Apology for the abbe mallet

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The abbé Edme Mallet was one of the main contributors to the first volumes of Diderot and D'Alembert's Encyclopédie, and the work's official theologian. Whereas his reputation, derived largely from D'Alembert's eulogy, was formerly that of a moderate open to dialogue with philosophers, in an article from the 1970s Walter E. Rex argued that Mallet was in fact a rigid defender of orthodoxy recruited for the Encyclopédie to offset its anti-religious tendencies. This article offers a refutation of Rex's influential theory, questioning his assumption of a fundamental opposition between Mallet and the other contributors. Beginning with the observation that Rex made his analysis of Mallet's religious articles without realizing that these are, in many instances, either wholly or partly translations from Chambers's Cyclopaedia, I move on to consider the censored article 'Constitution Unigenitus', where Mallet's opinion of the Jansenists is shown to be similar, rather than opposed, to that of Diderot and D'Alembert. In view of their statements in important sections of the Encyclopédie, I suggest that, contrary to common opinion, the editors' association with Mallet may reflect a sincere desire for collaboration with theologians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-172
Number of pages14
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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