In his magnum opus, the Historical and Critical Dictionary, Pierre Bayle offered a series of brilliant criticisms of the major philosophical and theological systems of the 17th Century. Although officially skeptical concerning the attempt to provide a definitive account of the truths of metaphysics, there is reason to see Bayle as a reluctant skeptic. In particular, Todd Ryan contends that Bayle harbored deep sympathy for the attempt by Descartes and his most innovative successor, Nicolas Malebranche, to establish a metaphysical system that would provide a foundation for the new mechanistic natural philosophy while helping to secure the fundamental tenets of rational theology. Through a careful analysis of Bayle’s critical engagement with such philosophers as Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke and Newton, it is argued that, despite his reputation as a skeptic, Bayle was not without philosophical commitments of his own. Drawing on the full range of Bayle’s writings, from his early philosophical lectures to his final controversial writings, Ryan offers detailed studies of Bayle’s treatment of such pivotal issues as mind-body dualism, causation and God’s relation to the world.
Table of Contents
Abbreviations and Editions
1 Bayle and Cartesianism
2 Mind-Body Dualism
3 Critique of Lockean Superaddition
4 The Problem of Causation
5 Leibniz and the Pre-established Harmony
6 Spinoza’s Monism
7 Mechanism and Natural Theology
Todd Ryan is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Trinity College, Connecticut, USA.
"Throughout, the theses of the book are clearly and cogently argued." -- Thomas M. Lennon, The University of Western Ontario, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Highly recommended -- S. Young, McHenry County College, Choice
"...all who cherish the philosopher of Rotterdam will appreciate the feast of argument provided by Ryan's excellent book." --Robert Sparling, Journal of the History of Philosophy