Figurative system of human knowledge
The "figurative system of human knowledge", sometimes known as the tree of Diderot and d'Alembert, was a tree developed to represent the structure of knowledge itself, produced for the Encyclopédie by Jean le Rond d'Alembert and Denis Diderot.
The tree was a taxonomy of human knowledge, inspired by Francis Bacon's The Advancement of Learning. The three main branches of knowledge in the tree are: "Memory"/History, "Reason"/Philosophy, and "Imagination"/Poetry.
Notable is the fact that theology is ordered under 'Philosophy'. The historian Robert Darnton has argued that this categorization of religion as being subject to human reason, and not a source of knowledge in and of itself (revelation), was a significant factor in the controversy surrounding the work. Additionally notice that 'Knowledge of God' is only a few nodes away from 'Divination' and 'Black Magic'.
The original version, in French, can be seen in the graphic on the right. An image of the diagram with English translations superimposed over the French text is available. Another example of English translation of the tree is available in literature (see the reference by Schwab). Below is a version of it rendered in English as a bulleted outline.
The Tree of Diderot and d'Alembert
"Detailed System of Human Knowledge" from the Encyclopédie.
- Uniformity of Nature. (See: Uniformitarianism)
- Celestial History.
- of Meteors.
- of the Earth and the Sea (See also: Origin of water on Earth)
- of Minerals. (See also: Geological history of Earth)
- of Vegetables. (See also: History of agriculture)
- of Animals. (See also: Evolutionary history of life)
- of the Elements. (See also: Classical element, History of alchemy, and History of chemistry)
- Deviations of Nature.
- Celestial Wonders.
- Large Meteors. (See also: Asteroids)
- Wonders of Land and Sea. (See: Wonders of the World)
- Monstrous Minerals.
- Monstrous Vegetables. (See: Largest plants, Poisonous plants, and Carnivorous plants)
- Monstrous Animals. (See: Largest animals and Predators)
- Wonders of the Elements. (See: Natural disasters)
- Arts, Crafts, Manufactures.
- Work and Uses of Precious Stones.
- Work and Uses of Iron.
- Work and Uses of Glass.
- Work and Uses of Skin.
- Work and Uses of Silk.
- Work like.
- Brocaded Fabrics, etc.
- Work and Uses of Wool.
- Bonnet-Making, etc.
- Working and Uses, etc.
- General Metaphysics, or Ontology, or Science of Being in General, of Possibility, of Existence, of Duration, etc.
- Science of God.
- Science of Man.
- Art of Thinking.
- Science of Ideas
- Science of Propositions.
- Art of Remembering.
- Supplement to Memory.
- Art of Communication
- Science of the Instrument of Discourse.
- Science of Qualities of Discourse.
- Metaphysics of Bodies or, General Physics, of Extent, of Impenetrability, of Movement, of Word, etc.
- Elementary (Military Architecture, Tactics).
- Transcendental (Theory of Courses).
- Geometric Astronomy.
- Particular Physics.
- Hygiene, properly said.
- Cosmetics (Orthopedics).
- Athletics (Gymnastics).
- Physical Astronomy.
- Judiciary Astrology.
- Physical Astrology.
(NOTE: THIS NEXT BRANCH SEEMS TO BELONG TO BOTH THE NARRATIVE AND DRAMATIC TREE AS DEPICTED BY THE LINE DRAWN CONNECTING THE TWO.)
- Robert Darnton, "Philosophers Trim the Tree of Knowledge: The Epistemological Strategy of the Encyclopedie," The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1984), 191-213.
- Robert Darnton, "Epistemological angst: From encyclopedism to advertising," in Tore Frängsmyr, ed., The structure of knowledge: classifications of science and learning since the Renaissance (Berkeley, CA: Office for the History of Science and Technology, University of California, Berkeley, 2001).
- Adams, David (2006) 'The Système figuré des Connaissances humaines and the structure of Knowledge in the Encyclopédie', in Ordering the World, ed. Diana Donald and Frank O'Gorman, London: Macmillan, p. 190-215.
- Preliminary discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot, Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, translated by Richard N. Schwab, 1995. ISBN 0-226-13476-8
- The Tree translated into English
- ESSAI D'UNE DISTRIBUTION GÉNÉALOGIQUE DES SCIENCES ET DES ARTS PRINCIPAUX, published as a fold-out frontispiece in volume 1 of Pierre Mouchon, Table analytique et raisonnée des matieres contenues dans les XXXIII volumes in-folio du Dictionnaire des sciences, des arts et des métiers, et dans son supplément, Paris, Panckoucke 1780.