The Anti-Christian Deism of the Militaire Philosophe

  • C. J. Betts
Part of the Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idees / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 104)


Among the many clandestine writings of the early eighteenth century, not even Meslier’s celebrated Testament is more remarkable than the treatise known by the name of its unidentified author, an army officer turned philosopher.1 His massive and elaborate Difficultés sur la religion proposées au Pére Malebranche is one of the most impressive achievements in the history of deism. Its defects, mainly repetitiveness, are largely due to the author’s lack of literary or philosophical training. It was written in about 1710.2 For many years its circulation must have been very limited, although abridgements were made, again anonymously. In 1767 Naigeon edited what purported to be the Militaire philosophe’s work, it was in fact a small selection of his criticisms of Christianity, with an extra chapter on religion and morality, almost certainly written by d’Holbach.3 This caricature, bereft of the whole of the Militaire philosophe’s system of constructive deism, was enthusiastically welcomed by Voltaire. Not until 1912 did Lanson rediscover the original manuscript, which Roland Mortier has recently edited in its entirety.4


Early Eighteenth Century Army Officer Natural Religion Full Exposition Christian Concept 
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  1. Ira O. Wade, The Clandestine Organization and Diffusion of Philosophic Ideas in France from 1700 to 1750 (Princeton, 1938 )Google Scholar
  2. Rudolf Brummer, Studien zur franzosischen Aufklarung im Anschluss an J.-A. Naigeon (Breslau, 1932), pp. 240–301.Google Scholar
  3. G. Lanson, ‘Questions diverses sur l’histoire de l’esprit philosophique en France’, RHLF 19 (1912), 1-29, 293 - 317Google Scholar
  4. André Robinet, Boulaninviller auteur du “Militaire philosophe”? RHLF 73 (1973), 22 – 31Google Scholar
  5. (Oeuvres de Malebranche, edited by Andre Robinet, 21 vols. (Paris, 1958–1970), Vol. IV (1959), pp. 136–151)Google Scholar
  6. Louis Bastide, Incredulite des deistes confondue par Jesus-Christ, 1706.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague 1984

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  • C. J. Betts

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