Silvia Berti. Scepticism and the Traité des Trois Imposteurs
Book: Scepticism and Irreligion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
editors_ Richard H. Popkin and Arjo Vanderjagt
Publisher: Brill Leiden New York Koln 1993
Writing about Pierre Bayle, undoubtedly a key figure in the understanding of seventeenth – and eighteenth – century skepticism, Pierre Jurieu noted: “Il y a bien moyen d’être Athée sans être Spinosiste. Pour Spinosiste il ne l’est point: mais il est difficile de dire ce qu’il est” Form my part, I have serious doubts about theoretical possibility of being an atheist without having recourse to Spinoza.
The author of the “Traité des trois imposteurs (or Espirit de Spinosa)” must have thought the same when he decided to base his attack on revealed religion on Spinozan and Hebbesian foundations. We will try to understand how an anthropological notion of the origin of religion, based on a doctrine of imagination and on Spinoza’s biblical criticism, permitted a new more radical use of libertine skepticism, finally released form its destiny of ambivalence. On this theme it appears particularly significant that the first French translation of Shaftesbury’s “Sensus Communis”, which contained a lengthy discussion of the new Pyrrhonism, should have been dedicated by its publisher Scheurleer to the Dutch diplomat Jan Vroesen (1672-1725), who was almost definitely the author of the Traité.