Louis de Bonald
Louis Gabriel Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald (2 October 1754 – 23 November 1840), was a French counter-revolutionary philosopher and politician. Mainly, he is remembered for developing a set of social theories that exercised a powerful influence in shaping the ontological framework from which French sociology would emerge.
Louis de Bonald
Portrait of Bonald by Julien-Léopold Boilly
Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald
2 October 1754
|Died||23 November 1840 (aged 86)|
Bonald came from an ancient noble family of Provence. He was educated at the Oratorian college at Juilly, and after serving with the Artillery, he held a post in the local administration of his native province. Elected to the States General of 1789 as a deputy for Aveyron, he strongly opposed the new legislation on the civil status of the clergy and emigrated in 1791. There he joined the army of the Prince of Condé, soon settling in Heidelberg. There he wrote his first important work, the highly conservative Theorie du Pouvoir Politique et Religieux dans la Societe Civile Demontree par le Raisonnement et l'Histoire (3 vols., 1796; new ed., Paris, 1854, 2 vols.), which the Directory condemned.
Upon returning to France, he found himself an object of suspicion and at first lived in retirement. In 1806, he, along with Chateaubriand and Joseph Fiévée, edited the Mercure de France. Two years later, he was appointed counsellor of the Imperial University, which he had often attacked previously. After the Bourbon Restoration he was a member of the council of public instruction. From 1815 to 1822, de Bonald served as a deputy in the Chamber of Deputies. His speeches were extremely conservative and he advocated literary censorship. In 1825, he argued strongly in favor of the Anti-Sacrilege Act, including its prescription of the death penalty under certain conditions.
In 1822, de Bonald was made Minister of State, and presided over the censorship commission. In the following year, he was made a peer, a dignity which he had lost by refusing to take the required oath in 1803. In 1816, he was appointed to the French Academy. In 1830, he retired from public life and spent the remainder of his days on his estate at Le Monna.
Bonald was one of the leading writers of the theocratic or traditionalist school, which included de Maistre, Lamennais, Ballanche and baron Ferdinand d'Eckstein. His writings are mainly on social and political philosophy, and are based ultimately on one great principle, the divine origin of language. In his own words, "L'homme pense sa parole avant de parler sa pensée" (man thinks his speech before saying his thought); the first language contained the essence of all truth. From this he deduces the existence of God, the divine origin and consequent supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures, and the infallibility of the Catholic Church.
While this thought lies at the root of all his speculations, there is a formula of constant application. All relations may be stated as the triad of cause, means and effect, which he sees repeated throughout nature. Thus, in the universe, he finds the first cause as mover, movement as the means, and bodies as the result; in the state, power as the cause, ministers as the means, and subjects as the effects; in the family, the same relation is exemplified by father, mother and children. These three terms bear specific relations to one another; the first is to the second as the second to the third. Thus, in the great triad of the religious world—God, the Mediator, and Man—God is to the God-Man as the God-Man is to Man. On this basis, he constructed a system of political absolutism.
Bonald published one of the most violent anti-Semitic texts of the post-French Revolutionary period, Sur les juifs. In it, the Philosophes are condemned for fashioning the intellectual tools used to justify Jewish emancipation during the Revolution. Bonald accuses the Jews of not becoming "authentic" French citizens and disrupting traditional society. Michele Battini writes:
According to Bonald [...] the Constituent Assembly had committed "the enormous mistake of knowingly putting laws in conflict with religion and customs," but, sooner or later, the government would have to change its mind, as would "the friends of the blacks" who regretted "the haste with which they called for freedom for a people who had always been alien." [...] The Jews, by their "nature," are a nation destined to remain alien to other peoples. This "foreignness" appears—this seems the sense of the reference to the noirs —to be an objective fact, permanent and "physical," and for this reason analogous to the racial difference with the blacks.
Bonald calls for the reversal of Jewish emancipation and endorses new discriminatory measures:
such as the imposition of identifying marks on the clothes of the enemy who had become "invisible" because of emancipation. The identification mark (la marque distinctive) would be fully justified by the need to identify those responsible for behavior hostile to the bien public. The return to the past almost sounds like a premonition of Hitler’s decrees.
- "Monarchy considers man in his ties with society; a republic considers man independently of his relations to society."
- "There was geometry in the world before Newton, and philosophy before Descartes, but before language there was absolutely nothing but bodies and their images, because language is the necessary instrument of every intellectual operation — nay, the means of every moral existence."
- "Man thinks his word before he speaks his thought, or, in other words, man cannot speak his thought without thinking his word."
- "The deist is a man who in his short existence has not had time to become an atheist."
- "Absolute liberty of the press is a tax upon those who read. It is demanded only by those who write."
- "The cry 'Liberty, equality, fraternity or death!' was much in vogue during the Revolution. Liberty ended by covering France with prisons, equality by multiplying titles and decorations, and fraternity by dividing us. Death alone prevailed."
- 1796: Théorie du Pouvoir Politique et Religieux.
- 1800: Essai Analytique sur les Lois Naturelles de l’Ordre Social.
- 1801: Du Divorce: Considéré au XIXe, Impr. d'A. Le Clere.
- 1802: Législation Primitive (3 volumes).
- 1817: Pensées sur Divers Sujets.
- 1818: Recherches Philosophiques sur les Premiers Objets des Connaissances Morales.
- 1815: Réflexions sur l’Intérêt Général de l’Europe.
- 1818: Observations sur un Ouvrage de Madame de Staël.
- 1819: Mélanges Littéraires, Politiques et Philosophiques.
- 1830: Démonstration Philosophique du Principe Constitutif de la Société.
- 1821: Opinion sur la Loi Relative à la Censure des Journaux.
- 1825: De la Chrétienté et du Christianisme.
- 1826: De la Famille Agricole et de la Famille Industrielle.
- 1834: Discours sur la Vie de Jésus-Christ.
- Œuvres de M. de Bonald, 1817-1843 (A. Le Clere, 14 vols. in-8°).
- Œuvres de M. de Bonald, 1847-1859 (A. Le Clere, 7 vols. in-8° gr.).
- Œuvres Complètes de M. de Bonald, 1858 (Jacques-Paul Migne, 3 vols. in-4°).
- Œuvres Complètes, Archives Karéline, 2010 (facsimile of the Migne edition).
Writings in English translationEdit
- In Menczer, Béla, 1962. Catholic Political Thought, 1789-1848, University of Notre Dame Press.
- On Divorce, Transaction Publishers, 1992.
- In Blum, Christopher Olaf, editor and translator, 2004. Critics of the Enlightenment. Wilmington DE: ISI Books.
- 1815: "On Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux," pp. 43–70.
- 1817: "Thoughts on Various Subjects," pp. 71–80.
- 1818: "Observations on Madame de Stael's Considerations on the Principle Events of the French Revolution," pp. 81–106.
- 1826: "On the Agricultural Family, the Industrial Family, and the Right of Primogeniture," pp. 107–32.
- The True and Only Wealth of Nations: Essays on Family, Society and Economy, trans. by Christopher Blum. Ave Maria University Press, 2006. ISBN 1-932589-31-7
- Beum, Robert (1997). "Ultra-Royalism Revisited: An Annotated Bibliography With A Preface," Modern Age, Vol. 39, No. 3, p. 302.
- Nisbet, Robert A. (1943). "The French Revolution and the Rise of Sociology in France," The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 156–164.
- Nisbet, Robert A. (1944). "De Bonald and the Concept of the Social Group," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 315–331.
- Reedy, W. Jay (1979). "Conservatism and the Origins of the French Sociological Tradition: A Reconsideration of Louis de Bonald's Science of Society," Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Meeting for the Western Society for French History, Vol. 6, pp. 264–273.
- Reedy, W. Jay (1994). "The Historical Imaginary of Social Science in Post-Revolutionary France: Bonald, Saint-Simon, Comte," History of the Human Sciences, Vol. 7 no. 1, pp. 1–26.
- Simpson, Marin (2005). "Bonald, Louis de (1754–1840)." In: Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Thought. London & New York: Routledge, p. 58.
- EB 1911.
- Simpson (2005), p. 58.
- Dorschel, Andreas (2008). "Aufgeklärte Gegenaufklärung", Süddeutsche Zeitung, No. 25, p. 16.
- Godechot, Jacques (1982). The Counter-Revolution: Doctrine and Action, 1789–1804. Princeton University Press.
- Blum, Christopher Olaf (2006). "On Being Conservative: Lessons from Louis de Bonald," The Intercollegiate Review, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 23–31.
- Masseau, Didier (2000). Les Ennemis des Philosophes. Editions Albin Michel.
- Battini, Michele (2016). Socialism of Fools: Capitalism and Modern Anti-Semitism. Columbia University Press. pp. 30–36.
- Sauvage 1907.
- Sauvage, George (1907), , in Herbermann, Charles (ed.), Catholic Encyclopedia, 2, New York: Robert Appleton Company
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Louis de Bonald.|
- , Encyclopædia Britannica, 4 (9th ed.), 1878, p. 27
- Works by Louis de Bonald, at Gallica
- Works by or about Louis de Bonald at Internet Archive
- Works by Louis de Bonald, at Hathi Trust
- Louis-Ambroise Vicomte de Bonald (1754-1840)
- Louis de Bonald's Univocity of Being: The Mythos of the Fait Sociale and the Rise of French Sociology
Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès
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