The Structure and Form of the French Enlightenment, Volume 2: Esprit Revolutionnaire

The Structure and Form of the French Enlightenment, Volume 2: Esprit Revolutionnaire

Ira O. Wade
Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 468
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  • Book Info
    The Structure and Form of the French Enlightenment, Volume 2: Esprit Revolutionnaire
    Book Description:

    The author describes the influence on the Enlightenment of the intellectual currents that had been active in France, particularly the historical and humanisticesprit critiqueand the scientificesprit moderne. The second volume probes the writings of Morelly, Helvetius, Holbach, Mably, and Condorcet as they reveal the transformation of theesprit philosophiqueinto theesprit revolutionnaire.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7163-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Part III. The Building of Organic Unity

      (pp. 3-6)

      Those of us who began our studies around the end of the First World War will recall that in spite of the constant attacks made upon his historical criticism, Taine’s method of literary analysis with its emphasis upon the little significant facts leading to the larger generalizations remained the accepted method in academic criticism. We of the profession spoke more quietly of “race,” “moment,” and “milieu,” and especially of “faculté maîtresse”; we used more discreetly such terms as “psychologie littéraire” or “caractérologie,” while more imaginative newcomers engaged in “close reading” or “literary analysis.” It is well that our studies have...

      (pp. 7-66)

      In this essay, I would like to investigate Voltaire’s inner reality in these terms in an effort to understand his livingness. I have considered Voltaire’s intellectual development elsewhere. Here, I am more anxious to show that, having assembled an immense amount of material, Voltaire was forced to organize it in the terms I have described for any critic or any artist. Having organized it in his way, he then had to integrate it into the organizations of others—Montesquieu, Rousseau, Diderot, theEncyclopédie—to create an Enlightenment. In investigating that activity, I feel that I have to ask certain questions...

      (pp. 67-118)

      The epigraph from theNeveu de Rameau,taken from Horace’sSatire(II, 7, v. 14),Vertumnis, quotquot sunt, natus iniquis,has with some unanimity been attributed to Diderot himself, but to my knowledge no one has ever suggested that the constant changing which is his curse is what renders impossible a unified Diderot. Yet, implied in Horace’s statement and Diderot’s selection of it as suitable for theNeveuis the subtle suggestion that a unified Diderot is forever impossible and that the famous remark coined by Rimbaud and other poets of a later day: “Moi suis un autre” is the...

      (pp. 119-179)

      The place of Rousseau in eighteenth-century thought has been considerably misunderstood, not only because of arbitrary likes and dislikes, but because of Rousseau’s own intellectual mobility and a personality which we apparently find very difficult to grasp. We all insist, for instance, that it is impossible to seize the true import of Rousseau’s thought without placing it strictly in the context of his personal experience and the incidents of his life, probably because he tied life and thought and works tightly together in hisConfessions.When we attempt to do so, however (and we are curiously prone to want to...

      (pp. 180-248)

      The rapid development in the natural sciences, in history, politics, and in psychology, that is to say, in the human sciences, during the first half of the century made a general inventory of knowledge imperative. This need became all the more urgent since the century believed implicitly in the solidarity of the sciences and the unity of knowledge. Diversity of thought, as well as of method, threatened this essential solidarity. Moreover, certain authors, in process of accumlating information had apparently lost their way, and those who held steadfastly to the paths they had chosen were continually harassed by the authorities....

  5. Part IV. From “Esprit Philosophique” to “Esprit Révolutionnaire”

      (pp. 251-261)

      Practically nothing is known about the author of theCode de la nature(1755) which the Marquis d’Argenson called “le livre des livres” and which Professor Chinard in his edition of 1950 dubbed “le chef-d’œvre d’un inconnu.” (See Morelly,Code de la nature, ou le véritable esprit de ses lots, Abbéville, 1755, ed. Chinard, Paris 1950.) Professor Chinard attributes to the “Misterious Morelly,” as he calls him, seven works:L’Essai sur l’esprit humain,1743;L’Essai sur le cœur humain,1743;La Physique de la beauté,1748;Le Prince,1751;La Basiliade,1753;Le Code de la nature,1755; and, finally,...

      (pp. 262-297)

      It is not easy to describe in detail the formation and development of the French Enlightenment. What causes a certain embarrassment is the problem of coherence and consistency and, to some extent, of continuity. We can see quite clearly the Regency as the revival of a diminished classicism, and even as a reform. It is also possible to understand how, at the same time that there is a revival and a reform, there is a vast expansion in the field of science—a consistent growth in logical order of the physical and biological sciences, on the one hand, and of...

      (pp. 298-324)

      Paul-henry thiry, later to become the baron d’Holbach, and called by Rousseau in theConfessionsa “parvenu,” was born at Edesheim on 8 December 1723. The title came from an uncle who had been successful in his affairs in Paris and had procured a title of nobility. The family was apparently rather solidly middle class. The uncle took the young nephew with him to Paris and accepted responsibility for his education. In 1744, the nephew undertook his university studies at Leyden, where in 1746 he knew John Wilkes. His studies seem to have been in the area of chemistry as...

    • RAYNAL
      (pp. 325-336)

      Raynal’s massive work wasHistoire philosophique et politique des établissements du commerce des Européans dans les deux lndes(Geneva, 1780). In a general way, it is treated disparagingly by eighteenth-century critics, although it is far from being unimportant. Raynal at least had the courage and the intelligence to recognize that the world must be one. He selected foreign commerce as the controlling force in the world, and he hoped that it would eventually bring the world all together and justify its existence.

      First of all, it should be noted that theHistoireis a continuation and, so to speak, the...

    • MABLY
      (pp. 337-351)

      Professor Lecercle seems to me to have presented the most consistent biography of Mably in his critical edition of theDes Droits et des devoirs du citoyen.(See J. L. Lecercle, ed.,Des Droits et des devoirs du citoyen,édition critique avec introduction et notes, Paris, 1972.) He stresses that little is known about Mably’s life. It is a curious coincidence that but little is known also about the biography of Morelly or that of Raynal. In Mably’s case, it is very strange, seeing that others in his family became well known in the world of letters. Mably was born...

      (pp. 352-362)

      Historians of the French Revolution have often stressed the impact which the American Revolution had upon public opinion in France, but we still do not have a clear notion as to the scope and effect of that influence. One of those who served as liaison between the Americans and the French was Raynal. In 1782, he brought out a small essay of around 200 pages upon theRevolution in America,which attempted to bring together his views upon the nature of that Revolution and the manner in which it was developed. Raynal noted from the beginning of his treatise that...

      (pp. 363-387)

      In the relationship between “lois” and “moeurs,” there is implied the notion that if the connection is understood, much can be done to modify the conditions of life, either by improving these conditions or by corrupting them. The assumption is made, of course, that we should want to improve them. In Montesquieu’s opinion, that can only be achieved by comprehending the nature of laws and the nature of man. Laws he defined as the “rapports nécessaires qui dérivent de la nature des choses.” What defines man’s nature are “manières, esprit, mœurs”; what are capable of modifying these things are climate,...

      (pp. 388-416)

      The one result of the movement of Enlightenment which I find incontrovertible is the French Revolution. It was followed by an age of revolutions, which has continued from 1776 to the present day. Startling as this fact is, the most stupendous fact still is that the age was an era of democratic revolutions. The revolutions to which I refer are not those which consist in change or reform. Change and reform may play a role in the movement and there are many cases since 1776, or since 1680 for that matter, where they have taken place for the better. But...

    (pp. 417-436)
    (pp. 437-450)
    (pp. 451-456)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 457-457)