Naigeon, Jacques-André (1738–1810)

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Jacques-André Naigeon, a French writer, was an associate of Denis Diderot. Naigeon was not an original thinker; he became an editor, compiler, and commentator after having tried painting and sculpture, but he considered himself a philosopher and was proud of his classical erudition. A bibliophile, too, he accumulated one of the great collections of Greek and Latin classics of his time. Having been accepted into the group of Encyclopedists surrounding Baron d'Holbach, he became an aggressive atheist. He attached himself to Diderot as a disciple and tried to imitate his tone, his manner, and his ideas. Diderot in turn enjoyed Naigeon's wit and tolerated his bad temper, stiffness, and pedantry; Naigeon helped Diderot with the salons and the Encyclopédie. Naigeon later persuaded Diderot to make him his literary executor. He preserved and edited many of Diderot's manuscripts but did not publish others. He put out an incomplete edition of Diderot's works in 1798 and wrote a valuable but unfinished commentary on his life and writings, Mémoires historiques et philosophiques sur la vie et les ouvrages de Diderot (Paris, 1821). He also arranged the clandestine printing of several of Holbach's works in the Netherlands, and in 1770 published Mélange de pièces sur la religion et la morale, which contained some minor pieces by Holbach and other writers.

Naigeon edited the works of Seneca, completing the translation begun by N. La Grange and adding notes; he published it with Diderot's defense of Seneca, Essai sur les régnes de Claude et de Néron (Paris, 1778). A one-act musical comedy, Les Chinois (1756), is sometimes attributed to him, perhaps in collaboration with Charles-Nicolas Favart. His only "original" work was Le militaire philosophe, ou Difficultés sur la religion, proposées au P. Mallebranche (London and Amsterdam, 1768), which is based on an earlier anonymous manuscript and has a final chapter by Holbach. This dull work is of minor value as an example of dogmatic atheism and materialism, but it merely repeats the same ideas and arguments that had run throughout the radical writings of the entire century. Naigeon supports hatred of priests and the church with the doctrine of materialism and a naturalistic utilitarian morality. He denounces Christian ethics (asceticism, humility, etc.), demanding fulfillment of legitimate natural demands and a moral code based on social well-being. He points out contradictions in Christian ethics and doctrine, stressing its cruelty and its failure. He argues that Christian ethics leads to an inversion of the natural order of values, hence to intolerance, inhumanity, and crimes. Earth would be peaceful and happy if the idea of God were eliminated.

Naigeon continued this attack in his contributions to C. J. Panckoucke's Encyclopédie méthodique. This work consisted of separate dictionaries, and Naigeon edited the Dictionnaire de la philosophie ancienne et moderne (3 vols., Paris, 17911793), which was largely a compilation. In Adresse à l'Assemblée nationale sur la liberté des opinions (1790) he demanded absolute freedom of the press and again gave vent to his hatred of priests.

There are no studies on Naigeon, except in relation to his publication of Diderot's manuscripts, nor is any needed.

See also Diderot, Denis; Encyclopédie; Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'; Seneca, Lucius Annaeus.

L. G. Crocker (1967)

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Naigeon, Jacques-André (1738–1810)

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