Paul Holbach: biography, date and place of birth, basic philosophical ideas, books, quotes, interesting facts


Paul Holbach - French writer, compiler of the encyclopedia and philosopher (German by birth). He did an outstanding job of systematizing the concepts of the materialists of France. He was one of those people on whose writings the bourgeoisie of the times of revolutionary France matured.

Birth and childhood

Paul Henri Holbach was born in 1723, on the eighth of December in the city of Heidelsheim (Germany, Palatinate) in the family of a small merchant.


Childhood boy has developed tragic. He became orphaned at the age of seven, and the brother of the deceased mother took him under his care. And at twelve, he came to Paris, to the city with which almost the entire biography of Paul Holbach is connected.

On the advice of his uncle, Paul Henri entered the University of Leiden. Within his walls, he attended lectures that held the great minds of the time, and also studied the newest theories of natural science.


Young Paul showed the greatest interest in physics, chemistry, geology and mineralogy. In addition, he enthusiastically studied the works of materialists and philosophy.

Return to paris

Paul Holbach graduated from the university in 1749, after which he returned from the Netherlands to the capital of France, taking with him a decent store of knowledge in the most diverse spheres of life.

Family ties with his uncle gave him the opportunity to get the title of baron for themselves. Since he was fairly well provided for, he could devote his time to the work of his whole life - philosophy, while not caring about such things as food and a roof over his head.

In Paris, Paul Henri founded a salon that became a meeting place for people who wanted to carry enlightenment to the masses. Representatives of various worlds gathered in the salon: from scientists and philosophers to participants in political games. One of the most famous visitors to the salon were people like Adam Smith, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Diderot and others.

Developing gradually, the salon increasingly turned into a center of education and philosophy throughout the country.

Encyclopedia and other achievements

Holbach often received with all the hospitality encyclopedists at home, while not limited to the role of an interesting conversationalist. He left his significant contribution as a sponsor, bibliographer, editor, consultant and author of numerous articles on various topics in the Encyclopedia, or Explanatory Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Crafts.

Writing articles for the "Encyclopedia" showed the vastness of the knowledge of Paul Holbach in many fields, and also revealed him as a skillful popularizer.

Among academicians, Paul Henri received the recognition of a magnificent naturalist. He was elected an honorary member of the Mannheim and Berlin Academies of Science. He received the same title from the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg in September 1789.

Attitude to the church

Holbach used his popularizing abilities and an extraordinary mind not only to write articles in the Encyclopedia. One of the most significant occupations of Holbach was propaganda directed against Catholicism, clergy and religion in general.

His work entitled "Exposed Christianity" (1761) was the first of a number of critical works that were published without an author's signature or under fictitious names.


The work of 1770, entitled "The System of Nature, or On the Laws of the Physical World and the World of the Spiritual, " became widely known and is considered the most significant work of Paul Holbach.


The work itself represents the systematization of the ideas of materialists and natural scientists of the time, as well as the argumentation of their worldview from various sides. Fundamental work was done, and after publication it became known as the "Bible of the materialist."

This tremendous work not only received universal recognition, but also created the need for reprinting. Thus, handwritten copies of the book showed themselves to the world one after another.

The fact that the book was selling out quite successfully caused serious concern among the authorities and the church. So serious that work is banned. And in 1770, in August, the Paris Parliament issued a decree on the burning of this book in the presence of the people.

Holbach himself escaped punishment solely due to the fact that authorship was kept secret from even the closest people to him.

The development of the idea of ​​education

Despite the persecution of the "System of Nature" by the authorities and the church, Holbach continues to develop it after 1770 in many of his works, which together make up a large number of volumes. These volumes include such works as "Natural Politics", "Universal Morality", "Social System", "Etocracy", as well as other works in which a new revolutionary program in the political and social spheres was laid.

The general idea that went through all the labors of Paul Henri Holbach was the idea of ​​educating the people, the importance of bringing the truth to people and freeing them from destructive prejudices and delusions.

Another merit of Holbach is the translation into French of many works of Swedish and German philosophers and scholars of the past. He published at least thirteen similar works in the period from 1751 to 1760.

Moreover, he did not just translate the works of others from one language to another, but supplemented them with the introduction of his own comments and some changes into the works. All this gave the translated works of philosophers additional value.

The last day of the scientist’s life, whose philosophy and credo was the enlightenment of the people, was the date of January 21, 1789.

Quotes by Paul Henri Holbach


Among the quotes of the philosopher, it is worth highlighting those that help to understand the philosophy of Paul Holbach and his attitude towards religion and society as a whole. The most famous of them include the following:

  • Morality should be based on a less shaky base, rather than an example of God, who can be called good, only obstinately shutting his eyes to all the evil, which is created every minute or allowed by him in this world.
  • If there were no evil in this world, man would never have thought of deity.
  • The desire to like, loyalty to the traditions, the fear of appearing ridiculous and the fear of human gossip are incentives that are much stronger than religious ideas.
  • Conscience is our inner judge, unmistakably testifying how much our actions deserve the respect or censure of our neighbors.
  • Religion is a bridle for people unbalanced by nature or hurt by the circumstances of life. Fear of God keeps from sin only those who are not capable of much desiring or no longer able to sin.

Relationship to nature

Matter or nature, as Paul Holbach believed, is itself its own cause. He believed that nature as it is impossible to create, and impossible to destroy, because it itself is infinite in space and time.

Holbach considered matter to be the totality of all bodies in nature, which consists of indivisible and immutable atoms - particles that are characterized by movement, weight, length, shape, and impenetrability. Paul Henri considered precisely motion to be the very way of existence of matter and reduced it to form. He argued that energy is the cause of the movement of matter.

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