Paul Holbach: biography, date and place of birth, basic philosophical ideas, books, quotes, interesting facts

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Paul Holbach: biography, date and place of birth, basic philosophical ideas, books, quotes, interesting facts
Paul Holbach: biography, date and place of birth, basic philosophical ideas, books, quotes, interesting facts

Paul Holbach is a French writer, encyclopedia compiler and philosopher (German by birth). He did an outstanding job of systematizing the concepts of the French materialists. He was one of those people on whose labors the bourgeoisie of the times of revolutionary France matured.

Birth and childhood

Paul Henri Holbach was born in 1723, on the eighth of December in the city of Heidelsheim (Germany, Palatinate) in the family of a small merchant.

baptismal certificate
baptismal certificate

The boy's childhood was tragic. He was orphaned at the age of seven, and the brother of his dead mother took him under his care. And at twelve he ended up in Paris, in the city with which almost the entire biography of Paul Holbach is connected.

On the advice of his uncle Paul Henri entered the University of Leiden. Within its walls, he attended lectures given by the great minds of that time, and also studied the latest theories of natural science.

university in Leiden
university in Leiden

The young Paul showed the greatest interest in physics, chemistry, geology and mineralogy. In addition, he enthusiastically studied the worksmaterialists and philosophy.

Return to Paris

Paul Holbach graduated from the university in 1749, after which he returned from the Netherlands to the capital of France, taking with him a decent amount of knowledge in a wide variety of areas of life.

Kinship with his uncle gave him the opportunity to receive the title of baron for himself. Since he was fairly well off, he could devote his time to his life's work of philosophy, without worrying about such things as food and a roof over his head.

In Paris, Paul Henri founded a salon that became a meeting place for people who wanted to bring enlightenment to the masses. Representatives of various worlds gathered in the salon: from scientists and philosophers to participants in political games. Some of the most famous visitors to the salon were people like Adam Smith, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Diderot and others.

Developing gradually, the salon more and more turned into the center of education and philosophy of the whole country.

Encyclopedia and other achievements

Holbach often received with all the hospitality of the Encyclopedists at home, while not being limited to the role of an interesting interlocutor. He left his significant contribution as a sponsor, bibliographer, editor, consultant and author of many articles on various topics in the publication of the Encyclopedia, or Explanatory Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Crafts.

Writing articles for the "Encyclopedia" showed the vastness of Paul Holbach's knowledge in many areas, and also revealed him as a skillful popularizer.

Among academics, Paul Henri received recognitiongreat naturalist. He was elected an honorary member of the Mannheim and Berlin scientific academies. He received the same title from the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg in September 1789.

Attitude towards the church

Holbach used his popularizing abilities and extraordinary mind not only to write articles for the Encyclopedia. One of Holbach's most significant activities was propaganda against Catholicism, the clergy and religion in general.

His work en titled "Christianity Unveiled" (1761) was the first of a number of critical writings that appeared without an author's signature or under fictitious names.

Holbach's book
Holbach's book

The work of 1770 en titled "The System of Nature, or On the Laws of the Physical and Spiritual Worlds" was widely known and is considered the most significant work of Paul Holbach.

Holbach product
Holbach product

The work itself presents a systematization of the ideas of materialists and natural scientists of that time, as well as the argumentation of their worldview from different angles. Fundamental work was done, and after publication it became known as the "Materialist's Bible".

This huge work not only received universal recognition, but also created a need for a reprint. Thus, handwritten copies of the book revealed themselves to the world one by one.

The fact that the book sold very well caused serious concern among the authorities and the church. So serious that the work is underban. And in 1770, in August, the Parliament of Paris issued a decree to burn this book in the presence of the people.

Holbach himself escaped punishment solely due to the fact that the authorship was a secret even from the people closest to him.

Development of the idea of enlightenment

Despite the persecution of the "System of Nature" by the authorities and the church, Holbach continues to develop it after 1770 in many of his works, which together make up a large number of volumes. These volumes include such works as "Natural Politics", "Universal Morality", "Social System", "Etocracy", as well as other works in which a new revolutionary program was laid in the political and social spheres.

The common thought that went through all the works of Paul Henri Holbach was the idea of enlightening the people, the importance of bringing the truth to people and freeing them from destructive prejudices and delusions.

Another merit of Holbach is the translation into French of many works of Swedish and German philosophers and scientists of the past. He published at least thirteen such works between 1751 and 1760.

Moreover, he did not just translate other people's works from one language into another, but supplemented them by introducing his own comments and some changes into the work. All this gave the translated works of philosophers additional value.

The last day of the life of the scientist, whose philosophy and life credo was the enlightenment of the people, was the date of January 21, 1789.

Field QuotesHenri Holbach

pol holbach
pol holbach

Among the quotes of the philosopher, it is worth highlighting those that help to understand the philosophy of Paul Holbach and his attitude to religion and society as a whole. The most famous of them include the following:

  • Morality should be based on a less shaky foundation than the example of a god who can only be called good by stubbornly turning a blind eye to all the evil that is being done or allowed by him in this world.

  • If there were no evil in this world, man would never think of a deity.

  • The desire to please, loy alty to traditions, the fear of appearing ridiculous and the fear of people's gossip - these are incentives much stronger than religious ideas.

  • Conscience is our inner judge, unerringly testifying to how much our actions deserve the respect or reproach of our neighbors.

  • Religion is a bridle for people who are unbalanced in character or crushed by the circumstances of life. Fear of God keeps from sin only those who are not able to strongly desire or are no longer able to sin.

Attitude towards nature

Matter or nature, as Paul Holbach believed, is itself its own cause. He believed that nature can neither be created nor destroyed, because it itself is infinite in space and time.

Holbach considered matter to be the totality of all bodies in nature, which consists of indivisible and unchanging atoms - particles that are characterized by movement, weight,length, figure and impenetrability. Paul Henri considered movement to be the very mode of existence of matter and reduced it to form. He also claimed that energy is the cause of the movement of matter.