The doctoral thesis, defended in 1989, evolves and elaborates a novel approach to the description of lexical polarities in the Lexis used by Claude-Adrien Helvétius in representing society and social relations. The thesis tales up and further develops arguments and results of the Halle-based research team "Language and Views of Society in Literature and Ideology". The study of opposing semantic relations uses ideologically pertinent texts in the case of Helvétius texts on the transposition of sensualist philosophy into social theory and creates a more precise concept of polarity and extends it beyond the mere representation of factors within the language system and within the textual realm. Apart from the traditional semantic relations of complementarity, antonymy and converseness, the approach, which makes a distinction between denotative and connotative polarity and includes extralinguistic reference, permits the registration of further functionally differentiated contrastive types in Helvétius' description of society. The corpus study starts from bireferential and monoreferential polarities as basic linguistic means for portraying social as well as political and ideological contrasts and advances to a "social perspective of representation" as a provisional concept for the semantic analysis of the Lexis in texts of the French Enlightenment. A selective comparison with texts by Diderot makes the relevance of monoreferential polarities evident. These are particularly meaningful as condensed juxtapositions of the author's point of view and that of the interpreters in the linguistic account of socio-critical positions. Monoreferential polarities also prove to be basic linguistic realisations in the controversial debate of central concepts in the age of Enlightenment, such as esprit, vertu, idée.