- Leibniz et Bayle: Confrontation et dialogue ed. by Christian Leduc, Paul Rateau, and Jean-Luc Solère
Central to this volume are two philosophical powerhouses of the early modern period: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Pierre Bayle. Born in, respectively, 1646 and 1647, both made for an astonishing career in a variety of scholarly disciplines and reached, if not equal, then certainly comparable fame in the course of their lives. Nowadays, Bayle's reputation is eclipsed by that of Leibniz, who is the focus of yearly conferences and libraries of scholarship, while Bayle had to await the later twentieth century to be rediscovered. He has since been at the center of a quickly expanding body of scholarship, which continues to be sharply divided over the vexed question how to interpret his religious stance.
This imbalance in the amount of scholarship devoted to the two thinkers partly has to do with their respective modes of philosophizing. Though it is an exaggeration to say that Leibniz was systematic where Bayle was critical, it is the case that Leibniz was more intent on building his own systems, Bayle on exposing the inherent weaknesses of others'. Leibniz left a corpus of philosophical treatises, monographs and essays, while Bayle left his arguments scattered in a variety of textual curiosity cabinets, combining philosophical argument with generous helpings of historical and literary digressions. But if this diverse treatment of Leibniz and Bayle seems warranted by the character of their philosophical oeuvres, it becomes questionable when one takes into account their intellectual itineraries, which crossed in various debates. As intellectual sparring partners, they engaged with each other's arguments with the highest degree of dedication, to such an extent that Leibniz's philosophical legacy would be unthinkable without Bayle. One of the major strengths of this collection of articles is to bring out Leibniz and Bayle in "confrontation and dialogue" and emphasize the dialectical and interactive component of their philosophical sparring sessions, which spanned decades and a wide variety of texts.
The twenty-one articles collected in this bilingual volume (French-English) are grouped thematically into four categories. The articles in the first section, "Methods, Hypotheses and Truth," discuss both philosophers' views on epistemology, skepticism, truth and belief, and trace the evolution of their debate in these areas; a valuable contribution by Michael Hickson questions the common dichotomy that associates Leibniz with rationalism, Bayle with skepticism. The second section, "Pre-established Harmony and Plastic Natures," is oriented more towards the various stages within the development of Leibniz's system, and the role played by Bayle's criticism throughout this process. A crucial part in this is the debate on animal sensation and Bayle's attempt to disprove the logic of Leibniz's pre-established harmony via the thought-experiment of a dog that suddenly passes from a state of pleasure to a state of pain; and Bayle and Leibniz's differing views on Ralph Cudworth and plastic natures, which Bayle connects to the philosophical specter of Stratonism. [End Page 353] The third section, "Faith and Reason," focuses on Bayle and Leibniz's views on religion, theology, rationalism and fideism, sometimes questioning the assumption that Leibniz and Bayle were diametrically opposed with regard to reason and religious belief (Kristen Irwin). Other articles examine their respective views on quietism (Thomas Lennon) and the apocalypse (Hartmut Rudolph): this last article contains some unfortunate inaccuracies (e.g. the misattribution of Bayle's Critique Générale to Louis Maimbourg, 337). An especially insightful contribution by Paul Rateau discusses the figure of the virtuous atheist in Leibniz and Bayle. The fourth section, "Evil and Theodicy," is centered on one of the most influential interactions between Bayle and Leibniz, which would leave a huge impact on the eighteenth century: their debate on the problem of evil, various aspects of which are discussed by the articles in this section. Especially noteworthy is Gianni Paganini's contribution, which raises an important question with regard to the eclipse of the Book of Job from the...