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Good Sense (Great Books in Philosophy) Paperback – March 1, 2004

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About the Author

Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach, was born in December 1723, in Edesheim, Rhine Palatinate but was raised in Paris by his uncle Franciscus Adam d'Holbach. Paul Henri attended the University of Leyden, Holland, from 1744 till about 1749. In that year he married his cousin Basile-Genevieve d'Aine. Around 1754 his uncle Franciscus and his father-in-law both died, leaving Paul Henri the barony of d'Holbach and a large fortune.

D'Holbach used his wealth to establish a coterie in Paris for which he became famous. This group included noted intellectuals of the day such as Denis Diderot, Claude-Adrien Helvetius, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, Edward Gibbon, David Hume, and Adam Smith, as well as French nobles and ambassadors from European countries.

D'Holbach contributed articles on chemistry and allied scientific topics to Diderot's ENCYCLOPEDIE. A vigorous opponent of Christianity, he escaped public and political ridicule by publishing his critical views using the names of deceased friends or employing pseudonyms. In 1761 he published LE CHRISTIANISME DEVOILE (Christianity Unveiled) using the name of his deceased friend N.A. Boulanger. His most famous book, SYSTEME DE LA NATURE (The System of Nature), published in 1770 under the name of J.B. Mirabaud, derided religion. LE BON-SENS (Good Sense) was published in 1772 under the name of Jean Meslier. D'Holbach's 1773 SYSTEME SOCIAL (Social System) placed morality and politics in a utilitarian framework. THE SYSTEM OF NATURE and GOOD SENSE were condemned by the Paris parliament and publicly burned.

D'Holbach died on June 21, 1789, in Paris.

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Product Details

  • Series: Great Books in Philosophy
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021456
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021452
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,067,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Baron d'Holbach was a man so ahead of his time it is absolutely amazing. Good Sense discusses on how we can get our morals and do right without religion and theology, rather than needing them to do good. He does address why a divinity does not exist, and the corruption of the church, but again the focus of this book is on morals. His work 'The System of Nature' written two years earlier discusses more about why there is no deity.

D'holbach writes of war, hatred, and the corruption that not just the institution of church has done, but he addresses that it is all based off their teachings and not radicalism (i.e. The Bible, Torah, Koran). He was a well educated man (as proof of his work in Paris), and used examples of all religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Chinese, Indian, and even Native American beliefs.

Like many other modern authors and activists who claim we don't need religion to know what is right, that we are instinctual animals who through reason and science we can discover morality, d'Holbach already believed this. What makes this man so amazing is that he knew so much about nature and humans place within it before Darwinism came along (which greatly changed the playing field of how people view religion).

Anyone who is already a freethinker and interested in a classic atheistic work on morality, I encourage you to please read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Colossal. Perhaps it is the merit of the translation --done around 1900's-- but whatever the reason, this mid-XVIII century philosopher reads as if he were our contemporary. Of course, the depth and brilliance of the ideas in this book belong wholly to the Baron, a man of such caliber as to be the host and friend of thinkers such as Diderot and Hume. I won't say more; I will leave Mr. D'Holbach to speak for himself. The following are a few assorted gems of his uniquely sharp mind:
<< Metaphysics teach us that God is a pure spirit. But is modern theology superior to that of the savages? The savages acknowledge a great spirit for the master of the world. The savages, like all ignorant people, attribute to spirits all the effects of which their experience cannot discover the true causes. Ask a savage: what works your watch? He will answer: it is a spirit. Ask the divines: what moves the universe? They answer it is a spirit.
The material Jupiter of the ancients could move, compose, destroy and create beings similar to himself; but the God of modern theology is sterile. He can neither occupy any place in space nor move matter, nor form a visible world, nor create humans or gods.
David Hume, speaking of theologians, has ingeniously observed that they have discovered the solution of the famous problem of Archimedes: a point in the heavens, from where they move the world.
… before we know that we must adore a God must we not know certainly that he exists? But how can we assure ourselves that he exists if we never examine whether he really has the various qualities attributed to him?
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Format: Paperback
In 1770 Louis XV was nearing the end of his long and despotic reign in France. The law there called for execution of those who preached a religion other than Roman Catholicism. It was in this setting that Paul Thiry (Baron d'Holbach) published his "System of Nature." Two years later "Good Sense" appeared, expounding in 206 articles Thiry's opinions about religion previously expressed in the "System." It was printed anonymously and in a foreign country to forestall persecution of the writer.
The Author's Preface summarizes his argument. The incomprehensibility of the concept of God results in the elaboration of speculations about this supposed being, and the perplexity arising from attempts "to solve an insoluble problem" leads to fanaticism and violence. The servants of religion have promoted ignorance, fear, and submissiveness, which "make men wicked and unhappy. Knowledge, Reason, and Liberty, can alone reform and make men happier."
Thiry criticizes the concept of God from the standpoints of epistemology, logic, and ethics. He addresses the cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God, the allegation that people possess an "inward sense" of a deity, and the historical prevalence of theistic beliefs as evidence of their correctness. The concept of faith, and the notion of "truths above reason," are analyzed and criticized.
The author demonstrates the absence of a plausible motive for divine creation of the universe. He notes that "chance" means "ignorance of true causes" and criticizes the theological argument that the alternative to divine creation is "chance"--an argument that theologians have continued to make despite its invalidity. He points out the absence of any plausible concept of how an immaterial spirit can affect matter.
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