Supplément au voyage de Bougainville

Supplément au voyage de Bougainville, ou dialogue entre A et B sur l'inconvénient d'attacher des idées morales à certaines actions physiques qui n'en comportent pas. ("Addendum to the Journey of Bougainville, or dialogue between A and B on the drawback to binding moral ideas to certain physical actions which bear none") is a set of philosophical dialogues written by Denis Diderot, inspired by Louis Antoine de Bougainville's Voyage autour du monde. It was written in 1772 for the journal Correspondance littéraire, which commissioned him to review Bougainville's account of his travels, but not published until 1796.[1]


Bougainville, a contemporary of Diderot, was a French explorer whose 1771 book Voyage autour du monde (A Voyage Around the World) provided an account of an expedition that took him to Argentina, Patagonia, Indonesia, and Tahiti. It was the utopian descriptions of the latter that inspired Diderot to write his review in the form of a fictional Supplement.


The Supplement spans either four or five chapters, depending on the edition.[2] Each takes the form of a dialogue between two people, but the characters and setting varies. Chapter two features a Tahitian Elder addressing a hypothetical Bougainville; chapters three and four are between a villager named Orou and his European almoner guest; in chapters one and five, speakers known only as "A" and "B" speak in a literary space apart from Tahiti, commenting on and drawing lessons from the noted differences between Tahitian and European culture.

In each of the dialogues, Diderot aligns one character with European culture and the other with Tahitian culture for the purpose of contrasting the two. This kind of nature–culture divide was a common strategy to critique aspects of European culture during the Enlightenment.[3]


Diderot touches upon many popular Enlightenment themes, for example: slavery, colonisation, the Catholic faith, the relationship between morality and law, and ownership of private property.

External links

French Wikisource has original text related to this article:


  1. Wikisourcelang|fr|Supplément au voyage de Bougainville
  2. McDonald, Christie V. (1976). The Reading and Writing of Utopia in Denis Diderot's "Supplement au voyage de Bougainville". Science Fiction Studies, 3(3): 248-254.
  3. Ansart, Guillaume. (2000). Aspects of Rationality in Diderot's "Supplement au voyage de Bougainville". Diderot Studies, 26: 11-19.
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