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Pierre Charron
Full name Pierre Charron
Born 1541, Paris, France
Died November 16, 1603, Paris, France
Era Renaissance philosophy
Region Western Philosophers
School Scepticism, Sensationalism

Pierre Charron (1541 – November 16, 1603) was a French 16th-century philosopher, and a close friend and contemporary of Michel Montaigne.

Contents

Biography

Pierre Charron was born in Paris, one of the twenty-five children of a bookseller. After studying law, he practiced as an advocate, with little success. He then entered the church and soon became a popular priest, rising to become a canon, and was appointed priest in ordinary to Marguerite de Valois, wife of Henry IV of Navarre. In about 1588, he determined to fulfill a vow which he had once made to become a monk; but being rejected by both the Carthusians and the Celestines, he returned to his old profession. He delivered a course of sermons at Angers, and in the next year moved to Bordeaux, where he formed a famous friendship with Michel de Montaigne. On Montaigne's death, in 1592, Charron was requested in his will to bear the Montaigne arms.[1]

In 1594 Charron published (at first anonymously, afterwards under the name of "Benoit Vaillant, Advocate of the Holy Faith," and also, in 1594, in his own name) Les Trois Vérités in which by methodical and orthodox arguments, he seeks to prove that there is a God and a true religion, that the true religion is Christianity, and that the true church is the Roman Catholic church. The last book (which is three-quarters of his whole work) is a response to a famous Protestant work, Le Traité de l'Eglise by Du Plessis Mornay; and in the second edition (1595) there is an elaborate reply to an attack made on the third Vérité by a Protestant writer. Les Trois Vérités ran through several editions, and obtained for its author the favour of the Bishop of Cahors, who appointed him grand vicar and theological canon. It also led to his being chosen deputy to the general assembly of the clergy, of which body he became chief secretary. It was followed in 1600 by Discours chrestiens, a book of sermons, similar in tone, half of which treat of the Eucharist.

Obituary

In 1601 Charron published in Bordeaux his third and most remarkable work -- the famous De la sagesse, a complete popular system of moral philosophy. Usually, and so far correctly, it is coupled with the Essays of Montaigne, to which the author is under very extensive obligations. There is, however, distinct individuality in the book. It is specially interesting from the time when it appeared, and the man by whom it was written. Conspicuous as a champion of orthodoxy against atheists, Jews and Protestants -- without resigning this position, and still upholding practical orthodoxy -- Charron suddenly stood forth as the representative of the most complete intellectual scepticism. The De la sagesse, which represented a considerable advance on the standpoint of the Trois Vérités, brought upon its author the most violent attacks, the chief being by the Jesuit François Garasse (1585-1631), who described him as a brutal atheist. It received the warm support of Henry IV and of the president, Pierre Jeannin. A second edition was soon called for. In 1603, not withstanding much opposition, it began to appear; but only a few pages had been printed when Charron died suddenly in the street of apoplexy.

Philosophy

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Psychology

Charron's psychology is that of a sensationalist. With sense all our knowledge commences, and into sense all may be resolved. The soul, located in the ventricles of the brain, is affected by the temperament of the individual; the dry temperament produces acute intelligence; the moist, memory; the hot, imagination. Dividing the intelligent soul into these three faculties, he shows - after the manner later adopted by Francis Bacon - what branches of science correspond with each. With regard to the nature of the soul he merely quotes opinions. The belief in its immortality, he says, is the most universal of beliefs, but the most feebly supported by reason. As to man's power of attaining truth his scepticism is decided; and he plainly declares that none of our faculties enable us to distinguish truth from error. In comparing man with the lower animals, Charron insists that there are no breaks in nature. Though inferior in some respects, in others animals are superior. The estimate of man is not flattering. His essential qualities are vanity, weakness, inconstancy and presumption. Upon this view of human nature Charron founds his moral system. As sceptical as Montaigne, he is even more cynical, with a deeper and sterner tone. Morality has no connection with religion. Reason is the ultimate criterion.

Theology

Special interest attaches to Charron's treatment of religion. All grow from small beginnings and increase by a sort of popular contagion; all teach that God is to be appeased by prayers, presents, vows, but especially, and most irrationally, by human suffering. Each is said by its devotees to have been given by inspiration. A man is a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, before he knows he is a man. One religion is built upon another. But while he openly declares religion to be "strange to common sense," the practical result at which Charron arrives is that one is not to sit in judgment on his faith, but to be "simple and obedient," and to allow himself to be led by public authority. This is one rule of wisdom with regard to religion; and another equally important is to avoid superstition, which he boldly defines as the belief that God is like a hard judge who, eager to find fault, narrowly examines our slightest act, that He is revengeful and hard to appease, and that therefore he must be flattered and importuned and won over by pain and sacrifice. True piety, which is the first of duties, is the knowledge of God and of one's self, the latter knowledge being necessary to the former. It is the abasing of man, the exalting of God,--the belief that what He sends is all good, and that all the bad is from ourselves. It leads to spiritual worship; for external ceremony is merely for our advantage, not for His glory. Charron is thus the founder of modern secularism. His political views are neither original nor independent. He pours much hackneyed scorn on the common herd, declares the sovereign to be the source of law, and asserts that popular freedom is dangerous.

A summary and defence of the Sagesse, written shortly before his death, appeared in 1606. In 1604 his friend Michel de la Roche prefixed to an edition of the Sagesse a Life, which depicts Charron as a most amiable man of purest character. His complete works, with this Life, were published in 1635. An excellent abridgment of the Sagesse is given in Tennemann's Philosophie, vol. ix.; an edition with notes by A Duval appeared in 1820.

Bibliography

Works

  • De la Sagesse Livres Trois; par M. Pierre le Charron, Parisien, Chanoine Theologal & Chantre en l'Eglise Cathedrale de Comdom Bourdeaus, S. Millanges, 1604.
  • Toutes les Oeuvres de Pierre Charron; Parisien, Docteur es Droiets, Chantre et Chanoine Theologal de Condom derniere edition. Reveues, corrigees & augmentees. 2 vols. Paris Jacques Villery, 1635.
  • Discours chrétiens (Bordeaux, 1600) ;

Secondary sources

  • Francoise Kaye, Charron et Montaigne; du plagiat a l'orginalite, Ottawa: Editions de l'Universite d'Ottawa, 1982.
  • Michel Adam, Etudes sur Pierre Charron. Bordeaux: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 1991.
  • Jeffrey Zuniga, Toward a Life of Wisdom, Pierre Charron in the Light of Modern and Postmodern skepticism Manila: University of Sto. Thomas Press, 2000.
  • Hugo Liebscher, Charron u. sein Werk, De la sagesse (Leipzig, 1890)
  • HT Buckle, Introd. to History of Civilization in England, vol. ii. 19
  • Abbé Lezat, De la predication sous Henri IV. c. vi.
  • JM Robertson, Short History of Free Thought (London, 1906), vol. ii.
  • John Owen, Skeptics of the French Renaissance (1893)
  • Lecky, Rationalism in Europe (1865).

References

  1. ^ Pierre Charron - Catholic Encyclopedia article

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The true science and study of man is man.
The human intellect is only capable of tackling mediocre subjects: it disdains petty subjects, and is startled by large ones.

Pierre Charron (154116 November 1603) was a French philosopher, and a close friend of Michel de Montaigne.

Contents

Sourced

  • Despair is like forward children, who, when you take away one of their playthings, throw the rest into the fire for madness. It grows angry with itself, turns its own executioner, and revenges its misfortunes on its own head.
    • As quoted in Treasury of Thought : Forming an encyclopædia of quotation from ancient and modern authors (1894) edited by Maturin Murray Ballou, p. 123

De la sagesse (1601)

Treatise on Wisdom (1601)
  • The true science and study of man is man.
    • Book I, Preface, as quoted in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) by Elizabeth M. Knowles
  • All Religions have this in common, that they are an outrage to common sense for they are pieced together out of a variety of elements, some of which seem so unworthy, sordid and at odds with man’s reason, that any strong and vigorous intelligence laughs at them; but others are so noble, illustrious, miraculous, and mysterious that the intellect can make no sense of them and finds them unpalatable. The human intellect is only capable of tackling mediocre subjects: it disdains petty subjects, and is startled by large ones. There is no reason to be surprised if it finds any religion hard to accept at first, for all are deficient in the mediocre and the commonplace, nor that it should require skill to induce belief. For the strong intellect laughs at religion, while the weak and superstitious mind marvels at it but is easily scandalized by it.
    • Book II, Ch. 5, p. 345, as quoted in Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment‎ (1992) edited by Michael Cyril William Hunter and David Wootton, p. 99

Quotes about Charron

  • His standpoint is invariably that of a human philosopher. The sceptic spirit which pervades the whole book allows it to be summed up in a very few words: by his own natural light and strength man is incapable of finding principles of religion and morality sufficiently certain; and, being sure of nothing, it is consequently wise to live as conveniently and pleasurably as the common usage of the people among whom one lives allows. No attempt is made anywhere in the body of the book to conceal the baldness of this doctrine.

External links

Wikipedia
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PIERRE CHARRON (1541-1603), French philosopher, born in Paris, was one of the twenty-five children of a bookseller. After studying law he practised at Paris as an advocate, but, having met with no great success, entered the church, and soon gained the highest popularity as a preacher, rising to the dignity of canon, and being appointed preacher in ordinary to Marguerite, wife of Henry IV. of Navarre. About 1588, he determined to fulfil a vow which he had once made to enter a cloister; but being rejected by the Carthusians and the Celestines, he held himself absolved, and continued to follow his old profession. He delivered a course of sermons at Angers, and in the next year passed to Bordeaux, where he formed a famous friendship with Montaigne. At the death of Montaigne, in 1592, Charron was requested in his will to bear the Montaigne arms.

In 1594 Charron published (at first anonymously, afterwards. under the name of "Benoit Vaillant, Advocate of the Holy Faith," and also, in 1594, in his own name) Les Trois Verites, in which by methodical and orthodox arguments, he seeks to prove that there is a God and a true religion, that the true religion is the Christian, and that the true church is the Roman Catholic..

The last book (which is three-fourths of the whole work) is chiefly an answer to the famous Protestant work entitled Le Traite de l'Eglise by Du Plessis Mornay; and in the second edition (1595) there is an elaborate reply to an attack made on the third Verite by a Protestant writer. Les Trois Verites ran through several editions, and obtained for its author the favour of the bishop of Cahors, who appointed him grand vicar and theological canon. It also led to his being chosen deputy to the general assembly of the clergy, of which body he became chief secretary. It was followed in 1600 by Discours chrestiens, a book of sermons, similar in tone, half of which treat of the Eucharist. In 1601 Charron published at Bordeaux his third and most remarkable work - the famous De la sagesse, a complete popular system of moral philosophy. Usually, and so far correctly, it is coupled with the Essays of Montaigne, to which the author is under very extensive obligations. There is, however, distinct individuality in the book. It is specially interesting from the time when it appeared, and the man by whom it was written. Conspicuous as a champion of orthodoxy against atheists, Jews and Protestants - without resigning this position, and still upholding practical orthodoxy - Charron suddenly stood forth as the representative of the most complete intellectual scepticism. The De la sagesse, which represented a considerable advance on the standpoint of the Trois Verites, brought upon its author the most violent attacks, the chief being by the Jesuit Francois Garasse (1585-1631), who described him as a "brutal atheist." It received, however, the warm support of Henry IV. and of the president Pierre Jeannin (1540-1622). A second edition was soon called for. In 1603, notwithstanding much opposition, it began to appear; but only a few pages had been printed when Charron died suddenly in the street of apoplexy. His death was regarded as a judgment for his impiety.

Charron's psychology is sensationalist. With sense all our knowledge commences, and into sense all may be resolved. The soul, located in the ventricles of the brain, is affected by the temperament of the individual; the dry temperament produces acute intelligence; the moist, memory; the hot, imagination. Dividing the intelligent soul into these three faculties, he shows - after the manner which Francis Bacon subsequently adopted - what branches of science correspond with each. With regard to the nature of the soul he merely quotes opinions. The belief in its immortality, he says, is the most universal of beliefs, but the most feebly supported by reason. As to man's power of attaining truth his scepticism is decided; and he plainly declares that none of our faculties enable us to distinguish truth from error. In comparing man with the lower animals, Charron insists that there are no breaks in nature. The latter have reason; nay, they have virtue; and, though inferior in some respects, in others they are superior. The estimate formed of man is not, indeed, flattering. His most essential qualities are vanity, weakness, inconstancy, presumption. Upon this view of human nature and the human lot Charron founds his moral system. Equally sceptical with Montaigne, and decidedly more cynical, he is distinguished by a deeper and sterner tone. Man comes into the world to endure; let him endure then, and that in silence. Our compassion should be like that of God, who succours the suffering without sharing in their pain. Avoid vulgar errors; cherish universal sympathy. Let no passion or attachment become too powerful for restraint. Follow the customs and laws which surround you. Morality has no connexion with religion. Reason is the ultimate criterion.

Special interest attaches to Charron's treatment of religion. He insists on the diversities in religions; he dwells also on what would indicate a common origin. All grow from small beginnings and increase by a sort of popular contagion; all teach that God is to be appeased by prayers, presents, vows, but especially, and most irrationally, by human suffering. Each is said by its devotees to have been given by inspiration. In fact, however, a man is a Christian, Jew, or Mahommedan, before he knows he is a man. One religion is built upon another. But while he openly declares religion to be "strange to common sense," the practical result at which Charron arrives is that one is not to sit in judgment on his faith, but to be "simple and obedient," and to allow himself to be led by public authority. This is one rule of wisdom with regard to religion; and another equally important is to avoid superstition, which he boldly defines as the belief that God is like a hard judge who, eager to find fault, narrowly examines our slightest act, that He is revengeful and hard to appease, and that therefore He must be flattered and importuned, and won over by pain and sacrifice. True piety, which is the first of duties, is, on the other hand, the knowledge of God and of one's self, the latter knowledge being necessary to the former. It is the abasing of man, the exalting of God, - the belief that what He sends is all good, and that all the bad is from ourselves. It leads to spiritual worship; for external ceremony is merely for our advantage, not for His glory. Charron is thus the founder of modern secularism. His political views are neither original nor independent. He pours much hackneyed scorn on the common herd, declares the sovereign to be the source of law, and asserts that popular freedom is dangerous.

A summary and defence of the Sagesse, written shortly before his death, appeared in 1606. In 1604 his friend Michel de la Rochemaillet prefixed to an edition of the Sagesse a Life, which depicts Charron as a most amiable man of purest character. His complete works, with this Life, were published in 1635. An excellent abridgment of the Sagesse is given in Tennemann's Philosophie, vol. ix.; an edition with notes by A. Duval appeared in 1820.

See Liebscher, Charron u. sein Werk, De la sagesse (Leipzig, 1890); H. T. Buckle, Introd. to History of Civilization in England, vol. ii. 19; Abbe Lezat, De la predication sous Henri IV. c. vi.; J. M. Robertson, Short History of Free Thought (London, 1906), vol. ii. p. 19; J. Owen, Skeptics of the French Renaissance (1893); Lecky, Rationalism in Europe (1865).


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