See his Treatise on Harmony (tr. 1971); study by C. Girdlestone (1957, rev. ed. 1969).
Rameau's Nephew, or the Second Satire (Le Neveu de Rameau ou La Satire seconde) is an imaginary philosophical conversation written by Denis Diderot, probably between 1761 and 1772.
It was first published in 1805 in German translation by Goethe, but the French manuscript used has subsequently disappeared. The German version was translated back into French by de Saur and Saint-Geniès and published in 1821. The first published version based on French manuscript appeared in 1823 in the Brière edition of Diderot's works. Modern editions are based on the complete manuscript in Diderot’s own hand found by Georges Monval, the librarian at the Comédie-Française, in 1890 while buying music scores from a second-hand bookshop in Paris. Monval published his edition of the manuscript in 1891. Subsequently, the manuscript was bought by the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. It is unclear why Diderot never had it published in his time. Given the satirical tone of the work, it has been suggested that the author prudently refrained from giving offence.
Recurring themes in the discussion include the education of children, the nature of genius, and money. The often rambling conversation pokes fun at numerous prominent figures of the time.
In the prologue that precedes the conversation, the first-person narrator depicts Lui as a true original, eccentric and extravagant, full of contradictions, "a mixture of the sublime and the base, of good sense and irrationality". Effectively being a provocateur, Lui extols the virtues of crime and theft, and raises his beloved gold to the level of a religion. Moi seems to have a didactic role, while the nephew (Lui) succeeds in conveying a cynical, if perhaps immoral, vision of reality.
Though the two characters actually existed, the characters of the novel are meant as allegorical figures, and the dialogue is in fact Diderot's own ruminations on life and morality.
A parasite in a well-to-do family, Rameau has recently been kicked out because he refused to compromise with the truth. Now he will not humble himself by apologizing. And yet, rather than starve, shouldn't one live at the expense of rich fools and knaves as he once did, pimping for a lord ? Society does not allow the talented to support themselves because it does not value them, leaving them to beg while the rich, the powerful and stupid poke fun at men like Buffon, Duclos, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire, D'Alembert, Diderot. The poor genius is left with but two options : to crawl and flatter or to dupe and cheat, either being repugnant to the sensitive mind. If virtue had led the way to fortune, I would either have been virtuous or pretended to be so like others; I was expected to play the fool, and a fool I turned myself into.
After the death of Diderot, the manuscript or a copy of it probably made its way to Russia. In 1765, Diderot had faced financial difficulties, and the Empress Catherine of Russia had come to his help by buying out his library. The arrangement was quite a profitable one for both parties, Diderot becoming the paid librarian of his own book collection, with the task of adding to it as he saw fit, while the Russians enjoyed the prospect of one day being in possession of one of the most selectively stocked European libraries, not to mention Diderot's papers, .