French philosopher; b. Warsaw, May 25, 1661; d. Paris, May 17, 1737. His French parents moved to Normandy when he was a child. He studied at Rouen, entered the Jesuits on Sept. 9, 1679, and taught literature at Paris and philosophy and theology at Rouen. He was exiled in 1696 for disputing the Jansenist recommendations of his archbishop (see jansenism), but he justified himself in Rome and returned to Paris in 1701 to work on the Journal de Trévoux until 1731. He wrote widely on religion, philosophy, history, philology, and pedagogy, and was an original, analytical, and penetrating thinker. In his Traité des premières verités (English tr. 1780) he shows the influence of descartes, locke, and malebranche, but does not follow them. For Buffier, first truths are propositions so evident that they cannot be proved, or refuted, by others more evident. These truths are perceived by the common sense that nature has put in men so that they will judge in a uniform manner. French eclectic philosophers in the 19th century rediscovered Buffier through Thomas reid and the scottish school of common sense. Buffier's successful French grammar (1709) was translated into several languages. The encyclopedists excerpted extensively from his Cours des sciences (1732) without acknowledgment.
Bibliography: p. bernard, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant, 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 2.1:1167–73. a. de bil, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart (Paris 1912–) 10:1083–87. p. magnino, a. mercati and a. pelzer, Dizionario ecclesiastico, 3 v. (Turin 1954–58) 1:446. l. koch, Jesuiten-Lexikon: Die Gesellschaft Jesu einst und jetzt (Paderborn 1934); photoduplicated with rev. and suppl., 2 v. (Louvain-Heverlee 1962) 277.