Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle


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French man of letters, polymath and philosopher. Educated by Jesuits, he settled in Paris, where from 1699 he was permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences, and as such a considerable influence on the French Enlightenment and the Encyclopaedists. The Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, 1686) was not an anticipation of possible worlds semantics, but a popular account of the Copernican world system and the mechanics of Descartes. Fontenelle represented a cautious but sceptical attitude to the superstitions of myth and religion, and was venerated as their first ancestor by subsequent philosophes.

Subjects: Literature.

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