Front Page Titles (by Subject) appendixes - A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, 'Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full'
Return to Title Page for A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
appendixes - Pierre Bayle, A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’ 
A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’, edited, with an Introduction by John Kilcullen and Chandran Kukathas (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Language of the Translation
The spelling of the 1708 translation follows sensible conventions not quite the same as those that have since become current:
Punctuation is excessive by modern standards. Many colons and semicolons should be read as commas; many commas should be ignored.
The modern convention that a defining clause should not be preceded by a comma is not followed: “For to render a Punishment just, which is inflicted for Non-compliance with a King’s Injunctions, it’s necessary these Injunctions be founded on some good reason.”
There are some old-fashioned idioms.
“The -ing” without “of,” where in modern English we would say “the ;n-ing of.” Examples: “for the killing such a man”; “repugnance … to the owning it”; “a right of doing everything for the propagating their errors.”
A possessive governs an “-ing” word used as a noun (gerund). Examples: “God’s enjoining it”; “their being put in Execution”; “any one’s presuming to say”; “one Party’s refusing to conform.” This is still good practice in British English, but perhaps obsolescent.
“Of X becomes Y” means “from being X becomes Y.” Example: “It follows that the same Action of a Sin becomes a Vertue.”
“These”/“those” means “The latter”/“The former.” Example: “The wicked have never left persecuting the Good, nor the Good the Wicked: but these act unjustly herein, and only to do mischief; those charitably. …”
Obsolete or Unusual Words or Meanings
The translation uses many colloquialisms to express scorn. Their precise meaning is often uncertain, but unimportant; their general meaning is clear enough from the context: “no better than a Cheat or Sharper at the bottom”; “a band of Ruffians, Cut-throats, Hell-hounds”; “Who, I say, is not in a Sweat, to think what a swadder these Authors must be in”:
Bayle’s Use of Logic
Seventeenth-century French education included a more or less thorough training in logic, the art of thinking. Medieval logic textbooks were rivaled by new texts, notably the famous work of the Jansenists Arnauld and Nicole, The Logic of Port-Royal.1 Bayle frequently comments on the logic of his arguments, using the terminology common at the time. Argument was thought of as disputation, an “adversary procedure” with opposing parties (though sometimes the opponent might be imaginary).
An argument, inference, or “consequence” (see p. 75) is a set of prem-ises from which a conclusion “follows.” The premises of a valid argument “necessitate” or “compel” the conclusion: if you accept the premises as true, you must also accept the conclusion. This characteristic of a valid argument is sometimes called its “consequence”; see p. 186. (Thus “consequence” has two meanings: the argument and its validity.) A valid argument with true and accepted premises is “cogent” or “compelling.”2
Various kinds of arguments were distinguished, including the syllogism (with two premises, called in order the “major” and the “minor,” arranged in “mood and figure”; see p. 333, pp. 430–31), the enthymeme (an argument with one or more of its premises not expressly stated; see p. 186, p. 218, p. 428), and the dilemma (“either p or q, if p then r, and if q then s, therefore either r or s,” and other variants; see p. 142).
The premises of an argument were called “antecedents” (p. 75). The fundamental premises of a chain of arguments, or of all reasoning in a field, were called its “principles” (p. 72), or “common notions” (p. 68), or “maxims” (p. 416). It is pointless to try to convince people by an argument the principles of which they do not believe. Since the proposer of the argument (normally) also believes its premises, its principles must therefore be “common” to both parties (p. 43).3 Bayle often insists that discussion cannot achieve persuasion unless the issues are traced up to “common principles” (p. 134). Premises likely to be acceptable to almost anyone were called “commonplaces.”4 A “topic” is as it were a pigeon-hole in which commonplaces are stored, a magazine of premises (p. 276).
An argument that fails by using a premise that no one will believe unless they already believe the conclusion was called a “petitio principii” (p. 333), literally a “begging of the principle” (p. 23), usually called in English “begging the question” (p. 54, p. 510), or “assuming” or “supposing the thing in question” (p. 42, p. 45). (Note that “begging the question” does not mean raising a question, but assuming as premise something that will not be believed by anyone the argument is meant to convince.)
A “direct” proof argues positively from premises which imply the desired conclusion (p. 150, p. 199, p. 412). An “indirect” proof shows that a proposition is true by assuming “for the sake of argument” the truth of the proposition that contradicts the one you wish to prove, and then on that assumption constructing a hypothetical argument to a conclusion the other party will admit is absurd or impossible. Such indirect proof was called “reductio ad absurdum” (p. 72, p. 211, p. 512).
The other party’s argument could be undermined by showing that it “proves too much” (p. 175), that it implies “inconveniences,” conclusions that the other party cannot accept (p. 134). Or the argument can be “retorted,” i.e. adapted to prove conclusions inconsistent with the position of the party using it (p. 347). Or a counter-argument can be “objected” (literally “thrown up against”) its premises or its conclusion. The other party might well reply to such “difficulties,” and the reply might provoke a counter-reply; the reply might be characterized as an “evasion” (p. 37), meaning an unsuccessful attempt to avoid the force of the objection.
Some arguments are faulty because the conclusion they lead to is simply not relevant or “not to the point.” In such a case the arguer is accused of “impertinence” (see p. 42), of “changing the question” (see p. 301), or of “ignoratio elenchi” (not knowing what a proof is); see p. 348.
If an argument is unsuccessful, not because its premises are false or not accepted, but because even if they were accepted its conclusion would not follow, it is said to be a fallacy, paralogism, or sophism (p. 54, p. 411). Often Bayle is at pains to point out that even if something is accepted that in fact might well be challenged, still the opponent’s conclusion will not follow. One virtue of such an analysis is that it clears the ground, brings into sharper focus the issues in dispute: there is no need to argue about various things the parties might in fact disagree about, because they make no difference to the point in question. For examples of Bayle’s passing over disagreements that do not need to be pursued, see p. 88, p. 200, p. 480.
On moral questions a common method of argument is by example, parallel, or analogy. “If you accept that in situation X one ought to make moral judgment J, then you must also accept that in this similar situation one ought to make the same judgment.” The counter to such an argument is to point out a “disparity” between the two situations (p. 361). The practice of comparing situations and analyzing similarities and disparities was called “casuistry,” the analysis of “cases” (p. 70). Though this was recognized as a legitimate activity in principle, it was often felt that casuists were “too clever by half.” Jesuit casuists, in particular, were accused of working to make the demands of morality less exacting than they really were (pp. 245, 319).5
The fierce contests fought with the aid of the art of logic were often carried on unfairly, in Bayle’s opinion. Hence his warning that he will not accept that his book has been “answered” if opponents merely find various minor faults of reasoning—they must come to grips with his main and best arguments for toleration; see p. 38, p. 478. On the other hand, he claims that he himself does not treat his opponents unfairly (pp. 175–76, p. 423). Compare DHC, art. “Chrysippus,” rem. G.
Religious and Philosophical Controversies
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the various denominations and schools of thought among Christians fought out their differences in “conferences” or debates before some influential audience and in print. (See Bayle’s remarks, pp. 406–7.) For example, the Catholic Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, bishop of Meaux, published a record of his conference with Jean Claude, a prominent Protestant theologian, held before a noble lady who was considering which denomination she should belong to; in reply, Claude published his Réponse au livre de M. de Meaux intitulé: Conférence avec M. Claude [Answer to a book by M. de Meaux entitled Debate with M. Claude], 1683. The Catholic Antoine Arnauld published La perpétuité de la foi de l’Eglise touchant l’Eucharistie défendue contre le livre du Sr Claude, ministre de Charenton [The perpetuity of the faith of the Church concerning the Eucharist, defended against the book of M. Claude, Minister of Charenton], 1669; Claude replied with Réponse au livre de M. Arnauld ‘De la perpétuité de la foi’ [Answer to a book by M. Arnauld on the perpetuity of the faith], 1670. To every attack there was a reply, to every reply a reply, almost without end. There was a widespread belief, at least before Bayle had his say, that religious disagreements could be resolved by reasoning.
In the course of the Philosophical Commentary Bayle often mentions or analyzes these debates between the denominations or schools of thought among Christians. He mentions Roman Catholic, Orthodox (i.e. Greek and Russian Orthodox), and Protestant. The Protestants included the Episcopal (meaning Church of England), the Lutherans, the Calvinists (also called the Reformed, sometimes Huguenots), the Arminians (also called Remonstrants), the Socinians, Anabaptists, and others. If readers find the differences among them confusing, that suits Bayle’s point that the controversies among Christians are extremely difficult to decide. However, he does not intend to suggest that they cannot possibly be decided, that no one can reasonably make a decision. He indicates that he is himself a Calvinist and that he is not a “Pyrrhonist” (i.e. a sceptic, one who holds that one should suspend judgment). His point is not that we should throw up our hands and believe none of the conflicting versions of Christianity, but that Christians should be ready to acknowledge one another’s sincerity in holding conflicting beliefs.
Faith and Heresy
Christians of all denominations believed that being a Christian involved holding various beliefs, the “articles of faith.” The correct beliefs are “orthodox,” beliefs inconsistent with them are “heresy.” Some differences of opinion were regarded as tolerable. On many religious questions the Catholic Church had not “defined” an answer, and Catholics were at liberty to hold different beliefs. Catholic religious orders (Jesuits and Dominicans, for example) sometimes espoused conflicting answers to some questions (see p. 209). Similarly among Protestants some distinguished between “fundamental” and “nonfundamental” articles and did not regard as heretics those who disagreed with them on nonfundamentals (see p. 217, p. 401, p. 403). (See article “Fundamental Articles” in The Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06319a.htm.)
To be a “heretic,” however, was not a matter merely of believing a false doctrine; in addition one must hold it in a “pertinacious” way, i.e. stubbornly, opinionatedly, obstinately, with opiniâtreté in Bayle’s French—i.e. refusing to abandon the false belief even when one could see, or should have been able to see, that it was false. (On the definition of heretic see p. 454.) Bayle maintains that only God can tell whether someone is opinionated in religious belief: we must assume that others’ religious beliefs are held sincerely, in good faith.6
Trinity and Incarnation
Christians of most denominations agreed that the doctrines defined by the first four General or Ecumenical (i.e. World-wide) Councils of the Church7 were essential to orthodoxy. These councils formulated the doctrine of the Trinity, i.e. the doctrine that there are three divine “persons,” namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, really distinct (i.e. the Father is not the Son, etc.), and equal in all respects, but there is only one God. They also formulated the doctrine of the Incarnation, i.e. that one of the three divine persons, the Son, became a man, Jesus Christ, so that Jesus is both God and man. In Bayle’s day all Christians believed in the Trinity and the Incarnation, except for the Socinians, who rejected both doctrines as irrational (see p. 66). In ancient times various dissenters disputed some aspect of these doctrines; Bayle mentions the Arians, Eutychians, Monothelites, Nestorians, and others; none of these ancient sects had survived in Europe into his own time, and he does not discuss the content of their beliefs.
Grace, Original Sin, Predestination
In Bayle’s time Catholics and Protestants all held some version of a doctrine of “grace,” i.e. that God gratuitously gives to human beings something additional to ordinary human nature, to make them holy and capable of acting well and believing rightly, and that without this grace it is impossible to be saved. Even without grace it may be possible to arrive at correct religious beliefs, based on the probability of human testimony (for example, a persuasion that the gospels are reliable historical documents and that their testimony establishes this or that). But this is merely “human” or “historical” faith (p. 524), as distinct from “divine faith” effected by grace. Human faith is not sufficient for salvation; to be saved it is necessary to have the divine faith that is caused by grace.
The doctrine of grace was developed mainly by Saint Augustine in his writings against Pelagius and the Pelagians (see Augustine, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Vol. V). Pelagius tried to encourage efforts to live well by saying that anyone who wished could act rightly. Augustine attacked this optimistic teaching, saying that living well requires special help from God at every stage—the initial wish to live well, actually doing the right thing, and persevering in right action to the end of one’s life. God’s help is “gratuitous,” it cannot be earned. God does not give his grace to everyone; he does not give anyone grace to act rightly on every occasion, and he may in the end not give the grace of “final perseverance” to someone who has lived a substantially good life up to the moment of death. Anyone who dies in a state of sin will be damned, even though he has lived well until then. Only those “predestined” for salvation receive the grace of final perseverance; predestination cannot be earned, it is not based on the quality of a person’s life before the time of death. The difficulty of living well, according to Augustine, has been increased by “Original Sin.” The first human beings, Adam and Eve, by their first sin against God (“the Fall”), brought punishment on themselves and on all their descendants. Part of the punishment is a weakening of the will to act rightly and a clouding of the mind, producing ignorance and error. (Bayle argues at length that error is not always due to Original Sin; see p. 260, p. 473, p. 496.) Since all mankind are guilty of sin—they share the guilt of Adam’s sin, at least—there is, according to Augustine, no injustice in the fact that God does not give his grace to everyone, since he is under no obligation to help anyone.
During the middle ages Augustine’s teaching was followed by most theologians, and the Pelagians (and the semi-Pelagians or Massilians) were regarded as heretics. However, in the fourteenth century William of Ockham and other theologians modified Augustine’s doctrine by suggesting that, while it is true that God is absolutely under no obligation to any creature, he has of his own free choice adopted the rule that he will give grace to those who do their best. (This free choice is nothing accidental: it is identical with God’s goodness and with his being—it is God himself.) Grace cannot be earned, but those who do their best can be confident that grace will not be withheld. In effect, Pelagius’s optimism is reinstated, thanks to God’s free choice of a policy or rule governing his own conduct.8 Bayle refers to this theory at p. 537, as that of “the Schoolmen.”9
Against these Schoolmen Luther and Calvin reasserted the strict Augustinian doctrine. According to Calvin predestination and its opposite (“reprobation”) are determined by God’s eternal decrees, which relate to individuals, not to classes of people who satisfy some condition, and have no reason that human beings can discern. Some features of Lutheran and Calvinist doctrines were condemned by the Catholic Church in the Council of Trent (1545–1563), which, however, reaffirmed a version of Augustine’s doctrines.
Among both Catholics and Protestants there continued to be some uneasiness over some aspects of Augustine’s theory. According to Augustine, the wish to live well, and the acceptance of God’s help, must be already the effect of grace. Since the effects of grace include willingness to accept it, it would seem that grace is irresistible. To some this seemed to give too little room to human free choice. Also, since not everyone is saved, it would seem that God does not give grace to everyone, which seems to conflict with the idea that God’s benevolence is universal, and it seems inequitable that God should give grace to some and not to others just as deserving (or undeserving). Bayle refers to these disputes in several places (see pp. 530, 532–33, and 402).
The Jesuit Luis de Molina made another attempt to modify Augustine’s doctrine to make more room for human free will and ideas of equity in his Harmony of free will with the gifts of grace, and with God’s foreknowledge, providence, predestination and reprobation, Lisbon, 1588. This book led to controversy between Thomists (followers of Thomas Aquinas, who followed Augustine) and Molinists who included most Jesuits). Bayle mentions these schools of thought at p. 342 and p. 524. Toward the end of the sixteenth century, the pope established a commission “De Auxilliis” (“Concerning Helps,” grace being help from God) to decide the debate between Thomists and Molinists. It was unable to decide, and allowed both doctrines to be taught; see The Catholic Encyclopaedia, “Congregatio de Auxiliis,” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04238a.htm.
Molina’s work also provoked Augustine: or the Doctrine of St Augustine on the health, sickness and medicine of human nature, against the Pelagians and Massilians, by the Louvain Catholic theologian Cornelius Jansen. Pope Innocent X condemned five propositions drawn from Jansen’s book: (1)= Some of God’s precepts are, given their present abilities, impossible for just persons willing and trying to fulfil them; (2) in the state of fallen nature, interior grace can never be resisted; (3) for merit and demerit in the state of fallen nature, freedom from necessity is not needed, only freedom from compulsion; (4) the heresy of the semi-Pelagians was to hold that human will could resist or obey grace; (5) it is semi-Pelagian to say that Christ died for absolutely all human beings. The main issues here are whether grace is irresistible (propositions 2, 3, and 4) and whether God’s will to save mankind is universal (proposition 5). See The Catholic Encyclopaedia, “Jansenius and Jansenism,” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08285a.htm.
Jansen’s followers (including Antoine Arnauld, Pierre Nicole, Blaise Pascal, and others associated with the Convent of Port-Royal) distinguished between the question of right (whether the five propositions in the sense the pope took them in were heretical) and the question of fact (whether certain words are to be found in the pages of Jansen’s book, and if so whether Jansen intended them in the sense the pope intended to condemn). The Jansenists acknowledged the pope’s power to decide questions of theological principle, and therefore acknowledged that, in whatever sense the pope had taken them, the five propositions were indeed heretical. However, they maintained that as a matter of fact these propositions either were not in Jansen’s book at all or were there in some sense other than the one the pope had condemned. Church authorities insisted that clergy and nuns suspected of Jansenism subscribe to a formulary stating that the condemned propositions were in Jansen’s book in the condemned sense. Many Jansensists signed subject to various qualifications—that the statement of the formulary did not deserve “divine faith,” that it did not deserve even “human faith” (see p. 524). When Church authorities refused to accept signatures with such qualifications and insisted on subscription “pure and simple,” the Jansenists signed with “respectful silence,” with the implication that they would qualify if they could, and in the end the papacy tolerated this. In various places Bayle alludes to the controversy over Jansenism and the distinction between the question of right and the question of fact; see for example pp. 448, 449.
While the controversies over Molinism and Jansenism divided Catholics, a similar controversy took place in the Reformed churches. Calvin’s version of Augustinianism was criticized by the Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, who affirmed the universality of God’s benevolence toward mankind and human freedom in accepting or rejecting God’s grace. The Arminians in 1610 published a “Remonstrance” (protest) in which they asserted five propositions, which may be summarized as follows: (1) that God’s decree of Predestination is to save anyone who, through grace, believes and obeys (this is a general policy, rather than a decree relating to individuals); (2) Christ died for the forgiveness and redemption of all men (not only for the predestined); (3) no one can do anything truly good without God’s grace; (4) grace is not irresistible; (5) it is not certain that those who once have true faith can never fall away. Strict Calvinism was reasserted by the Synod of Dort (Dordrecht), 1618–19, which condemned the Arminian propositions. Bayle refers to the controversy between Arminians (also called Remonstrants) and strict Calvinists at various places; see for example pp. 217, 401–2, and 469.
Bayle himself was a Calvinist, but he does not argue in favor of the Calvinist doctrine of grace. He refers to these disputes as illustrations of the difficulty of deciding which position is correct.
See DHC, art. “Augustine.”
About the Eucharist (Holy Communion), Catholics and Lutherans held that Jesus Christ is really present in the bread and wine, Calvinists held that the bread and wine are only symbolically the body and blood of Christ. Catholics held that in the Eucharistic ceremony the substance of the bread and wine is transformed into the substance of Jesus Christ (“transubstantiation”); the Lutherans held that the substance of Jesus Christ becomes present along with the substance of the bread and wine (“consubstantiation”). For references to these controversies see p. 459.
Church and State
Since the middle ages the Catholic Church had claimed that the rulers of Christian states should come to the aid of the Church when the Church requested it, for example by repressing heresy. The pope claimed the power to remove an unsatisfactory ruler either by directly deposing him, or (this was the more usual doctrine) indirectly, by absolving subjects from their obligation of obedience and calling on them to replace their ruler. Catholic writers also argued that, apart from any dissatisfaction the Church might have with a ruler, the ruler’s subjects might in some circumstances be entitled to disobey or rebel. Almost all (but not quite all) Catholic theologians disapproved of the assassination of a tyrannical ruler, and argued that a rebellion should be carried on by someone with a right to act on behalf of the people. These theories can be traced back to medieval writers such as Thomas Aquinas, John of Paris, and William of Ockham; their chief exponents in the sixteenth century were the Jesuits Francisco Suárez and Robert Bellarmine.10
Protestants usually held that Christians have a duty to obey the “powers that be” no matter how irreligious or tyrannical they may be, but not by doing anything contrary to the commandments of God; if the tyrant commands an immoral act, the Christian must refuse, but still not rebel. This is called the doctrine of “nonresistance” or, sometimes, “passive obedience” (passive in contrast to active—a Christian would not actively obey an immoral command, but would submit to the punishment for not obeying). Protestants denied the pope’s claim to direct and depose rulers and disclaimed such powers for their own religious bodies. But although obedience and nonrebellion were their usual doctrines, some Protestants (notably Pierre Jurieu and John Locke) adopted something like the Catholic doctrine of the subject’s right to rebel, especially when the true religion was being persecuted.11
Among French Catholics there was a tendency, usually called “Gallicanism,” that aimed at protecting the interests of the French monarchy and of the parish clergy and bishops against the pope. This tendency originated during the thirteenth-century controversies at the University of Paris between the secular clergy and the mendicant friars (Franciscans and Dominicans), in the controversy between King Philip and Pope Boniface, and in the attempts to heal the Great Schism that came to fruition in the Council of Constance. The “Gallican Articles” of 1682 affirmed that kings are not subject to the authority of the Church in temporal and civil matters or to deposition by the ecclesiastical power, that their subjects cannot be dispensed by the pope from their allegiance, that a General Council has authority over a pope (as the Council of Constance asserted), and that doctrinal decisions by a pope need the consent of the Church. Gallicans also affirmed that royal officials could not be excommunicated for anything they did officially. The “ultramontanes” rejected Gallicanism, and maintained that the pope’s authority held undiminished “beyond the mountains,” i.e. the Alps, i.e. in France. The historian Maimbourg was a Gallican, and for this reason was expelled from the Jesuit order (which made a special point of obedience to the pope). For a reference to the controversy between Gallicans and Ultramontanes see pp. 541–42.
Bayle adheres to the view common among the Huguenots before Jurieu began to advocate rebellion, namely that a king’s right to rule was not conditional upon his behavior. See, for example, p. 48. He therefore rejects the Catholic doctrines that the pope may depose a ruler for heresy or for failure to repress heresy and that the people may rebel against a tyrant. Like most Christians at the time, Catholic and Protestant, he held that a ruler should foster religion (see p. 202). However, in opposition to Catholics and to many of his Protestant contemporaries, he argues that the ruler must not use coercive measures to favor any religion—this is the thesis of the Philosophical Commentary. Although Catholics of Gallican tendency say that the pope cannot depose a king, Bayle thinks that the Ultramontane claim is a more authentic expression of Catholic doctrine (see pp. 48, 91, 541); and the Gallicans themselves were active persecutors of heretics. Bayle therefore says that Catholics, whether Gallican or Ultramontane, cannot safely be tolerated. But the “nontoleration” he advocates means, not persecuting Catholics, but taking precautions to make sure that they do not acquire the power to overthrow a heretical ruler or to persecute (see pp. 47–48, pp. 192–93, and p. 572).
The Rule of Faith
The various disputes about the Christian faith outlined above gave rise to another dispute, over how to resolve disputes about questions of faith (see pp. 457–59). According to Catholics, the “rule of faith” was the teaching of the Church, based partly on the Bible and partly on Catholic tradition. The teaching of the Church was formulated authoritatively by popes and General Councils (though there was some disagreement over whether a pope could decide questions of faith without reference to a Council). Catholics held that in deciding questions of faith a General Council was infallible. For Catholics important witness to tradition was to be found in the writings of the “Fathers” of the Church, i.e. the Christian writers of the first three or four hundred years after Christ. (See p. 121.)
According to the Protestants, the rule of faith is the Bible (not tradition), to be interpreted by each individual (not authoritatively by popes or councils). This did not mean that any individual interpretation would do—some interpretations would be correct and others not, but each individual had to arrive at the correct interpretation in person. From time to time Protestant churches published “confessions of faith,” but these were supposed to be summaries of correct interpretations of the teaching of the Bible, without independent authority.
Catholics argued against what they called the Protestant doctrine of “private judgment” (i.e. judgment by a private individual), urging that ordinary people would not be able to carry out all the difficult inquiries needed to arrive at a correct interpretation of the Bible—how could they be sure what books belonged to the Bible, how could they be sure that the text transmitted to them was authentic, that the translation was faithful, etc.? See p. 262. The Catholic controversialist Pierre Nicole, assuming that it is wrong (an instance of temerity or rashness) to believe anything without adequate evidence, argued that no one could without temerity arrive at any conclusions by way of private judgment.
Protestants “retorted” these arguments against the Catholics. How could an individual know whether the currently recognized list of popes and General Councils were true popes and true Councils, how know which were authentic decrees, etc.? See p. 263. The Calvinist Jean Daillé applied the same topics to the appeal to the fathers of the Church—if it is difficult to find out the teaching of the Bible, it is just as difficult to find out the doctrine of the fathers.12 (However, Bayle argues that Protestants cannot avoid inquiring into the opinions of the Church fathers; see p. 453.) Protestants often pointed out that Catholics must use private judgment in coming to the conclusion that they should believe the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Bayle comments that Nicole’s principle that faith should not be without sufficient rational foundation was damaging not only to Protestantism but also to Catholicism, since popes and councils will be guilty of temerity in arriving at their decisions (see p. 528). In fact it is damaging to all forms of religious belief and favorable to Pyrrhonism, i.e. scepticism (see pp. 390–91). He argues that grace cannot meet the difficulty. Even if true believers are led to their beliefs by God’s grace, grace cannot provide a criterion of correct belief, since there is no way of distinguishing between having grace and merely thinking that you do. See p. 529, p. 526.
Bayle argues that the rule of faith must be conjoined with the clear judgments of reason, since reason is also God’s voice; see p. 68. Anything the Bible seems to teach that conflicts with basic moral principles must not in fact be the teaching of the Bible. Reason must therefore be used in interpreting what the Bible seems to say; see Part 1 chapter 1, p. 65ff. It is in this sense that his commentary interpreting the words of the Gospel is “philosophical.” Bayle insists that he does not take this idea as far as the Socinians did (p. 66), though he does not explain how to draw the line.
Reason the Fundamental Rule
There was a long-standing tradition in Christian thought that presented faith in the Church and in the Bible as reasonable.13 We should accept guidance if we have reason to believe that the guide knows and is truthful. Hence the fundamental rule of belief and action is reason, though in some situations reason may lead us to see that we should follow some other guide, which will then provide a “secondary” or “derivative” rule—once we have been convinced by reasons that some guide is reliable, it is rational to follow that guide.
This is the idea behind the opening chapter of the Philosophical Commentary: Reason or the “light of Nature” is a “Standard and original Rule” (p. 69), a “standing Test of all Precepts … not excepting even those which God has afterwards reveal’d in an extraordinary way” (p. 70). Adam thought himself obliged to obey God only “because that inward Light … continually presented the Idea of his Duty, and of his dependence on the Sovereign Being” (p. 70), so that for Adam “the reveal’d truth was sub-ordinate to the natural Light in him” (p. 70). A theologian would treat the Gospel as the first rule of morality, but “writing as a Philosopher, I’m obliged to go back to the original and mother Rule, to wit, Reason or natural light” (p. 80); the Gospel is “a second standing Rule collated with the Original” (p. 81). Similarly, for the Jews the law of Moses was a secondary rule recommended by reason: For the Mosaic Law, “once vouch’d by the natural Light, acquir’d the Quality of a Rule and Criterion, in the same manner, as a Proposition in Geometry once demonstrated from incontestable Principles, becomes it self a Principle with regard to other Propositions” (p. 72).
One of the major cultural changes in Europe since Bayle’s time is widespread loss of the conviction that there is any reliable secondary rule, so that even many Christians these days go back directly to reason in considering controversial questions of morality. But like Christian fundamentalists of today, Bayle believed that the Bible, though not the Church, is indeed a reliable secondary rule, and he looked for a way of reconciling the Bible with morality in cases of apparent conflict. He calls on the idea that God may dispense with his own laws in special cases to explain such passages as Numbers 25:7–11, where God might seem to have approved murder; see pp. 85, 248.
Both Catholics and Protestants in Bayle’s time held that the Bible contains no errors whatever, having been written at the dictation or “inspiration” of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is a collection of originally separately circulating “books” (Genesis, Matthew, Apocalypse, etc.). The set of books currently included between the covers of one book, the Bible, is called “the canon.” Catholics and Protestants disagreed (to a minor extent) over the list of canonical books, and they also disagreed over how the canon was to be arrived at. Catholics argued that no one would know which writings made up the Bible, or would know that these writings were absolutely free from error, except from the teaching of the Church. Calvinists claimed that qualities of the writings that made up the Bible were clear to anyone aided by grace, which would also guide the predestined to a correct interpretation. See pp. 458 and 464.
Bayle was an admirer of the philosophy of Nicolas Malebranche; he makes constant use of Malebranche’s key moral concept, “order” (see for example pp. 100, 129, and 259). “Order” is equivalent to the medieval idea of the “eternal law,” binding on God himself; see p. 130. Malebranche was in turn an admirer of Descartes, as were also the Jansenists Arnauld and Nicole. These “Cartesians” (and others) were exponents of the “new philosophy,” so called in contrast with medieval Aristotelianism. According to the new philosophy material things have only the qualities recognized by mathematics; other apparent qualities such as color, taste, etc. (“secondary” qualities) exist only in the perception of a human being on whom the mathematical qualities impinge. Descartes attempted to reconcile our tendency to suppose that secondary qualities exist in material things with his principle that God would not deceive us by postulating (a) that assent is voluntary, and (b) that there is a duty to withhold assent from anything that is not absolutely clear (see Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, “Meditation VI”). God gives us sensation of secondary qualities, for example taste, not to reveal the real natures of things but to guide us in preserving our bodies. Thus it is our fault of precipitate judgment, and not God’s deception, if we think that secondary qualities are real, since their reality was never absolutely clear, and we ought to have withheld assent. Nicole argued that this duty implies that Protestants’ beliefs are illegitimate (rash, temerarious), since they cannot be based on evidence that meets Descartes’s standard.
Bayle refers to these tenets of the new philosophy in various places. He comments that Descartes’s postulated duty to withhold assent in the absence of indubitable evidence is useful in natural science, but not in religion (see p. 494). He models his account of conscience on Descartes’s account of the function of the senses, such as taste: conscience does not necessarily reveal the true moral qualities of things, but is given to us as a practical guide for the preservation of our souls (see pp. 270–71). He remarks that the new philosophy’s thesis that assent is voluntary should not obliterate the distinction between culpable and nonculpable error, which the Aristotelian philosophy made in terms of a distinction between voluntary and involuntary error: even if all error is in some sense voluntary, some errors are nonculpable (see pp. 486, 487).
Bayle points out on several occasions the great difficulty of reaching reasonable conclusions on many important questions (see, for example, Supplement, chapter XXIV, p. 531). In his Historical and Critical Dictionary the arguments for skepticism became a major theme; see for example the article “Pyrrho.” (Pyrrhonism is the assertion—if a Pyrrhonist can assert anything—that nothing can be asserted even as merely probable, at least on speculative questions.) Bayle points out that skepticism and Christian faith are inconsistent, since a Christian must assent to doctrines on some of these difficult questions (see HCD, art. “Pyrrho,” rem. B, and art. “Nicolle,” rem. C; see also RQP 770 b51–771 a48, EMT 42 a40–61). Arguments for skepticism are therefore objections to Christianity, but Bayle, though he presents the skeptical arguments, rejects Pyrrhonism (e.g. p. 75) and affirms the doctrines of Calvinist Christianity. He objects to Nicole’s arguments on temerity that they lead to Pyrrhonism and destroy Christianity (see pp. 390–91).
For more on these topics see the relevant articles in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), The New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967–79), and The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: The Universal Knowledge Foundation, 1913–14; on-line at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/).
Alterations to the 1708 Translation
The following are the places where the translation has been altered (references are to the 1708 edition): p. 2, line 10; p. 2, line 25; p. 4, line 18; p. 8, lines 8–9; p. 9, line 32; p. 12, line 12; p. 14, line 17; p. 14, line 34; p. 16, lines 3–6; p. 16, line 33; p. 17, lines 2–6; p. 18, lines 25, 27; p. 19, line 26; p. 21, lines 9–10; p. 23, line 29; p. 24, lines 18–19; p. 25, line 25; p. 25, line 15; p. 26, lines 15, 20; p. 32, line 31; p. 34, lines 13, 14; p. 35, lines 9, 19; p. 37, line 12; p. 40, line 28; p. 46, line 32; p. 52, line 7; p. 54, lines 1, 6, 18; p. 55, lines 18–19, 23, 33; p. 56, line 23; p. 57, line 34; p. 59, lines 16, 27; p. 60, line 6; p. 61, lines 1, 13; p. 62, lines 2–3; p. 63, line 21; p. 64, line 1; p. 65, lines 15, 20; p. 68, lines 1–2, 29–30; p. 69, line 19; p. 71, line 20; p. 77, lines 10–11; p. 78, line 35; p. 81, lines 19, 25, 30, 32; p. 82, line 7; p. 83, line 3; p. 85, lines 5, 18, 19, 24–25; p. 86, lines 4, 7; p. 87, lines 6, 17; p. 88, line 26; p. 89, lines 5, 22–23; p. 90, lines 4, 20, 21; p. 91, lines 9, 20; p. 92, line 18; p. 93, line 13; p. 94, line 3; p. 96, line 5; p. 97, line 34; p. 100, lines 2, 34; p. 101, lines 1, 12, 13; p. 102, line 12; p. 103, line 11; p. 104, line 24; p. 106, line 7; p. 107, line 33; p. 108, line 21; p. 109, lines 7, 13; p. 111, line 14; p. 112, line 20; p. 113, lines 28, 34; p. 114, lines 9, 12; p. 115, lines 7, 12; p. 116, line 8; p. 117, lines 1–3; p. 120, line 11; p. 123, line 13; p. 124, lines 4–6; p. 125, line 1; p. 129, lines 8–9, 18, 20; p. 133, line 1; p. 136, line 14; p. 137, line 31; p. 138, line 15; p. 140, lines 5, 7, 11; p. 146, line 4; p. 149, line 21; p. 153, lines 11, 34; p. 155, lines 8, 21; p. 156, lines 23–24; p. 158, lines 5, 7; p. 160, lines 7, 25; p. 164, lines 11, 26–27; p. 165, lines 23, 26, 31; p. 166, lines 13, 20; p. 172, line 10; p. 174, line 3; p. 176, lines 30–31; p. 179, lines 3–4, 10, 26; p. 180, line 16; p. 181, line 16; p. 184, line 27; p. 186, line 18; p. 187, line 6; p. 190, lines 1–2, 23; p. 191, lines 17–18; p. 194, lines 14, 28–29, 30; p. 196, lines 12–13; p. 197, lines 2, 14, 16; p. 198, line 26; p. 202, line 5; p. 209, lines 20–21; p. 211, line 15; p. 212, lines 17, 21; p. 214, lines 33–34; p. 217, line 35; p. 218, lines 2, 31; p. 219, lines 19–20, 22–23; p. 222, line 11; p. 225, lines 1, 5–6; p. 228, lines 8–9; p. 229, line 10; p. 230, lines 10, 33; p. 231, line 14; p. 234, lines 17, 19; p. 236, lines 13, 24; p. 237, line 7; p. 240, line 18; p. 247, lines 3, 12–13; p. 252, line 12; p. 254, lines 15–16, 27; p. 256, line 21; p. 257, lines 1, 14; p. 258, line 32; p. 260, line 22; p. 264, line 20; p. 265, lines 23–25; p. 266, line 7; p. 267, lines 7–8; p. 268, lines 4, 23, 32; p. 269, line 9; p. 271, line 28; p. 272, lines 2–4; p. 273, lines 7, 10; p. 274, lines 25–26; p. 278, lines 25–26; p. 283, lines 20–21; p. 286, lines 9–11; p. 291, lines 15, 18, 22; p. 292, lines 11, 13, 30; p. 293, lines 24–25; p. 295, lines 22–23; p. 296, line 33; p. 297, lines 11, 16, 20; p. 300, line 22; p. 301, line 7; p. 304, lines 2–3, 4; p. 305, lines 3, 35; p. 306, line 11; p. 309, lines 14–15, 22; p. 310, lines 17–18, 28; p. 313, line 13; p. 314, line 33; p. 319, lines 6–7, 22–26; p. 320, lines 4, 10, 25; p. 321, line 4; p. 324, line 24; p. 325, line 9; p. 326, line 17; p. 329, lines 29–30; p. 330, lines 6, 19; p. 335, line 32; p. 336, lines 7–9; p. 338, lines 15–16; p. 339, line 16; p. 340, line 6; p. 341, lines 34–35; p. 345, lines 17–18; p. 347, line 17; p. 348, line 5; p. 349, line 25; p. 350, lines 20, 25–26; p. 351, lines 6–7, 28, 30; p. 352, lines 24–27; p. 353, line 7; p. 357, line 3; p. 358, lines 6, 21, 23; p. 359, lines 8, 18; p. 360, lines 19, 27; p. 370, lines 22, 25; p. 379, line 27; p. 383, lines 22–23; p. 384, lines 5–6; p. 386, line 32; p. 387, lines 28–29, 31; p. 388, lines 8, 23; p. 392, lines 24–25; p. 393, lines 7–8; p. 395, lines 18–21; p. 396, line 8; p. 403, line 15; p. 411, line 25; p. 412, line 4; p. 414, lines 20–21; p. 417, line 31; p. 424, line 23; p. 425, line 29; p. 430, line 27; p. 435, lines 3–4; p. 436, lines 7, 11; p. 438, line 30; p. 442, line 11; p. 442, lines 1–2; p. 445, line 4; p. 452, line 21; p. 454, line 31; p. 455, lines 5, 18; p. 456, line 21; p. 457, lines 22–25; p. 465, lines 28–29; p. 466, line 11; p. 474, lines 23–26; p. 480, lines 9–10; p. 483, lines 9, 22–25; p. 484, lines 26–27, 28; p. 485, lines 11, 18, 27; p. 488, lines 3–5, 25; p. 490, lines 1–2; p. 492, line 2; p. 496, lines 2, 15; p. 504, lines 9–10; p. 507, lines 4, 16; p. 514, line 17; p. 518, line 5; p. 519, line 1; p. 520, lines 29, 34; p. 521, lines 6, 9; p. 524, lines 14, 21; p. 527, line 23; p. 528, lines 4–6; p. 530, line 28; p. 531, line 23; p. 533, lines 11–12; p. 534, line 25; p. 535, line 23; p. 538, line 33; p. 540, lines 15–16; p. 541, lines 2, 10, 27; p. 542, lines 25–26; p. 544, lines 9, 25–26; p. 546, line 9; p. 553, lines 20, 21; p. 556, line 14; p. 572, line 1; p. 573, line 18; p. 586, line 22; p. 589, line 19; p. 591, line 30; p. 593, line 15; p. 594, line 30; p. 595, lines 27, 33; p. 597, lines 33–34; p. 601, line 4; p. 603, line 19; p. 612, line 8; p. 621, lines 7, 23; p. 622, line 2; p. 623, line 7; p. 624, line 25; p. 625, line 12; p. 627, line 1; p. 633, line 32; p. 635, line 29; p. 636, lines 2–3, 8; p. 637, lines 6, 17; p. 638, lines 7, 25; p. 643, line 31; p. 647, line 19; p. 648, line 19; p. 650, line 28; p. 655, lines 18, 25; p. 658, lines 2, 18, 21; p. 659, lines 8–10, 13; p. 660, lines 8–9; p. 661, lines 19, 26; p. 663, lines 27, 29; p. 664, lines 7, 26; p. 665, line 24; p. 667, lines 8, 9; p. 668, line 21; p. 669, line 13; p. 670, line 13; p. 671, lines 24, 29, 33; p. 674, lines 24, 25, 31; p. 675, lines 26–28, 33; p. 676, line 2; p. 677, line 12; p. 678, line 15; p. 680, line 34; p. 681, lines 20, 24; p. 683, line 26; p. 685, lines 16, 34; p. 687, line 17; p. 688, line 9; p. 689, line 34; p. 694, lines 16–17, 25; p. 695, line 7; p. 696, lines 28–29, 30–31; p. 698, lines 22, 27; p. 700, line 23; p. 702, lines 12, 18; p. 703, lines 4, 21–22; p. 705, line 24; p. 706, line 5; p. 707, lines 2, 25; p. 708, lines 8, 9, 12; p. 711, lines 4, 31; p. 717, lines 31–34; p. 721, line 20; p. 723, line 20; p. 725, lines 12, 33; p. 726, lines 10, 31–32; p. 728, line 23; p. 729, line 14; p. 731, line 25; p. 737, line 27; p. 738, lines 26–27; p. 740, line 1; p. 741, line 19; p. 742, line 17; p. 743, line 3; p. 744, lines 5–13; p. 748, line 19; p. 750, line 27; p. 751, lines 25–26; p. 755, line 2; p. 756, lines 3, 4, 5, 8; p. 758, line 9; p. 759, line 31; p. 760, lines 1, 2; p. 761, line 9; p. 762, line 32; p. 764, line 10; p. 766, lines 7, 29; p. 767, lines 19, 21; p. 771, line 18; p. 774, line 22. In addition we have corrected misprints and in some places supplied omitted headings and heading numbers.
This book is set in Adobe Garamond, a modern adaptation by Robert Slimbach of the typeface originally cut around 1540 by the French typographer and printer Claude Garamond. The Garamond face, with its small lowercase height and restrained contrast between thick and thin strokes, is a classic “old-style” face and has long been one of the most influential and widely used typefaces.
Printed on paper that is acid-free and meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, z39.48-1992. (archival)
Book design by Louise O Farrell
Typography by Apex Publishing, LLC
Printed and bound by Worzalla Publishing Company
[1. ]Arnauld, Antoine, and Pierre Nicole, Logic or the Art of Thinking (first edition 1662). Translated into English by Jill Buroker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
[2. ]If one or more of the premises is not asserted but merely “supposed” (“for the sake of argument”), the argument is hypothetical, useful for showing what would follow from what, but not proving anything.
[3. ]If the arguer does not believe one or more of the premises but supposes that the other party does, the argument is “ad hominem”—not a proof, but an argument suitable for shaking the other party’s current belief, or, as Bayle says, a “Representation importing that they did not act consistently with their own Principles” (p. 417; see also pp. 124, 331).
[4. ]However, this term (as also “maxims”) was often used contemptuously, since what some people think is obvious to everyone may be just prejudice; see p. 147.
[5. ]The reputation of the Jesuit casuists was attacked especially by Blaise Pascal’s Letters of a Provincial, for which material was provided by the Jansenist Antoine Arnauld; it was later translated into Latin by Arnauld’s colleague Nicole.
[6. ]Among medieval theologians William of Ockham probably came closest to arguing for freedom of thought and speech among Catholics. (See A.= S. McGrade, J. Kilcullen, M. Kempshall, The Cambridge Translations of Medieval Philosophical Texts: vol. 2, Ethics and Political Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 484–95.) However, in Ockham’s view there may come a point when it is reasonable to judge that another person is pertinacious, namely when the correct doctrine has been explained to him and proved with sufficient evidence, so that if he still does not accept it, it is because he is not willing to be corrected by the rule of faith. Bayle holds that this point never comes, since it is impossible to know whether something has been shown sufficiently to someone, and he goes further than freedom of thought and speech among the orthodox, arguing for toleration universally.
[7. ]The first four ecumenical councils were Nicaea ( 325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451).
[8. ]See Obermann, Heiko, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967).
[9. ]Many, if not most, scholastic theologians rejected the theory, which had been put forward by Ockham.
[10. ]Q. Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).
[11. ]G. Dodge, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (New York: Columbia, 1947).
[12. ]Jean Daillé, Traité de l’employ des saints Pères pour le jugement des différends qui sont aujourd’hui en la religion [Treatise on the use of the holy Fathers for judging differences that exist today in religion], 1632 (English translation, London, 1675).
[13. ]See for example Étienne Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New York: Scribner, 1952).