Lambert, St, De, Charles Francois
Lambert, St., de, Charles Francois marquis, a noted French infidel and poet, a contemporary and colaborer of Voltaire on the French Encyclopaedia (q.v.), was born at Vezelise, in Lorraine, in 1716 or 1717. About 1750 he went to Paris, and soon found associates in Rousseau, Voltaire, Grimm, and other celebrated French infidels of Voltaire's day. He became especially celebrated as a poet, his productions were greatly lauded by Voltaire, and, finally, he was made a member of the French Academy. As a philosopher, however, he did not really appear before the public until 1797, when he published Les Principes des Maeur chez toutes les nations, ou Catechisme universel (1797-1800). He died February 9, 1803. St. Lambert's personal history fully coincides with the doctrines he espoused. Ignoring all need of religion, his morals were truly Epicurean, and we need not wonder to find that his celebrity was first gained by the publication of his criminal intercourse with a woman, and the birth of an illegitimate child.
As to a more detailed description of St. Lambert's philosophical system, it may suffice to say here that it very much resembles that of Helvetius, whom St. Lambert slavishly followed. Thus he teaches, in treating of man's nature, and his duties with regard to human nature, that "man, when he first enters upon the stage of life, is simply an organized and sentient mass, and that, whatever feelings or thoughts he may afterwards acquire, still they are simply different manifestations of the sensational faculty, occasioned by the pressure of his various wants and necessities. With regard to ethics, he maintains that, as man possesses only sensations, his sole good must be personal enjoyment, his only duty the attainment of it; and that, as we may be mistaken as to what objects are really adapted to promote our pleasure, the safest rule by which we can judge of duty in particular cases is public opinion." In his Catechisme Universel he divides the whole mass of man's duty into three classes — his duty to himself, to his own family, and to society at large; while the duties of religion are never mentioned, and the very name of God is altogether excluded. Condorcet's fundamental doctrine of ethics — the present perfectibility of mankind, both individually and socially, by means of education — St. Lambert proposed to substitute in place of the sanctions both of morality and religion, as the great regenerating principle of human nature (compare Morell, History of Modern Philosophy, page 111). See Puymaigre, Saint Lambert (1840); Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, s.v. (J.H.W.)