Philosophy Today

Volume 60, Issue 1, Winter 2016

The Power of the Monstrous

Annie Ibrahim
Pages 125-138

Diderot’s Monsters, between Physiology and Politics

The monstrous power of the blind in Diderot’s 1949 Letter is not due to its ability to make people laugh or afraid, as its most common etymology would indicate: monstrum, monstrare, to point to an abnormal fact. The monstrous power of Diderot’s monster is that of one who shows: monere, monitor, in the manner of a guide or pathfinder. It shows us that everything that lives, and especially the human being, is a hybrid. It takes the idea of a possible mixture of animals and humans into account, thus the boldness of an ‘anti-speciesism’ as presented in the fantastical bestiary of Alembert’s Dream. It brings the humanism of essence to an end and invites us to redefine a new social bond.