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Abstract

I could scarce avoid taking notice of the great and deplorable growth of irreligion, especially among those, that aspired to pass for wits, and several of them too for philosophers. And on the other side it was obvious, that divers learned men, as well as others, partly upon the score of their abhorrence of these infidels and libertines, and partly upon that of a well-meaning but ill formed zeal, had brought many good men to think, that religion and philosophy were incompatible; both parties contributing to the vulgar error, but with this difference, that the libertines thought a virtuoso ought not to be a Christian, and the others, that he could not be a true one.1

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Jewish History Jewish Study Early Eighteenth Century 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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References

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    Robert Boyle, The Christian Virtuoso: Shewing, That by being addicted to experimental philosophy, a man is rather assisted than indisposed to be a good Christian (London, 1690 ), p. 37.Google Scholar
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    The concept of a “general crisis” in the seventeenth century is discussed in Geoffrey Parker and Lesley M. Smith (eds.), The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1978); and Trevor Aston (ed), Crisis in Europe 1560–1660 (London, 1965). Hazard seems to place the crisis in the more limited period 1680 to 1715.Google Scholar
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    Margaret Jacob, in her recent discussion of the Hazard thesis, introduces the idea that men of Newton’s generation maintained combinations of positions, by dint of a “Calvinist rationalism,” which we would consider paradoxical:This thesis, while not especially enlightening in many respects, accords very well as far as it goes with Newton’s own thought, especially his voluntarism. See M. Jacob, “The Crisis of the European Mind: Hazard Revisited,” idem and P. Mack (eds.), Politics and Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of H.G. Koenigsberger (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 251–271; quotation from p. 260.Google Scholar
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    On the doctrine of the Two Books and some examples of its crisis, see J. E. Force and R. H. Popkin (eds.), The Books of Nature and Scripture: Recent Essays on Natural Philosophy, Theology, and Biblical Criticism in the Netherlands of Spinoza’s Time and the British Isles of Newton’s Time (Dordrecht, 1994). On the religious implications of these crises, see, e.g., R.H. Popkin and A. Vanderjagt (eds.), Skepticism and Irreligion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Leiden, 1993), particularly the article by David Katz, “Isaac Vossius and the English Biblical Critics,” (pp. 142–84), which illustrates many of the problems just mentioned; H.G. von Reventlow, The Authority of the Bible and the Rise of the Modern World (Philadelphia, 1985); David Wootton, Paolo Sarpi: Between Renaissance and Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1983); idem and Michael Hunter (eds.), Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment (Oxford, 1992); Lucien Febvre, The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century: The Religion of Rabelais (Cambridge, MA, 1982; original French ed., Le Problème de l’incroyance au XV! siècle: la religion de Rabelais [Paris, 1942]); Alan Charles Kors, Atheism in France, 1650–1729, Vol. I.: The Orthodox Sources of Disbelief, (Princeton, 1990); idem and Paul J. Korshin (eds.), Anticipations of the Enlightenment in England, France, and Germany (Philadelphia, 1987); David Berman, A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell (London, 1988). It should be noted that while the numbers of deep skeptics and atheists increased dramatically over Newton’s lifetime, even at the end of that period they constituted a minority of thinkers. On aspects of the New Science which brought about a crisis in the Book of Nature, see, e.g., Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore, 1957); E.J. Dijksterhuis, The Mechanization ofthe World Picture: Pythagoras to Newton (Oxford, 1961), Parts IV and V; Brian Easlea, Witch-hunting, Magic & the New Philosophy: An Introduction to the Debates of the Scientific Revolution 1450–1750 (Sussex, 1980). It is noteworthy that Thomas S. Kuhn’s great classic in the philosophy of science, The Structure ofScientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1962; enlarged ed. 1970), centers around the idea that paradigms of scientific explanation shift when they reach a crisis, and that the “Copernican Revolution,” of which Newton was the capstone, represents such a paradigm shift.Google Scholar
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    As a rule, says Castillejo, “The few scholars who were able to study them could make little of these historical, theological and mystical MSS. It became fashionable to assume that Newton the young genius had had a nervous breakdown in his fifties and had turned into Newton the dotard.” (David Castillejo, “A Report on the Yahuda Collection,” p. 1.) See also idem, The Expanding Force in Newton’s Cosmos (Madrid, 1981), p. 13.Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (New York, 1895; reprint 1955 ), p. 15: “For there came, one after the other, five of the greatest men our race has produced —Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton— and when their work was done the old theological conception of the universe was gone.” The creation of Newton’s image as the father of modern rationalism by eighteenth-century poets and philosophers is discussed and illustrated in Gerd Buchdahl, The Image of Newton and Locke in the Age of Reason (London, 1961 ).Google Scholar
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    George Zollschan, “God’s Sensorium: Newton’s Kabbalistic Slip,” paper delivered at the Conference of the Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science in Melbourne, Australia, July 1993. A typescript of this paper was kindly supplied me by the author.Google Scholar
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    David B. Ruderman, “Jewish Thought in Newtonian England: The Career and Writings of David Nieto,” Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research, vol. 58 (1992), pp. 191–217. Chapter 11 of Ruderman’s book Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New Haven, 1995) is substantially identical with this article.Google Scholar
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    See Chapter 3 below and see Popkin, “The Crisis of Polytheism and the Answers of Vossius, Cudworth, and Newton” and idem, “Polytheism, Deism and Newton.”Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    See Richard S. Westfall, “Newton: Theologian,” Edna Ullmann-Margalit (ed), The Scientific Enterprise: The Bar-Hillel Colloquium: Studies in History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science, vol. 4 (Dordrecht, 1992), pp. 227–233. The presentation of Newton’s theology beginning at this point is based on the works of Manuel and Westfall, modified by my own understanding.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    I am describing here the cleaned-up version of Newton’s thought which emerges from his System of the World, but which may not precisely reflect the entirety of his ideas on the relationship between revelation and ancient religion. It certainly appears more complicated in the rougher forms encountered in MSS. Yahuda 16 and 41. See Chapter 3 below.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Euhemerus of Messene M. ca. 300 b.c.e.) claimed that all deities are in fact derived from dead heroes and kings who were worshiped by later generations.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Most scholars continue to learn of Newton’s theology from the few items published shortly after Newton’s death; the poor and very limited collection by McLachlan from the 1950’s; the hastily and tendentiously edited material published in Brewster’s 1855 Memoirs of the Life... of SirIsaac Newton; or the few dozen pages made available by Manuel, Popkin and Force. I am informed that Rob Iliffe and Justin Champion are preparing full original works of Newton to be published in the near future, and that an Italian/English edition of MS. Yahuda 1 has appeared. In the meantime, I hope that these appendices will help widen the access to texts.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matt Goldish
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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