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The Wage of Sin is Orthodoxy: The Confessionsof Saint Augustine in Bayle's Dictionnaire RUTH E. WHELAN la maniere la plus funeste d'attaquer une doctrine est celle de la tourner en ridicule Pierre Bayle' THE CHALLENGEto ecclesiastical tradition, the derision visited on the church Fathers in the Age of Reason--as the case of Saint Augustine illustrates---owe much of their power to that Arsenal of the Enlightenment, Pierre Bayle. As early as 1727, Johannes Franciscus Buddeus, a German theologian and scholar, upbraids the liberal Protestant thinker Jean Barbeyrac for his imitation of Bayle's iconoclastic verve.~ In 1733, the French Catholic scholar, Charles Merlin, takes up the gauntlet in a work which specifically replies to the critique of Saint Augustine in the Commentaire philosophique and the Dictionnaire historique et critique. More polemical than erudite, Merlin's Refutation brings invective to the aid of inadequate argument in an attempt to deflect readers from that "empoisonneur infatigable des esprits," whose "mc}disance," "malignit6 ," and "m6pris insolent," towards Saint Augustine make him "le Docteur des impies de nosjours" and the friend of libertines.3 Now, the Refutation may be both obscurantist in its orthodoxy and ineffectual in its abusive rhetoric, nonetheless, it highlights--and somewhat prophetically--the existence of a i Pierre Bayle, "Sainte-Aldegonde," footnote G, Dictionaire historique et critique 4 vols. (Rotterdam : Michel Bohm, 172o). All references are to this edition; original spelling is respected throughout. 2 Johannes Franciscus Buddeus, Isagoge historico-theologica ad theologiam universam cure appendice 3 vols (Lipsiae: Ex Officina Thomae Fritschii, 1727), I, 633a. 3 Charles Merlin, Refutation des critiques de Monsieur Bayle sur saint Augnstin (Paris: Rolin Fils, 1733), 75, 11, 14, 47, 93, 17. On Merlin cf. Pierre R6tat, Le 'Dictionnaire' de Bayle et la lutte philosophique au XVIIIe si~cle (Paris: Imprimerie Audin, 1971), 186-90. [195] 196 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 26:2 APRIL 1988 group of kindred spirits who turn to Bayle for inspiration in the war on prejudice and superstition. Undaunted by Buddeus' reproof, Barbeyrac published in 17~8 a critical treatise on the moral theology of the church Fathers. The chapter devoted to Saint Augustine pillages the third part of the Commentaire philosophique and the by then famous passages of the Dictionnaire which consider some of the moral dilemmas proposed by the Doctor of Hippo.4 In 1765, the twelfth volume of the Encyclop~die appeared with an entry on the church Fathers written by the Chevalier de Jaucourt. The section on Saint Augustine summarizes the positions of Richard Simon, Bayle and Barbeyrac and rehearses, almost word for word, arguments from the Trait~ de la morale des peres de l'eglise and the earlier article on Augustine in the Dictionnaire.5 Referring to Bayle in his article "Augustin" (a 77o) in the Dictionnaire philosophique, Voltaire turns the account of Augustine's premature virility--given in the Confessions and repeated by Bayle--into a scabrous story, deleterious to the Saint's moral authority. 6These three highly articulate voices in a chorus of criticism and mockery directed against the Doctor of Hippo7 seem to substantiate, then, the perception of Bayle's work as a slow poison designed to corrode the well-worn traditions of a beleaguered orthodoxy. With the wisdom of hindsight, however, the twentieth -century critic may choose to demur from this polemically inspired, mechanical conception of intellectual influence. The annexation of Bayle to the cause of the Enlightenment depends, then, on the creative misconceptions of both his enemies and his self-proclaimed disciples. Voltaire's caricatural biography of Augustine, Barbeyrac and de Jaucourt's intellectual critique of the Saint's moral theology, biblical criticism and defense of civil and religious intolerance may seem to justify Merlin's 4 Jean Barbeyrac, Trait( de la morale des peres de l'eglise (Amsterdam: Pierre de Coup, 1728), 281-315. For the moral dilemmas proposed by Augustine and Bayle'streatment of them see our The Anatomy of Superstition, A Study of the Historical Theory and Practice of Pierre Bayle (Ph.D.thesis: Universityof Dublin,TrinityCollege, 1984),167-75. 5 Encyclop(die ou Dictionnaire raisonnd des sciences, des arts et des mdtiers,par une soci~t~de gens de lettres, 35...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 195-206
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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