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The “Exasperating Predecessor”: Pocock on Gibbon and Voltaire

Force, Pierre

This article offers a critical discussion of Pocock’s analysis of the relationship between Gibbon and Voltaire, and particularly the extent to which Decline and Fall was inspired by Voltaire’s Essai sur les moeurs. It shows that “Momigliano’s hypothesis” about the divorce of philosophy and erudition and their reconciliation in Gibbon was initially a commentary by Momigliano on Voltaire’s historical work. It argues that the “Momiglianian model” plays a central role in Pocock’s argument in Barbarism and Religion. In that sense, understanding Gibbon’s highly ambiguous appraisal of Voltaire helps us understand the overall purpose of Decline and Fall.

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Published In
Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume
77
Issue
1
Pages
129 - 145
Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
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