Bayle was a French philosopher, and writer.
was born at Carla-le-Comte, near Pamiers (Ariège), and
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, to avoid persecution, fled
to Geneva, where he became acquainted with the teachings of René
Descartes. For some years he acted under the name of Bèle
as tutor in various Parisian families, but in 1675 he was appointed
to the chair of philosophy at the Protestant University of Sedan.
1681 the university at Sedan was suppressed, but almost immediately
afterwards Bayle was appointed professor of philosophy and history
at the Ecole Illustre in Rotterdam. Here in 1682 he published
his famous Pensées diverses sur la comète de 1680
and his critique of Louis Maimbourg's work on the history of Calvinism.
The great reputation achieved by this critique stirred the envy
of Bayle's colleague, Pierre Jurieu, who had written a book on
the same subject.
1684 Bayle began the publication of his Nouvelles de la république
des lettres, a kind of journal of literary criticism. In 1690
there appeared a work entitled Avis important aux refugies, which
Jurieu attributed to Bayle, whom he attacked with animosity. After
a long quarrel Bayle was deprived of his chair in 1693. He was
not depressed by this misfortune, especially as he was at the
time engaged in the preparation of the Historical and Critical
Dictionary (Dictionnaire historique et critique). The remaining
years of Bayle's life were devoted to miscellaneous writings,
arising in many instances out of criticisms made upon his Dictionary.
He died in exile at Rotterdam. In 1906 a statue in his honour
was erected at Pamiers, "la reparation d'un long oubli."
erudition was considerable. As an original thinker, he was not
outstanding, but as a critic he was second to none in his own
time, and even now the delicacy and the skill with which he handled
his subject is notable. The Nouvelles de la république
des lettres (see Louis P. Betz, P. Bayle und die Nouvelles de
la république des lettres, Zürich, 1896) was the first
thorough-going attempt to popularize literature, and it was eminently
successful. The Dictionary, however, is Bayle's masterpiece.
matters of religion it is very easy to deceive a man, and very
hard to undeceive him."
movement of comets is part of] the ordinary works of nature which,
without regard to the happiness or misery of mankind, are transported
from one part of the heavens to another by virtue of the general
laws of motion."
I pray, whether you are not renouncing all shame and sincerity
to advance such principles. Because a comet appears in a group
of stars which the ancients thought fit to call the Virgin, therefore,
shall our women be barren, or have frequent miscarriages, or die
old maids. I know of nothing which hangs so ill together! To offer
such things in seriousness, shows the greatest contempt of mankind,
and the most scandalous lying impunity."
that, were it the purpose of God to produce comets as signs of
his wrath it would be true to say that he is quickening a false
devotion almost all over the world, increasing the number of pilgrims
to Mecca, multiplying the offerings to the most famous impostors,
inducing men to build mosques for Mohammedan worship, causing
the invention of new superstitions among the dervishes -- in a
word, stimulating many abominable things which otherwise might
not have been."
you doubt that the least effects of nature were not used as marks
of the wrath of heaven? It was to the interest of pontiffs, priests,
and augurs, as much as it is to the interest of lawyers and doctors
that there should be lawsuits and sickness. No wonder they took
care that the people should not grow slack in their religion."
is only common prejudice that induces us to believe that atheism
is a fearful state."
was no other God, religion, or lawful magistracy, than conscience,
which teaches all men the precepts of Justice, to do no injury,
to live honestly, and give everyone his due."
must be stark mad, to believe that mankind can subsist without
get up and retire when I wish. I go out if I wish and I do not
go out if I do not desire to do so, except for the two days on
which I give lectures."
shall add one Remark more. That if a Religion, persecuted in a
Country where it was weakest, shou'd ask her Persecutors, why
they employ such violent Methods; and these answer, because God
enjoins the true Religion to extirpate Heresy quocunque modo [i.e.,
in whatever way]; if, I say, by making this Answer, they shou'd
happen to persuade the Persecuted that there really was such a
command, what wou'd follow? Why this same persecuted Church, finding
it self the strongest in another place, might very well say to
the Communion which had tormented it in the Country where 'twas
uppermost, you have taught me one Lesson that I did not know before,
I am oblig'd to you for it; you have shewn me from the Scriptures,
that God enjoins the faithful to distress false Communions; I
shall therefore fall to persecuting you, seeing I am the true
Church, and you Idolaters and false Christians, etc. It's very
plain, that the stronger the Arguments be which Persecutors bring
to prove that God enjoins Constraint, the smarter Rods they furnish
their Adversarys to scourge themselves in another place. Each
Party will engross the Proofs, the Command, the Rights of Truth;
and authorize its Proceedings by every thing which the really
true Religion can offer in its own behalf."
Compulsion in the literal Sense is maliciously misrepresented,
by supposing it authorizes Violences committed against the Truth.
The Answer to this; by which it is prov'd, that the literal Sense
does in reality authorize the stirring up Persecutions against
the Cause of Truth, and that an erroneous Conscience has the same
Rights as an enlighten'd Conscience."
lay down the Position, That whatever a Conscience well directed
allows us to do for the Advancement of Truth, an erroneous Conscience
will warrant for advancing a suppos'd Truth."