Bayle's Dialogues

After the publication of the articles "Manicheans" and "Paulicians" in his Dictionary in 1697, Bayle was the focus of much of the discussion concerning the problem of evil for the next century. Before Leibniz's heavy criticism of Bayle in the Theodicy, Jean LeClerc and Isaac Jacquelot had published numerous objections to Bayle’s notorious thesis that the problem of evil could not be solved by reason alone. Bayle's final replies to LeClerc and Jacquelot, which also constitute Bayle’s final word on the problem of evil more generally, were completed the evening of his death in late 1706: the Dialogues of Maximus and Themistius.

The Dialogues, like most of Bayle’s writings, have never been translated into English; yet their importance for understanding the problem of evil in the early modern period cannot be overstated. Leibniz often refers to "Bayle's posthumous reply to LeClerc" or to "Bayle’s posthumous Dialogues against Jacquelot," references to the Dialogues which are largely lost on modern readers of the Theodicy. The Dialogues are Bayle's personal apology in light of charges of atheism and Pyrrhonism brought against him, but their relevance and import extend much wider: they demonstrate that to deny the possibility of solving the problem of evil by reason alone and to deny the existence of God are two separate things. They constitute, in short, an apology for and defense of all skeptical theists.

The translation will be done by Michael Hickson, who was on fellowship with the Problem of Evil in Contemporary and Modern Thought project during the 2010-2011 academic year. The resulting book is under contract with Brill Academic Publishers.