This chapter examines the exchange between Fontenelle and Baltus. Fontenelle's celebrated Histoire des oracles (1686) was an adaptation of an earlier work, the Dissertationes duae de oraculis ethnicorum (1683) by the Mennonite preacher and physician, Antonie van Dale. Both argued that the oracles had been pure frauds. The chapter focuses on Fontenelle because it was the Histoire, not the Dissertationes, that Baltus attacked at length in 1707. These two, therefore, must be paired as direct interlocutors. The analytical, nonhistorical approach of this chapter suits its goal: to examine the conflict between two mentalités, and the way in which their respective assumptions about history and humanity underpinned their disagreement on the oracles. In taking Fontenelle and Baltus seriously, both in their own right and as figures in history, the chapter aims to overcome the old dichotomy between “rational” and “historical” reconstructions of past thought, that is, between anachronism and antiquarianism.
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