By Anndal Narayanan
From the Author:This short paper, written for a French seminar on the Enlightenment, touches on some of my favorite topics in French history: intellectual history and the relationship between church and state (somehow, I couldn't figure out a way to write about French colonial history in an essay on the 18th century Encyclopedia). The essay examines the implicit threat to the church and the state embodied in the access to reason championed by the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert, in the context of a nascent force: public opinion. If the tool of reason was accessible to every man, and if both religion and politics could be subjected to the examination of reason, as many Encyclopédistes claimed, then the authorities of church and state had reason to worry. The irony that appears to our twenty-first century minds is that the compilers of the Encyclopedia did not by any means advocate a social or political revolution; rather, they desired to improve society and man through the application of reason to all aspects of the world, which nevertheless posed a strong enough danger to warrant censorship.
Read: L'Opinion et la Censure de l'Encyclopedie
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