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This chapter asks how social networks form institutions, and whether this process means that institutions are only networks by another name. Its method is to trace networks of scientific lecturing in the long eighteenth century that eventually culminated in establishing new scientific and literary lecturing institutions in Glasgow and London around 1800. For the most part not studied since the 1960s, itinerant scientific lecturers formed pathways across northern and southern England that can be called decentered networks linking various provincial cultures before they crystallized in new institutional experiments like Anderson’s Institution at Glasgow in 1796 and the Royal Institution in London in 1800. The chapter focuses most closely on the forming of the Royal Institution out of disparate networks, from 1796 to 1802, and the process by which the gathering of those networks also created conditions for their mutation into the Royal Institution that Romantic audiences and lecturers knew in the early nineteenth century. More broadly it asks what kind of institutional values or mission statements make an institution more accountable to social and political critique than networks themselves would be capable of sustaining.
Chapters 3 through 6 examine what selected early modern providential naturalisms looked like on the ground. Each of those chapters concludes with some observations about the providential naturalism framework analysed in that chapter, and some questions about implementing those frameworks in general, that arise from these scenarios. Those observations and questions are ones that emerge either directly (through an author’s explicit discussion of them), or indirectly (because an author’s treatment of an issue prompts them). This concluding chapter of the book draws these together to better understand what might be involved in being a providential naturalist today. It identifies some of the key theological ideas, assumptions, and judgements involved in providential naturalisms, as well as some significant challenges and complexities that providential naturalists in any time and place will likely need to navigate. In terms of the latter, it draws attention specifically to three areas of concern: the boundary between the natural and the miraculous; the communicative qualities of nature; and the implications of naturalistic explanation for how to live one’s life.
This chapter delves into early modern theories about a key scriptural story, that of Noah’s flood, and the theological implications of explaining the flood in a largely naturalistic manner through appeal to laws of nature. Seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes used laws of nature as the basis for a naturalistic account of the creation of the world, and others followed suit. This chapter analyses two accounts of the world’s creation and subsequent dissolution in the flood written in England in the closing decades of the seventeenth century that drew on laws of nature: Thomas Burnet’s Sacred Theory of the Earth, and William Whiston’s New Theory of the Earth. Burnet and Whiston each explore how those early events in the earth’s history might be accounted for through natural processes, making their treatises among the earliest explicit attempts in England to explain key scriptural events chiefly in terms of natural causality.
This chapter looks at prodigies, unusual or unexpected phenomena thought to be personally or communally meaningful. Prodigies were widely thought to be an integral feature of a providentially governed world, and many different occurrences were taken to be communicative signs of God’s disposition toward, or impending judgement of, humanity. Some saw these strange occurrences as miracles and hence instances of divine action, but others dismissed such views as superstitious and misinformed, and conceived of ways to correct them. Following the lead of Francis Bacon, John Spencer was convinced that the explanation of these unusual occurrences should be reformed, and made the case for placing them under the purview of natural philosophy and explaining them naturalistically. This chapter looks at the occurrences that Spencer labelled as prodigies, his strategies for understanding them, the consequences of providing naturalistic explanations of prodigies for the perceived communicative capacities of nature, and the afterlife of Spencer’s analysis among members of the Royal Society
This chapter introduces the concept of providential naturalism by way of discussion of contemporary perceptions about “scientific” and “religious” explanations of phenomena in nature. It also introduces the specific historical and geographical context -- early modern England -- on which the book focuses.
This chapter looks at Epicurean atomism as it was articulated by the physician and natural philosopher Walter Charleton. Charleton was among the first in England to advocate for a Christianised version of Epicureanism, a philosophy long considered suspicious because of its purportedly atheistic implications. Charleton countered these concerns by situating Epicurean atomism within a providential picture of the world. This chapter examines the main elements of Charleton’s worldview, the influence of atomism on his providential naturalism, and his understanding of the affective consequences of invoking natural causality in a providentially governed world.
The doctrine of providence traditionally has shaped how Christians view nature. In early modern English Protestant thought the doctrine enveloped natural causality and deployed it in a variety of ways, with God’s government of the created order often believed to occur through the operation of natural causes. To grasp how natural causality was perceived at the time we must therefore appreciate the broader providential context within which naturally caused phenomena were located. This chapter looks at how English Protestants understood some of the main categories used to expound providence, including creation, conservation, concurrence, government,and ordinary and special providence. These categories appear in one form or another in the texts discussed in later chapters.
This chapter looks at chance-based gambling activities like dice and lots. Early modern Protestants thought gambling through such instruments was a widespread societal problem. This chapter analyses competing accounts of how these activities should be understood. It focuses on Thomas Gataker’s deployment of a more naturalistic alternative to the supernaturalistic approaches that some of his fellow Protestants, such as James Balmford, were using to fight back against the problem. Gambling activities may not seem like the other kinds of phenomena in nature studied elsewhere in the book, but to early modern thinkers they involved very similar causal mechanisms to many other kinds of occurrences in nature. They therefore shed considerable light on how Christians at the time thought about and explained many kinds of phenomena in nature.
The chapters in this book are all readings, or interpretations, of key characters and episodes in the Divine Comedy where it can be shown that what is at stake is a kind of faith. What has been argued is that reading itself is an act of faith, a willingness to trust not only in the individual human author or narrator, but in the larger story in which all truthful, good faith narratives somehow fit. A different faith, like a superseded hypothesis in science, is another way of approaching a single truth and it can be read, charitably, as such.
Science today is often seen as providing the definitive frame of reference for understanding what goes on in nature. Furthermore, the history of science has frequently been portrayed as the story of steady progress in overturning religious explanation in favour of scientific truth. This narrative has been challenged by those who – like the author of this book – recognise that a naturalistic way of looking at the world, which lies at the heart of modern science, has a far richer relationship to religion than many have allowed. Peter Jordan now takes this recognition in fresh and exciting directions. Focusing on key thinkers in early modern England, who located causality within a divine and providential view of the cosmos, he shows how they were able to integrate ideas which today might be dichotomised as 'scientific' and 'religious'. His book makes a compelling contribution to current science and religion debates and their history.
Chapter 2 is on the distinction between intellectual and moral virtue, which was first clearly delineated by Aristotle. Moral virtues correspond to what are most commonly recognized to be virtues, such as justice and courage. Intellectual virtues are habits of knowing that do not on their own make the agent good. Prudence, however, is significant as an intellectual virtue precisely because of its connection with the moral virtues. Prudence depends on moral virtue, and each moral virtue depends on prudence. Thomas emphasizes that the one virtue of prudence covers the material that belongs to all of the distinct moral virtues.
The antebellum era saw an epochal shift in politics: nature transformed into a key site of the political. No longer seen as a refuge from human concerns, biological existence itself became a key new resource for conceptualizing human difference and an administrative target of political power. This essay reveals sentimental literature to march in step with this shift. This mode overwhelmingly associated with the domestic realm and even the trite and saccharine nonetheless reveals an emergent biopolitics attuned to disciplining the individual’s nature and conceiving of humanity as a population whose biological quality could be optimized. An ideology that sutured literature and science together in an era in which divisions between them were just beginning to form, sentimentalism helped move politics into the flesh.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Romantic-era books by English authors were more plentiful and widely distributed in the United States than in England. The US Copyright Act of 1790, which excluded foreign authors from copyright protection in the United States, spawned an American industry that appropriated, reprinted, and sold European works on all subjects for a fraction of what they would cost overseas. As a result, reprinted works by Byron, Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Austen, and the Shelleys flooded the book markets of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and advances in stereotyping meant that cloned plates could be used to produce those same books for decades. The effect of these plentiful, cheap editions, according to William St. Clair, was not simply the continued popularity of English writing at a time when US authors were calling for a national literature but also the circulation of those works among more economically diverse readers than had ever been possible in England.1
Alison Cornish offers a compelling new take on the Commedia with modern sensibilities in mind. Believing in Dante re-examines the infernal dramas of Dante's masterpiece that alienate and perplex modern readers, offering an invigorating view of the whole Divine Comedy, bringing it to meaningful life today. Addressing the characteristics that distance an author like Dante from the modern world, Alison Cornish shows the value of critically and constructively engaging with texts that do not coincide with current worldviews. She thereby reveals how we might discover constellations by which to navigate the process of reading. Written with incisiveness and sophistication, this landmark book elucidates Dante's eminently readable universe: one where we can and must choose what we want to believe.
Perhaps more than any other single context, technology is the concept most frequently associated with DeLillo's fiction. Over the five decades since DeLillo published his first novel, technological innovations have played an increasingly prominent role in establishing the pace and rhythm of life in the Western world, and DeLillo's fiction reflects that, including concomitant ambivalences toward technology and technological change.
In the heyday of temperance reform, temperance – like women’s suffrage and abolitionism – stood in the foreground of the progressive reform agenda, and temperance reformers believed themselves to be basing their actions on the latest scientific research and on up-to-date sound philosophical arguments, specifically the prominent philosophy of Scottish common-sense realism. Their biblical and scientific arguments took place in a larger philosophical and cultural context which sheds light not only on temperance, but on other nineteenth-century reforms.
Inherited discussions of ‘science and religion’ too much assume an interaction between two historically constant phenomena in terms of stories of ‘progress’ and ‘conflict’. Instead, it is better to recognise long-term and varying modes of tension between three different approaches to nature, pivoted about attitudes to ‘enchantment’ and to transcendence versus immanence. Within such a perspective, it appears that the dominant model of science as ‘disenchanted transcendence’ is a Newtonian one that historically quickly proved inadequate. Alternative and earlier traditions of ‘natural magic’ later returned under new guises and are closer to the essence of the ‘ergetic’ or experimental attitude that lies at the real core of ‘science’. The Newtonian model also implausibly suppressed the realities of motion, time, change, substantial form and secondary qualities. But contemporary physics points towards their restoration and to nature as a vital habit and form-shaping process, as well as to the ‘magical’ character of powers and causes. Magic, rightly understood, is a necessary mediator between religion as theory and science as practice and is a crucial aspect of an ergetic understanding of ‘enchanted transcendence’ which is the most promising perspective for today.
The Cambridge Companion to Genesis explores the first book of the Bible, the book that serves as the foundation for the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. Recognizing its unique position in world history, the history of religions, as well as biblical and theological studies, the volume summarizes key developments in Biblical scholarship since the Enlightenment, while offering an overview of the diverse methods and reading strategies that are currently applied to the reading of Genesis. It also explores questions that, in some cases, have been explored for centuries. Written by an international team of scholars whose essays were specially commissioned, the Companion provides a multi-disciplinary update of all relevant issues related to the interpretation of Genesis. Whether the reader is taking the first step on the path or continuing a research journey, this volume will illuminate the role of Genesis in world religions, theology, philosophy, and critical biblical scholarship.
The popular field of 'science and religion' is a lively and well-established area. It is however a domain which has long been characterised by certain traits. In the first place, it tends towards an adversarial dialectic in which the separate disciplines, now conjoined, are forever locked in a kind of mortal combat. Secondly, 'science and religion' has a tendency towards disentanglement, where 'science' does one sort of thing and 'religion' another. And thirdly, the duo are frequently pushed towards some sort of attempted synthesis, wherein their aims either coincide or else are brought more closely together. In attempting something fresh, and different, this volume tries to move beyond tried and tested tropes. Bringing philosophy and theology to the fore in a way rarely attempted before, the book shows how fruitful new conversations between science and religion can at last move beyond the increasingly tired options of either conflict or dialogue.
Religion is relevant to all of us, whether we are believers or not. This book concerns two interrelated topics. First, how probable is God's existence? Should we not conclude that all divinities are human inventions? Second, what are the mental and social functions of endorsing religious beliefs? The answers to these questions are interdependent. If a religious belief were true, the fact that humans hold it might be explained by describing how its truth was discovered. If all religious beliefs are false, a different explanation is required. In this provocative book Herman Philipse combines philosophical investigations concerning the truth of religious convictions with empirical research on the origins and functions of religious beliefs. Numerous topics are discussed, such as the historical genesis of monotheisms out of polytheisms, how to explain Saul's conversion to Jesus, and whether any apologetic strategy of Christian philosophers is convincing. Universal atheism is the final conclusion.