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Journal Articles Journal of Early Modern Studies Year : 2012

The Dustbin of the Republic of Letters

Koen Vermeir


Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, a landmark in intellectual history, is a curious text. Originally intended as a collection of all errors, it became an encyclopedia of everything, enfolding rampantly growing footnotes that commented on every imaginable topic. Instead of looking at Bayle's theoretical statements in the Dictionnaire, I explore Bayle's writing practice, his critical method and his practice of forming judgments. A close study of the textual, paratextual and contextual characteristics of the first entry of the Dictionnaire (the entry "Abaris") allows me to fi nd out how Bayle made up his mind at every stage during a contemporaneous controversy on divination. In this way, we are able to see Bayle's mind in action while he is judging the contradictory information he receives and the to-and-fro movement of changing opinions he is confronted with. Th is examination yields new insights to Bayle's practical attitudes towards key issues in his oeuvre, including scepticism, rationalism, superstition and tolerance. At the same time, the article clarifi es how Bayle was involved in the Republic of Letters and how he related to his local context in Rotterdam.
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halshs-00750563 , version 1 (10-11-2012)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00750563 , version 1


Koen Vermeir. The Dustbin of the Republic of Letters: Pierre Bayle's "Dictionaire" as an encyclopedic palimpsest of errors. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 2012, 1 (1), pp.109-149. ⟨halshs-00750563⟩
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