New SAT Reading Practice Test 51: Diderot Passage

Home > SAT Test > SAT Reading Practice Tests

Test Information

Question 11 questions

Time 14 minutes

See All test questions

Take more free SAT Reading Practice Tests available from

Diderot Passage

Over a thirty-year period, Denis Diderot tire-
lessly undertook a bold endeavor; the philosopher
and writer furthered technology education by
creating one of the most important books of the
0518th century. He documented the Western world's
collective knowledge through a massive set of
volumes called the Encyclopédie. Today, Diderot's
Encyclopédie remains one of the most accessible
primary sources for the study of technology during
10the Enlightenment, having received exposure in
recent times through the Internet.
Since Diderot didn't know all there was to
know, he sought contributors, more than 150, and
organized their 72,000 articles into entries on
15politics, economics, technology, and other topics.
His goal was to create an intellectual work instruc-
tionally useful to all, but soon, his Encyclopédie
became mired in controversy, and this precursor to
the modern encyclopedia was seized after its incep-
20tion, its publication banned by the French govern-
ment. The encyclopedia, however, had already
sparked mass interest in the secrets of manufactur-
ing and more, and so this "how-to" compendium
was widely circulated underground after eventually
25being published in 1765 by a Swedish printer.
Undoubtedly, the Encyclopédie served then as a
beacon of free thought, and questions about control
of its content caused critics to boil over. For in
building a compilation of human knowledge, Di-
30derot made a direct political statement. Essentially,
the political statement was: You, the average person,
can now know what only kings knew before.
In particular, Diderot created an "encyclopedic
revolution" by integrating scientific discover-
35ies with the liberal arts. He linked technology to
culture when he divided the Encyclopédie into three
categories: history, philosophy, and poetry. Diderot
then assigned subjects to these three groupings
such as industry, political theory, theology, agricul-
40ture, and the arts and sciences.
The execution was deceptively simple enough
because Diderot pursued everyday trade topics
such as cloth dying, for example, accompanying his
explanations with diagrams and illustrations. Thus,
45Diderot elevated "unacademic" craft knowledge
to a scholarly status, challenging viewpoints about
erudition held by the aristocratic ruling class of the
time. More important, Diderot suggested that ev-
eryone could have access to the rational, down-to-
50earth truth, since he believed that knowledge about
reality could be obtained by reason alone, rather
than through authority or other means.
Not surprisingly, such rationalist philosophy
was considered radical. The new idea of showing in
55amazing detail how the production techniques used
in tanning and metalwork were accomplished dis-
pleased those in power. Trade guilds held control of
such knowledge, and so Diderot's Encyclopédie was
viewed as a threat to the establishment. Diderot's
60ideology of progress by way of better quality
materials, technical research, and greater produc-
tion speed was unprecedented in printed books.
Royal authorities did not want the masses
exposed to Diderot's liberal views such as this one:
65"The good of the people must be the great purpose
of government. By the laws of nature and of reason,
the governors are invested with power to that end.
And the greatest good of the people is liberty."
But the opposition was too late. Despite an
70official ban, the Encyclopédie's beautiful bookplates
survived, recording production techniques dating to
the Middle Ages. Ironically, with the advent of both
the English Industrial Revolution and the French
Revolution, the trades shown in Diderot's work
75changed significantly after the encyclopedia's
publication. Therefore, instead of becoming a
technical dictionary, the Encyclopédie rather serves
today as a history of technology, showing us what
trades were like before machines swept in to trans-
80form industry.

1. Which choice expresses a central idea of the passage?

  • A. Diderot crafted a revolutionary guide for the development of industrial technology.
  • B. Diderot provided students with a superb reference for the study of scientific principles.
  • C. Diderot's Encyclopédie continues to serve as a valuable technical resource.
  • D. Diderot's Encyclopédie helped promote the liberalization and expansion of knowledge.

2. The passage most clearly reflects the author's

  • A. devotion to the study of science.
  • B. disdain for intellectualism.
  • C. interest in early printing methods.
  • D. respect for individual innovation.

3. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 33-35 ("In particular … liberal arts")
  • B. Lines 54-57 ("The new idea … in power")
  • C. Lines 63-66 ("Royal … of government")
  • D. Lines 72-76 ("Ironically … publication")

4. According to the passage, Diderot's main goal in developing the Encyclopédie was to

  • A. express his views.
  • B. challenge political authority.
  • C. provide information and instruction.
  • D. create a historical record of technology.

5. As used in line 24, "underground" most nearly means

  • A. cautiously.
  • B. secretly.
  • C. perilously.
  • D. privately.

6. In lines 26-27, the author most likely uses the phrase "a beacon of free thought" to suggest that Diderot's work

  • A. attracted more people to the pursuit of knowledge.
  • B. provided information for people most likely to use it.
  • C. encouraged revolutionary thinking.
  • D. spread scientific theory among intellectual circles.

7. The passage most strongly suggests that during this time period

  • A. access to information was limited to select demographics.
  • B. advances in printing resulted in comparable advances in other fields.
  • C. demands for political and social reform were severely punished.
  • D. intellectuals were widely respected and elevated to elite status.

8. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 12-15 ("Since Diderot … topics")
  • B. Lines 41-44 ("The execution … illustrations")
  • C. Lines 57-59 ("Trade guilds … establishment")
  • D. Lines 69-72 ("Despite … Middle Ages")

9. As used in line 47, "erudition" most nearly means

  • A. hierarchy.
  • B. sophistication.
  • C. skill.
  • D. learning.

10. Which choice best describes how the impact of the Encyclopédie changed over time?

  • A. Advances in science and industry made the Encyclopédie obsolete.
  • B. Advances in science and industry changed the Encyclopédie from a "how-to" source into a history of technology.
  • C. Advances in science and industry turned the Encyclopédie into an affordable, mass-produced publication used by millions.
  • D. Advances in science and industry led to an expansion of the number of Encyclopédie volumes in each set.

11. Based on the passage and the graphic, which of the following is most likely to be true?

  • A. Diderot would not have included information about Galileo's scientific observations.
  • B. Diderot would have included information on the production techniques used to create the first telescope.
  • C. Diderot would not have included information about the discovery of Uranus.
  • D. Diderot would have included information about Einstein's theory of relativity.