It is putting a very high value on
to have a man roasted alive because of them
From the earliest days philosophers were critical of Christianity.
They found no substantial arguments, and pointed out a number
of weaknesses in Christian reasoning. Christians for their part
were suspicious of philosophy which they regarded as at best
unnecessary and at worst the work of Satan. As one authority
writes of Tertullian's Accusations of the Gentiles
He declares that the Holy Scriptures are a treasure from
which all the true wisdom in the world has been drawn; that
every philosopher and every poet is indebted to them. He labors
to show that they are the standard and measure of all truth,
and that whatever is inconsistent with them must necessarily
As soon as they had the power to do so, Christians destroyed
books of philosophy. This is why so little pagan philosophy
has survived - those works of philosophy were not really "lost"
- they were sought out and burned by zealous Christians. This
is why we know next to nothing about atheist
philosophers such as Diagoras of Melos (known as the Atheist
of Milos) and Theodorus the Atheist. As soon as Christians were
able to do so, they sought the destruction of living philosophers
as well. Sopater of Apamea was a distinguished Neoplatonist
philosopher. He was put to death by the Bishop of Bishops, Pontifex
Maximux, His Holiness the Emperor Constantine, the first Christian
Emperor, sometime before 337. Sopater had had the temerity to
critisise the dissolute lifestyles of the emperor and a powerful
Christian called Ablabius. He was apparently accused of practising
magic. This accusation would become the standard accusation
against philosophers who made any criticism of Christianity
- like mathematicians,
genuine philosophers were thought to be in league with the devil
and to consort with demons.
of Alexandria was particularly hated by Christians because she
was not only a philosopher and a mathematician,
but also a woman. She contravened biblical teaching about the
role of women and consequently was murdered by a Christian mob,
led by a bishop, in March 415. Here is another bishop's account
of her murder:
And thereafter a multitude of believers in God arose under
the guidance of Peter the magistrate - now this Peter was
a perfect believer in all respects in Jesus Christ - and they
proceeded to seek for the pagan woman who had beguiled the
people of the city and the prefect through her enchantments.
And when they learnt the place where she was, they proceeded
to her and found her seated on a [teaching] chair; and having
made her descend they dragged her along till they brought
her to the great church, named Caesarion. Now this was in
the days of the fast. And they tore off her clothing and dragged
her through the streets of the city till she died. And they
carried her to a place named Cinaron, and they burned her
body with fire. And all the people surrounded the patriarch
Cyril and named him 'the new Theophilus'; for he had destroyed
the last remains of idolatry in the city.
You can read the full
text by John, Bishop of Nikiu, here. (He omits some of
the gory details of her death, which we have from other sources).
The bishop, Cyril of Alexandria, later used his bands of violent
monks to influence Christian"orthodoxy" and is now
considered a saint. The death of Hypatia signaled a Christian
uprising against the 'learned scholars' of Alexandria, and the
end of the city as a centre of knowledge throughout the ancient
world. Her murder is generally held to mark the end of classical
about 520 the philosopher Boethius became magister officiorum
(head of all the government and court services) to Theodoric
the Great. Boethius was a man of science, a dedicated Hellenist
keen on translating all the works of Aristotle into Latin and
harmonizing them with the works of Plato. For reasons unknown,
but apparently politico-religious in nature, Theodoric, an Arian
Christian, ordered Boethius killed. Boethius was executed at
the age of 44 years on 23rd October, 524, after a period in
prison during which he wrote his most famous work, Consolation
For a thousand years the only philosophers in Christendom were
those the Church would allow. Many thousands of men pursued
"Scholasticism" - a philosophical dead end that is
now of interest only to historians. Afew individuals investigated
philosophy for themselves and were condemned as magicians or
doing so, many of them dying in mysterious circumstances after
their condemnation, or less mysteriously burned at the stake.
Abélard was a philosopher with original ideas - probably
the finest clerical philosopher of the 12th Century. His fame
won him much animosity from his fellow scholastics and he was
repeatedly tried for heresy.
He was charged with the heresy
of Sabellianism at a provincial synod at Soissons in 1121, and
his teachings were official condemned. He was made to burn his
book before being shut up in the convent of St. Medard at Soissons.
Later, in 1141 a Church council at Sens arraigned him on a number
of new charges of heresy.
His condemnation was confirmed by Rome a year later. He died
on his way to Rome, intending to appeal.
de Chartres or Amalric de Chartres, was a native of Bene,
near Chartres. He lived at Paris, where he gave lessons in logic.
He is said to have taught a kind of Pantheism..
A work by him bearing the title of Physion, was condemned
by a bull of Pope Innocent III. in 1204. Ten of his disciples
were burnt at Paris 20 December, 1210. As Amoury had already
died, his bones were exhumed and placed in the flames.
Followers of Amaury de Chartres, were
condemned by a Council in Paris in 1210, and burned outside
the city, beyond the porte des Champeaux. This illustration
shows the Condemnation and Execution of the Amauricians
(followers of Amaury) in the presence of Philippe II (Philippe
Auguste) (1165-1223)., from the MS Grand Chroniques de
France, c 1455-60
Bacon (c. 12141294). Bacon, was an English philosopher
and Franciscan friar who placed emphasis on the study of nature
through empirical methods. He is sometimes credited as one of
the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method
and is known as Doctor Mirabilis, ("wonderful teacher").
Bacon's Opus Majus contains treatments of mathematics
and optics, alchemy, and the positions and sizes of the celestial
bodies. Under the Church physical science was not then carried
out by observations from the natural world: arguments were framed
solely on tradition and prescribed authorities such as the Bible
and Aristotle. In his writings, Bacon called for a reform of
theological study. He was fluent in several languages and lamented
the corruption of scripture and the works of the Greek philosophers
by mistranslations and misinterpretations. He championed experimental
study over reliance on authority, and rejected the blind following
of prior authorities, both in theological and scientific study.
Bacon also attributed witchcraft and sorcery to either fraud
Bacon criticized the Julian calendar, describing it as laughable,
and proposed its reform. He pointed out that "the things
of this world cannot be made known without a knowledge of mathematics",
and criticised the Church's scholastic philosophers. He seems
to have been periodically persecuted and imprisoned, although
the records are thin. He was also accused of practicing magic
- a standard accusation against original thinkers. He was accused
of "suspected novelties". Certainly the Church did
not like his originality and his activities after 1250 were
restricted by a Franciscan statute prohibiting friars from publishing
books or pamphlets without specific approval. Sometime between
1277 and 1279, Bacon was imprisoned. The circumstances are still
mysterious. He is believed to have died in 1294.
d'Abano (c.1257 1316) (aka Petrus De Apono or Aponensis).
d'Abano was an Italian philosopher, mathematician,
physicist, and professor of medicine in Padua. He was charged
with practising magic: the specific accusations being that with
the aid of the Devil, he got back any money he paid out, and
that he possessed the philosopher's stone. His real crime seems
to have been that he had "acquired the knowledge of the
seven liberal arts" and denied the role of angels and demons
in controlling nature.
He was twice brought before the Medieval
Inquisition. On the first occasion he was acquitted (Notable
academics like d'Abano sometimes were acquitted). But inquisotors
were rarely satisfied by an acquital, and he died in an Inquisition
prison in 1315 before his second trial was completed. He was
found guilty, even though already dead, and his body was ordered
to be exhumed and burned; but a friend had secretly removed
it, and the Inquisition
had to content itself with the public proclamation of its sentence
and the burning of Abano in effigy.
d'Ascoli (1257 1327) (AKA Francesco degli Stabili).
d'Ascoli was was another Italian polymath. He studied mathematics
and astrology [ie astronomy]. In 1322 he was made professor
of astrology at the University of Bologna.
His freethinking and plain speaking had made him many enemies
in the Church;and he was accused of impiety He was condemned
for heresy in
1324 to fasts and prayers, and to the payment of a fine, but
this did not stop him.
He was tried and sentenced for relapse into heresy,
and was burned alive at Florence on 26 September, 1327, in his
seventieth year, the day after the sentence, the first in a
line of university scholars to be burned by the Inquisition.
von Hochheim (c. 1260 c. 1327), commonly known as
Meister Eckhart, was a German theologian and philosopher. His
work has influenced major German philosophers for centuries
to come. Concepts introduced into metaphysics by Eckhart deviate
from the common scholastic canon, and his novel ideas excited
the animosity of other churchmen. He was repeatedly accused
of heresy, but
initially escaped the accusations alive. In Cologne, Archbishop,
Hermann von Virneburg, again accused him of heresy,
and again he was protected by his Dominican superior. The archbishop
pressed his charges of heresy
against Eckhart and now also his protector, so they appealed
to the Pope, without success. The Inquisition
refused to accept their appeal on 22 February 1327, so Eckhart
was left to be arraigned for heresy
by his enemy. Nothing more is known of him, and he is assumed
to have died soon afterwards. Pope John XXII issued a bull (In
agro dominico), dated 27 March 1329, in which statements from
Eckhart are characterised as heretical.
Eckhart was excommunicated by the same bull. After his excommunication
his writings were kept intact in some monasteries by putting
the names of other authors on them
of Ockham (1288 c. 1348). Occam was an English Franciscan
friar and scholastic philosopher. He studied theology at the
University of Oxford from 1309 to 1321. He enjoys the distinction
of being the only scholastic philosopher to make any impact
on modern philosophy he was known in his time as the
Doctor Invincibilis or "Unconquerable Teacher." He
advocated a reform of scholasticism, both in method and in content
so could reasonably be classed along with the other Renaissance
thinkers who advanced scientific thought while criticizing scholasticism.
His most important contribution to modern intellectual culture
was the principle of parsimony in explanation and theory building,
known as Occam's Razor. This maxim, as interpreted by Bertrand
Russell, states that if one can explain a phenomenon without
assuming this or that hypothetical entity, there is no ground
for assuming it, in other words that one should always opt for
an explanation in terms of the fewest possible causes, factors,
or variables. Though he did not realize it, this principle would
eventually remove the Christian God from the domain of science.
He made other significant advances in logic. Ockham wrote down
in words a formulae that in propositional logic, would later
be called De Morgan's Laws. He investigated ternary logic, a
concept that would be taken up again in the mathematical
logic of the 19th century.
Ockham's commentary Peter Lombard's Sentences was not
well received by the church authorities. In 1324, this commentary
was condemned as unorthodox by a synod of bishops, and he was
ordered to Avignon to defend himself before a papal court. For
two years, he was confined to a Franciscan house, until he was
condemned as a heretic
in 1326. Fearing execution, Ockham, and other Franciscan sympathizers
fled Avignon on 26 May 1328, and eventually took refuge in the
court of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV of Bavaria. Ockham
wrote treatises that argued for King Louis to have supreme control
over church and state in the Holy Roman Empire. For this Ockham
was excommunicated by Pope John XXII.
Servetus (1511 1553). Servetus was a Spanish humanist.
He was a polymath versed in mathematics,
astronomy and meteorology, geography, cartography, human anatomy,
medicine and pharmacology, as well as jurisprudence, translation,
poetry and the scholarly study of the Bible in its original
languages. He is renowned in the history of several of these
fields, particularly medicine. He was the first European to
correctly describe the function of pulmonary circulation.
He participated in the Protestant Reformation, and later became
a Unitarian. For denying the Trinity, he was condemned by Catholics
and Protestants alike. On 4 April 1553 he was arrested by Roman
Catholic authorities, and imprisoned in Vienne. Servetus escaped
from prison three days later. An effigy and his books were burned
in his absence. Fleeing to Italy, Servetus stopped in Geneva,
where Calvin and his Reformers had denounced him. He was arrested
in Geneva and on 17 June, he was convicted of heresy,
"thanks to the 17 letters sent by Jehan Calvin" and
sentenced to be burned. French Inquisitors
asked that Servetus be extradited to them for execution, but
Calvin preferred Servetus to be executed by Protestants. He
was burnt at the stake as a heretic
on 27 October 1553 by order of the Protestant Geneva governing
(or Girolamo, or Geronimo) Cardano ;(1501 - 1576). Cardano,
known in French as Jérôme Cardan was an Italian
philosopher and polymath. He wrote more than 200 works on philosophy,
physics, religion, and music. He formulated rules in probability,
making him one of the founders of the field. He was the first
to make systematic use of negative numbers. He published the
solutions to the cubic and quartic equations in his 1545 book
Ars Magna. In medicine, he was the first to describe
typhoid fever. He invented several mechanical devices including
the combination lock, the gimbal, and the Cardan shaft with
universal joints. He claimed that deaf people were capable of
using their minds, argued for the importance of teaching them,
and was one of the first to state that deaf people could learn
to read and write without learning how to speak first.
Cardano was accused of heresy
in 1570 allegedly because he had computed and the horoscope
of Jesus sixteen years earlier - but more likely because of
his original and inquiring rationalist mind. He was arrested,
and spent several months in prison. He was forced to abjure
his professorship but seems to have survived the Inquisition
thanks to friends in high places. He was awarded a pension by
Pope Gregory XIII.
(1466? 1536). Desiderius Erasmus, known as Erasmus
of Rotterdam, a Dutch was a classical scholar, Renaissance humanist
thinker, social critic, writer and teacher. He was born illegitimate,
his father, Gerard, being a Catholic priest and curate in Gouda.
Illegitimacy was a bar to ordination, so his family had to buy
an exemption for him. Erasmus was an early proponent of religious
toleration, and enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists";
He prepared new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament
which raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant
He was critical of the widespread abuses within the Catholic
Church. Among the chief objects of his attack in his lifelong
assault on Church excesses were the tenets of life in Religious
Orders. Members of the Catholic Counter-Reformation movement
often condemned Erasmus as having "laid the egg that hatched
the Reformation." His scholarship and enormous popularity
ensured his personal safety, but all of his works were placed
on the Index of Prohibited Books by Pope Paul IV
Dolet (1509 - 1546). Dolet was a French scholar, translator
and printer. While studying Law at Toulouse University, he was
thrown into prison and finally banished by a decree of the parliament
- apparently for his religious views.
Dolet was criticised by Catholics and Protestants alike, partly
because of his anti-Trinitarian views and partially because
of his advocacy of rationalism, which the Churches saw as anti-Christian.
His enemies succeeded in imprisoning him in 1542 on the charge
After imprisonment for fifteen months, he was released. He escaped
from a further imprisonment in Piedmont in 1544 by his own ingenuity,
but, venturing back to Paris, he was again arrested, and branded
as a relapsed atheist
by the theological faculty of the Sorbonne. He was first tortured,
then on 3 August 1546 , he was strangled and burned in the Place
Maubert. It was his 37th birthday. A martyr of the Renaissance
he was compelled for his heresy
to carry a bundle of his publications to the market-place, where
he and his books were burned together. His goods were confiscated,
so his widow and children were reduced to beggary.
Telesio (1509 - 1588). Telesio was an Italian philosopher
and natural scientist. His emphasis on observation made him
the "first of the moderns" who eventually developed
the scientific method. He studied classics, science and philosophy,
which constituted the curriculum of the Renaissance savants.
Like other philosophers he attacked the medieval Aristotelianism
His great work De Rerum Natura Iuxta Propria Principia
(On the Nature of Things according to their Own Principles),
was followed by a large number of scientific and philosophical
works. Telesio writes in De Rerum Natura that "the
construction of the world and the magnitude of the bodies contained
within it, and the nature of the world, is to be searched for
not by reason as was done by the ancients, but is to be understood
by means of observation.". This statement summarizes Telesian
philosophy. His views aroused the anger of the Church not least
because of his rationalism, and his compelling arguments against
Aristotelianism. He also made no distinction between superlunar
and sublunar physics, as the Church did at the time. He also
reasoned that if the soul is influenced by material conditions
then the soul must have a material existence. He was a major
influence in the development of scientific and philosophical
empiricism - and is thus a major figure in the history of philosophy.
A short time after his death his books were placed on the Index.
Charron (1541 - 1603). Charron was a French 16th-century
Catholic theologian and philosopher, and a disciple and contemporary
of Michel Montaigne. After studying law he became a priest,
rising to become a canon. He promoted a number of ideas that
could easily have lead to his arrest by the Church authorities,
including the impossibility of an immaterial soul and criticisms
of superstition. He was attacked, in particular by the Jesuit
François Garasse, who considered him an atheist.
He managed to retain the patronage of powerful sympathisers,
and so escaped imprisonment, and execution for voicing his original
ideas. He died suddenly of a stroke in 1600, as his works, especially
his sceptical book, De la sagess, which considered anti-rational
aspects of Christianity, were receiving renewed attention. Today,
Charron is regarded as a founder of modern secularism.
Bruno (1548 1600). Bruno was an Italian Dominican
friar, philosopher, mathematician
and astronomer. He developed and wrote about mnemonic systems
which enabled him to perform prodigious feats of memory. Although
the techniques were clearly documented, some of his contemporaries
attributed them to magical powers.
He was an outstanding scholar, teaching in many of the leading
European universities. He spent most of his life under suspicion
and was arrested by the Church authorities. Among the numerous
charges of blasphemy and heresy
brought against him in Venice, was his belief in the plurality
of worlds. Bruno defended himself skillfully. The Roman
Inquisition asked for his transferal to Rome. After several
months the Venetian authorities consented and Bruno was sent
to Rome in February 1593. Bruno proposed that the Sun was essentially
a star, and, that other stars were solar systems, with an infinite
number of inhabited worlds populated by other intelligent beings.
He also held that matter was the essentially the same throughout
the universe, made up of discrete atoms and obeying the same
physical laws. In technical terms, Bruno's cosmology is marked
by infinitude, homogeneity, and isotropy, with planetary systems
distributed evenly throughout - all of which contradicted Church
teaching. In addition his ideas were distinctly Pantheistic.
Furthermore, a copy of the banned writings of Erasmus, annotated
by Bruno, had been discovered.
He was imprisoned for seven years in Rome, during his trial.
Some important documents about the trial are mysteriously "lost",
but a summary of the proceedings was rediscovered in 1940. The
numerous charges against Bruno, based on some of his books as
well as on witness accounts, included blasphemy, immoral conduct,
and heresy in
matters of dogmatic theology, philosophy and cosmology. The
charges reduced to:
- holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith (five counts);
- claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their
- believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of
the human soul into animals,
- dealing in magics and divination.
Pope Clement VIII declared Bruno a heretic.
Inquisition issued a sentence of death. On February 17,
1600 in the Campo de' Fiori, a central Roman market square,
"his tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words"
he was burned at the stake. His ashes were dumped into the Tiber
river. All of his works were placed on the Index Librorum
Prohibitorum in 1603.
Algerio (15311556). Pomponio Algerio was a civil law
student at the University of Padua whose pholosophical ideas
attracted the attention of the Roman
Inquisition. Among other ideas he believed that
... the Roman Catholic Church is a particular Church and
no Christian should restrict himself to any particular Church.
This Church deviates in many things from truth."
After a year in prison, he still refused to recant. The Venetian
authorities would not consent to an execution, so Pope Paul
IV sent officials to extradite him to Rome. In Rome, on August
21, 1555, a monk visited Pomponio in his cell urging him to
repent. If he repented, he would be strangled before burning.
The 24-year-old student refused, and an alternative method of
torture-execution was found that did not involve the shedding
of blood. On 22 August 22, 1556 Algerio was executed in the
Piazza Navona. Maintaining his composure while he was boiled
in oil. He remained alive for 15 minutes.
Vanini (1585 1619). Vanini was an Italian freethinker,
who in his works styled himself Giulio Cesare Vanini. He studied
philosophy, theology, medicine and astronomy. Like Giordano
Bruno, he showed up the weaknesses of scholasticism (Church
philosophy). He became a priest and a teacher, travelling around
Europe, always under suspicion for his views. He wrote against
apparently in an attempt to allay suspicion about his unconventional
beliefs. He began to teach in Toulouse. In November 1618, aged
33, he was arrested, and after a trial was condemned to have
his tongue cut out, and to be strangled at the stake, his body
to be afterwards burned to ashes. The sentence was carried out
on 9 February 1619.
Galilei (1564 1642), was an Italian physicist, mathematician,
astronomer, and philosopher. In 1589, he was appointed to the
chair of mathematics in Pisa. Galileo made significant discoveries
in fundamental science as well as applied science. He played
a major role in the Scientific Revolution and has been called
the "father of modern observational astronomy", the
"father of modern physics", and "the Father of
Modern Science". His contributions to observational astronomy
- all of which undermined the Church's cosmology - include the
telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery
of the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean
moons in his honour), and the observation and analysis of sunspots.
Galileo also worked in applied science and technology, inventing
an improved military compass and other instruments.
For advocating a more realistic cosmology, he was tried by
Inquisition, in 1615, The sentence of the
Inquisition was delivered on June 22. It was in three essential
- Galileo was found "vehemently suspect of heresy",
namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless
at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its
centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion
as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture.
He was required to "abjure, curse and detest" those
- He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure
of the Inquisition. (On the following day this sentence was
commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the
rest of his life).
- His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action
not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works
was forbidden, including any he might write in the future
Had he not been a friend of the Pope, or if he had not abjured
his views, he would undoubtedly have been burned at the stake,
like Bruno a few years earlier.
Cremonini (1550 - 1631), Cremonini, sometimes known as Cesare
Cremonino was an Italian professor of natural philosophy, supporting
rationalism and Aristotelian materialism within the scholastic
tradition. These two views were anathema to the Church as they
were seem as opposing revelation and dualist immortality of
the soul. Jesuits in Venice accused him of materialism (and
and then their accusations to Rome. He was prosecuted in 1604
by the Roman
Inquisition for atheism
and the Averroist heresy
of "double truth". Because Padua was then under tolerant
Venetian rule, he was kept out of reach of the
Inquisition, so avoided trial.
He is an outstanding example of the effect of the Church on
freethinking philosophers of the period. Although recognised
as a brilliant mind, he made almost no contribution to modern
science or philosophy, and is mainly remembered as one of the
scholars who refused to look through Galileo's telescope. When
Galileo announced that he had discovered mountains on the Moon
in 1610, he offered Cremonini the chance to observe the evidence
through a telescope. Cremonini, aware of the
Inquisition's power, and reluctant to prompt their renewed
interest in him, refused even to look through the telescope
and insisted that Aristotle had proved the Moon could only be
a perfect sphere, in line with Church teaching.
Campanella (1568 - 1639). Campanella was an Italian philosopher,
theologian, astrologer, and poet. His views, especially his
opposition to the authority of Aristotle, brought him into conflict
with the ecclesiastical authorities.
He was denounced to the Roman
Inquisition and cited before the Holy Office in Rome, he
was confined in a convent until 1597. He was later captured
and incarcerated in Naples, where he was tortured on the rack.
He made a full confession and would have been put to death if
he had not feigned madness and set his cell on fire. He was
tortured further (a total of seven times) and then, crippled
and ill, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Campanella spent
twenty-seven years imprisoned in Naples, in the most appalling
conditions. During this detention, he wrote his most important
works. He was finally released from his prison in 1626, through
Pope Urban VIII, who personally interceded on his behalf with
Philip IV of Spain. Taken to Rome and held for a time by the
Campanella was restored to liberty in 1629. He lived for five
years in Rome, where he was Urban's advisor in astrological
matters. In 1634 a new conspiracy in Calabria, led by one of
his followers, threatened fresh troubles. With the aid of Cardinal
Barberini and the French Ambassador de Noailles, he fled to
France, where he was received at the court of Louis XIII.. Protected
by Cardinal Richelieu and granted a pension by the king, he
spent the rest of his days in the convent of Saint-Honoré
de La Mothe Le Vayer, (1588 - 1672). Le Vayer was a French
writer, teacher and thinker. He was admitted to the French Academy
in 1639, and was the tutor of Louis XIV. He wrote a series of
books covering geography, rhetoric, morality, economics, politics
and logic. Modest and sceptical he became popular at the French
court. He practiced an erudite but savage (and carefully concealed)
criticism of religious hypocrisy. He was instrumental is popularizing
Skepticism in France.
His philosophical works include De la vertu des païens
(1642; On the Goodness of the Pagans); a treatise
entitled Du peu de certitude quil y a dans lhistoire
(1668; On the Lack of Certitude in History), which
marked a beginning of historical criticism in France; and five
skeptical Dialogues, published posthumously under the
pseudonym Orosius Tubero, which are concerned with diversity
in opinions, variety in customs of life and sex roles, the value
of solitude, the virtue of the fools of his time, and differences
in religion. Had he published during his lifetime, there can
be little doubt that he would have found himself burned at the
stake by the
de Viau (1590 - 1626). Théophile came into contact
with the Epicurean ideas of the Italian philosopher Lucilio
Vanini which questioned the immortality of the soul.
In 1622, a collection of licentious poems, "Le Parnasse
satyrique", was published under his name, and de Viau was
denounced by the Jesuits the following year, accused of atheism.
He was sentenced to appear barefoot before Notre Dame in Paris
and to be burned alive.
He went into hiding, so the sentence was carried out in effigy.
The verdict caused such an outcry in an increasingly secular
and liberal society that when he was captured his sentence was
changed to permanent banishment. de Viau spent the remaining
months of his life in Chantilly under the protection of the
Duke of Montmorency before dying in Paris in 1626.
Descartes (1596 - 1650). Descartes was a French philosopher,
and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic.
He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much
subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings,
which are studied to this day. Although he claimed to be a Roman
Catholic, his sceptical approach opened to way to the end of
scolasticism and the birth of modern philosophy. He realised
the need for discretion. When Galileo was condemned by the Roman
Inquisition in 1633, Descartes abandoned plans to publish
Traite du Monde (Treatise on the World), his work of
the previous four years, and burned the manuscript. In his own
era, Descartes was accused of harboring secret Deist
beliefs. In 1641 his Meditations upon First Philosophy
gave such offence to the clergy that he was forced to fly his
country because it was too hot for him. His philosophy
was condemned at the University of Utrecht in 1643. He was offered
an asylum by Christina, Queen of Sweden, and died at Stockholm
In 1663, the Pope placed his works on the Index of Prohibited
Books. These works, and especially his Meditations on First
Philosophy continue to be a standard texts at most philosophy
departments in western universities.
Lyszczynsk (16341689). Lyszczynsk was a Polish nobleman
and philosopher, and also an atheist.
A book annotated by Lyszczynsk was passed to a local bishop,
who along with a second bishop, sought his condemnation and
execution. He was discovered to have written a treatise entitled
"De non existentia Dei" (the non-existence of God),
which stated that God does not exist and that religions are
the inventions of man.
The king, who was very far from countenancing such enormities,
attempted to save the unfortunate Lyszczynski, by ordering
that he should be judged at Vilna; but nothing could shelter
the unfortunate man against the fanatical rage of the clergy
represented by the two bishops; and the first privilege of
a Polish noble, that he could not be imprisoned before his
condemnation, and which had theretofore been sacredly observed
even with the greatest criminals, was violated. On the simple
accusation of his debtor, supported by the bishops, the affair
was brought before the diet of 1689, before which the clergy,
and particularly the bishop Zaluski, accused Lyszczynski of
having denied the existence of God, and uttered blasphemies
against the blessed Virgin and the saints. The unfortunate
victim, terrified by his perilous situation, acknowledged
all that was imputed to him, made a full recantation of all
he might have said and written against the doctrine of the
Roman Catholic church, and declared his entire submission
to its authority. This was, however, of no avail to him, and
his accusers were even scandalized that the diet permitted
him to make a defence, and granted the term of three days
for collecting evidence of his innocence, as the accusation
of the clergy ought, in their judgment, to be sufficient evidence
on which to condemn the culprit. The fanaticism of the diet
was excited in a most scandalous manner by the blasphemous
representation that divinity should be propitiated by the
blood of its offenders.
Zaluski gave the following account of the execution, seeing
it as a sacrifice to God:
After recantation the culprit was conducted to the scaffold,
where the executioner tore with a burning iron the tongue
and the mouth, with which he had been cruel against God; after
which his hands, the instruments of the abominable production,
were burnt at a slow fire, the sacrilegious paper was thrown
into the flames; finally himself, that monster of his century,
this deicide was thrown into the expiatory flames; expiatory
if such a crime may be atoned for
O, travellers! Do not pass these stones.
You will not stumble upon them if you do not stumble upon the
truth. Recognise the truth: for even those who know that it
is the truth teach that it is a lie. The teachings of the wise
are bound by deceit.
Bayle (1647 - 1706). Bayle was a French philosopher and
writer whose work influenced the Enlightenment. He was converted
to Romanism while studying at the Jesuit College in Toulouse
in 1669, but his new faith lasted only seventeen months. He
abjured Catholicism and became sceptic, as evidenced by Thoughts
on the Comet, in which he compares the supposed mischiefs
with the real mischiefs of fanaticism. Vulnerable and aware
of the fate of other secular thinkers in Toulouse he fled to
Switzerland, and later to the Dutch Republic. Where he advocated
a separation between faith and reason, and occupied a number
of academic posts, often losing them when religious authorities
objected to his teachings - though in the Dutch Republic he
was relatively safe from his greatest critics, including the
Bayle was deprived of his chair in 1693. One of his works was
ordered ordered to be burnt by the public hangman.
Bayle worked on his massive Dictionnaire Historique et Critique
(Historical and Critical Dictionary), one of the first
encyclopaedias of ideas and their originators. It expressed
the 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 and remains a work
of value for its learning and observation. Bayle's works ushered
in and influenced the Enlightenment. In modern times, Bayle
has been called the Father of Free Discussion
Toland ( 1670 - 1722)
Toland, born in Ireland, renounced his Catholic faith in early
youth, and went to Edinburgh University, where he became M.A.
in 1690. He went on to Leyden, where he developed his sceptical
In his first book Christianity not Mysterious (1696),
he argued that the divine revelation of the Bible contains no
true mysteries. All genuine dogmas of the faith can be understood
and demonstrated by properly trained reason from natural principles.
For this he was prosecuted by a grand jury in London. As he
was a subject of the Kingdom of Ireland, members of the Irish
parliament proposed that he should be burnt at the stake, and
in his absence copies of the book were burnt by the public hangman
in Dublin. Toland compared the Protestant legislators to "Popish
Inquisitors who performed that Execution on the Book, when they
could not seize the Author, whom they had destined to the Flames"
Toland was denounced by Dr. Blackhall before Parliament for
another of his works, to which he wrote a reply before fleeing
abroad to be received by the Queen of Prussia. Toland was probably
but he identified himself as a Pantheist
in his publication Socinianism Truly Stated - possibly
because he was anticipating capture and trial.
Hobbes (1588 1679). Hobbes was one of the principal
founders of modern political philosophy. He also contributed
to a diverse array of other fields, including history, geometry,
the physics of gases, theology, ethics,
An Englishmen, he developed some of the fundamentals of European
liberal thought: the right of the individual; the natural equality
of all men; the artificial character of the political order;
the view that all legitimate political power must be "representative"
and based on the consent of the people; and a liberal interpretation
of law which leaves people free to do whatever the law does
not explicitly forbid.
Hobbes was accused of atheism,
and of teaching views that could lead to atheism.
In parliament the Bishops wanted him tried and executed as a
could find no law to justify it. The king played an important
role in protecting Hobbes when, in 1666, the House of Commons
introduced a bill against atheism
and profaneness. That same year, on 17 October 1666, it was
ordered that the committee to which the bill was referred "should
be empowered to receive information touching such books as tend
blasphemy and profaneness... in particular... the book of Mr.
Hobbes called The Leviathan". Hobbes was frightened
at the prospect of being treated as a heretic,
and burned some of his papers.
The only consequence that came of the committee was that Hobbes
could never thereafter publish anything in England on subjects
relating to human conduct. The 1668 edition of his works was
printed in Amsterdam because he could not obtain the censor's
licence for its publication in England. Other writings were
not made public until after his death. Hobbes was not even allowed
to respond to his religious enemies, whatever they said and
wrote about him. Even so, his reputation abroad was formidable.
Noble or learned foreigners who came to England rarely neglected
to pay their respects to him up until his death in 1679..
Thiry, Baron d'Holbach (1723 - 1789). d'Holbach was a French
philosopher, scientist, writer and translator. Although noble,
rich and influential, his atheist
views would have been enough to have him burned alive, so he
published under pseudonyms and had his work printed outside
the country. His philosophy was expressly materialistic and
and is today categorised into the philosophical movement called
French materialism. He saw Christianity in particular and religion
in general as an impediment to the moral advancement of humanity.
Renowned for his generosity, he was the patron of the Encyclopædists,
and contributed some four hundred articles to the Encyclopédie.
He translated from the German several works on chemistry and
mineralogy, and from the English, Mark Akensides Pleasures
of the Imagination. In 1765 he visited England, and from
this time produced numerous Freethought works. He wrote or translated,
and had published at Amsterdam Christianity Unveiled,
The Spirit of the Clergy, Sacred Contagion or
Natural History of Superstition. This work was condemned
to be burnt by a decree of the French parliament on 8 August
1770. DHolbach also wrote and published The Critical
History of Jesus Christ, Portable Theology, an
Essay on Prejudices, Religious Cruelty, Hell Destroyed,
and other works. These works were mostly conveyed to the printer
at Amsterdam, and the secret of their authorship was carefully
preserved, so dHolbach escaped persecution.
In 1770 he published his principal work The System of Nature,
or The Laws of the Physical and Moral World, a text-book
philosophy, (purporting to be the posthumous work of Mirabaud).
It made a great sensation. The explicitly atheistic
ideas prompted a strong reaction. The Catholic Church threatened
the French crown with withdrawal of financial support unless
it suppressed the book. d'Holbach then published a sort of summary
under the title Good Sense, attributed to the curé
Meslier. In 1773 he wrote on Natural Politics and the
Social System. His last important work was Universal
Morality; or the Duties of Man founded upon Nature. He died,
just before the French Revolution, having outwitted those who
would have persecuted him if they had known his identity, his
personal good qualities testified to by many. He was depicted
in Rousseaus Nouvelle Héloise as the benevolent
Meslier (1664 - 1729). Meslier was a French village Catholic
priest who was found, on his death, to have written a book-length
philosophical essay, entitled Common Sense promoting
and denouncing all religion.
The work was described by the author as his "testament"
to his parishioners, and is commonly referred to as Meslier's
Testament. In the three copies discovered after his death he
repudiated Christianity, called into question all its dogmas,
requested to be buried in his own garden, and left his property
to his parishioners. Voltaire published the work under the title
of Extract from the sentiments of Jean Meslier.
Adrien Helvétius (1715 - 1771). Helvétius
was a French philosopher. Descended from a line of celebrated
physicians, he had a large fortune which he dispensed in works
of benevolence. Attracted by reading Locke he devoted himself
to philosophy and retired to a country estate, where he employed
his fortune in the relief of the poor, the encouragement of
agriculture and the development of new industries.
In August 1758 he published a work On the Mind (De
LEsprit) which contained ideas considered utilitarian,
materialistic and atheistic.
According to Helvétius all human faculties may be reduced
to physical sensation, even memory, comparison, and judgment.
Our only difference from the lower animals lies in our external
organization. There is no such thing as absolute right. Ideas
of justice and injustice change according to customs. The ends
of government are to ensure the maximisation of pleasure. Public
ethics have a utilitarian basis, and he insisted on the importance
of culture and education in national development. Education
is the method by which to reform society, and there are few
limits to the social improvements that could be brought about
by the appropriate distribution of education. His atheistic,
utilitarian and egalitarian doctrines caused an outcry from
the Church. The Sorbonne condemned the book, while the priests
persuaded the court that it was full of dangerous atheistic
doctrines. The book was declared to be heretical
and was condemned by both Church and State. It was condemned
by Pope Clement XIII on 31 January 1759, and burnt by the order
of the French Parliament on 6 February 1759.
Terrified at the storm he had raised, Helvétius wrote
three separate and humiliating retractions. But times had changed.
Most educated people regarded him as saying nothing new, merely
repeating obvious truths. It was only saying things out loud
that caused a fuss. In Paris salons his ideas were already widely
accepted. Mme. du Deffand said he told everybodys
secret. Madame de Graffigny claimed that all the good
things in the book had been picked up in her own salon. As a
result of the publicity Helvétius became a celebrity
across the continent. His book was republished in Amsterdam
and London, and translations were made into all the main languages
of Europe. The age of Persecution by Christians was almost over.
As it became increasingly unacceptable for the Church to burn
scientists and philosophers, the Catholic Church contented itself
with forbidding and burning the written works of philosophers.
Some notable Philosophers whose works were included on the Index
- Erasmus (1466? - 12 July 1536)
- Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)
- Thomas Hobbes of (1588 - 1679)
- René Descartes (1596 - 1650)
- Blaise Pascal (1623 -1662)
- Baruch Spinoza (1632 - 1677)
- John Locke (1632 -1704)
- Bishop Berkeley (1685 - 1753)
- Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de
Montesquieu (1689 -1755)
- Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (1694
- David Hume (1711 - 1776)
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 -1778)
- Denis Diderot (1713 - 1784)
- Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715 -1771)
- Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715 -1780)
- Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert (1717 - 1783)
- Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach (1723 -1789)
- Immanuel Kant (1724 -1804)
- Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet
(1743 - 1794)
- John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)
- Jean -Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (1905 - 1980)