Jun 13, 2011
Editing Bayle, with an introduction by Gibbon
Yesterday I quoted and commented some more Gibbon, and also hatched an idea that I hope my health is up to: Get a good edition of Pierre Bayle's Dictionary on my site, and comment it.
Bayle (<- Wikipedia),
who lived from 1647 to 1706, and was admired by many, including Leibniz, is one of the great philosophers who is far less well-known than he should be, for he had a great logical mind and a fine satirical style, and used his capacities to pave the way for tolerance, science, the age of reason, Voltaire's ironies, and the Encyclopedists.
What motivated me to start on this is that I admire Bayle; that my health may have improved somewhat (the probable cause of this will be revealed later this month, if indeed the improvement persists); and that it turns out that Google, in its bid for a sort of ownership of all classical texts of which the copyright has gone, produced an edition of an English version of it, in the way Google does this in any case I looked into, and as shown by this first page of the whole work:
Bayle was the son of a Calvinist minister in a remote province of France at the foot of the Pyrenees (**). For the benefit of education, the Protestants were tempted to risk their children in Catholic universities; and in the twenty-second year of his age young Bayle was seduced by the arts and arguments of the Jesuits of Toulouse. He remained about seventeen months (19th March 1669 - 19th August 1670) in their hands, a voluntary captive; and a letter to his parents, which the new convert composed or subscribed (15th April 1670) is darkly tinged with the spirit of popery. But Nature had designed him to think as he pleased and to speak as he thought: his piety was offended by the excessive worship creatures; and the study of physics convinced him of the impossibility of Transsubstantiation, which is abundantly refuted by the testimony of our senses. His return to the communion of a falling sect was a bold and disinterested step that exposed him to the rigour of the laws, and a speedy flight to Geneva protected him from the resentment of his spiritual tyrants, unconscious as they were of the full value of the prize which they had lost. Had Bayle adhered to the Catholic Church, had he embraced the ecclesiastical profession, the genius and favour of such a proselyte might have aspired to wealth and honours in his native country; but the hypocrite would have found less happiness in the comforts of a benefice or the dignity of a mitre than he enjoyed at Rotterdam, in a private state of exile, indigence and freedom. Without a country, or a patron or a prejudice, he claimed the liberty and subsisted by the labours of his own pen; the inequalities of his voluminous works is explained and excused by his alternately writing for himself, for the booksellers, and for posterity; and if a severe critic would reduce him to a single folio, that relic, like the books of the Sybil, would become still more valuable. (p.88-9)To interpose two brief remarks: (1) The English edition I use - that might have been read by Hazlitt - tries to reduce Bayle's voluminous dictionary to a shorter format, but still consists of four volumes. (2) Rotterdam is in Holland, and Bayle knew Dutch. To continue with Gibbon where I interjected him:
A calm and lofty spectator of the religious tempest, the philosopher of Rotterdam condemned with equal firmness the persecution of Louis XIV and the republican maxims of the Calvinists, their vain prophecies, and the intolerant bigotry which sometimes vexed his solitary retreat. In reviewing the controversies of his times, he turned against each other the arguments of the disputants: succesively wielding the arms of Catholics and Protestants, he proves that neither the way of authority, nor the way of examination can afford the multitude any test of religious truth; and dexterously concludes that custom and education must be the sole grounds of popular belief. The ancient paradox of Plutarch, that atheism is less pernicious than superstition, (***) acquires a tenfold vigour when it is adorned with the colours of his wit, and pointed with the acuteness of his logic. His critical Dictionary is a vast repository of facts and opinions; and he balances the false religions in his sceptical scales, till the opposite quantities (if I may use the language of algebra) annihilate each other. The wonderful power, which he so boldly exercised, of assembling doubts and objections had tempted him jocosely to assume the title of νεφεληγερέτα Ζέύς, the cloud-compelling Jove; and in a conversation with the ingenuous Abbé (afterwards Cardinal) de Polignac, he freely disclosed his universal Pyrrhonism. 'I am most truly [said Bayle] a protestant; for I indifferently protest against all systems, and all sects.' (****)So much for the character of Bayle as rendered by Gibbon, who owes one of his best known sayings to Bayle, as my opening quotes show.
Finally, here is Voltaire, on the subject of Bayle - which may explain to some why I like him so much: "le plus grand dialecticien qui ait jamais écrit" - the greatest logical mind who ever wrote.
It starts on my site here: Bayle - index, but for the moment I am just in the beginning.
(*) My source is: Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of my life, Edited with an Introduction by Betty Radice, Penguin English Library, 1984.
(**) Note from Memoirs of my life: "The old Comté de Foix, now the Département de Ariège."
P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later
As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
Short descriptions of the above:
1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.
See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.
Maarten Maartensz (M.A. psy, B.A. phi)
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