پیِر بِیل (به فرانسوی: Pierre Bayle) فیلسوف و نویسنده پروتستان قرن هفدهم میلادی اهل فرانسه است. مهمترین اثر او «دیکشنری تاریخی و انتقادی» (به فرانسوی: Dictionnaire Historique et Critique) است که به یکی از محبوبترین آثار قرن هیجدهم تبدیل شد. محتوای این کتاب پرحجم تاریخ، نقد ادبی، الهیات، و مسائل متعدد دیگری از جمله مباحثی فلسفی در زمینههایی همچون مدارا، مسئلهٔ شر، و مسائل معرفت شناختی را شامل میشود.
ولتر بیل را «بزرگترین استاد فن استدلال که تا کنون دست به قلم بردهاست» میخواند. به غیر از ولتر، متفکران زیادی در عصر روشنگری از جمله دنی دیدرو، لایبنیتز، بارکلی و هیوم وامدار بل و آثار او بودهاند.
Pierre Bayle (French: [bɛl]; 18 November 1647 – 28 December 1706) was a French philosopher and writer best known for his seminal work the Historical and Critical Dictionary, publication beginning in 1697.
Bayle was born at Carla-le-Comte (later renamed Carla-Bayle in his honour), near Pamiers, Ariège, France. He was educated by his father, a Calvinist minister, and at an academy at Puylaurens. He afterwards entered a Jesuit college at Toulouse, and became a Roman Catholic a month later (1669). After seventeen months, he returned to Calvinism and fled to Geneva.
There he became acquainted with the teachings of René Descartes. He returned to France and went to Paris, where for some years he worked under the name of Bèle as a tutor for various families. In 1675 he was appointed to the chair of philosophy at the Protestant Academy of Sedan. In 1681 the university at Sedan was suppressed by the government in action against Protestants.
Just before that event, Bayle had fled to the Dutch Republic, where he almost immediately was appointed professor of philosophy and history at the École Illustre in Rotterdam. He taught for many years, but became embroiled in a long internal quarrel in the college which resulted in Bayle being deprived of his chair in 1693.
Bayle remained in Rotterdam until his death on 28 December 1706. He was buried in Rotterdam in the "Walloon church", where Pierre Jurieu would also be buried, seven years later. After the demolition of this church in 1922, the graves were relocated to the Crooswijk General Cemetery in Rotterdam. A memorial stone shows that Pierre Bayle is in these graves.
At Rotterdam, Bayle published his famous Reflections on Comets in 1682, as well as his critique of Louis Maimbourg's work on the history of Calvinism. The reputation achieved by this critique stirred the envy of Pierre Jurieu, Bayle's Calvinist colleague of both Sedan and Rotterdam, who had written a book on the same subject.
Between 1684 and 1687, Bayle published his Nouvelles de la république des lettres, a journal of literary criticism. In 1686, Bayle published the first two volumes of Philosophical Commentary, an early plea for toleration in religious matters. This was followed by volumes three and four in 1687 and 1688.
In 1690 there appeared a work entitled Avis important aux refugies, which Jurieu attributed to Bayle, whom he attacked with great animosity. After losing his chair, Bayle engaged in the preparation of his massive Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (Historical and Critical Dictionary), which effectively constituted one of the first encyclopaedias (before the term had come into wide circulation) of ideas and their originators. In the Dictionary, Bayle expressed his view that much that was considered to be "truth" was actually just opinion, and that gullibility and stubbornness were prevalent. The Dictionary would remain an important scholarly work for several generations after its publication.
The remaining years of Bayle's life were devoted to miscellaneous writings; in many cases, he was responding to criticisms made of his Dictionary.
The Nouvelles de la république des lettres was the first thorough-going attempt to popularise literature, and it was eminently successful. His multi-volume Historical and Critical Dictionary constitutes Bayle's masterpiece. The English translation of The Dictionary, by Bayle's fellow Huguenot exile Pierre des Maizeaux, was identified by American President Thomas Jefferson to be among the one hundred foundational texts to form the first collection of the Library of Congress.
Views on toleration
Bayle advanced arguments for religious toleration in his Dictionnaire historique and critique and Commentaire Philosophique,. Bayle rejected the use of scripture to justify coercion and violence: "One must transcribe almost the whole New Testament to collect all the Proofs it affords us of that Gentleness and Long-suffering, which constitute the distinguishing and essential Character of the Gospel." He did not regard toleration as a danger to the state; on the contrary:
Bayle also rejected the use of coercion and violence in the universities,
Richard Popkin has advanced the view that Pierre Bayle was a skeptic who used the Historical and Critical Dictionary to criticise all prior known theories and philosophies. In Bayle's view, humans were inherently incapable of achieving true knowledge. Because of the limitations of human reason, men should adhere instead to their conscience alone. Bayle was critical of many influential rationalists, such as René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, Nicolas Malebranche and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.
Legacy and honors