The 1620s: Mersenne and the ‘Poème des Déistes’

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


In the early years of the seventeenth century the term ‘déistes’ seems to appear only in reports of the heretical group at Lyon.1 Given the connection with anti-trinitarianism, the formulation of the Socinian creed, with its rejection of Trinity doctrine, in the catechism of Raków in 1605 is a significant event, but the common phrase ‘socinien ou déiste’ belongs to a rather later period of the history.2 As for France, an important work published in 1601, Charron’s De la sagesse, has been held to be deistic, but with little foundation.3 It deserves attention here for almost the opposite reason, that it expresses an attitude which the earliest deistic writers were unanimous in repudiating. This is fideism, so called from its ascription of the dominant role, in the formation of personal religious belief, to faith rather than reason. Charron’s version of it, taken largely from Montaigne, is characteristic of the seventeenth century. It consists in the willing acceptance, on faith, of the beliefs imposed by the ecclesiastical authorities: ‘Il faut estre simple, obéissant et débonnaire pour eêtre propre à recevoir religion, croire et se maintenir sous ses lois par révérence et obéissance, assujettir son jugement et se laisser mener et conduire à l’autorité publique, captivantes intellectum ad obsequium fidei4.


Seventeenth Century Religious Attitude Modern Reader Common Phrase Moral Message 
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  2. J.-B. Sabrie, De I’humanisme au rationalisme: Pierre Charron (Paris, 1913 )Google Scholar
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  8. Brian G. Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy Milwaukee and London, 1969Google Scholar
  9. Jacques Maurens, La tragedie sans tragique: le neo-stoicisme dans I’oeuvre de Pierre Corneille (Paris, 1966), p. 167Google Scholar
  10. R. H. Stauffer, Moise Amyraut: un precurseur franqais de Voecumenisme (Paris, 1962 ).Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague 1984

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  • C. J. Betts

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