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(born Nov. 18, 1647, Carla-le-Comte, Francedied Dec. 28, 1706, Rotterdam, Neth.) French philosopher. Educated at a Jesuit school, he converted to Roman Catholicism but later reverted to his original Calvinist faith. His religious views led to his losing professorships first at Sedan and later at Rotterdam. He was convinced that philosophical reasoning led to universal skepticism, but that nature compelled mankind to adopt beliefs on the basis of blind faith. The bulk of his Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697) consists of quotations, anecdotes, commentaries, and erudite annotations that cleverly undo whatever orthodox Christian beliefs the articles express; and it was condemned by religious authorities. Bayle's oblique method of subversive criticism was later adopted by the contributors to the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot.
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