In the German book Usability und UX kompakt by Michael Richter and Markus Flückiger (Springer, 2016, page 159), I found the following quote, which the authors attribute to Denis Diderot:

Die einen, so scheint mir, haben viele Werkzeuge und wenig Ideen; die anderen haben viele Ideen und gar keine Werkzeuge.

My translation:

Some, it seems to me, have many tools and few ideas; (the) others have many ideas and no tools at all.

What is the exact source of this quote and what was the wording of the original version in French? The German Wikiquote page and the French Wikiquote page don't seem to list the quote. A search for diderot outils idées "les uns" "les autres", but Diderot may have used a different word than "outils" for "tools".

  • Why don't you ask the authors of the book? Nov 14, 2019 at 11:45
  • @kimchilover Assuming they got it from the original French source is a rather bold assumption, isn't it?
    – Tsundoku
    Nov 14, 2019 at 11:48
  • Send an email to Richter and/or Flückiger asking where they got the quote. They might possibly have a good source (that is, one you can use to find a place where D actually wrote something like that) or possibly they don't. Nov 14, 2019 at 11:52
  • @kimchilover There are countless collections of quotes that don't mention the quote's original source. For example, GuteZitate.com lists that quote without mentioning its source. Authors often use that sort of source.
    – Tsundoku
    Nov 14, 2019 at 11:55
  • Yes, and so what? Find out if R and F was in that class or not. Punish them, at least, with the search for truth. Nov 14, 2019 at 11:57

1 Answer 1


After some more research, I found out that "outils" was a red herring; Diderot used the word "instruments" in the original quote. Its source is Pensées sur l'interprétation de la Nature, which Diderot first published anonymously in 1753 and edited for republication in 1754 (see the French Wikipedia article).

Here is the original version:

Ce seront ou des vues générales sur l'art expérimental, ou des vues particulières sur un phénomène qui paraît occuper tous nos philosophes, et les diviser en deux classes. Les uns ont, ce me semble, beaucoup d'instruments et peu d'idées; les autres ont beaucoup d'idées et n'ont point d'instruments.

My translation:

These will be either general views on (the art of) experimentation, or specific views about a phenomenon that appears to keep all of our philosophers occupied and divide them into two categories. Some, it seems to me, have many instruments/tools and few ideas; the others have many ideas and no instruments/tools at all.

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