left biblioblography: The Spark That Ignited The Enlightenment - Oops!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Spark That Ignited The Enlightenment - Oops!

I stumbled across this, and I advise you set your irony meter to high.

Pierre Bayle was a progressive Christian scholar who argued that faith could not be justified by reason, on the grounds that God is incomprehensible to man. As one of his proofs he pointed out that no reasonable person could discern any sense in God's choice of a leader for the Jewish nation: King David was indisputably a liar, murderer, thief and adulterer. Although Bayle's intent was to turn people against reason in matters of faith, he was so thorough in debunking the reasonableness and coherency of religion that his works subsequently influenced the development of the Enlightenment. In fact, he was considered by many to be a skeptic. Exceedingly influential in his time, the author is little known today (important though his role has been both as a forerunner of the Encyclopedists, and as a pioneer in the advancement of the principle of the toleration of divergent beliefs).

While I'm sure that is a bit of an over-simplification (there were no doubt multiple environmental factors that caused the conflagration), still, it puts a smile on my lips.

In 1684 Bayle began the publication of his Nouvelles de la république des lettres, a journal of literary criticism. In 1690 there appeared a work entitled Avis important aux refugies, which Jurieu attributed to Bayle, whom he attacked with great animosity. After a long quarrel, Bayle was deprived of his chair in 1693. However, he was not depressed by this misfortune, especially as he was at the time engaged in the preparation of his massive magnum opus, the Historical and Critical Dictionary, which actually constituted one of the first encyclopedias (before the term had come into wide circulation) of ideas and their originators. Bayle's attempt at impartial presentation of these ideas was instituted within a non-partisan framework of thoughtful consideration of both sides of any dispute. In his articles on the founder of Islam "Mahomet" and the Italian reforming monk Savonarola, to take but two examples, Bayle displays his penchant for judicious assessment of highly controversial figures and philosophies, while eschewing partisan interpretations. While this striving for objectivity is a standard criterion of scholarship in the modern world, in Bayle's time he was among the first to implement it in a sustained intellectual endeavor like his "Dictionary," amidst a sea of contentious ideologies and their zealous proponents.

 Here is his home page, for the interested reader.

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4 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

OK, I am convinced - nemesis must be a male teenager with sexual anxiety.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM - yeah, I've been ignoring the little turd.
For a 'nemesis', he's frightfully unfit for much more than a few kiddie swear words.
Visits from Christian youth just prove my point all along.
Religion doesn't improve anyone.

karen said...

This was a big oopsy wasn't it?
Set off a chain reaction he didn't expect! :)

Aw, did I miss lil' nemesis and his profundity somewhere? He says so much with so few (and such limited) words.
HAR!

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen - Yeah, Pierre set the stage inadvertently.
As for 'nemesis', he's about as challenging as arm-wrestling a toddler.