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Denis the Menace

From The Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the birthday of French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot (books by this author), born in Langres (1713). He was a prominent thinker during the French Enlightenment, and he was good friends with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The two men met regularly at cafés in Paris to discuss music, philosophy, and their troubles with women.

From 1745 to 1772, Diderot was the chief editor of Encyclopédie, a book meant to replace the Bible as the source of knowledge. It was the first book of its kind to subject all the entries to rational analysis, debunking a lot of ancient wisdom along the way. For instance, it included an entry on Noah’s ark that tried to estimate how many man-hours Noah and his sons must have spent shoveling manure off their boat. Previous encyclopedias restricted themselves to serious topics like theology and philosophy and science, but Diderot tried to cover everything he could think of: emotions, coal mines, fleas, duels, bladder surgery, stockings, the metaphysics of the human soul, and how to make soup.

Diderot, who said, “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

Forthcoming from Korrektiv Press: The Korrektiv Encyclopedia, in the spirit of Diderot, but Diderot turned on his head.


  1. He was doing all right right up until “until.” Everybody’s gotta serve somebody.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      Thomas Aquinas College should invite you to give the commencement address, if they haven’t already.

      • ha! I wish my alma mater (east coast stac-no releation) would do that, maybe in time for my graduation from their mba program.
        Unrelated, but if west coast stac were to have NCAA athletics, what sort of mascot would they have?
        My coach finds it puzzling that our DII school athletes are the “Spartans,” when our namesake was a man of peace. I did bring up just war theory, that Catholicism doesn’t teach pacifism and to his credit he did know Augustine was the first in that regard, but he wasn’t convinced. I pressed on that Spartans are known for dying to the last man to help save their homeland in a defensive action against the total war of the Persians. Of course they had tried to conquer their neighbors previously… but for a stylized idea of the athletes’ fierceness, a Spartan warrior does the job.

        Maybe the Encyclopedia can cover “suitable mascots for Catholic colleges”

        If we wanted to get really feudal I suppose we could all just be the “knights of ” but I’m sure there’s more creativity out there than merely that.

      • Matthew Lickona says:

        What I admire most about you is that even when it looks for all the world like you’re being nice, you’re slipping the knife between the third and fourth ribs.

        • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

          Aw, shucks.

          And I admire your ability to cry ‘Content!’ to that which grieves your heart.

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

    The Korrektiv Encyclopedia is a great idea.

    I call dibs on the entries for Fra Angelico, optical telegraphy, the Nguyen Dynasty, Looper, and Korrektiv Press.

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