Bayle, Pierre

Bayle, Pierre

(pyĕr bāl), 1647–1706, French philosopher. Born a Huguenot, he converted to Roman Catholicism and then returned to Protestantism. To avoid French intolerance of Protestants, he moved in 1681 to Rotterdam, where he lived for most of the rest of his life. Trained as a philosopher and with a strong background in theology, Bayle supported Calvinism but was also an advocate of religious toleration, contending that morality was independent of religion. Bayle was renowned for his trenchant skeptical attacks against leading religious, metaphysical, and scientific theories of his day. He held that attempts to construct rational explanations of the world were bound to lead to absurd conclusions. His chief work was Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697), a compendium of biographies with comprehensive and detailed criticisms by Bayle. His views had a profound influence on the French and German EnlightenmentEnlightenment,
term applied to the mainstream of thought of 18th-century Europe and America. Background and Basic Tenets

The scientific and intellectual developments of the 17th cent.
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, especially on the authors of the Encyclopédie and on the English deistsdeists
, term commonly applied to those thinkers in the 17th and 18th cent. who held that the course of nature sufficiently demonstrates the existence of God. For them formal religion was superfluous, and they scorned as spurious claims of supernatural revelation.
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.

Bibliography

See C. Brush, Montaigne and Bayle (1966) and E. Labrousse, Bayle (1983).

Bayle, Pierre

 

Born Nov. 18, 1647, in Carla; died Dec. 28, 1706, in Rotterdam. French journalist and philosopher. Early representative of the Enlightenment.

Bayle was a professor at the Academy of Sedan (1675–82) and at Rotterdam University. (1681–92). His world view was formed under the influence of Montaigne’s skepticism, Descartes’s philosophy, and discoveries in the natural sciences made during the 17th century. His principal work is the Historical and Critical Dictionary (vols. 1–2, 1695–97; Russian translation, vols. 1–2, 1968). Bayle proceeded from tolerance and religious indifferentism to religious skepticism and expressed doubt about the possibility of a rational foundation for religious dogmas; he also asserted the independence of morality from religion. Bayle’s skepticism was also extended to philosophy and science, to which he felt only probability, not unconditional, authoritative truth, could be ascribed. The Dictionary played an exceptional role in the development of European freethinking. Bayle’s influence was felt above all by the figures of the French Enlightenment—Voltaire and the Encyclopedists—and also by L. Feuerbach (see Sobr. proizv., vol. 3, Moscow, 1967, pp. 3–318).

WORKS

Oeuvres diverses, vols. 1–4. The Hague, 1727–31.

REFERENCES

Shakhov, A. Vol’ter i ego vremia, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Pikov, V. P’er Beil’. Moscow, 1933.

V. V. SOKOLOV

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