The Structure of the Commentaire Philosophique

  • Walter Rex
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idees/International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 8)


Bayle’s Commentaire philosophique is certainly one of the great events in French intellectual history; in its unique approach to the question of religious tolerance we see a door opening onto the eighteenth century. To be sure one can find gropings in the direction of tolerance in Bayle’s early Systerna totius Philosophiæ; 1 arguments for tolerance in the Pensées diverses; more arguments in the Critique Générate de Maimbourg and its Suite;2, a bitter and eloquent pleading in Ce que c’est que la France.3 It is nonetheless true that the fact of the Revocation caused Bayle to rethink the whole problem of religious tolerance, to tighten his dialectic and to recast his arguments in a new form. In the Commentaire, despite his bitterness, his cynicism, his tendencies toward scepticism, in the full realization of all the implications and all the objections, Bayle attempted to examine the most urgent problem of his generation and to reach a definitive conclusion.


Eighteenth Century Natural Light Sceptical Argument Literal Interpretation Traditional Argument 
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  1. 1.
    Serrurier, Pierre Bayle en Hollande, pp. 40–41. The work itself will be found in O.D., IV C1737)5 pp.201–524.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Robinson, Bayle the Sceptic, pp. 55–63. On the sixteenth century background of the question of tolerance, v. Joseph Lecler, Histoire de la tolèrance au siècle de la rèforme, 2 vols. ( Paris: Aubier, 1954 ).Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1965

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  • Walter Rex

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