Term used to designate:
(1) a group of French intellectuals of the 18th century who contributed articles to the Encyclopedie;

(2) especially, many writers, known as "philosophers," who belonged to their group and helped promote the views set forth in the "Encyclopedie."
The Encyclopedists instigated a movement, founded on rationalism, materialism, naturalism, and deism, which sought to do away with revealed religion. The leaders, Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean d'Alembert (1717-1783), were aided by Voltaire, Rousseau, De Jaucourt, Turgot, Quesnay, Bordeu, Daubenton, D'Holbach, and others. Their official organ was the Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers (Paris, 1751-1765), which was based on John Mills's French translation of Chambers's Cyclopeedia, in regard to the publication of which difficulties had arisen in 1745. Diderot and D' Alembert took over the disputed work and converted it into a vehicle for the propagation of rationalism and scientific progress. The Church sought in vain to stop the resulting increase of irreligion. The atheistic "philosophers" were secretly aided by government officials who secured the expulsion of the Jesuits from France, 1762, and who secured the legislation necessary for publication of the anarchistic Encyclopedie. The evils attendant upon this movement are exemplified by the French Revolution (1789-1799) and the anticlerical legislation in France which survives until the present.

New Catholic Dictionary

NCD Index SQPN Contact Author