Pierre Bayle Biography

Pierre Bayle (18 November 1647 – 28 December 1706) was a French philosopher and writer best known for his seminal work the Historical and Critical Dictionary, published beginning in 1695.

Bayle was a self-pronounced Protestant, and as a fideist he advocated a separation between the spheres of faith and reason, on the grounds of God being incomprehensible to man. As a forerunner of the Encyclopedists and an advocate of the principle of the toleration of divergent beliefs, his works subsequently influenced the development of the Enlightenment.

Bayle was born at Carla-le-Comte (later renamed Carla-Bayle in his honour), near Pamiers, Provence, France, and was educated by his father, a Calvinist minister, and at an academy at Puylaurens. He afterwards entered a Jesuit college at Toulouse, and became a Roman Catholic a month later (1669). After seventeen months, he returned to Calvinism and fled to Geneva. There he became acquainted with the teachings of René Descartes. For some years he worked under the name of Bèle as a tutor for various Parisian families, but in 1675 he was appointed to the chair of philosophy at the Protestant Academy of Sedan.

In 1681 the university at Sedan was suppressed. Just before that event, Bayle had fled to the Dutch Republic, where he almost immediately was appointed professor of philosophy and history at the École Illustre in Rotterdam. After a long internal quarrel, Bayle was deprived of his chair in 1693.

Bayle remained in Rotterdam until his death on 28 December 1706 and was buried there in the Waalse Kerk where Jurieu would be buried as well, seven years later. In 1706 a statue in his honour was erected at Pamiers, la reparation d'un long oubli ("the reparation of a long neglect"). In 1959 a street was named after him in Rotterdam.