Huet, Pierre Daniel

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Theologian and philosopher, the last of the "Christian skeptics" following after M. E. de montaigne and P. charron; b. Caen (Normandy), Feb. 8, 1630; d. Paris, Jan. 26, 1721. In 1670 Louis XIV appointed him Bossuet's assistant in teaching the Dauphin. Here he initiated the famous set of classical texts, ad usum Delphini. At court Huet became a priest, and was later appointed bishop of Soissons, which diocese he traded for Avranches. He retired in 1699 to a Jesuit establishment in Paris to which he had given his immense library (now in the Bibliothèque Nationale), and he remained there until his death.

His most important works were Demonstratio Evangelica (1679), which grew out of his conversations with Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel in Amsterdam; Censura philosophiae cartesianae (1689), a skeptical critique of Cartesianism; and the posthumous skeptical Traité philosophique de la foiblesse de l'esprit humain, written around 1692, first published in 1723. Huet's views combined thorough-going skepticism, latitudinarianism, probabilistic defenses of Christianity, empirical scientific researches, and advocacy of fideism. He was considered the most learned man of his age, and his erudite findings were used by Enlightenment figures to attack traditional religion.

Bibliography: p. d. huet, Traité philosophique de la foiblesse de l'esprit humain (Amsterdam 1723), Eng. A Philosophical Treatise concerning the Weakness of Human Understanding (London 1725). c. j. c. bartholomÈss, Huet, évèque d'Avranches, ou le scepticisme théologique (Paris 1850). l. tolmer, "Pierre-Daniel Huet: Humaniste-physicien," Académie Nationale des Sciences, Arts et Belles-lettres de Caen. Mémoires NS 11 (1949) 718.

[r. h. popkin]