The Parisian Jesuits and the Enlightenment 1700-1762

BookThe Parisian Jesuits and the Enlightenment 1700-1762

The Parisian Jesuits and the Enlightenment 1700-1762

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 288


January 1st, 1991

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One of the most fruitful developments in Enlightenment historiography in recent years has been an increased awareness of the social conditions of intellectual activity. Studies of ‘reading, writing and publishing’ in
eighteenth-century France have emphasised the shared ground between Catholics and non-Catholics by casting the philosophes in a conservative light as would-be infiltrators of existing cultural institutions. Members of the ‘patrician’ Enlightenment like Voltaire, Montesquieu or Diderot shared with Catholic writers common publishing constraints, common personal aspirations and, above all, common notions of the cultivated audience they wished to address. The first chapter seeks to situate the Jesuit hommes de lettres within their social environment, the literary and journalistic milieux of Paris, to consider the assumptions which governed their literary relations and to examine the limits of mutual toleration between the Society of Jesus and anti-Christian writers. This forms the essential background for the more conventional history of ideas which follows. 
The three central chapters, on philosophy, criticism, and the treatment of pagan religions, focus on the actual nature of Enlightenment irreligion. The aim is neither to provide a comprehensive survey of Jesuit thought in these areas nor simply to catalogue the Society’s ‘response’ to the philosophes, but rather to isolate key problems which arose for the Jesuits in their account of Christianity. Judging from the Jesuit experience, should eighteenth-century Catholic thought best be conceived as a fixed orthodoxy or as the result of a complex process of intellectual change and readjustment involving both Christians and unbelievers?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
1. The Jesuits and Parisian literary life10
The Jesuit writers and their activities, 1700 to 173510
The Jesuits in literary and scholarly society, to 173523
The premisses of a Christian literature30
The problem of Jansenist literature35
Relations with irreligious writers, to 173541
Later literary relations, 1735 to 176251
2. Christianity: the philosophical problems62
Faith and reason: the premisses of Jesuit philosophy62
Natural knowledge: the scope of philosophical proofs69
Atheism: the debate over universal consent75
Atheism: the analysis of contemporary philosophies86
Divine Providence96
The soul101
Faith and reason in later Jesuit apologetics105
3. Christianity: the critical problems113
The limits of textual criticism: i. The Bible113
The limits of textual criticism: ii. The Fathers119
The Bible and history126
Miracles and prophecies132
Pagan sources and Christian apologetics141
Criticism and faith: the sceptical solution149
4. Natural and revealed religion163
Non-Christian religions: the theological premisses163
The Jesuits and deism169
The ‘natural history’ of religion173
5. The Jesuits in Enlightenment thought183
‘Molinism’ and secular literature183
Reflections on the Society’s social and political rôle197
The verdict of the Jesuit renegades211