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Bayle’s Books

Pensées Diverses, Ecrites à un Docteur de Sorbonne, A l’occasion de la Cométe qui parut au mois de Decembre 1680 — Rotterdam : Reinier Leers, 1683

Bayle questions the popular belief in comets as divine premonitions as well as other forms of superstition. It is not a mark of truth that beliefs are held for a long time. Duration is no degree of veracity. Besides, people seldom put their beliefs into practice. This is why faith is of little consequence to society. This is why an atheist society may be as virtuous and orderly as a Christian society. This point of view was an audacious one for Bayle’s time. Consequently it caused much indignation and upheaval.

Commentaire Philosophique Sur Ces Paroles De Jésus-Christ, Contrain-Les D’Entrer ; Ou Traité De La Tolérance Universelle — Rotterdam: Reinier Leers, 1686

There are no infallible criteria for recognizing, or measuring, the veracity of beliefs, Bayle argues. This is why people must follow their own conscience. He also finds that only reason can be the judge in matters of conscience, morality, and tolerance. Arguing that ethical standards are universally valid irrespective of any single man’s conscience and convictions, he concludes that religious persecution is to be condemned as unethical, even in the case of heretics or atheists.

Projet Et Fragmens D’Un Dictionaire Critique — Rotterdam: Reinier Leers, 1692

A pre-publication of several lemma’s from Bayle’s Dictionnaire. Its purpose was to enable scholars to give their opinion on the upcoming edition of the Dictionnaire. It came off the press on May 14. It appeared anonimously, but Bayle’s authorship was widely known. Characteristically, this pre-publication does not clearly show its final result (the Dictionnaire), since Bayle didn’t yet have a set plan of what he was going to publish. The reactions to this Projet caused Bayle to alter his design of the Dictionnaire in one significant way: He added narrative text.

Dictionnaire Historique et Critique — Rotterdam: Reinier Leers, 1697

A historiographical dictionary full of corrections to similar lexica as well as a mixture of all things interesting to Bayle. Which is why this book is also a portrait in words of Bayle: it constitutes an ego-document, it is his intellectual autobiography. The contents are specific, emphatic, and diverse. Its mixture of lexicography and philosophy makes it far more readable than any philosophical treatise. Thus he reached a wide audience. Bayle always states his sources. These amount to some 4,000 ranging from Antiquity to his contemporaries. Reinier Leers started printing the book in September 1694. The final pages came off the press on October 24, 1696. Leers insisted on stating Bayle’s authorship on the title page, which Bayle had wanted to decline. Early in 1697 the Dictionnaire was banned in France for its alleged attack on civility, politics, and religion. Of course, this fostered its success. The book’s index is concluded by this notable reminder: “Out of respect for the composer of this index we point out to the reader that the index was more elaborate at first. However, for several reasons we were obliged to remove various matters in order to complete the printing process at a date suitable to the interests of the book seller.”

Bayle Dictionnaire lemma Erasme.pdf

Het Leven van B. De Spinoza met eenige Aantekeningen over zyn Bedryf, Schriften, en Gevoelens: Door Bayle, Nevens een Kort Betoog van de Waarheit des Christelyken Godtsdiensts; En Twee Verhandelingen, I. Van de Ziel. II. Van Godts Wezentlykheit Door [I.] Jacquelot. Vertaalt door F. Halma — Utrecht, Halma & vande Water, 1698

= The Life of B. De Spinoza with some Annotations on his Business, Writings, and Sentiments: By Bayle, besides a Brief Argument on the Veracity of the Christian Faith; and Two Treatises, I. On the Soul. II. On God’s Essence By [I.] Jacquelot. Translated by F. Halma.

The longest and most controversial lemma in Bayle’s Dictionnaire was the one about Benedictus de Spinoza (1632–1677). Bayle criticizes Spinoza’s philosophy, but he praises his walk of life. In his lemma Bayle puts Spinoza at the center of contemporary intellectual debate. Very soon this lemma was published independently in a Dutch translation. The second text in this book is Jacquelot’s refutation of Spinoza’s philosophy. Spinoza identified God with nature. Therefore, Christians regarded him as a heretic.

Oeuvres Diverses. Contenant tout ce que cet Auteur a publié sur des matieres de Theologie, de Philosophie, de Critique, d’Histoire, et de Litterature, excepté son Dictionnaire Historique Et Critique. — The Hague: Husson, 1727–1731 (4 volumes)

Part of these collected works are Bayle’s Nouvelles de la république des lettres, the first periodical in the Low Countries to popularize science and scholarship. For three years Bayle published monthly episodes of some 100 pages containing scientific scoops, book announcements, reviews of newly published books, and the like. The Nouvelles were characterized by one observer as the cosmopolitan conscience of a provincial world.