Jean-Baptiste-René Robinet

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Robinet, Jean-Baptiste-René


Born June 23, 1735, in Rennes; died there Jan. 24, 1820. French materialist philosopher.

Robinet was educated at a Jesuit college. After breaking with the Jesuits, he published his principal work, On Nature (Russian translation, 1935), which brought him to the attention of Enlightenment thinkers. He also published four volumes of commentaries on P. Bayle’s Dictionary, as well as five supplementary volumes to Diderot’s Encyclopedia. Robinet welcomed the French Revolution and during its initial phase participated in the political struggle. At the insistence of the church, he signed a retraction of his views before he died.

Robinet’s philosophical ideas, which combined deism with a materialist world view, took shape under the influence of Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, and Condillac, as well as the biological theories of the 17th and 18th centuries. Adopting the hylozoist view that all matter is animate, he asserted that all natural bodies are capable of the animal functions of ingestion, growth, and reproduction. To some extent, Robinet’s view of nature as a ladder of beings with man at the top anticipated the theory of evolution. Robinet is similar to 17th-century philosophers in his aspiration to construct a complete philosophical system, the speculativeness of his judgments, and his use of the definitions and concepts of Scholasticism. K. Marx and F. Engels pointed out that Robinet, “more than anyone else, maintained his ties with metaphysics” (in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, p. 145). At the same time, his critique of religion and defense of sensationalism met with the approval of Enlightenment thinkers, including Diderot. Robinet’s organismic ideas had an influence on the nature philosophy of F. W. J. von Schelling and, to some extent, on Hegel.


De la nature, vols. 14. Amsterdam, 1761–66.
Les Vertus, réflexions morales en vers. Rennes, 1814.
In Russian translation:
Filosofskoe rassuzhdenie o cheloveke i ego prevoskhodstvakh…. Voronezh, 1800.


Vasil’ev, S. F. “Zh. B. Robine i ego filosofiia.” In his book Iz istorii nauchnykh mirovozzrenii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.
Luppol, I. K. Istoriko-fdosofskie etiudy. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935. Pages 136–65.
Sitkovskii, E. Filosofiia Zh. B. Robine. Moscow, 1936.
Albert, R. Die Philosophie Robinets. [Leipzig] 1903.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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