Les preuves de l’existence de Dieu chez Samuel Formey

Noctua 5 (2):161-199 (2018)
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The perpetual secretary of the Berlin Academy Johann Heinrich Samuel Formey is best known as a populariser of Christian Wolff’s doctrines. As of Formey’s activity in the Berlin Academy, scholars have mostly emphasized his role in the controversy over monads with Leonhard Euler, while overlooking other interesting contributions Formey presented in the “speculative philosophy” class of the Academy. In this paper, I analyse two articles Formey published in 1747 on the Mémoires de l’Académie de Berlin, namely the Preuves de l’existence de Dieu, ramenées aux notions communes and the Examen de la preuve qu’on tire des fins de la nature, pour établir l’existence de Dieu. In these texts, Formey presents some of Wolff’s methodological and metaphysical ideas, in an implicit dialogue with other members of the Academy – in particular, with the president Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis – who were also interested in metaphysics and the philosophical method. Formey reworks the Wolffian arguments as to make them more accessible, in order to promote an open confrontation over core philosophical questions. Far from adopting a controversial tone, Formey’s attitude is rather conciliatory: any disagreement, as he thinks, can be easily settled once the true method for philosophizing is made available to everybody.

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Marco Storni
Université de Neuchâtel


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