Bayle, Pierre

Pierre Bayle (1647–1706). An important philosopher, born in France and later a professor at the university in Rotterdam, Bayle was a strong advocate of liberalism and religious toleration. He treated the subject of witchcraft at length in his Résponse aux questions d’un provincial (Responses to the Questions of a Provincial), written in 1703. He did not deny the potential reality of sorcery or witchcraft, or the power of the devil.

Instead he advocated a more moderate form of skepticism, arguing that many acts attributed to witchcraft could also arise from natural causes, and that human authorities could rarely, if ever, be certain in assigning blame to witches. He also felt that the excessive use of torture led to many false convictions in cases of witchcraft, that many convicted witches were in fact deranged or confused, and that authorities should not place so much credence in popular beliefs and concerns.



Historical Dictionary of Witchcraft – Written by Michael D. Bailey