Charles Batteux

Charles Batteux

Charles Batteux (May 6, 1713 – July 14, 1780) was a French philosopher and writer on aesthetics.

Title page of Les Beaux-Arts réduits à un même principe

Batteux was born in Alland'Huy-et-Sausseuil, Ardennes, and studied theology at Reims. In 1739 he came to Paris, and after teaching in the colleges of Lisieux and Navarre, was appointed to the chair of Greek and Roman philosophy in the Collège de France. His 1746 treatise Les beaux arts réduits à un même principe was an attempt to find a unity among existing theories of beauty and taste on "a single principle", and its views were widely accepted, not only in France but throughout Europe. According the P. O. Kristeller, "the decisive step towards the system of the fine arts [thereby to the modern idea, "fine art"] was taken by the Abbé Batteux in his famous and influential treatise ... [making him] the first to set forth a clearcut system of the fine arts in a treatise devoted entirely to this subject."[1]

The reputation thus gained, confirmed by his translation of Horace (1750), led to Batteux's becoming a member of the Académie des Inscriptions (1754) and of the Académie Française (1761). His Cours de belles lettres (1765) was afterwards included with some minor writings in the large treatise, Principes de la littérature (1774). His philosophical writings were La morale d'Épicure tirée de ses propres écrits (1758), and the Histoire des causes premières (1769). In consequence of the freedom with which in this work he attacked the abuse of authority in philosophy, he lost his professorial chair. His last and most extensive work was a Cours d'études à l'usage des élèves de l'école militaire in forty-five volumes.

In Les Beaux Arts, Batteux developed a theory influenced by John Locke through Voltaire's sceptical sensualism. He held that the fine arts are arts ("assemblages of rules for doing well"), for producing fine or beautiful things ("which please" of themselves), always "in imitation of la belle nature" and requiring genius. Applying this principle to the art of poetry, and analysing, line by line and even word by word, the works of great poets, he deduced the law that the beauty of poetry consists in the accuracy, beauty and harmony of individual expression. His Histoire des causes premières was among the first attempts at a history of philosophy, and in his work on Epicurus, following on Gassendi, he defended Epicureanism against the general attacks made against it.

See Dacier et Dupuy, Éloges, in Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions.


  1. ^ Paul Oskar Kristeller, "The Modern System of the Arts" (1951-1952), repr. in Kristeller, Renaissance Thought and the Arts (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), pp. 163-227. Batteux's full treatise has not been translated into English, but key passages regarding the idea of les beaux arts are translated in Aesthetics, S. Feagin & P. Maynard, eds (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997), pp. 102-104.
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Odet-Joseph Giry
Seat 37
Académie française
Succeeded by
Antoine-Marin Lemierre

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  • Charles Batteux — Charles Batteux, gen. Abbé Charles, (* 6. Mai 1713 in Alland huy bei Vouziers, Ardennes; † 14. Juli 1780 in Paris) war ein französischer Ästhetiker. Nach Abschluss seiner Schulzeit begann Batteux an der Universität Reims Theologie zu studieren.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Charles Batteux —     Charles Batteux     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Charles Batteux     Abbé and writer on philosophy and aesthetics, b. near Vouziers, France, 6 May, 1713; d. at Paris, 14 July, 1780. He was professor at Paris of the humanities and rhetoric, then… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Charles Batteux — (Vouziers, 6 de mayo de 1713 París, 14 de julio de 1780) fue un filósofo francés. Estudió teología en Reims, trasladándose en 1739 a París, donde le fue concedida la cátedra de filosofía clásica del Collège de France. En 1746 publicó el tratado… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Charles Batteux — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Batteux. Page de titre de Les beaux arts réduits à un même principe, 1746 Charles Batteux, né à Alland huy, près de Vouziers (Arden …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Batteux — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Albert Batteux (1919–2003), französischer Fußballtrainer und Fußballspieler Charles Batteux (1713–1780), französischer Philosoph Hans Batteux (1885–1961), deutscher Sänger Diese Sei …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Batteux, Charles — • Abbé and writer on philosophy and aesthetics, b. near Vouziers, France, 6 May, 1713; d. at Paris, 14 July, 1780 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Batteux — (spr. Battöh), Charles, geb. 1715 zu Allend huy bei Rheims, war seit 1725 Lehrer der Rhethorik zu Rheims u. später der griechischen Philosophie u. zuletzt der Beredtsamkeit zu Paris, wo er 1780 starb. B. ist Begründer der französischen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Batteux — (spr. tö), Charles, franz. Ästhetiker, geb. 16. Mai 1713 in Allend huy bei Reims, gest. 14. Juli 1780, ward 1750 Professor am königlichen Kollegium zu Paris, 1754 Mitglied der Akademie der Inschriften und 1761 der französischen Akademie. B. ward… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Batteux — (spr. töh), Abbé Charles, franz. Ästhetiker, geb. 6. Mai 1713 zu Alland huy bei Reims, Prof. an verschiedenen Kollegien in Paris, gest. 14. Juli 1780. Hauptwerk: »Cours de belles lettres« (5 Bde., 1765; deutsch von Ramler, 1798); er fordert… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon