Diderot and the Encyclopaedists (Vol 1 of 2)

Diderot and the Encyclopaedists (Vol 1 of 2)

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Excerpt: ...The priest was the enemy of society, the patron of indolence, the hater of knowledge, the mutineer against the civil laws, the unprofitable devourer of the national substance, the persecutor. Sacerdotalism is the object of the encyclopaedic attack. To undermine this, it was necessary first to establish the principle of toleration, because the priest claims to be recognised as the exclusive possessor of saving doctrine. Second, it was necessary to destroy the principle of miracle, because the priest professes himself in his daily rites the consecrated instrument of thaumaturgy. "Let a man," says Rosenkranz very truly, "turn over hundreds of histories of church, of state, of literature, and in every one of them he will read that the Encyclopaedia spread abroad an irreligious spirit. The accusation has only a relative truth, to the extent that the Encyclopaedia assailed the belief in miracles, and the oppression of conscience supported by a priestly aristocracy." 170 It must be admitted that no consistent and definite language is adhered to from beginning to end. D'Alembert's prophecy that time would disclose to people what the writers really thought, behind what fear of the censorship compelled them to say, is only partially fulfilled. The idea of miracle is sapped not by direct arguments, but by the indirect influences of science, and the exposition of the successes of scientific method. It was here that the Encyclopaedia exerted really destructive power, and it did so in the only way in which power of that kind can be exerted either wisely or effectually. The miracle of a divine revelation, of grace, of the mass, began to wear a different look in men's eyes, as they learned more of the physical processes of the universe. We should describe the work of the Encyclopaedia as being to make its readers lose their interest, rather than their belief, in mysteries. This is the normal process of theological dissolution. It unfolded a vast number of scientifshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 94 pages
  • 189 x 246 x 5mm | 181g
  • Rarebooksclub.com
  • United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1236696654
  • 9781236696656