1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Batteux, Charles
BATTEUX, CHARLES (1713–1780), French philosopher and writer on aesthetics, was born near Vouziers (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. In 1746 he published his treatise Les Beaux-Arts réduits à un même principe, an attempt to find a unity among the various theories of beauty and taste, and his views were widely accepted. The reputation thus gained, confirmed by his translation of Horace (1750), led to his becoming a member of the Académie des Inscriptions (1754) and of the French Academy (1761). His Cours de belles lettres (1765) was afterwards included with some minor writings in the large treatise, Principes de la littérature (1774). The rules for composition there laid down are, perhaps, somewhat pedantic. 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 (45 vols.). In the Beaux-Arts, Batteux developed a theory which is derived from Locke through Voltaire’s sceptical sensualism. He held that Art consists in the faithful imitation of the beautiful in nature. 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. This narrow and pedantic theory had at least the merit of insisting on propriety of 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.