Pierre Bayle



The Roman Catholics and the Protestants are at war over an innumerable number of articles of religion, but they are in agreement on this point, that the mysteries of the Gospel are above reason. There have even been theologians who have asserted that the mysteries denied by the Socinians are contrary to reason. I do not wish to take advantage of this assertion. It suffices for me that it is unanimously acknowledged that they are above reason : for it follows necessarily from this that it is impossible to solve the difficulties raised by philosophers ; and, consequently, a dispute in which only the natural light will be employed will always end to the disadvantage of the theologians ; and they will find themselves forced to give ground and take refuge under the protection of the supernatural light.

It is obvious that reason can never attain to what is above reason. [..] It would rise above its own limits, which is a downright contradiction. [Etc.]

Let us try to make this clearer. If some doctrines are above reason they are beyond its reach. If they are beyond its reach, it cannot rise to them. If it cannot rise to them, it cannot understand them. If it cannot understand them, it cannot discover any idea or principle that might be a source of a solution ; and consequently the objections that it will have raised will remain unanswered, or, which is the same thing, they will been answered only by some distinction that is as obscure as the thesis itself that was attacked. Now it is very certain that an objections that is based on very clear notions remains equally victorious whether you make no response to it or whether you make a response that no one can understand. [Etc.]

Translated by R. H. Popkin (with Craig Brush).
Bobbs-Merrill 1965, pp. 410-11.


From Shaftesbury to Basnage de Beauval, 21 January 1707

Whatever opinion of mine stood not the test of his piercing reason, I learned by degrees either to discard as frivolous, or not to rely on with that boldness as before ; but that which bore the trail I prized as purest gold.*

      * Benjamin Rand, The Life, Unpublished Letters and the Philosophical Regimen of Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury (New York : The Macmillan Company, 1900), p. 374.

by Dorothy B. Schlegel.
Chapel Hill, N. C. : University of North Carolina Press 1956, page 7.


From draft of a letter by Franz Brentano of 30 April 1905 to Edmund Husserl

As for the investigations which some would call "metamathematical", I am certainly aware of their value ; I do confess, however, that I regard it as absurd to interpret a continuum as a set of points. Mathematicians [metamathematicians ?] allow themselves, within certain limits, to make use of absurd fictions with impunity. And this is highly relevant to a practical logical interest. It was those speculations on possible topoids of more than four dimensions which finally made evident the empirical character of a space of three dimensions. Even Leibniz was found to be in error, having held that Bayle's ideas on world of more than three dimensions were impossible a priori.   [?]

But the most ingenious of mathematicians, such as Euler and Descartes, never considered mathematics as being an end in itself. It is not surprising, therefore, that your Felix Klein, weary of excursions into metamathematics, should turn to the technological applications of mathematics.

Translated from the German WAHRHEIT UND EVIDENZ (1930)
by Roderick M. Chisholm, Ilse Politzer and Kurt R. Fisher
New York : Humanities Press 1966, pp. 139-140.


From BARON D'HOLBACH, 1935 by W. H. Wickwar

” Bayle may have preceded him in judging religion by its results ; but d’Holbach was the first to explain its influence by open reference to the principles of the psychology then fashionable.   “ (p. 134)

’ And he [i.e. d’Holbach] had recourse to the reductio ad absurdum of Pierre Boyle : “ If it followed the maxims of Christianity in all its rigour, no political society could possibly exist. If whoever doubts this assertion listens to what the earliest teachers of the church say, he will find that their ethics are wholly incompatible with the conservation and power of the State. He will see that according to Lactantius no one ought to be a soldier ; that according to Saint Justin no one ought to marry; that according to Tertullian no one ought to hold public office ; that according to St. Chrysostom no one ought to engage in trade ; and that according to a great many no one ought to study. If one adds these maxims to those of the Saviour of the world, it follows that a Christian who aims, as he ought, at perfection, is the most useless of members to his country, his family, and his whole entourage ;he lives a life of contemplation, thinks only of the other life, has nothing in common with the interests of this world, and has no more urgent business than to escape from it promptly” (12) “If one finds any activity, any science, any sociable morals in a Christian State, that is because, in spite of their religious opinions, nature leads men back to reason and forces them to work for their happiness every time it can.” (13) '   (pp. 137-38)

( London : Allen & Unwin 1935 )
New York : Augustus M. Kelley 1968.


Page created 21 August 2003
Last updated 1 December 2003


Contact paultabaka@yahoo.com 1