instinct in the presence of an object dear to us, and which a change in the [external] features masks from our intellectual habits; such is the situation of a loving mother in the presence of a son she no longer recognises, and towards whom, nevertheless, her sensitive soul seems to want to fly. De là [l’habitude des organes] peut être encore ce mouvement animal toujours fondé sur l’habitude de notre sensibilité, renouvelée par son instinct en présence d’un objet qui nous est cher, & qu’un changement dans les traits déguise à nos habitudes intellectuelles ; telle est la situation d’une mère tendre en présence d’un fils qu’elle ne reconnaît pas encore, & vers lequel cependant son âme sensitive semble vouloir s’envoler. (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 45)

But again the focus was on differentiated sensibility rather than universalised rationality, and Fouquet proceeded to separate humans from animals not in terms of their rationality, but rather in terms of their superior sensibility: compared to animals and compared to each other, it was superior sensibility which led to superior understanding. If humans possessed a higher degree of intelligence compared to animals it was not because of their rational soul but because of fact that they “possess[ed] sensibility to the highest degree” (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 46). That is, the raison d’être of both Le Camus’s and Fouquet’s texts was premised in the problem of embodied particularity occasioned by the variability of sensibility and not on the reliability and stability of the rational soul (See also Senebier 1775, p. 2: 211). And so where Descartes’s Regulae ad directionem ingenii (Rules for the Direction of the Mind) foregrounded the question of the “mind’s eye” (Rule 5) over the actual eye, and Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding



focused almost exclusively on what we may call mind-based solutions to the problem of knowledge (Locke adopted from Descartes the “way of ideas” [Yolton 1990]), for Le Camus, the solution to the problem of knowledge was embodied and hygienic. We have, or so we think, sufficiently proven the power of climate, of education, both moral and physical, of lifestyle, of temperaments, of seasons, etc., on the mind. In elaborating on the way of acting of all these causes, we have, at the same time, seen how much they contribute to the diversity of [the quality of] genius, of characters, virtues, vices, passions and morals. It is on these principles that we establish the power of Medicine on the soul, and the power of the Physician to regulate the penchants and the animal functions of men. […W]e deduce from these [principles], the physical and mechanical means of rectifying the defects of the mind, of increasing its capabilities, and of preserving its good qualities. Nous avons, à ce que nous pensons, suffisamment prouvé la puissance des climats, de l’éducation tant morale que physique, du régime de vie, des tempéraments, des saisons, &c, sur l’esprit. En développant la manière d’agir de toutes ces causes, nous avons vu en mêmes temps combien elles contribuaient à la diversité des génies, des caractères, des vertus, des vices, des passions & des mœurs. C’est sur ces principes que nous établissons le pouvoir de la Médecine sur les âmes, & le pouvoir du Médecin pour régler les penchants & les fonctions animales des hommes. [… N]ous en déduirons les moyens physiques & mécaniques de rectifier les défauts de l’esprit, d’en augmenter la mesure & d’en conserver les bonnes qualités. (Le Camus 1769, pp. 2: 54–55) After having reflected attentively on the physical causes which, modifying bodies in different ways, also alter the dispositions of minds [in various ways], I was convinced that by employing these different causes or by imitating their power with [our] art, we would succeed in correcting defects of understanding and the will by purely mechanical means. Après avoir réfléchi attentivement sur les causes physiques qui modifiant différemment les corps, variaient aussi les dispositions des esprits, j’ai été convaincu qu’en employant ces différentes causes, ou en imitant avec art leur pouvoir, on parviendrait à corriger par des moyens purement mécaniques les vices de l’entendement & de la volonté. (Le Camus 1769, pp. 1: vi–vii)

While maintaining a formal ontological separation between mind and body, sensibility was nonetheless understood to be the functional ground



of the passions and also of the mind. That this was the case is even clearer for Condillac; although he, too, denies being a materialist, one of the dominant features of Condillac’s thought was his attempt to eliminate the faculty of rationality and maintain only one faculty, that of sense (Condillac 1970/1821–1822, p. 10). Notwithstanding their continued reliance on the immaterial and rational soul, there was an unambiguous move here towards a materialist theory of mind: we may specifically note such figures such as Diderot, d’Holbach, and of course Sade.16 This tendency was noted by conservative commentators including critics of Le Camus and of Condillac.17 As I noted above it was the cause of Diderot’s unease vis-à-vis Helvétius. The ever increasing emphasis on the importance to the mind of physiological considerations and of embodied particularity—and therefore of philosophical particularity—which I have been tracing here led contemporary critics to react against what was seen as the three interconnected ills of the progressive philosophy of the period, “materialism, fatalism, and Pyrrhonism” (Yolton 1991, pp. 73, 111). In tracing the period’s philosophical particularity, this chapter has traced some of the links between what was held to be an increasing tendency towards materialism and a concomitant Pyrrhonian attack on the possibility of knowledge. Having first, examined the implications of the focus on embodied particularity for the Enlightenment’s “rational” subject, I will, second, turn to the implications for the “empirical” subject. Specifically, I want to draw attention to the implications for the medical/scientific observer. Vitalist medicine operated not only in terms of the particular sensibility of the patient but in terms of the particular sensibility of the doctor or observer, and as I have noted, sensibility was not held to be a uniform property, neither within nor between observers. The effect of this on the observer was evident in Ménuret de Chambaud’s article “Observateur, (Gram. Physiq. Méd.)” (Chambaud 1765, pp. 11: 310– 13; Vila 1998, pp. 52–65).18 Ménuret’s article did contain praise of the empirical observer, much of which was ostensibly Lockean. But it needs to be noted that observation of nature was not conceived here as operating within a mechanistic ontology, and the epistemological stability and transportability provided by the faculty of rationality were little in evidence. Rather, the observer was characterised in terms of their highly cultivated sensibility. The article sets the observer in firm opposition to the experimental natural philosopher who “never sees nature as it is in reality[;] he claims,



through his work, to make it more appreciable, to remove the mask which hides it from our eyes, [but] he often disfigures it and makes it unrecognisable (ne voit jamais la nature telle qu’elle est en effet, il prétend par son travail la rendre plus sensible, ôter le masque qui la cache à nos yeux, il la défigure souvent & la rend méconnaissable)” (Chambaud 1765, p. 11: 310). It also criticises the mere natural historian, marking as incorrect the title “observer” given to “the ignorant empirique, the humdrum practitioner, the preoccupied systematiser, the compiler of observations, the describer of illness (l’ignorant empirique, au praticien routinier, au systématique préoccupé, au compilateur d’observations, au descripteur de maladie)” (p. 313). It is significant that the article was hostile to those who founded their practice on “rules [which are] always general, and never [on] particularities” (p. 313). Unencumbered by speculative principles, by abstract learning, the observer was open to the always particular signs of nature. In this sense: [The observer] follows nature step-by-step, reveals the most secret mysteries, everything strikes him, everything informs him, all results are just the same to him because he does not expect any of them, with the same eye, he discovers the order which reigns over the entire universe and the irregularity to be found there; for him, nature is a great book which he has only to open and consult; but to read this immense book requires genius and penetration, it requires lots of insight; to do experiments requires only adroitness: all the great physicians were observers. [L’observateur] suit pas-à-pas la nature, dévoile les plus secrets mystères, tout le frappe, tout l’instruit, tous les résultats lui sont égaux parce qu’il n’en attend point, il découvre du même œil l’ordre qui règne dans tout l’univers, & l’irrégularité qui s’y trouve ; la nature est pour lui un grand livre qu’il n’a qu’à ouvrir & à consulter ; mais pour lire dans cet immense livre, il faut du génie & de la pénétration, il faut beaucoup de lumières ; pour faire des expériences il ne faut que de l’adresse : tous les grands physiciens ont été observateurs. (Chambaud 1765, p. 11: 310)19

But this revelation was not readily transferable: each observer had to learn for themselves how to read the signs of nature, something which could not be done through systematic or transferred learning, but individually, by the bedside of the ill. And so the observer was characterised in highly particular terms and as a heroic individual—a “génie observateur”—endowed with a highly developed “keenness of feeling (finesse



dans le sentiment).” “The aptitude to succeed (talent) as an observer is more difficult than one would think”; “The designation of observer is an honourable title in Medicine, which is, or rather should be, the lot of the physician (Le nom d’observateur est en Médecine un titre honorable qui est, ou plutôt qui doit être le partage du médecin)” (pp. 11: 310–12). These themes introduced by Ménuret were developed by Jean Senebier in his L’Art d’observer. As with Le Camus and Ménuret, Senebier represented the problem of the development of the arts and sciences in terms of self-cultivation; for Le Camus this is hygienic cultivation; for Senebier, although he does hold that “it is firstly necessary that the senses of the Observer be well-constituted, that is, that each be in a fit state to yield its full effect,” the emphasis was more heavily on the moral. In large part, the treatise focused on the qualities/adresse which the observer must cultivate: patience, and especially attention which rendered the observer pénétrant (shrewd/penetrating in mind), exact (rigorous/scrupulous/precise), and which assured the quality of their observations (Senebier 1775, pp. 1: 97, 131). Much of the text proceeded in terms which were to become increasingly prominent in the emergence of the nineteenth-century science: Senebier recognised that while “it is almost impossible to observe the same thing twice in the same way,” this did not preclude a “theory of the certainty of observations.” Part of Senebier’s response to the problem of particularity was to rely on a corporate notion of observations, and he invoked Jacques Bernoulli in a discussion of probabilistic knowledge based on multiple differing observations (Senebier 1775, pp. 1: 223–24, 9). Again, students of Locke will recognise that, for him too, knowledge of material things was probabilistic, and so they will be justified in concluding the period is more-or-less Lockean. But once more, rather than focus on those aspects of scientific observation which were continuous with Locke and which persisted into the nineteenth century, I want to focus on aspects of the period which were intrinsic to the discourse of sensibility: specifically, the continuity between scientific observation and aesthetic/moral theories. That is, here, the scientific genius was proximate to, perhaps even indistinguishable from, the artistic/moral genius. As for Ménuret, for Senebier the idealised observer was characterised in terms of the particularity of genius: “the observer must have [a quality of] Genius” (Senebier 1775, p. 1: 13).



Genius implies [possessing] all the qualities of the mind in their highest degree. [… The quality of] genius is thus that piercing gaze of the soul, which all at once grasps all the ideas relative to the object which absorbs it, which examines them separately, which first disentangles from them that which can enlighten it, and which, through this complete, swift and felicitous examination, soars towards sublime truths, and tears the sombre veil with which Nature confronts ordinary efforts. […T]he man of genius has many more ideas than the man who lacks this quality […]; he grasps a greater number of relationships. Le génie suppose toutes les qualités de l’esprit à leur plus haut degré. […] Le génie est donc cette vue perçante de l’âme, qui saisit tout d’un coup toutes les idées relatives à l’objet qui l’occupe, qui les examine séparément, qui démêle d’abord au milieu d’elles ce qui peut l’éclairer, & qui par cet examen complet, prompt & heureux s’élance vers des vérités sublimes, & déchire le voile sombre que la Nature opposait à des efforts ordinaires. […L]’homme de génie a beaucoup plus d’idées que celui qui en est privé […] il saisira un plus grand nombre de rapports. (Senebier 1775, pp. 1: 14–16)

The idea that the observer-genius was the individual who notices relationships/rapports was prominent in the text and in the epistemology of the period.20 Notwithstanding the section on analogy (understood here as “relationships with more or less appreciable resemblance” [Senebier 1775, p. 2: 86]) what rapports actually were was never made completely clear, and the idea relied on the primitive notion that they were simply known by the senses and noticed by the observer-genius. In fact the text remained committed to the idea that the art of observation was not something which could be completely explicated, and notwithstanding what we might call the text’s extended emphasis on “rules for the direction of observation,” in the end, for Senebier, there was something ineffable about the genius of observers, something which could only be learnt by intuition and by living inside the head of other geniuses: It is not easy for all men to establish the true relationships of distant Beings; it would thus be important for a large number [of them] to be able to follow the chain of ideas and observations which led the great Observers to those relationships. It would be necessary to inhabit the Mind of a Bonnet, a Trembley, or a De Haller, to learn by intuition the art of observing Nature.



Il n’est pas aisé pour tous les hommes d’établir les vrais rapports des Êtres éloignés ; il serait donc important pour un grand nombre de pouvoir suivre la chaîne d’idées & d’observations qui a conduit les grands Observateurs jusque à ces rapports. Il faudrait habiter le Cerveau d’un Bonnet, d’un Trembley, où d’un De Haller, pour apprendre par intuition l’art d’observer la Nature. (Senebier 1775, p. 2: 148)

Note that Senebier did not think of genius as being innate, and the text is aimed at the cultivation of the observer-genius.21 With Helvétius and Rousseau, Senebier sees genius as being the product of cultivation, with the text focused extensively on questions of education. Evidence of the continuity or complicity between aesthetics and natural philosophy which could be seen in this reliance on the ideas of genius and intuition was also found in Senebier’s use of the descriptor “peintre” (literally: painter). One of the skills of an observer-genius was their ability to represent or communicate their observations and Senebier devoted an extended section of the text to “l’Observateur Peintre de la Nature” (Senebier 1775, pp. 2: 1–36). The noun “peintre” was in the period ambiguous between a painter of pictures and a describer in language, either in prose or poetry (where today, the term tends to have aesthetic overtones and décrire/describe is more likely to be used when referring to the activities of a scientist).22 This ambiguity was not a feature just of the word used by Senebier but extended to the persona of the observer itself, hence the fifth and final section of the text, “the art of observation [as] creator of the sciences and the arts” (Senebier 1775, pp. 2: 161–321). If Observation is the mother of the sciences, it is also that of the Arts; they all issue from Nature, whether we consider them relative to our pleasures, or as attending to our needs. Man creates nothing, he only combines the ideas he has received through the senses, or he reflects on the sensations he experiences, in order to draw new ideas from them. […] We could define the Arts [as], the means of grasping and employing those relationships that observation discovers between the Beings which comprise Nature, such that we can apply them most suitably to all that can bring pleasure or utility. The aim of the Arts is fulfilled, when by an exact imitation of Nature, we have gratified the senses and moved the soul. Si l’Observation est la mère des sciences, elle est encore celles des Arts ; ils sortent tous de la Nature, soit qu’on les considère relativement à nos plaisirs, ou comme s’occupant de nos besoins. L’Homme ne crée rien, il



combine seulement les idées qu’il a reçues par les sens, ou il réfléchit sur les sensations qu’il éprouve, pour en tirer des idées nouvelles. […] On pourrait définir les Arts, les moyens de saisir & d’employer les rapports, que l’observation découvre entre les Êtres qui composent la Nature, de manière qu’on puisse les appliquer le plus convenablement à tout ce qui peut procurer du plaisir, ou de l’utilité. Le but des Arts est rempli, lorsque par une imitation exacte de la Nature, on a flatté les sens, & ému l’âme. (Senebier 1775, pp. 2: 279–80, italic in the origional)

The section included a specific discussion of the beaux-arts; the observer-geniuses here included Voltaire and, significantly, Richardson who “not only grasps the great traits of a passion, he notices all its nuances, distinguishes all its characteristics” (Senebier 1775, p. 2: 281). That there was a fundamental complicity between aesthetics and morality is a central feature of the eighteenth-century moral sense theory. And so it is little surprising to find that moral sense is of interest to Senebier and that Francis Hutchinson and Adam Smith are the key references (Senebier 1775, p. 2: 201; see also Chambaud 1765, pp. 11: 311–12). Moral science, too, is within the purview of the observer (Senebier 1775, p. 2: 205). The range of things which were unified under the rubric of the observer-genius was then extensive. The art of the observer covered speculative and experimental natural philosophy, natural theology, political and moral science, and the arts, including the fine arts. Much has been written about the novel of sensibility, and the relationship between vitalist medicine and this genre has long been noted.23 Among other things, this part seeks to foreground what can be understood to be the proper epistemological functioning of the moral sense and so too, of the novel of sensibility; I will develop this theme further in the following chapter where particularly I will show the importance of the imagination for observation. Under the influence of vitalist medicine sensibilité became an epistemological term; within what we might call (tongues firmly in cheeks) “French empiricism,” moral sense, and aesthetic and affective responses, including responses to literature, had the same epistemological status as that of the “five senses.” The point, then, is this: there was no clear distinction in this period between someone who was an acute observer of physical phenomena, a doctor who felt or sensed a patient’s fever for example, or an observer of moral phenomena, a moralist who felt or sensed outrage at the plight of a beggar or, to invoke Diderot’s “Éloge de Richardson,” the plight of Clarissa (Diderot 1773).



I have two things to say here to conclude this chapter. First: one of the problems of the “epistemological paradigm” is that it presumes epistemology to be first philosophy. Yet “theories of knowledge” did not emerge as a discrete philosophical discipline until the nineteenth century and “epistemology” did not become their label until 1854 (Haakonssen 2006). Yet in this section I have given precedence to the theory of knowledge; I have not, however, done this by relying on a notion of epistemology in a narrow or contemporary sense. In making clear the effects of the discourse of sensibility, I am seeking to revise general understandings of the epistemology of the French Enlightenment. In the thought of the period, the theory of knowledge was not in isolation foundational but was situated within a much broader medico-philosophical anthropology. Second: the operation of the discourse of sensibility has implications for the practice of intellectual history, specifically for understandings of genre. The discourse ran together at least three genres which are today generally thought to be separate and which, aligned with the disciplinary boundaries in the contemporary university, are generally taken to be separate fields of scholarly inquiry: literature, rationalist metaphysics/speculative natural philosophy, and empirical science/experimental natural philosophy and natural history: it was no accident that in this period the philosophical novel was often the genre of choice and it was no accident that novelists conceived of their task, the study of the truth of the human heart, of the affects of the heart, in terms identical to that in which doctors and moral philosophers conceived of theirs. I will develop these observations in the following chapter. In the chapters that follow, this book will often reconstruct Sade’s project in terms of its interaction with Rousseau.24 It is easy to separate Sade and Rousseau on the basis of their metaphysics: Sade takes his materialism from the “Radical Enlightenment,” particularly from d’Holbach, and it has generally been held that materialism is the key element of Sade’s philosophy25; Rousseau is a substance dualist (as were Le Camus, Fouquet, and Senebier). However, to separate the “Radical” from the “Moderate” Enlightenment in such a fundamental manner is to impose a false dichotomy on the period and occlude the substantial common ground that Rousseau and Sade share. Together with very many of their contemporaries both take the period’s sensationist epistemology to serve as “first philosophy.” From this common foundation they build divergent metaphysics and moral theories (see, for example, Rousseau 1979, pp. 266–313; Sade 1965, pp. 304–5; 1998, p. 119).



Sade’s engagement with Rousseau then is at this point based a broad agreement that it is sensibility which is of fundamental importance and on a very specific disagreement on exactly what counts in terms of sensibility. What they are in disagreement about is exactly what sort of sensibility ought to be given epistemic precedence. As I show in the following part, for Rousseau it is the heart; for Sade it is not.


1. See also Gaukroger (2010, pp. 387–420). 2. John Yolton, in the most comprehensive text available on Locke in eighteenth-century France, does not recognise the significance of vitalist medicine for the theory of knowledge in the period. For example, in his brief entry on Le Camus, Yolton quickly notes the continuities between him and Locke without commenting on the significant differences in matter theory which underpinned the “medical men’s” interest in physiology (Yolton 1991, pp. 15, 68–69). Although Yolton does not mention Vitalism, he does devote a chapter to the place of the physiological/medical in the period’s move towards materialism (pp. 86–109). His focus in this text is on the metaphysics of mind and body. Yolton’s text then has difficulty bringing sensibility into focus (as sensibility did not necessarily imply materialism and was in the period invoked by both dualists and materialists.) For a broad history of the change in matter theory see Gaukroger (2010). 3. See also Moravia (1978). The importance of medicine for Sade specifically has been shown in detail by Armelle St-Martin. St-Martin, building on work by scholars including Vila and Jean Deprun, has reconstructed in some detail the extent of Sade’s medical knowledge and the modes by which that knowledge entered his own writing including. That is, her work situates Sade’s oeuvre in its medical context in much the same way as this book situates it in its philosophical context. St-Martin notes the importance of the Encyclopédie as the best synthesis of the medical culture of the eighteenth-century (p. 20). Because my interest here is in showing the way in which Sade was situated in his broader philosophical context my interest is not on the specific modes by which Sade engaged with contemporary medicine in his writing—work in any event largely done by St-Martin—but rather I am interested in the broader ways in which medical discourses affected the philosophical anthropology of the period (St-Martin 2010). See also Kozul (2014). See too Steintrager (2004, pp. 87–145. But especially p. 92).



4.  “La mort n’est que la cessation de la sensibilité” (Diderot 2008, p. 5: 782). 5. The first edition of the text was published in 1753. 6. It is worth noting that Le Camus uses the term “force vitale” to describe sensibilité where Fouquet tends to use the term “flamme vitale” (Le Camus 1769, p. 1: 24; Fouquet 1765, pp. 15: 39, 41). For further discussions on metaphysics of eighteenth-century vitalism see Wolfe (2013), see also Kaitaro (2008) and Wolfe (2012). For Senebier’s use of the term force vitale see Marx (1974, p. 213). 7. Condillac’s presupposition is shared by Hume for whom, without the metaphysical apparatus of the vital force, vitalism is simply a craving for mental exercise which “puts the Humean mind in motion” (Cunningham 2007, pp. 61). See too Rey (1995, pp. 279–80; 2000, pp. 405–7). 8. This is consistent with Le Camus (1769, pp. 1: 398–411). 9. See also La Mettrie (1750, pp. 120–21, 129). 10.  On Diderot’s celebration of sensibility as a property of all matter see Wolfe (2013). 11. See, for example, Lloyd (2013). See too Yolton (1991). 12. On the various tastes of the organs and the three main centres of the body’s sensibility see Cheung (2008) and Vila (1998, pp. 65–73, 84). 13. This idea is repeated in the article “Sensations (Métaphysique)” (Diderot and D’Alembert 1765c, p. 15: 25). 14. This too is a feature of the article “Sensations (Métaphysique)” (Diderot and D’Alembert 1765c, pp. 15: 24–25). For more on Senebier see Marx (1974, p. 205) and Legée (1991). 15. Senebier’s list of particulars which must be noted when observing a society include climate, government, religion, the state of the sciences, and the state of the women (pp. 2: 222–39). 16.  On Diderot’s materialism see Wolfe and Terada (2008, pp. 565–68), Wolfe (2012). 17. Note Yolton’s particular reference in this context to texts by Roche and Boullier (Yolton 1991). 18. Ménuret de Chambaud features heavily in Rey’s study as “représentant exemplaire des vitalistes qui ont collaboré à l’Encyclopédie” (Rey 2000, p. 60). 19. See too Senebier (1775, pp. 1: 5–6). Senebier too speaks in detail about the l’adresse (pp. 1: 131–35). 20. “La science de l’Observateur n’est autre chose que la connaissance des rapports que les divers Etres ont entr’eux” (Senebier 1775, p. 1: 32; see also pp. 1: 93–94, 97, 137, 152, 155, 2: 42, 48–50; Singy 2006, pp. 64–65).



21.  See “Des moyens de faire fleurir l’art d’observer” (Senebier 1775, p. 2: 146). 22. ‘Peintre. s.m. Celui qui fait profession de peindre. […] Il se dit aussi De ceux qui représentent vivement les choses dont ils parlent, dont ils traitent, soit en Prose, soit en Poësie. Cet Orateur est un grand peintre. Ce Poëte est un excellent peintre’ (Morrissey 1762). 23. See, for example, Vila (1998) and Packham (2012). 24.  Frappier-Mazur, quoting Philippe Sollers, understands the relationship between Rousseau and Sade in terms of inversion, as a “negative intertextuality” (pp. 109–10). She also notes that Justine is the “inversion” of Richardson’s Pamela (Frappier-Mazur 1996, pp. 110–11). See also (Hénaff 1999, pp. 99–100) See too Le Brun on Sade’s resemblance to Rousseau which she understands as “something like a pornographic negative” (Le Brun 1990, pp. 57–58). I think there is no question that Sade inverts or parodies the novel of sensibility including those of Richardson and Rousseau. This book shows however that Sade’s response to Rousseau qua philosophe is not inversion—Sade does not match Rousseau’s philosophical reason with unreason—but rather through carefully considered critique and counterargument. 25. See, for example, Warman (2002) and Meeker (2006).

References Anstey, Peter. 2005. “Experimental Versus Speculative Natural Philosophy.” In The Science of Nature in the Seventeenth Century, edited by P. R. Anstey and J. A. Schuster, 215–42. Dordrecht: Springer. Boury, Dominique. 2008. “Irritability and Sensibility: Key Concepts in Assessing the Medical Doctrines of Haller and Bordeu.” Science in Context 21 (4): 521–35. Chambaud, Ménuret de. 1765. “Observateur.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 11: 310–13. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Cheung, Tobias. 2008. “Regulating Agents, Functional Interactions, and Stimulus-Reaction-Schemes: The Concept of “Organism” in the Organic System Theories of Stahl, Bordeu, and Barthez.” Science in Context 21 (4): 495–519. Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de. 1970/1821–1822 [1754]. “Traité des sensations.” In Oeuvres complètes, 1–327. Genève: Slatkine Reprints. Cunningham, Andrew. 2007. “Hume’s Vitalism and Its Implications.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 15 (1): 59–73.



Diderot, Denis. 1773. “Éloge de Richardson, auteur des romans de Paméla, de Clarisse et de Grandisson.” In Collection complette des ouvres philosophiques, littéraires et dramatiques de M. Diderot, 384–405. London [i.e. Amsterdam?]. Diderot, Denis. 1875–1877 [1758]. “Réflexions sur le Livre de l’Esprit.” In Œuvres complètes de Diderot. Vol II, edited by J. Assézat, 267–74. Paris: Garnier. Diderot, Denis. 2008 [1755]. “Epicuréisme ou Epicurisme.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 5: 779–85. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Diderot, Denis, and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, eds. 1765a. “Plaisir (morale).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, 12: 689–91. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Diderot, Denis, and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, eds. 1765b. “Sens (Métaphysique).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, 15: 24–27. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Diderot, Denis, and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, eds. 1765c. “Sensations (Métaphysique).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, 15: 34–38. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Diderot, Denis, and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, eds. 1765d. “Observation.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, 11: 313–21. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Dulieu, Luis. 1952. “Les articles d’Henri Fouquet dans l’Encyclopédie.” Revue d’histoire des sciences et de leurs applications 5 (1): 18–25. Fouquet, Henri 1765. “Sensibilité, Sentiment (Médecine).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 15: 38–52. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Frappier-Mazur, Lucienne. 1996 [1991]. Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade. Translated by Gillian C. Gill. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Gaukroger, Stephen. 2010. The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1680–1760. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Haakonssen, Knud. 2006. “The History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy: History or Philosophy?” In The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy, edited by Knud Haakonssen, 3–25. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Helvétius, Claude A. 1758. De L’Esprit. Paris: Durand. Hénaff, Marcel. 1999 [1978]. Sade: The Invention of the Libertine Body. Translated by Xavier Callahan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Jaucourt, Chevalier Louis de. 1765a. “Sens moral.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 15: 28–29. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Jaucourt, Chevalier Louis de. 1765b. “Sensibilité, (Morale.).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 15: 52. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Kaitaro, Timo. 2008. “Can Matter Mark the Hours? Eighteenth-Century Vitalist Materialism and Functional Properties.” Science in Context 21 (4): 581–92. Knight, Isabel. 1968. The Geometric Spirit: The Abbé de Condillac and the French Enlightenment. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Kozul, Mladen. 2014. “Sade and the Medical Sciences: Pathophysiology of the Novel and Rhetoric of Contagion.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 102–20. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1750. “Anti-Seneca or the Sovereign Good.” In Machine Man and Other Writings, edited by Ann Thomson, 117–44. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1996 [1750]. “Machine Man.” In Machine Man and Other Writings, edited by Ann Thomson, 1–40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Le Brun, Annie. 1990 [1986]. Sade: A Sudden Abyss. Translated by Camille Naish. San Francisco: City Light Books. Le Camus, Antoine. 1769. Médecine de l’esprit. Paris. Le Roy, Charles-Georges. 1765. “Homme (Morale).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 8: 274–78. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Legée, Georgette. 1991. “La physiologie dans l’œuvre de Jean Senebier.” Gesnerus 49 (3–4): 307–22. Lloyd, Henry Martyn, ed. 2013. The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment. Edited by Henry Martyn Lloyd. Dordrecht and London: Springer. Locke, John. 1690. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. London: Thomas Bassett. Marx, Jacques. 1974. “L’art d’observer au XVIIIe siècle: Jean Senebier et Charles Bonnet.” Janus 61: 201–20. Meeker, Natania. 2006. Voluptuous Philosophy: Literary Materialism in the French Enlightenment. New York: Fordham University Press.



Moravia, Sergio. 1978. “From Homme Machine to Homme Sensible: Changing Eighteenth-Century Models of Man’s Image.” Journal of the History of Ideas 39 (1): 45–60. Morris, David B. 1990. “The Marquie de Sade and the Discourses of Pain: Litrature and Medicine at the Revolution.” In The Languages of Psyche: Mind and Body in Enlightenment Thought, edited by G. S. Rousseau and Roy Porter, 291–330. Oxford and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Morrissey, Robert, ed. 1762. “Peintre.” In Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. University of Chicago, ARTFL Encyclopédie Projet. http://encyclopedie. Packham, Catherine. 2012. Eighteenth-Century Vitalism: Bodies, Culture, Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Reill, Peter Hanns. 2005. Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment. Berkeley and London: University of California Press. Rey, Roselyne. 1995. “Vitalism, Disease and Society.” In Medicine in the Enlightenment, edited by Roy Porter, 274–88. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Rey, Roselyne. 2000. “Naissance et Développement du Vitalisme en France de la Deuxième Moitié du 18 Siècle à la fin du Premier Empire.” In Studies on Voltaire & the Eighteenth Century, Vol. 381, edited by Anthony Strugnell. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Riskin, Jessica. 2002. Science in the Age of Sensibility: The Sentimental Empiricists of the French Enlightenment. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1979 [1762]. Emile, or on Education. Translated by Allan Bloom. New York: Basic Books. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1795]. “Philosophy in the Bedroom.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 184–367. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795]. “La Philosophie dans le boudoir, ou Les Instituteurs immoraux.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 1–178. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Senebier, Jean. 1775. L’art d’observer. Genève. Singy, Patrick. 2006. “Huber’s Eyes: The Art of Scientific Observation Before the Emergence of Positivism.” Representations 95 (1): 54–75. St-Martin, Armelle. 2010. De la médecine chez Sade : Disséquer la vie, narrer la mort. Paris: Honoré Champion. Steintrager, James A. 2004. Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Tipton, Ian. 1996. “Locke: Knowledge and Its Limits.” In Routledge History of Philosophy Vol. 5, British Philosophy and the Age of Enlightenment, edited by Stuart Brown, 69–95. London and New York: Routledge.



Vila, Anne C. 1998. Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Warman, Caroline. 2002. Sade: From Materialism to Pornography. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Warman, Caroline. 2014. “A “Little Short Fat Man, Thirty-Five Years of Age, Inconceivably Vigorous, and Hairy as a Bear”: The Figure of the Philosopher in Sade.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 77–86. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Williams, Elizabeth A. 2003. A Cultural History of Medical Vitalism in Enlightenment Montpellier. Burlington: Ashgate. Wolfe, Charles T. 2012. “Forms of Materialist Embodiment.” In Anatomy and the Organization of Knowledge, 1500–1850, edited by M. Landers and B. Muñoz, 129–44. London: Pickering and Chatto. Wolfe, Charles T. 2013. “Sensibility as Vital Force or as Property of Matter in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Debates.” In The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment, edited by Henry Martyn Lloyd, 147–70. Dordrecht and London: Springer. Wolfe, Charles T., and Motoichi Terada. 2008. “The Animal Economy as Object and Program in Montpellier Vitalism.” Science in Context 21 (4): 537–79. Yolton, John W. 1990. “The Way of Ideas: A Retrospective.” The Journal of Philosophy 87 (10): 510–16. Yolton, John W. 1991. Locke and French Materialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Sensibility, Genre, and the Roman philosophique

Condillac’s Traité des sensations (1754) seeks to show that the full flourishing of the human affective and cognitive life develops from only one faculty: that of sensation. Helvétius’s De l’esprit (1758) develops and radicalises this idea into a text that has a very different feel and which caused far more controversy.1 The text is important for this study as there is no evidence that I have come across that Sade read Condillac directly; De l’esprit was however in Sade’s La Coste library (Lever 1993).2 And it is important because in many respects the Sadean project is an even further radicalisation of the text. Helvétius begins De l’esprit by provisionally suggesting that the mind consists of two faculties, physical sensibility (sensibilité physique) and memory which, however, is “nothing more than a continued, but weakened sensation” (Helvétius 1758, pp. 1–2). Both then are aspects of the single power of sensibility (p. 6). For both Condillac and Helvétius the basic ontological “machinery” is identical and Helvétius shares the foundational sensationist premise that the subject is drawn towards pleasant sensations and away from those it finds painful. Following the collapse of the faculty of reason into that of sensation this also applies to ideas which are interesting only insofar as they are pleasant and/or useful. For Helvétius there are three types of ideas depending on the impression they make on us: useful ideas, detrimental ideas, and indifferent ideas which make little impression on us (and in any event collapse into the category of detrimental ideas by virtue of their tediousness) (p. 47).3 More radically, for Helvétius judgements too are nothing more than © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




sensations and it is this that provides the essential mechanism for his philosophy insofar as it dispenses with the faculty of reason (pp. 9–10). The action of the mind in judgement consists in “comparing our sensation and our ideas; that is, in seeing the resemblances and differences, the agreements and disagreements, that subsist among them” (pp. 8–9). Judgement then “is only this very faculty of perceiving, or at least the declaration of it; and consequently, all the operations of the mind are reducible to judgement” (p. 9). And insofar as sensations are either pleasant or painful, useful or useless, the criteria by which we judge is agreeableness or disagreeableness (p. 47). The text’s fundamental idea is that judgements are made according to the interests of the judger: Each person gives the name of mind only to the habit of those ideas which are useful to him, either as instructive or as pleasing; and, in this respect, personal interest is still the only judge of the merit of men. […] With regard to those ideas which advantage our passions or our tastes, the most valuable in our eyes will be, without exception, those ideas which most gratify those same passions or tastes. A delicate woman will prefer a novel to a book of metaphysics: a man of the character of Charles XII will prefer the history of Alexander to every other work: the miser will certainly only find mind only in those who will inform him of where to place his money at the highest interest. (Helvétius 1809, pp. 43–44; see also p. 57) Chaque particulier ne donne le nom d’esprit qu’à l’habitude des idées qui lui sont utiles, soit comme instructives, soit comme agréables ; et à ce nouvel égard, l’intérêt personnel est encore le seul juge du mérite des hommes. […] Lorsqu’il s’agira d’idées propres à favoriser nos passions ou nos goûts, les plus estimables à nos yeux seront, sans contredit, les idées qui flatteront le plus ces mêmes passions ou goûts. Une femme tendre fera plus de cas d’un roman que d’un livre de métaphysique : un homme tel que Charles XII préférera l’histoire d’Alexandre à tout autre ouvrage : l’avare ne trouvera certainement d’esprit qu’à ceux qui lui indiqueront le moyen de placer son argent au plus gros intérêt. (Helvétius 1758, pp. 55–56; see also p. 72)4

This provides the foundation for Helvétius’s discussion of the passions and for what we might call somewhat anachronistically his social epistemology. Every individual judges things and persons by the agreeable or disagreeable impression he received from them: and the public is only the assemblage of all the individuals; it cannot but take its interest as the rule for its judgements. (Helvétius 1809, p. 37)



Chaque particulier juge des choses & des personnes par l’impression agréable ou désagréable qu’il en reçoit : le public n’est que l’assemblage de tous les particuliers ; il ne peut donc jamais prendre que son utilité pour règle de ses jugements. (Helvétius 1758, p. 46)

This theme and its implications are returned to very often by Helvétius particularly in the first half of the text. It is worth briefly noting again that in so heavily equating self-interest—either personal or collective—with judgement, Helvétius arguably risks a radical turn away from a traditional philosophical interest in truth: he gets very close to reducing philosophical truth to mere self-interest. There is nonetheless an understanding in the text of truth beyond the mere interest of the judger but this idea of “objective” truth generally remains the implied opposite of the text’s interest in errors occasioned by ignorance either of certain facts or of the true meaning of words (Helvétius 1758, p. 40). And Helvétius recognises that the passions lead us into error (pp. 13–15). He does allow for an elite group of philosophers to be animated by a “noble and judicious pride” and so he reconciles individual interest and “objective” truth through elite philosophical interest in truth (p. 56; see also pp. 67, 108, 126). Yet the possibility of a disinterested pursuit of truth remains only at the edges of the text and an explanation of how “objective” truth might be arrived at it is not entered into. It is not clear that the text is consistent and can be reconciled with a non-relativist theory of truth: as I have shown this is a major aspect of Diderot’s critique in his 1758 “Réflexions sur le livre de l’esprit” (Diderot 1875–1877). I will not further peruse this unresolved issue here.5 Rather I want to concentrate on the implications of De l’esprit for the period’s understanding of genre. Helvétius’s sustained investigation into the nature and implications of interested judgement demonstrates the manner in which the discourse of sensibility opens a conceptual space for the genre of the conte or roman philosophique. The second half of De l’esprit is increasingly interested in questions of genius and of style. For example, in a section on genius in different genres, a section firmly rooted in classical genre theory, Helvétius writes: In poetry, for example, the genius of expression is, if I dare say it, the genius of necessity. The epic poet, who is the richest in the invention of content, is not read if he is devoid of the genius of expression; on the contrary, a well versed poem, and one full of beauties of detail and of poetry,



will, though otherwise without invention, necessarily always be met with a favourable reception from the public. This is not so with philosophical works: in these kinds of works, the first merit is that of the essential content. This is necessary in order to instruct mankind, or to show them a new truth, or display to them the connection between truths that appear isolated. In the instructive genre, the beauty, the eloquence of the diction and the charm of details is only a secondary merit. Thus, among the moderns, we have seen philosophers without strength, without grace, and even without clarity in the expression, obtain a great reputation. (Helvétius 1809, p. 371) Dans la poésie, par exemple, le génie de l’expression est, si je l’ose dire, le génie de nécessité. Le poète épique le plus riche dans l’invention des fonds, n’est point lu s’il est privé du génie de l’expression ; au contraire, un poème bien versifié, & plein de beautés de détail & de poésie, fût-il d’ailleurs sans invention, sera toujours favorablement accueilli du public. Il n’en est pas ainsi des ouvrages philosophiques : dans ces sortes d’ouvrages, le premier mérite est celui du fonds. Pour instruire les hommes, il faut, ou leur présenter une vérité nouvelle, ou leur montrer le rapport qui lie ensemble des vérités qui leur paraissent isolées. Dans le genre instructif, la beauté, l’élégance de la diction & l’agrément des détails ne sont qu’un mérite secondaire. Aussi, parmi les modernes, a-t-on vu des philosophes sans force, sans grâce, & même sans netteté dans l’expression, obtenir encore une grande réputation. (Helvétius 1758, p. 483)

As he develops these themes, the role of the imagination in Helvétius’s analysis of style becomes increasingly significant (see Warman 2002, pp. 33–35). He separates memory from imagination: “memory consists in a distinct remembrance of the object presented to us, and the imagination in a combination, a new assemblage of images, and proper relations perceived between these images, and the sensations they would excite” (Helvétius 1758, p. 485). “It follows from this definition of the imagination, that it is employed scarcely about anything else, but in descriptions, pictures and decorations. In all other cases, the imagination can only serve to cloak the ideas and sentiment represented” (p. 486). At least at this point in the text, and again showing his allegiance to traditional genres, for Helvétius imagination is not highly significant for philosophy. In poetry, imagination puts on display everything by short images, or by allegories, which are really only extended metaphors. In philosophy, the use that may be made of it [the imagination] is infinitely more limited: it there serves only […] to throw more clarity



and more charm on principles. […] The imagination, which searches to put into sensible images abstract ideas and the principles of the sciences, gives therefore infinite clarity and charm to philosophy. (Helvétius 1809, pp. 377–78) Dans la poésie, l’imagination fait tout exposer sous de courtes images, ou sous des allégories qui ne sont proprement que des métaphores prolongées. Dans la philosophie, l’usage qu’on en peut faire est infiniment plus borné : elle ne sert alors […] qu’à jeter plus de clarté & d’agrément sur les principes. […] L’imagination, qui cherche à revêtir d’images sensibles les idées abstraites & les principes des sciences, prête donc infiniment de clarté & d’agrément à la philosophie. (Helvétius 1758, pp. 490–91)

This restriction of the place of the imagination within philosophy is however not consistent either within this text or in the period more broadly. The discourse of sensibility sees an increased importance given to imagination by philosophy: insofar as the foundational units of all cognitive activity are sensations which are either pleasant and useful, or unpleasant and detrimental, and which are able therefore to be judged in comparison with other units of sensation (as more-or-less pleasant and useful, etc.), then complex judgements and the full cognitive life require that we be able to make comparative judgements about non-present things. We do this either with the aid of memory or, more significantly for this book, with the imagination. Accordingly in the opening pages of De l’esprit Helvétius illustrates the manner by which we make sophisticated or abstract judgements based on the impression various “imagined” or “represented” pictures or scenarios make on the judger: he is careful to point out that these impressions are of course “really no more than sensation” (Helvétius 1758, p. 10). The orator will present three pictures to the imagination of the same man: in one he will paint the just king who orders the condemnation and execution of a criminal; in the second, the good king who orders the opening the same criminal’s prison and the removal of his irons; in the third, he will represent the same criminal arming himself with a dagger as he leaves the prison, and quickly massacring fifty citizens: but, which man, at the sight of these three pictures, will not be convinced that justice, which, by the death of one, prevents the death of fifty, is, in a king, preferable to goodness? However, this judgement is really only a sensation. In effect, if from the habit of uniting certain ideas to certain words, we can, as experience proves, by striking the ear with certain sounds, excite in us nearly the same



sensations that would be excited by the very presence of the objects; it is evident that from the display of these three pictures, to judge that, in a king justice is preferable to goodness, is to feel and see that, in the first picture, only one is sacrificed; and that, in the third, fifty are massacred: from which I conclude that every judgement is nothing more than sensation. (Helvétius 1809, pp. 9–10) L’orateur présentera trois tableaux à l’imagination de ce même homme : dans l’un, il lui peindra le roi juste qui condamne et fait exécuter un criminel ; dans le second, le roi bon qui fait ouvrir le cachot de ce même criminel et lui détache ses fers ; dans le troisième, il représentera ce même criminel qui, s’armant d’un poignard au sortir de son cachot, court massacrer cinquante citoyens : or, quel homme, à la vue de ces trois tableaux, ne sentira pas que la justice, qui, par la mort d’un seul, prévient la mort de cinquante hommes, est, dans un roi, préférable à la bonté ? Cependant ce jugement n’est réellement qu’une sensation. En effet, si par l’habitude d’unir certaines idées à certains mots, on peut, comme l’expérience le prouve, en frappant l’oreille de certains sons, exciter en nous à peu près les mêmes sensations qu’on éprouverait à la présence même des objets ; il est évident qu’à l’exposé de ces trois tableaux, juger que, dans un roi, la justice est préférable à la bonté, c’est sentir et voir que, dans le premier tableau, on n’immole qu’un citoyen ; et que, dans le troisième, on en massacre cinquante : d’où je conclus que tout jugement n’est qu’une sensation. (Helvétius 1758, p. 10)

The judgement is made based on the image which is preferred by the imaginer, the scene that is, which most favourably excites their sensibility. It is worth briefly noting that the example invoked here by Helvétius presupposes the existence of a moral sense; it shows the importance of imagination for that tradition. The eighteenth-century’s moral sense tradition and Sade’s response to it is the subject of the following part. Helvétius’s understanding of the imagination is reiterated in Voltaire’s Encyclopédie article “Imagination, Imaginer,” listed not only under the categories of literature and the beaux arts but also of logic and metaphysics (see Warman 2002, pp. 33–36). [The imagination] is the power of each sensible being proven in itself to represent in their mind sensible things; this facility depends on memory. We see [for example] humans, animals, gardens; these perceptions enter [our minds] by the senses, the memory retains them, the imagination puts them together. […] It is very important to note that these faculties which receive ideas, retain them, compose them, are in the order of things for



which we are not able to give any explanation; these invisible reactions of our being are in the hand of the Supreme Being who has made us, and not in ours. […] Perhaps the gift of God, the imagination, is the only instrument with which we can compose ideas, even the most metaphysical of them. [L’imagination] c’est le pouvoir que chaque être sensible éprouve en soi de se représenter dans son esprit les choses sensibles ; cette faculté dépend de la mémoire. On voit des hommes, des animaux, des jardins ; ces perceptions entrent par les sens, la mémoire les retient, l’imagination les compose […] Il est très essentiel de remarquer que ces facultés de recevoir des idées, de les retenir, de les composer, sont au rang des choses dont nous ne pouvons rendre aucune raison ; ces ressorts invisibles de notre être sont dans la main de l’Être suprême qui nous a faits, & non dans la nôtre. […] Peut-être ce don de Dieu, l’imagination, est-il le seul instrument avec lequel nous composions des idées, & même les plus métaphysiques. (Voltaire 1765, p. 560)

For Voltaire, the imagination is the instrument by which we compose ideas even in matters of the most abstract metaphysics. The conclusion of these themes in De l’esprit is the chapter “De l’esprit fin, de l’esprit fort” which establishes a taxonomy of ideas including those of the “strong” and the “grand” and the various ways by which they impact the reader (Helvétius 1758, pp. 506–21). This discussion covers many genres including the theatre. To give strength to a thought, it is necessary, first, to express it in a clear and precise manner: every idea rendered by a shady expression, is an object perceived through a fog; the impression is not distinct enough to be strong. Second, it is necessary that this thought, if it is possible, should be represented by an image, and that the image be exactly suited to the thought. In fact, if all our ideas are an effect of our sensations, it is then by the senses that it is necessary to transmit our ideas to others; it is then necessary, as I have said in the chapter on the imagination, to speak by the eyes in order to be understood by the mind. (Helvétius 1809, pp. 399–400) Pour rendre fortement une pensée, il faut 1. l’exprimer d’une manière nette & précise : toute idée rendue par une expression louche, est un objet aperçu à travers un brouillard ; l’impression n’en est point assez distincte pour être forte. 2. Il faut que cette pensée, s’il est possible, soit revêtue d’une image, & que l’image soit exactement calquée sur la pensée.



En effet, si toutes nos idées sont un effet de nos sensations, c’est donc par les sens qu’il faut transmettre nos idées aux autres hommes ; il faut donc, comme j’ai dit dans le chapitre de l’imagination, parler aux yeux pour se faire entendre à l’esprit. (Helvétius 1758, pp. 516–17)

Helvétius then refers approvingly to Montesquieu’s L’Esprit des lois and to the text’s comparison of a tyrant to a savage who “with an axe in the hand cut down the tree, when they would gather fruit” (Helvétius 1758, p. 517). He concludes: We attain, in short, in this genre, the last degree of perfection, when the image by which we present an idea is an image in motion. This tableau, always preferred to a tableau of an immobile object, excites in us more sensations, and consequently makes a more lively impression. We are less struck with the calm weather than with storms. It is then to the imagination that an author owes, in part, the strength of his expression; it is with its help that he transmits to the soul of his readers all the fire of his thoughts. (Helvétius 1809, p. 400) L’on atteint enfin, en ce genre, au dernier degré de perfection, lorsque l’image sous laquelle on présente une idée est une image de mouvement. Ce tableau, toujours préféré au tableau d’un objet immobile, excite en nous plus de sensations, & nous fait, en conséquence, une impression plus vive. On est moins frappé du calme que des tempêtes de l’air. C’est donc à l’imagination qu’un auteur doit, en partie, la force de son expression ; c’est par ce secours qu’il transmet dans l’âme de ses lecteurs tout le feu de ses pensées. (Helvétius 1758, pp. 517–18)

Despite all the conceptual “ingredients” to justify the conte or roman philosophique as a philosophical genre being presented in the text, Helvétius does not himself take the last step, neither argumentatively nor in terms of the genre of the text itself. Perhaps he did not have the courage. Or more likely he saw himself as one of the philosophical elite addressing other members of that elite and so did not feel the need to increase his writing’s breadth of appeal. But in 1758, in a chapter entitled “The Unfairness of the Public in this Regard (De l’injustice du public à cet égard)”, Helvétius published this: The people want that a philosopher, solely occupied by strong and general ideas, write like a fashionable woman, or even that he be superior to her in a genre such, for example, as the epistolary genre, where, to write well, it is necessary to say trivialities in an agreeable manner. (Helvétius 1809, p. 471)



On voudra qu’un philosophe, uniquement occupé d’idées fortes & générales, écrive comme une femme du monde, ou même qu’il lui soit supérieur dans un genre tel, par exemple, que le genre épistolaire, où, pour bien écrire, il faut dire des riens d’une manière agréable. (Helvétius 1758, p. 609)

Three years later Rousseau, rising to the challenge, published Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse, and in 1762 he published Émile, ou de l’éducation. In 1795 Sade published Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique (“The philosophical novel”) (Sade 1998).

Imagined Observing In the period in which the novel was stabilising as a genre, the sentimental novel was the dominant literary form: it has been the subject of a great deal of scholarly attention.6 Its most visible identifying character was the presentation of delicate or refined affective states or “sentiments,” particularly of tender feelings towards the plight of others. This “language of feeling” marked a concern with the interiority of the subject, both the subject as constructed within the text and the reader as positioned by the text (Brewer 2009). For John Brewer, The poetics of sensibility depended upon the opening up of the private realm—interior feelings, emotional affect, intimate and familial friendship, the transactions of the home, the business of the closet, parlour, even bedroom—to public view. And it also privileged intimate and personal expression as true feeling untainted by a worldly desire for wealth and fame—hence the fiction of the editor employed by novelists like Richardson who posed as those who did not so much write as bring into the world a private, familiar correspondence. (Brewer 2009, p. 35)

The novel of sensibility in its Anglophone incarnation was most famously realised in two authors. First, Samuel Richardson, especially in his 1748 Clarissa, which “established ‘sentiment’ as the very purpose of reading fiction” (Mullan 1996, p. 245). The sentimental novel was the more or less direct inheritor of the reformed domestic novel initiated by him (Ellis 1996, p. 44). Second, Laurence Sterne, particularly his 1768 A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. Philip Stewart has traced the development in the French tradition from the language of passions to that of sentiment through Prévost, Marivaux, and Crébillon, before arriving at the “triumph of moral



sentiment” (Stewart 2010). Here we may note works by Diderot, particularly his La Religieuse, and Rousseau, particularly La nouvelle Héloïse (Vila 1998, pp. 111–81, 226–58). When applied to the novel the term “sentimental” was used in the older English sense of showing refined and elevated feelings. This is reflected too in the French where sentiment “expresses itself figuratively through the spiritual domain, in the various perspectives of the soul considering things.” The term comes to be associated with the passions: “sentiment expresses itself, too, in the code of the passions, and signifies tender affection, love” (Stewart 2010, pp. 5–8). The novel of sensibility then did not just focus on the passions but also took “sentiments” to be moral precepts (Mullan 1996, p. 246). The term “sensibility” too is significant, although it did not here obviously have the meaning which vitalist medicine gave it; the term developed from the term “delicacy”; the association was with sensuous delight, superiority of class, fragility or weakness of constitution, tenderness of feeling and fastidiousness (van Sant 1993, p. 3). Literature was considered a means by which sympathy and the moral sense were trained and writing and reading became performances of affect. There is then a strong relationship, much commented on in the critical literature, between the novel of sensibility and moral sense theory.7 “Sentimental texts appealed to the benevolent instincts of a virtuous reader, who might be expected to suffer with those of whom he or she read” (Mullan 1996, 238).8 Literary representations were held to have the same effect as real experiences. In this sense the sentimental novel, “constitute[d] a training-ground for the sympathies from which readers would emerge newly equipped to put them benignly into practice” (Keymer 2005, 576).9 The fact that Sade “subverts” the “sentimental tale” has often been noted10: Richardson’s novel, about which Diderot wrote in such enraptured terms, is after all entitled Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), and two of Sade’s novels are entitled Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu (Justine or The Misfortunes of Virtue) (1791) and Histoire de Juliette, ou les prospérités du vice (Juliette or the Prosperities of Vice) (1797). So when Diderot writes of Clarissa: Who would not like to be Clarissa, despite all her misfortunes? Often I have said in reading it: I would give readily my life to resemble her; I would prefer to be dead than to be [Lovelace].



Qui est-ce qui ne voudrait pas être Clarisse, malgré toutes ses infortunes ? Souvent j’ai dit en le lisant : je donnerais volontiers ma vie pour ressembler à celle-ci ; j’aimerais mieux être mort que d’être celui-là. (Diderot 1773, p. 391)

Sade responds to this in much the same vein as Voltaire does to Leibnitz’s Optimism: he mocks. But there is more going on than this. Insofar as in the novel of sensibility the affective powers of literature were deployed not just as pleasures in themselves, but also for instrumental purposes—the text’s ability to engage the reader sympathetically was deployed in the service of moral pedagogy—the genre is highly significant for this book. But more significant still, and that aspect to which I will in this book devote far more attention, is the eighteenth-century’s philosophical novel. That the two genres are deeply and intrinsically related is made clear by the relationship between the novel of sensibility and moral sense theory. Here, at the very least, the novel of sensibility is imbricated with the project of affective pedagogy implied by moral sense theory; the extent to which the novel assists in directly carrying the argumentative burden for moral sense theory is a question I will set aside for the present purposes, I will particularly return to it in context of the aesthetics of the beautiful and Sade’s aesthetics of the abhorrent in the coda to part three. What concerns me directly here are novels which in one genre intertwine the literary aspect with the philosophical “argument.” I do not want to make sweeping claims here. Rather let me delineate the scope of my argument. I am gesturing here to a collection of texts written in mid- to late-eighteenth-century France, specifically ­including: Voltaire’s Candide (1759); Rousseau’s La nouvelle Héloïse (1761) and Emile (1762); and Sade’s Justine (1791), La philosophie dans le boudoir (1795), Aline et Valcour (1795), and Juliette (1797). I shall for this book generally, although not always, use the term roman philosophique rather than the term conte philosophique. A conte is a short tale or story. The term conte philosophique is a term which was used by Voltaire and so, strictly speaking, can here be taken to refer to Candide. The word roman is generally translated as “novel”: Sade, for his part, titles one of his works Aline et Valcour ou le roman philosophique. Because in this study I refer only infrequently to Voltaire and more heavily to the longer novels of Sade and Rousseau I shall tend to use the term roman rather than conte. I do not understand there to be a substantive difference in the operation of the genre between them. Note that at least one of the novels I have mentioned above—La Nouvelle Héloïse—can easily be



understood to be a sentimental novel; Aline et Valcour may in parts be thought to be one, but it is not clear if the whole ought to be categorised this way. Others, especially those by Sade, are satires or subversions of this genre. The difference can perhaps be understood in theoretical terms by virtue of the novels’ relationship to moral sense theory; they are all philosophical novels. Perhaps the best known example of the genre is Voltaire’s Candide. Much has been written about this work, its genre, and Voltaire’s motivations in writing it. I shall not seek to engage with this body of literature here except to foreground what is often taken to be Voltaire’s major motivation. Voltaire was politically engaged, a pamphleteer, a populariser of others’ ideas: in his hands then the conte has been seen as a fundamentally journalistic genre. If we divide mankind into twenty parts it will be found that nineteen of these consist of persons employed in manual labour, who will never know that such a man as Mr. Locke existed. In the remaining twentieth part how few are readers? And among such as are so, very many amuse themselves with romances for every one who studies philosophy. The thinking part of mankind is confined to a very small number, and these will never disturb the peace and tranquillity of the world. Divisez le genre humain en vingt parts : il y en a dix-neuf composées de ceux qui travaillent de leurs mains, et qui ne sauront jamais s’il y a un Locke au monde ; dans la vingtième partie qui reste, combien trouve-t-on peu d’hommes qui lisent des Romans, contre un qui étudie la Philosophie. Le nombre de ceux qui pensent est excessivement petit, et ceux-là ne s’avisent pas de troubler le monde. (Voltaire 1964, pp. 68–69)

Voltaire engaged in a genre he himself did not think highly of in order to stimulate a wider reading public. I am not seeking to deny the popularising or journalistic functioning of the genre: as I show Helvétius’s De l’esprit shows that the problem of how judgements are made by individuals and groups constituted a serious philosophical problem for the period. But De l’esprit implies that if the conte or roman philosophique is primarily journalistic in its functioning, it is so for seriously considered philosophical, rather than for what we might today think of as “tabloid,” reasons. There is an overdetermination here: beyond its popularising or journalistic function, the roman philosophique, particularly as it develops under the pen of Rousseau and Sade, can be seen to have, in terms of its



epistemology and its operation as genre, a far more sophisticated operation than mere populism. I focus above on De l’esprit; but the argument can also be carried by turning to Condillac himself, to his use of fiction in his philosophical treaties, and to his advice to the reader within which we can find the conceptual key to the operation of the roman philosophique. I will begin here and then move on to discuss Rousseau’s writings, particularly Emile, before turning to Sade’s methodological treatise on the roman. In all of these instances, I will focus on the advice to the reader and on the statement of authorial intentions. In terms of their functioning as texts I am then tracking a conceptual identity which runs from Condillac’s purely philosophical treatise, leads through the hybrid treatise/novel Emile and into the romans philosophiques proper which in our own time are largely unread as philosophical texts. The works of Condillac are highly significant for our understanding of French philosophy in the latter half of the eighteenth century: his works make evident much of the philosophical rigour which underlies the more performative writings of the period. This is particularly true insofar as Condillac’s Traité des sensations makes evident in a more-orless traditional philosophical treatise the underlying epistemology of the period. In this work Condillac uses “fiction as an analytic technique” (Knight 1968, p. 84): he imagines a statue which is internally organised as a human and is given the five senses one at a time starting with the sense of smell. Through this device, Condillac argues that all knowledge comes through the senses, that there is no innate knowledge (hence he is anti-Cartesian) and, although he is heavily inspired by Locke, that there is no “Lockeian dualism.” For Locke, knowledge comes from two sources, sensation and the faculty of reflection; Condillac denies the existence of the latter (Condillac 1982). The opening section of the Traité, “Important Notice to the Reader,” is worth quoting at length. Condillac writes: I forgot to alert the reader to something I ought to have mentioned and perhaps repeated several times in this work. But I trust that acknowledging this oversight is just as effective and avoids the inconvenience of repetition. Thus I forewarn the reader that it is very important to put themselves exactly in the place of the statue we are going to observe. They should begin to live when it does, have only a single sense when it has only one, acquire only those ideas that it acquires, contract only the habits that it



contracts: in short, they must be only what it is. The statue will judge things as we do only when it has all the senses and all the experiences we do: and we will judge in the same way it judges only when we suppose ourselves deprived of everything that it lacks. I believe that readers who put themselves exactly in its place will have little difficulty in understanding this work; others who do not will meet with innumerable difficulties. (Condillac 1982, p. 155) J’ai oublié de prévenir le lecteur sur une chose que j’aurais dû dire, et peut-être répéter dans plusieurs endroits de cet ouvrage ; mais je compte que l’aveu de cet oubli vaudra des répétitions, sans en avoir l’inconvénient. J’avertis donc qu’il est très important de se mettre exactement à la place de la statue que nous allons observer. Il faut commencer d’exister avec elle, n’avoir qu’un seul sens quand elle n’en acquiert, ne contracter que les habitudes qu’elle contracte : en un mot il faut n’être que ce qu’elle est. Elle ne jugera des choses comme nous que quand elle aura tous nos sens et tout notre expérience ; et nous ne jugerons comme elle que quand nous nous supposerons privés de tout ce qui lui manque. Je crois que les lecteurs qui se mettront exactement à sa place n’auront pas de peine à entendre cet ouvrage ; les autres m’opposeront des difficultés sans nombre. (Condillac 1970/1821–1822, pp. i–ii)

Given that the Traité can be understood unproblematically to be a conventional philosophical treatise this passage is curious, particularly if seen in the terms of our own time. There are two specific points which I would like to make. First, note the manner in which Condillac is using the indicative of the verb “to observe” (observer): he is not advising the reader to “imagine a statue” (although he does, of course, admit he is conducting a hypothetical investigation on an imagined statue), he is advising them to “observe” one. Second, while Condillac does use the verb “to imagine” (imaginer) he does so in unexpected ways: he is saying “imagine yourself in the place of the statue we are going to observe.” It is the reader’s ability to do this which is fundamental to their easy understanding of the text. The verbs imaginer and observer as used by Condillac, then, have a curious operation. When I observe the statue, it is less to determine what is taking place in it than to discover what is taking place in us. I may be wrong in attributing to it the mental processes that it is not yet capable of, but such mistakes are of little consequence if they put the reader in a position to observe how these processes take place in themselves. (Condillac 1982, p. 211)



Quand j’observe cette statue, c’est moins pour m’assurer de ce qui se passe en elle que pour découvrir ce qui se passe en nous. Je puis me tromper en lui attribuant des opérations dont elle n’est pas encore capable ; mais de pareilles erreurs ne tirent pas à conséquence, si elles mettent le lecteur en état d’observer comment ces opérations s’exécutent en lui-même. (Condillac 1970/1821–1822, p. 104)

Condillac is asking the reader to imagine themselves in the place of the statue, the better to observe the reality of the statue. This is how observation operates in Condillac: imagine yourself in the place of the figuratively/speculatively constructed statue and notice that the actions of the statue “match observable reality” and so are empirically proven. I want to make this very clear: the Traité des sensations is a rigorous philosophical treatise, and Condillac argues for a radical empiricism which establishes that the a priori is derivative of, or supervenes upon, sensation. His advice to the reader who wishes to understand the text without trouble is to imagine themselves in the place of the statue-man, and from here observe the operation of their own senses. It is this “imagined observation” that is the philosophical methodology which underpins the roman philosophique. Rousseau owes a considerable philosophical debt to Condillac. More than adopting Condillac’s sensationist empiricism and using it as a basis for his thought, particularly in Emile, Rousseau adopts and adapts Condillac’s major trope: there is a fundamental identity between Condillac’s statue-man and Emile.11 Emile cannot ever be applied as a program of education for a real child, and Emile is not, as the text explicitly acknowledges in a move away from its operation as fiction and towards its operation as a philosophical treatise, an actual child (Rousseau 1979, p. 42; Bloom 1979, p. 28). The book is in very large parts quite simply a novel leading commentators to speak of it as a hybrid “treatise/novel.”12 Condillac’s philosophical methodology is evident in Emile: Rousseau is using a series of demonstrations, illustrations, and arguments to support conclusions which will, if the reader uses their imagination, accord with their observations. Condillac’s advice to the reader is all but directly quoted in Rousseau’s pre-emptive response to those who accuse him of error: Let them examine carefully the constitution of man and follow the first developments of the heart in various circumstances in order to see how



much one individual can differ from another due to the force of education; next let them compare my education with the effects I attribute it, and then say where I have badly reasoned. I shall have nothing to respond. What makes me more assertive […] is that, instead of yielding to the systematic spirit, I grant as little as possible to reasoning and trust only observation. I found myself not on what I have imagined but on what I have seen. (Rousseau 1979, p. 254) Qu’ils examinent bien la constitution de l’homme, qu’ils suivent les premiers développements du cœur dans telle ou telle circonstance, afin de voir combien un individu peut différer d’un autre par la force de l’éducation ; qu’ensuite ils comparent la mienne aux effets que je lui donne ; et qu’ils disent en quoi j’ai mal raisonné : je n’aurai rien à répondre. Ce qui me rend plus affirmatif […] c’est qu’au lieu de me livrer à l’esprit de système, je donne le moins qu’il est possible au raisonnement et ne me fie qu’à l’observation. (Rousseau 1964, p. 305)

Rousseau develops Condillac’s idea that the a priori supervenes upon sensation into the idea that the feeling of a virtuous heart takes epistemological precedence over that of the rational mind. This positioning of sentiment is particularly evident in the Profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard (Rousseau 1979, pp. 266–313).13 This epistemology is a very important part of Rousseau’s relatively sophisticated anti-philosophical philosophy. In these terms the Rousseauian roman philosophique appeals directly to the sentiment of the reader in a way that a pure philosophical treatise cannot. Condillac uses fiction as an analytic technique: the Traité des sensations is easily recognisable, both in contemporary terms and those of the period, as a pure philosophical treatise. Emile is an explicitly hybrid text: large amounts of it, particularly the early books, are philosophical treatise interposed with some exemplary narrative and dialogue (a format which is adopted by Sade in his philosophical novels), while the last seventy pages are almost pure roman. Emile, then, by virtue of its evident hybrid status, can be understood to be symptomatic of the operation of the roman philosophique as genre: in it, fictive narrative is evidently operating as philosophical treatise; philosophy and literature converge; literature becomes philosophy. La nouvelle Héloïse, published only the year before, operates in an identical way to Emile: it is a literary novel and in no overt way a philosophical treatise but it is equally as important in establishing Rousseau’s philosophy as any other works in his oeuvre.



La nouvelle Héloïse is unrecognisable to contemporary readers as a philosophical tract and is largely unread in philosophy departments today. It is generally not referred to in secondary literature on Rousseau’s philosophy.14 Given the wide circulation of Voltaire and Rousseau’s texts in the late-eighteenth century and insofar as that they can be taken to be representative of the philosophical episteme, it is not surprising to find their operation as genre reflected in other texts of the same period and of similar ambition. I am specifically referring to Sade’s philosophical and novelistic project. This is particularly the case for Rousseau who is arguably Sade’s principal inspiration and his principal interlocutor: Sade’s oeuvre can be read as a systematic engagement with the works of Rousseau, as both derivative in terms of genre and epistemology, and critical in relation to the enormous importance of virtue in Rousseau. Sade’s Idée sur les romans provides a justification for his novelistic project (Sade 1966, 1987).15 The text needs to be read carefully as it witnesses Sade justifying his literary project in terms which reek of disingenuousness: given the actual content of Sade’s moral philosophy as I reconstruct it in this book, it is not at all clear that Sade is, as he claims here, using some sort of via negativa in order to strengthen the cause of morality rather than seeking genuinely to weaken it. And yet there are important indications of his understanding of genre which are genuinely reflective of the episteme and may be taken at face value: Sade pays tribute to Voltaire who “inserted philosophy into his novels” and to Rousseau “whom nature granted in refinement and sentiment what she and granted only in wit to Voltaire” and who, in La nouvelle Héloïse, wrote a “most sublime book [that] will never be bettered” (Sade 1966, p. 105). These statements are somewhat glib and statements of admiration do not necessarily prove influence; it is in the substantive argument of the Idée that the continuity of the genre is revealed. It is, according to Sade, the work of a novelist to study “the heart of man,” “explore its every fold,” and to present to the reader a “faithful mirror of this heart” (Sade 1966, p. 107). It is therefore nature that must be seized when one labours in this genre, it is the heart of man, the most remarkable of her [nature’s] works, and not at all virtue, because virtue, however beautiful, however necessary it may be, is however only one of the aspects of this amazing heart, of which



the profound study is so necessary to the novelist, and the novel, the faithful mirror of this heart, must necessarily draw its every fold. (Sade 1966, `p. 107) C’est donc la nature qu’il faut saisir quand on travaille ce genre, c’est le cœur de l’homme, le plus singulier de ses ouvrages, et nullement la vertu, parce que la vertu, quelque belle, quelque nécessaire qu’elle soit, n’est pourtant qu’un des modes de ce cœur étonnant, dont la profonde étude est si nécessaire au romancier, et que le roman, miroir fidèle de ce cœur, doit nécessairement en tracer tous les plis. (Sade 1987, pp. 39–40)

In his interest in the truth of the heart there is a significant echo of the Rousseauian project, although of course there is in Sade a substantive critique of Rousseau’s conclusions and it is this which generates the substantial superficial differences in their texts. Both Rousseau and Sade take as one of their primary interests the natural uncorrupted sentiment of the heart, although their understanding of the content of this sentiment and its relationship to the sentiment of the head is vastly different. The interesting point for an understanding of genre is the manner in which Sade conceives of both the novelist’s study and their presentation to the reader. Sade echoes Senebier’s use of the descriptor “peintre” in discussing the art of observing nature in the beaux-arts and that he gestured towards Richardson and Voltaire as his exemplars: Do not forget that the novelist is nature’s man; she has created him to be her painter […] but if he experiences this ardent thirst to paint all, if he begins to open tremblingly the breast of nature, to search there for his art and to find his models, if he has the excitement of talent and the enthusiasm of genius, if he follows the hand which leads him, he has divined man, he will paint him; controlled by his imagination to which he gives way, let him embellish that which he sees: the fool gathers up a rose and removes its petals, the man of genius breathes it in and paints it: he is the one we will read. But in advising you to embellish, I warn you against moving away from the presentation of likeness: the reader is entitled to become angry when he notices that too much is being demanded from him; he realises that he is being taken for a fool; his self-respect suffers, he no longer believes anything when he suspects that someone wants to trick him. So without being restrained by any barrier, use, at your convenience, the right to disturb all the details of the story, when the breaking this restraint becomes necessary to the pleasures that you are preparing for us;



once again, you are not asked to be real, but only to be convincing; to require too much of you would harm the enjoyments that we expect: do not however replace the real by the impossible, and that which you invent must be well said; you are only forgiven for putting your imagination in place of the truth under the express condition of making it ornate and wondrous. (Sade 1966, pp. 110–11) Ne perds pas de vue que le romancier est l’homme de la nature, elle l’a créé pour être son peintre ; […] mais s’il éprouve cette soif ardente de tout peindre, s’il entrouvre avec frémissement le sein de la nature, pour y chercher son art et pour y puiser des modèles, s’il a la fièvre du talent et l’enthousiasme du génie, qu’il suive la main qui le conduit, il a deviné l’homme, il le peindra ; maîtrisé par son imagination qu’il y cède, qu’il embellisse ce qu’il voit : le sot cueille une rose et l’effeuille, l’homme de génie la respire et la peint : voilà celui que nous lirons. Mais en te conseillant d’embellir, je te défends de t’écarter de la vraisemblance : le lecteur a droit de se fâcher quand il s’aperçoit que l’on veut trop exiger de lui ; il voit bien qu’on cherche à le rendre dupe ; son amour-propre en souffre, il ne croit plus rien dès qu’il soupçonne qu’on veut le tromper. Contenu d’ailleurs par aucune digue, use, à ton aise, du droit de porter atteinte à toutes les anecdotes de l’histoire, quand la rupture de ce frein devient nécessaire aux plaisirs que tu nous prépares ; encore une fois, on ne te demande point d’être vrai, mais seulement d’être vraisemblable ; trop exiger de toi serait nuire aux jouissances que nous en attendons : ne remplace point cependant le vrai par l’impossible, et que ce que tu inventes soit bien dit ; on ne te pardonne de mettre ton imagination à la place de la vérité que sous la clause expresse d’orner et d’éblouir. (Sade 1987, pp. 44–45)

Sade’s positive philosophical project is not in evidence here, yet in his conceptualisation of the descriptive program of the novelist we can see his understanding of the roman philosophique. The Sadean novel shows the subject as they really are, stripped of self-deception and therefore laid bare to observation. In doing this the portrayal of the real (le vrai) is less important than whether or not the portrayal is convincing, credible, or plausible (vraisemblable). The echoes of Condillac and his advice to the reader are clear: just as for Sade, the figural “truth” or otherwise of Condillac’s statue-man is not of presiding importance. This is not a “mature” scientific method that seeks to describe objective events in terms of some sort of subject-less knowing. Both Condillac’s philosophical treatise and the roman philosophique operate in a wholly different



manner to this: they operate through the embodied knowing of the reader. What is important is that the fantastic events depicted in the texts are seen or observed to be “credible” or “plausible” when the reader imagines them. By way of conclusion, I want to briefly foreground one key aspect of my analysis here. In drawing together Condillac, Rousseau, and Sade’s epistemological projects I have not only shown that Sade’s approach to the philosophical novel has, at its deepest level, nothing strictly speaking to do with pornography, it also has nothing strictly speaking to do with materialism—neither Condillac nor Rousseau are pornographers, nor are they materialists. Condillac’s project is largely epistemological; Rousseau and Sade’s are largely moral, although they both adopt Condillac’s epistemology, or slight variations on it, and use it to ground their own work. In parallel with Condillac, both Rousseau and Sade can be seen to be using fiction as an analytic technique in a manner that was very specific to the mid- to late-eighteenth-century French philosophy. In its philosophical or literal argumentation, the roman philosophique appeals to the rationality of the reader. In its literary or figurative content, the roman goes beyond mere explication or illustration of these arguments: it self-consciously presents a figurative representation to the reader; it appeals directly to the sensation (or sensibility) of the reader and it invites the reader to observe empirically for themselves the truth of this representation. In the terms of this epistemology, in the roman philosophique, philosophy and literature merge.


1. For a detailed study of the nature of Helvétius’s development of that which is merely implied in Condillac, and particularly of the effect of this development on the philosophes, see Smith (1965). 2. Condillac is not mentioned in either the catalogue of Sade’s La Coste library of 1778 (Lever 1993) or in the index of the Pléiade (Vol III). Caroline Warman offers a general discussion of Helvétius in relation to Sade but does so in the context of his later De l’homme (Warman 2002, pp. 52–53). Note that Helvétius’s De l’esprit shares much with, and was likely heavily influenced by, the writings of La Mettrie including his “Anti-Seneca or the Sovereign Good” and “Preliminary Discourse” (La Mettrie 1750a, b).



3. See also Condillac (1982, pp. 178, 183). 4. See also p. 72. 5. For a more detailed discussion of these issues see Lloyd (2018). 6.  Including Barker-Benfield (1992), Ellis (1996), Festa (2006), Lamb (2009), Mullan (1988), Stewart (2010), van Sant (1993), and Vila (1998). For a good summary of the development of the twentieth century critical literature on the novel of sensibility see Gaston (2010). 7. The relationship between moral sense theory and the sentimental novel has been much commentated on. See Brewer (2009, p. 22), Ellis (1996, pp. 9–14), Keymer (2005, pp. 578–79), Mullan (1988, 1996, p. 249). 8. See also Brewer (2009, p. 29). 9. See also Vermeir and Deckard (2012, p. 39). 10. See, for example, Astbury (2002), Durante (1997). 11. For example Rousseau writes: “Let us suppose that a child had at his birth the stature and the strength of a grown man, that he emerged, so to speak, fully armed from his mother’s womb as did Pallas from the brain of Jupiter. This man-child would be a perfect imbecile, an automaton, an immobile and almost insensible statue” (Rousseau 1979, p. 61). See also Cassirer (1967, p. 113). 12. See, for example, O’Hagan (1999, p. 61). 13. The Profession of faith of the Savoyard Vicar is a largely self-standing text inserted into Emile. 14.  O’Hagan illustrates the dilemma this text poses to the contemporary philosophical reader and the manner in which even the best intentioned philosophical reader tends to deal with it. He implicitly recognises the importance of the novel in the Rousseauian oeuvre but announces his intention to overlook it as one of the key texts writing that “to expound the novel as a philosophical text would demand more familiarity with this literary genre than I possess. I have therefore used Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse to illustrate themes which run through my three chosen texts, rather than as an object of extended exegesis” (O’Hagan 1999, p. 10). 15. See also Vila (1998, pp. 259, 264).

References Astbury, Katherine. 2002. “The Marquis de Sade and the Sentimental Tale: Les Crimes de l’amour as a Subversion of Sensibility.” The Australian Journal of French Studies 39 (1): 47–59. Barker-Benfield, G. J. 1992. The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.



Bloom, Allan. 1979. “Introduction.” In Emile, or On Education, 3–28. New York: Basic Books. Brewer, John. 2009. “Sentiment and Sensibility.” In The Cambridge History of English Romantic Literature, edited by James Chandler, 21–44. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cassirer, Ernst. 1967. The Question of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Translated by Peter Gay. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press. Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de. 1970/1821–1822 [1754]. “Traité des sensations.” In Oeuvres complètes, 1–327. Genève: Slatkine Reprints. Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de. 1982 [1754]. “A Treatise on the Sensations.” In Philosophical Writings of Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, 155–346. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates. Diderot, Denis. 1773. “Éloge de Richardson, auteur des romans de Paméla, de Clarisse et de Grandisson.” In Collection complette des ouvres philosophiques, littéraires et dramatiques de M. Diderot, 384–405. London [i.e. Amsterdam?]. Diderot, Denis. 1875–1877 [1758]. “Réflexions sur le Livre de l’Esprit.” In Œuvres complètes de Diderot. Vol II, edited by J. Assézat, 267–74. Paris: Garnier. Durante, Danile Castillo. 1997. Sade ou l’ombre des lumières. Edited by Marc Goldstein and Roland Bonnel. Vol. 7, Eighteenth-Century French Intellectual History. New York and Paris: Peter Lang. Ellis, Markman. 1996. The Politics of Sensibility: Race, Gender and Commerce in the Sentimental Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Festa, Lynn. 2006. Sentimental Figures of Empire in Eighteenth-Century Britain and France. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Gaston, Sean. 2010. “The Impossibility of Sympathy.” The Eighteenth Century 51 (1–2): 129–52. Helvétius, Claude A. 1758. De L’Esprit. Paris: Durand. Helvétius, Claude A. 1809 [1758]. De L’Esprit: Or Essays on the Mind and its Several Faculties. London: R. M. Richardson (Original edition, This is a facsimile edition of the 1809 English translation). Keymer, Thomas. 2005. “Sentimental Fiction: Ethics, Social Critique and Philosophy.” In The Cambridge History of English Literature, 1660–1780, Vol. 1, edited by John Richetti, 572–601. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Knight, Isabel. 1968. The Geometric Spirit: The Abbé de Condillac and the French Enlightenment. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1750a. “Anti-seneca or the Sovereign Good.” In Machine Man and Other Writings, edited by Ann Thomson, 117–44. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1750b. “Preliminary Discourse.” In Machine Man and Other Writings, edited by Ann Thomson, 145–73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lamb, Jonathan. 2009. The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century. London: Pickering & Chatto. Lever, Maurice, ed. 1993. Catalogue de La Coste. Vol. 2, Papiers de famille: Le marquis de Sade et les siens (1761–1815). Paris: Fayard. Lloyd, Henry Martyn. 2018. “The French Enlightenment Attempts to Create a Philosophy Without Reason: The Case of Diderot and the Effect of Helvétius.” Intellectual History Review 28 (2): 271–92. Mullan, John. 1988. Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Mullan, John. 1996. “Sentimental Novels.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Novel, edited by John Richetti, 236–54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. O’Hagan, Timothy. 1999. Rousseau. Edited by Ted Honderich, The Arguments of the Philosophers. London and New York: Routledge. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1964 [1762]. Emile ou de l’éducation. Paris: Editions Garnier Freres. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1979 [1762]. Emile, or On Education. Translated by Allan Bloom. New York: Basic Books. Sade, D. A. F. 1966 [1799]. “Reflections on the Novel.” In The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings, edited by Austryn Wainhouseand and Richard Seaver, 97–116. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1987. “Idée sur les romans.” In Les Crimes de l’amour: Nouvelles héroïques et tragiques précédées d’une Idée sur les romans, edited by Michel Delon, 27–51. Paris: Gallimard. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Smith, D. W. 1965. Helvétius: A Study in Persecution. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Stewart, Philip. 2010. L’Invention du Sentiment: Roman et Economie Affective au XVIIIe Siècle. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. van Sant, Ann Jessie. 1993. Eighteenth-Century Sensibility and the Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vermeir, Koen, and Michael Funk Deckard. 2012. “Philosophical Enquiries into the Science of Sensibility: An Introductory Essay.” In The Science of Sensibility: Reading Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry, edited by Koen Vermeir and Michael Funk Deckard, 3–56. Dordrecht and New York: Springer.



Vila, Anne C. 1998. Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Voltaire. 1765. “Imagination, Imaginer.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 8: 560–63. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Voltaire. 1964. Lettres philosophiques ou lettres anglaises avec le texte complet des remarques sur les Pensées de Pascal. Paris: Editions Garnier Fréres. Warman, Caroline. 2002. Sade: From Materialism to Pornography. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.


Moral Sense, Pleasant Sensations, and Libertine Sensibility

Introduction to Parts III and IV “Natural” and “Artificial” Morality in the Eighteenth Century In Book II of A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–1740) David Hume summarises the moral philosophy of his “late years” in terms of a division between theories which find “moral distinctions [to] be founded on natural or original principles, or [by contrast that] arise from interest and education” (Hume 2007, § Hume is notorious for his scepticism about possibilities of reason famously holding that “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions” (§ It is then hardly surprising that he does not count reason to be a source of morality; rather morality must be grounded in sensation. But in recognising that virtue and vice are associated with real feelings of pleasure and pain, Hume also recognises that there are two explanations of this phenomenon: For granting that morality had no foundation in nature, it must still be allowed, that vice and virtue, either from self-interest or the prejudices of education, produce in us a real pain and pleasure; and this we may observe to be strenuously asserted by the defenders of that hypothesis. Every passion, habit, or turn of character (say they) which has a tendency to our advantage or prejudice, gives a delight or uneasiness; and it is from thence the approbation or disapprobation arises. […] The same unquestionable

108  Part III: Moral Sense, Pleasant Sensations, and Libertine Sensibility argument may be derived from the opinion of those, who maintain that morality is something real, essential, and founded on nature. The most probable hypothesis, which has been advanced to explain the distinction betwixt vice and virtue, and the origin of moral rights and obligations, is, that from a primary constitution of nature certain characters and passions, by the very view and contemplation, produce a pain, and others in like manner excite a pleasure. The uneasiness and satisfaction are not only inseparable from vice and virtue, but constitute their very nature and essence. To approve of a character is to feel an original delight upon its appearance. To disapprove of it is to be sensible of an uneasiness. (Hume 2007, § & 5)

Importantly, at least at this point in the text, Hume takes each of these alternate hypotheses as sufficient explanations for moral feelings. Hume sought to resolve the conflict between the two competing hypothesis with his own moral theory including both “natural” virtues of moral sensibility and “artificial” virtues of “justice and injustice” (§3.1.2; 3.2.1). Both aspects of this theory are grounded in human nature although in differing human motivations. Where the human motivation is that of an innate moral sense he sees morality as “natural”; where the motivation is self-interest, he sees morality as depending on social arrangements, on “rules of justice,” and such a morality is on this view conventional or “artificial.” Humean “artificial” morality then is still grounded in human nature and so is in an important sense still natural. What marks the difference between the hypotheses is that “artificial” morality does not exist outside of civil society: it is not present in the state of nature (§ To avoid giving offence, I must here observe, that when I deny justice to be a natural virtue, I make use of the word, natural, only as opposed to artificial. In another sense of the word; as no principle of the human mind is more natural than a sense of virtue; so no virtue is more natural than justice. Mankind is an inventive species; and where an invention is obvious and absolutely necessary, it may as properly be said to be natural as anything that proceeds immediately from original principles, without the intervention of thought or reflection. Though the rules of justice be artificial, they are not arbitrary. Nor is the expression improper to call them Laws of Nature; if by natural we understand what is common to any species, or even if we confine it to mean what is inseparable from the species. (Hume 2007, §

Part III: Moral Sense, Pleasant Sensations, and Libertine Sensibility  109

Significantly, and this book will develop this point in Part IV, Hume is content to associate “artificial” morality and the rules of justice with the laws of nature and the natural law tradition. Hume’s own moral theory is not of direct interest to this book and I will not lean on the idea that it was widely read in mid- to late-eighteenth century France. The reason that I have invoked Hume here is because in his description of the difference between “natural” and “artificial” morality he makes explicit a division which is in operation in both the Scottish and the French Enlightenments even if the division is generally not drawn as starkly as it is in Hume’s Treatise and even if the division itself is either unstable or philosophically unsustainable. Hume was picking up on and responding to the fact that there were two major theories of morality in operation in his intellectual context: broadly, neo-Hobbesian moralities of self-interest which saw morality as being external to the subject, which included social contract theories, and which often drew explicitly on the natural law tradition; and moral sense theories which saw morality as being intrinsic or internal to “natural man,” and which relied heavily on the ontology that the preceding part has explicated, specifically on the construction of the eighteenth century’s body of sensibility. This study will lean heavily on Rousseau’s oeuvre. Rousseau too drew on and responded to these two tendencies in his contemporary moral theory. In brief, Rousseau’s position is that man in the state of nature is not merely possessed of Hobbesian self-interest but is also possessed of an innate and “natural” feeling of compassion or pity towards other sentient beings.1 This natural affect is for Rousseau the source of all human sociability and so there is a sense in which society and its arrangements are natural.2 But the emergence of civil society has led to the corruption of natural man’s affects, a corruption Rousseau outlines in the Discours surl’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality or the Second Discourse) (1987). This leads Rousseau to theorise in his Du contrat social ou principes du droit politique (On the Social Contract) (1987) an “artificial” morality associated with the well-formed political community. The relationship between the two aspects of Rousseau’s moral theory is complex; he is in essence attempting to give a theory of a natural man living in an artificial state and merely replacing natural morality with an artificial one will not suffice for him; like Hume he can be understood to be seeking a resolution to the impasse between the two theories. I will elucidate the details of

110  Part III: Moral Sense, Pleasant Sensations, and Libertine Sensibility

both aspects of this position in the two parts that follow. The point here is simply that Rousseau, like Hume, recognised and responded to two strands of eighteenth-century moral thought. And so did Sade. One of the most important aspects of this book’s reconstruction of Sade’s philosophy will be to show the significance of Rousseau for Sade and I will often turn to Rousseau in order to show the nature of Sade’s own theory and his engagement with his intellectual context. Rousseau preceded Sade; Rousseau (1712–1778) published his major works in two remarkably fecund years 1761–17623; Sade (1740–1814) published most of his major texts between 1791 and 17974; there is then roughly thirty years separating them. We know that Sade owned Rousseau’s major works and Sade mentions Rousseau as an important author calling Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse a “sublime book” which will “never be bettered” (Lever 1993, pp. 618–619; Sade 1966, p. 105). In Aline et Valcour, Valcour not only meets a character called Rousseau in Geneva, but is taught by him: it was Rousseau who “guided [Valcour’s] young years, and taught [him] to separate true virtue from the odious systems under which it was suffocated (il y guida mes jeunes ans, et m’apprit à séparer la véritable vertu des systèmes odieux sous lesquels on l’étouffe)” (Sade 1998, p. 412). Sade could not be more explicit about the extent to which Valcour is intended to personify Rousseauism. Yet the two oeuvres are startlingly different especially in their affects. In fact they seem to be the exact opposite of one another. So to claim that the Sadean oeuvre is in fact highly proximate to Rousseau’s is to make a startling and somewhat controversial claim.5 This is what I do in this book. More specifically, what I argue is that Sade’s oeuvre constitutes a series of precise engagements with Rousseau on many different levels. I show that it is very often the case that Rousseau and Sade agree on what they disagree on and of course to do this, a very great deal of agreement is first required. Sade too recognised that there were two strands of Enlightenment moral thought and he also drew on and responded to both of them. The point is that in order for Sade to authorise his pornographic his pornographic imagination—in order that the philosophical/moral aspect of the Sadean text support and authorise the literary/pornographic—Sade needed to respond to both strands of moral thought as they operated in his context. I will trace Sade’s use and response to “natural” theories moral sense in Part III, and to “artificial” theories of moral self-interest and the natural law tradition in Part IV of this book. It will however become clear that the division between the two strands

Part III: Moral Sense, Pleasant Sensations, and Libertine Sensibility  111

of eighteenth-century moral thought is somewhat artificial and there is a great deal of overlap and interaction between the two “hypotheses.” Two examples of this interaction will suffice for this introduction. First, the “naturalness” of the moral sense did not preclude theorists from recognising the need for sound educational and cultural practices to support, develop, and care for our moral sense or sensibility. There are then “artificial” aspects to the theories of “natural” morality. Second, much of the period’s version of natural law theory relied on the normative power not of the natural law (loi de la nature), but rather on the idea of the voice of nature (voix de la nature), a voice which is often associated with the “natural” moral sense and not with themes of rational principles or the conventional rules of civil society. The broad Sadean philosophical/moral position which this book will reconstruct in the following two parts can be summarised like this: against those who argue that an innate moral sense tracked the intrinsic values of virtue and vice, Sade argued that the moral sense is in fact either self-interested (and so is not moral), or is implanted by institutions of civil society (and so is not natural). What is natural for Sade is self-interest, something that the voice of nature entreats us to care for and nothing else besides. On this point, Sade agrees with moralities of self-interest from which he draws liberally in his critique of moralities of natural virtue. But moralities of self-interest are in the period still moral theories even although they see morality as being in some sense “artificial” and they generally draw on a version of social contract theory to produce a normative moral system: that is, our natural self-interest, in a social or civil context, produces moralities of mutual interest and so what Hume calls “rules of justice.” As I will show in Part IV Sade rejects the idea that there is anything rational or self-interested in entering a social contract or in the purported benefits offered by civil society. Rather Sade prefers that the libertine maintains themself in what is effectively the Hobbesian state of nature the better to live a happy life. I will end Part IV by reconstructing the positive version of Sade’s own own version of natural law.

Notes 1. I will in this book continue to speak of “man” in the state of nature rather than invoke a gender neutral “person.” This is because, especially for Rousseau, I think it is very clear that natural “man” is not the same as

112  Part III: Moral Sense, Pleasant Sensations, and Libertine Sensibility natural “woman” and so to proceed in terms of a “human in the state of nature” would have significant distorting effects on his thought. 2. On the naturalness of justice see for example, Rousseau (1979, p. 253). 3. Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (1761); Émile ou de l’éducation (1762); Du contrat social (1762). 4. Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu (the second version of Justine, 1791); La philosophie dans le boudoir (1795); Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique (initially written between 1785 and 1788; pub. 1795); Histoire de Juliette, ou les Pprospérités du vice (1797). Les cent vingt journées de Sodome, ou l’Éécole du libertinage (1785, published 1904), while perhaps the most (in)famous of all Sade’s texts, it is, in terms of the presentation of Sade’s philosophical “system,” less representative than the 1791–1797 texts on which this book is based. 5.  This point, insisted on by Delon (1972), has not yet been sufficiently noticed.

References Delon, Michel. 1972. “Sade face à Rousseau.” Europe no. 50 (522): 42–48. Hume, David. 2007. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lever, Maurice. 1993. Catalogue de La Coste. Vol. 2, Papiers de famille: Le marquis de Sade et les siens (1761–1815). Paris: Fayard. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1979 [1762]. Emile, or On Education. Translated by Allan Bloom. New York: Basic Books. Sade, D. A. F. 1966 [1785]. “120 Days of Sodom.” In The 120 Days of Sodom & Other Writings, edited by Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver, 183–674. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.


Moral Sense Theory in the French Enlightenment

The previous part examines the ontology of the eighteenth-century’s body of sensibility. It looks at the modes by which the body of sensibility was constructed in terms which were both universal and particular. Sensibility was understood to be a universal power of the body which was affected by each body’s particular situation including by such factors as climate, geography, diet, and sex. Sensibility was not understood to be evenly distributed across populations or across individuals. This part will build on the preceding with a specific turn to the nature of Sadean sensibility and with particular reference to theories of moral sense; where in the previous part I reconstruct aspects of Sade’s “system” that he shares broadly with his intellectual context, in this part I will begin to reconstruct the specific aspects of his philosophical “system.” The relationship between the eighteenth-century’s body of sensibility and its moral sense theories is heavily determined and, particularly in the French context, the moral sense was often associated with the particular sensibility of the heart. This part will track Sade’s adoption, adaption, and rejection of theories of moral sense, theories which he often associated with the sensibility of the heart, an embodied affect which Sade often referred to in a kind of shorthand simply as “sensibility.” This part has three chapters and a brief conclusion or coda. I will begin in this chapter with an outline of moral sense theory as it operated in France in the mid- to late-eighteenth century and will in particular focus on Louis-Jean Lévesque de Pouilly’s Théorie des sentiments agréables, on Diderot’s Essai sur le mérite et la vertu, and on the © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




importance of pity for Rousseau’s moral theory. I will show that, even in the non-materialist strands of the French Enlightenment the moral sense is strongly associated with embodiment and particularly with the affects of the heart. Chapter 6 builds on this by focusing on the particular nature of Sadean sensibility. I will look firstly at Sade’s confusing of the pleasure/pain binary and at his epistemology of intensity before then looking at his ambidextrous response to theories of “natural” moral sense. I will finally in Chapter 7 focus on Sade’s analysis of the relative pleasures of the heart and the head, of the pleasures of virtue compared to those of libertinage. That is, I will reconstruct Sade’s own théorie des sentiments agréables. The coda will briefly but directly address the question of Sade’s aesthetics of the abhorrent and the role that moral philosophy plays in this. In broad terms, against those who held that morality is based on self-interest (e.g. Hobbes, Mandeville, and later in France, Helvétius), moral sense theorists held morality to be founded on a disinterested moral “sense” or “sentiment” (Norton and Kuehn 2006). As the tradition developed so too did ideas of how the moral sense worked. The Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–713), generally taken to mark the start of the tradition, was a moral realist: that is, he understood the moral sense to track real characteristics in another person. This made easy work of the notion of a disinterested moral sense; moral judgments operated as do any other sense and so allowed direct awareness of moral properties (Shaftesbury 2001, pp. 172–73).1 In Shaftesbury and the moral sense tradition following him, there was understood to be a strong relationship between moral and aesthetic judgements insofar as they were both immediate and disinterested (Shaftesbury 2001, pp. 172–73).2 Shaftesbury’s moral realism was weakened in the tradition which followed him. Where for Shaftesbury the moral sense responded to a Platonic notion of the harmonious and virtuous soul of the other, Hutcheson held that what the moral sense approved of in the other was their benevolence (Radcliffe 2002, p. 463).3 An important aspect of the theories of moral sense was the extent to which they were imbricated with the period’s philosophical aesthetics. Analogies between moral properties and aesthetical properties were explicitly drawn and helped carry a large part of the theories’ argumentative burden. This relationship was particularly strong in the 1720s and 1730s in the work of Francis Hutcheson and Louis-Jean Lévesque de Pouilly.



Hutcheson’s An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (2008) is made up of two treatises: the first which focuses on the sense of beauty and harmony; the second, the moral sense. There is a very high degree of proximity between the two senses, but they are not precisely the same: Hutcheson writes that just as “the Author of Nature” has determine us to receive aesthetical sense, he has “in the same manner” given us a moral sense (p. 99). In contrast to our “external senses” Hutcheson describes our sense of beauty as being an “internal sense” and our sense of morality as a “superior sense” (e.g. p. 88). And they do not quite take the same object: the forms that excite in us the idea of beauty are those in which there is “Uniformity amidst Variety” (p. 28; see also p. 45). This includes beauty in works of art that appears in their “Uniformity, or Unity of Proportion among the Parts, and of each Part to the Whole” (p. 41). And it includes our sense of beauty in theorems and mathematics and so includes beauty in natural philosophy (p. 36 and following). By contrast, our sense of morality takes pleasure in another’s character or virtue which is ultimately ground in their benevolence (p. 116). But, Hutcheson does speak of the “moral Sense of Beauty in [human] Actions and Affections” and of virtue as beauty in character and manners (p. 9). And he writes that the moral sense makes “rational Actions appear Beautiful” (p. 91). So there is a very substantial degree of common ground between the two senses even if Hutcheson does not clearly theorise this. While Hutcheson does consider the effects of custom and education that can enlarge or perhaps shrink the capacity of internal or superior sense, he considers the senses of beauty and morality to be universal among humans. Adam Smith’s 1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments may be taken as the culmination of the tradition (see Irwin 2008, p. 679). “Sympathy” is the key concept here, a feature too of Hume’s moral theory. That is, we judge that a trait is a virtue or a vice insofar as we respond to it sympathetically, with “fellow feeling,” or with a reproduction of the feeling in ourselves. Imagination is the central moral operator for Smith: it allows us to place ourselves in the other’s situation and so feel for them, it allowed Smith to explain the moral sense without invoking an independent dedicated faculty (Irwin 2008, pp. 682–84). The link to the sentimental novel is clear—it is the ability of the reader to engage sympathetically with imagined characters such as Richardson’s Clarissa that is central to the moral didacticism of the genre—and literature takes a central place in Smith’s Theory (Fleischacker 2002, p. 509).



There was a parallel development of moral sense theory in France. Etienne Simon de Gamaches’s 1708 Le Système du cœur outlined the operation of sympathy in much the same way as Adam Smith later did. Lévesque de Pouilly’s 1747 Théorie des sentiments agréables, a text I will deal with in some detail below, had a significant influence on Smith. We may note Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s 1767 novel La Sympathie (Bernier 2010, p. 15).4 And I will refer in detail below to Rousseau’s own version of moral sense theory. The key works of the Anglophone tradition were introduced rapidly into the French context where they had significant influence: I will also use Diderot’s 1745 Essai sur le mérite et la vertu, a translation of Shaftesbury’s 1714 An Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit (Shaftesbury 2001; Diderot 1798).5 (Although it is perhaps not quite right to call this text a translation; the text is sufficiently unfaithful to the original so as to warrant being treated on its own terms (Robb 1991). Often Diderot makes additions to the text by way of commentary in footnotes. He also adds whole sentences to the text itself without acknowledging his elaborations. The effect is to subtly, but in places quite dramatically, alter the original.) Translations of Hutcheson’s works were also widely available in France and the Encyclopédie article “sens moral” quotes Hutcheson directly (while notably adding that the moral sense was associated with a movement of the heart) (Jaucourt 1765a, p. 15: 28). Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments received an immediate reaction in France where it was translated in 1764 and again in 1774 (Bernier 2010, p. 1). Articles in the Encyclopédie such as “Sympathie, (Physiolog.)” (Jaucourt 1765c) and particularly “Sensibilité, (Morale)” are highly continuous with Smith’s Theory even if his name is not mentioned directly: Sensibility, (Morality) Delicate and tender disposition of the soul that makes it easily moved, touched. The sensibility of the soul […] imparts a kind of wisdom about propriety, and it goes farther than the penetration of the mind alone. […] Reflection can make a man of honour; but sensibility makes a man virtuous. Sensibility is the mother of humanity and of generosity; it increases worth, it helps the spirit, and it incites persuasion. Sensibilité, (Morale.) disposition tendre & délicate de l’âme, qui la rend facile à être émue, à être touchée. La sensibilité d’âme, […] donne une sorte de sagacité sur les ­choses honnêtes, & va plus loin que la pénétration de l’esprit seul. […]



La réflexion peut faire l’homme de probité ; mais la sensibilité fait l’homme vertueux. La sensibilité est la mère de l’humanité, de la générosité ; elle sert le mérite, secourt l’esprit, & entraîne la persuasion à sa suite. (Jaucourt 1765b, p. 52)

For Smith, sympathy—pity, compassion, or “fellow feeling”—was associated with the operation of the imagination (Bernier 2010, pp. 9–11). In the French context, the operation of the moral sense had a much more physical or embodied aspect and the moral sense was typically associated with the sensibility of the heart; Smith’s “imaginary change of situations” was translated into a “chemistry of hearts (chimie des cœurs)” (pp. 13, 15). Finally, we may note Les Lettres sur la sympathie (1798) by Sophie de Grouchy, marquise de Condorcet, a new translation of Smith’s text accompanied by an extensive commentary. For de Grouchy, sympathy was not a product only of the imagination but something felt (senti) in the manner of others and sympathy became a property of matter (Bernier 2010, pp. 13–14). The link is clear with the vitalist theories of embodiment that I discussed in the second part of this book. Compared, then, to Scottish moral sense theory the particular contribution of French tradition was to fully rehabilitate affectivity to moral thought (p. 17). Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments probably marks the high point of the eighteenth-century’s moral sense tradition. But rather than focus on that text, or on de Grouchy’s Letters which were published too late to be of significance for the texts I am working with here, I will instead focus more specifically on the context of French moral sense theory from the middle of the eighteenth century by examining Louis-Jean Lévesque de Pouilly’s Théorie des sentiments agréables and Diderot’s Essai sur le mérite et la vertu. The initial form of Lévesque de Pouilly’s Théorie was a letter between him and Lord Bolingbroke printed in 1736 apparently without the author’s knowledge. The book was published in its full form in 1747, about twenty years after Hutcheson’s Inquiry: there are substantial continuities between the two texts but I don’t want to say that the latter is a mere repetition of the former. The Théorie was translated into English in 1749, and had passed through five French editions by 1774. It was an influence on both Adam Smith, who among other aspects seems to have adopted the work’s title, and on David Hume (Ross 1995, pp. 159–60). The Théorie is not represented in the inventory of Sade’s 1778 library which does not however show that Sade was ignorant of



it and we may take the text to be importantly indicative of aspects of the zeitgeist in which Sade was immersed and to which he was responding. Diderot’s Essai is in the inventory (Lever 1993, pp. 616–17). The two texts are highly complementary in their key theoretical features and taken together they show the ways in which moral sense theory was understood in France in the mid-eighteenth century. Both texts, reacting against Hobbes, understand moral judgements to be a matter of sense, not of reason, and understand them to be closely aligned with, perhaps indistinguishable from, aesthetical judgements. In using these texts as representative of French moral sense theory I will also mark points at which they interact with Rousseau’s version of moral sense theory and, of course, with Sade’s oeuvre. It is my argument in this book that Sade can be understood to be responding to this feature of his intellectual context with his own theory of sensations. Lévesque de Pouilly outlines the Théorie’s project as that of seeking the principles of wisdom and the art of finding happiness through a “science of sentiments” and through an understanding of the principles of natural theology, morality, eloquence, and taste in the beaux arts and works of wit (ouvrages d’esprit) (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, pp. xv–xvi, 1–4). The close proximity between aesthetics and moral philosophy is then a prominent feature of the text which is at once a work of philosophical anthropology, of moral philosophy, and of philosophical aesthetics.6 The Théorie opens by invoking the sensationist supposition very widely held in the period, the idea that we are drawn to things which are pleasant to us and driven away from things which are unpleasant; I have covered this point in Part II and will return below to this idea and the clear “trajectory” it establishes in epistemology in the period. More significant for the Théorie is the idea—or perhaps the presumption—that nature has orchestrated for that which is advantageous to us to be pleasant and that which is deleterious to be painful. This principal is described by Lévesque de Pouilly as a law of nature: it is to this law that we owe our longevity, the perfection of our faculties, and the acquisition of our share of happiness (p. 14). The text displays a remarkable optimism about the natural and providential order of things. By the order of Nature, a reasonable use of our faculties is always accompanied by pleasant sentiments […] The theory of sentiments and moral Theology arrive thus by different paths at a single end.



Par l’ordre de la Nature, un usage convenable de nos facultés est toujours accompagné de sentiments agréables. […] La théorie des sentiments & la Théologie morale, arrivent donc par des routes différents à un même but. (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, p. 12)

Notwithstanding things which are intrinsically unpleasant and deleterious to our wellbeing, the text’s basic observation, and one which does a lot of the intellectual labour without itself being at any point expressly justified, is that “all that exercises the organs without fatiguing them, may contribute to their longevity (conservation), and is accompanied by a pleasant sensation (sentiment agréable)” (p. 17). The Théorie begins its substantive argument with an analysis of the pleasures of the five bodily senses (les organes du corps). Invoking Newton’s spectrum, the example here is the differences in the pleasure caused by different colours. Those which form “the colour of fire” have the greatest strength, are the most brilliant, but soon fatigue the sight. Moderate colours, green for example, excite the fibres of the eye without weakening them and so cause the most pleasure. And browns and blacks convey an image of sadness because they “leave the eyes in a state of inaction” (p. 21). Beyond giving what is in effect a universal theory of the appeal of various colours, the text notes that because different eyes have different strengths or tastes (goûts), those who are delicate and tender find for example violet more agreeable than orange. Variety too adds pleasure; agreeable sensations ultimately lose their appeal as the repetition of sensation eventually fatigues the bodily fibres (p. 24). As the text moves to discuss the pleasures of the mind (esprit) its principal ideas are developed: exercise of the mind is as necessary to our continued existence as exercise of the body, and so there is a natural tendency towards mental exercise which is pleasurable so as long as we do not suffer fatigue (p. 28). It is from this that we find pleasure in delicate or subtle thoughts (pensées fines). And in this principle lies the pleasure we find in art. For the Théorie this pleasure arises from order and symmetry which enables the mind to grasp the different parts of a whole work (pp. 29–30). It is in these sections that the text most clearly operates in the mode of philosophical aesthetics: the Théorie discusses the various causes of pleasure in painting, poetry, speech-making, architecture, and music. Balancing order and symmetry, particularly in music, is the pleasure of variety; contrast is understood to be a type of symmetry (p. 36). It is musical harmony which is the aesthetic paradigm for much of the



text and a discussion of the most agreeable musical chords is the principal analogy for the order which governs all of nature and the pleasure we find in it. More sophisticatedly, art inspires chiefly through the connection of the different parts by a principal object (objet principal) that allows the mind to understand and retain the work’s proportion and symmetry (p. 40). What is pleasing in a work of art is the unification of several parts into a whole, a common end (une fin commune), which connect the parts together subordinating them to the principal part (pp. 40–41). This principle also underpins the operation of our moral sense which takes as pleasing exactly the same properties in the other; in works of art that which pleases us is the correct relationship between means and the goal or end (juste rapport des moyens à une fin), so likewise it is the correct relationship between all a virtuous person’s actions and an end which accords with their talents and state (à ses talents & à son état) that forms for us a pleasing spectacle (p. 118). Where Hutcheson is somewhat equivocal, Lévesque de Pouilly then is very clear that our aesthetical/moral sense takes pleasure in the same property in the object of sense. This quality in ourselves forms our moral perfection; considered in others it forms moral beauty (beauté des mœurs) (p. 112). That is, moral perfection consists in the possession of habits of the soul (âme) which allow us to attain a solid happiness (solide bonheur) in conformity with the intentions of our creator and which are imprinted in the nature of our being (p. 117). And so for Lévesque de Pouilly virtue is the surest means that nature has offered us to protect us from distressing sensations and secure for ourselves pleasant sentiments (p. 10). Lévesque de Pouilly’s text is quite close to, and was likely influenced by, Shaftesbury/Diderot for whom it is the neo-Platonic idea of harmony between the faculties of the soul which is the property of the other that we find morally/aesthetically pleasing and which is understood to be constitutive of Lévesque de Pouilly’s “beauté des mœurs” (Diderot 1798, pp. 59–60, 63, 103–4; Shaftesbury 2001, pp. 175–77, 191). Like Shaftsbury and Diderot, Lévesque de Pouilly stresses the realist aspects of his theory and rejects the idea that our moral senses are grounded in self-interest (Diderot 1798, pp. 51, 108–9; Shaftesbury 2001, pp. 173, 193). Diderot argues this by means of an analogy with the pleasure taken in a gallery of paintings:



But can the heart regard with indifference the outlines of morality that the mind is forced to draw, and which are almost always present? I appeal to the inner sentiment. Its role is just as necessary for the operation of judgements as is the mind. [Inner sentiment] is never so thoroughly corrupted as to lose completely the capacity to differentiate between the beautiful and the ugly, and it will not fail to approve the natural and the honest, and to dismiss the dishonest and depraved, especially in disinterested moments: it is therefore a fair connoisseur who strolls through a picture gallery, who marvels at the boldness of this line, who smiles at the sweetness of this sentiment, who goes along with this affection, and who disdainfully passes by anything that wounds beautiful nature. Mais le cœur regarde-t-il avec indifférence les esquisses des mœurs que l’esprit est forcé de tracer, et qui lui sont presque toujours présentes ? Je m’en rapporte au sentiment intérieur. Il me dit qu’aussi nécessité dans ses jugements que l’esprit dans ses opérations, sa corruption ne va jamais jusqu’à lui dérober totalement la différence du beau et du laid, et qu’il ne manquera pas d’approuver le naturel et l’honnête, et de rejeter le déshonnête et le dépravé, surtout dans les moments désintéressés : c’est alors un connaisseur équitable qui se promène dans une galerie de peintures, qui s’émerveille de la hardiesse de ce trait, qui sourit à la douceur de ce sentiment, qui se prête au tour de cette affection, et qui passe dédaigneusement sur tout ce qui blesse la belle nature. (Diderot 1798, p. 51)7

For his part Lévesque de Pouilly invokes the pleasures of the theatre (les spectacles): pleasure in the displays of benevolence we witness on stage do not for example arise from ties of relationship, or friendship, or from the fact that we are the beneficiaries of the actions which gives us pleasure. Rather the theatre demonstrates the “secret charm” that accompanies the movement of the heart; we cannot witness the joy or sorrow of another without partaking in it (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, p. 62). Likewise we approve of the virtuous actions of a stranger, or even of the actions of someone who is dead (and so no longer in a position to be useful to us) (p. 69). In keeping with this realist analysis of pleasing colours and sounds, there continues to be a strongly objectivist aspect to the aesthetical/moral judgements that the Théorie is analysing. Lévesque de Pouilly notes that while the beauty of the body is to some degree relative to cultures and climates, the beauty of the mind (esprit) is more pleasing than that of the body, but the beauty of the soul (âme) that is “brave, disinterested, or benevolent” appeals to humankind of all ages, i.e. the pleasure it causes is universal (pp. 67–68).



The operation of the moral sense in the Théorie is not limited to being pleased by the moral qualities of the virtuous person. It also includes what Adam Smith calls “fellow feeling.” Nature has not limited itself to enlightening us by the sense of our own personal qualities: those of others form for us a display either enchanting or distressing depending on whether they are favourable or unfavourable to the existence of those possessing them. Destined to live in society and to be members with one another, we can discern at first glance those who have need of our help and those who are able to be of some use. La Nature ne s’est pas bornée à nous éclairer par le sentiment sur nos qualités personnelles : celles d’autrui forment pour nous un spectacle enchanteur ou affligeant, suivant qu’elles sont favorable ou contraires à l’existence de ceux qui les possèdent. Destinés à vivre en société & à être membres les uns des autres, nous discernons du premier coup d’œil ceux qui ont besoin de notre secours, & ceux qui peuvent nous être de quelque utilité. (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, p. 64)

It is to this correspondence (commerce) of feeling, implanted in us by nature, that society owes the sweet bonds (liens les plus doux) between self and other, and from which poetry, painting, and eloquence derive their most powerful charms (pp. 62–63). Again the Théorie stresses that the correspondence of feeling which allows us to judge that the virtue of others is useful is not grounded self-interest but rather in a strong sensation impressed on us by a real trait (p. 72). It is the secret relationship of our particular dispositions which allows the play of sympathy. The secret affinities (rapport secret) sometimes create pleasure out of otherwise surprising situations: the example here is a newborn infant who is generally unappealing but is most delightful to its parents (p. 74). This is the grounds for the semiotics of the body which is an important feature of the period, of the discourse of sensibility including the novel of sensibility, and about which much has been written (Vila 1998, pp. 127–28, 52–65). Where Adam Smith relies on the powers of the imagination to establish fellow feeling for Lévesque de Pouilly the effect is directly embodied and aesthetical: drawing on his analysis of the intrinsic appeal of various colours and which are pleasing to the material fibres of the eye, he moves on to argue that we cannot but be seized with horror when we see someone in an extremely disturbed state or “with a deathly



colour.” Or alternately, it is agreeable for us to see in another a happy temperature in the blood, an agreeable colour in the face (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, p. 64). Rousseau is not directly interested in philosophical aesthetics, but an essential or innate “fellow feeling” is also a fundamental idea for him. He holds that our natural capacity for sympathetic feeling is evident in the affect of pity, “the first sentiment of humanity” (Rousseau 1987, p. 55; see also Rousseau 1979, pp. 220–27).8 Rousseau’s basic position is outlined in the Second Discourse in express opposition to Hobbes and Mandeville’s “artificial” moralities which he argues have misunderstood man’s natural state and prerational state (Rousseau 1987, p. 53). Leaving aside therefore all the scientific books which teach us only to see men as they have made themselves, and meditating on the first and most simple operations of the human soul, I believe I perceive in it two principles that are prior to reason, of which one makes us ardently interested in our well-being and self-preservation, and the other inspires in us a natural repugnance to seeing any other sentient being, especially our fellow man, perish or suffer. (Rousseau 1987, p. 35) Laissant donc tous les livres scientifiques qui ne nous apprennent qu’à voir les hommes tels qu’ils se sont faits, et méditant sur les premières et plus simples opérations de l’âme humaine, j’y crois apercevoir deux principes antérieurs à la raison, dont l’un nous intéresse ardemment à notre bienêtre et à la conservation de nous-mêmes, et l’autre nous inspire une répugnance naturelle à voir périr ou souffrir tout être sensible et principalement nos semblables. (Rousseau 1755, pp. lxiv–lxv)

In its most basic form this fundamental other-regarding principle is understood by Rousseau to be pity: It is therefore quite certain that pity is a natural sentiment, which, by moderating in each individual that activity of the love of oneself, contributes to the mutual preservation of the entire species. Pity is what carries us without reflection to the aid of those we see suffering. Pity is what in the state of nature, takes the place of laws, mores, and virtue, with that advantage that no one is tempted to disobey its sweet voice. Pity is what will prevent every robust savage from robbing a weak child or an infirm old man of his hard-earned subsistence, if he himself expects to be able to find his own someplace else. (Rousseau 1987, p. 55)



Il est donc certain que la pitié est un sentiment naturel, qui, modérant dans chaque individu l’activité de l’amour de soi-même, concourt à la conservation mutuelle de toute l’espèce. C’est elle qui nous porte sans réflexion au secours de ceux que nous voyons souffrir : c’est elle qui, dans l’état de nature, tient lieu de lois, de mœurs et de vertu, avec cet avantage que nul n’est tenté de désobéir à sa douce voix : c’est elle qui détournera tout sauvage robuste d’enlever à un faible enfant, ou à un vieillard infirme, sa subsistance acquise avec peine, si lui-même espère pouvoir trouver la sienne ailleurs. (Rousseau 1755, pp. 74–75)

The Hobbesian imagination sees man in the state of nature as essentially weak, crippled by fear, and caught in a war of all against all such that it is irrational to want the continuation of that state and such that the development of civil society is inevitable. Rousseau’s imagination, by contrast, creates an idyllic if somewhat Spartan image of man in the state of nature and accordingly finds it impossible to imagine why, without an intrinsic social instinct, natural man would come together to form a society (Rousseau 1987, 53). This is the role played by pity which provides the motivation to enter a political community and is the ground of all our natural morality. From [pity] alone flow all the social virtues […]. In fact, what are generosity, mercy, and humanity, if not pity applied to the weak, to the guilty, or to the human species in general? Benevolence and even friendship are, properly understood, the products of a constant pity fixed on a particular object; for what is desiring that someone not suffer anything but desiring that he be happy? […] In fact, commiseration will be all the more energetic as the witnessing animal identifies itself more intimately with the suffering animal. Now it is evident that this identification must have been infinitely closer in the state of nature than in the state of reasoning. Reason is what engenders egocentrism, and reflection strengthens it. Reason is what separates him from all that troubles him and afflicts him. Philosophy is what isolates him and what moves him to say in secret, at the sight of a suffering man, “perish if you will; I am safe and sound”. (Rousseau 1987, p. 54) De cette seule qualité [pitié] découlent toutes les vertus sociales. […] En effet, qu’est-ce que la générosité, la clémence, l’humanité, sinon la pitié appliquée aux faibles, aux coupables, ou à l’espèce humaine en général ? La bienveillance et l’amitié même sont, à le bien prendre, des productions d’une pitié constante, fixée sur un objet particulier : car désirer que quelqu’un ne souffre point, qu’est-ce autre chose que désirer qu’il soit heureux ? […] En effet, la commisération sera d’autant plus énergique



que l’animal spectateur s’identifiera intimement avec l’animal souffrant. Or il est évident que cette identification a dû être infiniment plus étroite dans l’état de nature que dans l’état de raisonnement. C’est la raison qui engendre l’amour-propre, et c’est la réflexion qui le fortifie ; c’est elle qui replie l’homme sur lui-même ; c’est elle qui le sépare de tout ce qui le gêne et l’afflige : c’est la philosophie qui l’isole ; c’est par elle qu’il dit en secret, à l’aspect d’un homme souffrant : péris si tu veux, je suis en sûreté. (Rousseau 1755, pp. 71–73)

There are two points here which are worth briefly noting. First, importantly, in his engagement with Rousseau, Sade in effect agrees on the fact of the division between reason/philosophy and pity/humane sensibility although he will affirm the inverse to Rousseau: as I will show Sade argues that reason ought to take precedence over pity. However, as I show in the following part, notwithstanding his anti-philosophical philosophy, Rousseau in fact has a “bet each way” and also constructs an “artificial” moral system, grounded in reason/philosophy, and extrapolated in his Du contrat social. Sade disagrees with this “artificial” morality and argues that we are better served by continuing to live in the state of nature. Second, for Rousseau “pity is sweet because, in putting ourselves in the place of the one who suffers, we nevertheless feel the pleasure of not suffering as he does (La pitié est douce, parce qu’en se mettant à la place de celui qui souffre, on sent pourtant le plaisir de ne pas souffrir comme lui)” (Rousseau 1979, p. 221): from the perspective of Lévesque de Pouilly that amounts to saying that pity is an agreeable sensation. Marc André Bernier is correct to note the proximity between the French moral sense tradition and French materialism (Bernier 2010, 12). We ought to be cautious however and not overemphasise the extent to which an emphasis on embodiment implies a monist metaphysics; for example, the Théorie des sentiments agréables is somewhat ambivalent on matters of metaphysics. There are two points which bear mentioning here. First, the Théorie devotes a chapter to the operation of the brain (cerveau) arguing that the brain responds to modifications of the soul (âme) and bodily sense organs (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, Chapter IX, pp. 128–142). As such: We are justified in believing that an object which is pleasant moves the fibres of the brain without weakening or exhausting them; that that which is painful wounds them; and that that which is tedious leaves them in inactivity.



Nous sommes donc autorisés à croire, qu’un objet qui est agréable, met en mouvement des fibres du cerveau, sans les affaiblir ou les épuiser ; que ce qui est douloureux, les blesse ; & que ce qui est ennuyeux, les laisse dans l’inaction. (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, p. 130)

The chapter proceeds by, among other things, invoking the pleasures caused by the harmonies of music in terms of the vibrations or movements of the fibres in the brain. The chapter immediately following this however invokes a proof of God’s existence by the argument from design and specifically does so against assertions of “the epicureans” (i.e. the materialists). A justification of natural theology follows; the laws of sensation (les loix du sentiment) prove the existence of a sovereign intelligence (Chapters 10 and 11). The text then is in its own terms dualist. Most likely Lévesque de Pouilly is relying on a loose version of Occasionalism, and as I have made clear the Théorie is highly orthodox in its belief in divine providence. But the key point for this work is that the text authorises a materialist uptake. In this book French materialism will in the first instance be represented by d’Holbach on whose metaphysics Sade relies heavily; the key point is that Lévesque de Pouilly makes available a materialist theory of the morally/aesthetically pleasing even if in its own terms this is only half the story.9 The second point I want to take up is that there is in the Théorie a deep ambiguity between the pleasures of the mind (esprit) and those of the heart.10 After chapters on the sensations of the body, and then of the mind, the text moves to a discussion of the heart. This transition marks the move in the text from a principal focus on philosophical aesthetics to a principal focus on moral sensations. The primary theme continues: there is a pleasure (agrément) attached to movements of the heart when it is not embittered by hatred or fear. It is through the movements of love and hate that we become attached to that which we see as our good, while rejecting what seems bad (p. 49). And so love and hate—i.e. the passions—are located in the movements of the heart. So too are hope and desire, passions which are essentially agreeable (p. 52). And tenderness, friendship, gratitude, generosity, and benevolence which are all pleasurable sensations; the benevolent person for the Théorie is accordingly naturally happy (p. 56). As the text progresses it increasingly links the pleasures of the mind/soul with those of the heart, and sets them in opposition to the



pleasures of the body. Such pleasures of the mind/soul/heart include those of history, geometry, and “les Belles Lettres” and allow us to experience friendship and glory which are the natural accompaniment of virtue (pp. 181–82). Further, and notwithstanding the text’s rejection of Epicureanism in the guise of materialism, the Théorie takes a standard Epicurean position on the pleasures of the mind/heart: the pleasures of the body are never livelier than when they are remedies for corporeal pain, but the pleasures of the mind/heart are not adulterated (p. 183). The focus on the affects of the heart grows in the final third of the text: Our happiness will always be all the more complete and reliable, our way of life will be more inclined to arouse in our hearts movements of kindness, and dispel any movements of unrest and hate. The habit of justice and kindness which make us happy, principally by the impulse of our heart also makes us happy by sensations which it inspires in those who approach us. Notre bonheur sera toujours d’autant plus complet & plus solide, que notre façon de vivre sera plus de nature à porter dans le cœur des mouvements de bienveillance, & à en écarter tout mouvement de trouble & de haine. L’habitude de la justice & de la bienveillance qui nous rend heureux, principalement par les mouvements de notre cœur nous le rend aussi par les sentiments qu’elle inspire à ceux qui nous approchent. (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, pp. 203–4) Of all our faculties the heart is the one from which come the most pleasant movements; the kind of life which warrants our preference above all others is the one in which the impulse of kindness holds sway. Le cœur est de toutes nos facultés celle d’où partent les mouvements les plus agréable ; le genre de vie que mérite la préférence sur tous les autres est celui où les mouvements de bienveillance dominent davantage. (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, pp. 228–29)

The text concludes that we ought to dispose our hearts to the impulse of benevolence and banish from our hearts hatred, worry, sadness, and unhappiness (p. 234).




1. See also Irwin (2008, pp. 354, 362, 419) and Norton and Kuehn (2006, p. 946). 2. See also Irwin (2008, p. 355) and Radcliffe (2002, p. 456). 3.  On the relationship between Shaftesbury and Locke see Yaffe (2002, p. 425). 4. See also Vervacke et al. (2007). 5. See Brewer (1993, pp. 60–74). 6. On the equivalence of the moral sense and the aesthetic sense in Diderot, see Diderot (1798, pp. 45–47), Shaftesbury 2001, pp. 172–73). 7.  Note the striking contrast with Shaftsbury’s original text: “In these vagrant characters of pictures of manners, which the mind of necessity figures to itself and carries still about with it, the heart cannot possibly remain neutral but constantly takes part one way or other. However false or corrupt it be within itself, it finds the difference, as to beauty and comeliness, between one heart and another, one turn of affection, one behaviour, one sentiment and another and accordingly, in all disinterested cases, must approve in some measure with is natural and honest and disapprove what is dishonest and corrupt” (Shaftesbury 2001, p. 173). Note too that Diderot’s last sentence (‘C’est alors un connaisseur…’) is entirely an addition to Shaftsbury’s original. 8. James A. Steintrager at one point simply calls Rousseau “a philosopher of pity” (2004, p. 32). Steintrager’s book Cruel Delights focuses on the importance of pity in the period’s moral sense theory (see particularly pp. 3–33) but does so in the context of the problem of moral monstrosity within that theory—a problem that Sade is happy to exploit— and the eighteenth century’s cultures of cruelty. From the perspective of my study, Steintrager’s emphasis on the problem of moral monstrosity in the period’s “natural” moral theories, i.e. the problem of “unnatural” or “inhumane passions,” (p. 5) makes clear the extent to which there was a need for “natural” moralities to work in conjunction with “artificial” moralities, which is in fact how moral theory in the period developed. 9. For a specific discussion of the manner in which Occasionalism developed, or allowed to be developed, relatively sophisticated theories of embodiment which were then available for use in naturalist or materialist contexts see Taylor (2013). 10. Both Shaftsbury and Diderot identify the affects of the heart as being the locus of this moral/aesthetic sense. We might think Shaftsbury means this figuratively; Diderot probably means it rather literally. See Shaftesbury (2001, p. 173), Diderot (1798, pp. 51–52, 142).



References Bernier, Marc André. 2010. Les métamorphoses de la sympathie au siècle des Lumières, Les Lettres sur la sympathie (1798) de Sophie de Grouchy: philosophie morale et réforme sociale. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Brewer, Daniel. 1993. The Discourse of Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century France: Diderot and the Art of Philosophizing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Diderot, Denis. 1798 [1745]. “Essai sur le mérite et la vertu.” In Oeuvres de Denis Diderot, Tome Premier, edited by Jacques-André Naigeon. Paris: Desray & Deterville. Fleischacker, Samuel. 2002. “Adam Smith.” In A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, edited by Steven Nadler, 505–26. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Hutcheson, Francis. 2008 [1725]. An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Irwin, Terence. 2008. The Development of Ethics: A Historical and Critical Study. Volume 2: From Suarez to Rousseau. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jaucourt, Chevalier Louis de. 1765a. “Sens moral.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 15: 28–29. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Jaucourt, Chevalier Louis de. 1765b. “Sensibilité, (Morale.).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 15: 52. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Jaucourt, Chevalier Louis de. 1765c. “Sympathie, (Physiolog.).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 15: 736–40. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Lever, Maurice, ed. 1993. Catalogue de La Coste. Vol. 2, Papiers de famille: Le marquis de Sade et les siens (1761–1815). Paris: Fayard. Lévesque de Pouilly, Louis-Jean. 1747. Théorie des Sentimens Agréables. Genève: Barrillot & Fils. Norton, David Fate, and Manfred Kuehn. 2006. “The Foundations of Morality.” In The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy, edited by Knud Haakonssen, 941–986. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Radcliffe, Elizabeth S. 2002. “Francis Hutcheson.” In A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, edited by Steven Nadler, 456–68. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Robb, Bonnie Arden. 1991. “The Making of Denis Diderot: Translation as Apprenticeship.” Diderot Studies 24: 137–54. Ross, Ian Simpson. 1995. The Life of Adam Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1755. Discours sur l’origine et les fondemens de l’inegalité parmi les hommes. Amsterdam: M. M. Rey. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1979 [1762]. Emile, or On Education. Translated by Allan Bloom. New York: Basic Books. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987 [1755]. “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.” In The Basic Political Writings, edited by Donald A. Cress, 25–110. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper Third Earl of. 2001 [1714]. “An Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit.” In Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, edited by Lawrence E. Klein, 163–230. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Steintrager, James A. 2004. Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Taylor, Jordan. 2013. “Emotional Sensations and the Moral Imagination in Malebranche.” In The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment, edited by Henry Martyn Lloyd, 63–83. Dordrecht and London: Springer. Vervacke, Sabrina, Thierry Belleguic, and Éric Van der Schueren, eds. 2007. Les Discours de la Sympathie: Enquête Sur une Notion de L’âge Classique à la Modernité. Lévis: PUL. Vila, Anne C. 1998. Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Yaffe, Gideon. 2002. “Earl of Shaftesbury.” In A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, edited by Steven Nadler, 425–36. Malden, MA: Blackwell.


Rousseau’s Knowing Heart, Sade’s Knowing Body

Sade conjoins philosophy and pornography. In itself this is a statement of the blatantly obvious, but the nature of this conjunction is one of the most significant outstanding issues in Sade scholarship. In holding that there is no philosophy in Sade, rather than attempting to understand the conjunction, commentators have denied it exists. Alternately, following Bataille, commentators have located Sade’s philosophy in the pornography: they have taken Sade’s literary/pornography extremism to by itself constitute an anti-philosophy and so have had no need for a serious consideration of the manifest philosophical content of the oeuvre and its relationship to the literary/pornographic content. Yet it remains that Sade brings together philosophy and pornography and that this conjunction is not a conditional feature within the oeuvre but is necessary to the operation of the texts themselves. For contemporary readers the philosophical speeches in Sade are often superfluous to what they take to be the “real” purpose of the texts and if they are read at all they are experienced as long and boring digressions. For characters within the novels nothing could be further from the truth. In Sade, philosophy physically moves or stimulates the body1: “Oh God,” declares the young and virginal Eugénie after Dolmancé, as part of her initiation into libertinage, has explained the defects of charity and benevolence, “how your lessons inflame me! (Dieu ! comme vos leçons m’enflamment!)” (Sade 1965, p. 217; 1998b, p. 34).2 And later, not bored at all by a long speech on the particular cruelty of women, Eugénie, aroused to masturbation, calls out: “Oh Christ! You drive © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




me wild! Look at the effect of your fucking speeches! (Voilà l’effet de vos foutus propos !)” (Sade 1965, p. 257; 1998b, p. 72). Far from rare, Eugénie’s response is a commonplace in the Sadean novel, it is part of what marks her as having a libertine disposition. The singularity of the graphic sex and extreme violence in Sade’s libertine texts occludes the fact that this type of reaction is extremely common in the texts of the period. A clue to this can be found in Mme de SaintAnge’s response to the precocious Eugénie: “adorable creature, never have I seen a sensibility like yours, never so delightful a mind! (Je n’ai jamais vu une sensibilité comme la tienne, jamais une tête si délicieuse !)” (Sade 1965, p. 257; 1998b, p. 72).3 The key term “sensibility” marks what is shared with the context. Within the period’s novel of sensibility characters are “moved” so often and to such an extent that it has become one of the genre’s defining clichés. At the same time as feting Samuel Richardson, whose Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1748) were widely read and influential in establishing the genre, Diderot’s “Éloge de Richardson” makes explicit the way the genre operated. All that Montaigne, Charron, Rochefoucauld and Nicole put into maxims, Richardson has put into action. […] A maxim is an abstract and general rule of conduct which we are left to apply ourselves. It does not leave any sensible image in our mind: but the one who acts does so visibly. We put ourselves in his place, we become impassioned for or against him; we join with him in his role if he is virtuous; we turn away indignantly if he is unjust and vicious. Tout ce que Montaigne, Charron, La Rochefoucauld et Nicole ont mis en maximes, Richardson l’a mis en action. […] Une maxime est une règle abstraite et générale de conduite dont on nous laisse l’application à faire. Elle n’imprime par elle-même aucune image sensible dans notre esprit : mais celui qui agit, on le voit, on se met à sa place ou à ses côtés, on se passionne pour ou contre lui ; on s’unit à son rôle, s’il est vertueux ; on s’en écarte avec indignation, s’il est injuste et vicieux. (Diderot 1773, pp. 337–38)

Casting himself in the role of the ideal reader of Richardson, Diderot continues: O Richardson! Whether we wish it or not, we play a part in your works, we intervene in the conversation, we approve, we apportion blame, we admire, are irritated and respond indignantly […] [In reading] my soul



was in a state of permanent agitation. How good I was! How just I was! How satisfied I was with myself! When I had been reading you, I was like a man who had spent the day doing good. Ô Richardson ! on prend, malgré qu’on en ait, un rôle dans tes ouvrages, on se mêle à la conversation, on approuve, on blâme, on admire, on s’irrite, on s’indigne. […] Mon âme était tenue dans une agitation perpétuelle. Combien j’étais bon ! combien j’étais juste ! que j’étais satisfait de moi ! J’étais, au sortir de ta lecture, ce qu’est un homme à la fin d’une journée qu’il a employée à faire le bien. (Diderot 1773)

Diderot could not be more explicit in exemplifying what Lévesque de Pouilly, or Diderot himself in his translation of Shaftesbury, understood as the disinterested “correspondence of feeling,” to which we owe the “sweet links” between self and other, and from which both art and morality derive their pleasures. The “Éloge” illustrates the operation of the period’s sentimental novel which is effective insofar as it affects the subject, either fictive or real.4 That this is the case for morality is not particularly surprising, indeed it reflects contemporary justifications of the place of literature in moral philosophy (for example in; Nussbaum 1987). What is suprising is that in the period this is the case even for metaphysics. Eugénie’s reaction to Dolmancé’s speechifying in La philosophie dans le boudoir evidences a fundamental continuity with some of the most significant parts of Rousseau’s oeuvre. “La profession de foi du vicaire savoyard” is a largely self-standing tract inserted into Emile and is a very important passage in Rousseau’s oeuvre as it is a “rare piece of technical philosophy” (O’Hagan 1999, p. 83). It consists, among other things, in an argument from first cause for the existence of God, and in arguments for a dualist metaphysics and for the immortality of the soul (Rousseau 1979, pp. 273–79). But the actual content of the speculative metaphysics is not important for present purposes, rather what is significant is the reaction to the vicar’s speech: the profession moves the narrator: “the good priest had spoken with vehemence. He was moved, and so was I. I believed I was hearing the divine Orpheus sing the first hymns and teaching men the worship of the gods” (Rousseau 1979, p. 294). That this movement is not highly sexualised, but is rather highly moralised, is not for the moment the key point. Rather my point is to note the basic figurative structure—philosophical speechifying elicits an affective response, philosophy effects the listener’s sensibility, and it is this that marks the power of, the correctness of, the speech.



There are of course enormous differences between movement in Sade and in Rousseau. Where both oeuvres intend to operate literally on the sensibility of the reader, and where they both illustrate this figuratively within the texts, they disagree starkly about the type of sensibility to which they appeal. “La profession de foi” reveals what the vicar knows in the simplicity of his heart (Rousseau 1979, p. 266; 1964, p. 320): Taking the love of truth as my whole philosophy, and as my whole method an easy and simple rule that exempts me from the vain subtlety of arguments, I pick up again on the basis of this rule the examination of the knowledge that interests me. I am resolved to accept as evident all knowledge to which in the sincerity of my heart I cannot refuse my consent; to accept as true all that which appears to me to have a necessary connection with this first knowledge; and to leave all the rest in uncertainty without rejecting it or accepting it and without tormenting myself to clarify it if it leads to nothing useful for practice. (Rousseau 1979, pp. 269–70) Portant donc en moi l’amour de la vérité pour toute philosophie, et pour toute méthode une règle facile et simple qui me dispense de la vaine subtilité des arguments, je reprends sur cette règle l’examen des connaissances qui m’intéressent, résolu d’admettre pour évidentes toutes celles auxquelles, dans la sincérité de mon cœur, je ne pourrai refuser mon consentement, pour vraies toutes celles qui me paraîtront avoir une liaison nécessaire avec ces premières, et de laisser toutes les autres dans l’incertitude, sans les rejeter ni les admettre, et sans me tourmenter à les éclaircir quand elles ne mènent à rien d’utile pour la pratique. (Rousseau 1964, pp. 324–25)

In a period that has rejected innate ideas, and which understands that “we are only assured of our existence by our sensations” (Le Roy 1765, p. 8: 275), it is for Rousseau the sensations of the heart that have primacy.5 And the tutor seems to intuit this, responding in kind: I will carry your discourse with me in my heart. I must meditate on it. If after taking careful council with myself, I remain as convinced of it as you are, you will be my final apostle and I shall be your proselyte unto death. (Rousseau 1979, p. 294) J’emporte vos discours dans mon cœur, il faut que je les médite. Si, après m’être bien consulté, j’en demeure aussi convaincu que vous, vous serez mon dernier apôtre, et je serai votre prosélyte jusqu’à la mort.



It bears stressing again, Diderot responded affectively to the moral content of Richardson’s novels, and moral sensibility is certainly important for Rousseau, but here the heart’s sensibility is to be privileged even in matters of speculative metaphysics. Mme de Saint-Ange says of Eugénie: “never have I seen a sensibility like yours, never so delightful a mind (tête)!” (Sade 1965, p. 257; 1998b, p. 72). The use of “tête” in this sentence causes a small difficulty for translation. The use of “mind” is obviously wrong. But the alternatives are worse: the more literally correct “head” would not work at all given the context; “face” is no better as it is not Eugénie’s “visage” that has sensibility. But “mind” is usually the translation of “esprit” and this is the word Sade deliberately does not use. In very similar ways to “soul/âme,” “esprit” carries a heritage of dualist metaphysics which invariably opposes it to “body” (Clavier 2005b, p. 659). Sade’s choice of “tête” might then be taken as a mark of his materialism (even though a “materialist theory of mind” is still a theory of “mind/esprit/âme”). The key point is that tête opposes cœur; head opposes heart. The meaning of the opposition between head and heart forms part of the ground shared by Sade and Rousseau. The tradition of opposing the heart, as the seat of intuition, to the head, as the seat of reason, had continued at least since Pascal (Clavier 2005a, pp. 1630–31). In the immediate context the meaning was fixed in terms of the discourse of sensibility and Montpellier vitalism. At the same time as associating the heart with the “vascular system” Fouquet’s Encyclopédie article “Sensibilité, Sentiment (Médecine)” also understands it to be one of the premier centres of sensibility (Fouquet 1765, p. 15: 40). This is consistent with the article that situates the moral sense in the “movement of the heart,” movements that are independent of reflection (Jaucourt 1765, p. 15: 28). It is this understanding of the heart’s sensibility which is in evidence in La Philosophie dans le boudoir. What is at stake between Sade and Rousseau is the question of primacy of the heart. For Rousseau who is highly representative of the period, it is the sensibly of the heart that ought to take precedence, for Sade it ought not to. Sade’s response is two-handed. First, by reducing the pleasure/pain binary and replacing it with an epistemology of intensity Sade confuses the clear trajectory of sensationist thought. This disrupts theories of moral sense that rely on this sensationist anthropology. Second, Sade holds that insofar as the heart speaks to us of morality it cheats and misleads and ought not to be privileged.



Sade’s Epistemology of Intensity Sensationist empiricism was foundational to large parts of the French (and Scottish) Enlightenment, to “radicals” such as d’Holbach and Helvétius, to “moderates” like Lévesque de Pouilly and Condillac, and to those in between like Diderot. And it underpinned Rousseau’s writings and Sade’s critical engagement with them. This is part of the reason I stress that Sade’s materialism and atheism are less important to his philosophical “system” than commentators have generally held. But they are not nothing. And d’Holbach was one of the most significant sources for Sade who adopted both these aspects of his thought.6 D’Holbach’s reductive materialism seeks to explain all phenomenon in terms of matter and its essential property, movement. “All is in movement in the universe” (d’Holbach 1781, p. 14). That this is true of the gross movements of whole bodies is empirically demonstrable. Among the most speculative aspects of d’Holbach’s metaphysics, and the part that does most of the intellectual labour, is the idea of internal movement, which is hidden from direct observation within these bodies. This accounts for the intellectual faculties: All the modes of action attributed to the soul, may be reduced to modifications, to the qualities, to the modes of existence, to the changes produced by the motion of the brain, which is visibly in man the seat of feeling—the principle of all his actions. These modifications are to be attributed to the objects that strike his senses; of which the impression is transmitted to the brain, or rather to the ideas which the perceptions cause by the actions of those objects on his senses have there generated, and which it has the faculty to reproduce. (d’Holbach 1999, p. 86) Toutes les façons d’agir que l’on attribue à l’âme, se réduisent à des modifications, à des qualités, à des façons d’être, à des changements produits par les mouvements dans le cerveau, qui est visiblement en nous le siège du sentiment, & le principe de toutes nos actions. Ces modifications sont dues aux objets qui frappent nos sens, dont les impulsions se transmettent au cerveau, ou bien aux idées que ces objets y ont fait naître & qu’il a le pouvoir de reproduire. (d’Holbach 1781, p. 100)

Taking licence from Newtonian gravity as an “occult quality” that causes attraction at a distance as physical force, d’Holbach held that internal motion is also governed by laws, specifically that of attraction and repulsion, which constitute the essence of a given body: a heavy body must



fall and “a sensible body must naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain (l’être sensible cesse de chercher le plaisir, dès qu’il craint qu’il n’en résulte un mal pour lui)” (d’Holbach 1999, p. 18; 1781, pp. 12–14). This idea of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is understood in a very wide sense and includes sympathy, antipathy, love, hate, friendship, and aversion. D’Holbach’s rather scandalous materialist metaphysics is then part of the larger discourse of sensibility; it is the eminently respectable Condillac who systematises sensationism and develops it into a formalised epistemology. Condillac’s Traité des sensations uses techniques of “imagined observing” to construct a philosophical ontology that deliberately eliminates from it the faculty of rationality. He does this by showing that his statue-man can develop the full flourishing of the human mind from only the single faculty of sensation. Importantly, this faculty includes within it the inherent fact of being drawn towards pleasant and driven away from painful sensations: it is, Condillac writes, “impossible for us to suffer [that is: to sense] pain without wishing immediately not to suffer it” (Condillac 1982, pp. 177, 242). The statue is driven from pain and towards pleasure; this vector alone determines the scope of the statue’s knowledge; it is the single drive, the “mainspring,” behind the arising of mind in the statue (see also Warman 2002, pp. 27–28). In this context there are only a surprisingly few quite minor “tweaks” needed to allow Sade to develop his highly idiosyncratic idea of embodiment. Within a philosophical tradition that has almost always given epistemological primacy to the sense of sight, one of the most striking aspects of Condillac’s Traité is that it privileges touch.7 Sade takes this idea seriously adding only the rather simple observation that it is what we might call the sexual body that, in terms of touch, is the most sensitive.8 It is tempting to think that the most original aspect of Sade’s oeuvre is the extent to which it privileges the experience of pain. To a certain extent this is right, but it is worth noting that this idea too is found in Condillac who observes that in touch “the statue is more exposed to pain than with the other senses” (Condillac 1982, p. 238). The statue learns more through the experience of pain than pleasure. What is original to Sade, an idea that has profound effects in producing the distinctly Sadean text, is itself a remarkably simple and plausible observation: pleasure and pain ought not to be understood simplistically as two ends of a mutually exclusive binary. Once again hints lie in Condillac: that pleasure can become pain, at the very least insofar as boredom is a pain, might seem to be a point of minor importance in the



Traité. But it very importantly forecloses the possibility that, if it found an incessant source of pleasant sensations, Condillac’s statue would be rendered utterly inert, completely satisfied, without motivating passions, and so without motion, without the “mainspring” required to drive it, or to cause the development of sensations into the fully flourishing mind (Condillac 1982, p. 183). But that the inverse is also true does not seem to have occurred to Condillac and it is left to Sade to stress that pain may also become pleasure. For example Dolmancé, describing sodomy, tells Eugénie that “occasionally, the woman suffers, if she is new, or young; but, totally heedless of the pangs that are soon to change to pleasures, the fucker must brusquely push his dick [forward] (le fouteur doit pousser vivement son vit par gradations)” (Sade 1965, p. 231; see also pp. 292– 93; 1998b, p. 48). And so it is that when Dolmancé sodomises Eugénie her pain transforms into extreme pleasure. The Sadean subject is then regularly drawn to pain knowing it will transform into pleasure. But Sade also notes that pleasure may be found in pain itself. This too is a very common occurrence in the Sadean novel, one which is often overlooked by contemporary readers who tend to presuppose the contemporary meaning of “Sadism” established by Krafft-Ebing (1947)9: the Sadean philosopher-hero is just about as happy to be whipped bloody as they are to whip others. I will return in chapter eleven to discuss this issue in more detail in the context of Sade’s libertine askesis. Pleasure can become pain; pain can become pleasure; pleasure can be found in pain. The effect of this is that Sade confuses the simple sensationist trajectory that is foundational to so much of the period’s philosophy. What is left following this is a principle of the intensity of sensation. Note that “intensity” is the conceptual correlate of “sensibility.” That is, within the discourse of sensibility the subject with the most acute sensibility is privileged as most able to sense, and so to observe, and ultimately to know. As well as being the most receptive, they are also the most responsive which is of particular importance for moral sensibility: the person who is most sensitive to the moral plight of another is the person who is most responsive to it.10 The correlate of this is that intense sensations ought to be privileged too insofar as they are better able to affect the subject. D’Holbach took it as a law of nature that sensible bodies are drawn towards pleasure and repelled from pain. But his materialist metaphysics also provides a neutral vocabulary with which to describe sensation in the wake of Sade’s disruption of the pleasure/pain binary.



The first faculty we behold in the living man, that from which all his others flow, is feeling […] If we wish to define to ourselves a precise idea of it, we shall find that feeling is a particular manner of being moved peculiar to certain organs of animated bodies, occasioned by the presence of a material object that acts upon these organs, and which transmits the impulse of shock to the brain. […] Every sensation, then, is nothing more than the shock given to the organs; every perception is this shock propagated to the brain: every idea is the image of the object to which the sensation and the perception is ascribed. From which it will be seen, that if the senses are not moved, there can neither be sensations, perceptions, nor ideas. (d’Holbach 1999, pp. 78, 81, italics in the original) La première faculté que nous voyons dans l’homme vivant, & celle d’où découlent toutes les autres, c’est le sentiment […] Si nous voulons nous en faire une idée précise, nous trouverons que sentir est cette façon particulière d’être remué propre à certains organes des corps animés, occasionnée par la présence d’un objet matériel qui agit sur ces organes, dont les mouvements ou les ébranlements se transmettent au cerveau […] Toute sensation n’est donc qu’une secousse donnée à nos organes ; toute perception est cette secousse propagée jusqu’au cerveau ; toute idée est l’image de l’objet à qui la sensation & la perception sont dues. D’où l’on voit que si nos sens ne sont remués, nous ne pouvons avoir ni sensations, ni perceptions, ni idées. (d’Holbach 1781, pp. 88–89, 94, italics in the original)11

(Note that ébranlements, perhaps: “rattles or shakes,” and secousses, perhaps: “jolts,” are both being translated here both as “shocks.” Sade uses these two terms and also uses “choc” where d’Holbach tends not to.) That is, underpinning the difference between pleasant and painful sensations is a monistic vocabulary of movement and shock ; if for d’Holbach, “every sensation” really is “nothing more than the shock (secousse) given to the organs” there is, at the most fundamental metaphysical level, no difference between pleasant and painful sensations: both are shocks. And at least for Sade it is the most shocking that is to be preferred. D’Holbach’s description of sensation as shocks, and the Sadean privileging of intensity as the correlate of sensitivity, emerges quite clearly in passages that without this context are hard to take seriously. Of cruel pleasures, Sade notes: It is purely a question of shaking up our nervous systems by the most violent possible shock; now, there is no doubt that we are much more keenly affected by pain than by pleasure: the shocks that result in us when the



sensation of pain is produced in others will essentially be of a more vigorous character, more incisive, will more energetically resound in us, will put the animal spirits more violently into circulation […] pain must be preferred, for pain’s telling effects cannot deceive, and its vibrations are more powerful. (Sade 1965, p. 252) Il s’agit seulement d’ébranler la masse de nos nerfs par le choc le plus violent possible ; or, il n’est pas douteux que la douleur affectant bien plus vivement que le plaisir, les chocs résultatifs sur nous de cette sensation produite sur les autres seront essentiellement d’une vibration plus vigoureuse, retentiront plus énergiquement en nous, mettront dans une circulation plus violente les esprits animaux […] Il faut donc préférer la douleur, dont les effets ne peuvent tromper et dont les vibrations sont plus actives. (Sade 1998b, p. 67)12

And so for Sade the particular cruelty of women can be attributed to the “excessive sensibility of women’s organs” (Sade 1965, p. 255; 1998b, p. 70).13 Women’s extreme sensibility comes from their extreme delicacy, and: The extremes to which it drives them are refinements of this delicacy: this delicacy, so finely wrought, so sensitive to impressions, responds above all, best and immediately to cruelty; it awakens in cruelty, cruelty liberates it. (Sade 1965, p. 255) Les excès où elle les porte ne sont que des raffinements de leur délicatesse ; c’est cette délicatesse, trop promptement émoussée à cause de son excessive finesse, qui, pour se réveiller, met en usage toutes les ressources de la cruauté. (Sade 1998b, p. 70)

The Sadean epistemology privileges intensity of sensation (Sade 1968, pp. 267–69; see also pp. 317, 340; 1998, p. 412, see also pp. 459–60, 482): it privileges the sexual body as the most sensitive and pain as able to provide the most intense shocks, as being best able to affect the nerves. So when Dolmancé says that whores are the “only authentic philosophers” we do not just need to understand this in a figurative sense: there is a sense in which, behind the hyperbole, he is being philosophically very serious (Sade 1965, p. 208; 1998b, p. 26). There are major implications to the disturbing of the pleasure/ pain binary. The vector underpins the period’s moral sense theory: if pleasure is preferred to pain, and if one individual shares sympathetically the suffering of another, then they become invested in



preventing their suffering. If not, not. In this regard Sade’s disruption of the pleasure pain binary achieves a specific scepticism with regards to a moral theory, a result Sade clearly intends. But the vector underpins much more than this. The development of Condillac’s statue-man is wholly dependent on the differential between its experience of pleasure and of pain. It is this that provides the statue with the “motive” that leads, in the first instance to its motion, then to the development of desires and passions, and ultimately to the development of the understanding. The point is that in a period where all knowledge is taken to come from the senses, a genuine confusion of the pleasure/pain binary does not just lay the grounds for scepticism about one branch of the period’s moral theory, but also for scepticism about the development of knowledge as a whole, an outcome Sade seems to have not considered. Sade was not a fully systematic thinker: to say this is not per se to criticise him as systematicity was not in his period necessarily taken to be a philosophical virtue, this is particularly the case insofar as his—and Rousseau’s—genre of choice tends to be the philosophical novel, the roman philosophique. And so it is useful to speak of the various “movements” of Sade’s thought: he is ambidextrous. The move to complexify the pleasure/pain binary and to privilege intensity of sensation is one movement of his thought. This more strictly epistemological/metaphysical movement has a moral aspect which directly attacks the moral philosophy of his period. I have outlined here Sade’s response to, and his own version of, sensationist thought. But moral sense theories also need a sense of empathy or “fellow feeling.” That is, not only is the subject of moral sense drawn to pleasure and driven from pain, but they participate sympathetically in the pleasure or pain of the other. And Sade too moves against the idea of fellow feeling.

The Sadean Critique of the Moral Sense Theory There are instances where the Sadean oeuvre does position the heart as reliable.14 Often these instances that are uncritical echoes of Rousseau who holds the uncorrupted heart to be infallible guide to everything from morality to metaphysics. But in general Sade’s philosophical “system” is clear: the heart misguides and misleads. This is Dolmancé to Eugénie:



Never listen to your heart, my child; it is the most untrustworthy guide we have received from nature; with greatest care close it up to misfortune’s fallacious accents; far better for you to refuse a person whose wretchedness is genuine than to run the great risk of giving to a bandit, to an intriguer, or to a plotter: the one is of a very slight importance, the other may be of the highest disadvantage. (Sade 1965, p. 340) N’écoutez jamais votre cœur, mon enfant ; c’est le guide le plus faux que nous ayons reçu de la nature ; fermez-le avec grand soin aux accents fallacieux de l’infortune ; il vaut beaucoup mieux que vous refusiez à celui qui vraiment serait fait pour vous intéresser, que de risquer de donner au scélérat, à l’intrigant et au cabaleur : l’un est d’une très légère conséquence, l’autre du plus grand inconvénient. (Sade 1998b, p. 154)

The presence of Rousseau is not generally overt in Sade’s libertine novels. So it is striking that here that Le Chevalier, defending moral sense theory by personifying—or ventriloquizing—Rousseau, argues directly with Dolmancé: “never slay the sacred voice of nature in your breast” he argues “it is to benevolence it will direct you despite yourself when you extricate from the fire of passions that absorb it the clear tenor of nature. Leave religious principles far behind you—very well, I approve of it; but do not abandon the virtues sensibility inspires in us” (Sade 1965, p. 341; 1998b, p. 155). Telling him that experience would “dry out” his heart, Dolmancé implies that Le Chevalier has not made sufficient progress in training his sensibility. Le Chevalier is yet to be convinced, and still parroting Rousseau, he argues that “it is not from the mind that remorse comes; rather, [it is] from the heart’s issue, and never will the intellect’s sophistries blot out the soul’s impulsions” (Sade 1965, p. 342; 1998b, p. 156). Dolmancé returns that the heart deceives as it is “never anything but the expression of the mind’s miscalculations; allow the later to mature and the former will yield in good time.” I don’t know what the heart is, not I: I only use the word to denote the weaknesses of mind. One single, one unique flame sheds its light on me: when I am whole and well, sound and sane, I am never misled by it; when I am old, hypochondriacal, or pusillanimous, it deceives me; in which case I tell myself I am sensible, but in truth I am merely weak and timid. Once again Eugénie, I say it to you: be not abused by this perfidious sensibility; be well convinced of it, it is nothing but the mind’s weakness; one weeps not save when one is afraid, that is why kings are tyrants. (Sade 1965, p. 342)



Je ne sais ce que c’est que le cœur, moi ; je n’appelle ainsi que les faiblesses de l’esprit. Un seul et unique flambeau luit en moi ; quand je suis sain et ferme, il ne me fourvoie jamais ; suis-je vieux, hypocondre ou pusillanime ? il me trompe ; alors je me dis sensible, tandis qu’au fond je ne suis que faible et timide. Encore une fois, Eugénie, que cette perfide sensibilité ne vous abuse pas ; elle n’est, soyez-en bien sûre, que la faiblesse de l’âme ; on ne pleure que parce que l’on craint, et voilà pourquoi les rois sont des tyrans. (Sade 1998b, p. 156)

(Note: this phrase “alors je me dis sensible” is slightly ambiguous and given the wide meanings of the term “sensible” it implies in this context the “moral sensibility.”) In Aline et Valcour the contest of ideas between Rousseauian moral sensibility and virtue, and libertine sensibility and vice, produces equivocal results.15 Not in Sade’s libertine novels: Eugénie declares Dolmancé the winner of the argument, there follows a short speech in praise of causing pain to others and, philosophy having aroused their corporeal but not moral sensibility, talk gives way to action. Everybody fucks. In Rousseau philosophy excites the moral sense and the sensibility of the heart; in Sade it excites the libertine passions—or so Sade intends at least. La Philosophie dans le boudoir contains some of the most concise accounts of key aspects to Sade’s philosophical “system”; the detail is found in his chef d’œuvre, Histoire de Juliette. Within the broad scope of his critique of humane sentiments Sade here addresses the question of pity directly. In the previous chapter I show the importance of pity for Rousseau’s moral theory; I think these passages ought to be read as a direct critical engagement with him. Noirceuil is one of the most significant characters of the novel partly because he survives from almost the beginning until the final pages, but also because he forms a significant intellectual and emotional relationship with Juliette. In the middle of book one Sade gives him a series of major theoretical speeches. It is the critique of “humane sentiments” (le sentiment de l’humanité) which is significant for the present purposes. For Noirceuil the “humane virtues” (vertus de l’humanité) have nothing to do with nature, and it is particularly on pity that he focuses as his example. There is no simple pity, no pity which is not self-regarding. Let us examine ourselves carefully at the moment when we catch ourselves feeling sympathy. We will find only a secret voice crying from the bottom or our heart:



“you cry over this unfortunate person because you are unfortunate yourself, and because you fear becoming more so.” But what is this voice if it is not that of fear? And where is this fear born if it not from self-centredness? Let us completely destroy in us this pusillanimous sentiment: it can only be painful, since we can only understand it by a comparison that brings us back to misfortune. (G 192)16 Il n’y a point de pitié franche, point de pitié qui ne se rapporte à nous. Examinons-nous bien au moment où nous nous surprenons en commisération, nous verrons qu’une voix secrète crie au fond de nos cœurs : Tu pleures sur ce malheureux, parce que tu es malheureux toi-même, et que tu crains de le devenir davantage. Or, quelle est cette voix, si ce n’est celle de la crainte ? et d’où naît la crainte, si ce n’est de l’égoïsme ? Détruisons donc radicalement en nous ce sentiment pusillanime : il ne peut être que douloureux, puisqu’on ne peut le concevoir que par une comparaison qui nous ramène au malheur. (P 348)

Or as Clairwil, another of the novel’s major libertines, says about a hundred pages later. What then is pity? A purely egotistical sentiment: seeing others beset by woe, we pity them because we fear lest that same woe befall us. Show me the [being] who, owing to his nature, is exempt from all the ills that afflict humankind, and not only will that [being] have no pity whatever, he won’t even know the meaning of the word. (G 281) Et qu’est-ce, en effet, que la pitié ? Un sentiment purement égoïste qui nous porte à plaindre dans les autres le mal que nous craignons pour nous. Donnez-moi un être dans le monde qui, par sa nature, puisse être exempt de tous les maux de l’humanité, non seulement cet être n’aura aucune espèce de pitié, mais il ne la concevra même pas. (P 425)

Recall that for both Lévesque de Pouilly and Diderot, while the moral sense does pick out in others that which was likely to be useful to us, it is not based in this self-interest but also operated in situations where the subject is genuinely disinterested including in the theatre and in situations where we feel approvingly of the dead. For Rousseau the “first sentiment of humanity” operated in the state of nature which was, for him, not a Hobbesian state of constant fear or of the war of all against all, but was rather a state of idealised independence where the individual was replete with natural virtue. Sade rejects both these positions. There is for Sade no frank or honest (franche) pity because it is always grounded in



secret self-regard or egoism, in fear and pity for the self. Such fear is born of weakness which is why tyrants do not suffer it. This strategy is common in Sade’s oeuvre and he often uses moralities of self-interest to critique in its various guises the idea that we have a “natural” or innate morality. Often these critiques take the form of extended laments about the hypocrisy of virtuous behaviour (speeches which read a little oddly given they often sit in quite close proximity to speeches which champion hypocrisy as an effective libertine strategy).17 But the point is not that Sade is a hypocrite about hypocrisy, but rather that he often deploys “artificial” moralities of self-interest in a tactical fashion against moralities of “natural” virtue. It is significant that the above argument recognises that pity is in fact an authentic or natural affect, even if it holds that it is not one which is genuinely other-regarding. Sade is not content to leave the argument here however—as I have stressed his “system” is often ambidextrous— and in this case the second movement is against the naturalness of the affects of “humanity” tout court. The most significant single incarnation this position is again given to Noirceuil; the target here is “virtue” broadly rather than just the sense of “pity” narrowly understood. (Recall that for Rousseau at least pity is the foundation of all the social or virtuous affects.) Noirceuil begins by asking “is there really virtue that moves to clash with the vice in me? And supposing it is virtue, ought I to yield and do its bidding? (Est-ce véritablement la vertu qui vient combattre le vice dans moi ? et à supposer que ce soit elle, dois-je me livrer à ses inspirations ?)” (G 140; P 304). Virtue is defined here as “all the various manners or modes of being by means of which a given creature, setting his own pleasures and interests aside, dedicates himself primarily to furthering the happiness of society” (G 141; P 304). Noirceuil recognises that the individual who has given up their own interests is also a member of society, the argument he is critiquing intends to show that the individual gains from the collective good, and so that they benefit individually from virtue. In fact, or so Noirceuil claims, “the individual’s interests are often the very opposite of social virtue, for the individual’s interests are very nearly always opposed to society’s.” He concludes that virtue lacks any real or natural existence and is “purely arbitrary” (la vertu, purement arbitraire, n’offrira plus rien de solide). Virtue, a “faint voice which now and then pipes up for a brief interval is no other than [the voice] of education and prejudice” (G 141; P 304).18 Elsewhere Mme Delbène, Juliette’s first tutor, associates this faint voice with the conscience.



The word conscience […] denominates that as it were inner voice which cries out when we do something—it makes no difference what—we are forbidden to do: and this eminently simple definition lays bare, to even the most casual glance, the origins the conscience has in prejudices inculcated by training and upbringing. (G 12) On appelle conscience, […] cette espèce de voix intérieure qui s’élève en nous à l’infraction d’une chose défendue, de quelque nature qu’elle puisse être : définition bien simple, et qui fait voir du premier coup d’œil que cette conscience n’est l’ouvrage que du préjugé reçu par l’éducation. (P 189)

Noirceuil’s version of the argument is hard to make sense of in its own terms as it relies for any success on other aspects of Sade’s philosophical “system.” That is, his definition of virtue as setting aside one’s own pleasure and interests relies on the critique of theories, including Lévesque de Pouilly’s, which argue that virtue is pleasurable and useful. I have explicated the first part of this critique above. But the idea that the rules of civil society are not in the interests of the individual is stated here but is substantiated elsewhere in the oeuvre. And Noirceuil’s idea that a conscience which speaks to us of virtue is not natural depends on his idea that the real voice of nature speaks to us of nothing but our own interests. I will discuss both of these aspects in detail in the following part. For the present purposes it is the conclusion which is of interest: virtue is not natural but is the artificial effect of education and inculcated prejudice. Sade, in conscripting philosophy for the eradication of prejudice, is here associating himself with what we might loosely call the “Enlightenment project” (G 319; P 461).19 As a theorist Sade is very often ambidextrous and he argues against theories of innate or “natural” moral sense with both hands: with one hand he holds that the moral sense is in fact self-interested and so is therefore not moral; with the other hand he argues that the moral sense is implanted by institutions of civil society and so is not natural.


1. “Sometimes it is as pleasant to discuss as to undergo [sensations]; and when one has reached the limit of one’s physical means, one may then exploit one’s intellect” (Sade 1968, p. 60; 1998, p. 234). 2. This response by Eugenie is repeated identically elsewhere, for example Sade (1965, p. 217).



3. Note that Sade elsewhere uses the descriptor “délicieuse tête” in a similar circumstance. It is also translated in the Grove Press as “mind” (Sade 1968, p. 883; 1998, p. 978). 4. See Vila (1998, pp. 7–8, 155–57, 266) and Warman (2002, pp. 52–53). 5. Rousseau argues that it is sensibility which is innate, not ideas (Rousseau 1979, p. 290). 6. For a discussion of Sade in relationship to d’Holbach’s materialism and atheism see Didier (1983). See also Le Brun (1990, pp. 30–47, 51–53). 7. For example Plato’s Phaedrus (Plato 2006, p. 115 [250d]). 8. For example “Here above all is a little tongue-shaped thing – that is the clitoris, and there lies all a woman’s power of sensation (là gît toute la sensibilité des femmes)” (Sade 1965, p. 204; 1998b, p. 21). 9. For an detailed discussion of this issue see Moore (2009) 10. It is worth noting that the period does not take heightened sensibility to be without problems and managing acute sensibility is an obsession of the period, see Vila (1998). I examine the problem of insensibility and apathy in Part V. 11. See also d’Holbach (1999, pp. 79, 80; 1781, pp. 91, 92). 12.  See also Sade (1968, pp. 340–41, 1998, p. 482) and Sade (1998a, pp. 574–75). 13. See also Sade (1968, p. 991n; 1998, p. 1081n). 14. For example When Mme de Saint-Ange explains that a foetus owes its existence only to a man’s sperm, the womb “furthers creation without being its cause” and this is why a child owes filial tenderness to the father alone. Eugénie responds: “it is in my heart I find confirmation of what you tell me, my dear, for I love my father to distraction, and feel a loathing for my mother” (Sade 1965, p. 206; 1998b, p. 24). 15. It is worth making explicit the relationship between this passage from La Philosophie dans le boudoir and one of the most prominent themes of Aline et Valcour. Valcour is explicitly constructed by Sade as the personification of Rousseau and so of Rousseauian virtue (Sade 1998a, see Lettre Cinquième, pp. 412–13). Indeed almost all of the “virtuous” characters, with the important exception of Léonore, are constructed as virtuous in exactly the terms of the period’s moral sense theory—in terms of the sensibility of the heart, and in terms of the pleasures of the good and the beautiful as theorised in Lévesque de Pouilly’s Théorie des sentiments agréables. By contrast the novel’s “libertines” are described by the virtuous as having “a narrow head and a cold heart (une tête étroite et d’un cœur froid)” (p. 398), by themselves as refusing to be misled by that “most false organ,” the heart (p. 473). To invoke just one of a great many possible textual examples, this is Déterville describing the libertine sensibility to his friend Valcour:



It is here, my friend, that the art of the most profound wickedness, has come to dispose the muscles of the physiognomy of these two unworthy mortals [M. de Blamont and Dolbourg], it is here that we have been able to convince ourselves that the soul of a libertine has not one single faculty which is not at the command of his head, and that all the movements of nature yield in such hearts, to the perfidious corruption of the mind. C’est ici, mon ami, que l’art de la plus profonde scélératesse, est venu disposer les muscles de la physionomie de ces deux indignes mortels, c’est ici que nous avons pu nous convaincre que l’âme d’un libertin n’a pas une seule faculté qui ne soit aux ordres de sa tête, et que tous les mouvements de la nature cèdent dans de tels cœurs, à la perfide corruption de l’esprit (Sade 1998a, 480–82; see also pp. 487–89). See Lettres XXVI and XXVII (pp. 501–10) for a study in the contrast between the libertine and the non-libertine sensibility. See also Lettre LVIII (pp. 1025–26). There is much to be said here about the way these themes play out in the novel, but a full study of that text this issue lies outside the scope of the present book. 16. Note for the remainder of this chapter when referring to this novel I will simply mark these two texts with “G” signifying the English translation published by Grove Press, and “P” signifying the French published by Pléiade. 17. See G 636; P 749 for example of a defence of hypocrisy. 18. See also G 171; P 330 and G 780; P 883–84 where the Pope endorses this view. 19. See also G 730; P 835.

References Clavier, Paul. 2005a. “Cœur.” In Dictionnaire Culturel en Langue Française, edited by Danièle Morvan, 1: 1629–31. Paris: Dictionnaires Le Robert. Clavier, Paul. 2005b. “Esprit.” In Dictionnaire Culturel en Langue Française, edited by Danièle Morvan, 2: 659–61. Paris: Dictionnaires Le Robert. Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de. 1982 [1754]. “A Treatise on the Sensations.” In Philosophical Writings of Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, 155–346. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates. d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry. 1781 [1770]. Système de la nature ou des loix du monde physique & du monde moral. Vol. 1. London. d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry. 1999 [1770]. The System of Nature. Translated by H. D. Robinson. Manchester: Clinamen. Diderot, Denis. 1773. “Éloge de Richardson, auteur des romans de Paméla, de Clarisse et de Grandisson.” In Collection complette des ouvres philosophiques, littéraires et dramatiques de M. Diderot, 384–405. Amsterdam.



Didier, Béatrice. 1983. “Sade théologien.” In Sade: Écrire la crise, edited by Michel Camus and Philippe Roger, 219–40. Paris: Pierre Belfond. Fouquet, Henri 1765. “Sensibilité, Sentiment (Médecine).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 15: 38–52. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Jaucourt, Chevalier Louis de. 1765. “Sens moral.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 15: 28–29. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Krafft-Ebing, Richard von. 1947 [1886]. Psychopathia Sexualis: A MedicoForensic Study. New York: Pioneer Publications Inc. Le Brun, Annie. 1990 [1986]. Sade: A Sudden Abyss. Translated by Camille Naish. San Francisco: City Light Books. Le Roy, Charles-Georges. 1765. “Homme (Morale).” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 8: 274–78. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Moore, Alison. 2009. “The Invention of Sadism? The Limits of Neologisms in the History of Sexuality.” Sexualities 12 (4): 486–502. Nussbaum, Mather Craven. 1987. “‘Finely Aware and Richly Responsible’: Literature and the Moral Imagination.” In Literature and the Question of Philosophy, edited by Anthony J. Cascaridi, 192–210. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press. O’Hagan, Timothy. 1999. Rousseau. Edited by Ted Honderich, The Arguments of the Philosophers. London and New York: Routledge. Plato. 2006. “Phaedrus.” In Plato on Love, edited by C. D. C. Reeve, 88–153. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company Inc. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1964 [1762]. Emile ou de l’éducation. Paris: Editions Garnier Freres. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1979 [1762]. Emile, or On Education. Translated by Allan Bloom. New York: Basic Books. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1795]. “Philosophy in the Bedroom.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 184–367. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1968 [1797]. Juliette. Translated and edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795a]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.



Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795b]. “La Philosophie dans le boudoir, ou Les Instituteurs immoraux.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 1–178. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1797]. “Juliette ou les prospérités du vice.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 179–1262. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Vila, Anne C. 1998. Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Warman, Caroline. 2002. Sade: From Materialism to Pornography. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.


Heart and Head, Love and Libertinage, in Histoire de Juliette

Under the broad umbrella of the “humane sentiments” often associated with the heart’s affects, there are two sentiments which are of ­particular interest to Sade and so to this study: pity, which I address above, and love. The longest monologue that Sade pens on the topic of love is given in Histoire de Juliette to the comte de Belmor on the occasion of his presidential inauguration to the Society of the Friends of Crime (G 502; P 629).1 The speech is thirteen or fourteen pages long; a summary of it will suffice here. Belmor is not one of the novel’s major characters or a master-libertine and beyond this speech, he does not feature prominently in the novel. The speech is expressly misogynistic; the idea of love invoked here is a man’s love for a woman and the speech often proceeds by attacking the value of women directly and so attacking as erroneous any feeling which extols the beloved or ascribes to her great value. But Sade the author distances himself somewhat from the views of his character; the novel itself expressly positions the speech as misogynistic—the women who hear the speech respond badly to it because of this (G 516; P 642)—so it is difficult to take all of Belmor’s views to be directly those of Sade. The primary content of the speech, however is highly consistent with Sade’s broader oeuvre including aspects which I have discussed above. For Belmor: The word love is used to designate that inner feeling that propels us, as it were, despite ourselves, towards some foreign object or other; which provokes in us a keen desire to become united to it, to ever lessen the distance © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




between it and ourselves… which delights us, ravishes us… renders us ecstatic when we achieve that union, and which casts us into despair, which tears us asunder, whenever the intrusion of external considerations constrain us to break this union. (G 502) On appelle amour ce sentiment intérieur qui nous entraîne, pour ainsi dire comme malgré nous, vers un objet quelconque, qui nous fait vivement désirer de nous unir à lui… de nous en rapprocher sans cesse… qui nous flatte… qui nous enivre quand nous réussissons à cette union, et qui nous désespère… qui nous déchire, quand quelques motifs étrangers viennent nous contraindre à briser cette union. (P 629)

The particular seat of love is the heart (G 503, 510, 513; P 630, 636, 640). Belmor goes on to describe the various dangers posed by this feeling, the woes, griefs, and chagrin which love causes us: Were man to reflect more carefully upon his true interests in enjoyment, he would save his heart that cruel fever which burns and parches it. If he could convince himself that there is no need to be loved to find enjoyment, and that love rather harms than promotes the transports of enjoyment he serves, he would renounce that metaphysic of sentiment which blinds him, confine himself to the simple enjoyment of bodies, would know true happiness, and would save himself forever from the sorrow inseparable from his dangerous sensitivity. (G 503) Si l’homme s’éclairait mieux sur ses vrais intérêts dans la jouissance, il épargnerait à son cœur cette fièvre cruelle qui le brûle et qui le dessèche. S’il pouvait se convaincre qu’il n’est nullement besoin d’être aimé pour bien jouir, et que l’amour nuit plutôt aux transports de la jouissance qu’il n’y sert, il renoncerait à cette métaphysique du sentiment qui l’aveugle, se bornerait à la simple jouissance du corps, connaîtrait le véritable bonheur, et s’épargnerait pour toujours le chagrin inséparable de sa dangereuse délicatesse. (P 630)

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this speech is the idea that there is an erroneous “metaphysics of love (métaphysique de l’amour)” and that it is our enlightenment (s’éclairait) that is the solution to its ills. The speech walks a fine—perhaps ultimately confused—line between recognising love to be a genuine if perfidious emotion, and understanding the whole experience to be nothing but an erroneous superstition or “imaginative disorder” (délire de l’imagination) which has been used by women, the



naturally weaker sex, to protect themselves from men. The tradition of “chivalrous gallantry” (galanterie chevaleresque) or “woman worship” is said to have developed from the womb of “ignorant superstition” and from women’s ancient use of witchcraft and the prophetic trades (G 506; P 632–33). “The love of women is like that of God: in either case, we feed upon illusions. […] Let us enjoy ourselves in full: such is Nature’s law. (Il en est de l’amour des femmes comme de celui de Dieu : ce sont des illusions qui nous nourrissent dans l’un et l’autre cas. […] Jouissons : telle est la loi de la nature)” (G 513; P 639). This latter aspect of Belmor’s critique is grounded in a materialist metaphysics which understands as real only the desire of the body for the body and accordingly affirms that we ought not to indulge any sentiment beyond this. Love, properly considered then is nothing more than a physical impulse towards the desired body, a jouissance du corps: “the material object becom[es] the instrument for the relief of our material need (l’objet matériel s’identifiant à ce qu’il y a de plus matériel en nous)” (G 514; P 640). The comte de Belmor has, it seems, read his Rousseau. Notwithstanding the effusive sentimentality for which Rousseau is so famous, his position on love—to be clear here we mean eros and not Rousseau’s “first sentiment of humanity” or a something like a Christianised agape—is very bleak. In the Second Discourse Rousseau distinguishes between the “moral and physical aspects of the sentiment of love.” The physical aspect is that general desire which inclines one sex to unite with the other. The moral aspect is what determines this desire and fixes it exclusively on one single object, or what at least gives it a greater degree of energy for this preferred object. Now it is easy to see that the moral aspect of love is an artificial sentiment born of social custom, and extolled by women with so much skill and care in order to establish their hegemony and make dominant that sex that ought to obey. Since this feeling is founded on a certain notion of merit or beauty that a savage is not in the position to have, and on comparison he is incapable of making, it must be non-existent for him. (Rousseau 1987, p. 56) Commençons par distinguer le moral du physique dans le sentiment de l’amour. Le physique est ce désir général qui porte un sexe à s’unir à l’autre ; le moral est ce qui détermine ce désir et le fixe sur un seul objet exclusivement, ou qui du moins lui donne pour cet objet préféré un plus grand degré d’énergie. Or il est facile de voir que le moral de l’amour est



un sentiment factice ; né de l’usage de la société, et célébré par les femmes avec beaucoup d’habileté et de soin pour établir leur empire, et rendre dominant le sexe qui devrait obéir. Ce sentiment étant fondé sur certaines notions du mérite ou de la beauté qu’un sauvage n’est point en état d’avoir, et sur des comparaisons qu’il n’est point en état de faire, doit être presque nul pour lui. (Rousseau 1755, pp. 78–80)

That is, for Rousseau too the moral aspect of love is a chimera and all that is known in the state of nature is the physical jouissance du corps. Rousseau does not distance himself from the explicit misogyny of his oeuvre. For both Sade and Rousseau then love is a pernicious affect which needs to be worked against. In Histoire de Juliette Belmor’s speech goes on to outline the cure; while Sade and Rousseau are deeply invested in the project of affective pedagogy, their goals in freeing the self from the moral effects of love are not the same. For Belmor: Inconstancy and libertinage, these, my brothers, are the two antidotes to love; accustoming us to dealings with these false divinities, they both exert a gradual erosive action upon the illusion, till finally it is all eaten quite away; you cease sooner or later to adore what you see every day: thanks to the habit of inconstancy and of libertinage, the heart loses, little by little, the dangerous softness which permits it to be susceptible to the impressions of love; surfeited, it hardens, it toughens, and the patient may soon be considered cured. (G 510) L’inconstance et le libertinage : voilà, mes frères, les deux contrepoisons de l’amour. Tous deux, en nous accoutumant au commerce de ces fausses divinités, font insensiblement tomber l’illusion : on n’adore plus ce que l’on voit tous les jours. Par l’habitude de l’inconstance et du libertinage, le cœur perd insensiblement de cette mollesse dangereuse qui le rend susceptible des impressions de l’amour ; il se blase, il s’endurcit, et la guérison suit de près. (P 636)

The story of Juliette’s progress towards correct libertine hard-heartedness will be the focus of Part V. This is not all Sade’s writings have to say about love. Whether or not the affects of the heart—or more broadly love, pity, and the “sentiments of humanity”—are natural or artificial, Sade recognises that they do have genuine pleasures to offer. This causes him to have a lively interest in an analysis of these pleasures—the pleasures of virtue as Lévesque de Pouilly would understand them—in comparison with the pleasures offered by



vice or libertinage. The distinction between the two genres of pleasure is often drawn by Sade as that of the mind/head/tête and the heart. There is in Histoire de Juliette a series of episodes which are of particular interest. Just after Juliette and her companions arrive in Rome, she “was distinguished by the conquest of two women.” The contrast between the two is a figural illustration of the relative merits of love in its moral aspect and philosophical libertinage as Sade conceives them.2 According to Juliette’s narration “whilst the one [conquest] had a stimulating effect on my mind (tête), the other won her way immediately into my heart” (G 659; P 770).3 (Note that “tête” here is also translated in the Grove Press edition as “mind.”) The first: Olympe, the Princess Borghese, is “vivacious, engaging, witty, and profligate [… with] imagination, [and] a prepossessing manner” (G 659; P 770). Olympe almost immediately identifies herself as a libertine and declares her adoration for Juliette (while carefully noting that her affection is not love).4 The second: Honorine, the duchesse de Grillo, was “less forward, younger, better behaved, and lovelier, her bearing was a queen’s, she was modest, of seemly reserve.” She lacked imagination, but was kindly, virtuous, and sensitive. Juliette initially describes herself as “equally taken” by each woman (G 659; P 770). Sade/Juliette spends sixty-odd pages detailing in the usual fashion the various libertine and criminal adventures of Juliette and Olympe during which, Juliette assures the listener/reader, the thoughts of the charming Honorine never left her mind (tête) (G 696; P 806). Juliette eventually moves to seduce Honorine who—Sade not being one to linger on the deferred pleasures of seduction—quickly bends to Juliette’s will. Honorine however is too unskilled to return the sexual favours and Juliette is “obliged to give her lessons” (G 699; P 808). Rather than the details of the seduction there is a much more interesting issue at stake for Sade: the comparisons of the two genres of pleasures on offer. Olympe finds out Juliette is spending time with Honorine and is jealous. “‘Honorine is attractive, it cannot be denied,’ said [Olympe], ‘neither will you deny that she is stupid; I defy her ever to give you as much pleasure as I’” (G 700; P 810). Juliette reassures Olympe that her interest in Honorine won’t last, (“je m’amuse d’un goût, mais ne me fixe jamais qu’à l’infamie”) that it is the profound pleasures of crime that are of lasting interest to her, and that “compared to [crime] love is so drab, so puny (C’est que le crime est si délicieux ! […] je ne connais rien qui m’échauffe comme le crime : l’amour est si bête auprès de lui)” (G 702; P 811).



Ah my friends, how crime embellishes a women! Olympe was only pretty; no sooner had she committed this action than I found her as beautiful as an angel. It was then that I experienced how lively the pleasure is we receive from a being above all prejudices and soiled by all crimes. When Grillo masturbated me, I had experienced only an ordinary sensation; but when I was in Olympe’s hands, my head (tête) was turned, I was no longer myself. (G 707) Ah ! mes amis, comme le crime embellit une femme ! Olympe n’était que jolie ; elle n’eut pas plus tôt commis cette action, que je la trouvai belle comme un ange. Ce fut alors que j’éprouvai combien est vif le plaisir qu’on reçoit d’un être au-dessus de tous les préjugés et souillé de tous les crimes. Quand Grillo me branlait, je n’éprouvais qu’une sensation ordinaire; étais-je dans les mains d’Olympe, la tête me tournait, je n’étais plus à moi. (P 805)

But interestingly, and not withstanding long pages in which Juliette narrates their criminal lewdness, Olympe’s “prodigious” libertinage is not enough to make Juliette forget the “pure pleasure [she] was bent on tasting with sweet Honorine” (G 714; P 821). Sade/Juliette spends several more pages trying to become interested in the process of seduction and corruption but gets bored pretty quickly: “My lessons penetrated badly into the narrow mind (âme) of this prude; this was perhaps the only women in the world that I could not succeed in corrupting. And, from that moment, I decided to lose her” (G 722; P 828). Juliette denies to Olympe that she was ever in love with Honorine: “Me, in love? Great God! That puerile feeling was always disregarded by my heart: I had amused myself with that woman, I had wanted to guide her into crime… she refuses me, she is an imbecile that I can only think of losing today” (G 722; P 828–29). Honorine dies several pages later. For her part Olympe survives for about 300 more pages although she becomes an increasingly minor character. Eventually Juliette becomes bored of her and Juliette and Clairwil throw her into a volcano (G 1016; P 1101). Her epitaph is as follows: Olympe, princess Borghese, was a gentle, loving woman, swept away in pleasure, libertine by temperament, full of imagination, but never having furthered her principles; timid, still holding on to her prejudices, susceptible at any moment to give way before the first misfortune that happened to her, and who, owing to this one weakness, was unsuitable company for a pair of woman as corrupt as ourselves. (G 1019)



Olympe, princesse de Borghèse, était une femme douce, aimante, emportée dans le plaisir, libertine par tempérament, pleine d’imagination, mais n’ayant jamais approfondi ses principes; timide, tenant encore à ses préjugés, susceptible d’être convertie au premier malheur qui lui serait arrivé, et qui, par cette seule faiblesse, n’était pas digne de deux femmes aussi corrompues que nous. (P 1104–5)

Her failure, that is, was the failure to sufficiently pursue her philosophical principles. The relative pleasures of vice and virtue written into the narrative in these episodes are summarised in the abstract by Noirceuil as he continues the speech that I studied in the previous section. This done, I compare the pleasures. I make that of virtue proceed, and savour it to all its extent. What absence of movement! What ice! Nothing moves me there, nothing agitates me; and, in analysing fairly, I recognise that the pleasure is entirely for the other I have served, and that pleasure which I withdraw in return, from them, I have only a cold gratitude. I ask: is that enjoyment? What a difference in the other party! As my senses are tickled, as my organs are moved! Just by caressing the idea of that distraction that I intend, a divine juice circulates in my veins, a type of fever seizes me; the delirium into which this idea plunges me spreads a delicious illusion on all sides of my project. (G 141) Cela fait, je compare les jouissances, je fais procéder celle de la vertu, et la savoure dans toute son étendue. Quel défaut de mouvement ! quelle glace ! rien ne m’émeut là, rien ne m’agite ; et, en analysant avec justesse, je reconnais que la jouissance est tout entière pour celui que j’ai servi, et que je ne retire en retour, de lui, qu’une froide reconnaissance. Je le demande : est-ce là jouir ? Quelle différence dans le parti contraire ! Comme mes sens sont chatouillés, comme mes organes sont émus ! Rien qu’en caressant l’idée de l’égarement que je projette, un jus divin circule dans mes veines, une espèce de fièvre me saisit; le délire où cette idée me plonge répand une illusion délicieuse sur toutes les faces de mon projet. (P 304–5)

Which is all to show that Sade has his own théorie des sentiments agréables. Juliette’s narration of these episodes is somewhat disingenuous. She opens by saying that she was equally taken by both Olympe and Honorine and that Honorine “immediately won her way into her heart.” However, she later denies to Olympe that she was ever in love, claiming



that her heart had “always been a stranger to puerile sentiments.” This difference between the idealised behaviour of libertine as exemplified in their speeches and their actual behaviour as exemplified in the narrative action is a feature of the novel I will return to in Part V. From the point of view of Sade as author, we can note that in the episodes of Juliette’s conquest of Honorine, Sade is making a half-hearted attempt at scripting a seduction/corruption narrative in the style of Laclos’s Les liaisons dangereuses (1782). A more complete reading of Sade’s oeuvre that I can offer here would at this point pivot to Aline et Valcour in which Sade does offer a very detailed and surprisingly patient comparative “study” of the relative pleasures of virtue and of vice and which is the closest Sade comes to writing in the style of Laclos. But for the present purposes it is worth noting that, at least in Histoire de Juliette, Sade does not have the patience for this genre and in the end, although the competing pleasures offered by Olympe and Honorine are initially described by Juliette as equal and competing, in fact Honorine is a very minor character who interests Sade very little. I do not want to give the impression that sensibility in Sade operates simply according to the dichotomy of head and heart, or in a wholly deterministic manner. The discourse of sensibility is far more complex than this. This complexity is not just a feature of Sade, it is a feature of vitalist anthropology found in Montpellier medicine, in Rousseau, and widely across the French Enlightenment. I have in Part II outlined the manner in which the body of sensibility was understood in both universal and particular terms: universal organic sensibility was understood to be affected in the subject by innate factors, the paradigm example of which is perhaps biological sex, and also by factors which are subject to change including by hygienic regimes of the sort that Michel Foucault would call a philosophical askesis, or modes of care of the self. For example, notwithstanding that he takes the moral sense to be a universal sense tracking real properties, for Lévesque de Pouilly our moral perfection includes elements provided by our education, temperament, by society, and by our own reflections (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, p. 114). The closing paragraph of the Théorie is a call to legislators to draft in their laws detailed plans of education in order that every member of the state may be thoroughly instructed in the pursuit of genuine happiness (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, pp. 238–39). Rousseau’s Emile is an extended meditation on the modes by which organic sensibility can and ought to be trained in order that the subject attains a carefully cultivated natural tranquillity in the midst of the turmoil of civil society.



For the French Enlightenment sensibility is a power which needs to be cared for and cultivated, hence the hygienic projects of the period realised by such figures as Tissot and following him Rousseau (Lévesque de Pouilly 1747, pp. 238–39). And so for Sade moral sensibility, while perhaps resting on a natural or intrinsic foundation, is plastic; the Sadean philosopher-hero, naturally libertine and often highly precocious, has nonetheless trained and retrained their moral sensibility. “Sensibility” in Sade sometimes means “moral sensibility,” and is often associated with the affects of the heart, but it also means a more general sensibility associated with “the animal spirits” and synonymous for Sade with the general capacity for excitation or arousal, particularly of the sexual kind; Eugénie from La philosophie dans le boudoir is particularly talented in these terms and this is why she is such a precocious student and is why Mme de Saint-Ange comments on her very particular sensibility. There is a strong thematic continuity between her and the young Juliette whose sensibility is greeted in much the same way when Mme Delbène, Juliette’s first instructor, remarks in the novel’s opening pages “Holy God, what temperament! (Sacredieu, quel tempérament !” (G 5; P 183). It is this particular sensibility that marks Juliette as in immediate need of a tutor: a “guide in the thorny career of life (un guide dans la carrière épineuse de la vie)” (G 11; P 187). And, just as it marks the difference between Olympe and Honorine, in the first instance it is this difference in temperament—in innate sensibility—that marks the difference between Juliette and her sister Justine whose natural inclination is towards virtue rather than vice, and who is absolutely, stubbornly, and laughably unable to learn the arts of libertinage. Sensibility then is a natural or innate power but also one which must be cared for, nurtured, cultivated, or developed: Eugénie asks Dolmancé “might not charity and benevolence bring happiness to some sensitive souls? (La charité, la bienfaisance, ne pourraient-elles pas faire le bonheur de quelques âmes sensibles ?)” (Sade 1965, p. 215; 1998, p. 32). Dolmancé’s response is multifaceted, including several quasi-utilitarian arguments aimed at showing the harm done to the greater good by giving alms; it is the conclusion that is of interest here. Let us not divide the share of sensibility which we have received from nature: that which is extend is destroyed. What have the evils of others to do with me? Do I not have enough of my own without afflicting myself with those that are foreign to me! May the fire of this sensibility light up only our pleasures! Let us be responsive to anything that gratifies our



pleasures, absolutely inflexible to all the rest. There results from this state of the mind (âme) a sort of cruelty, which is sometimes not without pleasure. (Sade 1965, p. 217) Ne divisons pas cette portion de sensibilité que nous avons reçue de la nature : c’est l’anéantir que de l’étendre. Que me font à moi les maux des autres ! N’ai-je donc point assez des miens, sans aller m’affliger de ceux qui me sont étrangers ! Que le foyer de cette sensibilité n’allume jamais que nos plaisirs ! Soyons sensibles à tout ce qui les flatte, absolument inflexibles sur tout le reste. Il résulte de cet état de l’âme une sorte de cruauté, qui n’est quelquefois pas sans délices. (Sade 1998, p. 34)5

The cultivation of the right kind of sensibility is a matter of careful training or habituation: Sade’s chef d’œuvre the enormous philosophical novel Juliette, is the story of just this kind of training, a specific training in libertinage which is not just a question of the place of sensibility, that is of having the head rule the heart—although as I have shown this is certainly a major theme of the novel. This too fits with the broader discourse of sensibility which sees the power of sensibility itself as needing to be cared for, care which is often expressed in medical terms; this is particularly evident in Rousseau’s obsession with hygiene, an aspect of his thought which has been studied at length (see Vila 1998). I will turn to this theme of the training of sensibility in Histoire de Juliette in Part V.

Coda Sade’s Aesthetics of the Abhorrent Contemporary critical commentaries on eighteenth-century thought generally note only in passing the imbrication of moral philosophy and aesthetics and it is rarely taken seriously: reflecting contemporary interests the two subjects are almost always dealt with separately. But if we are to understand Sade’s project in a historically sensitive manner, it is essential that we remain aware that the eighteenth century’s analysis of sensations as the foundation for knowledge was inseparable from its analysis of the foundations of morality and of aesthetics. In his vast philosophical, pornographic, and extremely violent novels Sade was—probably—the first to embark on a deliberate and sustained aestheticisation of the abhorrent as such: that is, an aestheticisation of the abject, grotesque, disgusting, violent, and shocking.



Sade was obsessed with moral philosophy, with critiquing the moral theories of the mid- to late-eighteenth century, and with replacing them with his own highly idiosyncratic moral system. Sade’s aesthetics of the abhorrent is a necessary aspect of his deliberate critique of the period’s moral sense theories. The conclusion Sade hoped to arrive at was relatively simple: the pleasures of conventional morality, pleasures which were at the heart of moral sense theories, ought to be abandoned for the greater and more intense sensations found in the abhorrent. In order to arrive at this conclusion Sade’s response to the nexus of eighteenth-century aesthetics and moral sense theory was surprisingly sophisticated, operating within his philosophical novels simultaneously in two different registers. As I show in Chapter 6 and this chapter much of his response was through direct philosophical argument: for example, the pleasures of the heart are the highest pleasures for Lévesque de Pouilly and for Diderot; Sade’s philosopher-heroes argue at length that the heart only deceives and cheats us of more intense pleasures. That is, Sade produces a philosophical aesthetics that attempts to explain how it is that there are sensuous experiences, marked by their intensity, which are preferable to the pleasures found in the experience of the good or the beautiful. But philosophical aesthetics is only intellectually serious insofar as it analyses experiences which we in fact have. And so at the same time Sade needed to demonstrate with his own artistic project that this is indeed the case: for his philosophical argument to be plausible Sade needed to produce works which in the experience of the consumer were indeed preferable, by virtue of their intensity, to the pleasures of the good or the beautiful. That is, one of the things that is most striking about the Sadean philosophical novel is that within a single work it contains both an aestheticisation of the abhorrent and a philosophical aesthetics that theorised this. I will not indulge here in a long or detailed exegesis of Sade’s aesthetics, which has been done elsewhere, except to note four points. First, that we are drawn to things that are pleasant and driven away from things that are unpleasant was a very widely held supposition in the period. As I noted in Chapter 6, at the simplest level Sade merely disrupts this trajectory by attempting to show that we can be drawn to unpleasant things, even drawn to the most unpleasant things that he could imagine. Second, Sade does not deny the genuine existence of beauty in, for example, Hutcheson’s or Lévesque de Pouilly’s sense. He



does not deny that beauty has a genuine affective appeal. But beauty’s presence is as likely to inspire the libertine to acts of destruction as veneration. If beauty is marked by order and uniformity, the Sadean hero takes pleasure in producing disorder and deformity in its place. And there are many instances in the oeuvre when ugliness and deformity are valorised for their own sakes.6 Third, there are many instances where abhorrent behaviours such as shit-eating, vomit-eating, cannibalism, and so on are approvingly treated by Sade, discussions which have a genuinely gastronomical flavour to them: the Sadean aesthetics of the abhorrent is not only interested in violence or with “Sadism” in Krafft-Ebing’s sense. Fourth, I want to draw attention to the role that hyperbole plays within Sade’s aesthetics. I have drawn attention to what I have called Sade’s aestheticisation of the abhorrent—of rape, torture, murder and so on, but also of shit-eating, vomit-eating, and many of what in Les cent vingt journées de Sodome he lists under the “simple passions.” But I also include in this a more subtle aspect of the Sadean aesthetical project: his use of hyperbole. Sade’s use of hyperbole—his rhetorical extremism— has often been used to justify the idea that Sade is an anti-philosopher, a philosopher of pure transgression: for example, central to William S. Allen’s recent work is that Sade’s “critique of reason” is grounded in his “boundless excesses” (2018, p. 1; see also p. 23). Beyond Sade’s use of figure per se, it is his extremism, his rhetoric of pure excess, of absolute transgression, that lies at the heart of Sade’s critique of philosophy insofar as philosophy must always be grounded in the literal. Indeed for Allen such is Sade’s extremism that it is critique of “thought as such” (p. 23; see also pp. 16, 19); Sadean hyperbole becomes a critique of literalness tout court. I think however that to present Sade’s hyperbole as intrinsically anti-philosophical misses its point. The extreme length of the Sadean novel is implicated in Sade’s theory of libertine askesis within which the repetition of, and habituation to, libertine acts is an important aspect (see Chapter 11); the hyperbole within the novels—the exaggeration well beyond the point that the text can be understood literally—is an equally important. It is necessitated by the need to shock the reader, where “shock” this is meant literally, in terms of the material or corporeal impact of the text on the sensibility of the reader. But this needs to be understood appropriately: Sade’s hyperbole does lead him well beyond the point where his philosophical “system” could have been taken literally, for example, Pope Pius VI’s desire to destroy the entire created order (see Chapter 10) was imagined long before the age where



nuclear weapons made this thinkable. That Sade is not being “serious” here does not mean that he was not a genuine apologist for murder, rape, or torture. He was. Literally. And his aesthetics of the abhorrent, which included the use of his hyperbole, is an important aspect of this apologetics. May God have mercy on any historian who claims to have found the first genuine instance of some phenomenon; but I do think that in his aestheticisation of the abhorrent qua abhorrent, Sade really did develop something new. Of course, the idea that Sade developed something radically new has been repeated so often that it has now become a cliché. Sade’s originality has often been stressed particularly by those who have appropriated Sade to their own generally modernist projects: the Surrealists are probably the most egregious offenders here but many who followed them. The most recent of these attempts has been undertaken by Annie Le Brun in the exhibition that marked the bicentenary of Sade’s death held at the Musée d’Orsay (Le Brun 2014).7 For Le Brun, Sade completely transformed the history of literature and the plastic arts and it is her aim to demonstrate the effects of this transformation on all forms of aesthetic expression. It needs to be admitted that there is a slight slippage between my argument—that Sade was the initiator of an aesthetics of the abhorrent—and Le Brun’s who marks Sade as the beginning of any aesthetics of the body, transgression, desire, or sexuality. But it also needs to be stressed that this is something of a development from the themes of her earlier work A Sudden Abyss which is a sustained focus on the subjective experience of the horror of reading Sade (Le Brun 1990, p. 7; see also pp. 126–29).8 Le Brun is in turn following the lead of Bataille (Le Brun 1990, p. 13); there are clear echoes of Surrealism here. The rehabilitation and celebration of Sade’s aesthetic project are only possible following a radical separation of aesthetics from moral philosophy, a separation which would have been utterly foreign to the historical Sade and to the period in which the works were produced. Particularly we should note the rise to prominence of the idea that art exists only “for art’s sake”—and pointedly not for the sake of religion, morality, the agreeable, or the useful—an idea which surfaced in French literary circles in the early nineteenth century (Murphy 2008; Wilcox 1953). It is not an accident that one of the most important figures in this movement was Baudelaire who was himself an early and significant figure in rehabilitation of Sade’s writing (Marty 2011, p. 9; Steintrager 2016, pp. 260–62).



Such anachronistic readings of Sade’s oeuvre ignore the fact that in the very same novels that Sade developed his aesthetic project he was explicit in theorised this project. And this tradition of celebrating Sade has misunderstood, misrecognised, or simply choses to ignore the moral implications of this aesthetics. If Sade did originate a tradition within modern art that continues to aestheticise the abhorrent, he did so not for the sake of a pure art which only exists for its own sake, but rather for the sake of a project in which the aesthetic and the moral were inseparable. It is significant that the moral implications of this innovation have been either forgotten or ignored. Recovering the historical connection between this aesthetics and moral philosophy invites us to consider again the relationship between art and morality, and particularly the relationship between art and violence.

Notes 1. This chapter when referring to Histoire de Juliette will simply mark these two texts with “G” signifying the English translation published by Grove Press, and “P” signifying the French published by Pléiade. 2. There is also a passage from quite late in the novel where Juliette compares the relative and competing sensations of virtue and vice when one of her long-time companions, Elise, begs Juliette for her life. Elise cries to Juliette: “‘you promised you would never abandon me’… And it was then, my friends, that I [i.e. Juliette] was able to measure the vibrations set up within a libertine soul when lust enters into collision with sensibility (quelle énergie est, dans l’âme d’une libertine, le choc de la sensibilité sur la luxure). I stiffened inwardly against the girl’s pleadings, I found pleasure in braving her tears, in refusing to allow her entreaties to act otherwise than as a spar to my lubricity” (G 1054; P 1134). 3. “Si l’une échauffait vivement ma tête, l’autre triomphât seule de toutes les affections de mon cœur” (P 770). 4. “Je t’adore ; mais ce n’est pas l’amour qui m’enflamme pour toi maintenant : je ne connais pas l’amour en luxure, je n’adopte que la lubricité” (G 660; P 771). 5. See also Sade (1965, pp. 491, 661–62). 6. To note just one example Sade (1966, p. 233). For a brief discussion of the relationship between beauty and ugliness etc. in Sade, see Steintrager (2016, p. 260). 7. I discuss this exhibition in the preface. 8. See too McMorran (2013, p. 232).



References Allen, William S. 2018. Without End: Sade’s Critique of Reason. London and New York: Bloomsbury. Laclos, Pierre Choderlos de. 1782. Les Liaisons dangereuses. Paris: Durand Neveu. Le Brun, Annie. 1990 [1986]. Sade: A Sudden Abyss. Translated by Camille Naish. San Francisco: City Light Books. Le Brun, Annie. 2014. Sade: Attaquer le soleil. Paris: Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie & Éditions Gallimard. Lévesque de Pouilly, Louis-Jean. 1747. Théorie des Sentimens Agréables. Genève: Barrillot & Fils. Marty, Éric. 2011. Pourquoi le XXe siècle a-t-il pris Sade au sérieux? Paris: Seuil. McMorran, Will. 2013. “The Sound of Violence: Listening to Rape in Sade.” In Representing Violence in France, 1760–1820, edited by Thomas Wynn, 229– 49. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Murphy, Margueritte. 2008. “Pure Art, Pure Desire: Changing Definitions of ‘l’art pour l’art’ from Kant to Gautier.” Studies in Romanticism 47 (2):147–60. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1755. Discours sur l’origine et les fondemens de l’inegalité parmi les hommes. Amsterdam: M. M. Rey. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987 [1755]. “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.” In The Basic Political Writings, edited by Donald A. Cress, 25–110. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1791]. “Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 449–743. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1795]. “Philosophy in the Bedroom.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 184–367. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1966 [1785]. “120 Days of Sodom.” In The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings, edited by Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver, 183–674. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795]. “La Philosophie dans le boudoir, ou Les Instituteurs immoraux.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 1–178. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Steintrager, James A. 2016. The Autonomy of Pleasure: Libertines, License, and Sexual Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press. Vila, Anne C. 1998. Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Wilcox, John. 1953. “The Beginnings of l’Art Pour l’Art.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 11 (4): 360–77.


The Authority of Nature: Sade’s Use and Critique of the Natural Law Tradition


Natural Law, and the Law and Voice of Nature

As I show in the previous part, Sade moved against one of the two major aspects of eighteenth-century moral theory by critiquing the idea of an innate or “natural” moral sense. He does this with an ambidextrous movement: on the one hand he argues that the moral sense that we do experience is implanted by institutions of civil society and so is not natural; on the other hand he argues that insofar as the moral sense is natural it is, in fact, self-regarding and is therefore not moral. And further he argues that such pleasures as virtue does afford are insipid or pusillanimous compared to the sensations offered by vice and so should be abandoned. This double movement looks to leave Sade well-disposed to agree with the second aspect of eighteenth-century moral sense theory, theories which see morality as arising not from the natural state but rather from the conditions of civil society, theories which were thought by Hume to be “unnatural” or “artificial” in the very specific sense that they did not belong to man in the state of nature, and which saw morality as growing precisely from the fundamental (and arguably immoral) human instinct of selfishness or self-love. That is, in his critique of theories of moral sense Sade invoked the premises on which the tradition of “modern” natural law was based. This tradition is often taken to have begun with the work of Grotius and Pufendorf, and in the French context includes Barbeyrac and Burlamaqui.1 Hobbes is a key figure to the beginning of the tradition, as are later Mandeville and Helvétius. And so is Rousseau who was both a critic of the tradition, principally in his © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




Second Discourse, and a significant contributor to it in his Du contrat social. But if Sade invoked the central premises of modern natural law theory, he nonetheless distanced himself from its conclusions. This part will trace Sade’s use and response to theories of “artificial” morality and to the natural law tradition. In this chapter, I will reconstruct the key features of natural law theory in the late eighteenth century French context. The chapter will suggest that by this time it may no longer have been possible to gesture towards a single tradition and I will show that by the end of the century the natural law tradition had incorporated within it moral sense theories that had earlier been criticisms of the tradition. This chapter will outline the philosophical context for the part. Chapter 9 will examine Sade as interlocutor with, and critique of, the modern natural law tradition. It will firstly look at the device of the social contract and then at the idea of nature’s single precept. In both cases the key figures are Hobbes and, once again, Rousseau. In showing Sade’s engagement with both of them I will reconstruct his negative or critical relationship to the period’s natural law theory. Finally, in Chapter 10, I will outline Sade’s own highly idiosyncratic positive version of the laws of nature. This chapter will develop into a discussion of Sade’s metaphysics and into a brief discussion of his atheism/theism. Klossowski will be my major interlocutor here. As I show, beyond merely basing his version of natural law on a descriptive science of human nature as had Hobbes, Rousseau, and the major figures of the modern tradition, Sade reintroduced speculative metaphysis/theology in an attempt to reinforce his vision of the ultimate authority of nature. Sade is infamous for his violent pornography and particularly, following Krafft-Ebing’s appropriation of his name, for the idea that sexual pleasure may be gained from inflicting suffering on others (Krafft-Ebing 1947). Sade’s oeuvre does, of course, celebrate Sadism in Krafft-Ebing’s sense but this is just a symptom—and merely one symptom—of his much deeper interests. There is much more at stake in Sade’s work. At its most profound level Sade’s interest, his obsession perhaps, is in the question of the natural: of what is natural, of what nature wants or requires or desires, of what nature says to us and in what voice it speaks, of what our response to nature ought to be, and of what nature’s laws in fact are. Sade’s interest in the “authority of nature” is profound; he is not alone in this. The history of the diverse ways in which the contrast between nature and its opposites has been constructed is vastly complex:



particularly we may note that nature is opposed to the social, but also variously to freedom, art, civilisation, history, nurture, and so on (Daston and Vidal 2004, p. 8). Central to the difficulties of writing wide-scale histories of these contrasts is that of tracing the shifting meanings of the terms involved (p. 3). The discursive strategies in operation whenever the natural/non-natural divisions are invoked are perhaps more easily summarised. For Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal: The trick consists in smuggling certain terms […] back and forth across the boundary that separates the natural and the social. Critics like customs inspectors, return items to their rightful categories, extrading the natural from the social, and especially, the social from the natural. Naturalization in this form assumes the existence of distinct categories of nature and society, of well-drawn boundaries between them, and of a certain asymmetric advantage in dwelling in one territory over another, nature being the land of choice for immigration. Naturalization imparts universality, firmness, even necessity—in short, authority—to the social. (Daston and Vidal 2004, p. 3)

It is particularly in the idea of human nature that “the human and the natural intersect, and it is therefore the flashpoint of endless controversies over whether, why, and when nature’s authority may be hauled into human affairs” (p. 10). This and the preceding part are perhaps best understood as case studies of one moment in this vast “border dispute.” As I have shown, one of Sade’s major arguments against the veracity of the moral sense is that it is a product of culture and education and so is not an authentic artefact of human nature and therefore lacks authority. And Sade often justifies his project as a study of the truth of human nature, or as he often phrases it, the truth of the human heart.2 The early-modern period saw an intensification of the long history of rhetorical appeals to the authority of nature particularly in the “efflorescence of natural law in both European jurisprudence and natural philosophy from the mid-sixteenth through the mid-eighteenth centuries” (Daston and Stolleis 2008, p. 1). Eighteenth-century moral philosophy drew inspiration from and associated itself with both of these aspects. First, what was increasingly at stake for moral philosophy in the period was an attempt to develop “systematic normative theories of conduct on a model not dissimilar to that of theories in modern science”



which sought “universal moral laws or norms of conduct” and so might afford the same systematicity and comprehensibility in the moral realm as promised by natural philosophy (Darwall 2012, p. 988). Second, moral philosophy emerged as a public matter in contrast to the personalised emphasis on teleology that had been the primary concern of ancient and scholastic ethics. This brought moral philosophy closer to jurisprudence where it similarly aspired to “systemicity and formulation of publicly criticisable principles” (Darwall 2012, p. 988). Developments in the eighteenth century were largely determined by thinkers in the seventeenth. Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) is widely regarded as the founder of the modern natural law school (Rosenblatt 1997, p. 90). This sometimes disputed idea owes a great deal to Jean Barbeyrac (1674–1744) who translated into French and commentated on both Grotius and Samuel von Pufendorf (1632–1694), and who attempted to synthesis or harmonise their differences and fashion a single theory of modern natural law (Irwin 2008, pp. 70, 332–33).3 For Barbeyrac “[Francis] Bacon inspired Grotius to set moral theory on a new footing based on natural law.” This project was fundamental too for Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) who was frustrated with the lack of progress made by moral philosophers in contrast to that of natural philosophers. As Irwin summarises Hobbes: In natural philosophy, inquiry proceeds from indisputable and undisputed first principles, and secures agreement at each step. Moral philosophy, by contrast, presents us with unresolved controversy, because inquirers begin from common beliefs and apparently plausible views. […] We should being with clear and indisputable axioms about human nature, and avoid the dialectical [i.e. Aristotelian/scholastic] method that relies on common beliefs. (Irwin 2008, p. 100)

The place of the foundational idea of human nature, the “flashpoint” in controversies over nature’s authority, is significant; Hobbes is famously pessimistic (and reductionist) about human nature which he understands as self-confined, egoist, and hedonist (Irwin 2008, p. 114). Whether or not Hobbes is part of the natural law tradition is a matter of contention. Barbeyrac shares Pufendorf’s “concern to distinguish natural law from Hobbes’s position” which he criticises for treating self-interest as the sole basis of natural law (Irwin 2008, p. 72). This is to say that the positioning of Hobbes as either within the modern natural



law tradition, or as an external critic of the tradition, likely depends on exactly what is meant by the key terms involved. This also applies to Rousseau who is sometimes taken to be a part of the developing tradition and other times taken to be an external critic of it (see Silvestrini 2010). I will not in this book enter into the relatively abstruse debates on whether or not Hobbes or Grotius or Rousseau are within or merely proximate to the modern natural law tradition narrowly understood. And in fact, it may well be that by the late eighteenth century it is no longer useful to speak in the singular of “a modern natural law tradition”; it may be that by this time the tradition had been pluralised and qualified out of existence. There are nonetheless some key and enduring features of theories of “artificial” morality that are worth drawing out as they underpin the discussion of this part. Taken together, Grotius and Hobbes present an account of morality that differs from scholastic accounts in two major ways. First, it separates moral obligation from divine command: broadly, for the Protestant tradition only faith could bridge the gap between God and man (Haakonssen 1998, pp. 1325, 1330). This is not to say that the tradition is atheistic or that God plays no significant part in it. However, Grotius held that natural law would retain its validity “[al]though we should even grant, what without the greatest Wickedness cannot be granted, that there is no God, or that he has no Care for human Affairs” (Grotius in Haakonssen 1998, p. 1328).4 Hobbes held that while divine commands did not create a new type of moral obligation, neither are they superfluous as they work to support the precepts of natural law (Irwin 2008, p. 136). For both the existence of natural right proceeds “from principles internal to a human being”; they are internal not only because we know them by nature, but also because they are appropriate for rational agents with our nature (Irwin 2008, p. 89). In order to demonstrate this, Grotius, Pufendorf, and their followers invoked the idea of a hypothetical state of nature which existed prior to civil society. They argued that “man left this state in order to enter civil society through the means of a social contract, which remained the source of obligations between those who govern and those who are governed” (Rosenblatt 1997, p. 99). I will examine Sade’s response to social contract theories below; the idea of the state of nature is significant for Sade and I reconstruct it some detail.5 The second major separation from scholastic moral theory is found in the natural lawyers’ critique of conceptions of human nature that were not compatible with claims about individual self-interest. For both



Grotius and Hobbes scholastic claims about what was appropriate for rational human nature were vulnerable to scepticism—they tended to presuppose the universality of Christian/European conceptions of God, society, and human nature which were increasingly difficult to substantiate given emerging knowledge of the “new world”—and so the modern development involved a rejection of the scholastic views on the teleological nature of human good insofar as they went beyond the continual pursuit of pleasure (Irwin 2008, pp. 118–19; Haakonssen 1998, p. 1325).6 Rather Grotius and Hobbes defend the traditional content of natural law by reducing law to a system of rules dictated by practical reason and stemming from individual self-interest and utility (Irwin 2008, p. 86; Rosenblatt 1997, p. 90; Haakonssen 1998, pp. 1326–27). This is not to imply that the modern natural law tradition was always Hobbesian in the sense of understanding human nature to be merely self-confined, egoistic, and hedonistic. In fact Grotius had a relatively optimistic view of human nature and held human sociability to be a significant feature of natural human nature. Pufendorf was more pessimistic, holding that human nature was defined primarily by “natural malice” and holding that our sociability stemmed from a rational calculation of self-interest and from the realisation that it is “by a commerce of aid and services, [that] each person can better tend to his own interests” (Pufendorf quoted by Rosenblatt 1997, pp. 91–92). Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui (1694–1748), a significant figure in Genevan politics and political theory and a major influence on Rousseau, held that while the rules of natural law were “whatever reason approves as a sure and concise means of acquiring happiness.” He also held that man was “endowed with an ‘instinct,’ a ‘natural inclination,’ which led him to approve of or condemn certain things as good or bad, ‘independently of all reasoning’” (Burlamaqui quoted by Rosenblatt 1997, pp. 96–97).7 This position then incorporated the moral sense tradition and so was highly consistent with Lévesque de Pouilly’s Théorie des sentiments agréables.8 By the mid-eighteenth century then the natural law tradition often held that we come to know our moral obligations through both our innate moral sense and our rational faculties (Irwin 2008, p. 337). This ecumenicism is reflected in Boucher d’Argis’s Encyclopédie article “Droit de la Nature, ou Droit naturel” which leaned heavily on Burlamaqui. Here natural law means the “rules of justice and equity, which natural reason alone has established among men, or to put it better, which God has engraved in our hearts” (d’Argis 1755, p. 131).9



The means of discerning what is just or unjust, or what is commanded by the natural law, are 1. instinct, or a kind of internal feeling [sentiment] that inclines us toward certain actions or away from them; 2. reason, which verifies our instinct; it develops principles, and deduces consequences from them; 3. the will of God which, when known to man, becomes his supreme rule. Les moyens qui servent à distinguer ce qui est juste ou injuste, ou ce qui est dicté par la loi naturelle, sont 1. l’instinct ou un certain sentiment intérieur qui porte à de certaines actions ou qui en détourne : 2. la raison qui sert à vérifier l’instinct ; elle développe les principes, & en tire les conséquences : 3. la volonté de Dieu, laquelle étant connue à l’homme devient sa réglé suprême. (d’Argis 1755, p. 134)

And accordingly, Rousseau deploys in his oeuvre both “natural” (i.e. known by the moral sense) and “artificial” (known by reason) moralities and sees them as fundamentally compatible. This ecumenicism goes a long way to showing that the division in this book between this and the previous part is historiographical only and is not a genuine historical feature of the period. For d’Argis we know the commands of natural law by our knowledge of the will of God, by instinct or the moral sense, and/or by reason (d’Argis 1755, p. 134). This book does not engage directly with Sade’s critiques of theism largely because Sade shared this aspect of his thought with other figures in his period—d’Holbach is the most significant figure here—and so while being a vital component of his “system” Sade’s atheism is not in itself a particularly interesting aspect of his thought. Suffice it to note that Sade’s critique of theism incorporates a critique of the idea that moral obligations are based on divine command and are knowable through the will of God. (In the context of Sade’s positive theory of the laws of nature I will however briefly address the question of Sade’s (a) theism in Chapter 10.) In the previous part, I dealt with that aspect of Sade’s thought which critiques the idea that natural law/moral obligation can be known by our natural fellow-feeling or by our moral sense. In this part, I will reconstruct Sade’s critique of the idea that the laws of nature are knowable through the use of reason. As I have shown, the hypothesis that human nature is purely self-interested is not a consistent part of the natural law tradition. However, insofar as I have already set out Sade’s critique those aspects of human nature which are not self-interested, what is left, and this is what I will focus on in this part, are moral theories based on pure self-interest.



There is one further particular effect of late-eighteenth century French natural law theory which I want to draw attention to even if a full investigation of it lies well outside the scope of this work: by the end of the century the authority of nature is often invoked not in terms of laws but in terms of voice. A word search of the Encyclopédie yields twenty-seven matches for the phrase “loi de la nature” and eighty-one for the plural “lois.” The majority of these are articles primarily or wholly related to topics in natural philosophy. The phrase “voix de la nature” yields fourteen occurrences, one of which is in Diderot’s article “Droit naturel” (Diderot 1755).10 In the moral/political usage the phrases “voix de la nature” and “loi de la nature” seem largely interchangeable.11 I think it is likely that the idea of nature’s “voice” as opposed to “laws” is influenced by, or indicative of, at least three factors in the period. First, moral sense theories held that morality was grounded in an innate sense and included the conscience and the affects of the heart. Initially, they asserted this against natural law theories which held that morality was ground in natural law, was motivated by pure self-interest, and was discovered by practical reason. But by 1755 and d’Argis’s Encyclopédie article natural law theory had incorporated the critique and with it the idea that there was a sense of fellow feeling that was natural to the human. Insofar as natural law was still held to be established by natural reason it continued to be described in terms of the “law of nature,” but insofar as it was held to have been engraved in our hearts and was made available to us intuitively, it became appropriate to understand it in terms of a “voice of nature” which speaks to us including by our conscience. Second, the decline of mechanistic matter theories in early modern science and the rise of “sensationist empiricism” led to a change in emphasis from nature seen as governed by mechanistic laws which could be discovered by Cartesian mathematical physics and rather saw the rise of vitalist matter theories which tended towards the idea that nature speaks to our sensibility. This is to say, if the tradition of modern natural law begins with Grotius and Hobbes associating moral philosophy with the methods of natural philosophy, by the mid- to late-eighteenth century what was meant by natural philosophy has changed significantly: I have noted in Part II for example that the idealised observer of nature was attentive to particularities in nature’s voice—the phrase “voix de la nature” is a feature of Ménuret de Chambaud’s famous article “Pouls” (Ménuret de Chambaud 1765, p. 239)—and does not proceed by imposing on nature rule-like hypotheses. Third, the metaphor of nature’s



voice more easily accommodates the philosophical particularism which I described in Part II; nature’s “voice” can mediate between the particular and the universal and so speak differently in different situations, where nature’s “laws” are by definition universal in their application and indifferent to the particular. Beyond these brief speculations however, a fuller investigation of the history of this idea lies outside the scope of this book. Suffice it to note that this may give added reason to think that by the late-eighteenth century the single “modern natural law tradition” has been pluralised out of existence. In France by the late eighteenth century, knowledge of natural law theory was widespread. Helena Rosenblatt is referring quite specifically to Geneva when she writes that “in cultivated circles, an acquaintance with the works of Grotius, Pufendorf, Barbeyrac, and Burlamaqui was considered an essential part of every man’s political education” (Rosenblatt 1997, p. 88). This applies too to broader Francophone intellectual cultures and Rosenblatt notes that the Encyclopédie did much to popularise and to spread their theories. And so while it is reasonable to suppose that Sade had a good knowledge of the tradition, none of these four authors featured in the catalogue of Sade’s 1778 library (Lever 1993, pp. 607–711). Of course Rousseau featured heavily in the library which included the Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (the Second Discourse) and Du contrat social (Lever 1993, p. 619). Rousseau was a student of the tradition as I have outlined it; particularly he was a student and critic of Burlamaqui (Douglass 2011). But arguably the figure who most preoccupied Rousseau was Hobbes (Irwin 2008, p. 353). And Sade too had read Hobbes— although there is no evidence that I know of to suggest he read the Leviathan and so I will avoid using that text in what follows. However, we do know that he owned a translation of Hobbes’s De Cive (On The Citizen) which was in his 1778 library.12 I will accordingly focus in the following chapter on Sade as interlocutor with Hobbes and Rousseau.


1. Although we must note that the idea of a “tradition” or “school” needs to be taken very broadly. See Rosenblatt (1997, p. 90). 2. “How do you describe the horrors that we saw? Describe them I must, however: they are aberrances of the human heart I am exposing, and I am bound to unveil its every nook and cranny (Comment vous décrire les



horreurs que nous vîmes ? Il le faut cependant : ce sont les égarements du cœur humain que je développe, et je n’en dois laisser aucun pli de caché)” (Sade 1968, p. 1046; 1998, p. 1129). See also Sade (1966, p. 107; 1968, pp. 143, 1122). 3. While it may be the case that modern natural law theory does not in fact constitute a “sharp break” with the Scholastics this issue need not detain us here (Irwin 2008, pp. 71, 336; see also Haakonssen 1998, p. 1317). 4. See also Rosenblatt (1997, p. 91), Irwin (2008, p. 86). 5. That Sade engages with the idea of the social contract has been noted in the secondary literature. Le Brun first suggests that the conditions in the chateau from One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom can be read as Sade’s response to Rousseau’s On the Social Contract (Le Brun 1990, p. 58). This brief suggestion is developed by Airaksinen who argues that “we find in Sade’s work a parody of social contract theory” (Airaksinen 1995, p. 11; see also pp. 117–39). This idea has a superficial credibility to it: Airaksinen notices that the Sadean heroes are often genuine friends notwithstanding their critiques of friendship (p. 117). And he more-orless notices Sade’s argument that the social contract is not in the interests of the strong (p. 121). But he does not notice that for Sade the social contract is not in the interest of the weak either. Airaksinen reads One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom in its entirely, the episode of the monastery of St-Mary-in-the-Woods from Justine, and the Society of the Friends of Crime from Juliette as the key instances of the parody of the social contract (pp. 122–27). But especially for One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom the reading is strained. Airaksinen understand the victims in the novel to also be parties to the contract (p. 124). That is, he reads the chateau in its entirety as a metaphor for the state, writing that “once we take this parody into account we see how deeply Sade’s philosophy cuts” (p. 125). He then argues that “the Sodality is a less philosophically interesting arrangement than Silling” because “the victims are mere prisoners” and can hardly be called “citizens” (p. 126), and so Airaksinen hardly mentions it or St-Mary-in-the-Woods in his book. However it seems obvious that this can apply too for Silling; there is no more reason to think that the victims are “citizens” in Silling than anywhere in Sade, in which case Airaksinen’s argument becomes empty. Airaksinen misses then the nature of Sade’s actual argument against the social contract seeing the engagement only, and unsuccessfully, as parody. See also FrappierMazur (1996, p. 115). For Sade’s use of the idea of the state of nature and the social contract in the context of the “utopia” of Tamoé in Aline et Valcour, which includes substantial reference to Montesquieu, see Sade (1998, pp. 664–71).



6. This is the case for Hobbes but not necessarily for Grotius who is not clear on this point (Irwin 2008, p. 95). 7. See also Douglass (2011). 8.  See, for example, Lévesque de Pouilly’s incorporation of the “golden rule” into his theory of moral sense (1747, p. 212). 9. See also Diderot (1755). 10. This word search was done using the University of Chicago’s ARTFL project: 11. See, for example, the article “Vertu” which uses the terms “la sainte voix de la nature” and “la sainte loi de la nature” once each (Romilly 2008). 12. The book is: Eléments philosophiques du citoyen, tracté politique or les fondements de la société civile sont découverts, par Thomas Hobbes et traduits en français par un de ses amis, a translation by Samuel Sorbiére. Lever names it as a translation of De Cive. It is worth briefly noting that while Sade mentions Machiavelli by name in his writings, there is no copy of him in this inventory (Lever 1993, p. 628).

References Airaksinen, Timo. 1995. The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. London and New York: Routledge. Chambaud, Ménuret de. 1765. “Pouls.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 13: 205–40. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. d’Argis, Boucher. 1755. “Droit de la Nature, ou Droit naturel.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 5: 131–34. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Darwall, Stephen. 2012. “Norm and Normativity.” In The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy, edited by Knud Haakonssen, 987–1025. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Daston, Lorraine, and Fernando Vidal. 2004. “Introduction: Doing What Comes Naturally.” In The Moral Authority of Nature, edited by Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal, 1–20. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press. Daston, Lorraine, and Michael Stolleis. 2008. “Introduction: Nature, Law and Natural Law in Early Modern Europe.” In Natural Law and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Europe: Jurisprudence, Theology, Moral and Natural Philosophy, edited by Lorraine Daston and Michael Stolleis. Surrey and Burlington: Ashgate.



Diderot, Denis. 1755. “Droit naturel.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 5: 115–16. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Douglass, Robin. 2011. “Rousseau’s Debt to Burlamaqui: The Ideal of Nature and the Nature of Things.” Journal of the History of Ideas 72 (2): 209–30. Frappier-Mazur, Lucienne. 1996 [1991]. Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade. Translated by Gillian C. Gill. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Haakonssen, Knud. 1998. “Divine/Natural Law Theories.” In The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy., Vol. 2, edited by Daniel Garber and Michael Ayers, 1317–57. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Irwin, Terence. 2008. The Development of Ethics: A Historical and Critical Study. Volume 2: From Suarez to Rousseau. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Krafft-Ebing, Richard von. 1947 [1886]. Psychopathia Sexualis: A MedicoForensic Study. New York: Pioneer Publications. Le Brun, Annie. 1990 [1986]. Sade: A Sudden Abyss. Translated by Camille Naish. San Francisco: City Light Books. Lever, Maurice, ed. 1993. “Papiers de famille: Le marquis de Sade et les siens (1761–1815).” Vol. 2, Bibliotheque Sade. Paris: Fayard. Lévesque de Pouilly, Louis-Jean. 1747. Théorie des Sentimens Agréables. Genève: Barrillot & Fils. Romilly, Jean-Edme. 2008 [1765]. “Vertu.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 17: 176–85. David, Le Breton & Durand. Rosenblatt, Helena. 1997. Rousseau and Geneva: From the First Discourse to the Social Contract 1749–1762. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1966 [1799]. “Reflections on the Novel.” In The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings, edited by Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver, 97–116. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1968 [1797]. Juliette. Translated and edited by Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1797]. “Juliette ou les prospérités du vice.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 179–1262. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Silvestrini, Gabriella. 2010. “Rousseau, Pufendorf and the Eighteenth-Century Natural Law Tradition.” History of European Ideas 36 (3): 280–301.


Living It Up in the State of Nature: Sade Contra Hobbes and Rousseau

To begin this chapter, a brief preamble: Rousseau believed to be correct Hobbes’s idea that the best way to ground moral obligation was by understanding human nature. In the preface to his Second Discourse, Rousseau outlines his project in exactly the terms of the modern natural law tradition and invokes the authority of nature: As long as we are ignorant of natural man, it is futile for us to attempt to determine the law he has received or which is best suited to his constitution. All that we can see very clearly regarding this law is that, for it to be law, not only must the will of him who is obliged by it be capable of knowing submission to it, but also, for it to be natural, it must speak directly by the voice of nature. (Rousseau 1987b, p. 35) Tant que nous ne connaîtrons point l’homme naturel, c’est en vain que nous voudrons déterminer la loi qu’il a reçue ou celle qui convient le mieux à sa constitution. Tout ce que nous pouvons voir très clairement au sujet de cette loi, c’est que non seulement pour qu’elle soit loi il faut que la volonté de celui qu’elle oblige puisse s’y soumettre avec connaissance, mais qu’il faut encore pour qu’elle soit naturelle qu’elle parle immédiatement par la voix de la nature.

Against Hobbes, Rousseau held that the evils he saw in the civil state were not present in the state of nature but were a product of the existent conditions of civil society (Irwin 2008, p. 353). For his part Sade agrees with both Hobbes and Rousseau that the question of human nature is © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




paramount although he has radically different ideas as to what true human nature consists in; Sade broadly sides with Hobbes against Rousseau on the question of human nature (although against Hobbes he denies that fear is a sufficient motivation for the individual—or in any event for the libertine—to leave the state of nature and enter civil society), and Sade sides with Rousseau against Hobbes on benefits of the existent civil society.

On the Irrationality of the Social Contract Not far into Sade’s 1791 novel Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu the text’s perennial victim somewhat unwillingly finds herself joined with a group of bandits. Dubois, a woman “celebrated for her beauty as for the verity and number of her villainies,” had through the device of a fire set by her associates (mes complices et mes amis) organised an escape from the jail in which she and Justine were held (Sade 1965, p. 480). The more or less unwilling Justine accompanied her in the escape. As is typical in the Sadean novel, action develops into an extended dialogue: Justine defends virtue and Providence, and the bandits, both Dubois and the aptly named Iron-heart (Cœur-de-fer) defend crime, atheism, and ethical egoism. In her exchange with Iron-heart and Dubois, this is the argument that Sade gives to Justine: How would you have him not perish who, through blind egoism, wants to fight alone against the interests of others? Is society not allowed to never suffer within it he who declare himself against it? And the individual who isolates himself, can he fight against everybody? Can he flatter himself he is happy and tranquil if, in not accepting the social pact, he does not consent to give up a little of his happiness to insure the rest? Society is only maintained by the perpetual exchange of benefits, those are the bonds which cements it; such a one, who instead of benefits offers only crimes, having to be feared, will necessarily be attacked if he is the strongest, sacrificed by the first he offends if he is the weakest; but destroyed at any rate by the powerful reason which engages man to assure his peace and to strike out at those who trouble it; that is the reason which makes almost impossible the long endurance of criminal associations: in only sharply opposing the interests of others, all must promptly join together to blunt the point. Even between us [i.e. amongst the group of bandits], Madame, I dare add, how can you flatter yourself into maintaining the concord, when you council to each to listen only to their interest? Would you have something persuasive to object to the one among you who wanted to stab the others, who did so to take for himself his colleagues’ share? (Sade 1965, pp. 492–93)



Comment voulez-vous que ne périsse pas celui qui, par un aveugle égoïsme, voudra lutter seul contre les intérêts des autres ? La société n’estelle pas autorisée à ne jamais souffrir dans son sein celui qui se déclare contre elle ? Et l’individu qui s’isole, peut-il lutter contre tous ? peut-il se flatter d’être heureux et tranquille si, n’acceptant pas le pacte social, il ne consent à céder un peu de son bonheur pour en assurer le reste ? La société ne se soutient que par des échanges perpétuels de bienfaits, voilà les liens qui la cimentent ; tel qui, au lieu de ces bienfaits, n’offrira que des crimes, devant être craint dès lors, sera nécessairement attaqué s’il est le plus fort, sacrifié par le premier qu’il offensera, s’il est le plus faible ; mais détruit de toute manière par la raison puissante qui engage l’homme à assurer son repos et à nuire à ceux qui veulent le troubler ; telle est la raison qui rend presque impossible la durée des associations criminelles : n’opposant que des pointes acérées aux intérêts des autres, tous doivent se réunir promptement pour en émousser l’aiguillon. Même entre nous, Madame, osé-je ajouter, comment vous flatterez-vous de maintenir la concorde, lorsque vous conseillez à chacun de n’écouter que ses seuls intérêts ? Aurez-vous de ce moment quelque chose de juste à objecter à celui de nous qui voudra poignarder les autres, qui le fera, pour réunir à lui seul la part de ses confrères ? (Sade 1995, p. 164)

The passage is a melange of various arguments which were extant in Sade’s philosophical context.1 Specifically, it borrows from both Hobbes and Rousseau. Justine begins with the foundational idea of the individual’s struggle against perishing, an idea that is fundamental for Hobbes, for whom one of the two basic postulates of human nature is that “each man strives to avoid violent death as the supreme evil in nature” (Hobbes 2003, p. 6). As is well known, Hobbes’s system is very heavily reliant on the primary effect of fear. Justine continues in a manner consistent with Hobbes: the political body will fight against anyone in its midst who is hostile to it, the fear of this fate providing the motivation for each to “give up a little of his happiness to insure the rest,” that is, to enter civil society and the social contract. Justine continues that the person who places themselves outside of civil society will be attacked even if he is the strongest, and “laid low by the first he offends if he is the weakest,” that is, destroyed in any event. This is not an obviously Hobbesian point insofar as a prominent feature of his argument is that in the state of nature all are equally weak and therefore vulnerable (though as I show below he is actually somewhat inconsistent on this point) (Hobbes 2003, pp. 25–26). Hobbes accordingly does not dwell on the differences



between the fate of the weak vis-à-vis the strong. The idea owes more to Rousseau for whom, as I show, inequality is a prominent feature of his analysis. Finally, Justine concludes by arguing that surely even within the group of bandits a social contract allows just complaints to be made against one who would become a bandit to the others and so monopolise what has otherwise been shared. The point again echoes Rousseau, for whom “even bandits, who are the enemies of virtue in the large society, worship something like virtue in their lairs,” (Rousseau 1987a, p. 116) and also Diderot, for whom “the submission to the general will is the bond of all societies, without excluding those formed by crime. Alas, virtue is so beautiful that thieves respect its image in the very bottom of their caves!” (Diderot 1755, p. 116). The stage is set for Sade’s own argument; Iron-heart responds: “our criminal fraternities are not by any means sustained by virtue; rather by self-interest, egoism, selfishness”; the band of thieves simply assures greater fortune than an individual working alone (Sade 1965, p. 493; 1995, p. 164). In the first instance, this reads as if Iron-Heart has completely missed the point. For Hobbes (and for Mandeville and Helvétius) morality is based on the premise of individual self-interest, the point of course being that where working as individuals leads to the “war of all against all” in Hobbes’s famous phrasing, it is in the individual’s interest to enter into the social contract; social/moral cooperation is what ensures greater fortune for the individual, hence the rationality of the social contract (Hobbes 2003, p. 6). But there is more going on here than a simple misunderstanding: what Iron-heart is invoking is a notion of temporary shared interest without alienation of individual rights to the general will. What one calls the interest of society is simply the mass of individual interests unified, but it is only by ceding that this private interest can accommodate and align with the general interest; but, what do you want he who has nothing to cede? If he does so, you will agree that he will be all the more in the wrong when he finds himself giving infinitely more than he receives, and in that case the inequality of the transaction must prevent him from concluding it. (Sade 1965, pp. 493–94) Ce qu’on appelle l’intérêt de la société n’est que la masse des intérêts particuliers réunis, mais ce n’est jamais qu’en cédant que cet intérêt particulier peut s’accorder et se lier aux intérêts généraux ; or, que voulez-vous que cède celui qui n’a rien ? S’il le fait, vous m’avouerez qu’il a d’autant plus de tort qu’il se trouve donner alors infiniment plus qu’il ne retire, et dans ce cas l’inégalité du marché doit l’empêcher de le conclure. (Sade 1995, p. 165)



The association of bandits does not form, and is not formed by, a social contract because none of the bandits cede their private interests to the general interest. The idea that those who enter into the social contract give up more than they receive is repeated several times in Sade’s writings from the 1790s and very early 1800s.2 The argument is surprisingly simple; this is Iron-heart’s basic position: I find no fault with the position implicit in the agreement [i.e. the social contract or pacte], but I maintain that two species of individuals cannot and ought not submit to it: those who feel they are the stronger have no need to give up anything in order to be happy, and those who find themselves the weaker also find themselves giving up infinitely more than what is assured them. (Sade 1965, p. 494) Je ne blâme point la position de ce pacte, mais je soutiens que deux espèces d’individus ne durent jamais s’y soumettre : ceux qui, se sentant les plus forts, n’avaient pas besoin de rien céder pour être heureux, et ceux qui, étant les plus faibles, se trouvaient céder infiniment plus qu’on ne leur assurait. (Sade 1995, pp. 165–66)

That is: first, the social contract is not in the interest of the weak; second, it is not in the interest of the strong either. I will take each of these aspects in turn. First, the social contract is not in the interests of the weak. In the pamphlet “Français, encore un effort si vous voulez être républicains,” Sade pens an argument which concentrates on the pernicious nature of property laws for the poor. The poor, who cede their right to the property of the wealthy, themselves gain no protection. They simply forego the opportunity to acquire property. An oath must have an equal effect upon all the individuals who pronounce it; it is impossible that it be able to bind him who has no interest in its maintenance, because it would no longer be a pact amongst free men; it would be the weapon of the strong against the weak, against those who would revolt ceaselessly. (Sade 1965, p. 314) Un serment doit avoir un effet égal sur tous les individus qui le prononcent ; il est impossible qu’il puisse enchaîner celui qui n’a aucun intérêt à son maintien, parce qu’il ne serait plus alors le pacte d’un peuple libre : il serait l’arme du fort sur le faible, contre lequel celui-ci devrait se révolter sans cesse. (Sade 1998a, p. 128)3



It may well be that Sade simply lifted this argument from Rousseau’s Second Discourse. For Rousseau, as society develops and inequalities worsen and are reified, laws are instigated by the powerful who unite to “institute rules of justice and peace to which all will be obliged to conform, which will make special exceptions to no one.” Specifically, property laws “assure everyone of possessing what belongs to him” (Rousseau 1987b, p. 69). At least here Rousseau is a strong critic of the social contract. He finds that civil society is poorly founded for several reasons: it is not the natural consequence of human sociability; being dictated by the interest of the wealthy alone, it does not further the public good; the majority of men agreed to it only because they were tricked into believing it would protect them; and the contract is unjust because it is based on the renunciation of liberty (Rosenblatt 1997, pp. 168–69). For Rousseau this is the end-state of the process of (actual) social development which takes slight natural inequalities and creates, first, classes of the rich and poor, then of the strong and the weak, and finally of the master and the slave (Rousseau 1987b, p. 77). Accordingly, at this point, for neither Sade nor Rousseau is the social contract in the interest of society’s victims. Second, for Sade, the social contract is not in the interests of the strong either. This is from Histoire de Juliette: Nature, in creating the strong and the weak, indicated sufficiently that she intended only her goods to go to the strongest, and that the others would only be able to enjoy themselves in their subjection to despotism and at the caprices of the powerful. She inspires [the strong] to steal from the weak to enrich themselves; and the weak, to steal from the strong to gain equality. (Sade 1968, p. 122; see also p. 117) La nature, en créant des forts et des faibles, indiqua suffisamment qu’elle ne destinait ses biens qu’au plus fort, et que l’autre n’en pourrait jouir qu’en s’assujettissant au despotisme et au caprice du plus puissant. Elle inspire à celui-ci de voler le faible pour s’enrichir ; et au faible, de voler le fort, pour égaliser. (Sade 1998, p. 288)

Note that in this aspect Sade differs from Rousseau’s Second Discourse: for Rousseau the unjust state is formed in the interests of the strong as it allows them to maintain their property against the threat of the impoverished. For Sade not only does civil society prevent the weak from the full exercise of their power, it also prevents the powerful from the full



exercise of their power. And the master libertines know this: “laws? Let us use them for our own purposes, as a shield, never as a brake” (Sade 1968, p. 176). There is probably not much surprising about this aspect of Sade’s argument; I return to it below. It is worth noting that in leaning heavily on the division between the weak and the strong, and in giving neither group reason to enter civil society, Sade is arguably taking advantage of a weakness in Hobbes’s theory. For Hobbes: The cause of men’s fear of each other lies partly in their natural equality, partly in their willingness to hurt each other. Hence we cannot expect security from others or assure it to ourselves. Look at a full-grown man and see how fragile is the structure of his human body (and if it fails, all his force, strength and Wisdom fail with it); see how easy it is for even the weakest individual to kill someone stronger than himself. Whatever confidence you have in your own strength, you simply cannot believe that you have been made superior to others by nature. Those who have equal power against each other, are equal; and those who have the greatest power, the power to kill, in fact have equal power [i.e. all have the same power to kill.] Therefore all men are equal to each other by nature. Our actual inequality has been introduced by civil law. (Hobbes 2003, pp. 25–26)

That is, we enter civil society because in the state of nature we are equal: equally weak and vulnerable, and importantly we are equally scared.4 The obligations generated by Hobbes’s version of natural law are not categorical (e.g. in the Kantian sense) but are conditional and are predicated on the fact of individual self-interest and fear (Irwin 2008, p. 117). As Sade realises, without equality and fear—the Sadean heroes often invoke quasi-Epicurean arguments against the harm of death5—Hobbes’s version of natural law does not oblige. Tellingly Hobbes himself does not seem particularly committed to the idea of fundamental equality. On the very next page, he writes that the “most frequent cause why men want to hurt each other arises when many want the same thing at the same time […] the consequence is that it must go to the stronger. But who is the stronger? Fighting must decide” (Hobbes 2003, p. 27). Later, we realise that for Hobbes equality in the state of nature is perhaps not quite what it first appears, it is not an equal vulnerability to violent death but rather a formal demand of peace: “if then men are equal by nature, we must recognise their equality; if



they are unequal, since they will struggle for power, the pursuit of peace requires that they be regarded as equal” (Hobbes 2003, p. 50, italic in the original). Finally Hobbes comes very close to justifying the right of the sovereign in terms of their strength: “in the natural state of men, sure and irresistible power gives the right of ruling and commanding those who cannot resist; so that the right to do anything whatsoever is an essential and direct attribute of omnipotence” (Hobbes 2003, p. 31, italic in the original). No action on the part of the sovereign is liable to punishment. For as by nature no one can punish him if he does not have enough strength to do it, so by right no one can punish him, if he does not have the strength by right to do it. (Hobbes 2003, p. 81)

Sade calls this the right of the strong. Clearly recognising fundamental human inequality, and paralleling the division between “natural” and “artificial” morality, Rousseau conceive[s] of two kinds of inequality in the human species; one which I call natural or physical, because it is established by nature and consists in differences of age, health, bodily strength, and qualities of mind or soul. The other may be called moral or political inequality, because it depends on a kind of convention and is established, or at least authorised, by the consent of men. (Rousseau 1987b, pp. 37–38) Je conçois dans l’espèce humaine deux sortes d’inégalités ; l’une, que j’appelle naturelle ou physique, parce qu’elle est établie par la nature, et qui consiste dans la différence d’âges, de la santé, des forces du corps et des qualités de l’esprit, ou de l’âme ; l’autre, qu’on peut appeler inégalité morale ou politique, parce qu’elle dépend d’une sorte de convention, et qu’elle est établie, ou du moins autorisée par le consentement des hommes.

Natural inequalities are slight compared to those found in civil society Rousseau (1987b, pp. 58–59; see too p. 81). The exaggeration of natural inequalities and the process of their reification is for Rousseau the emergence of the actual bodies politic. While in the poorly-founded state might imply right, in the well-founded state it does not (Rousseau 1987, p. 144). For Rousseau, rather than being equal in the state of nature, equality is “artificial” and is arrived at by virtue of each individual’s complete alienation of their natural rights (including the right



of the strong) to a well-founded political community of the sort which Rousseau outlines in his Du contrat social: “however unequal in force or intelligence they may be, men all become equal by convention and by right” (Rousseau 1987, p. 153). Returning then to Sade’s bandits: what then is the status of the group if the individuals are not bound by rules of justice or a social contract? Interestingly enough, the clearest articulation of the status of their group is provided, not by Sade, but by Rousseau in his description of the social groups in an emerging civil society: Taught by experience that love of well-being is the sole motive of human actions, [man] found himself in a position to distinguish the rare occasions when common interest should make him count on the assistance of his fellow man, and those even rarer occasions when competition ought to make him distrust them. In the first case, he united with them in a herd, or at most in some sort of free association, that obligated no one and lasted only as long as passing need formed it. In the second case everyone sought to obtain his own advantage, either by overt force, if he believed he could, or by cleverness and cunning, if he felt himself to be the weaker. (Rousseau 1987b, pp. 61–62) Instruit par l’expérience que l’amour du bien-être est le seul mobile des actions humaines, il se trouva en état de distinguer les occasions rares où l’intérêt commun devait le faire compter sur l’assistance de ses semblables, et celles plus rares encore où la concurrence devait le faire défier d’eux. Dans le premier cas il s’unissait avec eux en troupeau, ou tout au plus par quelque sorte d’association libre qui n’obligeait personne, et qui ne durait qu’autant que le besoin passager qui l’avait formée. Dans le second chacun cherchait à prendre ses avantages, soit à force ouverte s’il croyait le pouvoir, soit par adresse et subtilité s’il se sentait le plus faible.6

And so Iron-heart prefers the state of nature and the state of perpetual war: “restored to the state of nature, mankind, I affirm, would be happier than it can possibly be under the absurd yoke of law” (Sade 1968, p. 731). The previously existing state of warfare must appear infinitely preferable [to civil society], since it left to each one the free exercise of their strength and industry which he found himself deprived of by society’s unjust pact, taking away too much from one and never according enough to the other; therefore, the truly wise person is he who, at risk of returning to the state of war which reigned before the pact, unleashes himself irrevocably against



the pact, violates it as much and as often as he is able, certain that what he will gain from those ruptures will always be superior to what he will lose, if he finds himself to be the weaker; for he was in a position of weakness as long as the pact was respected: he may become the stronger in breaking it; and if the laws return him to the class which he wanted to leave, the worst outcome is that he will lose his life, which is a misfortune infinitely less great than that of existing in disgrace and wretchedness. There are then two positions for us; either crime which renders us happy, or the noose, which prevents us from being unhappy. I ask you to weigh it up, lovely Thérèse [i.e. Justine], and where will your mind find an argument able to combat that one? (Sade 1965, pp. 494–95) L’état de guerre, qui existait avant, devait se trouver infiniment préférable, puisqu’il laissait à chacun le libre exercice de ses forces et de son industrie dont il se trouvait privé par le pacte injuste d’une société, enlevant toujours trop à l’un et n’accordant jamais assez à l’autre ; donc l’être vraiment sage est celui qui, au hasard de reprendre l’état de guerre qui régnait avant le pacte, se déchaîne irrévocablement contre ce pacte, le viole autant qu’il le peut, certain que ce qu’il retirera de ces lésions sera toujours supérieur à ce qu’il pourra perdre, s’il se trouve le plus faible ; car il l’était de même en respectant le pacte : il peut devenir le plus fort en le violant ; et si les lois le ramènent à la classe dont il a voulu sortir, le pis aller est qu’il perde la vie, ce qui est un malheur infiniment moins grand que celui d’exister dans l’opprobre et dans la misère. Voilà donc deux positions pour nous ; ou le crime qui nous rend heureux, ou l’échafaud qui nous empêche d’être malheureux. Je le demande, y a-t-il à balancer, belle Thérèse, et votre esprit trouvera-t-il un raisonnement qui puisse combattre celui-là ? (Sade 1995, pp. 165–66)7

Nature’s Single Precept; The “Golden Rule” The major features of Hobbes’s state of nature are very well known. Nature has given each man a right to all things. That is, in the pure natural state, or before men bound themselves by any agreement with each other, every man was permitted to do anything to anybody, and to possess, use and enjoy whatever he wanted and could get. (Hobbes 2003, p. 28; see also 10)

What follows from this is that “nothing one does in a purely natural state is a wrong against anyone, at least against any man” (Hobbes 2003, p. 28). This is the famous “the war of all against all” (Hobbes 2003, pp. 12, 29). Sade takes up this idea and uses it to form part of his multifaceted response to the question of morality. “Nature,” Sade writes,



“prohibits nothing; but laws are dreamt up by men, and these petty regulations pretend to impose certain restraints on people” (Sade 1968, p. 51; see also p. 118). That is, given that he holds that the social contract is not of benefit to the individual, Sade advocates that they remain in the state of nature and so retain their right to all things. For Hobbes, the conditions of the state of nature leave the individual in constant fear. In conjunction with practical reason this creates a reliable rational response which is the foundation of his version of natural law: “all men, by necessity of their nature, want to get out of that miserable and hateful state, as soon as they recognise its misery” (Hobbes 2003, p. 12). Anyone who believes that one should remain in that state […] is contradicting himself; for by natural necessity every man seeks his own good, but no one believes that the war of all against all which naturally belongs to such a state, is good for him. (Hobbes 2003, p. 30)

What follows from this are the natural laws which for Hobbes are the dictates of reason (pp. 12, 32–33, 53). The laws are “immutable and eternal” and “all authors agree that the natural law is the same as the moral law” (pp. 54–55). As they are formulated in De Cive there are twenty natural laws all of which are derived from “one dictate of reason, that presses on us our own preservation and security […] Do not do to another what you would not have done to you” (p. 53, italic in the original). Unsurprisingly, Sade and Hobbes are in very great disagreement that this is the fundamental law of nature; they also disagree on how to determine the laws of nature. Hobbes applies a geometrical method which he associates with the success of natural philosophy (pp. 4–5). His foundational axioms of human nature are, first, human greed or self-interest and, second, individual striving to avoid violent death (p. 6). Sade, writing over a hundred years later, is supported by very different philosophical foundations; as I have noted, natural law in the midto late-eighteenth century in associating itself with natural philosophy engages with a fundamentally different project to the one with which Hobbes is engaging. Sade’s understanding of nature is consistent with his particular version of the period’s “sensationist empiricism” and is not reached by geometrical reasoning.8 Again it is Rousseau who is the key to understanding Sade.



Rousseau adapts and adopts many of the core tenets of the modern natural law tradition and for Helena Rosenblatt his critical engagement with it “should not be taken as a [wholesale] rejection of natural law itself” (Rosenblatt 1997, p. 176). But Rousseau is a critic of the tradition (pp. 88–177). Epistemological concerns are not however a part of Rosenblatt’s analysis and she does not consider that Hobbes and Rousseau operate with very different philosophical anthropologies. This means that their respective ideas of man in the state of nature are also quite different. It is this that is behind the fact that “Rousseau took pains to show that a moral natural law was not, [as Hobbes had held,] reducible to the rational calculation of self-interest” (p. 177). Rousseau’s most direct engagement with the natural law tradition is found in the Second Discourse. The engagement begins with him noting that the tradition of natural law has failed to reach a consensus: “each one defining this law in his own fashion, they all establish it on such metaphysical principles that even amongst us there are few people in a position to grasp these principles, far from being able to find them by ourselves” (Rousseau 1987b, p. 35). Rousseau continues arguing that there is agreement only on the fact “that it is impossible to understand the law of nature and consequently to obey it without being a great reasoner and a profound metaphysician” (Rousseau 1987b, p. 35).9 Writers begin by seeking the rules on which, for the common utility, it would be appropriate for men to agree amongst themselves; and they give the name natural law to the collection of these rules, with no other proof than the good which presumably would result from their universal observance. […] But as long as we are ignorant of natural man, it is futile for us to attempt to determine the law he has received or which is best suited to his constitution. All that we can see very clearly regarding this law is that, for it to be law, not only must the will of him who is obliged by it be capable of knowing submission to it, but also, for it to be natural, it must speak directly by the voice of nature. (Rousseau 1987b, p. 35) On commence par rechercher les règles dont, pour l’utilité commune, il serait à propos que les hommes convinssent entre eux ; et puis on donne le nom de loi naturelle à la collection de ces règles, sans autre preuve que le bien qu’on trouve qui résulterait de leur pratique universelle. […] Mais tant que nous ne connaîtrons point l’homme naturel, c’est en vain que nous voudrons déterminer la loi qu’il a reçue ou celle qui convient le mieux à sa constitution. Tout ce que nous pouvons voir très clairement au



sujet de cette loi, c’est que non seulement pour qu’elle soit loi il faut que la volonté de celui qu’elle oblige puisse s’y soumettre avec connaissance, mais qu’il faut encore pour qu’elle soit naturelle qu’elle parle immédiatement par la voix de la nature.

The idea here of the “voice of nature” ought to be read in the context of a period which understood the knowing body in terms of sensibility. Particularly here for Rousseau, natural sensibility includes the moral sense. That is, in order to partially distance himself from Hobbes and the natural law tradition, Rousseau is drawing on the tradition of moral sense theory which I discuss in the preceding part. And so Rousseau holds that there are not one but two principles which exist prior to reason, one, the basic Hobbesian precept, which makes us interested in our well-being and self-preservation, “and the other [which] inspires in us a natural repugnance to seeing any sentient being, especially our fellow man, perish or suffer” (Rousseau 1987b, p. 35; see also p. 53). This is the innate and pre-rational moral sense. Hence for Rousseau—as for Hobbes although for very different reasons—in the state of nature there is no good or evil, there are no vices or virtues: Unless, if we take these words in a physical sense, we call those qualities that can harm an individual’s preservation “vices” in him and those that contribute to it “virtues.” In that case it would be necessary to call the one who least resists the simple impulses of nature the most virtuous. (Rousseau 1987b, p. 52, italics added) À moins que, prenant ces mots dans un sens physique, on n’appelle vices dans l’individu les qualités qui peuvent nuire à sa propre conservation, et vertus celles qui peuvent y contribuer ; auquel cas, il faudrait appeler le plus vertueux celui qui résisterait le moins aux simples impulsions de la nature.

The “impulses of nature” do not have the same meaning for Rousseau as they do for Hobbes. For Hobbes, the two fundamental natural impulses are those of human greed and the postulate of natural reason by which “each man strives to avoid violent death” (Hobbes 2003, p. 6). For Rousseau they are of self-preservation and empathy (Rousseau 1987b, p. 35). And accordingly for Rousseau there is nothing “so gentle as man in his primitive state” (Rousseau 1987b, p. 64).



For Rousseau empathy enters prior to reason and at the same level that fear does for Hobbes. Note that for Rousseau moral sense gives a morality which is external or prior to the social contract: this is a key element in Rousseau’s argument in the Second Discourse that natural man is essentially uncorrupted and that rather than preserving him from the war of all against all, the emergence of civil society corrupts him. It is not then that Rousseau denies Hobbes’s primary dictate of reason as much as its primacy. Instead of the sublime maxim of reasoned justice, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, pity inspires all men with another maxim of natural goodness, must less perfect but perhaps more useful than the proceeding one: Do what is good for you with as little harm as possible to others. In a word, it is in this natural sentiment, rather than in subtle arguments, that one must search for the cause of the repugnance at doing evil that every man would experience, even independently of the maxims of education. (Rousseau 1987, p. 55, italics in the original) C’est elle [la pitié] qui, au lieu de cette maxime sublime de justice raisonnée : Fais à autrui comme tu veux qu’on te fasse, inspire à tous les hommes cette autre maxime de bonté naturelle bien moins parfaite, mais plus utile peut-être que la précédente : Fais ton bien avec le moindre mal d’autrui qu’il est possible. C’est, en un mot, dans ce sentiment naturel, plutôt que dans des arguments subtils, qu’il faut chercher la cause de la répugnance que tout homme éprouverait à mal faire, même indépendamment des maximes de l’éducation.

Rousseau’s response to Hobbes paves the way for Sade’s version of natural man and the voice of nature.10 Rousseau uses much of the Second Discourse to develop his own version of natural man. Untormented by fear, self-interested but also possessing natural empathy, natural man lives an idyllic existence. (Though it must be noted that his existence is far from peaceful; Rousseau celebrates this state as “Spartan,” savage man is accustomed to its rigours including, for example, being accustomed to fighting wolves and bears [Rousseau 1987b, pp. 40–41].) Natural man is profoundly independent; this is a very important feature of Rousseau’s text.11 In Rousseau’s imagination life in the state of nature is not nasty, brutish, or short. This original utopia, however, does not last. Natural differences cause natural man to learn and develop. Men begin to join together in the spontaneous communities, natural man becomes a social man, and inequality grows.



Emerging society creates “the most horrible state of war” (Rousseau 1987b, p. 68). This is not, however, the war of all against all, but that of banditry, that of the have-nots against the wealthy and powerful. As I have noted this state leads the powerful to unite and form rules of justice to protect themselves (Rousseau 1987b, p. 69). For Rousseau, this poorly-founded civil society is effectively a new state of nature: Here everything is returned solely to the law of the strongest, and consequently to a new state of nature different from the one with which we began, in that the one was the state of nature in its purity, and this one is the fruit of an excess of corruption. (Rousseau 1987b, p. 79) C’est ici que tout se ramène à la seule loi du plus fort et par conséquent à un nouvel état de nature différent de celui par lequel nous avons commencé, en ce que l’un était l’état de nature dans sa pureté, et que ce dernier est le fruit d’un excès de corruption.

Rousseau, first rails against this condition, and second, seeks to remedy it. He famously holds that once civil society has ruined man’s natural virtue, there is no return (Rousseau 1987b, pp. 94–95n). The ground is set for this version of the well-founded social contract, a project which allows man, if not to return to his original “natural” freedom, to at least create a new “artificial” version of freedom within a well-formed civil society. As I have shown, for his part the unjustness of civil society leads Sade to advocate staying in, and/or returning to, the state of nature. Sade, of course, denies empathy as an innate or natural sense: he holds, for example, that “charity […] is unknown to the man who lives in the state of nature” (Sade 1965, p. 660; see also pp. 283–84). Sade’s response to theories of moral sense is apropos here. Nor does Sade indulge Hobbesian fear. For both Rousseau and Hobbes nature provided two axioms and for both of them it is the second—empathy and fear, respectively—which drives moral behaviour; for Sade there is only one axiom: self-interest. This is Noirceuil: The first law [of nature] which I find written in the bottom of my soul, is not to love, even less to aid these purported brothers, but make them serve your passions. Following this, if money, if enjoyment, if the lives of those purported brothers are useful to my wellbeing or my existence, I will grab for myself all that by force, if I am the stronger, by ruse if I am the weaker. (Sade 1968, p. 179)



La première loi, d’ailleurs, que je trouve écrite au fond de mon âme, n’est pas d’aimer, encore moins de soulager ces prétendus frères, mais de les faire servir à mes passions. D’après cela, si l’argent, si la jouissance, si la vie de ces prétendus frères est utile à mon bien-être ou à mon existence, je m’emparerai de tout cela à main armée, si je suis le plus fort, par ruse si je suis le plus faible. (Sade 1998, p. 337)

For Hobbes and Rousseau natural law underwrites the social contract and although their versions of it are importantly different, both of them find their version of the “golden rule” in it. Sade’s response is direct. This is Delbène from Histoire de Juliette: I go so far as to reject utterly this obligation, just as childish as it is absurd, which enjoins us not to do to others that which we would not have done to us. It is precisely the contrary that nature recommends, since nature’s single precept is to take delight, no matter at whose expense. Without doubt, it may follow from this maxim that our pleasures disturb the felicity of others: will our pleasures be less keen for that? This so-called law of nature, with which fools wish to oblige us, is thus just as illusory as man’s, and we are well able, in trampling on them all, to be intimately persuaded that there is no wrong in anything. (Sade 1968, p. 52) Je vais jusqu’à repousser sévèrement cette obligation aussi enfantine qu’absurde, qui nous enjoint de ne pas faire aux autres ce que nous ne voudrions pas qu’il nous fût fait. C’est précisément tout le contraire que la nature nous conseille, puisque son seul précepte est de nous délecter, n’importe aux dépens de qui. Sans doute, il peut arriver, d’après ces maximes, que nos plaisirs troubleront la félicité des autres : en seront-ils moins vifs pour cela ? Cette prétendue loi de la nature, à laquelle les sots veulent nous astreindre, est donc aussi chimérique que celles des hommes, et nous savons, en foulant aux pieds les unes et les autres, nous persuader intimement qu’il n’est de mal à rien. (Sade 1998, p. 225, italic in the original)

For Sade then, building on the single principle of nature, what follows is the absolute right of the strong. Simply, for Sade, “nature wants the strong to rule” (Sade 1968, p. 509; see also Sade 1998a, p. 264); “To be despotic is the primary desire inspired in us by nature whose law could not be more unlike the ludicrous one usually ascribed to her” (Sade 1968, pp. 316–17; see also pp. 605–6).




1.  The ideas about the social contract or pact were freely circulating in France of the mid- to late-eighteenth century, including in: Diderot (1992 [1751], 1992 [1755]), Helvétius (1809 [1758], pp. 213–15), d’Holbach (1820 [1776], Vol 1: 89–90), La Mettrie (1750, p. 148). 2. Including from Juliette arguments by Noirceuil (Sade 1968, pp. 141, 143; 1998, pp. 304–5, 306–7); By Chigi (Sade 1968, p. 730; 1998, pp. 835– 36); and from La philosophie dans le boudoir by Dolmancé (Sade 1965, pp. 287–88; 1998b, pp. 101–2). See also from Justine (Sade 1965, p. 645; 1995, pp. 301–2); and from Aline et Valcour (Sade 1998a, pp. 577–78). 3.  This argument is more or less repeated in Justine (Sade 1965, pp. 481–82). 4. Fear is critical for Hobbes: “one must therefore lay it down that the origin of human large and lasting societies lay not in mutual human benevolence but in men’s mutual fear” (Hobbes 2003, p. 24). 5.  For example Sade (1968, pp. 181, 316–17, 637–38, 769–70, 1014, 1038; 1998, pp. 339, 458; 1965, pp. 494–95). Note Sade shares this idea with La Mettrie (1996, pp. 104–6, 108). 6. This leads Rousseau to discuss the problem of the stag hunt about which much has been written. 7. See also Sade (1968, pp. 115–20). Sade recycles a position which has been a part of the philosophical tradition since it was made explicit by Plato in the opening of the Republic: “One hears that virtue is useful to others, and that in this sense it is good; for if it is posited that I must do only what is good to others, in my turn I will receive only good. And this argument is pure sophistry: in return for the small amount of good I receive at the hands of others thanks to the virtue they practice, my obligation to practice virtue in my turn causes me to make a million sacrifices for which I am in no wise compensated. Receiving less than I give, I hence conclude a very disadvantageous bargain, I experience much more ill from the privations I endure in order to be virtuous, than I experience good from those who do it to me; the arrangement being not at all equitable, I therefore must not submit to it” (Sade 1965, p. 545). 8. “Sensationist empiricism” is Jessica Riskin’s term (2002). 9. Note the continuity here with the La Profession de foi du vicaire savoyard which celebrates the simple understanding of the heart over the profound reasoning of the metaphysician. 10. See Sade (1968, pp. 1116–17, 1119–20; 1998, pp. 1192–93, 1195–96). 11. “It is clear, from the little care taken by nature to bring men together through mutual needs and to facilitate their use of speech, how little she



prepared them for becoming habituated to the ways of society, and how little she contributed to all that men have done to establish the bonds of society. In fact, it is impossible to imagine why, in that primitive state, one man would have a greater need for another man than a monkey or a wolf has for another of its respective species; or, assuming need, what motive could induce the other man to satisfy it, or even, in the latter instance, how they could be in mutual agreement regarding the conditions” (Rousseau 1987b, pp. 51–52). “On voit du moins, au peu de soin qu’a pris la nature de rapprocher les hommes par des besoins mutuels, et de leur faciliter l’usage de la parole, combien elle a peu préparé leur sociabilité, et combien elle a peu mis du sien dans tout ce qu’ils ont fait, pour en établir les liens. En effet, il est impossible d’imaginer pourquoi, dans cet état primitif, un homme aurait plutôt besoin d’un autre homme qu’un singe ou un loup de son semblable, ni, ce besoin supposé, quel motif pourrait engager l’autre à y pourvoir, ni même, en ce dernier cas, comment ils pourraient convenir entre eux des conditions.”

References d’Holbach, Paul Henri Thiry. 1820 [1776]. La Morale Universelle, Ou Les Devoirs De l’Homme Fondés sur sa Nature. Paris: Masson et fils. Diderot, Denis. 1755. “Droit naturel.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, 5: 115–16. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton & Durand. Diderot, Denis. 1992 [1751]. “Authorité Politique.” In Political Writings, edited by John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler, 6–11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Diderot, Denis. 1992 [1755]. “Droit Naturel.” In Political Writings, edited by John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler, 17–21. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Helvétius, Claude A. 1809 [1758]. De L’Esprit: Or Essays on the Mind and Its Several Faculties. London: R. M. Richardson (Original edition, This is a facsimile edition of the 1809 English translation). Hobbes, Thomas. 2003 [1642]. On the Citizen. Translated by Richard Tuck and Michael Silverthorne, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Irwin, Terence. 2008. The Development of Ethics: A Historical and Critical Study. Volume 2: From Suarez to Rousseau. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1750. “Preliminary Discourse.” In Machine Man and Other Writings, edited by Ann Thomson, 145–73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1996 [1750]. “The System of Epicurus.” In Machine Man and Other Writings, edited by Ann Thomson, 89–116. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Riskin, Jessica. 2002. Science in the Age of Sensibility: The Sentimental Empiricists of the French Enlightenment. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Rosenblatt, Helena. 1997. Rousseau and Geneva: From the First Discourse to the Social Contract 1749–1762. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987 [1755a]. “Discourse on Political Economy.” In The Basic Political Writings, edited by Donald A. Cress, 111–40. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987 [1755b]. “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.” In The Basic Political Writings, edited by Donald A. Cress, 25–110. Indianapolis & Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987 [1762]. “On the Social Contract.” In The Basic Political Writings, edited by Donald A. Cress, 141–227. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1791]. “Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 449–743. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1795]. “Philosophy in the Bedroom.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 184–367. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1968 [1797]. Juliette. Translated and Edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1995. “Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu.” In Sade Oeuvres: Volume II, edited by Michel Delon, 120–390. Paris: Editions Gallimard. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795a]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795b]. “La Philosophie dans le boudoir, ou Les Instituteurs immoraux.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 1–178. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1797]. “Juliette ou les prospérités du vice.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 179–1262. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.


Sadean Natural Law in Histoire de Juliette

In Part III, and to this point in this part, I have outlined Sade’s critiques of theories of “natural” and “artificial” morality. I have done this with the overarching idea that in order that the philosophical/moral aspect of the Sadean oeuvre authorise the literary/pornographic aspect Sade needed to critique both strands of moral theory as they were found in his philosophical context. Insofar as this idea is correct, it locates a significant portion of the positive content of the Sadean oeuvre—the “argument” perhaps—in the literary/pornographic aspect: I discuss this directly in the coda to Part III. And I think this is mostly correct: the primary mode which Sade deploys to press his “system” or programme onto his reader is literary/aesthetical. It is however wrong to say that there are no positive normative philosophical aspects to the Sadean oeuvre. There are; and they are found in Sade’s own highly idiosyncratic version of natural law. I show in the previous chapter that Sade then holds that there is one basic precept of natural law—“take delight, no matter at whose expense”—and that this is essentially generated by Hobbesian egoist hedonism in the absence of the fear that motivates man in the state of nature to enter civil society. But there is more to the positive aspect of Sade’s philosophical project than this one precept and this will be the focus of this chapter. This chapter will concentrate on Histoire de Juliette, Sade’s chef d’oeuvre. This is Sade’s longest extant work (Sade scholars will remain eternally grateful to his son for burning the immense Les Journées de Florbelle1). In philosophical terms, and in terms of its narrative structure, it is Sade’s most sophisticated work. © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




In it there are three distinct moments at which Sade articulates his full theory of natural law: these are speeches by Delbène, Juliette’s first mentor; Noirceuil, one of the novel’s most significant and enduring characters; and Braschi, Sade’s fictive adaptation of the historical Pope Pius VI. These are not the only characters who explicate the authority of nature, but they are the most significant and taken together are representative of a theory of natural law which evolves as Juliette progresses in her libertine self-cultivation. Accordingly, these three moments are developments of each other. This chapter will focus on each in turn. Delbène is Juliette’s first tutor; a nun in Juliette and Justine’s monastery, she identifies Juliette’s precocious sensibility, introduces her to the pleasures of the flesh, takes her virginity, and begins her philosophical education. Following a speech that establishes atheism and materialism including providing a materialist doctrine of the soul, Delbène explains nature’s single precept. Her speech is largely negative in its content arguing that “nature prohibits nothing” (Sade 1968, pp. 51–52; see also p. 99; 1998, p. 225; see also p. 269).2 “The fashions of vice and virtue are nothing; the words have no real signification, they are arbitrary and express only purely local ideas” (G 89; P 259). I have covered above these aspects of the Sadean “system.” In the egoist hedonist formulation of the single dictate of nature Sade is an advocate of the passionate life; what is positively implied by his single precept is that we ought to follow the dictates of our passions no matter what they are. This extravagant defence of the passions is drawn by Sade from his philosophical context. When Delbène defends the passions as being “the spark that sets alight the lantern of philosophy” (G 88; P 258–59) she may well be quoting Helvétius whose De l’esprit has been described as the most enthusiastic exultation of the passions in the eighteenth century.3 Helvétius is referred to by name later in the novel: Who doubts, as Helvétius proclaims, that the passions are in the moral domain precisely what motion is in physics? […] Those individuals who are not motivated by strong passions are mediocre beings. Only great passions will ever be able to produce great men; we become stupid when we are no longer passionate, or as soon as we cease to be. (G 731) Qui doute, comme le dit Helvétius, que les passions ne soient dans le moral ce qu’est le mouvement dans le physique ? […] Les individus qui ne sont pas animés de passions fortes ne sont que des êtres médiocres. Il n’y aura jamais que les grandes passions qui pourront enfanter de grands hommes ; on devient stupide dès qu’on n’est plus passionné, ou dès qu’on cesse de l’être. (P 836)



Of course Sade extends the apology for the passions far beyond any point that Helvétius could have countenanced given the restraints provided by his moral philosophy, restraints Sade worked so hard to throw off. For Delbène “it is impossible that something urged by nature could not be legitimate” (G 85; P 256). It does not belong to any man to repress in him what nature put there. Nature has elaborated no laws; her single law is imprinted deep in every man’s heart: it is to satisfy ourselves, to deny our passions nothing, whatever the cost to others. (G 732) Il n’appartient à aucun homme de réprimer ce qui vient de la nature. Or, la nature n’a point fait de lois ; elle n’en imprime qu’une seule au cœur de tous les hommes : c’est de nous satisfaire, de ne rien refuser à nos passions, quelque chose qu’il puisse en coûter aux autres. (P 837)

Nature’s urgings are known to us in their positive aspect by the dictates of the passions. Delbène must acknowledge that, at least in a formal sense, “ ­ happiness is thus proven to depend uniquely upon our individual organisation (il ne dépend donc uniquement que de notre organisation), and so may be as readily encountered in the triumph of virtue as in the abyss of vice” (G 89–90; P 260).4 Or as the same point is presented to Justine: The pleasures of man are determined by the kind of organs he has received from nature; a weak individual’s […] must incline towards moral delights, which are more pungent, for such beings, than those which would only influence a physical being entirely devoid of energy; the opposite is the case for strong souls, who are much more delighted by vigorous shocks […] Such is the only difference between the cruel and the meek; both groups are endowed with sensibility, but each is so in their own manner. (Sade 1965, pp. 661–62) Les jouissances de l’homme sont en raison de la sorte d’organes qu’il a reçus de la nature ; celles de l’individu faible […] doivent porter à des voluptés morales, plus piquantes, pour de tels êtres, que celles qui n’influeraient que sur un physique entièrement dénué d’énergie ; le contraire est l’histoire des âmes fortes, qui [sont] bien mieux délectées des chocs vigoureux […] Telle est l’unique différence des gens cruels aux gens débonnaires ; les uns et les autres sont doués de sensibilité, mais ils le sont chacun à leur manière. (Sade 1995, pp. 316–17)



While Delbène’s understanding of the dictates of nature prohibits nothing and advocates all the passions, she, and Sade, must allow at least the theoretical possibility that the life of virtue may be a happy one for those so constituted. If it is towards virtue that a particular individual is naturally or temperamentally disposed, so be it. But Delbène immediately qualifies this theoretical possibility by complaining about the “meagre rewards” offered by the pleasures of virtue. And she makes the empirical point: Is not the happiest on the earth the one in whom passions have hardened the heart… who has been brought [by passion] to a point where he is only responsive to pleasure? (G 90) Le plus heureux de la terre n’est-il pas celui dans lequel les passions ont endurci le cœur… l’ont amené au point de n’être plus sensible qu’au plaisir ? (P 260)

Sade’s principle of intensity is of course apropos here. And while Delbène does not mention it apropos too is Sade’s idea that altruistic passions are artificial and that only selfish passions are natural. On the one hand differences in temperament or sensibility occur “naturally” and so are in some sense authorised by nature; on the other hand they are the product of social cultivation, are “artificial,” and so are subject to change including by techniques of moral training and self-cultivation. For Delbène the ambiguity remains and when she says, “oh my companions, fuck, you were born to fuck! […] Fucking is the intention of nature, and abstinence from it is crime, (Ô mes compagnes, foutez, vous êtes nées pour foutre ! […] foutre est l’intention de la nature, et [...] l’abstinence en est le crime)” it is not clear what is the scope of the “vous” (G 84; P 255); Delbène is in the company of those with a similar temperament to her and so this understanding of the command of nature may well just apply to her present company and to those who are similarly constituted. Sade, of course, has more to say about the dictates of nature and the novel has another thousand pages or so to run; this is only the beginning of Sade’s positive account of natural law. Juliette’s parents apparently die, she and Justine are forced to leave the monastery, and so Delbène leaves the novel early and alive. Juliette quickly finds herself at home in a brothel where she rapidly gains experience. She soon meets Noirceuil, her next significant philosophical instructor, one of the novel’s most important characters, and someone



to whom Sade gives many of the oeuvre’s most significant philosophical speeches. His major speech on natural law begins by reiterating much of what Delbène and other characters have established. Noirceuil then turns to the issues with which I am presently concerned. This quote is striking: Crime is not then in any sense real; there is not therefore truly any crime, no manner of outraging nature, which is always active… always too far above us for us to be in fear of what we might do. There is no action, however awful, however atrocious, however dreadful that you can imagine, which we should not be prepared to carry out whenever we sense the urge; indeed there is no action such that it would not be wrong to fail to commit it since it is nature which inspires us; for our usage, our religions, our customs, may easily, and indeed even necessarily deceive us, and the voice of nature certainly never deceives us. It is upon a mixture combining strictly equal parts of what we term crime and virtue that her laws are based; it is by destructions that she is reborn; it is by crime that she subsists; it is, in a word, through death that she lives. A totally virtuous universe could not endure for a minute; the wise hand of nature brings to birth order from disorder, and, without disorder, she could achieve nothing: such is the profound equilibrium which now maintains the progress of the stars, which suspends them in the immense realms of space, which periodically moves them. It is only by dint of evil that she manages to do good. (G 171–72) Le crime n’a donc rien de réel ; il n’y a donc véritablement aucun crime, aucune manière d’outrager une nature toujours agissante… toujours trop au-dessus de nous pour nous redouter en quoi que ce puisse être. Il n’est aucune action, telle épouvantable, telle atroce, telle infâme que vous puissiez la supposer, que nous ne puissions commettre indifféremment, toutes les fois que nous nous y sentons portés ; que dis-je ? que nous n’ayons tort de ne pas commettre, puisque c’est la nature qui nous l’inspire ; car nos usages, nos religions, nos coutumes, peuvent facilement, et doivent même nécessairement nous tromper, et la voix de la nature ne nous trompera certainement jamais. C’est par un mélange absolument égal de ce que nous appelons crime et vertu que ses lois se soutiennent ; c’est par des destructions qu’elle renaît ; c’est par des crimes qu’elle subsiste ; c’est, en un mot, par la mort qu’elle vit. Un univers totalement vertueux ne saurait subsister une minute ; la main savante de la nature fait naître l’ordre du désordre, et, sans désordre, elle ne parviendrait à rien : tel est l’équilibre profond qui maintient le cours des astres, qui les suspend dans les plaines immenses de l’espace, qui les fait périodiquement mouvoir. Ce n’est qu’à force de mal qu’elle réussit à faire le bien. (P 331)5



There are several important points in this paragraph which warrant commentary. First, especially for the philosophically trained reader, perhaps the most striking aspect of this quote is the close proximity between a statement that crime “is not in any sense real (le crime n’a donc rien de réel)” and those which hold that “what we term crime and virtue” are both necessary to the operation of nature. This looks like an obvious contradiction. But I think rather it is an equivocation of the key term “crime” and one which is quite pervasive in the Sadean oeuvre; in conjunction with his understanding of “crime” as merely an aspect of positive law and so, given the illegitimacy of the social contract, as unable to generate veridical moral obligation, there is in Sade what we might call a “realist” aspect to the use of the word “crime” which operates as a very close synonym for “destruction” see Roger (1976, p. 82). For example, for Noirceuil, “the crime of destruction, conventionally regarded as the most atrocious of all, is however that which most pleases [nature]” (C’est que le forfait de la destruction, regardé conventionnellement comme le plus atroce, est pourtant celui qui lui plaît le mieux) (G 174–75; P 334).6 Why would [nature] send, allied with these scoundrels, plagues, wars, and famines, if it were not essential that she destroy, and if crime and destruction were not inseparable from her laws? If then it be essential that she destroy, why would he who feels born to destroy resist his penchants? (G 173, italic added). Pourquoi enverrait-elle, près de ces coquins-là, des pestes, des guerres, des famines, s’il n’était pas essentiel qu’elle détruisît, et si le crime et la destruction ne tenaient pas essentiellement à ses lois ? Si donc il est essentiel qu’elle détruise, pourquoi celui qui se sent né pour détruire résisterait-il à ses penchants? (P 332, italic added)

It is this meaning of crime which allows Sade to speak of nature itself as criminal and which in part explains Sade’s particular fondness for volcanos which “belch forth an uninterrupted spew of atrocious crimes (exécrables forfaits)” (G 732; P 838).7 The question of why destruction is necessary to nature takes us to the second prominent aspect of Noirceuil’s speech.8 This idea is supported by Sade’s materialist metaphysics, much of which he inherits from d’Holbach. In d’Holbach’s metaphysics movement is an essential or intrinsic property of matter (d’Holbach 1781, pp. 11–27).9 Molecules



form particular combinations which come together to constitute various determinate beings but, movement being constant, these change to form new combinations (pp. 29–30). The course of nature is then an “eternal circle of mutation, which all that exists is obliged to describe. It is thus that motion generates, preserves for a time, and successively destroys one part of the universe by another; whilst the sum of existences remains eternally the same” (p. 34). Order is given to this constant movement by the taking of a particular perspective and is judged only in terms of a particular end or the continued existence of any given body. In its own terms, the human body is in a state of order when its different parts work together in a manner which conserves that body (p. 53). Disorder too is a relative term for that which alters a particular being. We are not able to suppose that our particular idea of order or disorder has absolute or objective existence in nature (pp. 48–49, 52). The subject occupies but “one place among others” (pp. 61–62). D’Holbach’s conclusion is worthy of Sade: O man! Will you never conceive that you are but an ephemeron? All changes in the universe: nature contains no one constant form, yet you pretend that your species can never disappear; that you will be exempted from the universal law, that dictates all will experience change! Alas! in your actual being are you not submitted to continual alterations? You, who in your folly arrogantly take on the role of King of Nature! You who measure the earth and the heavens! You, who in your vanity imagine that the whole was made because you are intelligent! There requires but a very slight accident, a single atom to be displaced, to make you perish; to degrade you; to ravish from you this intelligence of which you appear so proud. (d’Holbach 1999, p. 65) O Homme! ne concevras-tu jamais que tu n’es qu’un Ephémère ? Tout change dans l’univers ; la nature ne renferme aucunes formes constantes & tu prétendais que ton espèce ne pût point disparaÎtre, & doit être exceptée de la loi générale qui veut que tout s’altère ! hélas ; dans ton être actuel n’es-tu pas soumis à des altérations continuelles ? Toi qui dans ta folie prends arrogamment le titre de Roi de la nature ! Toi qui mesures & la terre & les cieux ! Toi, pour qui ta vanité s’imagine que le tout a été fait, parce que tu es intelligent, il ne faut qu’un léger accident, qu’un atome déplacé, pour te faire périr pour te dégrader, pour te ravir cette intelligence dont tu parais si fier ! (d’Holbach 1781, pp. 74–75) Let us then conclude that man has no reason to believe himself a privileged being in nature, for he is subject to the same vicissitudes as all other



productions. His pretended prerogatives are simply founded on an error. (d’Holbach 1999, p. 66) Concluons donc que l’homme n’a point de raisons pour se croire un être privilégié dans la nature ; il est sujet aux mêmes vicissitudes que toutes ses autres productions. Ses prétendues prérogatives ne sont fondées que sur une erreur. (d’Holbach 1781, p. 76)

Sade uses d’Holbach’s metaphysics to justify destruction. Destruction being one of the original laws of Nature, nothing that destroys could be crime. How could an action which so well serves nature ever outrage her? This destruction of which man boasts is, besides, nothing but an illusion; murder is no destruction; he who commits it only alters forms; if he returns to nature the elements which the hand of this skilful nature instantly uses to reward other beings; now, as creations can only afford delight to him by whom they are produced, the murderer prepares a delight for nature; he furnishes her materials which she employs without delay, and the act idiots have had the folly to blame simply becomes meritorious in the eyes of the universal agent. It is our pride that prompts us to elevate murder into crime. (Sade 1965, pp. 237–38; see also pp. 274–75) La destruction étant une des premières lois de la nature, rien de ce qui détruit ne saurait être un crime. Comment une action qui sert aussi bien la nature pourrait-elle jamais l’outrager ? Cette destruction, dont l’homme se flatte, n’est d’ailleurs qu’une chimère ; le meurtre n’est point une destruction ; celui qui le commet ne fait que varier les formes ; s’il rend à la nature des éléments dont la main de cette nature habile se sert aussitôt pour récompenser d’autres êtres ; or, comme les créations ne peuvent être que des jouissances pour celui qui s’y livre, le meurtrier en prépare donc une à la nature; il lui fournit des matériaux qu’elle emploie sur-le-champ, et l’action que des sots ont eu la folie de blâmer ne devient plus qu’un mérite aux yeux de cette agente universelle. C’est notre orgueil qui s’avise d’ériger le meurtre en crime. (Sade 1998b, p. 54)10

Beyond egoist hedonism and the single precept of nature, for Sade nature authorises destruction, and that why for Sade the state of nature is a state of perpetual strife. This point is significant and worth emphasising. Hobbes’s version of natural law was based only on minimal axioms of human nature and so was separated from scholastic natural law which was grounded in speculative metaphysics/theology. This separation is one of the defining features of the modern natural law tradition. Rousseau accepted this project



but quibbled with Hobbes’s understanding of human nature, redefining the axioms on which Hobbes built his moral theory. Rousseau continued to avoid metaphysics/theology as a foundation for natural law, preferring a science of human nature. Sade disagreed with Rousseau that the moral sense was natural and returned to Hobbes’s understanding of the fundamental axioms of human nature, disagreeing with Hobbes only on the role played by fear. But significantly, Sade also rehabilitates into natural law the foundational role of speculative metaphysics/theology. This is Dolmancé from La philosophie dans le boudoir: Nature, mother of all, never speaks to us except of us; nothing is more egotistic than her voice, and that which we recognize in it most clearly is the immutable and sacred counsel which she gives to take delight, no matter at whose expense. But others, they say to you, may take revenge… all the better, the strongest alone will be right. Very well, there the primitive state of war and perpetual destruction for which nature’s hand created us, and in which alone it is of advantage to her that we exist. (Sade 1965, p. 253) La nature, notre mère à tous, ne nous parle jamais que de nous ; rien n’est égoïste comme sa voix, et ce que nous y reconnaissons de plus clair est l’immuable et saint conseil qu’elle nous donne de nous délecter, n’importe aux dépens de qui. Mais les autres, vous dit-on à cela, peuvent se venger… A la bonne heure, le plus fort seul aura raison. Eh bien, voilà l’état primitif de guerre et de destruction perpétuelles pour lequel sa main nous créa, et dans lequel seul il lui est avantageux que nous soyons. (Sade 1998b, p. 68)

The reason man is happier in the Hobbesian state of nature is because perpetual strife and destruction—the “war of all against all” at the most fundamental level—is in fact the metaphysical state of nature itself. What we see here is a development of Sade’s idea of nature. In the first instance, Sade has an idea of the natural state of man, the state of nature, in which nothing is prohibited and in which the person in the state of nature follows the dictates of their passion and behaves according to their innate sensibility or temperament. In this sense, nature prohibits nothing and the voice of nature speaks to us in the language of the passions. To this point, Sade’s idea of natural man shares with Hobbes and Rousseau a foundation in the science of human nature separated from metaphysical/theological postulates. Important here is Sade’s idea that altruistic passions are artificial and that only selfish passions are natural but it is worth recalling that there is a natural substratum even to trained



sensibility and Justine’s natural predilections towards the pleasures of virtue, to name the most obvious example, remain perfectly obstinate in the face of every invitation to retrain them. At this level, “crime” and “virtue” have purely conventional or “artificial” meanings. But Sade’s more sophisticated version of nature is predicated on what may be called Holbachian transmutational materialism and it is at this level that “crime” has a “realist” meaning which is linked to destruction. In this sense, Sade can argue that nature needs crime, and that nature can in fact be criminal. As I show below, Sade will typically use these aspects of his understanding of nature in order to argue for the moral permissibility of, even obligation to, murder.11 There is a further development of Sade’s understanding of nature, his most sophisticated dealing with the topic, some of which is present in Noirceuil’s speech, but most of which is developed in a long and rambling speech by Braschi. In structural terms, Braschi—Sade’s fictional appropriation of the historical Pope Pius VI—is positioned by Sade at the apex of the novel. This makes sense. There was no higher religious authority in Catholic Europe, or perhaps a more significant figure of wealth and political power, and Sade could not resist the opportunity to “out” the Pope as an atheist, materialist, libertine, and an all-round nasty bastard. The “climax” of Juliette’s grand tour is her visit to St Peter’s Basilica where she is sodomised by the Pope who for good measure rams the consecrated Host up her arse (G 802; P 903). It is to the Pontiff that Sade gives the ultimate formulation of his version of the laws of nature. As the Sadean hyperbole develops, Braschi recapitulates much of what has already been presented to this point in the text: “my existence means everything to me, and those of fifty million people nothing… because the foremost of nature’s laws is that of self-preservation… at the expense of no matter whom,” and so on (G 758; P 862). But what follows is somewhat surprising: Ordinary philosophers have submitted man to nature in order to fit in with received notions: taking rapid leave [of tradition], I will prove to you, whenever you like, that man does not depend at all on nature. (G 765) Les philosophes ordinaires ont soumis l’homme à la nature pour s’accommoder aux idées reçues : prenant un vol plus rapide, je te prouverai, quand tu voudras, qu’il n’en dépend nullement. (P 868)



On the pages which follow Braschi explains what he means. This part of his speech is worth quoting at length: No earthly creature is expressly formed by Nature, none made by to a design by her; all are the result of her laws and her workings, so that, in a world constituted like ours, there had necessarily to be such creatures as we see here; by the same token it is without doubt that very different creatures inhabit another globe, in this crowd of globes which abound in space. But these creatures are neither good, nor beautiful, nor precious, nor created: they are the froth, they are the result of nature’s blind laws, they are like vapours which rise up from the liquid rarefied in a vase by heat, whose action drives out from the water the particles of air the liquid contains. This vapour is not created, it is resultative, it is heterogeneous, it derives its existence from a foreign element and has in itself no intrinsic value. […] The relationships between man and nature, or between nature and man, are therefore nothing; nature cannot bind man by any law; man is not dependent on nature for anything; neither is obliged to the other for anything. They can neither offend nor assist each other. […] With this first casting man received laws directly which he cannot break; these laws are those of his personal conservation… of his multiplication, laws which have to do with him… which depend on him, but which are not at all necessary for nature; because he is no longer attached to nature, he is separate from her. […] If man destroys himself, he does wrong, according to himself. But in the eyes of nature all that changes. If he multiplies he does wrong, for he usurps from nature the honour of a new phenomenon, the result of her laws necessarily being creatures. […] Thus, that which we regard as virtues must be crimes in her eyes. On the other hand, if creatures destroy themselves, they are right as regards nature, because after all they cease using a power they have received, but not one imposed by a law, and require of nature that she develop one of her most beautiful powers, from which she has been prevented by the uselessness she had acquired. (G 766–67) Aucun être, ici-bas, n’est exprès formé par la nature, aucun n’est fait à dessein par elle ; tous sont les résultats de ses lois et de ses opérations, en telle sorte que, dans un monde construit comme le nôtre, il devait nécessairement y avoir des créatures comme celles que nous y voyons ; de même qu’il en est sans doute de très différents dans un autre globe, dans cette fourmilière de globes dont l’espace est rempli. Mais ces créatures ne sont ni bonnes, ni belles, ni précieuses, ni créées : elles sont l’écume, elles sont le résultat des lois aveugles de la nature, elles sont comme les vapeurs qui s’élèvent de la liqueur raréfiée dans un vase par le feu, dont l’action chasse de l’eau les parties d’air que cette eau contient. Elle n’est pas créée, cette



vapeur, elle est résultative, elle est hétérogène, elle tire son existence d’un élément étranger, et n’a par elle-même aucun prix […] Les rapports de l’homme à la nature, ou de la nature à l’homme, sont donc nuls ; la nature ne peut enchaîner l’homme par aucune loi ; l’homme ne dépend en rien de la nature ; ils ne doivent rien l’un à l’autre et ne peuvent ni s’offenser, ni se servir […] Par le premier élancement, l’homme reçoit des lois directes dont il ne peut plus s’écarter ; ces lois sont celles de sa conservation personnelle… de sa multiplication, lois qui tiennent à lui… qui dépendent de lui, mais qui ne sont nullement nécessaires à la nature ; car il ne tient plus à la nature, il en est séparé. […] S’il se détruit, il a tort, toujours d’après lui. Mais aux yeux de la nature, tout cela change. S’il se multiplie, il a tort, car il enlève à la nature l’honneur d’un phénomène nouveau, le résultat de ses lois étant nécessairement des créatures. […] Ainsi, ce que nous regardons comme des vertus devient donc des crimes à ses yeux. Au contraire, si les créatures se détruisent, elles ont raison, eu égard à la nature, car alors elles cessent d’user d’une faculté reçue, mais non pas d’une loi imposée, et remettent la nature dans la nécessité de développer une de ses plus belles facultés, qu’elle tient enchaînée par l’inutilité dont elle devient. (P 870–72)

There are five significant aspects of this which warrant comment. First, nature is presented, at least in some parts of the speech, in terms of Holbachian transmutational materialism, as being unable to act in a deliberate manner, as being bound by the laws of nature. When nature creates it only does so by throwing out “froth” unthinkingly. “Nature too is bound by her laws” (G 768; P 872). Second, with this casting we receive our own systems of laws by which we must abide, that is, like nature we too are determined. For humans, these laws dictate personal self-preservation and so on, they are intrinsic to our nature but nature itself is indifferent to them. Third, there is a repetition of the rather startling idea for the Sadean oeuvre that nature cannot bind or oblige us, that we are separate from it, and are therefore unable to help or harm it. That is, nature has “thrown” us out unthinkingly and what follows is that we are without any obligation that may have been generated by nature’s deliberate creation of us. This idea, it must be noted, runs in direct contradiction to the majority of the Sadean “system” as I have reconstructed it in this study: it implies that “nature” in fact has no more authority than the “conventional” and so it disrupts the “natural/ artificial” binary on which Sade bases so many of his critiques of morality. This has the effect of generating, fourthly, a surprising new dualism within the Sadean “system.” As the speech continues it becomes clear



that this dualism separates “the three kingdoms,” (i.e. animals, vegetables, and minerals) from “nature.” All three kingdoms mechanistically reproduce and destroy themselves […] but these laws are independent from those of nature; she has only acted once on them, she has thrown them; since this was done, then they have acted on their own; they have acted by their laws which are their own, of which the first was a perpetual metempsychosis, a variation, a perpetual mutation among them. (G 769, italics in the original) Ils se reproduisent et se détruisent machinalement tous les trois […] mais ces lois sont indépendantes de celles de la nature ; elle n’a agi qu’une fois sur eux, elle les a lancés ; depuis qu’ils le sont, ils ont agi par eux-mêmes ; ils ont agi par les lois qui leur étaient propres, dont la première était une métempsycose perpétuelle, une variation, une mutation perpétuelle entre eux. (P 873, italics in the original)

This dualism is startling as it runs against d’Holbach’s materialism which does not conceive of nature as transcendent of the mechanistic and transmutational operations of matter, but rather sees nature as being constitutive of those workings. This new dualism supports the idea of a separation between “nature” and “creation,” that is, where previously the Sadean oeuvre had operated in terms of a nature/culture binary, Braschi now proceeds in terms of a man/nature or more profoundly a created/creator binary. Fifth, it is particularly this last binary which Sade develops into the idea of nature as creative potential and man as therefore obliged to destroy. This is Sade’s attempt at establishing “destructiveness” (i.e. criminality in its “realist” meaning) as a normative moral principle. For Braschi when we create, or even preserve, we usurp from nature the honour of creating new phenomena, whereas when we destroy we do well as regards to nature as we return to it the creative potential which rightfully belongs to it. It is worth noting that this aspect of Braschi’s speech has now reinstated the authority of nature and the idea that we can and ought in our actions to please nature. But if these creatures were to cease propagating, or destroy themselves, nature would retrieve its original rights which would no longer be contested, whereas in propagating, or in not destroying, we confine her to her secondary laws and deprive her of her most active power. So, all the laws we have made, whether to encourage population or to punish destruction,



necessarily conflict with all of hers. […] Every time we either stubbornly refuse to undertake the propagation she abhors, or cooperate in the murders which delight her and which serve her, we are sure to please her. (G 768) Mais que si ces créatures ne se propageaient plus, ou se détruisaient, la nature rentrerait alors dans de premiers droits qui ne seraient plus combattus par rien, au lieu qu’en propageant ou en ne détruisant pas, nous la lions à ses lois secondaires, et la privons de sa plus active puissance. Ainsi, toutes les lois que nous avons faites, soit pour encourager la population, soit pour punir la destruction, contrarient nécessairement toutes les siennes […] Chaque fois, ou que nous nous refusons opiniâtrement à cette propagation qu’elle abhorre, ou que nous coopérons à ces meurtres qui la délectent et qui la servent, nous devenons sûrs de lui plaire. (P 872) The greatest villain on earth, the most abominable murderer, the most ferocious, the most barbarous, is only then the instrument of [nature’s] laws… the vehicle of her will, the agent of her caprices. (G 769) Le plus grand scélérat de la terre, le meurtrier le plus abominable, le plus féroce, le plus barbare, n’est donc que l’organe de ses lois… que le mobile de ses volontés, et le plus sûr agent de ses caprices. (P 873)

The idea of nature as creative potential is in fact relatively common across Sade’s oeuvre including being present in Noirceuil’s speech which I analysed above (G 171–72; P 330–31).12 In the Pope’s speech, this idea reaches the heights of Sadean hyperbole: The criminal who could smite down the three kingdoms all at once by annihilating both them and their capacity to reproduce would be he who serves nature best. (G 771) D’où il résulte que le criminel qui pourrait bouleverser les trois règnes à la fois, en anéantissant et eux et leurs facultés productives, serait celui qui aurait le mieux servi la nature. (P 875)

The ultimate crime, the one which would best please nature, is conceived of as nothing short of the total annihilation of the entire created realm. The Pope repeats these ideas for quite a few pages before his speech reaches a conclusion in which he makes two further points of note. First, there is a final more fully developed version of nature’s single precept.



Remember, nature says to us instead, yes, remember that all which you would not have done to you, that is the grave wounds done to your neighbour, from which you take benefit, is precisely that which you must do to be happy; because it is in my laws that you all destroy yourselves mutually; and the true way to succeed in that is to wrong your neighbour. That is why I have placed in you the sharpest proclivity for crime; that is why my intention is to make you happy, at no matter whose expense. (G 780) Souviens-toi, nous dit la nature au lieu de cela, oui, souviens-toi que tout ce que tu ne voudrais pas qui te fût fait, se trouvant des lésions fortes au prochain, dont tu dois retirer du profit, est précisément ce qu’il faut que tu fasses pour être heureux ; car il est dans mes lois que vous vous détruisiez tous mutuellement ; et la vraie façon pour y réussir, est de léser ton prochain. Voilà d’où vient que j’ai placé dans toi le penchant le plus vif au crime ; voilà pourquoi mon intention est que tu te rendes heureux, n’importe aux dépens de qui. (P 884)

Where for the most part for Sade, nature’s single precept is what we might call that of a “fearless Hobbesian,” here the precept has collected added weight from Sade’s metaphysics. The development is subtle but significant: it may perhaps be caricatured as the move from an understanding of nature’s precept as “do whatever you like,” to “do to others—i.e. destroy them—before they do to you.” Following this “metaphysical” version of nature’s precept in which he invoked the full authority of nature, Braschi’s final surprise is to one last time turn against nature. There, Juliette, there the laws of nature; such are the only laws she has ever dictated, the only ones which are precious and dear to her, the only ones we should never infringe. […] And, far from thanking this thoughtless nature for the slender freedom she has given us for accomplishing the desires she inspires by her voice, let us curse her from the bottom of our heart, for so restricting the path she envisages for us; outrage her, destroy her for having left us so few crimes to do, in giving us such violent desires to commit them at all times. O you! so we should say to her, you, blind and weak-minded force of which I find myself the involuntary result, you who hurled me into this world with the desire I should offend you, and who could not however provide me the means, inspire then in my blazing soul, some crimes which would serve you better than these that you have made available to me. I am prepared to carry out your laws, since they require great crimes of me,



and for great crimes I have a passionate thirst; but provide me then difference from those that your debility has given me. When I have exterminated all the creatures that cover the earth, I will be very far from my goal, since I will have served you… mother!… and I only aspire to take revenge on your stupidity, or on the wickedness that you cause men to experience without ever furnishing them the means to carry out the appalling desires you inspire in them! (G 780–82) Les voilà, Juliette, les voilà les lois de la nature ; telles sont les seules qu’elle ait jamais dictées, les seules qui lui soient précieuses et chères, les seules que nous ne devions jamais enfreindre. […] Et, loin de remercier cette nature inconséquente du peu de liberté qu’elle nous donne pour accomplir les penchants inspirés par sa voix, blasphémons-la, du fond de notre cœur, de nous avoir autant rétréci la carrière qui remplit ses vues ; outrageons-la, détruisons-la, pour nous avoir laissé si peu de crimes à faire, en donnant de si violents désirs d’en commettre à tous les instants. Ô toi ! devons-nous lui dire, toi, force aveugle et imbécile dont je me trouve le résultat involontaire, toi qui m’as jeté sur ce globe avec le désir que je t’offensasse, et qui ne peux pourtant, m’en fournir les moyens, inspire donc à mon âme embrasée, quelques crimes qui te servent mieux que ceux que tu lasses à ma disposition. Je veux bien accomplir tes lois, puisqu’elles exigent des forfaits, et que j’ai des forfaits la plus ardente soif : mais fournis-les-moi donc différents de ceux que ta débilité me présente. Quand j’aurai exterminé sur la terre toutes les créatures qui la couvrent, je serai bien loin de mon but, puisque je t’aurai servie… marâtre !… et que je n’aspire qu’à me venger de ta bêtise, ou de la méchanceté que tu fais éprouver aux hommes, en ne leur fournissant jamais les moyens de se livrer aux affreux penchants que tu leur inspires ! (P 885–86)

Beyond being content to be merely independent of nature, it seems the Pope’s ultimate response to nature, and arguably Sade’s last word on the matter, is to curse nature and aspire to vengeance against it. What are we to make of all this? It is tempting to rapidly dismiss all this as philosophical rubbish. Under Sade’s pen, and at the high point of the novel, the speech given to (arguably) the novel’s highest ranking libertine turns out to be a tedious rant, many pages longer than it needs to be, which seems to be utterly confused. This speech is a disordered mixture of descriptions of nature in terms of agency, personhood, and transcendence—as having wishes, as being creative, and so on—and as impersonal, imminent, material, and non-volitional. Which to say it is tempting to agree with



Peter Gay who dismisses Sade and his importance to Enlightenment studies by briskly declaring that he “was not an heir but a caricature of the philosophes” (Gay 1971, p. 285). This dismissive approach is intellectually lazy: I hope by now I have demonstrated that, like it or not, tedious or not, there is in fact a quite high degree of philosophical sophistication in the Sadean oeuvre. More ought to be said. Equally tempting is to respond to the interpretive challenges of these and other passages of the oeuvre by becoming increasingly speculative.13 Particularly in terms of the Pope’s speech, the most interesting and sophisticated speculative interpretation is provided by Pierre Klossowski in his essay “A Destructive Philosophy” (Klossowski 1965). In seeking to understand the Pope’s vision of nature and its laws Klossowski uses an earlier passage of Histoire de Juliette, speeches given by Saint-Fond. Saint-Fond is the dominant libertine of the first half of the novel and in many ways “out-ranks” Noirceuil both in terms of his position as a minister in the government and in terms of his libertine savagery. He is not as philosophically sophisticated as Noirceuil. It is in fear of Saint-Fond that Juliette is forced to flee Paris and embark on her grand tour, the high point of which is her meeting with the Braschi. By the time she returns to Paris in the final sections of the novel and to the company of Noirceuil, Saint-Fond has been usurped and killed. Saint-Fond has the odd custom of leading his victims to a private room and his fellow libertines wonder at what he can be doing there (G 366, 368; P 504–6). Pressed to explain himself he responds: “fierce and long has been my struggle against the shameful yoke of religion, my friends; and I must confess to you today that I am yet its captive insofar as I still have hopes of a life after this” (G 369; P 508). Far from being concerned with his own eternal damnation, however, what troubles Saint-Fond is that his victims will rather triumph over him and that “they will know bliss” in the afterlife. The idea causes him deep despondency as his desire is for his victims to suffer “beyond the unending immensity of ages.” Thus his secret vice: he forces his victim to sign a pact with the devil and so ensure that when they die, they will not enter into heaven (G 369; P 508). Saint-Fond is plain in admitting these beliefs to be “merely one of his failings” (G 369; P 508). And the speech itself is greeted with derision by his libertine associates who chastise him for his philosophical errors (G 370; P 509). What follows from this is a very long speech on the correctness of atheism first by Juliette and then by Clairwil (with d’Holbach’s Théologie portative referenced in the notes



[G 376; P 515]). A detailed account of the speech is outside the scope of this book except to note that the general thrust is the problem of evil (G 385; P 523). “To judge from the notions expounded by theologians, one must conclude that God created most men simply with a view to crowding hell”: it follows that “in the exercise of his eternal vengeance, God’s sole aim is to enjoy himself […] your infamous God, acting more cruelly than any mortal […] shows himself to be infinitely a villain” (G 371; P 510). Either God is evil, or there is a major problem of evil for theology as it is widely understood. And it is the latter which is Clairwil’s conclusion: “for mortal man there is but one hell, and that is the folly and wickedness and spite of his fellows; but once life is over, there’s an end to it: his annihilation is final and entire, of him nothing survives. […] there is no God, he does not exist anymore than the devil, than heaven, than hell” (G 394; P 531). But it is the earlier possibility which Saint-Fond latches onto14: I acknowledge a Supreme Being and more consistently still the immortality of the soul […] There exists a God; some hand or other has necessarily created all that I see, but it has only created it for evil, it is only pleased by evil, evil is its essence, and all that it causes us to commit is indispensable to his plans: what does it matter to him that I suffer from this evil, provided it is necessary to him? […] And so evil is a good for me, as it is for the author of my days relatively to my existence; the evil I do others makes me happy, as God is made happy by the evil he does me. […] Be sure of it: evil, or at least that which we give that name, is absolutely useful to the vicious organization of this sad universe. The God who formed it is a very vindictive being, very barbarous, very wicked, very unjust, very cruel, and that, because vengeance, barbarity, wickedness, iniquity, villainy are the modes necessary for the operation of this vast work, and of which we are only the complainants when we are harmed: to sufferers, crime is a wrong; to its agents, it is a right. […] Man’s soul is merely the action of evil upon a subtle matter, and which is only susceptible of being organised by him. (G 396–97, italics in the original) J’admets un Être suprême, et bien plus constamment encore l’immortalité de nos âmes. […] Il existe un Dieu ; une main quelconque a nécessairement créé tout ce que je vois, mais elle ne l’a créé que pour le mal, elle ne se plaît que dans le mal, le mal est son essence, et tout celui qu’elle nous fait commettre est indispensable à ses plans : que lui importe que je souffre de ce mal, pourvu qu’il lui soit nécessaire ? […] Voilà dès lors le mal un bien pour moi, comme il l’est pour l’auteur de mes jours relativement



à mon existence ; je suis heureux du mal que je fais aux autres, comme Dieu est heureux de celui qu’il me fait […] N’en doutons pas, le mal, ou du moins ce que nous nommons ainsi, est absolument utile à l’organisation vicieuse de ce triste univers. Le Dieu qui l’a formé est un être vindicatif, très barbare, très méchant, très injuste, très cruel, et cela, parce que la vengeance, la barbarie, la méchanceté, l’iniquité, la scélératesse, sont des modes nécessaires aux ressorts de ce vaste ouvrage, et dont nous ne nous plaignons que quand ils nous nuisent : patients, le crime a tort ; agents, il a raison. […] L’âme de l’homme n’est que l’action du mal sur une matière déliée, et qui n’est susceptible d’être organisée que par lui. (G 396–97, italics in the original)

Significantly there is in this speech a slide into materialist language. The speech proceeds for a while in terms of nature and its “maleficent molecules,” before returning to the idea of a “being supreme in wickedness.” No man, […] whatever his conduct in this world, can escape this terrible fate, because it is necessary that everything that emanates from the breast of nature, that is to say, from the breast of evil, return there: such is the law of the universe. (G 398) Aucun homme, comme vous le voyez, quelle que soit sa conduite en ce monde, ne peut échapper à ce sort affreux, parce qu’il faut que tout ce qui est émané du sein de la nature, c’est-à-dire du mal, y entre : telle est la loi de l’univers. (P 535)

This God gives the passions which the virtuous person resists against God’s will; he sends plagues, blights, civil wars, earthquakes, and tempests (G 399, P 536). Saint-Fond’s response is clear: he “abhors God” (G 401, P 538). There are clear reasons for reading Saint-Fond’s speech together with the Pope’s. Saint-Fond himself variously names the supremely wicked thing that he hates as either “God” or “nature.” And insofar as the Pope describes nature as the transcendent creative principle he may as well have used the “G” word. For both Saint-Fond and the Pope God/ nature is worthy of hatred and the context of Saint-Fond’s speech gives a needed coherence to Braschi’s otherwise quite surprising curse of nature/God. And it makes sense of some of the blatant contradictions of Braschi’s speech which does look to be a well-blended mixture of Holbachian transmutational materialism and Saint-Fond’s religion of the Être suprême en méchanceté.



For Klossowski this shows Sade’s atheism for what it is: a version of theism. Klossowski sees Sade’s “destructive theology” as centred on “the religion of a Supreme Being of Wickedness, the only Supreme Being that Saint-Fond, the exemplar of the great libertine and debauched lord, is willing to profess” (Klossowski 1965, p. 62). “The conscience of the debauched libertine agrees to admit God with all his vices” (p. 64). This fits in with the broader reading that Klossowski develops: notwithstanding the libertine’s desire to negate both God and the other (the libertine’s victim), they are inexorably (and dialectically) bound to both (p. 61); for Klossowski there is a pair of dialectical relationships involving both affirmation and negation at work in the Sadean oeuvre, between the libertine and God, and between the libertine and their victim. In both instances of this dialectic Klossowski has uncovered something important in Sade, but in neither case is it quite what he thinks it is. As I have noted, there are important thematic continuities between Saint-Fond’s religion of the “Être suprême en méchanceté” and the Pope’s version of the laws of nature and reading them together does assist in interpretation. I do not however think that when read in its historical context there is sufficient evidence within the Sadean oeuvre to support Klossowski’s complete reading. Rather anachronistically his reading proceeds in broadly psychoanalytic terms including invoking the Freudian “drives” as substitutes for the Sadean “passions” (pp. 72–77). More significantly, Klossowski invokes a philosophical anthropology which presupposes the necessity of the other for the constitution of the self (pp. 74–77). This anthropology allows him to develop at some length the paradox of the libertine’s will to destroy the other which is at the same time a will to self-destruction. This grafts onto Sade’s oeuvre a philosophical anthropology which is foreign to it. I have traced two philosophical anthropologies which Sade shares with his philosophical context. First, the model of a solitary and autonomous “man in the state of nature” for whom the relationship with the other is not natural or necessary but is “artificial” and is only formed when entering civil society. This is a neo-Hobbesian model of the self as an individuated bearer of natural rights and which is the constituent element of social organisation, rights which, depending on how motivated the individual is by fear, they may or may not alienate in order to enter civil society. Second, if Sade were to invoke a theoretical model of the individual’s coming to self-awareness it is highly likely the model he would have associated



himself with would be something like that provided by Condillac’s statue-man (Condillac 1970/1821–1822). For Condillac, the subject/ statue is initially solipsistic and only becomes self-aware with the faculty of touch. Significantly the statue’s awareness of itself as a subject— the end of its solipsism—is constituted vis-à-vis the external world and not vis-à-vis another subject. It is worth noting that these two modes of self-understanding are highly continuous with each other: the end of Condillac’s Traité des sensations is the individuated (statue-)man alone in what is essentially the Hobbesian/Rousseauian state of nature. On neither model is the self intrinsically relational nor is self-understanding predicated on a dialectical relationship with the other as is fundamental to Klossowski’s essay. More specifically, and returning directly to Saint-Fond and the Pope’s speeches and to the question of Sade’s a/theism, it is worth noting that Klossowski takes Saint-Fond to represent archetypally “the exemplar of the great libertine” and this allows him to privilege Saint-Fond’s speech over the Pope’s. However in the novel, Juliette and Clairwil both distance themselves from Saint-Fond’s ideas, declaring his system “the most astonishing, the most unusual, I dare say the most bizarre of all the systems yet to have occurred to the mind of men.” For her part, Clairwil would “rather not believe in God than forge one in order to hate him.” Juliette concurs (G 401; P 538).15 That is, Saint-Fond is a libertine but, as I have noted, not a particularly philosophical one, or a particularly long-lived one, or one on whom Sade lavishes his best novelistic attention. So while there are reasons to read the two speeches together there are also reasons to hold them apart and there are some significant differences between the two which Klossowski glosses over. For the most part, the Pope’s vision of nature is predicated on a developments of d’Holbach’s transmutational materialism—the philosophy which Juliette subscribes to—and not on Saint-Fond’s “bizarre” theism. For the Pope it is nature’s creative potential, and the authority of nature in a positive sense, which obliges the libertine to be as destructive as possible. For SaintFond it is God’s evilness which inspires repudiation and leads him to seek vengeance against God. Finally the Pope’s anger against nature, is not against a volitional (if evil) deity, but against a “blind and weak-minded force of which I find myself the involuntary result” who “hurled me into this world with the desire I offend you, and who has however denied me the means to do so” (G 780–82; P 885–86). For her part and after distancing herself from Saint-Fond’s system, Juliette associates herself with



the Pope’s (G 923; P 1015). The differences between the two speeches may not seem important to Klossowski but they are important to Juliette and so we may conclude to Sade. Rather than Klossowski’s speculative and dialectical reading of Sade’s a/theism I think that this is a further example of Sade’s ambidextrous thought: on the one hand Sade associates himself with a genuine atheism which, referencing d’Holbach, sides with philosophy and materialism against religious superstition; on the other hand he associates himself with the belief that any existing God would clearly be evil and worthy of abhorrence not veneration. Understood with Klossowski to represent a single archetype, Sade’s philosopher-hero argues, among other things, that there is no God and that God is evil. Reading Sade himself as affirming both of these propositions allows us to show that the Sadean “system” is predicated on a fundamental philosophical contradiction. Depending on our pre-existing philosophical commitments this may allow us to dismiss his philosophical “system” entirely and this is certainly a desirable outcome (although for my part I think there are far more immediate and compelling reasons for rejecting Sadeanism as a useful or coherent philosophy than the presence of a relatively esoteric logical fallacy hidden deep within its conceptual foundations.) Or this would allow us to proceed with something like Klossowski’s dialectical reading of the oeuvre which is also deeply invested in the idea of a fundamental contradiction in Sade. I think rather that we ought to understand that Sade himself tends not to affirm either proposition.16 Rather he gives various arguments to his characters, sometimes, as with the Pope, to a single character in single speech, and allows the ideas to play out in the imagined space of his novels. This is to note that while many of his characters have much in common with each other it is wrong to conclude that there is a single idealised vision of the libertine philosopher-hero in the Sadean oeuvre. And this is to reaffirm that Sade did not write a philosophical treatise but rather his genre of choice was the philosophical novel and the theoretical aspects of which I am isolating and reconstructing in this book can only be separated from their literary or affective aspects of the text at the cost of distorting them. There is one key feature of the Sadean state of nature which differs dramatically from Rousseau and Hobbes’s and which I want to conclude this chapter by briefly addressing. Sade’s “natural” men and women (that is, his libertine heroes) reject the idea that the social contract binds them, they reject the idea that natural law as a rational principle implies the



“golden rule,” and they affirm their continued fundamental isolation. Accordingly, they may be said to live outside civil society and in the state of nature. But this does not mean that they are savages in Rousseau’s sense: they do not run isolated in nature sleeping under trees, feeding from the forest, and wrestling wolves with their bare hands; quite the contrary. The state of nature for Sade is not a mythical or hypothetical state which is precluded by the formation of civil society.17 It is rather a state which coexists with civil society, a state in which the libertine few choose to live whenever it suits them. To be clear, Sade does not deny the existence of the social contract. What he holds is that those who have entered into it have done so against their reason and self-interest and so are in violation of the laws of nature. For the libertine the rules of justice are real enough so that they may “use them for [their] own purposes, as a shield, never as a brake” (Sade 1968, p. 176). In other words for Rousseau and Hobbes the state of nature precedes the social state (where “precedes” here is a historical-conceptual hybrid see Rousseau [1987, p. 36]). For Sade the two states coexist. This leads to interesting effects in Sade’s oeuvre especially those which involve the sociability of his libertine heroes. Klossowski is right to say that there is a problem of the other in Sade. But he is wrong in identifying the problematic other as the victim whom the libertine both needs and wishes to destroy. Rather the problem of the other in Sade is that of libertine sociability, the problem of the relationship between two libertines. The Sadean novel is full of libertine heroes engaging in highly social behaviour. With very few exceptions Sade’s libertines seek each other out, cooperate with each other, and enter social arrangements which are sometimes informal, but are often extremely elaborate and very rigidly structured. We may particularly note the group of libertine friends from Les cent vingt journées de Sodome, and the bandits from the first part of Justine which I have discussed. Much of that novel is situated in a rigidly organised and hierarchical Benedictine monastery (Sade 1965, p. 559). But the most elaborate is the “Society of the Friends of Crime” from Histoire de Juliette which has a very elaborate formal constitution which I will discuss in some detail in Part V (Sade 1968, pp. 419–27). At a minimal level these social arrangements are made possible by the idea that “wolves are safe in their own company” (Sade 1965, p. 244)18 a direct response to Hobbes’s idea that “man is wolf to man” (Hobbes 2003, p. 3). But as Sade’s novels show wolves are not all that safe in each other’s company; their safety tends to be temporary and unstable.



The groups of Sadean libertines are bound together by reasons of immediate interest, without alienation of an individual’s rights and so with no reason, for example, for any member to keep their promises when it no longer suits them.19 The point I want to make in closing this chapter is not that there is an issue of performative (or even conceptual) contradiction in Sade. Rather that the tension created by the sociability of the libertines juxtaposed with their extreme ethical egoism, is one of the central devices driving the Sadean novel. This is particularly the case for Histoire de Juliette, arguably Sade’s most successful novel. The novel’s wolves are safe in their own company for as long as they do not show weakness and as long as their status as master libertines is not called into question. And they are safe for just as long as they don’t become boring. The novel develops around two conceptual poles which correlate with the ideas of “natural” and “artificial” morality that have been the topic of this and the preceding part: first, Juliette’s ability to train her moral sensibility to ever higher levels of cruelty and indifference, this notwithstanding her continued passionate friendships with other libertines; second, Juliette’s ability to maintain social relations with other libertines notwithstanding the ever-present possibility of suddenly finding herself counted amongst the novel’s innumerable victims. In this book, I have attempted to outline the major component of Sade’s engagement with his philosophical context. I have attempted to do so without imposing coherence on his thought. This is important, partly because I do not think that achieving conceptual coherence is Sade’s ultimate criterion of success. Rather what is ultimately more important to Sade is that his moral theory provides the conceptual architecture around which he can construct his fictions.


1.  See “Bibliography” in: Sade (1968, p. 1205); and “Chronologie” in Delon (1998, p. lxxix). 2. For the remainder of this chapter when referring to Histoire de Juliette I will simply mark these two texts with “G” signifying the English translation published by Grove Press, and “P” signifying the French published by Pléiade. 3. For Lester Crocker, “there is no more extravagant exaltation of the passions in the eighteenth century than we find in […] De l’esprit” (Crocker 1959, p. 232). 4. See also Saint-Fond’s speech: G 318; P 459–60.



5. Much of this is repeated by Chigi: G 734; P 839. 6. Note that while Sade uses “forfeit” here, he uses “crime” in the next sentence to pursue the same idea. The note on this sentence is interesting: Sade claims that La Mettrie, Helvétius, and Montesquieu realised this truth but didn’t set it forth explicitly in their writings. He blames his century of “ignorance and tyranny” for this. I discussed this note in Chapter 1. 7. “Here [on the Lombard Plain around Naples] everything quickens [the imagination]: the convulsions, the volcanoes, of this everlastingly criminal nature engender restlessness in the spirit, rendering it capable of great deeds and tumultuous passions” (G 951; P 1042). See also G 575–76; P 696–97. Roger has noted the importance of volcanos in the Sadean novel, reading them as a display of the true face of nature, that of indifference to humanity, and of devastation and destruction (1976, pp. 158; see also pp. 156–65). See also Le Brun (1990, p. 205). The idea that dictation is one of nature’s laws is repeated by Sarmiento in Aline et Valcour (Sade 1998a, pp. 564, 566–67). 8. See also Sade (1965, p. 520; 1965, pp. 274–75). 9. This is also the case for Sade (1965, p. 300; 1965, p. 520) Movement in this sense has been thought to be the fundamental principal of Sade’s philosophy (Roger 1976, p. 34). Somewhat implausibly Roger takes it that movement becomes the foundational rationale and/or sacred principle which replaces God in Sade’s thought (pp. 40ff). This idea seems to be driven by the idea that there must be a rationalist and foundationalist epistemology in Sade, an idea which permeates Roger’s book without itself ever being argued for. 10. Note “criminal” in this sense is refereing to crime in terms of positive law. 11. See for example Pope’s speech which is a discourse on murder: G 765–98; P 868–901. See also Sade (1998a, pp. 564, 566–67). 12. The idea is also present in a speech by Dolmancé which I quoted above: (Sade 1965, pp. 237–38; 1998b, p. 54) See also Sade (1998a, pp. 564, 566–67). 13. Another, though perhaps less interesting, example of speculative interpretations of the Pope’s speech is given by Philippe Roger (1976, pp. 43–46). Philippe Mengue is a further instance of an interpreter taking the Pope’s speech as the key (in fact in this instance, of one of the two keys) to the entire Sadean “system” and in doing so of producing a highly speculative reading of the oeuvre (Mengue 1996). Mengue locates the key to Sade’s philosophy in the Pope’s “theory of two natures.” Notwithstanding that this speech takes up only a relatively few pages of an enormous oeuvre, Mengue uses it to develop a reading of Sade as a theorist of “hasard” (i.e. of “chance” or “coincidence”) and of a “radical



indifference of nature” (p. 42). This, in conjunction with Mengue’s second key, Sade’s theory of apathy, allows him to develop a version of the “Kant avec Sade” trope (pp. 227–48), a reading which intends to be an exposition of Lacan’s famous chapter from Ecrits; Mengue’s conclusion makes it clear the extent to which his interpretation of Sade is dominated by teleological reasoning, his desire to position of Sade “en miroir face au system kantien” (p. 267). Mengue’s book, which developed from a thesis completed under the supervision of Jean François Lyotard (p. 7), is very much a product of its time and place. A far more flagrant use of the Pope’s speech is that by Airaksinen (1995, pp. 55–62). Airaksinen makes much of the “blatant contradictions” in the speech and argues that the Pope is the voice of Sade himself (pp. 55–56) ultimately treating “most of the sermon […] as empty rhetoric” (p. 59). 14. See also G 401; P 538. 15. Note however that there is an ode cursing an evil God (G 690; P 800) and Juliette later offers a prayer to such a God (G 695; P 805). 16. Although taking as a whole, and including such pieces as the “Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” (Sade 1965) the oeuvre may on balance be taken to affirm the atheism in the relatively unoriginal guise of a Holbachian transmutational materialism. 17. Rousseau makes it clear that his state of nature is imaginary, that it is “hypothetical and conditional” (1987, p. 38). 18. See also: Sade (1968, pp. 27, 159). 19. For example: “let us keep our friends as long as they serve us; forget them immediately we have nothing further from them; [it is] never but selfishly one should love people” (Sade 1965, p. 286).

References Airaksinen, Timo. 1995. The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. London and New York: Routledge. Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de. 1970/1821–2 [1754]. “Traité des sensations.” In Oeuvres complètes, 1–327. Genève: Slatkine Reprints. Crocker, Lester G. 1959. An Age of Crisis: Man and World in Eighteenth Century French Thought. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. Delon, Michel, ed. 1998. Sade: Œuvres. Vol. 1. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry. 1781 [1770]. Système de la nature ou des loix du monde physique & du monde moral. Vol. 1. London. d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry. 1999 [1770]. The System of Nature. Translated by H. D. Robinson. Manchester: Clinamen.



Gay, Peter. 1971. The Party of Humanity: Essays in the French Enlightenment. New York: W. W. Norton. Hobbes, Thomas. 2003 [1642]. On the Citizen. Translated by Richard Tuck and Michael Silverthorne. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Klossowski, Pierre. 1965. “A Destructive Philosophy.” Yale French Studies 35: 61–80. Le Brun, Annie. 1990 [1986]. Sade: A Sudden Abyss. Translated by Camille Naish. San Francisco: City Light Books. Mengue, Philippe. 1996. L’Ordre sadien: loi et narration dans la philosophie de Sade. Paris: Kime. Roger, Philippe. 1976. Sade: La philosophie dans le pressoir. Paris: Bernard Grasset. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987 [1755]. “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.” In The Basic Political Writings, edited by Donald A. Cress, 25–110. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1782]. “Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 161–76. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1791]. “Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 449–743. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1795]. “Philosophy in the Bedroom.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 184–367. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1968 [1797]. Juliette. Translated by Richard & Wainhouse Seaver, Austryn. Edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1995. “Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu.” In Sade Oeuvres: Volume II, edited by Michel Delon, 120–390. Paris: Editions Gallimard. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795a]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795b]. “La Philosophie dans le boudoir, ou Les Instituteurs immoraux.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 1–178. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1797]. “Juliette ou les prospérités du vice.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 179–1262. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.


Ethical Self-Fashioning and the Problem of Libertine Sociability in Histoire de Juliette; or, Histoire de Juliette comme roman d’apprentissage


Sade’s Theory of Libertine Askesis

From the start Sade’s oeuvre is fundamentally and profoundly didactic: Sade’s first major work Les cent vingt journées de Sodome is alternately titled l’École du libertinage (The School of Libertinage).1 This didacticism often takes a traditional philosophical form: his characters’ often verbose speeches are for the benefit of the characters within the novel and the reader alike. And Sade’s most important characters are often students, typically represented either as woefully inept—witness Justine’s utter failure to learn that virtue leads inevitably to misfortune—or as highly precocious—La philosophie dans le boudoir, alternately titled Les Instituteurs immoraux: dialogues destinés à l’éducation des jeunes demoiselles (The Immoral Teachers: Dialogues Meant for the Education of Young Ladies), is the story of the precocious Eugénie, and Histoire de Juliette, ou les prospérités du vice (Juliette’s Story, or The Prosperities of Vice), Sade’s most mature work, is the story of the even more precocious Juliette. It will be this last work which will be the subject of this part. The novel’s didactic raison d’être is of its time and it participates enthusiastically in the moral didacticism of the novel of sensibility even as Sade reengineers the period’s ideas of both sensibility and morality; the novel attempts to contribute to one of the major strands of Enlightenment thought and of the philosophes’ progressive programme.2 In the context of Sade’s didacticism Histoire de Juliette has two striking features. First, Juliette develops across the course of the novel, gradually growing from a novice in a nunnery, to a precocious if briefly homeless orphan, to being by the end of the novel a master-libertine.3 © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




Significantly this career involves developments in her own person: the novel is the story of Juliette’s ethical self-fashioning, of what Foucault would describe the “care of the self” (Foucault 1990, 1992, 1994, 2005); Sade’s philosophy at its base is a philosophical askesis.4 In keeping with his historical context, and as outlined in Part II of this book, this self-fashioning is understood by Sade to be a training of Juliette’s sensibility and much of this part will focus on this aspect of the novel. Within the discourse of sensibility the relationship between the universal and the particular is often concretised in the idea that sensibility is a universal feature of humanity, of living things, or occasionally of all matter, although it is always conditioned by particular circumstances.5 Key features of this are fixed in the individual. Others are variable and so are susceptible to control by hygienic regimes which were a widespread feature of the discourse of sensibility and have been much studied (Vila 1998, pp. 39–42, 85–87). Sade’s oeuvre is embedded within the broader discourse of sensibility and he too holds that sensibility is a universal feature of the human being. But Sade adapts the discourse to his own purposes and ideas of the particularity of the body of sensibility are reengineered by Sade into the idea that some are naturally endowed with a particular libertine sensibility. This constitutes a foundational temperamental determinism which marks, for example, the initial differences between Juliette and Justine (see also Vila 1998, pp. 267, 287, 290).6 This natural or innate libertine sensibility is described by Clairwil, one of the novel’s major theorists of libertine askesis, here operating in the mode of instructor to Juliette (Vila 1998, p. 289; Quinian 2006). Clairwil begins by outlining a basic theory of embodied sensibility which is consistent with the material outlined in Part II. Her specific focus is on moral sensibility which is the subject of Part III of this book. She then moves to describe a theory of temperamental determinism and a theory of the modes by which this underlying sensibility is further affected by particular circumstance including upbringing and habits. Sensibility, my dear [Juliette], is the source of all vices, just as it is that of all virtues […] It is because we are too sensible that we give ourselves up to virtue: it is because we are too sensible that we cherish crimes. The individual who is lacking sensibility is a crude mass, equally incapable of good as of evil, and resembles a man only by his exterior. This sensibility, purely physical, depends on the shape of our organs, the delicateness of our senses, and, above all else, the nature of our nervous fluids, within



which I generally locate all affections of man. Education and, in addition to the affections, habit, compel in one direction or another the portion of sensibility received from the hands of nature; and egoism… the care of our life, comes then to help education and habit to determine this or that choice. (Sade 1968, p. 277) La sensibilité, ma chère, est le foyer de tous les vices, comme elle est celui de toutes les vertus. […] C’est pour être trop sensibles que nous nous livrons aux vertus : c’est pour l’être trop que nous chérissons les forfaits. L’individu privé de sensibilité est une masse brute, également incapable du bien comme du mal, et qui n’a de l’homme que la figure. Cette sensibilité, purement physique, dépend de la conformité de nos organes, de la délicatesse de nos sens, et, plus que tout, de la nature du fluide nerveux, dans lequel je place généralement toutes les affections de l’homme. L’éducation et, après elle, l’habitude, exercent en tel ou tel sens cette portion de sensibilité reçue des mains de la nature ; et l’égoïsme… le soin de notre vie vient ensuite aider à l’éducation, et à l’habitude à se déterminer pour tel ou tel choix. (Sade 1998, pp. 421–22)7

The effects of education are however incomplete and our passions begin to determine our “habitual bent for good and evil.” If this inflammation [produced in the nervous fluids by the impact of foreign objects] is slight, because of the thickness of the organs which counteracts an action pressed by the exterior object on the nervous fluid, or because of the slowness by which the brain communicates the effect of this pressure, or again because of reluctance of this fluid to be put in motion, then the effects of this sensibility determine us to virtue. If, on the other hand, external objects act on our organs in a strong manner, if they penetrate them with violence, if they impart a rapid action to the particles of the nervous fluid which circulates in the hollow of our nerves, the effects of our sensibility, in that case, determine us to vice. If the action is even stronger, it leads us to crime, and eventually to atrocities, if the violence of the effect is at its ultimate degree of energy. But we see, under all these relations, that sensibility is only mechanical, that it is by sensibility that all is born, and that it is sensibility that leads us to all. If we recognise, in a young person, the excess of this sensibility, we can be really confident about doing their horoscope, and be convinced that this sensibility will end up by leading them one day to crime; it is not, as one may believe, the genre of sensibility which leads us to crime or to virtue: it is sensibility at its highest degree; and the individual in whom sensibility’s action is slight will be disposed to good, just as it is certain that those in whom this action



wreaks havoc will necessarily turn to evil, evil being more piquant, more appealing than good. It is then towards evil that violent effects must lead, by the great principle which brings together and always reunites all like effects in the moral as in the physical. (G 277–78) Si cette inflammation est médiocre, en raison de l’épaisseur des organes qui s’oppose à une action pressée de l’objet extérieur sur le fluide nerveux, ou du peu de vitesse avec laquelle le cerveau lui rapporte l’effet de cette pression, ou encore du peu de disposition de ce fluide à être mis en mouvement, alors les effets de cette sensibilité nous déterminent à la vertu. Si, au contraire, les objets extérieurs agissent sur nos organes d’une manière forte, s’ils les pénètrent avec violence, s’ils donnent une action rapide aux particules du fluide nerveux qui circulent dans la concavité de nos nerfs, les effets de notre sensibilité, dans ce cas, nous déterminent au vice. Si l’action est encore plus forte, elle nous entraîne au crime, et définitivement aux atrocités, si la violence de l’effet est à son dernier degré d’énergie. Mais l’on voit, sous tous les rapports, que la sensibilité n’est que mécanique, que c’est d’elle que tout naît, et que c’est elle qui nous conduit à tout. Si nous reconnaissons, dans une jeune personne, l’excès de cette sensibilité, tirons hardiment son horoscope, et convainquons-nous bien que cette sensibilité finira par la porter, un jour au crime ; car ce n’est pas, comme on pourrait le croire, le genre de sensibilité qui conduit au crime ou à la vertu : c’est son dernier degré ; et l’individu dans lequel son action est lente sera disposé au bien, comme il est certain que celui dans lequel cette action fait des ravages se portera nécessairement au mal, le mal étant plus piquant, plus attrayant que le bien. C’est donc vers lui que doivent se diriger les effets violents, par le grand principe qui rapproche et qui réunit toujours au moral comme au physique tous les effets égaux. (P 422–23)8

It is from this basis that Sade’s theory of libertine askesis develops; Sadean sensibility, building on natural disposition towards libertinage, is eminently trainable; the theory and narrative effects of this training are in large aspects the subject of this part. While the training of Juliette’s “natural” corporeal sensibility is perhaps the most interesting part of her development in the novel it is not the whole. Her progress also involves training in the management of her “artificial” relationships with other libertines. This aspect develops along themes framed in Part IV of this book. In both these aspects there is a striking contrast between Juliette’s story and that of her sister Justine who, notwithstanding the increasingly brutal adventures to which she is subjected, remains as incomprehensibly naïve in the last pages of the novel as she is in the first. In terms of literary genres, the move between



Justine, ou les malheurs de la vertu (1791) and Histoire de Juliette (1797) may be understood as a move from the picaresque novel to the Bildungsroman or roman d’apprentissage.9 The second striking feature of Histoire de Juliette is that the novel presents Sade’s philosophical ideas in their most sophisticated form and that Juliette’s apprenticeship is intrinsic to this novel’s philosophical project. It is the interaction between Sade’s philosophical “system,” his philosophical askesis, and Juliette’s libertine apprenticeship which makes the text a philosophical novel in the proper sense; tracing the interaction between the novelistic and the philosophical aspects in a sustained reading of the novel is the goal of this part. This part will examine Juliette’s apprenticeship. It will do so by reconstructing in this chapter Sade’s theory of libertine askesis. But what is significant is the extent to which the story of Juliette’s training, rather than merely illustrating or exemplifying this theory, very often works against it. The first section of chapter twelve will focus on Juliette’s development vis-à-vis theories of “natural” morality and so is a development of Parts II and III of this book; the second section will focus on her development vis-à-vis theories of “artificial” morality and so is a development of Part IV. What is significant is the extent to which Juliette’s training is unsuccessful given the theoretical framework of the novel. There is then a tension in the novel, or so I will argue, between its philosophical theory and its narrative instantiation, between Juliette’s libertine drive towards immoral and anti-social behaviour, and the moral and social relationships she forms with other libertines. That Histoire de Juliette intends to provide a theory of libertine askesis is made clear from its early stages where the foundation is explicitly established. The novel opens with Juliette living as a young novice in a Parisian convent. On the first page she encounters Mme Delbène who notices Juliette’s temperamental disposition declaring that her “candour and naiveté prove [she has] great need of a guide in the thorny pathway of life and it is me who will so serve you” (G 11; P 187). It is to Delbène that Juliette is initially if briefly apprenticed and from Delbène that she acquires “the basic precepts of [her] morality” (G 3; P 181). In many ways more philosopher than master-libertine, Mme Delbène is the book’s first philosopher-hero. She is given many of the book’s foundational philosophical speeches, including many of those that establish Sade’s theory of libertine askesis. But beyond traditional philosophical techniques which establish the theory—that is, philosophical speeches



and dialogues—libertine self-cultivation requires practice. There are three methodological aspects which guide this. In the first instance this is the process of following the directions of a senior libertine particularly as they choreograph the novel’s pornographic scenes. And the apprentice is often called on to imitate their mentor or tutor.10 Second and more significantly, the key technique is the repetition of, and habituation to, libertine acts (see, for example, G 342, 477, 585; P 483, 606, 707). It is worth making explicit that this feature is significant for Sade’s novelistic project itself and provides a theoretical justification for the length and tedium of many of the Sadean texts including Juliette. Finally, and here too there is a connection between Sade’s theory and his novelistic project, Sade theorises a particular role for the imagination as an aid to the libertine’s career particularly as they progress beyond the imitation of others. There are several clear stages to Sade’s libertine askesis, although it must be noted that while generally presented chronologically they do not necessarily constitute a clear conceptual progression. And it is not clear that there is a single aspiration or goal to which the apprentice aspires and which represents a clear libertine teleology. Briefly the first stage is the elimination of the libertine’s moral sense or conscience. The second, the overcoming of aversions to such libertine behaviours as shit-eating and cannibalism. Associated with this stage is the development of the ability to withstand and eventually enjoy tortures, especially that of flagellation. Third—intriguingly given his tendency to celebrate the passions, particularly the vicious ones—Sade’s libertine-heroes often argue that the libertine ought to cultivate apathy in order that, in what is a remarkably conventional understanding of the role of philosophy, reason rule over the passions. This stage includes a relatively intricate discussion of the correct relationship between crime and passion. Fourth, concomitant with a desirable moral insensitivity, the libertine-heroes often develop an undesirable if, given the other aspects of Sade’s “system,” perhaps inevitable physical insensitivity. And finally, fifth, the libertine may reach a sufficient stage of mastery that it becomes necessary they deploy the resources of their own imagination rather than continue to imitate or take direction from other libertines. Each of these steps warrants exegesis and I will in this chapter discuss each in turn. I show in Part III that for Sade, insofar as our moral sensibility is the effect of education and social situation it is not natural, and insofar as it is natural it is grounded in self-interest and so is not moral. Nonetheless



Sade does acknowledge that the moral sense is a significant feature of our affective lives and accordingly the first stage of libertine self-cultivation is the elimination of whatever propensity to moral feeling the apprentice may have. The focus of this part is the manner in which this sensibility can be retrained, a process which Delbène in the first instance expressly associates with “wisdom and reflection,” that is, with philosophy: If, owing to the force of wisdom and reflection, we have managed to blunt that sensibility to the point of no longer feeling its effects, even in those things which touch us the most, it will become perfectly impossible that the good or bad opinion of others is able to do anything to our happiness. It is only in ourselves alone that this happiness must occur; it only depends on our conscience, and perhaps a little more on our opinions, on which alone must be grounded the most trustworthy inspirations of conscience. (G 9) Mais si, à force de sagesse et de réflexion, nous sommes parvenues à émousser cette sensibilité au point de ne plus sentir ses effets, même dans les choses qui nous touchent le plus, il deviendra parfaitement impossible que l’opinion bonne ou mauvaise des autres puissent rien faire à notre félicité. Ce n’est qu’en nous seules que doit consister cette félicité ; elle ne dépend que de notre conscience, et peut-être encore un peu plus de nos opinions, sur lesquelles seules doivent être étayées les plus sûres inspirations de la conscience. (P 186)11

Beyond stern thinking and extensive philosophical discussion, the elimination of moral prejudices requires maturity and particularly habituation: The result is that these [moral] prejudices are erased by age, or as habituation to actions which alarm us comes to harden conscience, remorse, which was only the effect of the weakness of that conscience, is very soon annihilated all together, and so we attain at will most appalling excesses. […] But if you know also how to destroy all prejudices, if you know how to put all crimes on the same level, then, when you become convinced of their equality, you will take them as a model for your remorse, and, as you will then have learned to stand up to the remorse of the most weak, you will soon learn to overcome the most strong regret and to commit anything with equal sang-froid. (G 14) En sorte qu’à mesure que ces préjugés s’effacent par l’âge, ou que l’habitude des actions qui nous effrayaient parvient à endurcir la conscience, le remords, qui n’était que l’effet de la faiblesse de cette conscience,



s’anéantit bientôt tout à fait, et qu’on arrive ainsi tant qu’on veut, aux excès les plus effrayants. […] Mais sachez détruire également tous les préjugés, sachez mettre tous les crimes au même rang, et, vous convainquant bientôt de leur égalité, vous saurez modeler sur eux le remords, et, comme vous aurez appris à braver le remords du plus faible, vous apprendrez bientôt à vaincre le repentir du plus fort et à les commettre tous avec un égal sang-froid. (P 190)

That habituation can silence the conscience is a principle repeated often in the novel.12 This first stage is the dominant stage of libertine askesis. It equates with Sade’s promotion of the passions at least insofar as they are self-interested and vicious, and his opposition to them insofar as they are altruistic or virtuous. The goal of this stage is represented in several ways including, as in this quote, by the ideal of sang-froid. Or alternately, and predictably given that the moral sense is often represented in the period by the sensibility of the heart, by the ideal of hard-heartedness, a trait which is exemplified by the correct libertine relationship to affects such as remorse, pity, and significantly for the second part of this chapter to love (G 435, 510; P 566, 636).13 Sade also uses the term “apathy” (G 432; P 563)14; or sometimes simply “insensibility” (G 274; P 418– 19).15 Chapter twelve will return to examine in some detail the ambiguous effects of this first stage in the novel’s major characters. The second stage is closely related to the first: the elimination of initial antipathies to extreme libertine actions and the acquiring of the taste for them; “great pleasures are only born of surmounted revulsions” (G 1051; P 1133; see also Sade 1998, pp. 561–62). This category includes a great variety of libertine pleasures such as shit-eating, vomit-eating, and cannibalism. Again, beyond philosophical discussion it is imitation, habituation, and repetition that are the techniques employed. For example, on being offered human meat by Minski the Hermit, Sbrigani declares: We will try it. […] Revulsion is absurd; it is born only from a fault in our habituation; all meats are made to sustain man; all are offered to us, to that end, by nature, and it is no more extraordinary to eat a man than a chicken. (G 585) Nous en tâterons. […] Les répugnances sont des absurdités ; elles ne naissent que du défaut d’habitude ; toutes les viandes sont faites pour sustenter l’homme ; toutes nous sont offertes, à cette effet, par la nature, et il n’est pas plus extraordinaire de manger un homme qu’un poulet. (P 707)



The most significant example of this type of training is the libertine’s ability to learn to withstand and finally enjoy tortures, an ability often described in the novel as “stoic.” Again in the first instance this theory is explicated by Delbène: after giving the young Juliette a philosophical lecture on indifference to the unhappiness of others, Juliette invokes what is essentially the Hobbesian golden rule hazarding that if it were the case that Delbène was among the unfortunate would she “not be very pleased to be brought relief?” “I would know how to suffer without complaining,” the “stoical creature” answered, “I would not implore the aid of anyone” (G 98; P 269). Believe, Juliette… yes, be persuaded that when I am content to leave others to suffer without assisting them, it is because I have learnt to suffer myself without being assisted. Abandon ourselves to nature; it is not towards mutual aid that its voice directs us: it only speaks to us of the need to acquire for ourselves alone the strength necessary to endure the ills that she reserves for us¸ and commiseration, far from preparing our souls for this, irritates it, weakens it and takes away courage so that it can no longer be retrieved when it is needed for its own distress. They who know how to become hardened to the ills of others soon becomes impassive to their own, and it is much more necessary to know how to suffer oneself with courage, than to accustom oneself to cry for others. Oh Juliette, the less one is sensible, the less one is affected, and the more one approaches real independence. We are never victims except of two things, either the unhappiness of others, or our own: start by toughening ourselves to the first, the second will no longer touch us, and nothing from that moment will have the right to trouble our tranquillity. (G 98–99) Crois, Juliette… oui, persuade-toi bien que lorsque je consens à laisser souffrir les autres sans les soulager, c’est que j’ai appris à souffrir moimême sans l’être. Abandonnons-nous à la nature ; ce ne sont pas des secours mutuels que son organe nous indique : il ne fait retentir dans nous que le seul besoin d’acquérir pour nous seules toute la force nécessaire à endurer les maux qu’elle nous réserve, et la commisération, loin d’y préparer notre âme, l’énerve, l’amollit et lui ôte le courage qu’elle ne peut plus retrouver ensuite, quand elle en a besoin pour ses propres douleurs. Qui sait s’endurcir aux maux d’autrui devient bientôt impassible aux siens propres, et il est bien plus nécessaire de savoir souffrir soi-même avec courage, que de s’accoutumer à pleurer sur les autres. Ô Juliette, moins on est sensible, moins on s’affecte, et plus on approche de la véritable indépendance. Nous ne sommes jamais victimes que de deux choses, ou des malheurs d’autrui, ou des nôtres : commençons par nous endurcir aux premiers, les seconds ne nous toucheront plus, et rien, de ce moment, n’aura le droit de troubler notre tranquillité. (P 269–70)



This rather quaint deployment of the “golden rule” is not a stable feature of the Sadean thought: as I have shown Sade rejects the idea that we ought to do to others only what we are willing to have done to us. But the idea of stoic endurance is persistent in the oeuvre and its development forms a major aspect of libertine askesis. And so when Catherine the Great sends Borchamps to Siberia he learns to transmute his regular punishments into pleasure: I was taken to that horrible place, and condemned, like the others, to deliver to the commandant twelve animal skins each month, and thrashed to bleeding when I failed to do so. There is the baneful school where I made of this torture a kind of need which became so violent in me, that I absolutely need for my health to have myself flogged every day. (G 885) Je fus conduis dans ce séjour d’horreur, et condamné, comme les autres, à rapporter au commandant, douze peaux de bêtes par mois, fustigé jusqu’au sang quand j’y manquais. Telle est la funeste école où je me suis fait de ce supplice, une espèce de besoin devenu si violent en moi, qu’il faut absolument pour ma santé, que je me fasse fouetter tous les jours. (P 980)

Accordingly, on an occasion when Juliette is “without undue difficulty” able to withstand being tied and beaten it is because such things had often been done to her delight in the past; those who followed, lacking an equivalently trained libertine sensibility, did “not have such a merry time” (G 687; P 796–97).16 The link here to Sade’s principal of intensity is I think obvious: beyond mere pleasure the accomplished libertine accustoms themself and comes to enjoy the most intense sensations including that of torture. Delbène is the novel’s first philosopher-hero and Juliette’s first mentor. But she is not a particularly enduring character: Juliette and Justine’s parents are ruined and the sisters are impoverished and thrown from the convent. Juliette, as narrator, reflects: “I had without doubt a hard apprenticeship to undertake (j’avais sans doute un rude apprentissage à faire)” (G 103; P 272–73). Following Delbène’s council and relying on her natural talents Juliette quickly finds work in a brothel and embarks on a steep learning curve. She soon meets Noirceuil. More significantly for present purposes Noirceuil introduces Juliette to Clairwil. He does this at Juliette’s specific request; she wants a role model who is like her (une femme plus rapprochée de moi), someone a bit older, who has a certain authority (une sorte d’empire) over her, someone to give her sound advice (G 262; P 408–9). It is Clairwil who is the novel’s primary exemplar of Sadean apathy.



My soul is hard, and I am far from believing sensibility preferable to the happy apathy I enjoy. Oh Juliette, […] you perhaps deceive yourself regarding this dangerous sensibility on which imbeciles pride themselves. (G 277) Mon âme est dure, et je suis loin de croire la sensibilité préférable à l’heureuse apathie dont je jouis. Ô Juliette, […] tu te trompes peut-être sur cette sensibilité dangereuse dont tant d’imbéciles s’honorent. (P 421)

I want to make this explicit as it is at first glance somewhat surprising. Sade, perhaps the philosophical tradition’s most infamous apologist for unrestrained passions, particularly for the most vicious passions, is here celebrating apathy and stoicism as the ideal to which the libertine ought to aspire.17 After a long speech outlining the novel’s theory of ethical self-cultivation this is Clairwil: There, Juliette, there are the principles that have taken me to this tranquillity, to this quiet of the passions, to this stoicism which permits me to do everything and to put up with anything without emotion. Hasten then to initiate yourself to these mysteries. (G 282) Voilà, Juliette, voilà les principes qui m’ont amenée à cette tranquillité, à ce repos des passions, à ce stoïcisme qui me permet maintenant de tout faire et de tout soutenir sans émotion. Presse-toi donc de t’initier à ces mystères. (P 426)

Juliette, ever diligent, responds “be sure you will nowhere find a more submissive student” (G 285; P 429). It begins to seem as although stoic apathy is the highest ethical ideal in Sade rather than absolute self-regarding hedonism. As it was used in the eighteenth century the word ‘apathie’ designated a state of the soul/âme not agitated by the passions or emotions.18 To this point I have referred in the first stage of libertine self-cultivation to apathy from the virtuous passions such as pity and love, passions generally associated with the moral sense. But there is of course a whole swathe of vicious passions about which Sade is very enthusiastic. But even here there is more to libertine askesis than simple enthusiasm: Sadean heroes often argue that the trained libertine ought to cultivate apathy in order that reason rule over the passions. This is, we may note, a highly conventional or traditional deployment of the idea and role of philosophy.19 This is the third stage of libertine askesis; it is a stage in which an-affectivity broadly understood is a libertine ideal.



Clairwil’s major speech on libertine self-cultivation is worth quoting at length. It advocates that a sensitive young libertine “blunt this sensibility” (d’émousser cette sensibilité). This done: There would be no danger in putting this young individual whose education we imagine here in such a state of the soul that in truth he never did a good action, but that in return he would not imagine doing a bad one… at least before the age where his experience would make a necessity of hypocrisy. But, the process to put in place in such a case would be to radically blunt his sensibility as soon as you notice that its overly great activity could lead him toward vice. For I suppose that even the apathy to which you scale down his soul can lead to several dangers; these dangers will be much smaller than those which led from his too great sensibility. The crimes committed, in the case of the diminution of that sensitive aspect, will always be cold-blooded, and consequently the student we imagine will have the time to hide them and to work out their consequences. Those committed in [a sensuous or passionate] turmoil will bring about, without him having the time to stave them off, the greatest misfortune. […] And it is not on your student, on becoming an adult, committing or not committing crimes that you need to focus, because, in fact, crime is an accident of nature of which man is the involuntary instrument, of which he is the plaything in spite of himself, when his organs oblige him: but you must be concerned that this student commit the least dangerous crime, in regard to the laws of the country in which he lives, insofar as the mildest is punished and the most terrible is not, it is however the most terrible that he must be left to carry out. (G 279) Il n’y aurait donc aucune espèce de danger à mettre le jeune individu dont nous supposons ici l’éducation dans une telle situation d’âme, qu’à la vérité il ne fît jamais une bonne action, mais qu’en récompense il n’en imaginât jamais une mauvaise… au moins avant l’âge où son expérience lui ferait une nécessité de l’hypocrisie. Or, le procédé à mettre en œuvre en pareil cas serait d’émousser radicalement sa sensibilité, sitôt que vous vous apercevrez que sa trop grande activité pourrait l’entraîner au vice. Car je suppose même que de l’apathie où vous réduiriez son âme il puisse naître quelques dangers ; ces dangers seront bien moindres que ceux qui naîtraient de sa trop grande sensibilité. Les crimes commis, dans le cas de l’endurcissement de la partie sensitive, le seront toujours de sang-froid, et par conséquent l’élève que nous supposons aura le temps d’en cacher et d’en combiner les suites, au lieu que ceux commis dans l’effervescence l’entraîneront, sans qu’il ait le temps d’y parer, dans les derniers excès de l’infortune. […] Et ce n’est pas à ce que votre élève, devenu adulte,



commette ou ne commette pas de crimes que vous devez vous attacher, parce que, dans le fait, le crime est un accident de la nature dont l’homme est l’instrument involontaire, dont il faut qu’il soit le jouet en dépit de luimême, quand ses organes le contraignent : mais vous devez vous attacher à ce que cet élève commette le délit le moins dangereux, eu égard aux lois du pays qu’il habite, en telle sorte que si le plus faible est puni et que le plus affreux ne le soit pas, c’est pourtant le plus affreux qu’il faut lui laisser faire. (P 423–24) The first duty of a teacher would be then to give, to the student that he is charged with, the dispositions necessary to be able to give themselves over to the less dangerous of the two ills, since it is unhappily too true that he must incline towards one or the other; and experience will easily demonstrate to you that vices that are born from the toughening of the soul will be much less dangerous that those produced by excess of sensibility, and this by the powerful reasoning that calm gives the means to protect oneself from punishment, whereas it is proved impossible that punishment is able to be avoided by those who, not having the time to arrange anything or see anything coming, are delivered over blindly to the turmoil of the senses. […] The turmoil of this passion not having altered the faculties of his judgement, he will proceed in all with such mystery… with such art, that the flame of Themis [the goddess of law and order] will never be able to penetrate the twists and turns; he will then have been happy without risking anything. (G 280–1) Le premier devoir d’un instituteur serait donc de donner, à l’élève dont il est chargé, les dispositions nécessaires à ce qu’il puisse se livrer à celui des deux maux qui est le moins dangereux, puisqu’il est malheureusement trop vrai qu’il faut qu’il incline vers l’un ou vers l’autre ; et l’expérience vous démontrera facilement que les vices qui pourront naître de l’endurcissement de l’âme seront beaucoup moins dangereux que ceux produits par l’excès de la sensibilité, et cela par la grande raison que le sang-froid que l’on met aux uns, donne les moyens de se garantir de la punition, tandis qu’il est démontré impossible qu’elle puisse échapper à celui qui, n’ayant le temps de rien arranger, de rien prévenir, se livre aveuglément à l’effervescence de ses sens. […] L’effervescence de sa passion n’ayant point altéré les facultés de son jugement, il aura procédé à tout avec un tel mystère… avec un tel art, que le flambeau de Thémis n’en pourra jamais pénétrer les détours ; il aura donc été heureux sans rien risquer. (P 424–25)20

In the first instance then Clairwil’s apathy is pragmatic or instrumental. This explains the need for the student to restrain their sensibility at least until they have mastered the art of hypocrisy. The accomplished libertine



is able to be manipulative, hypocritical, and cunning and so can be prudential in their pursuit of pleasure and their career in crime. A libertine who rushes to perform whatever act immediately appeals to them, blinded by the turmoil of their passion, and heedless of the consequences of their actions, is after all destined for a short career. That Sadean apathy is in fact instrumental and does not seek to eliminate the passions is made clear by Clairwil’s behaviour; such stoicism as Clairwil is advocating incorporates her prodigious talents as a master-libertine and is (or at least attempts to be) consistent with other Sadean themes including the foolishness of curbing the passions and the idea that “the only duties we have to fill in this world are those to our pleasures” (G 394; P 531–32). And so even as Clairwil espouses a theory of apathy and stoicism she is also capable of the most extreme excitation; after Juliette has at Clairwil’s urging just enjoyed cannibalism for the first time, this is their state: Oh Clairwil! Where are our passions carrying us! Tell me, my angel, have you a calm enough head… have you, by chance orgasmed enough, to make conversation with me? – No, fuck, no, no, holy God, responded Clairwil, red as a bacchanal, I want to act rather than talk; a burning fire runs through my veins, I must do horrors, I am beside myself. (G 365) Ô Clairwil ! où nous entraînent les passions ! Dis, mon ange, aurais-tu la tête assez calme… aurais-tu, par hasard assez déchargé, pour me faire, sur cela, quelques beaux discours ? – Non, foutre, non, non, sacredieu, répondit Clairwil, rouge comme une bacchante, j’ai plus envie d’agir que de parler ; un feu dévorant coule dans mes veines, il me faut des horreurs, je suis hors de moi. (P 504)

Clairwil is not then what one generally thinks of as a stoic sage. Nonetheless, it is clear, there is a very traditional streak running through the Sadean philosophical “system”: while the passions motivate and determine the goal, it is practical reason that provides guidance and control of the passions even if only to ultimately maximise the libertine’s career in the pursuit of pleasure. At this level the idealised Sadean relationship between reason and the passions is not substantively different from that of Hobbes or Hume, to name just two canonical figures from within the philosophical tradition. There is one final aspect to Sadean apathy which shows the manner in which Sade reconciles it with his extremism and particularly with his principle of intensity: the notion that corporeal shocks are felt more keenly on a tranquil soul. This is Saint-Fond:



Because pleasure is only the shock of voluptuous atoms emanating from voluptuous objects, setting ablaze the electrical particles which circulate in the cavity of our nerves; it is then necessary, for pleasure to be complete, that the shock be the most violent possible; but the nature of this sensation is so delicate, that any little thing can disturb or destroy it; it is necessary then that the mind be prepared, that it be tranquil, that by our systems or position the shock should land on a calm and happy foundation. (G 340–341) Car le plaisir n’est que le choc des atomes voluptueux, ou émanés d’objets voluptueux, embrasant les particules électriques que circulent dans la concavité de nos nerfs ; il faut donc, pour que le plaisir soit complet, que le choc soit le plus violent possible ; mais la nature de cette sensation est si délicate, qu’un rien la dérange ou la détruit ; il faut donc que l’esprit soit préparé, qu’il soit tranquille, que par nos systèmes ou notre position il se trouve dans une assiette calme et heureuse. (P 482)

Or as Juliette later puts it, stoicism (stoïcisme) and “apathy transforms into pleasures a thousand times more divine than those which weakness could procure” (G 484; P 612). The themes of the third stage of Sade’s libertine askesis develop into a relatively intricate investigation of the correct relationship between crime and passion. This issue presumes Sade’s normative justification for crime understood in its realist sense as destruction. That is, crime/destruction for Sade is intrinsically justified and so does not need to be motivated by the pleasure gained through the act (although it will likely bring pleasure). For example Murdering your father may be justified by your gaining an inheritance. Or it may be justified by your passions; you may perhaps hate him, or may simply be inspired by libertine blood-lust to torture, rape, and murder him. But the murder is also an act of intrinsic value for Sade and so may be done in cold blood. Further, rather than the act being inspired by the passions it may serve to stimulate them and so excite you to further libertinage. The first motivation establishes an instrumental justification for crime and is not particularly interesting mostly because, given Sade’s version of nature’s single precept, it is so self-evident. More interesting is the relationship between the last two justifications: ought the libertine to perform crimes in cold blood motivated only by philosophical commitment and perhaps in the anticipation that the crime will happily incite their passions, or ought they to commit crime only when incited to do so by their passion?



And so on the occasion of Juliette’s murder of her own father SaintFond is satisfied by her sang-froid and he declares her performance irreproachable. Clairwil disagrees: I find in her always the same fault; she only commits crime enthusiastically, it is necessary that she [be sexually aroused]; and one must never give oneself over to crime except in cold-blood. It is the flame of crime which must alight the flame of passions, whereas it is I suspect in her only the passions which alight crime. (G 475) Je lui trouve toujours le même défaut ; elle ne commet le crime que dans l’enthousiasme, il faut qu’elle bande ; et l’on ne doit jamais s’y livrer que de sang-froid. C’est au flambeau du crime qu’il faut allumer celui de ses passions, tandis que ce n’est qu’à celui des passions que je la soupçonne d’allumer celui du crime. (P 604)

Noirceuil supports Clairwil; Juliette needs further encouragement to diminish the sensibility which is misleading her. Clairwil continues: I repeat that I require that she do wrong, not for arousing her to lust, as I believe that she is doing, but for the single pleasure of committing the deed. I want her to find in wrong, stripped of all lust, the sensual pleasure that exists for her in lust; I want her to have no need of any pretence for doing wrong. […] I do not want her to have to be aroused in order to perform a crime, because, what results from this manner of behaviour, as soon as her temperament is worn out, she will no longer dare to give herself over to crime; however for the means I have just indicated, it will be in crime that she will rekindle the fire of passions. She will no longer need to be aroused to commit a crime; but in committing a crime she will arouse herself. It is, I believe, impossible to explain myself more clearly. (G 476) Je vous répète que j’exige d’elle de faire le mal, non pas pour s’exciter à la luxure, comme je crois qu’elle le fait, mais pour le seul plaisir de le commettre. Je veux qu’elle trouve dans le mal, dénué de toute luxure, l’entière volupté qui existe pour elle dans la luxure ; je veux qu’elle n’ait besoin d’aucun véhicule pour exercer le mal. […] Je ne veux pas qu’elle ait besoin de se branler pour faire un crime, parce qu’alors, il résultera de cette manière de se conduire, qu’aussitôt que son tempérament sera usé, elle n’osera plus se livrer à aucun écart ; au lieu que par le moyen que j’indique, ce sera dans le crime qu’elle retrouvera le feu des passions. Elle n’aura plus besoin de se branler pour commettre un crime ; mais en commettant ce crime, elle désirera se branler. Il est, je crois, impossible de s’expliquer plus clairement. (P 604–5)



Juliette responds to Clairwil’s scolding by assuring her: “I now love evil for its own sake; it is only in crime’s breast that my pleasures alight, and no sensual pleasure would exist for me if crime did not season it” (G 476; P 605). And later in the novel Juliette chastises Olympe who has murdered her father in cold blood and for purely instrumental purposes: “let the flame of crime light that of lustfulness; bring together both of these passions, and you will see what we can take from them together” (G 666; P 776–77). That crime may be “the flame” which lights libertine passions is particularly important in the Sadean “system” because of a further problem, the problem of physical insensitivity. That is, concomitant with a desirable moral insensitivity is an undesirable, if inevitable, physical insensitivity.21 This problem forms the fourth stage of libertine askesis. The problem is latent in the hyperbolic aspects of the libertine ideal and it is implied by the conjunction of Sade’s principle of intensity with his principle of habituation. While there are characters in the Sadean novels with seemingly inexhaustible puissance—Minski the Hermit is for example constantly erect—it is very often the case that the senior libertines are insensible to the point of impotence. This is Chigi: Made weary of pleasures by a long habit of their sensations, it is necessary for me to add refinements in order to retrieve the sting of their blunted tip: I will be long, I will make you impatient, perhaps not even arrive at an honourable outcome; but you will give me pleasure: that is the only thing, it seems to me, that a woman ought to aspire to. (G 738) Blasé sur les plaisirs par une longue habitude de leurs sensations, il me faut des recherches pour retrouver en moi l’aiguillon de leur pointe émoussée : je serai long, je vous impatienterai, peut-être même n’en viendrai-je pas à mon honneur ; mais vous m’aurez donné du plaisir : c’est la seule chose, ce me semble, à laquelle doive prétendre une femme. (P 842–43)

Eventually by whipping Juliette sufficiently Chigi manages to get an erection and fuck her successfully.22 A few pages later, Bracciani justifies his deployment of a menagerie for libertine purposes: The exhaustion of pleasures necessitates refinements. Wearied by common things, we then desire strange ones, and that is why crime becomes the highest degree of lust. (G 744–5)



L’épuisement des jouissances nécessite des recherches. Blasés sur les choses communes, on en désire de singulières, et voilà pourquoi le crime devient le dernier degré de luxure. (P 849)

Note that lust inspires crime here and not the reverse. But it is also the case that for the insensible libertine the only reliable mechanism left for arousing their lust are criminal horrors which must necessarily be performed with sang-froid: recall that for Clairwil “it is the torch of crime that must ignite your passions” and one of the main reasons for this is that “in crime [the libertine] will rekindle the fire of passions” (G 476; P 604–5). The fifth and final stage of libertine askesis is marked by the apprentice reaching the point where they are sufficiently developed so as to not require a master. Their career progression can now not be guided by higher-ranking libertines and in particular imitation of senior libertines loses its effectiveness as a means of training. The significance of this stage is illustrated through aspects of the narrative: Juliette is forced to leave Paris in an incident I will describe in some detail in the following chapters. In doing so she takes leave of Noirceuil and particularly of Clairwil who has been her master. Juliette embarks on her grand tour of Italy the culmination of which is her audience with the Pope. In this period of the novel Juliette is effectively a journeyman, that is, no longer an apprentice, and is effectively competent in her trade, but is not really a master either (although she does on occasion school younger libertines and she is generally represented as the leader of a band of criminals/libertines.) By the time Clairwil re-enters the novel the two are peers and later, insofar as Clairwil is later usurped and then murdered by Juliette, Juliette effectively demonstrates that she has surpassed her former master’s libertine prowess. I will turn to the details of these in the following chapter. For my present purposes what is at issue is the manner in which a libertine’s career progression may be undertaken in the absence of clear senior role models. The occasion for the elucidation of this theory is provided by Juliette in the guise of instructor to Countess Donis. Juliette begins with her own summary of what it is to have an advanced libertine sensibility. Note that the problem of insensitivity is an important feature of this description.



The excess of your sensibility is extreme; but you have managed the effects of it in such way that it can now carry you only to vice. All external objects that have any strangeness cause a prodigious irritation in the electrical particles of your nervous fluid, and the shock, received in the mass of nerves, is communicated in an instant to those which are near to the seat of sensual pleasures. You feel tickling there; the sensation pleases you, delights you, you stroke it and go on doing so; the force of your imagination makes you conceive of augmentations, details… the irritation becomes more lively, and you could if you wished multiply your pleasures to infinity. The essential goal is then, for you, to broaden, to exacerbate… I am going to tell you something much more powerful: but having crossed all barriers as you have done, do not be restrained any more by anything, you must go far. Only the strongest excesses, the most terrible, the most contradictory to divine and human laws, will serve from now on enflame your imagination. And so be sparing with yourself, because unfortunately crimes are not presented to us according to the need we have to commit them, and nature, in giving us souls of fire, ought to have given us a little more to nourish us. Is it not true, my beautiful friend, that you have already found your desires much more advanced than your means? (G 639) L’excès de votre sensibilité est extrême ; mais vous en avez dirigé les effets de manière qu’elle ne peut plus vous porter maintenant qu’au vice. Tous les objets extérieurs qui ont quelque genre de singularité mettent dans une irritation prodigieuse les particules électriques de votre fluide nerveux, et l’ébranlement, reçu sur la masse des nerfs, se communique à l’instant sur ceux qui avoisinent le siège de la volupté. Vous y sentez aussitôt des chatouillements ; cette sensation vous plaît, vous la flattez, vous la renouvelez ; la force de votre imagination vous y fait concevoir des augmentations, des détails… l’irritation devient plus vive, et vous multiplieriez ainsi, si vous vouliez, vos jouissances à l’infini. L’objet essentiel est donc, pour vous, d’étendre, d’aggraver… Je vais vous dire quelque chose de bien plus fort : mais ayant franchi toutes barrières comme vous l’avez fait, n’étant plus retenue par quoi que ce soit, il faut que vous alliez loin. Ce ne sera donc plus qu’à l’excès le plus fort, le plus exécrable, le plus contraire aux lois divines et humaines, que s’enflammera désormais votre imagination. Ainsi, ménagez-vous, car malheureusement les crimes ne s’offrent pas à nous en raison du besoin que nous avons de les commettre, et la nature, en nous créant des âmes de feu, devait au moins nous fournir un peu plus d’aliment. N’est-il pas vrai, ma belle amie, que vous avez déjà trouvé vos désirs bien supérieurs à vos moyens ? (P 751–52)23



Juliette next outlines her technique for imagining a perfect crime: to make sure the reader does not miss the point Sade inserts an “editorial” footnote to reinforce the veracity of the advice and commend it directly to the reader. The technique is overtly monastic. Juliette proscribes retreat from libertinage for the period of a fortnight and this includes the banishing of all libertine thoughts. At the end of the final day you ought to retire in calm and silence to meditate on all that had been banished during the period of retreat. Concentrate on the various aberrations which you now imagine, follow the details, indulge your imagination free from consequence or hindrances. Of all the various libertine scenes which you visualise, one will come to dominate your mind and the idea of it will come to dominate your thoughts. At this point take up a pen and write out a full description omitting nothing. Review your notes the next day and refine your scheme until you have put the final finishing touches on it. Now you are ready to execute your desire (G 640–1; P 752–53). Sade, it may be noted, may well be describing his own writing technique here; the imagination of the characters within the novel has become indistinguishable from the imagination of the author of that novel.24 What I am calling the fifth stage of libertine self-cultivation has a distinctly autobiographical aspect to it. These are the five stages of Sade’s libertine self-cultivation. As I note in the introduction to this section, while the stages are generally presented in the novel in a developmental order this is not always the case and the stages ought not to be taken to represent a clear linear career progression. The novel’s senior libertines are not mere facsimiles of a single libertine archetype or teleology: not all suffer the problem of insensibility, not all demonstrate the same relationship between crime and passion, and not all evidence the same degree of, or type of, apathy. In fact the effects of this theory of self-cultivation are in the novel’s major characters remarkably ambiguous. Such ambiguity forms the mechanism which drives the narrative and which allows Histoire de Juliette to function as a roman d’apprentissage rather than as a philosophical treatise or as some other genre of novel. Libertine askesis turns out not to be particularly easy for many of the most significant characters in the novel and the success attained by them turns out to be remarkably equivocal.




1. As noted by Roger (1976, p. 68). Roger also notes as basically didactic the encyclopaedic features of the Sadean oeuvre especially as found in Les cent vingt journées de Sodome (pp. 74–75, 139–45). So too for Hénaff (1999, pp. 55–61). See also Goulemot (1983, pp. 119–20). By contrast with this, for Annie Le Brun “Sade intends to free us from all relationships of power exercised through knowledge (in complete contradistinction with the usual libertine pedagogy) and forms a new erotic relationship with knowledge itself. Consequently, the authority of knowledge is now questioned in the most radical fashion, since pleasure both leads to and is increased by cognition” (1990, p. 60). 2. See, for example, Vila (1998, pp. 39–42, 88–91). 3. It is striking that some critics deny this, holding that “at the end of the narrative, Juliette has not changed, and her body has no more memory than it had at the beginning” (Hénaff 1999, p. 19). For Hénaff the Sadean narrative is “not a coming-of-age novel. The libertine is uneducable” (p. 140). For Le Brun, “whatever anyone may say or think, Juliette studies absolutely nothing, assimilates nothing, and does not alter in any way” and yet oddly Le Brun also holds that “the story recounts the considerable labours [Juliette] carries out on herself” (1990, pp. 189, 205–6). 4. Note that what I am describing in this chapter as Sade’s libertine askesis, Caroline Warman has described in terms of “alchemical transmutation” (2002, pp. 110–14). See also Steintrager (2016, p. 9). 5. See Cook (2013, pp. 84–85), Vila (1998), Wolfe (2013). 6. This type of “study in contrast” is a major theme of Aline et Valcour (Sade 1998) particularly in the juxtaposition of the sisters Aline and Léonore in terms of their respective sensibility. Aline is very much a suffering heroine of moral sensibility, something like Sade’s version of Richardson’s Clarissa, or Rousseau’s Julie. By contrast Léonore, who is not a master libertine in anything like the sense found in Sade’s libertine novels, nonetheless displays key similarities with the libertines in terms of her stoicism, her moral insensibility (This apathy is even more marked in Léonore’s friend Clémentine who is much closer to a “classical” Sadean libertine and who is also clearly marked in the novel for her stoicism [see particularly pp. 807, 872]). Léonore is an interesting character within Sade’s oeuvre insofar as she is neither a victim of excessive sensibility nor is she a libertine. In his pornographic novels Sade tends to bifurcate the characters. Léonore fits between the two: her stoicism protects here from being an eternal victim à la Justine, but she is nonetheless not a libertine, let alone a master libertine in the sense of Juliette (see particularly: Lettre XXXVIII: Histoire de Léonore, pp. 737–954).



7. Note: for the remainder of this chapter when referring to Histoire de Juliette I will simply mark these two texts with “G” signifying the English translation published by Grove Press, and “P” signifying the French published by Pléiade. 8. See also G 639; P 751–52. 9.  Note that in this aspect Histoire de Juliette replicates almost exactly Rousseau’s Emile. Note too that this aspect of the novel has very often been missed by commentators, and other times actively denied: for William S. Allen “Juliette gives no account of her life, no biography, no Bildungsroman” (2018, p. 48). For his part, Steintrager names both Justine and Juliette as picaresque novels (2016, p. 22). 10. For example Saint-Fond expressly calls for Juliette to imitate him G 340; P 481. 11. See also G 12–13; P 189. 12. See G 17, 284, 318, 342, and 888; P 193, 428, 461, 483, and 982. 13. See also G 90; P 260. 14. See also Frappier-Mazur (1996, pp. 121–22), Le Brun (1990, p. 200). 15. See Le Brun (1990, p. 198). 16. See also G 829–30; P 929–30. 17. This aspect of Sade has been noted in the critical literature and has caused some interpretative difficulties. For instance Roger notes that stoicism and apathy are the highest attainment of the libertine. And he notes the relationship between apathy and the silencing of the conscience. He is however ultimately unable to make much sense of the contradiction and in the end takes it to be another example of a Sadean “paradox” (Roger 1976, pp. 50–53). Roger later links apathy to Sade’s mechanistic materialism and develops an interpretation of Sadean apathy which is very similar to that offered by Klossowski and by Horkheimer and Adorno: apathy aims at the elimination of the self and is a basic feature of Sade’s anti-humanism (Klossowski 1965, pp. 57, 61–65; Horkheimer and Adorno 2002). I discuss this issue in relation to Horkheimer and Adorno in the conclusion. Marcel Hénaff also recognises the importance of apathy in Sade, holding that there is a “sort of paradox” between the impassioned body and the mechanistic libertine body with no interiority (Hénaff 1999, p. 84; see also pp. 84–103). Hénaff also notes that Sadean apathy is a means of intensifying the passions (p. 86) and is set against love and pity. And he recognises the importance of pity for Rousseau (pp. 97–99). Like others however Hénaff ultimately sees the fundamental meaning of Sadean apathy as being the death of the subject (pp. 102–3). 18.  “État de l’âme lorsqu’elle n’est agitée d’aucune passion” (Morrissey 1762). Note that the term passion is replaced by émotion in the 5th Edition (1798).



19. See also (Sade 1998, p. 557). It is worth just briefly nothing that this highly traditional aspect of Sade’s thought is deeply problematical in particular for Bataille and those who have followed him who, as I show in Chapter 1, understood the Sadean hero to be the anti-philosopher par excellence. 20. Much of this is later repeated by Juliette in a theory to Countess Donis G 634–37; P 747–50. 21. A note of caution is warranted here as by drawing a distinction between physical and moral sensibility there is a danger of imposing a coherence on the text where there is in fact none to be found. To this point in this book I have not relied on a firm distinction in Sade between these two aspects of sensibility: in the context of Sade’s materialism such a division will always be highly unstable if not completely fallacious; moral sensibility for Sade is physical sensibility, or at least a particular aspect of it. There are however occasions when Sade does draw the distinction. Particularly there is a significant footnote which draws the distinction expressly. The narrative invokes the principal that if from immolating three million human victims you might gain a pleasure no more lively than that to be had from eating a good dinner, you ought to treat yourself without hesitation. This idea is repeated several times by Sade. On this occasion he adds a footnote specifying that the pleasure of the dinner is “physical” (une volupté physique) and that of saving the lives of millions is merely “a moral delight” (une volupté morale), an “intellectual enjoyment” (des jouissance intellectuelles), dependent only on our individual, arbitrary, and doubtful opinion. The pleasure gained from moral delights is flimsy and founded on prejudice. Physical delight is somehow more real and would be “equally felt by everybody including animals” (également senties de tous les êtres et même des animaux) (G 642; P 754–55). In Sade’s materialist terms moral sensibility is often, although not always, represented by the sensibility of the heart. Here however it is invoked as a pleasure of the imagination and as not being universal. So the difference between moral and physical sensibility is then invoked by Sade even if it remains unstable and perhaps in metaphysical terms unpersuasive: the idea that imaginary pleasures manage somehow to be pleasant while not being real seems after all rather incoherent and the first stage of libertine askesis acknowledges this. Yet this chapter does invoke the difference as an aid to conceptual clarity. Perhaps the most appropriate way to separate moral and physical sensibility in a way which is faithful to the text is by begging the ontological question and relying on an analysis of the stages of libertine askesis: simply moral sensibility is at least in part other-regarding and is that which the libertine works against; physical sensibility is entirely self-regarding and is that which the libertine seeks to cultivate.



22. See also insensibility in the old cardinals G 687–88; P 796–97. 23. See also Warman (2002, pp. 70–72). 24. This aspect of the novel has often been noted and commented on. See, for example, Frappier-Mazur (1996, p. 78), Roger (1976, p. 86), Le Brun (1990, pp. 196–97, 203–4).

References Allen, William S. 2018. Without End: Sade’s Critique of Reason. London and New York: Bloomsbury. Cook, Alexander. 2013. “Feeling Better: Moral Sense and Sensibility in Enlightenment Thought.” In The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment, edited by Henry Martyn Lloyd, 85–104. Dordrecht and London: Springer. Foucault, Michel. 1990. The History of Sexuality: The Care of the Self. Vol. 3. London and New York: Penguin. Foucault, Michel. 1992. The History of Sexuality: The Use of Pleasure. Vol. 2. London and New York: Penguin. Foucault, Michel. 1994. “Technologies of the Self.” In Michel Foucault: Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, edited by Paul Rabinow, 223–51. London and New York: The Penguin Press. Foucault, Michel. 2005. The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981–1982. Translated by Graham Burchell. Edited by Frédéric Gros. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan. Frappier-Mazur, Lucienne. 1996 [1991]. Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade. Translated by Gillian C. Gill. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Goulemot, Jean Marie. 1983. “Beau marquis parlez-nous d’amour….” In Sade: Écrire la crise, edited by Michel Camus and Philippe Roger, 119–32. Paris: Pierre Belfond. Hénaff, Marcel. 1999 [1978]. Sade: The Invention of the Libertine Body. Translated by Xavier Callahan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Klossowski, Pierre. 1965. “A Destructive Philosophy.” Yale French Studies 35: 61–80. Le Brun, Annie. 1990 [1986]. Sade: A Sudden Abyss. Translated by Camille Naish. San Francisco: City Light Books. Morrissey, Robert. ed. 1762. “Apathie.” In Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. University of Chicago, ARTFL Encyclopédie Projet. http://encyclopedie.



Quinian, Sean M. 2006. “Medicine in the Boudoir: Sade and Moral Hygiene in Post-Thermidorean France.” Textual Practice 20 (2): 231–55. Roger, Philippe. 1976. Sade: La philosophie dans le pressoir. Paris: Bernard Grasset. Sade, D. A. F. 1968 [1797]. Juliette. Translated and Edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1797]. “Juliette ou les prospérités du vice.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 179–1262. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Steintrager, James A. 2016. The Autonomy of Pleasure: Libertines, License, and Sexual Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press. Vila, Anne C. 1998. Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Warman, Caroline. 2002. Sade: From Materialism to Pornography. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation. Wolfe, Charles T. 2013. “Sensibility as Vital Force or as Property of Matter in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Debates.” In The Discourse of Sensibility: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment, edited by Henry Martyn Lloyd, 147–70. Dordrecht and London: Springer.


Juliette’s Ambiguous Apprenticeship

So much for the theory of libertine askesis as it is presented in Histoire de Juliette; but what of the effects of the theory as it unfolds within the novel’s narrative? Or rather, how then does Sade construct in his major characters the effects of the novel’s theory of ethical self-cultivation? The first section of this chapter will focus on the aspects of libertine self-cultivation that are associated with the ideas I present in Part III of this book, that is Sade’s critique of “natural” morality, and thus on the practice of retraining the moral sense which I have called the first stage of libertine self-cultivation. Specifically I will focus here on the narrative effects of Juliette’s attempts to retrain her moral behaviour and on the ambivalence which the Sadean novel actually demonstrates towards its own theory. The second section will focus on the equally ambiguous narrative effects of Sade’s critique of “artificial” morality.

“It Is Only You, My Angel, […] That I Forgive for Loving Me”: The Limited Success of Juliette’s Affective Self-Cultivation In the preceding chapter, I noted that the first stage of libertine askesis is the most significant in a libertine’s training but also that it is, at least in terms of Sade’s askesis, theoretically the least interesting: most of the interesting intellectual material is found in Part II of this book which shows the understanding of sensibility that underpins Sade’s libertine © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




askesis. And there are moments in the novel where the ideal is presented as easy to achieve.1 More often however, and much more significantly for its structure as novel, Histoire de Juliette makes it clear that overcoming inherited and/or natural moral prejudices is in fact not easy at all. Rather the opposite. Noirceuil for example describes the project of curing himself of the “painful sentiment” of pity as requiring all his resources (je dois donc tout mettre en usage) (G 193; P 349). And the project requires constant vigilance: Prejudices, no matter what you do, will come and trouble you again, because of the depth of the restraints that you have broken through: fatal effects of education, of which a profound reflection, an untiring perseverance, and above all the implanting of habits, will alone be able to remedy. (G 342) Des préjugés, quoique tu puisses faire, viendront te troubler encore, en raison de l’épaisseur des freins que tu auras rompus : fatals effets de l’éducation, auxquels une profonde réflexion, une persévérance soutenue, et surtout des habitudes enracinées, peuvent seules remédier. (P 483)

What is striking, and this is especially the case given that at its base Sade’s project is didactic, is not so much the difficulty of the project as it is represented in the novel, but rather the limited success the major characters meet with. Juliette’s continued failure to overcome her latent moral sensibility is an enduring feature of the novel. For example, when asked to assist in the killing of Saint-Fond’s father Juliette asks if it is not a crime. The question invites a long didactic speech assuring both her and the reader that there is in fact nothing more natural. But it also leads Noirceuil to question her hesitation. Juliette responds: Who said to you I was faltering? An involuntary movement may have escaped me, I am young, I am beginning on the pathway in which you are training me: should a few backward steps surprise my masters? But you will soon see if they are typical of me. Let Saint-Fond make haste to send me his father: he will be dead two hours after entering my house. (G 255) Qui vous a dit que je balançais ? Un mouvement involontaire a pu m’échapper ; je suis jeune, je débute dans la carrière où vous m’entraînez : quelques faibles retours doivent-ils donc étonner mes maîtres ? Mais ils verront bientôt si je suis digne d’eux. Que Saint-Fond se hâte de m’envoyer son père : il est mort deux heures après son entrée chez moi. (P 403)



This rhetorical structure is common in the novel; Juliette’s regular hesitations—sometimes presented as disingenuous and intended only to invite a speech, other times presented by the novel as genuine—are often used to open a narrative space within which Sade situates the novel’s long philosophical speeches. More significantly her hesitations are drivers of the plot, providing the moments of crisis by which the narrative progresses. This is particularly true of the major event that occurs almost half way through the novel, and at a point at which Juliette is already a highly accomplished libertine and has more-or-less conquered her native Paris. In fact Juliette, speaking as the novel’s narrator, stresses the extent of her progress in libertinage: Two years passed like this without anything particularly remarkable happening. My indulgence, my debauches multiplied to such a point, that I no longer tasted the simple pleasures of nature, and that if there was not something extraordinary or criminal about the fantasies that were presented to me, I was becoming absolutely insensible to them. It is likely that in this state of ruin that virtue makes a final effort within us, either that our exhaustion puts us in that situation of weakness in which virtue’s voice regains its authority, or that, by a natural fickleness, we want, bored by crimes, to try something to the contrary. There is always a moment where prejudices reappear, and if they triumph, since we have taken the way of vice they will surely make us very unhappy: there is nothing worse than back-sliding. The events that I will relate to you will convince you of this assertion. (G 548–49) Deux ans passèrent ainsi, sans qu’il m’arrivât rien de bien singulier. Mon luxe, mes débauches se multipliaient à tel point, que je ne goûtais plus les plaisirs simples de la nature, et que s’il n’y avait pas quelque chose d’extraordinaire ou de criminel dans les fantaisies qui m’étaient proposées, j’y devenais absolument insensible. Il est vraisemblable que c’est dans cet état d’anéantissement que la vertu fait un dernier effort en nous, soit que notre épuisement nous mette dans cette situation de faiblesse où sa voix reprend son empire, soit que, par une inconstance naturelle, nous voulions, ennuyés de crimes, essayer un peu du contraire. Toujours est-il qu’il est un moment où les préjugés reparaissent, et s’ils triomphent lorsqu’on a pris la route du vice assurément ils nous rendent bien malheureux : il n’est rien de pis que les retours. Les événements que je vais raconter vous convaincront de cette assertion. (P 671–72)



Saint-Fond announces a plan to starve two-thirds of France; he intends for Juliette to play a major role in the plot; Juliette shudders and SaintFond notices (G 549; P 672). Significantly, and in what is itself a major breach of libertine protocol to which I will return, Noirceuil then warns Juliette in a note: You are lost, he reported to me, I would never have suspected weakness in she that I have formed… in she who has always behaved so well. Try as you might to rectify your half-heartedness, the minister will no longer be your dupe: your first movement has betrayed you. Leave Paris this very day, take with you the money that you happen to have, but do not rely any more on anything. (G 550) Vous êtes perdue, me mande-t-il ; je n’aurais jamais soupçonné de faiblesse celle que j’avais formée… celle qui s’était toujours aussi bien conduite. En vain chercheriez-vous à réparer votre tiédeur, le ministre ne serait plus votre dupe : votre premier mouvement vous a trahie. Quittez Paris dans le jour même, emportez avec vous l’argent que vous pourrez avoir, mais ne comptez plus sûre autre chose. (P 672–73)

Juliette is struck hard by the letter but her dread of Saint-Fond is stronger than her despair of quitting her friends. Intriguingly she briefly considers fleeing to Clairwil but realises that it may well have been Clairwil who betrayed her wishing to usurp her place. Juliette as narrator then previews later events in the novel by hinting at how wrong she was “in suspecting my best friend.” The effects of this reverse are for Juliette to swear (once more) to never again be tricked by virtue (G 550; P 673). She grabs a handful of money and leaves town, commencing the grand tour that culminates in her audience with the Pope, before returning to Paris in triumph towards the end of the novel: the incident then forms a significant part of Juliette’s apprenticeship and is perhaps the single most important narrative event. Interestingly, almost at the end of the novel Sade repeats the episode almost exactly, this time the failure is Durand’s, one of the text’s most accomplished libertine-heroes and a character that is presented as already being a master-libertine and not as someone undergoing an apprenticeship in the novel. The circumstances are almost identical, a request to commit mass-murder: the Venetian inquisition requests Durand set a plague in order to annihilate a faction which had been forming in the city. She refuses (G 1149; P 1131). Juliette, thinking Durand dead, is



forced to flee the city. By virtue of her cunning however Durand survives and re-enters the novel on the second last page just in time for three of the major characters—Durand, Noirceuil, and Juliette—to effectively live happily ever after (G 1191; P 1259). As important as these failures are for the structure of the novel, the most significant area in which the novel’s heroes fail to exemplify the theory established in it is not in the characters’ relationship to major crimes such as mass-murder but rather in their relationship to love and friendship, particularly their love of each other. In the major part of the novel—roughly the first two-thirds—the heroes are generally very careful to describe their attraction as intellectual/philosophical rather than moral (roughly, they affect the mind and not the heart) and as being grounded in mutual self-interest (even if only temporarily so). This first aspect attempts to be broadly consistent with Sade’s critique of “natural” moralities, the second with his critique of “artificial” moralities. In the last third of the novel however this begins to change dramatically and Juliette and the other libertines begin to evidence genuinely sentimental relationships of the type the novel in its theoretical mode is so careful to critique. In chapter seven I discuss in detail the comparison between Olympe de Borghèse, who captures Juliette’s mind, and the Duchess Grillo, who captures Juliette’s heart (G 659; P 770).2 The episode allows Sade a comparative study of the two modes of sensibility. The point that I wish to make here is that Grillo’s appeal to Juliette’s heart is itself a significant breach of Juliette’s libertine askesis. This is a relatively minor example of the phenomenon however, particularly as Juliette’s affection for Grillo is very short lived. There are two episodes (or series of episodes) that are much more significant and which bear discussion in some detail: first, Juliette’s relationship with Noirceuil, and second, her relationship with Clairwil and Durand. Noirceuil’s relationship to Juliette is often carefully framed in ways which attempt to render it consistent with Sade’s critique of moral philosophy. Yet there is much in it which contradicts these careful qualifications. When Noirceuil admits that it was he who ruined Juliette’s father, Juliette responds enthusiastically and with “textbook” libertine sentiment. It is Noirceuil’s response to this which is significant here: Heinous man, I cried, to whatever degree am I to be victim of your vices, I love them… Yes, I adore your principles […] Monster, I repeat it to you, I cried, you horrify me, and I love you! — The torturer of your



family? — Eh! So what? I judge all by sensations; those your crimes have separated from me did not produce any sensations in me, and the admission that you have made to me of this offence sets me ablaze, throws me into a delirium for which it is impossible for me to account. — Charming creature, Noirceuil responded to me, your naivety, the frankness of your soul which you open to me, all determines me to transgress my principles: I will take care of you, Juliette, I will take care of you. (G 148–49) Homme exécrable, m’écriai-je, à quelque degré que je sois victime de tes vices, je les aime… Oui, j’adore tes principes […] Monstre, je te le répète, m’écriai-je, tu me fais horreur, et je t’aime ! — Le bourreau de ta famille ? — Eh ! que m’importe ? Je juge tout par les sensations ; ceux dont tes crimes me séparent ne m’en faisaient naître aucune, et l’aveu que tu me fais de ce délit m’embrase, me jette dans un délire dont il m’est impossible de rendre compte. — Charmante créature, me répondit Noirceuil, ta naïveté, la franchise de l’âme que tu me développes, tout me détermine à transgresser mes principes : je te garde, Juliette, je te garde. (P 310–11)

It is both her libertinage and her naturalness which draws Noirceuil to Juliette and which encourages him to violate his principles. By the end of part one Juliette is in a relationship with Noirceuil, “although [one which is] characterised by indifference,” and “without [Noirceuil] loving [her],” he is keeping Juliette very well (G 199; P 357).3 Yet Juliette errs in what is another breach of her askesis; she feels pity for a woman she desires and moves to act altruistically: “I accepted, moved, despite myself, by the desire to make someone happy. That was a fatal desire, I was soon punished by the hand of nature that had not created me for virtue” (entraînée, ici, comme malgré moi, par le désir de faire un heureux, fatal désir, dont la main de la nature que ne m’avait pas créée pour la vertu, eut bientôt soin de me punir, j’accepte) (G 200; P 357). Juliette is double-crossed, arrested, and cast for a time into a dungeon. She spends the time reflecting on her fate, furious for allowing herself to be duped, and resolving never again to “permit [virtue] the faintest entry into my heart” (G 201; P 358). Noirceuil comes to her rescue. Why does he do so? Noirceuil reassures Juliette that “love has no share in our arrangement.” Do not believe that it was either by sentiment or by pity that I come to break your chains, you know me well enough to be absolutely persuaded that I am unable to be moved by either one or the other of those two



weaknesses. I have only acted here out of egoism, and I swear to you that if I was more aroused to see you hanged than to see you released, I would not waver for a minute. But your company pleases me; I would be deprived of it if you were hanged. (G 202) Ne croyez pas que ce soit ni par sentiment ni par commisération, que je vienne briser vos fers, vous me connaissez assez pour être bien persuadée que je ne puis être mu ni par l’une, ni par l’autre de ses deux faiblesses. Je n’ai agi ici, que par égoïsme, et je vous jure, que si je bandais mieux à vous voir pendre, qu’à vous retirer, je ne balancerais pas une minute. Mais votre société me plaît, j’en serais privé si vous étiez pendue. (P 359)

“In spite of herself” Juliette expresses thanks; Sade takes the opportunity to pen a speech on the inappropriateness of gratitude, a speech in which Noirceuil stresses that his motives have only ever been purely selfish (G 204; P 360). Yet, on the very next page Juliette declares her love for Noirceuil (G 205; P 362).4 Finally, as I have noted, in the event of Juliette’s greeting Saint-Fond’s plan for mass-murder with an involuntary shudder, it is Noirceuil who warns her, allowing her to flee: it is far from clear how this action could be justified by Noirceuil as merely in his self-interest as it prompts Juliette to flee from Paris and so there is no foreseeable prospect of him realising his self-interest by her continued company. Further, given her repeated failures, any insistence that Noirceuil feels affection for Juliette purely on account of her libertine temperament would become increasingly strained. This appears to be an act of genuine altruism by Noirceuil. The second series of episodes which warrants discussion involves Juliette’s relationship to both Clairwil and Durand. Recall that Juliette asks Noirceuil for a woman who can set an example to which she can aspire and who can mentor her and that it is Clairwil who takes up the role. Recall too that Clairwil is one of the novel’s premier exemplars of Sadean apathy: My soul is impassive, she said, I defy any sentiment to reach it, excepting that of pleasure. I am mistress of the affections of that soul, of its desires, of its movements; in me all is under the orders of my head; and that is the worst thing, she continued, because this head is most dreadful. But I do not regret it. I love my vices, I abhor virtue; I am the sworn enemy of all religions, of all gods; I fear neither the ills of life, nor what follows death; and anyone that resembles me is happy. (G 274)



Mon âme est impassible, disait-elle ; je défie aucun sentiment de l’atteindre, excepté celui du plaisir. Je suis maîtresse des affections de cette âme, de ses désirs, de ses mouvements ; chez moi tout est aux ordres de ma tête ; et c’est ce qu’il y a de pis, continuait-elle, car cette tête est bien détestable. Mais je ne m’en plains pas : j’aime mes vices, j’abhorre la vertu ; je suis l’ennemie jurée de toutes les religions, de tous les dieux ; je ne crains ni les maux de la vie, ni les suites de la mort ; et quand on me ressemble, on est heureux. (P 419)

There are many episodes which I could refer to here but for the sake of brevity I will focus on key aspects of Juliette’s relationship with Clairwil and Durand. Juliette rapidly becomes impassioned by (raffoler de) Clairwil (G 275; P 419). And notwithstanding the above characterisation of her as a master of insensibility, Clairwil does not take long to declare her love for Juliette (“toi que j’aime infiniment”) (G 294; P 439). It is at the loss of her and of Noirceuil that Juliette is so cruelly smitten in being forced to flee Paris. Following this episode Clairwil is absent from the novel for most of Juliette’s grand tour but re-enters the story in part five just after Juliette has left Rome. The scene of their reunion in many ways sincerely reproduces an episode from a novel of sensibility: for all her sang-froid, Juliette swoons (G 808–15; P 908–16).5 The relationship between Juliette and Clairwil is then framed in terms of strong affects including those of the heart, a fact which is acknowledged as a breach of the libertine ethic: as Juliette says to Clairwil, “it is only you, my angel, only you alone in all the world… that I forgive for loving me” (G 1013; P 1098.) Juliette and Clairwil intend to return to Paris and swear never to separate (G 1023; P 1108). However, after an initial relatively brief appearance in the novel prior to Juliette being forced to flee Paris, Durand re-enters the story (G 1027–34; P 1111– 18). Motivated by jealousy—Durand has herself long been in love with Juliette—Durand tricks Juliette into thinking Clairwil is about to murder her. Juliette’s response is striking: “infamous creature!” she says of Clairwil, “you whom I loved with such sincerity, into the arms of whom I delivered myself with such candour and good faith” (G 1028; P 1112). Yet, because of the impression of “frankness” (franchise) that Durand’s avowals had, Juliette chooses to believe her (G 1029; P 1113). Juliette strikes first and quickly dispatches Clairwil. When Juliette offers Durand a reward for the betrayal of Clairwil, Durand responds: “keep all that



[…] Juliette I adore you; I only wanted as a price for all that I have done the happiness of adoring you without a rival” (G 1031; P 1114). Durand quickly moves into what had formerly been Clairwil’s chambers. When Juliette realises what has occurred and confronts Durand with her treachery, Durand justifies her actions as being motivated by love for Juliette, saying: “nobody [but you] has ever had either my passions or my heart; nobody has ever loved you as I love you.” Juliette declares her love for the triumphant Durand: “you triumph, villain,” she says casting herself onto Durand’s breast, “yes, you have won me completely, and I idolise you” (G 1035; P 1118–19). Such then are the ambiguous effects of Juliette’s libertine askesis.

“Even [Libertines] Worship Something Like Virtue in Their Lairs”: The Problem of Libertine Sociability In the previous section, I examine the ambiguous effects of libertine self-cultivation by focusing on the libertines’ “natural” morality and on their affective relationships with each other. Here I focus on the narrative effects of “artificial” morality. As I do, it is worth again stressing that this division is historiographical, not historical, and the division in the structure of this book ought not to be taken to indicate a strict division in moral philosophy as the period understood it. That is, the relationships between the libertines are both “natural”/affective and “artificial”/ calculated egoistically; the themes of this chapter’s parts are not properly separable and I will continue here to develop the argument that the Sadean critiques of eighteenth-century moral theory produce a problem of libertine sociability and this is one of the major narrative devices in Histoire de Juliette. Given that a key feature of the Sade’s “system” is his critique of contract-based moralities—and particularly given the ambiguous nature of the Sadean critique of moral sense as it develops in the novel—there is a problem generated by the nature of the relationships between libertines. They are, or ought to be, chronically unstable. The problem is clearly laid out in a conversation between Juliette and Saint-Fond, the senior libertine of the first half of the novel and a character who is not particularly susceptible to failures of his affective askesis of the sort I have outlined in the previous section. The section is worth quoting at length. After listening to a series of short speeches Juliette says:



O Saint-Fond! […] I support all the principles which you have just established. One single thing worries me. It is necessary, you have said, to be deceptive with everybody: if unfortunately you have been so with me, you are aware of everything I would have to fear. — Do not dread that, said the minister, I will never be deceptive with my friends, because in fact, it is necessary to have something solid in the world; and on what could we count, if not on interactions with friends? You can be certain then, all three of you [i.e. Juliette, Clairwil, and Noirceuil], that I will never betray you, at least if you do not betray me first. The reason for this is very simple, I will support it by egoism, the single rule that I know for judging the self and others well. We live together: is it not true that if you were to notice that I am betraying you, you would soon pay me back? And I do not want to be betrayed. That is the only logic of friendship. It is, in fact, a difficult sentiment between people of the same sex, an impossible one between people of different sexes, which is only to be esteemed (and that happens very rarely) when it can be based on relationships of [body] humours and of tastes. But it is false to say that it ought to be virtue that is the cement of friendship: it would then become, if this were to be true, a very shallow sentiment, which monotony would soon destroy. When pleasures are the basis of it, each new idea strengthens the bonds; need, the single real nourishment of friendship, tightens its knots at all times; all the more so because every day we have increasing need of one another: we get pleasure from our friend, we get pleasure with our friend, we get pleasure for our friend. Sensual pleasures are increased one by the other, and it is really only then that we can suppose that we know pleasures. But what do I get from a virtuous sentiment? A few dry pleasures, a few intellectual pleasures which are ruined at the first test, which give regrets even more bitterly because our pride remains injured by them, and there is no wound more keenly felt than those which affect one’s pride. (G 481–82) Ô Saint-Fond ! […] j’adhère à tous les principes que vous venez d’établir. Une seule chose m’inquiète. Il faut, avez-vous dit, être fausse avec tout le monde : si malheureusement vous l’étiez avec moi, vous sentez tout ce que j’aurais à craindre. — Ne redoutez point cela, dit le ministre, je ne serai jamais faux avec mes amis, parce qu’au fait, il faut avoir quelque chose de solide dans le monde ; et sur quoi pourrait-on compter, si ce n’est sur le commerce de ses amis ? Vous pouvez donc être certains, tous trois, que je ne vous tromperai jamais, à moins que vous ne me trompiez les premiers. La raison de cela est bien simple, je vais l’étayer par l’égoïsme, la seule règle que je connaisse pour se bien juger soi et les autres. Nous vivons ensemble : n’est-il pas vrai que si vous vous aperceviez que je vous trompe, vous me le rendriez bientôt ? Et je ne veux pas être trompé. Voilà toute



ma logique en amitié. C’est, dans le fait, un sentiment fort difficile entre sexe égal, impossible entre sexe différent, et que je n’estime qu’autant (ce qui est fort rare) qu’il peut être fondé sur des rapports d’humeurs et de goûts. Mais il est faux de dire qu’il faille que la vertu en soit le ciment : il deviendrait alors, si cela était vrai, un sentiment fort plat, que la monotonie détruirait bientôt. Quand les plaisirs en sont la base, chaque nouvelle idée en resserre les liens ; le besoin, seul aliment réel de l’amitié, rapproche ses nœuds à tous les instants ; d’autant plus, que tous les jours on a plus besoin l’un de l’autre : on jouit de son ami, on jouit avec son ami, on jouit pour son ami, les voluptés s’augmentent les unes par les autres, et ce n’est véritablement qu’alors qu’on peut se flatter de les connaître. Mais qu’obtiens-je d’un sentiment vertueux ? Quelques voluptés sèches, quelques jouissances intellectuelles qui se détruisent à la première épreuve, et qui donnent des regrets d’autant plus amers que l’amour-propre en demeure blessé, et qu’il n’est point de traits plus sensibles que ceux qui vont à l’orgueil. (P 609–10)

There are two major features of this speech which bear discussing in some detail. First, it really does seem that at this point Sade has forgotten the substance of his critique of neo-Hobbesian moralities of self-interest. Or perhaps it is Saint-Fond who has misunderstood: in many ways this is an instance of Sade’s tactical deployment of moralities of self-interest against moralities of innate or “natural” virtue; the argument here is that friendship is not based on virtue but rather on selfishness and egoism. However in deploying moralities of self-interest for tactical purposes Sade, at least here, seems to overlook that they are nonetheless moral theories that he elsewhere critiques. Saint-Fond, in explicating his “logic of friendship” in fact uncritically replicates a neo-Hobbesian justification for morality. Recall that for Rousseau “even bandits, who are the enemies of virtue in the large society, worship something like virtue in their lairs” (Rousseau 1987, p. 116) and so even Saint-Fond, one of the book’s most dangerous and brutal libertines, seems to recognise at least in this instance that his life is the poorer for not having friends to trust, who trust him, and with whom he can share his pleasures.6 Nonetheless if Saint-Fond does sometimes acknowledge the benefits of friendship, his commitment to his friends is not particularly deep and it is from the danger posed by him that Juliette is forced to flee Paris. This is not the only instance of libertines’ unreflexively expressing or implicitly performing the basic features of a neo-Hobbesian contract.



The Sadean novel is full of libertine heroes engaging in highly social behaviour. With very few exceptions Sade’s libertines seek each other out, cooperate with each other, and form social arrangements, bands, or groups which are sometimes informal, but which are often highly elaborate, formal, and strikingly explicit instances of libertine social contracts. Probably the most famous of these associations is that of the “four friends” in Les cent vingt journées de Sodome. In Justine much of the novel revolves around the heroine’s captivity in the Benedictine monastery of Sainte-Marie-des-bois, a formal association in which the life and pleasures of the monks are highly regulated (Sade 1965, pp. 559, 582). It is implied that the whole Benedictine order is in fact a highly organised society of libertines, the exemplary libertinage of Pope Pius VI in Histoire de Juliette demonstrating perhaps that the corruption of the clergy is complete. However the most obvious and deliberate of these societies is that of the Parisian Society for the Friends of Crime (La Société des amis du crime). Juliette’s entry into the Society is sponsored by Clairwil. Surrounded by three hundred members, Juliette is inducted as a novice in an elaborate ceremony which involves the swearing of an oath: the Society’s laws make clear that no candidate will be admitted without signing both the oath and the list of obligations corresponding to their sex (G 427; P 559). And so Juliette swears to adhere strictly to the Society’s statutes and accept the penalties proscribed in them, in some instances capital punishment, if she fails to do so (G 427–29; P 559–62). That there is a social contract is clear: Juliette is sworn in as a citizen of what is effectively a Libertine Republic. Members join by taking an oath; this is significant as it is, at least for Hobbes, this act which is definitive of transferring some of the individual’s rights to the commonwealth (Hobbes 2003, p. 34). The preface to the laws states that they use the term “crime” in a mere conventional sense. Mankind is not free but is bound by the laws of nature; everything that is natural is permitted. If there is a real crime it is a reluctance or refusal to perform any act that nature inspires (G 418; P 551–52). Those who violate the laws of the country—i.e. of France— will be protected by the Society: The society protects all its members; it promises them all aid, shelter, refuge, protection, and credit, against the undertakings of the law; and regards itself as above the law, because the law is the work of men, and the Society, daughter of nature, listens to and follows only nature. (G 418)



La Société protége tous ses membres ; elle leur promet à tous secours, abri, refuge, protection, crédit, contre les entreprises de la loi ; et se regarde comme au-dessus d’elle, parce que la loi est l’ouvrage des hommes, et que la Société, fille de la nature, n’écoute et ne suit que la nature. (P 551)

So—oddly perhaps given the requirements of joining, and the ongoing traditions of natural law theory—the Society understands itself to be a “natural” not an “artificial” association. Many of the Society’s forty-five laws are unproblematic instantiations of the Sadean “system”: there are laws against theism, and against refusing a pleasure another, against scenes entailing love or the language of love, laws restricting childbirth, and laws encouraging adultery and incest. Some of the laws we might think of as a little quirky such as those against gambling and duelling. And some laws are quite banal: dinner will be served at midnight, fires are to be maintained in each room in winter, and those who have unfortunately caught a venereal disease will retire until completely restored to health (G 418–27; P 551–59). But there are other laws that raise real difficulties for the Sadean “system” as I have reconstructed it in this study. But more broadly the existence of the laws per se is problematic as they represent a social contract or constitution which is not in principal different from that formed by any other polis. The most significant conflict between the Society’s laws and the Sadean “system” arises in the very first article which stipulates that “there will be no distinction among the individuals which compose the Society.” The rule notes that this does not imply that all are equal in the eyes of nature. Rather it recognises that the maintenance of natural distinctions within the Society would be detrimental to, and sooner or later spoil, the pleasures of the members. This is just to say that members of the society, born unequal, become equal by covenant. The idea may well have been lifted by Sade directly from Rousseau’s Du contrat social which argues that citizens, whose natural inequalities are exacerbated by the laws of an unjust society, only become equal by entering into a wellfounded social contract (Rousseau 1987, p. 153). Reinforcing this, the Society’s law thirty-eight stipulates that neither beauty nor youth confer any privileges as this would destroy the equality which must prevail in the society (G 424; P 557). Further “the friends of the Society, united as one is in the breast of a family, share all their hardships as their pleasures; they help and aid each other in all the different situations of life”



(Rule 8: G 420; P 553). An emergency fund is kept in reserve for any member who finds themself in difficulties (Rule 9). The Society is then a Republic, governed by a constitution, power ultimately residing with the members/citizens themselves. The president is elected by secret ballot and presides for the period of a month. Their duties are to see that the laws are respected and to ensure the smooth running of the assembly (Rule 10 & 27). There are laws which protect members from the excesses of each other’s savagery, between them members of the Society are restricted to benign merrymaking; well stocked seraglios are kept with a ready supply of victims on whom the members may indulge in all debaucheries of libertinage they like (Rule 13 & 15). What are we to make of all this; can it be reconciled with the content of Sade’s “system” as I reconstruct it particularly in Part IV? First, I think we are able to simply conclude that Sade is inconsistent in his critique of contract-based moralities. To paraphrase Rousseau, Sade cannot seem to help but demonstrate that “even [Libertines] worship something like virtue in their lairs.” And I do think it is philosophically significant that, both explicitly and implicitly, Sade cannot help but confirm Rousseau’s point. More ought to be said here however. Second, it is worth noting that the ideal intended reader of this text would have been acutely aware of the political problem posed by factions or parties as they formed within a polis. In fact to be sure that reader did not miss it, Sade reminded them: law twenty-two strictly forbids “syndicates” (cabales) forming within Society (G 422; P 555). A full exploration of the problem of factions lies outside the scope of this study. Suffice it to note that, probably because political parties have today become so widely accepted, it is difficult to remember a time when they were held to be purely pernicious. The problem no longer receives much attention. Yet from Plato until at least the end of the eighteenth-century, the problem of internal divisions within a body politic, that is, the problem of the limit of diversity a city or polis could absorb while still accomplishing its purpose as a single body, was one of the perennial problems of political thought (Coby 1988, p. 898). The problem was close to the mind of Hume (1994, pp. 33–34), Rousseau (1987, pp. 154, 156), and Hobbes (2003, pp. 135, 140, 149). Note that Sade’s Society, as a Libertine Republic within a larger state (i.e. France), fits Hobbes’s definition of a faction exactly:



By FACTION I mean a crowd of citizens, united either by agreement with each other or by the power of one man, without authority from the holder or holders of sovereign power. A faction is like a commonwealth within a commonwealth; for just as a commonwealth comes into being by men’s union in a natural state, so a faction comes into being by a new union of citizens. (Hobbes 2003, p. 149; see also pp. 135, 140)

The question of inconsistency notwithstanding, and irrespective of the content of the Society’s laws, it is reasonable to think that Sade expected his readers to realise that the Society, as a state within a state, was by definition a corrupt institution.7 But there is a third and ultimately more useful understanding of the role of the Society in the novel: simply it is another example of Sade’s ambidextrous thought. On the one hand, Sade is a full-blooded critic of the social contract and of natural law in general: I have outlined this aspect of his “system” in Part IV where I focused particularly on Sade’s relationship with Rousseau’s Second Discourse. On the other hand, Sade can be seen here responding quite specifically to the idea of an ideal Republic as imagined in Rousseau’s Du contrat social—a text Sade owned (Lever 1993, p. 619)—with his own imagined and idealised version of a Libertine Republic.8 I want to return now to Saint-Fond’s speech which I used to open his section and to the second key aspect of it which warrants discussion: the importance of physiology in libertine friendships. Libertines are drawn to each other through similar sensibility and Saint-Fond values friendship only when “based on relationships of [body] humours and of tastes” (G 482; P 610).9 Or as Clairwil says when explaining why she married her brother: “when two people resemble each other so perfectly, when their inclinations, their morals, have a conformity so complete, they must never separate” (G 812; P 912). That libertines bond due to their similarity of their humours and tastes (that is: a similarity in their sensibility) has been a consistent theme of this study and of this part and I have already discussed it in several ways including in the opening of Chapter 11’s discussion of temperamental determinism and the ease by which Delbène initially identified Juliette as having a very particular sensibility. Sade shares this with the thought of his period and Anne Vila, to name just one, has studied the idea in some depth in the guise of the period’s interest in embodied semiotics (Vila 1998, pp. 39–42, 52–65, 197).



The implications of this are significant for libertine sociability. For example, to return to Juliette’s relationship to Noirceuil, when invited into his household and under his protection Juliette, who has a particular predilection towards theft, decides not to steal from him: By a particular calculation of my imagination… by a sentiment that I would perhaps have difficulty giving myself an account of, I never wanted to permit myself to do a wrong to someone as corrupt as me. It is without doubt here what they call honour amongst thieves: but I had it. (G 159) Par un singulier calcul de mon imagination… par un sentiment dont j’aurais peut-être bien de la peine à me rendre compte, je ne voulus jamais me permettre de faire tort à un être aussi corrompu que moi. C’est sans doute ici ce qu’on appelle la bonne foi des Bohèmes : mais je l’eus. (P 319)10

I have gestured above to the ambiguous nature of affections between libertines. Here I what I want to foreground is that there is between the Sadean libertines an idea of “honour amongst thieves”/bonne foi des Bohèmes. Or as it is expressed elsewhere in the oeuvre, the idea that “wolves are safe in their own company”/jamais entre eux ne se mangent les loups, a direct response we might think to Hobbes who holds that “man is wolf to man” (Hobbes 2003, p. 3). This is Dolmancé, the senior libertine of La philosophie dans le boudoir: These excesses, perfectly simple and very well known to me, without doubt, ought not however to be performed between us: “wolves are safe in their own company,” says the proverb, and, as trivial as it is, it is right. Do not ever dread me, my friends: I will make you perhaps do a lot of evil, but I will never do it to you. (Sade 1965, p. 244) Ces excès, parfaitement simples et très connus de moi, sans doute, ne doivent pourtant jamais s’exécuter entre nous : « Jamais entre eux ne se mangent les loups » , dit le proverbe, et, si trivial qu’il soit, il est juste. Ne redoutez jamais rien de moi, mes amies : je vous ferai peut-être faire beaucoup de mal, mais je ne vous en ferai jamais. (Sade 1998b, p. 60)11

Recognising each other as fellow libertines, in large part by techniques of embodied semiotics, the libertines do form a sort of social contract between themselves, and this is an intrinsic feature of the novel’s progression. Sade has a very acute sense that there is a libertine elite among whom special rules apply. Recall that a key aspect of the arguments for



“artificial” morality was the idea that even “bandits worship something like virtue in their lairs.” Recall too that for Sade an association of bandits is bound by only by temporary mutual self-interest and that they do not alienate their rights to the whole and so do not form a general will: the association only lasts so long as it is in the immediate self-interest of all its members, and no longer. Accordingly the special rules which apply to the libertine elite apply for only as long as each maintains their status as one of the elite. Those “like us” are identified by their particular libertine sensibility, by their behaviour, by the extent to which they have progressed in their career, and by the extent to which they can maintain themselves as interesting and desirable to other libertines. Given the ambiguous effects of Sade’s theoretical “system” in the narrative and characters of Histoire de Juliette it is worth asking: What would a character be like who is consistent with the theory? And what would their relationships with other libertines be like? Saint-Fond comes close to being such a character although as I have shown he too fails in key regards. There is one character who in the novel who comes much closer: Minski the Giant, the Hermit of the Apennines. In the beginning stages of her grand tour of Italy, Juliette and her band of libertine companions take the time to visit a volcano on the outskirts of Florence. Predictably enough the “irregularities of nature” that the volcano represents inspire them libertinage. Minski, a seven feet three inches tall Russian, surprises them in the act. Recognising them immediately to be fellow libertines he invites them to his castle in order to show them even more wondrous sights (G 575–77; P 696–99). Juliette and her band quickly recognises the threat posed by Minski asking: Giant […] we love extraordinary things, and to observe them, there is nothing which we would not do, no doubt: but the supreme strength which it seems to me you command, will it not harm our liberty? — No, because I believe you worthy of my company, said this remarkable individual: without that, it would very certainly harm you: stop worrying then and follow me. (G 577) Géant […] nous aimons les choses extraordinaires, et pour les observer, il n’est rien que nous ne fassions, sans doute ; mais la suprême force dont il me paraît que tu jouis, ne nuira-t-elle pas à notre liberté ? — Non, parce que je vous crois digne de ma société, dit ce singulier personnage : sans cela, elle y nuirait très certainement : tranquillisez-vous donc et suivez-moi. (P 699–700)



Arriving a short time later at his isolated castle Minski stresses their powerlessness but once again emphasises that he takes them to be a member of the libertine few and so merit special consideration: You are in my power; I can do to you what pleases me: do not be frightened however; the actions that I saw you committing are too analogous to my fashion of thinking for me not to believe you worthy to know and to share the pleasures of my retreat. (G 579) Vous êtes en ma puissance ; je peux faire de vous ce qu’il me plaira : ne vous effrayez pourtant point ; les actions que je vous ai vu commettre sont trop analogues à ma façon de penser pour que je ne vous croie pas digne de connaître et de partager les plaisirs de ma retraite. (P 701)

Yet Minski does pose a very particular danger which stems from his prodigious puissance, itself an effect of his cannibalism: he is constantly erect with a dick that is “eighteen inches long and sixteen in circumference,” with a knob the size of a hat (“Minski en mettant au jour un anchois12 de dix-huit pouces de long, sur seize de circonférences, surmonté d’un champignon vermeil et large comme le cul d’un chapeau”) and that kills anybody he penetrates, so ensuring his table is constantly supplied with fresh meat (G 582–83; P 704). During their short stay at his castle several of Juliette’s travelling companions die in this manner and Juliette increasingly worries for her own safety: What safeguards me from the treatment which you have just caused my friend to suffer? — Nothing, absolutely nothing, said Minski, and if I desire to murder, you will not live fifteen minutes. But I had thought you as villainous as me, and since you resemble me, at this moment, I like you more as my accomplice than as my victim. (G 592) Qui me garantit du traitement que vous venez de faire éprouver à mon amie ? — Rien, rien absolument, dit Minski, et si je bandais pour vous assassiner, vous n’existeriez pas un quart d’heure. Mais je vous ai crue aussi scélérate que moi, et puisque vous me ressemblez, de ce moment, j’aime mieux vous prendre pour ma complice que pour ma victime. (P 713)

Understandably enough Juliette and Sbrigani, her chief companion in this part of the novel, are not reassured. And they do not trust Minski’s ability to successfully read their physiognomy and so recognise them as fellow libertines.13 They accordingly resolve to flee the castle as quickly



as they can. They do not kill Minski however—he is too much an enemy to humanity and too much in agreement with their principles—but they drug him and rob him of much of his treasure (G 608; P 726). The point is this: Minski, who comes very close to personifying a theoretically consistent Sadean libertinage, is also a hermit. His castle is populated only with servants and victims; he is just too dangerous to have libertine accomplices. Partly the danger is posed by the lethal nature of his dick. But more profoundly the danger is posed by the fact that any time the urge strikes him to kill/fuck he will follow his passions and do so. More profoundly still, without failures or reverses of his libertine askesis, Minski could not form lasting associations with other libertines and accordingly he is a relatively fleeting character in the novel. Once Sade has introduced Minski and his prodigious talents and proclivities the character quickly exhausts Sade’s novelistic imagination. Or rather, any novel with him as a major character would return to the picaresque. In this respect the perfect libertine-hero would share much with Justine, Sade’s most perfect libertine failure: Justine, ou les malheurs de la vertu remains a picaresque novel because the major character does not change, there is no development in her character, and she learns nothing.14 And Sade struggles to find a resolution to that novel, famously hitting her on the head with a bolt of lightning seemingly at the point where he finally gets bored of her boundless stupidity. Not so for Histoire de Juliette, ou les Prospérités du vice whose major characters do develop, even if, as I have shown, they develop in ways which are quite surprising given Sadean theory. In fact it is exactly this ambivalent relationship to their libertine askesis which allows Sade to come to some sort of resolution in order to end the novel. To end this chapter I want to return to the relationship between Juliette and Durand and to the point in the novel at which I ended the previous section, the point at which they have declared their mutual love. The contrast between Juliette’s (non-)relationship with Minski the Hermit and her highly sentimental relationship with Durand (and Noirceuil) is stark. Understandably given the preceding thousand or so pages of the novel, and just as with Minski, it occurs to Juliette that two master libertines cannot really trust each other and she wonders if, “when the fires [of passions] fade, Durand, you will no doubt treat me as you have just treated Clairwil… would I have time to protect myself?” (G 1035; P 1118–19). But now, as we arrive at the resolution of the novel, the response to the problem of libertine sociability is significantly



different than otherwise. Juliette declares: “I do not want precautions, I give myself up to you, I give myself up with delight; I like the idea of putting my life in your hands […] I am a libertine, I will never promise to be sensible, but I swear to you to always love you.” For her part Durand replies: I do not want to tyrannise you; on the contrary, I will myself serve your physical pleasures: but if morality were to enter into it, I would abandon you in an instant; I know the impossibility of captivating a woman like you, a whore by principle and by temperament: it would be, I know, to want to impose dikes on the sea: but you can always be mistress of your heart, I ask that of you… I demand that it be only for me. (G 1036) Je n’ai pas envie de te tyranniser ; au contraire, je servirai moi-même tes jouissances physiques ; mais si le moral y entrait pour quelque chose, je t’abandonnerais à l’instant ; je connais l’impossibilité de captiver une femme comme toi, putain par principe et par tempérament : ce serait, je le sais, vouloir imposer des digues a la mer ; mais tu peux toujours être maîtresse de ton cœur, je te le demande… j’exige qu’il ne soit qu’à moi. (P 1119–20)

Juliette responds “I swear to you” (je te le jure.) Durand then concludes the overtly sentimental scene by, somewhat surprisingly, introducing an idea of libertine love: “it is necessary to only have one friend, to love sincerely only her, and to fuck everybody” (G 1036; P 1120). Listen to me then, Juliette, and stop worrying. I will not conceal from you, that without doubt an object which might have only served me for simple, one-off pleasure, without any kind of relationship with me, was bound to be, by that fact alone, condemned by my imagination. But if I find, in that object, likenesses, affinity, such as those which I have found in you, do not doubt that then, far from breaking the knots which attach me to such an object, I will tighten them by all the means that are in me. In the name of the tenderest love, stop then worrying, my angel; I have given you a certain means to reassure yourself and you have been too scrupulous to accept it. Do not leave me then to now imagine that your mind is able to thwart your heart; do I have any means you do not possess yourself? […] Be well assured that this art will only be put to use with you in order to constrain you to love me. (G 1039–40) Écoute-moi donc, Juliette, et tranquillise-toi. Je ne te déguiserai pas, sans doute, qu’un objet qui ne m’aurait servi que de simple et unique jouissance, sans aucune espèce de relation avec moi, ne fût, par cela seul, proscrit dans mon imagination. Mais si je rencontre, dans cet objet, des



similitudes, des convenances, telles que celles que j’ai trouvées en toi, ne doute pas qu’alors, loin de briser les nœuds qui m’attachent à un tel objet, je ne les resserre par tous les moyens qui seront en moi. Au nom du plus tendre amour, cesse donc de t’inquiéter, mon ange ; je t’ai offert une façon certaine de te rassurer, ta délicatesse la refuse, ne me laisse donc pas imaginer maintenant que ton esprit puisse contrarier ton cœur ; ai-je d’ailleurs de moyens que tu ne possèdes toi-même ? […] Sois bien assurée que cet art ne sera mis en usage avec toi que pour te contraindre à m’aimer. (P 1122–23)

Notice that here Durand positions Juliette’s heart as reliable and her mind/esprit potentially fallible and potentially working unjustifiably against the heart. Juliette responds. I will repeat to you that I give myself to you, you can count on my heart as I do on yours; our union makes our strength, and nothing will be able to dissolve it. […] I have never known anyone in whom sentiments are more identical to mine. Clairwil was only an infant compared to you; you are suited the best to my happiness, you are the women I was looking for; do not leave me again. (G 1040–41) Je te répète que je me livre à toi, tu peux compter sur mon cœur comme je fais fond sur le tien ; notre union fait notre force, et rien ne pourra la dissoudre. […] Je n’ai jamais connu personne dont les sentiments soient plus conformes aux miens. Clairwil n’était qu’une enfant près de toi ; tu es ce qui convient le mieux à mon bonheur, tu es la femme que je cherchais ; ne m’abandonne plus. (P 1123)

There follows a few pages later a very curious test of this trust in which an act of libertinage leaves Juliette is sealed alive for a short time in a sarcophagus. Durand remains outside with the gravedigger Cordelli. Juliette meditates on the trust she has placed in Durand: I idolised Durand, the slightest distrust would alienate us; was it possible that they had left me there!… Was the gravedigger was not coming back? Was I not to become, if it all came to nothing, a thousand times more sure of my friend? What tranquillity for the future! […] This trial was necessary. (G 1049) J’idolâtrais Durand, la plus légère méfiance nous brouillait ; était-il possible qu’on me laissât-la !… Le fossoyeur n’allait-il pas revenir ; ne devenais-je pas, s’il n’arrivait rien, mille fois plus sure de mon amie : quelle tranquillité pour l’avenir ? […] Cette épreuve était nécessaire. (P 1131–32)



Note that, in contrast to the way it has been presented in the novel till this point, tranquillity is now represented by the idea that two libertines can live without the slightest mistrust alienating them from each other. Durand returns promptly and Juliette’s trust in her is proven: “there,” she claims, “is an adventure which will bind us always […] it forever consolidates our friendship and our confidence, it strengthens our bonds for life” (G 1050; P 1132). There follows the episode where Durand fails at the prospect of committing mass murder and Juliette, thinking Durand dead, flees and returns to Paris alone. She is greeted enthusiastically by Noirceuil who quickly swears to Juliette: “be very certain that I will never climb without raising you with me; you are necessary to my existence; I only like to commit crime when with you” (G 1153; P 1225). The novel now returns to the present tense; Justine is hit by lightning; Durand arrives in a carriage having cunningly survived; and for all intents and purposes Sade, finding some sort of resolution with which to end the novel, declares that the libertine trio will live happily after (G 1189– 91; P 1258–60). I have two points to make by way of conclusion. The first point relates to Sade’s moral thought as a philosophical theory. We need to bear in mind that consistency is not necessarily taken to be a philosophical virtue in the thought of the period. However, I think it is arguable that what we see in the disjunct between the novel’s theory and the Sadean “system” more broadly, and the figurative instantiation of the theory, does constitute a performative contradiction. That is, while there are some libertine heroes in Sade who do more or less consistently exemplify his philosophical “system” it is significant that the novel’s major characters, those which Sade has constructed with most care and attention (and affection) including Juliette herself, fail to consistently exemplify his own theory. More significantly however, what we see here is the interaction of genres in what is a hybrid text. It is because consistency is not necessarily held to be a philosophical virtue that Sade, and others in the period such as Rousseau, often take the philosophical novel and not the philosophical treatise to be their genre of choice. What I have shown is the manner in which in Histoire de Juliette the philosophical/theoretical is in dialogue with the literary without being reduced to it.




1. For example G 339; P 481 as Juliette reflects on Saint-Fond’s “sleep of the just” which followed his performance of a long series of libertine horrors. 2. See also G 707; P 805. 3. See also G 158; P 318. 4. See also G 207; P 364–65. 5. I am not in this book engaging in a specific reading of Sade’s oeuvre visà-vis the novel of sensibility. Suffice it to note here that many of the episodes which I am recounting in this section are highly consistent with, not subversive of, established tropes from that genre and so work against the idea that Sade merely subverts it. See Astbury (2002). Vila also notes the generally ironic relationship between Sade and the novel of sensibility (1998b, p. 10). 6. On libertine friendship see also Belmont in his speech against love seems to allow friendship G 505; P 632. 7. I would like to thank Ryan Walter for first bringing this issue to my attention. 8. This ambidexterity is similar in many respects to the relationship between the broader La philosophie dans le boudoir and the pamphlet inserted into it, “Français, encore un effort si vous voulez être républicains,” which is read out, but only partially endorsed by Dolmancé (Sade 1965, pp. 296– 339; 1998b, pp. 110–53). It is also a feature of the bifurcated politics of Aline et Valcour as represented in the “dystopia” of Butua, which is largely consistent with Sade’s philosophical “system” broadly speaking, and the “utopia” of Tamoé, which as an imagined republic is heavily influenced by Rousseau’s, but also La Mettrie’s political/moral theories. 9. See also G 232; P 383. 10. See also Juliette’s refusal to take revenge on Duc Dennemar (G 206–7; P 364–65) and her refusal to kill Minski the Hermit (G 608–9; P 726). 11. See also G 27, 159; P 202, 319. 12. Literally meaning “anchovy,” the Pléiade notes that this designated “le sexe masculin” in the language of the time: P 1489. 13. Minski declares himself to be a “bon physionomiste” an ability which allows him to recognise fellow libertines who share his tastes from those who do not (G 592; P 713). Physiognomy, and the ability to read it, and so draw conclusions about the character of an individual, is an important theme in Aline et Valcour and often provides the content of the observations made in the letters. See, for example, Sade (1998a, pp. 388, 389, 480–81, 489–91).



14. Although the hero of a classic picaresque novel at least in the Spanish mode such as Lazarillo de Tormes usually learns a set of skills for survival something that is beyond Justine.

References Astbury, Katherine. 2002. “The Marquis de Sade and the Sentimental Tale: Les Crimes de l’amour as a Subversion of Sensibility.” The Australian Journal of French Studies 39 (1): 47–59. Coby, Patrick. 1988. “Aristotle’s Three Cities and the Problem of Faction.” Journal of Politics 50 (4): 896–919. Hobbes, Thomas. 2003 [1642]. On the Citizen. Translated by Richard Tuck and Michael Silverthorne, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hume, David. 1994. “Of Parties in General.” In Political Essays, edited by Knud Haakonssen, 33–39. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lever, Maurice, ed. 1993. Papiers de famille: Le marquis de Sade et les siens (1761–1815). Vol. 2, Bibliotheque Sade. Paris: Fayard. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987 [1755]. “Discourse on Political Economy.” In The Basic Political Writings, edited by Donald A. Cress, 111–40. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987 [1762]. “On the Social Contract.” In The Basic Political Writings, edited by Donald A. Cress, 141–227. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1791]. “Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 449–743. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1965 [1795]. “Philosophy in the Bedroom.” In Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings, edited by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, 184–367. New York: Grove Press. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795a]. “Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique écrit à la Bastille un an avant la Révolution de France.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 335–1109. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Sade, D. A. F. 1998 [1795b]. “La Philosophie dans le boudoir, ou Les Instituteurs immoraux.” In Œuvres, edited by Michel Delon, 1–178. Paris: Editions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Vila, Anne C. 1998. Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. London: Johns Hopkins University Press.




Against the Dialectic of Enlightenment; or, How Not to Read Kant Avec Sade

In the preface and introduction to this book, I stressed the importance of Sade particularly within the Francophone intellectual cultures. And I raised, but have not directly addressed, the question of whether or not Sade’s reputation constitutes an intellectual monstrosity. I will continue to avoid doing so: having reconstructed Sade’s philosophical “system” and identified, if not his authentic voice, then at least the voice of his deliberately constructed philosophical persona, I am content to leave it to others to now directly answer the question as they see fit. I will however briefly note that this study does make it much more difficult for Sade’s reputation to rest on the idea that his project is at base satirical, or funny, or emancipatory, or that the only violence in the oeuvre is that done to language, or that Sade is an “anti-philosopher” whose aim was the destruction of reason. As I have shown Sade, qua philosopher, was obsessed with moral philosophy. In this sense, as with all works of moral theory, his “system” makes a direct appeal to the reader: the work is deliberately and overtly didactic. If Braschi’s desire to commit the ultimate crime by destroying the entire created realm can be dismissed as Sadean hyperbole, and even if the historical evidence shows Sade himself to be relatively harmless, at least in comparison to his fictional philosopher-heroes, it nonetheless remains that in his systematic critical engagement with the moral philosophy of his period Sade really is an sustained and deliberate apologist for rape, torture, and murder. The work has real normative implications; it needs to be assessed in these terms. Beyond © The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,




this, and as I mentioned in the introduction, I am content to have placed the fish in a barrel, the better for others to do with it what they will. I will conclude this study by addressing the most important continued instrumental use of Sade; I will address directly the importance of Sade within Enlightenment Studies, and particularly his use within “Continental” philosophy and Critical Theory. I suggest in the introduction that there are two strategies for dealing with Sade and with the problem that he poses in the context of the Enlightenment. The first strategy is to dismiss him entirely—my here example is Peter Gay—or else to simply ignore him—for example, neither Anthony Pagden (2013) nor Jonathan Israel (2011) mention Sade at all. This approach is hardly adequate. Even if Sade is not among the very best thinkers of the period, his oeuvre certainly deserves serious intellectual consideration and without it, our understanding of the philosophy of the Enlightenment must remain incomplete. In particular, the manner in which Sade sought to engage with the moral philosophy of his context is a significant symptom on the structure of that philosophy: Sade was a highly sensitive barometer of the period’s moral theory and for this alone, his work deserves serious and sustained scholarly attention. Similarly, while the ends of Sade’s libertine askesis are highly idiosyncratic, his methods speak directly to the broad Enlightenment culture of self-cultivation. Once again, Sade’s thought is an important artefact of the period and deserves to be treated accordingly. Finally, irrespective of the preferences of high-minded specialist in the Enlightenment, Sade has been, and will certainly continue to be, a figure who commands significant and broad interest (read perhaps: morbid curiosity) and as such a professional commitment to historical and philosophical accuracy requires that Sade scholarship be faithful to the best standards of intellectual history and the history of philosophy and not the worst. The second strategy for dealing with Sade within the context of the Enlightenment, the perfect opposite of ignoring him entirely, is to elevate him to the rank of the most important figure(s) of the period. This elevating strategy generally involves placing Sade in dialectical opposition to Kant and thereby attempting to instantiate the “Dialectic of Enlightenment” in concrete historical form. The strategy is particularly important within “Continental” philosophy, Critical Theory, and cognate disciplines. Indeed within these traditions, the idea of “Sadean nature as fateful revenge against the Enlightenment and sign of the failure of Kantian reason has become something of an orthodoxy”



(Moore 2010, p. 251). The “Kant avec Sade” trope has several major, and a many of derivative, forms. It is particularly popular within psychoanalytic traditions that follow Jacques Lacan, whose essay of that title (1989) has caused a great deal of perplexity even amongst dedicated Lacan specialists, and figures such as Slavoj Žižek (1999).1 But the first and by far the most influential version, particularly for the ways in which the Enlightenment as a period continues to be widely understood, is that given by Horkheimer and Adorno in their famous Dialektik der Aufklärung (Dialectic of Enlightenment) (1947). The Dialectic builds Marxist, Nietzschean, and psychoanalytic insights onto a Hegelian base; it is the central work of the first generation of Frankfort School Critical Theory (Boucher 2018, p. 224). Its immediate target is the “barbarity of Nazi Germany” (Roberts 2004, p. 58). But more broadly, intending “nothing less than to explain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism,” the work is a powerful manifesto against modernity (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, p. xiv). With its promise of a brilliant and penetrating—if highly elitist—critique of contemporary modernity, the book continues to excite readers. It is hard to overestimate the influence of the text or the extent to which this single work has been responsible for the persistent anti-Enlightenment bias which is found in “Continental” philosophy and Critical Theory. For their part the judgement of historians of the Enlightenment has been scathing, having long argued that within the Dialectic there are “no noteworthy references to the Enlightenment as a historical period, or to the eighteenth century as its chronological or cultural context” (Ferrone 2015, p. 30) and that there is “probably little danger that anyone would mistake the Dialectic of Enlightenment as a guide to eighteenth-century thought” (Schmidt 1996, p. 29).2 That the text’s reputation has survived is in large part because the historians’ complaint somewhat misses the point of the text. James Schmidt has recently emphasised that the German original left the reader to decide whether each use of the word Aufklärung ought to be understood in the generic or the specific sense, that is, as either referring to “the entirety of philosophical thought since the Greeks which has, in contrast to mythology, led the battle to achieve clarity in its own representations in the sense that concepts and judgments should be understandable to all,” or as referring to that particular “philosophical movement in England, France, and Germany, which developed a



particular theory of knowledge that it turned against the dominant theological viewpoints, which in France prepared for a revolution, and in Germany provided the prelude to German idealism.”3 Schmidt makes the point that in contrast, “readers of English translations are presented with a text in which the choice has been made for them by the translator” and so that evades the productive ambiguities of the original (Schmidt 2018). It is Horkheimer and Adorno’s analysis of enlightenment in its general sense that allows Odysseus to be one of the most important figures of the book and that allows the famous chapter on the “Culture Industry” to deal with impressions of twentieth century American popular culture, and so on. That these aspects of the text do not deal with the specific Enlightenment in a historically sensitive manner cannot be a justified criticism of the work as a whole. However, while it is necessary to respect the difference between the “specific” and the “general” uses of “Aufklärung/enlightenment” it is also necessary to stress that the two uses must be related. This is, a general analysis of enlightenment must at some point be anchored to the historical specificities of the Enlightenment. And this is the importance of this text of Kant and especially of Sade: in the Dialectic of Enlightenment it is the figure of Sade that does most of the work anchoring the general to the specific meanings of “enlightenment,” the figure of Sade—in fact, the figure of Kant with Sade—is elevated to become the linchpin that holds the general and specific terms together. And so Peter Gay’s idea that the book is “whole innocent of empirical material to support its conclusions” is in the first instance predicated on his unjustified dismissal of Sade from the Enlightenment.4 The stakes in Horkheimer and Adorno’s elevation of Sade could hardly be higher: The Frankfurt School account not only placed Sade at the very centre of the Enlightenment, but located him as its most inner and hidden truth. The stakes are high here too because for Adorno/Horkheimer the term “the Enlightenment” functioned not merely as a short-hand for liberal politics, secularism, tolerance and reason (as they do for many), but additionally represented the entire project of capitalism, bourgeois class culture, technology, mass society and modernity. (Moore 2010, p. 253)5

Yet very little of the secondary literature on the Dialectic engages with the role Sade plays in the text. Alison Moore’s paper (2010) is the only one that I have found that directly addresses the role of Sade in



it. Her paper largely focuses on the concept of nature in the Dialectic, and points out the differences between the Sadean idea of nature, the Kantian idea, and the Freudian vision of “civilization divided between nature and reason.” She also criticises the way that the link between Sade and the Holocaust promotes an idea that sadomasochistic desire is somehow related to “forms of mass violence” (Moore 2010, p. 251; see also pp. 256, 259–60). Moore is right to complain about the basic anachronisms in play here, the retrospective imposition of twentieth-century concepts onto those that were organic to the eighteenth century. But following this book’s detailed reconstruction of Sade’s philosophical “system” there is more to be said about the detail of the argument. Largely owing to the style in which it was written, the interpretative difficulties posed by the Dialectic are significant. A series of loosely connected essays, at least in its initial incarnation the text was not intended to give an impression of completeness. Its fragmented and incomplete, “perhaps even contradictory,” form was more evident in its original 1944 mimeographed version, which was entitled Philosophical Fragments, than in the version published in 1947, which bore the title Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (Schmidt 1998, pp. 808–9, 814). The manuscript was initially greeted with bemusement by its readers: Leo Löwenthal implied that that work was as “unrelenting in its pessimism as [Aldous Huxley’s] Brave New World and nearly as baffling as [James Joyce’s] Finnegans Wake” (Schmidt 1998, p. 810).6 Yet, the text has by now been often commented on and its broad analysis is relatively well understood. Hegel’s construction of the Enlightenment as it is presented in the Phenomenology of Spirit is foundational to the Dialectic of Enlightenment. In brief: Hegel’s analysis of self-alienated World Spirit, that is Spirit which is alienated from itself through its division into pure consciousness—or pure insight—and reality, is key to his construction of the Enlightenment (Hegel 1977, §487). This is the alienation of the Cartesian mind estranged from the material world; it is also that of the Kantian subject alienated from the thing-in-itself. It is impossible to miss the direct reference to Kant in Hegel’s definition of pure insight: “pure insight is, then, the spirit that calls to every consciousness: be for yourselves what you are all essentially in yourselves—rational” (Hegel 1977, §537, italic in the original). Whether Hegel’s highly pejorative reinterpretation of the Kantian idea of the subject is justified is not my current concern here. Rather my point is to note that Horkheimer and Adorno



import this meaning of Kant into the Dialectic of Enlightenment where it remains unrevised7; Hegel’s understanding of the Enlightenment as formed by the alienation of the rational subject from nature is the basis for their own critique of the Enlightenment. The Dialectic develops Hegel’s analysis of the estrangement of the Enlightenment subject with an intensification of the role that scientific mastery and capitalist exploitation play in the domestication, demystification, and technological domination of nature. Francis Bacon, for whom the sovereignty of man lies in the knowledge of the natural world, is the key marker here (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, pp. 1–3). But even if he is only mentioned by name once, the figure that does most work for Horkheimer and Adorno, is Auguste Comte (p. xv). Enlightenment leads to positivism (by which they mean both Comtian and Logical Positivism) (pp. xv, 17, 93, 102, 227). “For enlightenment, anything which does not conform to the standard of calculability and utility must be viewed with suspicion” (p. 3); “anything that cannot be resolved into numbers, and ultimately into one, is illusion; modern positivism consigns it to poetry” (pp. 4–5; see also p. 18). In this, enlightenment reverts to the mythology it seeks to eliminate. Enlightenment is doomed to fail; “false clarity is only another name for myth” (p. xvii). Indeed the central thrust of Horkheimer and Adorno’s argument is that “myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology” (p. xviii). Reiterating Hegel—for whom the symptomatic event is the French Revolution and the Terror—in its relentless if impossible drive to eliminate the unknown enlightenment becomes totalitarian—for Horkheimer and Adorno the symptomatic event is the success of Fascism and the Holocaust (pp. 3–4); “Enlightenment stands in the same relationship to things as the dictator to human beings” (p. 6). Ultimately enlightenment turns into a “hostility to mind itself” (p. xii). The self—again it is clear the extent to which they intend the Kantian rational or noumenal self—is first abstracted from “a body or blood or a soul or even a natural ego but was sublimated into a transcendental or logical subject, formed the reference point of reason, the legislating authority of action” (p. 22). Before it too is “seemingly abolished and replaced by the operations of the automatic mechanisms of order, which therefore run all the more smoothly” (p. 23). The meaning of Kant and his centrality for the Enlightenment having been (ostensibly) established by Hegel, the role of Sade in the Dialectic is to radicalise and amplify this meaning but not, it should be made clear, to change it. Indeed, this is at its most basic level the function of the



“Kant avec Sade” trope which is rarely, perhaps never, intended to be genuinely illuminating of Sade or his project.8 The point is to show that “Sade is what Kant would have been if he were not in denial of his true moral nature” (Moore 2010, p. 258).9 This is done largely through an appropriation of Sade’s treatment of apathy and stoicism (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, pp. 75–76).10 That is, Horkheimer and Adorno are quick to seize on the fact that both Kant and Sade are critics of moralities of sentiment: “Apathy (considered as a strength) is a necessary presupposition of virtue,” writes Kant, distinguishing, not unlike Sade, between this “moral apathy” and insensibility in the sense of indifference to sensory stimulation. Enthusiasm is bad. Calm and resolution constitute the strength of virtue. (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, p. 75)

Horkheimer and Adorno further intensify their conjunction of Kant and Sade by a reading Sade with Nietzsche wanting “to demonstrate through a reading of the Histoire de Juliette and the Genealogy of Morals that [enlightened] reason has been exorcized from morality and justice” (Habermas 1982, p. 17). Indeed, notwithstanding that he cannot be used by Horkheimer and Adorno to pin the general meaning of “enlightenment” to the specific, Nietzsche is just as important to their analysis as Sade. They draw in long passages on Nietzsche’s critique of pity (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, pp. 79–83). And they stress their mutual contempt for Christianity and for the morality of the weak “which Nietzsche hates and abominates no less than Sade” (p. 78). Like Juliette [Nietzsche] admired “the beautiful terribleness of the deed,” even though, as a German professor, he differed from Sade in rejecting criminality because its egoism “is restricted to such base goals. If its goals are lofty humanity has a different standard, judging ‘crime’ even when committed with the most terrible means, not to be such.” (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, p. 79)

Of course, they stress the connection to Nazism: “by elevating the cult of strength to a world-historical doctrine, German fascism took it to its absurd conclusion” (p. 79). And they even include the odd reference to Kant for whom “pity was […] ‘a certain soft-heartedness’ and lacked ‘the dignity of virtue’” (p. 80).



With the intention of showing “how the subjugation of everything natural to the sovereign subject culminates in the domination of what is blindly objective and natural” Horkheimer and Adorno draw together Kant, Sade, and Nietzsche as the “implacable consummation of enlightenment” (p. xviii). In doing so, relying very heavily on the fact that all three are critics of a certain kind of moral sentimentality, they lift ideas out of context and piece them together in a text that remains a fragmented bricolage. The hermeneutical trick is basically Hegelian; in contrast to source-critical intellectual history it is the mainstay of philosophical history.11 Insofar as it deliberately ignores the positive content of the three moralities in question, it is also highly distorting. That is, Horkheimer and Adorno ignore the purpose of the disparate critical approaches to moralities of sensibility, and draw together as if they are one, three projects which are in fact radically different. There are two points to be made here, the first vis-à-vis the entanglement of Kant and Sade, the second, of the entanglement of Nietzsche and Sade. First, Kantian critiques of moralities of sensibility are predicated on his instead of grounding morality in the a priori. Against this, the fundamental point for Hegel and German Romanticism more broadly, and so for Horkheimer and Adorno who inherit this critique, is that the Kantian noumenal and rational subject is estranged, or alienated, from nature. This produces a purely formal idea of the subject which is itself devoid of content. And so the death of this subject in Hegel’s famous formulation has “no more significance that cutting off a head of cabbage or swallowing a mouthful of water” (Hegel 1977, §590). This is how, notwithstanding the Categorical Imperative, Horkheimer and Adorno arrive so quickly at the idea of the “impossibility of deriving from reason a fundamental argument against murder” (2002, p. 93). At least in this text Horkheimer and Adorno do not critically engage Kantian reason, they simply dismiss it, and with it the possibility of an ethics based on it. This understanding of the Kantian project relies on a deliberate oversimplification and I take the briskness of this dismissal to be extremely problematical. But that is not my concern here. Rather what I am interested in is the problem of equating Kantian reason with Sade. Whatever the merits of the Kantian theory of the subject, or of the ethics that Kant builds around it, it nonetheless remains that these are utterly incommensurate with the subject of sensibility that was the mainstay of the French Enlightenment.



It is not the place to show this in detail—that work has been done elsewhere—but it is important to note that a large part of the Dialectic’s argumentative burden is carried by the erroneous idea that Enlightenment philosophy is constituted, in a direct line from Bacon to Comte and beyond, by a homogenous project of mechanistic natural philosophy.12 Nature, before and after quantum theory, is [for enlightenment] what can be registered mathematically. […] In the pre-emptive identification of the thoroughly mathematised world with truth, enlightenment believes itself safe from the return of the mystical. It equates thought with mathematics. (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, p. 18)

“For the Enlightenment, anything which cannot be resolved into numbers, and ultimately into one, is illusion; modern positivism consigns it to poetry” (pp. 4–5). Enlightenment reason is understood by Horkheimer and Adorno to be singular and universal (p. 23). While Sade does not develop a theory of reason or of rationality, the period within which he worked did. And it was predicated on the discourses of sensibility which I discuss in Part II of this book. Insofar as this theory of rationality was predicated on the body of sensibility, and not on a transcendental Kantian ideal, it is not possible to understand it as being predicated on a division between reason and nature.13 To return to Sade directly, I have shown how important the authority of nature is for Sade in the forms of both the law and the voice of nature; there is a very long way between this and Horkheimer and Adorno’s understanding of the Sadean subject as a “sovereign subject [that] culminates in the domination of what is blindly objective and natural” (p. xviii). The second point to be made has to do with the difficulties of drawing together Sade and Nietzsche as if they advanced a continuous philosophical project. It is tempting to read Sade with Nietzsche: notwithstanding Allen W. Wood’s inadequate dismissal of Sade’s philosophy—Sade’s intent, Wood writes, not “to question morality but to violate it seems to apply even to the philosophical arguments Sade states or puts in the mouth of his characters” (Wood 2012, p. 494)—it is right enough to include them both within a tradition of anti-moralism.14 But caution is advised here too. In striking contrast to Sade, “it would be a mistake to interpret Nietzsche’s texts as a call for suspending traditional moral prescriptions against killing, stealing, lying, abuse, violence



and so on” (Hatab 2017, p. 492). Indeed, the point of Nietzsche’s critique is to open up an affirmation of morality in a much more existentially meaningful way. Nietzsche’s critique of Judaeo-Christian moralities as life-denying in the Genealogy of Morals must be read in the context of his celebration of life-affirming values and of creative forces insofar as they further life (pp. 482, 491). To this end the virtues that Nietzsche advocates include, in Daybreak: honesty, bravery, magnanimity, and courtesy; or, in Beyond Good and Evil: courage, insight, solitude, and (very importantly for present purposes) fellow-feeling (p. 491). And they particularly include in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the “gift-giving virtue” which he holds to be the highest ideal (White 2015).15 For Nietzsche this virtue is the effect of the superabundance of life; it is a pure celebration of life and affirms the earth as a sacred domain (p. 350). At least on Richard White’s interpretation, its primary aim is that of inspiring others to become themselves, and the greatest gift one can give is to open the other’s path to their own sovereignty. The gift-giving virtue is the “generosity of spirit that fosters another person and inspires her to ‘become what she is’” (p. 356). We could not be further from Sade here and the failure to acknowledge this lays the grounds for major misunderstanding. I do not want to suggest that Horkheimer and Adorno are poor readers of Nietzsche; as Habermas has argued they were heavily influenced by Nietzsche (Habermas 1982). Although a direct reading of the Dialectic does not make this immediately apparent, the Nietzschean critique of Kantian (and Utilitarian) morality as life-denying is nonetheless certainly in evidence. Their use of Sade is equally not immediately apparent. The role of both Sade and Nietzsche in the Dialectic of Enlightenment is diagnostic of what they take to be the pathologies of enlightenment: “Sade” they write “did not leave it to its enemies to be horrified by the Enlightenment which makes his work pivotal to its rescue” (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, p. 92). At least here Horkheimer and Adorno understand that Sade’s work is something like a reductio ad absurdum, not an enthusiastic endorsement, of the values of enlightenment as they understand them. That is, they position his oeuvre as essentially satirical of enlightenment values. Very little turns on the difference between an image of Sade as a brilliant, clear-eyed, and highly self-aware satirist of enlightenment, and the image of Sade as a dull-witted, unreflective, and highly derivative symptom of enlightenment. In either case, the Sadean oeuvre could do the diagnostic work that Horkheimer and Adorno require of it. The great difficulty with this diagnostic use of Sade is that positioning him in this



way ignores the extent to which he worked to differentiate himself from the prevailing thought of his period. Sade is an acute barometer of the period’s moral philosophy. But as I have shown he is also a trenchant and systematic critic of it. To treat Sade as a symptom—let alone as the preeminent symptom—of the values of enlightenment as a whole, fails to understand this. If my book has shown anything it is that the Sadean literary and pornographic imagination simply cannot be justified by the moral philosophy of the Enlightenment. Surely nobody understood this better than Sade himself. Vincenzo Ferrone is right to call the Enlightenment the “laboratory of modernity” and continued research into the period is certainly justified on these grounds if no other (Ferrone 2015, p. xi). To better understand the Enlightenment in all its magnificent complexity is to move towards a critical self-understanding of Western modernity. I have argued that our understanding of the Enlightenment will be incomplete until we have addressed the problem that Sade poses to historians of the period. I have shown that Sade can neither be dismissed entirely from the period nor can he be elevated to its true meaning. Sade’s relationship to the philosophy of the Enlightenment is complex and it needs to be understood in its detail, detail which this book has reconstructed. Western modernity is multiple and contested; if modernity is anything, it is perhaps simply the sight of modern contestation. To say this is to say that the Enlightenment was also multiple and contested. Sade’s oeuvre is a fragment within the Enlightenment and is an important symptom of this contestation. Sade is not nothing. Nor can he be taken in the place of the whole. And he certainly cannot be taken to be the most significant symptom of a pathological whole.


1. On the great difficulty of Lacan’s text see Nobus (2018, pp. xiii–xix). 2. At its most profound level the difference between the way the text is treated within Critical Theory and “Continental” Philosophy, and within History, is reflective of a profound methodological divergence in ways of treating the past between post-Hegelian philosophical histories and source-critical empirical histories. This difference is in fact extremely difficult to resolve; see my discussion of this difference in Lloyd (2018c). 3. Horkheimer, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 13, p. 571, quoted in Schmidt (Forthcoming 2018).



4. Peter Gay, “The Living Enlightenment,” pp. 76–78, quoted in Schmidt (Forthcoming 2018). 5. See also Žižek (1999, pp. 286–88). A very interesting symptom of how powerful the influence of Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic is, is provided by Natania Meeker who, in treating Sade as an archetypical emblem of capitalist desire, uses the Sadean oeuvre to critique contemporary capitalist modernity in exactly the manner of the Dialectic, but does so without overt mention of either the Dialectic of Enlightenment or indeed of Critical Theory more broadly (Meeker 2014). Symptomatic too is Meeker’s Voluptuous Philosophy which is dominated by an understanding of the Enlightenment and its fundamental aporia that Horkheimer and Adorno did so much to popularise (Meeker 2006, see particularly pp. 2, 5). That is, the aporia between Enlightenment, understood as the pure scientific positivism, that opposes and seeks to eliminate the mythology (or for Meeker, the poetics) that in fact grounds it. See also Steintrager (2004, pp. 95, 122). 6. See also Wiggershaus (1994, p. 344). 7. See, for example, Horkheimer and Adorno (2002, pp. 19–20). 8. Note for example Nobus (2018) on Lacan’s Kant avec Sade who makes the point that the essay is really an engagement with Kant (p. 57, see also pp. 6, 9–16, 19, 90, 144). This is also made clear by Žižek (1999). 9. See, for example, Horkheimer and Adorno (2002, p. 74). 10. See also Žižek (1999, p. 287). 11. For a discussion of this see Lloyd (2018c). 12.  See also Ferrone (2015, pp. 30–33), Lloyd (2018b), Reill (2005, pp. 2–5). 13. I have argued this in detail elsewhere: Lloyd (2018a, b). 14. It ought to be stressed however that there is no evidence that I have seen that Nietzsche read Sade, and so there cannot be a tradition in the strong sense. 15. See also Diprose (2002), Schoeman (2007).

References Boucher, Geoff. 2018. “A Road Not Taken: Critical Theory After Dialectic of Enlightenment.” In Rethinking the Enlightenment: Between History, Philosophy, and Politics, edited by Geoff Boucher and Henry Martyn Lloyd, 221–46. Maryland: Lexington Books. Diprose, Rosalyn. 2002. Corporeal Generosity: On Giving with Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas. New York: State University of New York System. Ferrone, Vincenzo. 2015. The Enlightenment: History of an Idea. Translated by Elisabetta Tarantino. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.



Habermas, Jürgen. 1982. “The Entwinement of Myth and Enlightenment: Re-reading Dialectic of Enlightenment.” Critical Theory and Modernity 26: 13–30. Hatab, Lawrence. 2017. “Nietzsche.” In The Cambridge History of Moral Philosophy, edited by Sacha Golob and Jens Timmermann, 482–94. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hegel, G. W. F. 1977. Phenomenology of Spirit. Translated by A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Israel, Jonathan. 2011. Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights, 1750–1790. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lacan, Jacques. 1989. “Kant with Sade.” October 51: 55–75. Lloyd, Henry Martyn. 2018a. “The French Enlightenment Attempts to Create a Philosophy Without Reason: The Case of Diderot and the Effect of Helvétius.” Intellectual History Review 28 (2): 271–92. Lloyd, Henry Martyn. 2018b. “Reason and Rationality Within the ‘Enlightenment of Sensibility’; Or, Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, and French Philosophy’s First ‘Linguistic Turn’.” In Rethinking the Enlightenment: Between History, Philosophy, and Politics, edited by Geoff Boucher and Henry Martyn Lloyd, 151–76. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Lloyd, Henry Martyn. 2018c. “What Is It to Rethink the Enlightenment?” In Rethinking the Enlightenment: Between History, Philosophy, and Politics, edited by Geoff Boucher and Henry Martyn Lloyd, 1–38. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Meeker, Natania. 2006. Voluptuous Philosophy: Literary Materialism in the French Enlightenment. New York: Fordham University Press. Meeker, Natania. 2014. “Sade at the End of the World.” In Sade’s Sensibilities, edited by Kate Parker and Norbert Sclippa, 87–101. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Moore, Alison. 2010. “Sadean Nature and Reasoned Morality in Adorno/ Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment.” Psychology & Sexuality 1 (3): 250–261. Nobus, Dany. 2018. The Law of Desire: On Lacan’s ‘Kant with Sade’: The Palgrave Lacan Series. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Pagden, Anthony. 2013. The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Reill, Peter Hanns. 2005. Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment. Berkeley and London: University of California Press. Roberts, Julian. 2004. “The Dialectic of Enlightenment.” In The Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory, edited by Fred Rush, 57–73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Schmidt, James. 1996. “Introduction: What Is Enlightenment? A Question, Its Context, and Some Consequences.” In What is Enlightenment? EighteenthCentury Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions, edited by James Schmidt, 1–44. Berkeley: University of California Press. Schmidt, James. 1998. “Language, Mythology, and Enlightenment: Historical Notes on Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment.” Social Research 65 (4): 807–38. Schmidt, James. 2018. “What, If Anything, Does Dialectic of Enlightenment Have to Do with the Enlightenment?” In Aufklärungs-Kritik und Aufklärungs-Mythos, edited by Sonja Lavaert and Winfried Schröder. Boston and Berlin: Walter de Gruyter (Forthcoming). Schoeman, Marinus. 2007. “Generosity as a Central Virtue in Nietzsche’s Ethics.” South African Journal of Philosophy 26 (1): 41–54. Steintrager, James A. 2004. Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. White, Richard. 2015. “Nietzsche on Generosity and the Gift-Giving Virtue.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 24 (16): 348–64. Wiggershaus, Rolf. 1994. The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance. Cambridge: The MIT Press. Wood, Allen W. 2012. “Antimoralism.” In The Cambridge History of Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century (1790–1870), edited by Allen W. Wood, 491–518. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. “Kant with (or Against) Sade.” In The Žižek Reader, edited by Elizabeth Wright and Edmond Wright, 283–301. Oxford and Malden: Blackwell.


A Adorno, Theodor W. See Horkheimer and Adorno Aesthetics and the moral sense, 74, 114, 115, 120, 128, 133, 161, 163–164 philosophical aesthetics, 25, 26, 113, 118–123, 126, 161 Sade’s aesthetics of the abhorrent, 25, 26, 38, 43, 160–164 Airaksinen, Timo, 35–37, 41, 42, 178, 226 Aline et Valcour (Sade), xii, xvii, 31, 38–40, 91, 93, 143, 147, 158, 178, 251, 279 Allen, William S., 10, 41, 42, 162 Anstey, Peter, 52 Anti-philosophy Bataille’s, 8 Rousseau’s, 98 Sade’s, 8, 32–34, 126, 131, 253, 283. See also Irrationality, Sade and Apathy, 226, 236–245, 250–253, 263, 289 Apollinaire, Guillaume, xii, 6

Art for art’s sake, 163 Askesis, 138, 158, 231–250, 284. See also Education; Hygiene libertine’s failures of, 261, 265–268 and Sade’s novelistic project, 161, 236 Sade’s theory of libertine askesis summarised, 235–236 and temperamental disposition, 65, 235 Atheism, 6, 15, 17, 23, 27, 170, 175, 182, 202, 217–220, 222, 226. See also God B Bacon, Francis, 51, 172, 288, 291 Barbeyrac, Jean, 169, 172 Barthes, Roland, 7, 12, 30 Bataille, Georges, 7, 8, 25, 31–33, 131, 163, 253. See also Antiphilosophy; Heterology, Bataille’s Baudelaire, Charles Pierre, 163 Belmor, 151–154 Blanchot, Maurice, 7, 10 Borchamps, 240

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018 H. M. Lloyd, Sade’s Philosophical System in its Enlightenment Context,


298  Index Bracciani, 247 Braschi, Pope Pius VI, 162, 202, 210, 213–217, 221–222, 226, 268, 283 Breton, André, 6, 33 Burlamaqui, Jean-Jacques, 169, 174, 177 Butua, the kingdom of, 13, 32 C Chevalier, Le, 142 Chigi, 247–248 Clairwil, 144, 156, 232, 240–248, 260–261, 263–266, 268, 271, 275, 277 Comte, Auguste, 288, 291 Condillac, Étienne Bonnot Abbé de, 51, 69, 95–99, 102, 136–138, 141, 221. See also Traité des sensations (Condillac) Conscience, 37, 145, 176, 220, 236–238, 238, 252. See also Moral sense; Voice of nature Continental philosophy, x, xv, 8, 22, 40, 284–285 Crime, 155, 156, 182–184, 261 conventional definition of, 206, 210, 268 in relation to imagination, 249 in relation to passion, 233–234, 248 realist definition of, 37, 245, 268 Crocker, Lester, 5, 6, 15, 224 D d’Argis, Boucher, 175 de Grouchy, Sophie, 117 Delbène, 145, 159, 196, 202–205, 235, 237, 239, 240, 271

De l’esprit (Helvétius), 59, 83, 85–87, 89, 94, 202. See also Réflexions sur le livre de l’esprit (Diderot) Delon, Michel, xii–xv, 36 Deprun, Jean, xvi, 16, 41, 76 de Saint-Ange, 132, 135, 147, 159 Descartes, René, 67, 68 Desnos, Robert, 6 d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron, 21, 23, 27, 53, 69, 75, 126, 136–140, 175, 206–207, 212, 217, 221 Dialectic of Enlightenment (Horkheimer and Adorno), 284–288, 292, 294 Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond (Sade), 43 Diderot, Denis, 69, 176, 184. See also Éloge de Richardson; Encyclopédie, Droit naturel; Essai sur le mérite et la vertu; Réflexions sur le livre de l’esprit and moral sense, 113–118, 120– 121, 128, 132, 135–136, 144, 161 and the sentimental novel, 91–92, 133 and vitalist medicine, 52–53, 85 Diderot, Denis, 59–60 Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (Second Discourse) (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques), 153, 170, 177, 186, 192–195, 271 Dolmancé, 4, 131, 133, 138, 140– 143, 209, 225, 272, 279 Donis, 248 Dualism, Substance, 75, 95, 126, 133–135 Dubois, 182


Du contrat social (Rousseau, JeanJacques), 125, 170, 177, 178, 189, 269. See also Social contract Du Marsais, César Chesneau, 5 Durand, 260, 261, 263–265, 275–277 E Education, 231–234, 242. See also Askesis; Hygiene and genius, 59, 71, 72 and morality, 25, 115, 145, 158, 171, 194, 235, 257 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques and, 97–98 Sade’s characters and, 202, 231 and sensibility, 61, 66, 67 Éloge de Richardson (Diderot), 74, 132 Emile, ou de l’éducation (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques), 97, 158 Empathy. See Pity Empiricism, the Enlightenment’s “empirical” subject, 66–69. See also Rationalism, the Enlightenment’s “rational” subject Encyclopédie, 52–54, 176–177 Droit de la Nature, ou Droit naturel. See d’Argis, Boucher Droit naturel, 176, 192. See also Diderot, Denis Homme (Morale), 62 humaniste, 4 Imagination, Imaginer. See Voltaire Observateur, (Gram. Physiq. Méd.). See Ménuret de Chambaud, Jean-Joseph Plaisir (morale), 64 Pouls. See Ménuret de Chambaud, Jean-Joseph Sens (Métaphysique), 56, 64 Sensations (Métaphysique), 56


Sensibilité, (Morale), 116 Sensibilité, Sentiment (Médecine). See Fouquet, Henri Sens moral (Moral.), 57, 116 Sympathie, (Physiolog.), 116 Epicureanism, 43, 127 Epistemological paradigm in Enlightenment studies, 50–52, 75 Essai sur le mérite et la vertu (Diderot), 113, 116, 117. See also Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Eugénie, 131–135, 138, 141–143, 159, 231 F Factions, the problem of, 270, 271 Fascism, 288–289. See also Hitler, Adolf Fear, 126 in Hobbes, 123, 143–145, 184, 187, 188, 190, 196 Sade’s fearlessness, 4, 143–145, 195, 201, 209, 215, 263 Ferrone, Vincenzo, 293 Foucault, Michel, x, 7, 158 and the care of the self, 158, 232. See also Askesis Fouquet, Henri, 53–57, 60–67, 75, 77, 135 Frappier-Mazur, Lucienne, 10, 29, 78 Freud, Sigmund. See Psychoanalysis G Gay, Peter, 3–5, 217, 284, 286 General will, 184, 273. See also Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and the social contract Genius, 59–61, 68–73, 68, 85, 100

300  Index Genre literature in relation to philosophy, xiv, 27, 33, 98 the picaresque novel, 275 the roman d’apprentissage, 235, 250 the roman philosophique, 26, 38, 85, 90–91, 93–102, 132, 141 the sentimental novel, 66, 91–94, 115, 133 God, 27, 218–220, 220. See also Atheism Grotius, Hugo, 169, 172–174, 176–177 H Haakonssen, Knud, 50–51 Heart, 126, 127, 161, 253, 289 and the aesthetical sense, 120, 126 and the moral sense, 61, 113, 115, 116, 120, 125, 176, 237, 290 and Natural law, 175–176 in opposition to the mind, 126, 135 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques and, 97–100, 133–135, 141 Sade and, 140–143, 147, 164, 203, 215, 238, 260–265 Sade’s novelistic project and, 14, 75, 99, 171 vitalist medicine and, 58–59 Heart, 261–265 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 288–289 Heine, Maurice, 7, 11, 12 Helvétius, Claude Adrien, 14, 59–60, 69, 73, 83–91, 94, 102, 114, 136, 169, 184, 202, 225. See also De l’esprit; Réflexions sur le livre de l’esprit (Diderot) Hénaff, Marcel, 16, 17, 30, 33, 34 Heterology, Bataille’s, 8–11 Histoire de Juliette (Sade), xv, 13, 26, 29, 38, 39, 92, 151, 154,

155, 158, 186, 196, 201, 217, 223–224, 231, 235, 250, 252, 257–258, 273, 278, 289 Hitler, Adolf, 5. See also Fascism Hobbes, Thomas, 177, 190–196, 239, 244, 267–268 and moralities of self-interest, 114, 120, 122, 173, 184, 201 and natural law, 169–170, 172–173, 176, 208 and the social contract, 182–189 and the state of nature, 123, 124, 144, 181–183, 187, 189–191, 208, 22–223 Honorine, the duchesse de Grillo, 155–158 Horkheimer and Adorno, 7, 42, 252, 285–292, 293. See also Dialectic of Enlightenment; Kant, Immanuel, the trope of Kant avec Sade Humanism, Enlightenment, 4–5, 16 Human nature, the science of, 170, 209 Hume, David, 77, 115, 117, 169, 244, 270 Humour black humour, 7 in Sade, ix, 7, 29–30, 283 Hutcheson, Francis, 57, 114, 115– 117, 161 Hygiene, 158–160, 232. See also Askesis; Education Hyperbole, Sade’s use of as a literary technique, 3, 32, 43, 140, 162, 210, 214, 247, 283 I Idée sur les romans (Sade), 38 Imagination, the faculty of, 58, 74, 86–89, 97, 100, 115, 117, 122, 152, 225, 236, 249, 272, 275


Insensitivity, physical, 236, 247 Intensity, epistemology of/principle of, 23, 43, 114, 136–141, 161, 204, 240, 244, 247 Iron-heart, 182–185, 189 Irrationality, Sade and, 33–36. See also Anti-philosophy Israel, Jonathon, 40, 284. See also Radical Enlightenment J Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques), 91, 103, 251 Juliette, viii, 143, 145, 154–160, 164, 202, 204, 210, 215–216, 221–222, 223, 239, 244–248, 251, 257–278 Justine, 182–184, 190, 202–204, 210, 231, 232, 234, 240, 251, 275, 278, 280 Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu (Sade), xv, 92, 182, 223, 235, 268, 275 K Kant, Immanuel, 10, 286–290 the trope of Kant avec Sade, 6, 226, 284, 286–290, 294. See also Horkheimer and Adorno Klossowski, Pierre, 7, 220–222, 252 Krafft-Ebing, Richard Freiherr von, 138, 162, 170 L Lacan, Jacques, 7, 285 Laclos, Pierre Choderlos de, 158 La Mettrie, Julien Offray de, 102, 225, 279


La philosophie dans le boudoir (Sade), xi, 4, 93, 133–135, 143, 147, 159, 209, 231, 272, 279 Law of nature, 118, 138, 176–177, 191–192, 196, 208, 210, 215, 219, 223, 268. See also Natural law Le Brun, Annie, xi–xiii, 16, 17, 163, 178 Le Camus, Antoine, 54–58, 60, 63–69, 75–77 Lely, Gilbert, 11 Léonore, 147, 251 Les cent vingt journées de Sodome (Sade), 162, 223, 231, 251, 268 Lever, Maurice, viii, 36 Lévesque de Pouilly, Louis-Jean, 113– 121, 123, 133, 136, 144–146, 147, 154, 158, 159, 161, 174 Libertine archetype, Sade’s, 250 Library, Sade’s La Coste library catalogue, 83, 102, 117, 177, 179 Locke, John, 51–52, 54–56, 58–59, 60, 67, 68, 71, 76, 94, 95 Love, 137, 151–158, 238, 241, 269, 261–265, 275 M Machiavelli, Niccolò di Bernardo dei, 179 Mandeville, Bernard, 114, 123, 169, 184 Marat/Sade, ix Marty, Éric, xv, 6–7 Materialism, Sade and, 10, 13, 49, 69, 75, 76, 102, 125, 135–136, 153, 202, 219, 221, 252. See also d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron; Transmutational materialism

302  Index McMorran, Wil, 29–30 Mechanist/corpuscularian matter theory, 52, 60, 69, 176, 291 Médecins philosophes, 23–24, 52. See also Montpellier vitalism; Vital force Medicine, Sade and, 76 Meeker, Natania, 49, 294 Memory, the faculty of, 83, 86–88 Mengue, Philippe, 22, 225, 226 Ménuret de Chambaud, Jean-Joseph, 69–71, 74, 176 Minski the giant, 238, 247, 273–276 Modernity the crisis of, 5, 7, 285–286 Sade as archetypical figure of, 32 Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de, 14, 90, 178 Montpellier Vitalism, 53–61, 135, 158. See also Médecins philosophes; Vital force Moore, Alison, 286 Moraes, Eliane Robert, 10 Moral sense, 113–127, 147, 236, 241, 257. See also Aesthetics, and the moral sense; Conscience; Diderot, Denis, and moral sense;Encyclopédie, the Sens moral, (ItalicMoral.); Heart; Hutcheson, Francis; Lévesque de Pouilly, Louis-Jean; Love; Pity; Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and moral theory; Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of; Smith, Adam; Voice of nature Helvétius and, 88, 175 literature and, 92–93, 103 as moral realism, 114, 158 as “natural” morality, 169–171 Sade’s critique of, 141–145, 161, 195, 209, 265

and sensibility, 56–58, 60, 61, 63, 135 Musée d’Orsay, xi, 163 Myth, the myth of Sade, 12 N Narrator, the Sadean, 259–260 Natural law, 169–177, 181, 187, 191–193, 196, 201–204, 208, 222, 269, 271. See also Law of nature Nature, 215. See also Law of nature; Natural law; Voice of nature the authority of, 170–171, 176, 181, 202, 212, 215, 221, 291 as creative potential, 213–214, 221 man’s independence from, 209– 213, 216 the precepts, principles, or axioms of, 123, 173, 190–196, 201–202, 208, 214, 215 Newton, Isaac, 136 Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 5, 288–292 Nihilism, Sade’s alleged ethical/moral, 15 Noirceuil, 13, 143–146, 157, 202, 204–206, 210, 214, 217, 240, 258–263, 266, 272, 275 O Occasionalism, 66–67, 126 Olympe, the Princess Borghese, 155–158, 261 Onfray, Michel, xiv P Pagden, Anthony, 4, 284


Parody. See Satire, Sade’s writing as Passions, the, 50, 55, 60, 69, 84–85, 92, 126, 203, 209, 219, 236, 238, 241, 244–245 Paulhan, Jean, 6 Philosophes, the, 3, 5, 14–15, 52, 53, 59, 217, 231 Philosophical anthropology Klossowski and, 217 Sade’s, 14, 220 within the French Enlightenment, 51, 114 Picasso, Pablo, xi, xii Physiology/physiognomy, 76, 148, 271, 274. See also Temperamental disposition Pity, 117, 123–125, 128, 143–145, 151, 154, 194, 238, 241, 253, 258, 262, 288–289 Plato, 114, 120, 147, 197, 270 Pope Pius VI. See Braschi, Pope Pius VI Pornography, Sade’s use of, 3, 49, 131, 170 Positivism, 42, 288, 291 Profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques), 133. See also Emile, ou de l’éducation (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques) Psychoanalysis, 220, 284–286 Pufendorf, Freiherr Samuel von, 169, 172–174, 177 Q Quills, ix R Radical Enlightenment, 13–15, 40, 75. See also Israel, Jonathon Rationalism, the Enlightenment’s “rational” subject, 65–69. See also Empiricism, the Enlightenment’s “empirical” subject


Reason, Enlightenment, 10, 291 Reason/reflection, the faculty of, 54–57, 95, 118, 123, 135, 175–176, 191–194, 236, 241, 287, 290–291 Réflexions sur le livre de l’esprit (Diderot), 59–60, 85 Revolution, French, 288 Richardson, Samuel, 74, 91–93, 100, 115, 132, 135, 251. See also Éloge de Richardson (Diderot) Right of the strong, 188, 196 Robespierre, Maximilien, 5 Roger, Philippe, 225, 251 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 73, 92, 158–160, 177, 221–223, 267, 278. See also Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (Second Discourse) (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques);Du contrat social (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques); Emile, ou de l’éducation (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques); Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques); Love; Pity; Profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques) and Condillac, 96–99, 101–102 and Hobbes, 144, 169–170, 172–174, 181–184, 191, 192, 194, 196, 209, 223 the knowing heart, 143 and moral theory, 114, 120, 121, 123, 188, 192–194 and Sade, 75, 78, 93–95, 100–102, 125, 134–136, 141–143, 147, 154, 194, 269, 270 and the social contract, 196. See also General will Rush, Geoffrey, ix, xv

304  Index S Sade, Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de, 271. See also Aline et Valcour; Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond; Histoire de Juliette; Idée sur les romans; Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu; La philosophie dans le boudoir; Les cent vingt journées de Sodome le divin marquis, xii, xiii the myth of, 11 Sade’s ambidextrous philosophy, 114, 136, 141, 143, 145, 169, 222 Sade’s oeuvre, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade edn of, xii Sade’s oeuvre, Grove Press edn of, ix, 155 Sade’s philosophical “system”, an overview of, 21–28 the reception history of, xii, xiii, 6–13 Sade, Hugues de (the current Compte de Sade), viii, x Sade, Xavier de, viii Sadism. See Krafft-Ebing, Richard Freiherr von Saint-Ange, 132, 135, 147, 159 Saint-Fond, 217–222, 244, 246, 258, 260, 263, 265–267, 271, 273 Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (Pasolini), viii Sarmiento, 225 Satire, Sade’s writing as, 5–10, 92, 178, 283, 291 Sbrigani, 238, 274 Schmidt, James, 285 Self-cultivation, ethical. See Askesis Senebier, Jean, 64–68, 71–75

Sensationist trajectory or vector, 83, 87, 118, 135–138, 141 Sensibility, 23. See also Fouquet, Henri; Genre, the sentimental novel; Intensity, epistemology of/ principle of;Médecins philosophes the body of sensibility, 49–50, 53, 58, 65, 113, 158, 232, 290 the discourse of sensibility, 13, 49, 52–54, 57–59, 64–66, 71, 75, 85–87, 122, 135, 137, 138, 158, 160, 232 physical and moral, 253 Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of, 114, 120, 128, 133. See also Essai sur le mérite et la vertu Smith, Adam, 74, 115–118 Sociability, libertine, 223, 265, 272, 275 Social contract, 173, 197, 206, 222– 223, 268–271. See also Du contrat social (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques) as “artificial” morality, 2, 3, 5 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques and, 194 Sade’s critique of, 178, 181–186, 189 Society of the Friends of Crime, 148, 151, 178, 223, 268 Sollers, Philippe, 7 State of nature, 123–125, 144, 169, 173, 181–183, 187–195, 201, 208, 220–223. See also War of all against all equality in, 187 Steintrager, James A., xv, xvi Sterne, Laurence, 91 Stoicism. See Apathy Surrealists, the, xii, 6, 163



T Tamoé, the kingdom of, 13, 178, 279 Temperamental disposition, 204, 235, 274, 275. See also Physiology/ physiognomy Tissot, Samuel-Auguste, 59, 159 Traité des sensations (Condillac), 58–59, 83, 95–98, 137 Transmutational materialism, 210– 213, 219–222, 226. See also d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron; Materialism, Sade and

Volcano, their role in Sade’s novels, 156, 206, 225, 273 Voltaire, 74, 88–89, 93–95, 99

V Valcour, 147 Vila, Anne, 52, 76, 77, 279 Vital force. See Montpellier Vitalism Voice of nature, 142, 146, 176, 181, 192, 193, 205, 209, 291. See also Conscience; Moral sense

Z Žižek, Slavoj, 285

W Warman, Caroline, 5–6, 102 War of all against all, 144, 184, 190, 191, 194, 195. See also State of nature Wicked will, the, 36 Wood, Allen W., 291

Smile Life

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile

Get in touch

© Copyright 2015 - 2020 AZPDF.TIPS - All rights reserved.