The Skeptic's Walk

La Promenade du sceptique
Author Denis Diderot
Country France
Language French
Publication date

The Skeptic's Walk (French: La Promenade du sceptique)[1][2] is a book by Denis Diderot, completed in 1747. It was first published in 1830. The book is separated into two parts; the first being a critique of religion, and the second a philosophical debate.


The book was reported to Paris police sometime between 1746 and 1747, at a time when Diderot was already under police surveillance. When the book was completed in 1747, Diderot was unable to find a publisher, and the sole copy of the book remained at his home until it was confiscated during a police search in 1752. The book was reportedly lost in police custody, and remained unheard of until it was put up for auction by a Paris bookseller in 1800. The book's surfacing led to a legal dispute between Diderot's daughter and the bookseller over rightful ownership. The dispute caused the book to be confiscated by police for a second time.[3] It remained unpublished until 1830.[4]


The book is said to reveal the intellectual development of Diderot during the time it was written, and is considered to be the turning point in Diderot's transition to atheism.[3] The book questions the integrity of both the Bible and the Abrahamic god. Part of the book presents a fictional story, set shortly after the Battle of Fontenoy, involving a small group of philosophers.[3] Themes include choosing between carnal pleasures and 'higher' morals. The book ends with the narrator of the story meeting "one of those blondes whom a philosopher ought to avoid", who convinces him that it is better to embrace happiness on earth than to wait for it in heaven.[1] Philosophical debate in the book is said to show Diderot's distinct withdrawal from the Age of Enlightenment.[3]

The book has been described as being highly satirical, and whilst it mainly criticises the Christian churches, it has also been called Diderot's "most unkind treatment of Judaism and the ancient Jews."[2] Because of the blasphemy laws at the time, if the book had been published whilst he was still alive, Diderot most likely would have been imprisoned or exiled from Paris.[2]


  1. 1 2 Perry, Gill (1994). Femininity and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century Art and Culture. p. 162. ISBN 978-0719042287.
  2. 1 2 3 Schwartz, Leon (1981). Diderot and the Jews. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 33, 37. ISBN 978-0838623770.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Israel, Jonathon (2009). Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752. Oxford University Press. pp. 790–791. ISBN 978-0199541522.
  4. "Denis Diderot". Retrieved September 3, 2013.

External links

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