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Religion, Ethics, and History in the French Long Seventeenth Century - La Religion, la morale, et l’histoire à l’âge classique


Edited By William Brooks and Rainer Zaiser

In June 2006 delegates from eight countries representing six French, US, and British-based learned societies met at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, for a conference on the French long seventeenth century entitled ‘Modernités/Modernities’. Twenty of the best papers on religion, ethics and history were selected for this volume, and they present new perspectives on topics as diverse as devotion and pornography, artifice and the pursuit of truth, Bruscambille and Pascal, historiography from the sixteenth century to Voltaire, and, of course, the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes.
En juin 2006 un colloque sur le thème de la modernité pendant l’âge classique a réuni à St Catherine’s College, Oxford des spécialistes venus de huit pays pour représenter six sociétés savantes dont quatre françaises, une américaine, et une britannique. Vingt communications choisies parmi les meilleures sont recueillies dans le présent volume, sur des sujets aussi divers que la dévotion et la pornographie, l’artifice et la recherche de la vérité, Bruscambille et Pascal, l’historiographie tant du seizième siècle que de Voltaire et, bien entendu, la Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes.


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Primitive Atheism and the Immunity to Error: Pierre Bayle’s Remarks on Indigenous Cultures 15


CORINNE BAYERL Primitive Atheism and the Immunity to Error: Pierre Bayle’s Remarks on Indigenous Cultures When Pierre Bayle first introduced his project for a Historical-Critical Dictionary to a larger audience in 1692, he described its author as ‘un savant critique qui va à la chasse des erreurs’.1 Indeed, the struggle against error may be said to be the central feature of all of Bayle’s work, intent as he was on debunking irrational forms of popular belief, criticising certain aspects of religious dogmas, and, most notably, cor- recting erroneous traditions that had been upheld in flawed scholar- ship. Ethical and responsible scholarship, according to Bayle, should operate at the level of available documents in order to separate truth from error, and would thus offer a remedy in the form of history writ- ten, or re-written, as the history of mankind’s errors. In this respect, Bayle’s project seems to belong very much to the camp of the Mod- erns, in so far as his method of critical source work appears to promise epistemological progress in the history of knowledge, and his constant appeal to the reader’s critical capacities echoes both Fontenelle’s con- fidence that an end might be put to the ‘histoire des erreurs de l’esprit humain’,2 and Perrault’s intervention in favour of the Moderns in the name of L’Erreur combattue.3 1 Pierre Bayle, Projet et fragments d’un dictionnaire critique (Rotterdam: Leers, 1692). See Pierre Bayle, Pour une histoire critique de la philosophie. Choix d’articles philosophiques du Dictionnaire historique et critique, ed....

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