dictionary time afterwards
BAYLE, PIERRE, author of the famous Historical and Critical Dictionary, was born on the 18th November 1647, at Carlat-le-Comte, near Foil, in the south of France. lle was educated at first by his father, a Calvinist minister, and was afterwards sent to an academy at Puy-Laurens, where he studied with such assiduity as seriously to injure his health. After a short residence at home he entered a Jesuit college at Toulouse. While there he devoted much of his time to controversial works on theology, and ended by abjuring Calvinism and embracing the Roman Catholic faith. In this, however, he continued only seventeen months, abruptly resuming his former religion. To avoid the punishment inflicted on such as relapsed from the Catholic Church, he withdrew to Geneva, where he resumed his studies, and for the first time became acquainted with the philosophical writings of Descartes. For some years he acted as tutor in various families ; but in 1675, when a vacancy occurred in the chair of philosophy at the Protestant university of Sedan, he was prevailed upon to compete for the post, and was successful. In 1681 the university at Sedan was suppressed, but almost immediately afterwards Bayle was appointed professor of philosophy and history at Rotterdam. Here in 1682 he published his famous letter on comets, and his critique of Maimbourg,'s work on the history of Calvinism. The great reputation achieved by this critique stirred up the envy of Bayle's colleague, Jurieu, who had written a book on the same subject, and who afterwards did all in his power to injure his former friend. In 1681 Bayle began the publication of his Youvelles de la Republique des Lettres, a kind of journal of literary criticism, which was continued with great success for several years. In 1690 appeared a work entitled el vis aux IMfugies, which Jurieu attributed to Bayle, whom he attacked with the bitterest animosity. After a long quarrel Bayle was deprived of his chair in 1693. He was not much depressed by this misfortune, being at the time closely engaged in the preparation of his great Dictionary, which appeared in 1697. A second edition was called for in 1702. The few remaining years of Bayle's life were devoted to miscellaneous writings, arising in many instances out of criticisms made upon his Dictionary. He died on the 28th December 1706, after some months' suffering from chest disease, which he would not permit to interfere with his literary labours. Bayle's erudition, despite the low estimate placed upon it by Leclerc, seems to have been very considerable. Ile was an ardent student, and his reading was varied and extensive. .4s a critic he was second to none in his own time, and even yet one can admire the lightness and delicacy of his touch, and the skill with which he handles his subject. The Nouvelle-de la Republique des Letters was the first thorough-going attempt to popularize literature, and it was eminently successful. The Dictionary, however, is Bayle's masterpiece, and in it appear to perfection his various qualities, - extensive and curious information, fluency of style, and that light sceptical spirit which has became closely associated with his name. Bayle's scepticism is of a peculiar kind. It is not a distrust of the power of human knowledge grounded on a scientific investigation of the nature of thought in itself. It is rather the scepticism of the literary man of the world, who in his reading has encountered so many opposing and well-supported arguments on all subjects, that he feels inclined to hold that no certainty can ever be attained. On this account, perhaps, his sceptical criticism, though it did much to liberate thought from the bonds of authority, has had little influence on pure philosophy. Examples of Bayle's critical mode of investigation may be seen in his articles on the Greek sceptical philosophers, particularly those on Pyrrhonism, Zeno, Carneades, and Chrysippus.
Sec Des Maizeaux, Vie de Bayle; Fenerbach, Pierre Bayle, 1888; Dainiron, Philosophic en France an xviime Bieck.