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Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment$
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Michael Hunter and David Wootton

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198227366

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198227366.001.0001

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The Atheism of d'Holbach and Naigeon

The Atheism of d'Holbach and Naigeon

(p.273) 10 The Atheism of d'Holbach and Naigeon
Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment

Alan Charles Kors

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the high tide of atheism in the French Enlightenment. It discusses the materialistic atheism advocated by the Baron d'Holbach and Jacques–André Naigeon. Naigeon and d'Holbach assaulted religion more openly than ever as irrational, dysfunctional, and worthy of deprecation. They suggested a potentially progressive materialism, supremely rational and enlightened, although they were aware of its limitations. They also owed much to the ideas of Descartes, Locke, and Newton, drawing out implications from the doctrines of mechanism, naturalism, and sensationalism. As shown by a survey of the reaction to the ideas of Naigeon and d'Holbach by Voltaire and others who were essentially theistic, the debate exemplifies the divided state of European culture at this time, and the way in which it contained the seeds of parallel theistic and materialistic lines of thought ever since.

Keywords:   French Enlightenment, Naigeon, d'Holbach, progressive materialism, Voltaire, naturalism, materialistic atheism

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