Happiness, Notebooks and Diderot

As is obvious, I write. However, I do not only write when I find some inspiration for this blog. I always have at least one notebook that I try to keep at my side always, using it as a space to write anything I find remarkable. I usually fill the books in 3/4 months, after which they end up on a shelve. However every once in a while I read these books back. I reread and experience and remember all the things I wrote and was dealing with at the time. There is one more thing. From each book I type out the poetry, making it more easy to read back and appreciate all the words that got unto paper after I read them on the pages of my mind.

Today I was revising one of the books, looking at what I wrote down, imagined, found. And I found  Diderot’s definition of happiness as puplished in l’encyclopedy ou dictionairee raisonne des sciences des arts et des metiers which dates from the 1750s.


“state, a situation which we would like to keep lasting and unchanged. In this happiness is different from pleasure, which is only a pleasant but short-lived feeling and can never become a state. Pain would more likely have that privilege…

All men are one in their desire for happiness. Nature has made happiness a law of our being, and all that is not happiness is alien to our disposition. It alone has unmistakable power over our hearts, it attracts us all through an instant inclination, a powerful charm, and an irresistible attraction. Happiness is the charm and perfection of Nature and she has indelibly engraved it on our hearts.

All men also agree on the nature of happiness which they identify with pleasure, or at least they agree that it owes to pleasure its greatest delight and stimulation. If happiness is not enlivened from time to time by pleasure, it is not so much true happiness as a state of tranquillity, a very sorry kind of happiness indeed! If we are left in a state of lazy indolence that offers no stimulus to our activity, we cannot be happy; our desires can only be fulfilled by our being transported out of this listlessness in which we languish. Joy must flow into the innermost recesses of our hearts, it must be stimulated by pleasant feelings, kept in motion by gentle shocks, filled with delightful variety, it must intoxicate us with a pure pleasure that nothing can spoil. But man’s condition does not allow for such a state: pleasures cannot accompany every moment of our life and the most delightful state includes many periods of languor; once the first flame of feeling has died down, the best we can hope for is tranquillity.”


I think it is so incredibly interesting that in the 18th century these kinds of explanation’s were given in encyclopaedia, and as well I think it is very true and interesting for today. Nowadays happiness is so important, and we do change all kinds of things to make this happiness last. Diderot explains.. it just does not really work like that.




2 thoughts on “Happiness, Notebooks and Diderot

  1. karlanvdlustgraaf says:

    Nu wou ik dat ik meer in mijn notebookje schreef. Dat lijkt me dan zo leuk om terug te zien.
    Interessant dat dat al uit de 18e eeuw komt. Natuurlijk moeten ze toen ook over dingen nagedacht hebben, zeker als je kijkt waar alle filosofen uit de oudheid al over nadachten. Maar toch heb je soms het idiote idee dat mensen vroeger dommer waren.
    Ik vind het in ieder geval erg mooi omschreven 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. annelenalj says:

    jaa.. kan het je zeker aan raden te schrijven.. dit kwam uit een boekje waarin ik ook een maand elke dag iets schreef, waarbij ik starte met een quote (meestal een liedje uit m’n hoofd) heel leuk om te zien waar je toen dan mee bezig was.. en hoe relatief dingen zijn.. en tegelijk ook dat sommige dingen (gelukkig) nooit weggaan..


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