The Info List - Pierre Bayle

--- Advertisement ---

Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle
(French: [bɛl]; 18 November 1647 – 28 December 1706)[3] was a French philosopher and writer best known for his seminal work the Historical and Critical Dictionary,[3] published beginning in 1697. Bayle was a Protestant. As a forerunner of the Encyclopedists and an advocate of the principle of the toleration of divergent beliefs, his works subsequently influenced the development of the Enlightenment.


1 Biography 2 Works

2.1 Views on toleration

3 Skepticism 4 Editions 5 Legacy and honors 6 Notes 7 References 8 Sources 9 External links

Biography[edit] Bayle was born at Carla-le-Comte[3] (later renamed Carla-Bayle
in his honour), near Pamiers, Ariège, France. He was educated by his father, a Calvinist minister, and at an academy at Puylaurens. He afterwards entered a Jesuit
college at Toulouse, and became a Roman Catholic a month later (1669). After seventeen months, he returned to Calvinism and fled to Geneva. There he became acquainted with the teachings of René Descartes. He returned to France and went to Paris, where for some years he worked under the name of Bèle as a tutor for various families. In 1675 he was appointed to the chair of philosophy at the Protestant Academy of Sedan.[3] In 1681 the university at Sedan was suppressed by the government in action against Protestants. Just before that event, Bayle had fled to the Dutch Republic, where he almost immediately was appointed professor of philosophy and history at the École Illustre in Rotterdam.[3] He taught for many years, but became embroiled in a long internal quarrel in the college. It resulted in Bayle being deprived of his chair in 1693. Bayle remained in Rotterdam
until his death on 28 December 1706.[3] He was buried there in the Waalse Kerk, where Jurieu would also be buried, seven years later. Works[edit] At Rotterdam, Bayle published his famous Pensées diverses écrites à un docteur de Sorbonne à l'occasion de la Comète qui parut au mois de décembre 1680 (fr) in 1682, as well as his critique of Louis Maimbourg's work on the history of Calvinism. The reputation achieved by this critique stirred the envy of Pierre Jurieu, Bayle's Calvinist colleague of both Sedan and Rotterdam, who had written a book on the same subject. Between 1684 and 1687, Bayle published his Nouvelles de la république des lettres, a journal of literary criticism. In 1686, Bayle published the first two volumes of Philosophical Commentary, an early plea for toleration in religious matters. This was followed by volumes three and four in 1687 and 1688. In 1690 there appeared a work entitled Avis important aux refugies, which Jurieu attributed to Bayle, whom he attacked with great animosity. After losing his chair, Bayle engaged in the preparation of his massive Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (Historical and Critical Dictionary), which effectively constituted one of the first encyclopaedias (before the term had come into wide circulation) of ideas and their originators. In the Dictionary, Bayle expressed his view that much that was considered to be "truth" was actually just opinion, and that gullibility and stubbornness were prevalent. The Dictionary would remain an important scholarly work for several generations after its publication.[4] The remaining years of Bayle's life were devoted to miscellaneous writings. In many cases, he was responding to criticisms made of his Dictionary. Voltaire, in the prelude to his Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne calls Bayle "le plus grand dialecticien qui ait jamais écrit", or the greatest dialectician to have ever written. The Nouvelles de la république des lettres was the first thorough-going attempt to popularise literature, and it was eminently successful. His multi-volume Historical and Critical Dictionary constitutes Bayle's masterpiece. The English translation of The Dictionary, by Bayle's fellow Huguenot exile Pierre des Maizeaux, was identified by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
to be among the one hundred foundational texts to form the first collection of the Library of Congress. Views on toleration[edit] In his Dictionnaire historique and critique and Commentaire Philosophique, he advanced arguments for religious toleration. Bayle rejected the use of scripture to justify coercion and violence: "One must transcribe almost the whole New Testament to collect all the Proofs it affords us of that Gentleness and Long-suffering, which constitute the distinguishing and essential Character of the Gospel." He did not regard toleration as a danger to the state, but to the contrary:

"If the Multiplicity of Religions prejudices the State, it proceeds from their not bearing with one another but on the contrary endeavouring each to crush and destroy the other by methods of Persecution. In a word, all the Mischief arises not from Toleration, but from the want of it."[5]

Bayle also rejected the use of coercion and violence in the universities,

It will be an everlasting subject of wonder to persons who know what philosophy is, to find that Aristotle's authority had been so much respected in the schools for several ages, that when a disputant quoted a passage from that philosopher, he who maintained the thesis, durst not say “Transeat," but must either deny the passage, or explain it in his own way—just as we treat the Holy Scriptures in the divinity schools. The parliaments, which have proscribed all other philosophy but that of Aristotle, are more excusable than the doctors; for whether the members of the parliament were really persuaded that that philosophy was the best of any, or whether they were not, the public good might have induced them to prohibit the new opinions, for fear the academical divisions should spread their malignant influences on the tranquility of the state.[6]

Skepticism[edit] Richard Popkin has advanced the view that Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle
was a superskeptic who used the Historical and Critical Dictionary as a way of critiquing all prior known theories and philosophies. In Bayle's view, humans are inherently incapable of achieving true knowledge. Because of the limitations of human reason, we must adhere instead to our conscience alone. Bayle was critical of such rationalists as Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Malebranche and Leibniz.[7] Perhaps one of the most famous quotes of Bayle sums up his view of human intellect fairly well in Popkin's opinion: "It [reason] is a guide that leads one astray; and philosophy can be compared to some powders that are so corrosive that, after they have eaten away the infected flesh of a wound, they then devour the living flesh, rot the bones, and penetrate to the very marrow. Philosophy at first refutes errors. But if it is not stopped at this point, it goes on to attack truths. And when it is left on its own, it goes so far that it no longer knows where it is and can find no stopping place." [7] Editions[edit]

Pensées Diverses sur l'Occasion de la Comète, (1682) translated as Various Thoughts on the Occasion of the Comet (2000) by Robert C. Bartlett, SUNY Press. Historical and Critical Dictionary (1695–1697; 1702, enlarged; best that of P. des Maizeaux, 4 vols., 1740) Œuvres diverses, 5 vols., The Hague, 1727–31; anastatic reprint: Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1964-68. Selections in English: Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle
(Richard H. Popkin transl.), Historical and Critical Dictionary – Selections, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991. ISBN 0-87220-103-1.

Legacy and honors[edit]

In 1906 a statue in his honor was erected at Pamiers, la reparation d'un long oubli ("the reparation of a long neglect"). In 1959 a street was named after him in Rotterdam.


^ Dale Jacquette, David Hume's Critique of Infinity, Brill, pp. 22–23, 25–28 ^ http://philosophy.enacademic.com/250 ^ a b c d e f  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bayle, Pierre". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 557.  ^ Palmer, R.R.; Joel Colton (1995). A History of the Modern World. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 301–302. ISBN 0-07-040826-2.  ^ LoConte, Joseph (May 2009). "The Golden Rule of Toleration". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2017-01-21.  ^ Aristotle p. 155-158 from Bayle's dictionary volume 1 ^ a b Popkin, Richard (2003). The History of Skepticism. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 288. ISBN 0-19-510767-5. 


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bayle, Pierre". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 557. 


Elisabeth Labrousse, Pierre Bayle, La Haye: Martinus Nijhoff, 1963–4 (2 volumes). (in French) Elisabeth Labrousse, Bayle, translated by Denys Potts, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. Thomas M. Lennon, Reading Bayle, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999. Todd Ryan, Pierre Bayle's Cartesian Metaphysics: Rediscovering Early Modern Philosophy, New York: Routledge, 2009..

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pierre Bayle.

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Pierre Bayle

Works by or about Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle
at Internet Archive Works by Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle
at LibriVox
(public domain audiobooks) An Historical and Critical Dictionary Vol 1-4 Hathi Trust Pierre Bayle An Historical and Critical Dictionary, Volume 1 Pierre Bayle An Historical and Critical Dictionary, Volume 2 Pierre Bayle An Historical and Critical Dictionary, Volume 3 Pierre Bayle Lennon, Thomas M. "Pierre Bayle". In Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  (in French) Historical and Critical Dictionary in French, starting with the entry for Aaron. 11th edition, 1820, Desoer, Paris. Archive.org The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge Contains the exchanges between Bayle and Leibniz, slightly modified for easier reading The Correspondence of Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle

v t e

The Age of Enlightenment


Atheism Capitalism Civil liberties Counter-Enlightenment Critical thinking Deism Democracy Empiricism Encyclopédistes Enlightened absolutism Free markets Haskalah Humanism Human rights Liberalism Liberté, égalité, fraternité Methodological skepticism Nationalism Natural philosophy Objectivity Rationality Rationalism Reason Reductionism Sapere aude Science Scientific method Socialism Universality Weimar Classicism



Jean le Rond d'Alembert Étienne Bonnot de Condillac Marquis de Condorcet Denis Diderot Claude Adrien Helvétius Baron d'Holbach Georges-Louis Leclerc Montesquieu François Quesnay Jean-Jacques Rousseau Marquis de Sade Voltaire


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Johann Georg Hamann Johann Gottfried von Herder Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi Immanuel Kant Gotthold Ephraim Lessing Moses Mendelssohn Friedrich Schiller Thomas Wizenmann


Neophytos Doukas Theoklitos Farmakidis Rigas Feraios Theophilos Kairis Adamantios Korais


Robert Boyle Edmund Burke


Cesare Beccaria Gaetano Filangieri Antonio Genovesi Pietro Verri

The Netherlands

Spinoza Hugo Grotius Balthasar Bekker Bernard Nieuwentyt Frederik van Leenhof Christiaan Huygens Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Jan Swammerdam


Tadeusz Czacki Hugo Kołłątaj Stanisław Konarski Ignacy Krasicki Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz Stanisław August Poniatowski Jędrzej Śniadecki Stanisław Staszic Józef Wybicki Andrzej Stanisław Załuski Józef Andrzej Załuski


Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo


Catherine II


Charles III Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro

United Kingdom (Scotland)

Francis Bacon Jeremy Bentham Joseph Black James Boswell Adam Ferguson Edward Gibbon Robert Hooke David Hume Francis Hutcheson Samuel Johnson John Locke Isaac Newton Thomas Reid Adam Smith Mary Wollstonecraft

United States

Benjamin Franklin Thomas Jefferson James Madison George Mason Thomas Paine

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 61554695 LCCN: n50005530 ISNI: 0000 0001 2280 7284 GND: 11850777X SELIBR: 176943 SUDOC: 027931161 BNF: cb119867257 (data) BPN: 16284821 NLA: 35015543 NDL: 00432593 NKC: jn20000600673 ICCU: ITICCUCFIV62482 BNE: XX897532 SN