Culture of Enlightening
Abbé Claude Yvon and the Entangled Emergence of the Enlightenment
Recent scholarly and popular attempts to define the Enlightenment, account for its diversity, and evaluate its historical significance suffer from a surprising lack of consensus at a time when the social and political challenges of today cry out for a more comprehensive and serviceable understanding of its importance. This book argues that regnant notions of the Enlightenment, the Radical Enlightenment, and the multitude of regional and religious enlightenments proposed by scholars all share an entangled intellectual genealogy rooted in a broader revolutionary "culture of enlightening" that took shape over the long-arc of intellectual history from the waning of the sixteenth-century Reformations to the dawn of the Atlantic Revolutionary era. Generated in competition for a changing readership and forged in dialog and conflict, dynamic and diverse notions of what it meant to be enlightened constituted a broader culture of enlightening from which the more familiar strains of the Enlightenment emerged, often ironically and accidentally, from originally religious impulses and theological questioning.
By adapting, for the first time, methodological insights from the scholarship of historical entanglement (l'histoire croisée) to the study of the Enlightenment, this book provides a new interpretation of the European republic of letters from the late 1600s through the 1700s by focusing on the lived experience of the long-neglected Catholic theologian, historian, and contributor to Diderot's Encyclopédie, Abbé Claude Yvon. The ambivalent historical memory of Yvon, as well as the eclectic and global array of his sources and endeavors, Burson argues, can serve as a gauge for evaluating historical transformations in the surprisingly diverse ways in which eighteenth-century individuals spoke about enlightening human reason, religion, and society. Ultimately, Burson provocatively claims that even the most radical fruits of the Enlightenment can be understood as the unintended offspring of a revolution in theology and the cultural history of religious experience.
- The Culture of Enlightening en Sorbonne and the Formation of Claude Yvon
- Into the Mid-Century Maelstrom: Claude Yvon between Sorbonne and the Encyclopédistes
- The Encyclopédie and the Polarization of Enlightening Culture in France Part 2.
- Yvon the Encyclopédiste I: Metphysics, Logic, and the History of Philosophy
- Yvon the Encyclopédiste II: Immortality, Immateriality, and an Abbé’s Dalliance with Vitalistic Materialism
- Yvon the Encyclopédiste III: Moral Philosophy, Practical Theology, and the Problem of Evil Part 3.
- Yvon in Exile, 1752-1762
- The Return from Exile, c. 1762-1768
- The Quest to Harmonize Philosophy and Religion: The First Attempt, 1762-1768
- Out of the Ashes?: Yvon at Château d’Ormes, c. 1771-1774
- From Yvon’s Last Stand before the General Assembly of the Clergy to His Last Days, c. 1770-1789
- Yvon Post-Mortem: Concluding Reflections on the Cultural and Theological Revolution of Enlightening
List of Abbreviations
"This is one of the most vital recent scholarly books to be written on the culture of the French learned world during the period of the 'Enlightenment.' With the rise of interest in Catholic responses to the lumières, this work focuses astutely and with bright focus on the 'entangling' of Catholic theologians and savants, on the one hand, and secular Enlightenment thinkers, on the other. . . . A remarkable, erudite, compelling, and major study, reconceptualizing much of 'Enlightenment' studies, and it will change the ways in which unbiased readers approach the eighteenth century." —Alan Charles Kors, Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus of History, University of Pennsylvania
"This is a splendidly researched book that sheds light on the life of an overlooked yet fascinating figure of the Enlightenment and makes a crucial contribution to Enlightenment scholarship. The author does a great job situating the Abbé Yvon's life in the context of eighteenth-century intellectual culture and showing how the complex and even contradictory elements of his thought were representative of broader trends." —Anton M. Matytsin, Kenyon College
"Jeffrey Burson's thorough study of the obscure, sometimes ridiculed, Abbé Claude Yvon provides a compelling vehicle for examining the 'culture of enlightening.' Through meticulous research and erudite analysis, Burson examines Yvon's lengthy and eclectic body of work to illustrate that the Enlightenment was neither monolithic nor a series of discrete movements. This book emphasizes the Enlightenment as a process in which different modes of thought intersected with one another, sometimes in conflicting and contradictory ways. Through this impressive case study in which we see the interaction between individuals and ideas, Burson provides the outlines of a 'cultural revolution,' defined by ideas, interactions, interventions, and contingency." —Mita Choudhury, Vassar College
"The Culture of Enlightening does nothing less than offer a new vision of the Enlightenment, one that is less about portioning off the intellectual movement into distinct, reified groups and more about a shared, common culture of borrowing and mutually constructive debates." —Journal of Jesuit Studies
Dating to the thirteenth-century, the Sorbonne originally enjoyed a privileged role within the medieval church as a corporation of theologians who provided doctrinal advice and clarification on matters of doctrine. Much of this role, at least within France, derived from medieval France’s greatest “constitutional crisis” in which Phillip IV asserted what he considered his royal prerogative to tax clergy and try them for criminal offenses in royal courts. The showdown is well known to students of European history as the provocation for Boniface VIII’s Bull, Unam Sanctam, and for the fateful flurry of fourteenth-century opposition to such a sweeping pronouncement of papal supremacy in all matters spiritual and temporal. In France, the clergy of the day largely supported Phillip IV’s defense of their liberties concerning such temporal matters as consent to royal taxation, for example. Ultimately, the Faculty of Theology then fashioned its own institutional significance when, in the early years of the fifteenth century, the monarchy, the French clergy, and University of Paris all collaborated to internally reform the French Catholic, or Gallican Church, while providing further theoretical justification for ending the Great Schism of the papacy that had developed after 1379. Jean de Paris, Jacques Almain, John Major, Edmond Richter, Pierre d’Ailly and Jean Gerson developed kind of “School of Paris” that utilized extant canon law jurisprudence to forge a distinctively French variant of the conciliarist argument that the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church was vested in the whole church as assembled in councils, and that these councils were, and of right ought to be, advisory to papal authority.
Although the Great Schism ended at Constance in 1415, friction between conciliar and papal authority continued, such that by 1438, rather than await the unlikely ruling of a divided and fractious Council of Basle, King Charles VII and his clergy successfully negotiated a Concordat with the papacy known as the Pragrmatic Sanction of Bourges. The Pragmatic Sanction of 1438 was the result of the Sorbonne, alongside the rest of the Gallican Bishops, leaning on the monarchy against papal interference in temporal matters. Henceforth, the Pragmatic Sanction reasserted the primarcy of Councils and allowed for cathedral chapters to appoint members of the clergy to major benefices without the direct appointment of the papacy. Some years later, however, the Concordat of Bologna (1515) relinquished royal support for conciliar supremacy in exchange for the papacy’s grudging acceptance of the royal prerogative to appoint clergy to most of the major ecclesiastical benefices of the realm. Even after Bologna, however, many clergy including the doctors of the Sorbonne, as well as the leading royal law court, the Parlement of Paris, would periodically revive the memory of the Gallican Liberties promulgated in 1438 as a way of tacitly resisting both royal and papal authority, but the sixteenth-century religious wars and their aftermath only enlarged the scope and sacrality of royal temporal powers over the Gallican Chuch, even as they similarly strengthed papal authority. In fact, after the Estates General of 1614 promulgated the directly divine, sacred inviolability of the royal authority over all temporal matters, the Parlement of Paris emerged for a season triumphant in defending such regalian rights concerning the temporal administration of the church—a claim that often put it at loggerheads with the Gallican clergy that henceforth began to fear that the Parlement of Paris—the supreme royal law court—could limit their own spiritual authority.
By the seventeenth century, then, the Sorbonne had adapted to these changed circumstances and many of its theologians began to speak of the Sorbonne as the Ordinary Council of the Gallican Church. But this corporate self-fashioning was never fully accepted; indeed it was increasingly and successfully challenged by a more hierarchical Post-Tridentine Church and a Bourbon monarchy in France that, as often as not, favored the Jesuits and other regular orders to the exclusion of secular clergy and such medieval corporate institutions as the Sorbonne. Instead, King Louis XIV and his successor, Louis XV, most often promoted the foundation of Jesuit colleges and seminaries between the 1660s and 1762, and they tended to see the Sorbonne as merely advisory to the Archbishop of Paris and the Parlement of Paris. Nevertheless, in the latter half of the seventeenth-century, the Faculty of Theology began to weigh in on extremely important controversies affecting Catholic Europe and its empires. Many of these issues (as for example the methods of Jesuit missionary work in China which ignited a controversy over whether it was licit to selectively accommodate Chinese ancestral rites in order to better facilitate conversation to Christianity), also became the subject of examination by the papal curia in Rome. By the early years of the eighteenth century the Sorbonne was also in effect emerging as a site of theological and political controversy. Issues such as Jansenism, sacramental and moral rigorism, the reputedly lax moral relativism of Jesuits and Molinists, or the authority of bishops over regular clergy (in particular, the Jesuits) were all taken up by the faculty as it attempted to defend its corporate autonomy and interpretive doctrinal authority. The Sorbonne officially accepted the 1653 papal censure of the Five Propositions of Jansenism, and expelled one hundred partisans of Antoine Arnaud from the faculty in 1656. In general, therefore, the Paris Faculty was anti-Jansenist by the dawn of the eighteenth century, but it remained a fierce partisan of the customary liberties of Gallican Church at least in temporal and juridical matters. For this reason, the censure of the Five Propositions divided the faculty, for the papacy was believed to have rightly condemned Jansenism, but erred in matters of fact by associating with Jansenism matters that had had nothing to do with Jansen or his partisans. These divisions had not fully healed by the early years of the eighteenth century when by the papacy of Clement XI issued its most uncompromising and overly ambitious censure of Jansenism yet, Papal Bull Unigenitus (1713). (excerpted from chapter 1)