The (self-) fashioning of an eighteenth-Century Christian philosopher : religion, science and morality in the writings and life of Jean Henri Samuel Formey (1711-1797)
Title: The (self-) fashioning of an eighteenth-Century Christian philosopher : religion, science and morality in the writings and life of Jean Henri Samuel Formey (1711-1797)
Author: GROSSE, Annelie
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2018
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
In 1750 the Prussian Huguenot and secretary of the Royal Academy of Science in Berlin, Jean Henri Samuel Formey, published a book entitled Le Philosophe Chrétien. This event marked not only a significant peak in his life and career, but it also is a significant example within a canon of several European events that emblematically represent the particularly diverse and partially ambivalent character of the middle decades of the Eighteenth Century: In 1751 the first volume of the Parisian Encyclopédie appeared, and it quickly obtained the reputation of spreading religious heterodox and anti-clerical ideas. Moreover, it was shaped and it circulated amongst authors that held materialist and sometimes even atheist ideas.1 Besides this, the Encyclopédie provided the leitmotiv for the eighteenth-century pursuit for truth and human progress: in his Discours préliminaire to the Encyclopédie, d'Alembert depicted the predominance and universality of philosophy as a science of reason, which comprised all kinds of subjects including religion.2 Simultaneously to the encyclopedic project of universal knowledge and trust in human reason, Jean Jacques Rousseau campaigned for the opposite model in his Discours sur les sciences et les arts of 1750, in which he argued that the progress of the sciences had a negative effect on human morality.3 At the same time in Scotland, David Hume, in his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals brought moral philosophical theories to a peak that had fermented in the British Isles since the third Earl of Shaftesbury and Francis Hutcheson. Moreover, Locke's empiricist epistemology inspired Hume to present a theory of moral sense that was established on empirical observation, and according to which morality was determined by feelings and passions instead of reason alone. By linking morality to human nature, Hume's theory discarded the role of God and revealed religion in questions relating to morality, and he generally dismissed the fusion of religious and philosophical questions.
Defence date: 19 January 2018; Examining Board: Prof. Ann Thomson, European University Institute; Prof. Stéphane Van Damme, European University Institute; Prof. Thomas Ahnert, University of Edinburgh; Prof. Daniel Fulda, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Type of Access: embargoedAccess