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] publication beginning in 1697.

Bayle was a Calvinist Protestant (Huguenot). As a forerunner of the Encyclopedists and an advocate of the principle of the toleration his works subsequently influenced the development of the Enlightenment.

Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle by Louis Ferdinand Elle
Born18 November 1647
Died28 December 1706 (aged 59)
Era17th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolPhilosophical skepticism
Notable ideas
Bayle's skeptical trilemma[1] [2]


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 in Rotterdam in the "Walloon church", where Pierre Jurieu would also be buried, seven years later. After the demolition of this church in 1922, the graves were relocated to the Crooswijk General Cemetery in Rotterdam. A memorial stone shows that Pierre Bayle is in these graves.

Gedenksteen Waalse graven Crooswijk
Memorial stone for the Walloon graves on the General Cemetery in Crooswijk. Among them, Pierre Bayle.


At Rotterdam, Bayle published his famous Reflections on Comets 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": 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 American President Thomas Jefferson to be among the one hundred foundational texts to form the first collection of the Library of Congress.

Views on toleration

Bayle advanced arguments for religious toleration in his Dictionnaire historique and critique and Commentaire Philosophique,. 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; on 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]


Richard Popkin has advanced the view that Pierre Bayle was a skeptic who used the Historical and Critical Dictionary to criticise all prior known theories and philosophies. In Bayle's view, humans were inherently incapable of achieving true knowledge. Because of the limitations of human reason, men should adhere instead to their conscience alone. Bayle was critical of many influential rationalists, such as René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, Nicolas Malebranche and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.[7]


  • 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 (Richard H. Popkin transl.), Historical and Critical Dictionary – Selections, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991. ISBN 0-87220-103-1.

Legacy and honors

  • 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.


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



  • Sally Jenkinson, (dir.), Bayle: Political Writings, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Sally Jenkinson, Reflections on Pierre Bayle and Elizabeth Labrousse, and their Huguenot critique of intolerance, Proc. Huguenot Soc., 27: 325-334, 2000.
  • 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

1647 in France

Events from the year 1647 in France.

1706 in France

Events from the year 1706 in France

1956 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix

The 1956 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix was the third round of the 1956 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season. It took place on 8 July 1956 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Alexander zu Dohna-Schlobitten (1661–1728)

Alexander Burggraf und Graf zu Dohna-Schlobitten (25 January 1661 – 25 February 1728) was a Prussian field marshal and diplomat.

Alexander zu Dohna was born at the Palace of Coppet near Geneva to Frederick, Burgrave of Dohna (1621–1688), Governor of the Principality of Orange, and Sperentia née du Puy de Montbrun. He and his brother Christoper were educated by Pierre Bayle.Dohna joined the Prussian Army in 1679 and became an Amtshauptmann of Mohrungen and Liebstadt in East Prussia. He was promoted to an Oberst and Geheimer Rat on 31 December 1686 and served as an envoy of Friedrich III, elector of Brandenburg at the Polish Royal Court. In 1689/90 he fought against France in the Nine Years' War and was wounded in a battle at Bonn on 10 October 1689. Dohna became a major general on 9 October 1690 and Commander of an Infantry Regiment, which was named after him.He served again as a Prussian diplomat at the Royal Swedish court and became the governor of Pillau on 11 April 1692. In 1693 Dohna fought again against France and became responsible for the education of the Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm in 1695 until 1704. In 1704 he came in conflict with Johann Kasimir Kolbe von Wartenberg and lost much of his influence at the Prussian Royal Court, but returned after Kolbe's dismissal. Dohna became the Chairman of the Royal Commission of Chamber- and Domain Affairs (Königliches Kammer- und Domänewesen) and the head of the District administration of Königsberg in 1712. Dohna was promoted to a General of the Infantry on 25 March 1713 and Generalfeldmarschall on 5 September 1713. He accompanied Frederick William I in the Siege of Stralsund (1711–1715).Dohna married Emilie Luise née Gräfin zu Dohna-Carwinden (28 July 1661 – 2 April 1724) on 10 September 1684 and Johanna Sophie née Gräfin zu Dohna-Reichertswalde (27 August 1682 – 2 April 1735) on 26 December 1725. He had 15 children with his first wife.

Dohna was the first to add the name of his family estate Schlobitten to his name. He was the principal of the construction of Schlobitten Palace. He died in Königsberg.

Andreas Urs Sommer

Andreas Urs Sommer (born July 14, 1972) is a German philosopher of Swiss origin. He specializes in the history of philosophy and its theory, ethics, philosophy of religion, and Skepticism. His historical studies center on the philosophy of Enlightenment and Nietzsche, but they also deal with Kant, Max Weber, Pierre Bayle, Jonathan Edwards, and others.

Atheism during the Age of Enlightenment

Atheism, as defined by the entry in Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie is "the opinion of those who deny the existence of a God in the world. The simple ignorance of God doesn't constitute atheism. To be charged with the odious title of atheism one must have the notion of God and reject it." In the period of the Enlightenment, avowed and open atheism was made possible by the advance of religious toleration, but was also far from encouraged.

Accusations of atheism were common, but most of the people suspected by their peers of atheism were not actually atheist. D'Holbach and Denis Diderot seem to be two of the very small number of publicly identified atheists in Europe during this period. Thomas Hobbes was widely viewed as an atheist for his materialist interpretation of scripture—Henry Hammond, a former friend, described him in a letter as a "Christian Atheist." David Hume was accused of atheism for his writings on the "natural history of religion"; Pierre Bayle was accused of atheism for defending the possibility of an ethical atheist society in his Critical Dictionary; and Baruch Spinoza was frequently regarded as an atheist for his "pantheism." However, all three of these figures defended themselves against such accusations.


Bayle can refer to:

A position in medieval France and Spain similar to that of a bailiff

François Bayle, a French composer of acousmatic music

George A. Bayle Jr., first to market peanut butter

Jean-Michel Bayle, a French motorcycle racer

Pierre Bayle, a philosopher

Bayle Mountain in New Hampshire, United States


Carla-Bayle is a commune in the Ariège department in southwestern France. It was the birthplace of Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), a Protestant philosopher and writer known for his works on religious toleration and his early encyclopedia.

Dictionnaire Historique et Critique

The Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (in English, the Historical and Critical Dictionary) was a biographical dictionary written by Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), a Huguenot who lived and published in Holland after fleeing his native France due to religious persecution. In 1689, Bayle began making notes on errors and omissions in Louis Moreri's Grand Dictionaire historique (1674), a previous encyclopedia, and these notes ultimately developed into his own Dictionnaire.

Bayle's dictionary was first published in 1697. It comprised two volumes, each with two parts, so that it appeared as four physical books (A-B, C-G, H-O, and P-Z). In the second edition of 1702, it was then enlarged to three volumes (A-D, E-M, and N-Z). An English translation was first published in 1709.The overwhelming majority of the entries were devoted to individual people, whether historical or mythical, but some articles treated religious beliefs and philosophies. Many of the more controversial ideas in the book were hidden away in the voluminous footnotes, or they were slipped into articles on seemingly uncontroversial topics.

The rigor and skeptical approach demonstrated in the Dictionary influenced many thinkers of the Enlightenment, including Denis Diderot and the other Encyclopédistes, David Hume, and George Berkeley. Bayle delighted in pointing out contradictions between theological tenets and the supposedly self-evident dictates of reason. He used the evidence of the irrationality of Christianity to emphasize that the basis of Christianity is faith in God and divine revelation. But at the same time He sought to promote religious tolerance, and argued strongly against inflexible and authoritarian application of religious articles of faith. This led to a bitter argument with his fellow French Protestant Pierre Jurieu.

General Dictionary, Historical and Critical

The General Dictionary, Historical and Critical was a biographical dictionary published from 1734 to 1741 in London in 10 volumes. It derived from the Dictionnaire historique et critique of Pierre Bayle, already translated into English in 1710 by Pierre des Maizeaux as An Historical and Critical Dictionary, but expanded the material with many biographies of English figures, this work being assigned largely to Thomas Birch. The other two main editors were John Peter Bernard, whose efforts led to his admission as a Fellow of the Royal Society, and John Lockman, who undertook a fresh translation of Bayle's work.The work has been described as the "first important ancestor" of the Dictionary of National Biography. The publishers were Richard Chandler and Caesar Ward.

Guy Patin

Guy (or Gui) Patin (1601 in Hodenc-en-Bray, Oise – 30 August 1672 in Paris) was a French doctor and man of letters.

Patin was doyen (or dean) of the Faculty of Medicine in Paris (1650–1652) and professor in the Collège de France starting in 1655. His scientific and medical works are not considered particularly enlightened by modern medical scholars (he has sometimes been compared to the doctors in the works of Molière). He is most well known today for his extensive correspondence: his style was light and playful (he has been compared to early 17th century philosophical libertines), and his letters are an important document for historians of medicine. Patin and his son Charles were also dealers in clandestine books, and Patin wrote occasional poetry (such as a quatrain to honor Henric Piccardt (1636-1712) [1]).

On 22 March 1648, Patin wrote a famous letter commenting on the new rage of tea drinking in Paris, calling it "the impertinent novelty of the century", and mentioning the new book by

Dr. Philibert Morisset titled Ergo Thea Chinesium, Menti Confert (Does Chinese Tea Increase Mentality?), which praises tea as a panacea:

One of our doctors, named Morisset, who is much more of a braggart than a skilful man... caused a thesis on tea to be published here. Everybody disapproved of it; there were some of our doctors who burned it, and protests were made to the dean for having approved the thesis.

Naudaeana et Patiniana, ou, Singularitez Remarquables, recording conversations between Patin and his great friend Gabriel Naudé, librarian of the Bibliothèque Mazarine, was edited by Jean-Aymar Piganiol de La Force and published in Paris, 1701; a revised edition with a Preface by Pierre Bayle appeared in Amsterdam, 1703.

Histoire des Ouvrages des Savans

Histoire des Ouvrages des Savans was a scholarly journal edited by Henri Basnage de Beauval and published by Reinier Leers, starting in September 1687. It was styled after the journal, Nouvelles de la république des lettres, which had been edited by Pierre Bayle, whose health had failed in that year.

Jean-Charles François

Jean-Charles François (4 May 1717 – 22 March 1769) was a French engraver.

François was born at Nancy. He was among the first to introduce engravings representing crayon and chalk drawings, and was pensioned by King Louis XV of France, who employed him extensively. His most noted works represent that king and his queen, Pierre Bayle, Erasmus, John Locke, and Nicolas Malebranche.

He died in Paris, aged 51.

Justin E. H. Smith

Justin E. H. Smith (born July 30, 1972 in Reno, Nevada) is a professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Paris 7 - Denis Diderot. He has authored several books and is also a regular contributor to The New York Times, Harper's Magazine, n+1, Slate, and Art in America. Smith is an editor-at-large of Cabinet Magazine.Justin E. H. Smith's primary research Interests include Leibniz, early modern philosophy, history and philosophy of biology, classical Indian philosophy, and the history and philosophy of anthropology.

On November 27, 2015, he delivered the annual Pierre Bayle Lecture to the Pierre Bayle Foundation in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on "The Gravity of Satire."The main-belt asteroid 13585 Justinsmith is named after Justin E. H. Smith.

Matthieu Marais

Matthieu Marais (16641 - 21 June 1737) was a French jurist and writer. Legal advocate at the Parlement of Paris, he was one of the luminaries of the bar during his times.

Marais was born and died in Paris. A friend of Pierre Bayle and Henry de Boulainviller, he collaborated on the Dictionnaire Historique, and wrote the articles "Henri III", "Henri, duc de Guise", "Marguerite, reine de Navarre", etc. Bound up with the president Jean Bouhier, he maintained with him an interesting correspondence, published in the Journal de Paris from 1721 to 1727. He also wrote (for the Mercure) a Critique of the panegyric of Louis de Sacy by Madame de Lambert.

Chardon de la Rochette discovered a posthumous writing of Matthieu Marais: Histoire de la Vie et des Ouvrages de M. de la Fontaine; Paris, 1811, in -12 et in -18 ("History of the life and works of Mr de la Fontaine"). Marais is also author of Memoires intéressants sur les premieres années du règne de Louis XV, which was published during those same years. (Larousse's Encyclopedia2 reports that he wrote a Journal et Mémoires de Mathieu Marais, avocat au Parlement de Paris, sur la Régence et la règne de Louis XV, 1715-1737 (1863-1868) ("Journal and Memoirs of Mathieu Marais, lawyer at the Parlement of Paris, on the Regency and the reign of Louis XV, 1715-1737"). This may be the same work referred to as Memoires intéressants . . . . above.)

Marais also praised Voltaire's epic poem La Ligue, remarking that 'C'est un ouvrage merveilleux, un chef-d'oeuvre d'esprit'.

Nouvelles de la république des lettres

Nouvelles de la république des lettres (News from the Republic of Letters) was a periodical devoted to reviews of current publications, edited and in large part written by Pierre Bayle. It began publication in 1684, and is the first known book review journal.

Bayle edited it from March 1684 through February 1687; it was continued by Daniel de Larroque, Jean Barrin and Jean Le Clerc through April 1689. Publication was suspended from then until January 1699 when it was resumed under the editorship of Jacques Bernard. He continued it through December 1710; it was then suspended until January 1716, when he resumed and continued until the final issue in June 1718.Although written in French, it was published in Amsterdam to escape French censorship. The initial publisher was Henri Desbordes from 1684 through 1689 and 1699 through May 1708, and subsequently by Pierre Mortier from June 1708 through December 1710, and David Mortier from January 1716 through June 1718.Publication was monthly from the beginning through 1710; after that, it was published bi-monthly.A reproduction was published in Geneva by Slatkine in 1966.

Pierre des Maizeaux

Pierre des Maizeaux, also spelled Desmaizeaux (c. 1666 or 1673 – June 1745), was a French Huguenot writer exiled in London, best known as the translator and biographer of Pierre Bayle.

He was born in Pailhat, Auvergne, France. His father, a minister of the reformed church, had to leave France on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and took refuge in Geneva, where Pierre was educated. Pierre Bayle gave him an introduction to Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, with whom, in 1689, he went to England, where he engaged in literary work. He remained in close touch with the religious refugees in England and Holland, and through his involvement with the Huguenot information centre based at the masonic Rainbow Coffee House he was constantly in correspondence with the leading continental savants and writers, who were in the habit of employing him to conduct such business as they might have in England. In 1720 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.He was a colleague of Anthony Collins and edited the writings of John Locke (1720). He was the translator and biographer of Pierre Bayle. One of the key figures in the eighteenth century Republic of Letters and London's Huguenot diaspora. Des Maizeaux also translated the works of Charles de Saint-Évremond in English from the French published in 1714 during his exile in England. The book also described the author's life. The work was dedicated to the Right Honourable Charles Lord Halifax. In 1700 des Maizeaux wrote a remark concerning Leibniz' 'New System' and in 1720 he edited and prefaced a French translation of the Leibniz–Clarke correspondence.Among his works are also Vie de St Evremond (1711), Vie de Boileau-Despreaux (1712), Vie de Bayle (1730). He also took an active part in preparing the Bibliothèque raisonnée des ouvrages de l'Europe (1728–1753), and the Bibliothèque britannique (1733–1747), and edited a selection of St. Evremond's writings (1706). Part of Des Maiseaux's correspondence is preserved in the British Museum, and other letters are in the Royal Library in Copenhagen.Des Maizeaux died in London.

Syed Ali Abbas Jalalpuri

Prof. Syed Ali Abbas Jalalpuri (Urdu: سید علی عباس جلالپوری‎) was a professor of philosophy in Government College Lahore. He is regarded by the intellectuals of Pakistan as the Will Durant of Pakistan. He had master's degrees in Philosophy, Persian and Urdu. He wrote more than fourteen books on Philosophy, History, and Religion in Urdu language. He was known as a first-rate scholar, and his books seemed to herald an age of reason in Pakistan.

His opinions on the subjects of history, civilization, religion, philosophy, metaphysics, folklore are held in great esteem.

In his greatest work, Riwayat-e-Falsafa (Story of Philosophy), he tried to educate a common Urdu reader on the subject of Philosophy. This book served its purpose in popularizing the subject it discussed like Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy.

Like The Dictionnaire Historique et Critique of Pierre Bayle and The Philosophical Dictionary of Voltaire, he wrote a philosophical dictionary, 'Khird Nama Jalalpuri' to explain subject's terminologies in Urdu.

He also wrote "Jinsiyati Mutaley" (A Study of Sex), which presented a great research work on the subject in Urdu language.


Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal ("Essays of Theodicy on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil"), more simply known as Théodicée, is a book of philosophy by the German polymath Gottfried Leibniz. The book, published in 1710, introduced the term theodicy, and its optimistic approach to the problem of evil is thought to have inspired Voltaire's Candide (albeit satirically). Much of the work consists of a response to the ideas of the French philosopher Pierre Bayle, with whom Leibniz carried on a debate for many years.Théodicée was the only book Leibniz published during his lifetime; his other book, New Essays on Human Understanding, was published only after his death, in 1765.

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