HAL will be down for maintenance from Friday, June 10 at 4pm through Monday, June 13 at 9am. More information
Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation

Pierre Bayle et le Dictionnaire historique et critique : scepticisme moderne et historiographie polémique

Abstract : The objective of the research project, that has been lead in a binational PhD-Track between the University of Augsburg (Germany) and the Université de Lorraine in Nancy (France), is to show how Pierre Bayle, the “philosophe de Rotterdam”, profits from the particular characteristics of his Dictionnaire historique et critique. The literacy of the dictionary enables his author to realize his idea of a reliable, valid and at the same time polemic historiography albeit he is keeping his sceptic attitude.First of all, it is necessary to define the dictionary itself in the seventeenth century, the age of French classicism, and to give a panorama of the popular lexicographic works of that time. This preliminary step is of use for the contextualization of the Dictionnaire historique et critique in the intellectual climate which has had an important influence on its author, Pierre Bayle. Afterwards, a systematic description of the characteristics of the masterpiece is given so that we can generate a better understanding for the advantages the author is gaining from those characteristics.The results of this analysis will be applied in two steps in order to show the impact that the exterior form exerts on the inner structure and the content. On the one hand, the division of the text into articles offers Bayle the opportunity to pass his sceptic ideas which are inspired by the pyrrhonian scepticism of the ancient Greece. By collecting numerous aspects concerning one single subject in the large remarks, Bayle benefits from the occasion that he is able to view it from different perspectives. At the same time, he does not have to give a fix conclusion as he would have to do at the end of a philosophical treaty, for example. This open end forces the reader to make his own reflections. Bayle shows by leaving some aspects open-ended without final answer that there are subjects on which one must suspend his judgment because different solutions are possible. This observation leads to his call for tolerance. On the other hand, the very same structure of the Dictionnaire historique et critique allows Bayle to do his work as a critic even polemic historiographer of his own lifetime. With his method, he aims at realizing a reliable and impartial historiography which is based on the critic examination of primary sources. His choice of quotations, his way of combining them and his rhetoric shrewdness might produce at first sight the impression of a neutral historiography. But by analysing in detail Bayle’s text, you discover that he passes a particular, quite often protestant image of certain historical events and personalities. Of course, Bayle collects numerous aspects concerning a subject in this context and compares the different sources, detects errors and distortion and derives at the end a final, necessarily logic, version of a historical event. Nevertheless, there are also signs which indicate that he is not as impartial as one would expect and he is also pushed by his personal motivations so that his historiographical ambitions turn polemic.All these things considered, the result is that the exterior form of the Dictionnaire historique et critique as a literary work has an important influence on the inner structure and make it even possible, in the case of Bayle, to pursue two perfectly opposite objectives. On the one hand, modern scepticism makes clear that it is necessary to abstain from judgment and from apodictic conclusions in several cases; on the other hand, Bayle is looking for the consensus in historical sources and endeavours to work on reliable historiography which has nevertheless numerous sparks of polemic partiality
Document type :
Complete list of metadata

Contributor : Thèses Ul Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Monday, June 22, 2020 - 4:11:26 PM
Last modification on : Monday, June 22, 2020 - 4:13:07 PM


Files produced by the author(s)


  • HAL Id : tel-02064142, version 1



Eva Rothenberger. Pierre Bayle et le Dictionnaire historique et critique : scepticisme moderne et historiographie polémique. Littératures. Université de Lorraine; Universität Augsburg, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018LORR0106⟩. ⟨tel-02064142⟩



Record views


Files downloads