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Absolutism And Despotism In Samuel Sorbière: Notes On Skepticism And Politics

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Chapter Summary

In an article published in 1953 in the Journal of the History of Ideas, Richard Popkin argues that if Samuel Sorbière had completed the unfinished French translation of Sextus's Hypotyposes, it would in all probability have made an important contribution to improving knowledge of skepticism in XVIIth-century France. If skepticism in Sorbière is expressed in his philosophy of nature through a criticism of philosophical systems and Cartesianism, as well as in relativist caution which limits epistemological claims to the phenomenal evidence, this same skepticism also re-emerges in his political analysis. Sorbière's skepticism thus concludes in an absolutism in which Naudé's influence seen, as that of Hobbes, and where the categories of power, obedience, and force occupy a central position. Thus, if skepticism at the beginning of the modern age leads to a conservative political outcome, in Sorbière this same conservatism now takes on the harsh and violent colours of despotism.

Keywords: absolutism; despotism; political analysis; Samuel Sorbière; skepticism



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