News and events

14/03/2022 - 15/03/2022, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

New Approaches to d’Holbach’s Système de la nature

14-15 March 2022

Online conference organised by Dr Ruggero Sciuto (St Edmund Hall, Oxford)

with the technical support of the Maison Française d’Oxford

In the year 1770, a most dangerous book swept like a storm across Europe. Its title was Système de la nature; its author – although few people in the eighteenth century knew it – was baron Paul Thiry d’Holbach. Inspired by a profound dislike of superstition and religious belief, this book argued vehemently against both the existence of God and substantial dualism, putting forward, instead, a thoroughgoing materialistic and deterministic philosophy. Animated by a strong desire to enlighten the common people, free them from oppression, and set them on a path towards independence and happiness, it did not eschew violent criticisms of either religious or political authorities. In the space of only a few years, the Système de la nature elicited dozens of refutations, including two by the likes of Voltaire and Frederick the Great of Prussia, and evidence suggests that it was still frequently quoted and discussed in the Age of Revolution.

Organised by Dr Ruggero Sciuto (St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford) and generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the Voltaire Foundation, the Maison Française d’Oxford, and the British Society for the History of Philosophy, this two-day conference was held on 14 and 15 March 2022, shedding new light on one of the most important texts of the Age of Enlightenment. The proceedings will be published in due course by Brill.

(Programme for download)

Voltaire Foundation

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