Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-7mfl8 Total loading time: 0.208 Render date: 2021-12-01T02:45:38.733Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

5 - The golden age of natural theology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2014

Benjamin C. Jantzen
Affiliation:
Virginia College of Technology
Get access

Summary

The rise of natural theology

From among the sparse offerings of the Middle Ages, I presented only the design argument of Thomas Aquinas as worth a close examination. However, there is one more medieval work we ought to consider, if only for its significance as a transitional text. I am referring to a book written in the 1430s by a Spanish professor of medicine, philosophy, and theology named Raymond Sebonde. The importance of this book is not to be found in the specific design argument it contains. In fact, unlike what we saw in the work of Aquinas, it’s no straightforward affair to extract a clear argument from Sebonde. His book was never translated from its original Latin into English (though Montaigne did translate it into French), and those few who have undertaken to study the book in its original form suggest it is almost unreadable. It contains some 330 chapters of poorly rendered and heavily abbreviated Latin. Nonetheless, we can charitably reconstruct the following argument from the third chapter of the text. The “book of nature” is composed of creatures that can be sorted into four “degrees” or “grades” based on their possession or lack of “existence, life, sensation, intelligence, and free will.” In the first grade are things like rocks that have only existence. In the second grade are things like plants that have existence and life, but nothing else. The animals, the third grade of creature, have everything excepting intelligence and free will. Mankind is in a grade of its own, possessing the whole package of characteristics. Now, says Sebonde, the presence of these characteristics must have a cause. The cause cannot be humanity itself – we certainly didn’t give ourselves intelligence or free will – or any of the lower grades of creatures. Thus, the cause must be something with more numerous and more powerful characteristics than humans. Furthermore, the hierarchical order in the grades of creatures – man above animals above plants above minerals – could only result from the intention of an intelligent creator. Lastly, we know there’s only one creator since the characteristics are the same for each grade in which they appear and therefore must have the same cause. That intelligent, powerful cause is God.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×