The Creation of a Radical System: Baron d'Holbach's Systeme de la Nature and the Enlightenment in Tension
Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron dâHolbach (1723-1789) was an important figure in the Enlightenment and has been a permanent fixture in Enlightenment scholarship throughout the twentieth century. Yet, while this scholarship has generally recognized dâHolbachâs role in the Enlightenment, he is cited more often for his salon (la Synagogue dâHolbach, la coterie holbachique) than for his thought. This traditional account of dâHolbach is being challenged by more recent scholars who assert the primacy of a âRadical Enlightenmentâ over and above that of a moderate and counter Enlightenment. They regard dâHolbach as the capstone of an intellectual movement that had exhausted its novelty, but they have failed to provide the detailed analysis that would substantiate this claim. I believe that dâHolbachâs magnum opus SystÃ¨me de la Nature combines intellectual traditions in a manner that goes beyond the traditional and current studies of the Enlightenment. An investigation of this work will not only serve to expose the varieties of thought on which dâHolbach based his system, but also show how dâHolbach constructed his system with scientific and philosophical ideas and a specific argumentative strategy. This analysis will show that totalizing syntheses of the Enlightenment have rarely accounted for the tension and diversity of eighteenth-century thought.
Advisor:Anthony J. La Vopa; K. Steven Vincent; William Kimler
School:North Carolina State University
School Location:USA - North Carolina
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:04/22/2008