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by Baron D`holbach
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A leading figure of the French Enlightment, Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789), was an acquaintance of Diderot, Rousseau, and Hume, among others, and a prolific contributor of scientific articles to Diderot's famous ENCYCLOPEDIE. A man not only of considerable wealth and influence, but great generosity, he was known among friends as the "maitre d'hotel of philosophy" because he so often entertained noted philosophers and in intellectuals of the day at his home. When he published his radical reviews on religion, he felt constrained to use pseudonyms. Advocating a philosophy of atheistic materialism, he vigorously argued against all religious interpretations of like calling them superstition and taking special aim at the Christian worldview of his day.
GOOD SENSE, published in 1772 under the pseudonym Jean Meslier, systematically presents the atheistic challenge to religion, critiquing point by point every contention of religion from the nature of God to the existence of the soul, belief in miracles, heaven and hell, the divine right of kings, the role of the priesthood, and many other points of dogma and tradition.
D'Holbach used his wealth to establish a coterie in Paris for which he became famous. This group included noted intellectuals of the day such as Denis Diderot, Claude-Adrien Helvetius, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, Edward Gibbon, David Hume, and Adam Smith, as well as French nobles and ambassadors from European countries.
D'Holbach contributed articles on chemistry and allied scientific topics to Diderot's ENCYCLOPEDIE. A vigorous opponent of Christianity, he escaped public and political ridicule by publishing his critical views using the names of deceased friends or employing pseudonyms. In 1761 he published LE CHRISTIANISME DEVOILE (Christianity Unveiled) using the name of his deceased friend N.A. Boulanger. His most famous book, SYSTEME DE LA NATURE (The System of Nature), published in 1770 under the name of J.B. Mirabaud, derided religion. LE BON-SENS (Good Sense) was published in 1772 under the name of Jean Meslier. D'Holbach's 1773 SYSTEME SOCIAL (Social System) placed morality and politics in a utilitarian framework. THE SYSTEM OF NATURE and GOOD SENSE were condemned by the Paris parliament and publicly burned.
D'Holbach died on June 21, 1789, in Paris.
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