Diderot and Intrinsic Value

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In Rameau’s Nephew Diderot holds a conversation with a rather sordid character. During their conversations Rameau seems to have a very negative view of society. He points out that reputation and credit only have no intrinsic value, only the value that we place on them. This can apply to a lot of things in todays society as well. A good example of this is beauty standards, something that changes drastically throughout the ages and places value on certain looks that have no value on their own.

Rameau seems to contradict himself a lot in this passage. Throughout Diderot’s work he explains how he is jealous of the wealthy and the geniuses, while simultaneously saying that they are bad characters. However he later states that he is a genius and that he deserves to be rich, and so on. He clearly places a higher value on himself than those around him, and it appears to frustrate him to no end. Since no one else sees his value, he does not possess it.

This explains why he lies and cheats in order to survive, all that matters to him is the appearance of looking good. All he truly wants is credit, reputation seems to matter little to him, since most people with a good reputation have little to show for it.

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