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The Critique of Prejudice in Eighteenth Century French Literature

French Literature in Individual Representations pp 321-399 | Cite as

Summary

The light of the Enlightenment also cast some shadows; even the common sense of committed, if not combative, philosophers has occasionally been tarnished by prejudice. This is how we find it in the collective work Le Portefeuille d’un philosophe, which was published in 1770 under the name of Henri-Joseph Laurens (1719-1793) [1], in the first place a poem about "The Prejudice" [2] and its pernicious influence: Prejudices - by this the author understands class differences as well as Original sin too - be tyrants who subjugate us and act more terrible than the worst poison. They come along in the wake of ignorance, an insidious pack who fill the world with misdeeds. Yes, the tyrannical ruler, the despot, can "only" deprive us of property and freedom; the "prejudice" on the other hand "dishonors" us and subjugates our mental faculties, our willpower. Armed with "reason" it is necessary to fight against this calamity; Each individual is able to take up the fight against calamity by virtue of his or her good mental and spiritual disposition:

Nous avons notre esprit pour guide: Il nous appelle, obéissons.

Qu’avec lui notre coeur décide, Agissons d’après ses leçons.

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