59. This paragraph seems to be a direct application of Buffon’s definition of biological continuity to the entire range of encyclopedic knowledge. It appears to be based, in much the same vocabulary, on Buffon’s “Premier Discours” to his Histoire naturelle, whose first three volumes appeared in 1749 ( Oeuvres philosophiques de Buffon [Paris, 1954], I, 7–26), and it is one of the most striking expressions in the eighteenth century of the notion of continuity described by Lovejoy in The Great Chain of Being. D’Alembert returns to the subject in the article “Cosmology” in the Encyclopedia and in his Élémens de philosophie (1759). The function of the philosopher, according to him, is to add new links and to fill in the gaps between them as much as possible so that our knowledge can be made ever more useful in improving the human condition.


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