'Their grosser degrees of infidelity' : deists, politics, natural philosophy, and the power of God in eighteenth-century England
Wigelsworth, Jeffrey Robert
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In this dissertation I demonstrate that the political views and use of natural philosophy by deists—heretics who denied revelation, active providence, and the authority of priests—in early-modern England were not as subversive as past scholarship suggests. Like other erudite endeavours in the period, a deist conception of God was the foundation for their interpretation of contemporary natural philosophy and political writings. Though many scholars have noted that deists employed contemporary natural philosophy in many of their works, the way deists actually used these writings has not been explored in a comprehensive manner. Moreover, when many historians engage deism, they frequently stop at one deist in particular, John Toland. My dissertation reveals how theology informed deist natural philosophy which in turn was inseparably joined to their political works. The two goals of this study are to remove deists from the sidelines of intellectual debates in early-modern England and place them squarely in the centre alongside other political and natural philosophical authors and to demonstrate that deism cannot be reduced to or encapsulated in the person of John Toland.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Copyright DateSeptember 2005