Various Thoughts on the Occasion of a Comet

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SUNY Press, 18. maí 2000 - 332 síður
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The appearance of this comet caused so many panicked inquiries to be made of Pierre Bayle, one of the Enlightenment's greatest thinkers, that he decided to formally respond to them, hence the present work, which first appeared in 1682. The book's principle task was to undermine the influence of "superstition" in political life, and it was here that Bayle made the notorious suggestion, unique in the history of political thought until then, that a decent society of atheists is possible in principle. There is no other English translation of this book in print -- the only other version was printed in 1708. This translation is based on a recently revised critical edition of the complete French text and includes a substantial interpretive essay that both elucidates the arguments of the work and indicates the importance of Bayle in the history of the modern Enlightenment.
 

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Introduction
xxiii
VARIOUS THOUGHTS ON THE OCCASION OF A COMET
1
NOTE TO THE READER 1682
3
PUBLISHER s NOTE TO THE READER 1683
11
NOTICE TO THE READER 1699
13
Occasion of the Work
17
That the Presages of Comets Are Not Supported by Any Sound Reason
18
Second Reason That if Comets Had the Capacity to Produce Something on Earth This Could Be as Much Good Fortune as Bad
29
Second Proof Drawn from the Disorders of the Crusades
173
Third Proof Drawn from the Conduct of Several Women
175
What Principles Can Be Inferred from What Has Just Been Said
178
That This Principle Is Not Corrected Any Better in Idolaters than in Atheists
179
That Sound Theology Shows That the Corruption of Nature Is Not Corrected in Idolaters Better than in Atheists
181
Fourth Proof Drawn from Demons and Sorcerers Who Make Clear That Those People Who Are Most Lost Remain Convinced of the Existence of God
182
Sixth Proof Drawn from the Devotion Several Scoundrels Are Said to Have Had for the Blessed Virgin
184
Reflection on a Work of Father Rapin
185

Third Reason That Astrology Which Is the Foundation of the Particular Predictions Relating to Comets Is the Most Ridiculous Thing in the World
30
On the Belief in Astrology among the Infidels of Today
35
On the Belief in Astrology among Christians
37
On The Belief in Astrology in France
38
Fourth Reason That Even if It were True That Comets have Always Been Followed by Several Misfortunes There Would be No Reason to Say That T...
40
How It Happens That Battles Are Won on Certain Affected Days
44
To What Extent This Fifth Reason Is Decisive against the Presages of Comets
48
Necessary Observations for Those Who Wish to Have This Fact Clarified
50
Comparison of the Years Following the Comet of 1665 with the Years Preceding the Comet of 1652
51
War of the Spanish and the Portuguese
52
War of the English and the Dutch
53
War of the French and the Spanish
54
Thar Spain Would Do Well to Abandon the Low Countries
55
Good Fortune of the Year 1668
56
Pacification of the Dispute between the Jesuits and the Jansenists
57
Consideration of the Misfortunes That Have Happened during the Seven Years Under Examination
59
Misfortunes That Took Place in Europe from the Year 1645 to 1652
60
Sixth Reason That the General Conviction of Peoples Is of No Weight in Proving the Bad Influences of Comets
63
Examples of Some General Opinions That Are False
64
That One Should Not Judge in Philosophy by Means of the Plurality of Voices
66
How Ridiculous It Is to Seek Out the Causes of What Is Not
67
In What Sense a Natural Effect Is a Sign of Something
72
Application to Comets of What Has Been Said Concerning Eclipses
73
SEVENTH REASON DRAWN FROM THEOLOGY That if Comets Were a Presage of Misfortune God Would Have Performed Miracles in Order to ...
75
That Comets Cannot Presage Evil Except in Their Capacity as Signs
76
Demons Supported Superstitions by Producing Prodigies
78
That the Pagans Did Nothing That Could Have Appeased the Anger of God When They Saw Prodigies
79
Demons Caused Many Effects of Nature To Be Taken as Prodigies
80
Whether I Take Advantage of the Testimony of Poets
81
How Men Might by Themselves Take Certain Things as Prodigies
82
What One Calls Prodigies Are Often as Natural as the Most Common Things
83
The Demons Artifices Intended to Foment the Superstition of Pagans
85
That the Pagans Attributed Their Misfortunes to the Neglect of Some Ceremony and Not to Their Vices
86
Application of the Preceding Remarks to the Reason Drawn from Theology
88
On the Horror God Has for Idolatry
89
That the Reason Why Comets Could Not be Presages Before the Coming of Jesus Christ Still Persists
90
On the Abominable Idolatry of Todays Pagans
91
In What Sense One Can Say That God Threatens Those Whom He Does Not Wish to Strike
93
That It Is False That People Who Enjoyed Good Fortune After the Appearance of Comets Merited This Distinction through Their Penitence
94
That the Prayers of a Small Number of Good Souls in the True Religion Have No Efficacy amidst the False Religions
95
A Necessary Digression
97
That Statesmen Have Fomented the Superstition of Presages
99
How Many Things the Same Comet Has Been Made to Serve
103
Why Christians Have the Same Prejudice as Pagans on the Subject of Comets
105
Introduction of Several Pagan Ceremonies into Christianity
107
That the False Conversions of the Pagans Brought Many Errors into Christianity
108
Proofs of the Fact of the Transplantion of the Errors of Paganism into Christianity
113
Why the Holy Fathers Did Not Condemn Those Who Believed in the Presages of Comets
115
In What Way Grace Corrects Nature
117
To What Extent Historians Those of Charles V For Example Throw Themselves into the Marvelous
119
Consequence of the Spanish Exaggerations in Praise of Charles V
122
Note to the French Historians
123
Refutation of the Historians of France Who Contended That There Were Presages of the Death of King Henri IV
126
New Proofs of the Inclination Christians Have to Believe in Prodigies and Presages
127
New Remark to Show That the Antiquity and Generality of an Opinion Is Not a Mark of Its Truth
130
Convincing Proof of the Error Relating to Presages
131
On the Prodigious Inclination of the Ancient Pagans to Multiply the Number of Gods
137
The Effects of Nature Could Prevent Irreligion
139
The Interest of the Priests Could Prevent It as Well
140
To What Extent the People Liked to Believe That Prodigies Were Not Natural
141
On the Care Taken to Punish Those Who Scorned Religion
142
That Demons Prefer Idolatry to Atheism
143
Fourth Response That Atheism Is Not a Greater Evil than Idolatry
144
Second Proof Idolatry Is the Greatest of All Crimes According to the Fathers
145
Third Proof Idolaters Have Been True Atheists in a Certain Sense
146
Fourth Proof The Knowledge of God Serves Only to Make The Crimes of an Idolater More Atrocious
147
Fifth Proof Idolatry Makes Men More Difficult to Convert than Does Atheism
148
Comparisons That Prove This
149
That It Is Difficult for Those Who Have Loved Something for a Long Time to Bring Themselves to Love the Opposite
150
Sixth Proof Neither the Mind nor the Heart Is in a Better Condition in Idolaters than in Atheists
151
Consideration of the Judgment the Pagans Made of God
152
That the Pagan Religion Should Not Be Judged by What the Poets Have Said of It
154
What the Public Worship Was among the Pagans and What Their Respect for the Tradition Is
155
The Disposition of the Heart of Atheists as Compared to That of Idolaters
159
That the Very Vicious among the Pagans Were Not Atheists
160
What the Effect Is of the Knowledge of a God among Idolatrous Nations
161
That Idolaters Have Surpassed Atheists in the Crime of Divine LeseMajesty
163
Seventh Proof Atheism Does Not Necessarily Lead to the Corruption of Morals
165
That Experience Combats the Reasoning Made to Prove That the Knowledge of a God Corrects the Vicious Inclinations of Men
167
That Man Does Not Act According to His Principles
168
Why Certain Ceremonies Are Regularly Observed
169
An Example Proving That Opinions Are Not the Rule of Actions
171
That One Cannot Say That Those Who Do Not Live According to the Maxims of Their Religion Do Not Believe There To Be a God First Proof of T...
172
Whether It Is True That There Are Many Atheists at the Court of Princes
187
That the Court Is No Guarantee against Either Superstition or Popular Errors
190
On Alexanders Superstition
191
Disorders and Zeal of the Court of France in the Most Recent Age
193
Zeal of the Nobles of France against the Protestants
195
Confirmation of the Same Thing103
197
That Those Who Attribute the Corruption of Morals to the Weakening of the Faith Extenuate the Crime Instead of Making It More Atrocious
198
Conjectures on the Morals of a Society without Religion
200
That Men Are More Sensitive to Honor than Women
201
How Much Harm the Shamelessness That Reigns among Christians Does to the Christian Religion
203
An Indication by Which One Can Know Whether One Does Something for the Love of God
204
What the True Reason Is Why One Sin Is More Common than Another
205
Reflection on the Habit of Lying and Slandering
206
Whether Men Are Right To Believe That Shamelessness Is a Lesser Crime than Murder
207
Reflection on the Malice Often Found in Slander
208
Why Vengeance and Greed Are Such Common Passions
209
Whether a Society of Atheists Would Make Laws for Itself Concerning Decency and Honor
212
That the Opinion of the Mortality of the Soul Does Not Prevent One from Hoping for the Immortality of Ones Name
213
Examples Showing That Atheists Are Not Distinguished by Impurity of Morals
214
That Voluptuaries Hardly Trouble Themselves to Dogmatize against Religion
217
That Man Does Not Regulate His Life On the Basis of His Opinions
219
The Reason Why Atheists Are Represented as Extraordinarily Vicious
220
Whether One Can Have an Idea of Decency without Believing That There Is A God
221
That an Atheist Can Be Avid of Glory and Praise
223
That the Example of Lucretia and Those Like Her Manifestly Proves That Religion Was Not the Cause of the Ideas of Decency Present among the Pa...
224
New Remark to Show That Men Do Not Live According to Their Principles
225
Atheisms Having Had Its Martyrs Is an Indubitable Indication That It Does Not Exclude The Ideas of Glory and Decency Reflection on the Conduct ...
227
Examination of the Objection Based on the Difficulty There Is in Converting an Atheist
229
On the Aversion of the Jews in Regard to Idolatry
232
Whether There Is Some Other Cause of Incredulity than the Inclination toward Evil
233
To What Extent the Pagan Religion Was Apt to Create Atheists
234
Although Man Is Very Corrupt He Does Not Want Religion to Command Crime
236
What the Reason Is for This
237
Whether the Atheists Outward Profession of Religion Does Them Any Good
238
Reflection on a Treatise of Plutarch Concerning Superstition
239
Fifth Response That There Is No Example Proving That God Formed Prodigies in a Miraculous Manner for the Supposed Conversion of Anyone To ...
241
Uselessness of the Conversion of an Epicurean to Idolatry
242
Reflections on What Happened in the Matter of the SixtyFive Propositions Condemned by the Pope
245
Reflection on the Various Ways in Which One Acts against Vice and Error
246
That Some Errors Are Not Criminal
248
What Makes One Error Worse than Another
249
Second Objection Comets Are Produced without a Miracle God Can Create Miracles among Infidels God Wished to Make Himself Known to Men by...
250
List of Several Hypotheses That Can Be Followed in Reasoning about Comets
251
In What Sense Secondary Causes Are or Are Not Subordinate One to Another
252
Clarification of This Doctrine
254
Another Clarification by Means of the System of Occasional Causes
255
Application of What Has Been Said Concerning the First Hypothesis to Three Others
256
Confirmation of These Remarks by the Contingency of Mans Actions
258
That Changes in the Greatest Events Depend on the Slightest Things
259
A Way of Imagining That Comets Are a Presage without Their Being Miracles
260
Second Response That if Comets Were Miracles They Would Be of a Kind God Has Never Performed in a Land of Infidels
262
Third Response That It Is False That God Had It in Mind to Make Himself Known to the Gentiles as the True God by Having Them See Comets
263
The Sight of a Comet Does Not Make Us More Suited to Know the Nature of God
264
There Were Pagan Nations That Did Not Admit Foreign Religions
265
Brief Presentation of What Can Be Inferred from the Preceding Remarks
266
Whether It is Permissible to Deny That God Does a Thing When One Cannot See That It Is of Any Utility
267
Reflection on the Maxim of Praetor Cassius cui bono
268
Fourth Response That It Is False That the Gentiles Were Left without Excuse by Not Converting to the True God upon Seeing Comets
269
Comets Are Not Capable of Leading Men to Knowledge of the True God
270
Third Objection Comets Are a Natural Effect and the Natural Cause of the Misfortunes Suffered after Their Appearance
271
That Nothing Is Worthier of the Greatness of God than the Maintenance of General Laws
272
Reflection on the Injustice of Those Who Complain of the Prosperity of the Wicked
273
On the Difference between Miracles and the Effects of Nature in Relation to Us
274
Whether God Bestowed Goods and Evils on the Pagans in Order to Convert Them
275
New Remarks Drawn from the Chance Vicissitudes of Human Things Proving That Comets Are Not the Cause of Evil to Come
277
Examples of Some Statesmen Who Have Divined Certain Events
282
Refutation of Pasquiers Presage
284
It Was Easy to Foresee a Great War in Europe in the Year 1618
285
The Slowness and Bigotry of the Politics of the House of Austria
286
That Conquerors Have Avoided the Reputation for Being Persecutors
287
What Presages Are Talked About at Present Conditions Favorable to Frances Making Further Conquests
289
Enumeration of the Circumstances Advantageous to France
290
To What Extent the Peace of Nijmegen Was Advantageous to France
295
Reflection on What Has Been Related Concerning Certain Prophecies Held to Be Advantageous to France
302
Whether Europe Has More Reason to Enter into a League Now than It Did Previously
306
Whether Leagues Are to Be Feared
307
Considerable Effects of Some Leagues
308
That One Should Not Be Too Certain Concerning the Present State of Things
311
Abridgment of the Whole Work
312
Biblical Passages Cited
317
Index of Proper Names
327
VARIOUS THOUGHTS ON THE OCCASION OF A COMET
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Robert C. Bartlett is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Emory University. He is the author of The Shorter Socratic Writings of Xenophon: Apology of Socrates to the Jury, Oeconomicus, and Symposium.

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