You are on page 1of 342

JONATHAN EDWARDS’S PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE

This page intentionally left blank

JONATHAN EDWARDS’S PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning

AVIHU ZAKAI

Published by T&T Clark International A Continuum Imprint The Tower Building, 11 York Road, London SE1 7NX 80 Maiden Lane, Suite 704, New York, NY 10038 www.continuumbooks.com All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Copyright © Avihu Zakai, 2010 Avihu Zakai has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the Author of this work. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN : 978-0-567-22650-1 (Hardback)

Typeset by Newgen Imaging Systems Pvt Ltd, Chennai, India Printed and bound in Great Britain by the MPG Books Group

CONTENTS
Acknowledgments Introduction Chapter I Philosophia ancilla theologiae : The Theological Origins of Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature 1. Philosophia ancilla theologiae 2. Edwards’s Typological and Emblematic View of the World of Nature 3. The Great Chain of Being 4. The God of Mechanical Philosophers 5. The School of “Physico-theology” 6. Edwards and the School of Physico-theology Chapter II The Rise of Modern Science and the Decline of Theology as the “Queen of Sciences” in the Early Modern Era 1. Regina Scientiarum—Theology as the “Queen of Sciences” 2. Copernicus—“Astronomy is Written for Astronomers” 3. Kepler—The New Physica Coelestis 4. Galileo—The Book of Nature “is Written in the Language of Mathematics” Chapter III “All Coherence Gone”—Donne and the “New Philosophy” 1. The New Scientia Naturalis 2. The New Science of Nature: Fears, Doubts, and Anxieties 3. Donne and the “New Philosophy” a) “Doubts and Anxieties”: Ignatius His Conclave b) “All Coherence Gone”: The First Anniversarie viii 1

11 14 17 27 30 36 43

51 56 59 63 73

86 90 102 107 110 118

v

vi

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Chapter IV “God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”: Pascal against the Philosophers’ Disenchantment of the World 1. “The Eternal Silence of These Infinite Spaces Frightens Me” 2. Pascal against the “Philosophers” 3. “The God of Abraham” and not “the God of Philosophers” 4. The Theater of Nature: Natura Naturata and Natura Naturans Chapter V Religion and the Newtonian Universe 1. Newton and the Newtonians 2. God “Very Well Skilled in Mechanics and Geometry” 3. Science’s Disenchantment of the World and the Eighteenth-century Imagination 4. Reaction to Newton and the Newtonians’ “Subversion and Ruin of Religion” a) John Edwards against the Newtonian “New Systems in Divinity” b) Robert Greene against Mechanical Philosophy’s “Subversion and Ruin of Religion” c) Leibniz against Newton’s “Very Odd Opinion Concerning the Work of God” d) Swift against the “New Systems of Nature” e) Blake’s “Contempt & Abhorrence” of Bacon, Locke, and Newton Chapter VI Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment” 1. The Enlightened Age 2. Deism 3. Natural Philosophy 4. History 5. Ethics and Morals

125 128 133 145 153

163 165 172 178 181 181 185 189 194 202

207 208 211 216 220 224

Contents Chapter VII Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning 1. Edwards and the New Philosophy 2. The Genesis of Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature 3. Mechanical Philosophy’s Disenchantment of the World 4. Atomic Doctrine 5. The Laws of Nature 6. God and the World 7. The Nature of the Created Order 8. Idealism Bibliography Index

vii

231 234 240 245 248 254 259 263 266 274 303

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
In the course of writing the book I have incurred many debts and obligations to friends and colleagues. In particular, however, I am deeply grateful to Gerald McDermott, Timothy McDermott, Torrance Kirby, Kenneth Minkema, executive editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards at Yale, Neil Kamil, John F. Wilson, Walter Nugent, Peter Thuesen, Stephen Stein, Peter Scott, David Weinstein, Michael Heyd, Mark Steiner, Shira Wolosky, Eran Shalev, Alexander Yakobson, and Haiym Goldgraber. At T&T Clark—Continuum Publishing group, I owe special thanks to Thomas Kraft, Associate Publisher, who believed in the worth of this project and followed it closely until its final production. Finally, I am most grateful to my editor for many years, Mira Frankel Reich. Over the years several institutions have provided me with generous financial support enabling me to pursue my study of Edwards: an American Research Fellowship from the United States-Israel Educational Foundation (Fulbright Grant) which set this process in motion; a research grant from the Israel Science Foundation, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities; a research grant from the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton; a fellowship from the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley, CA; and a fellowship from the Templeton Foundation. Part of Chapter I appeared as “The Theological Origins of Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature” in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History 60 (2009), pp. 1–17; part of Chapter II appeared as “The Rise of Modern Science and the Decline of Theology as the ‘Queen of Sciences’ ” in Renaissance and Reformation Review 9: 2 (2009), pp. 125–51 [(c) Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009]; part of Chapter VI appeared as “The Age of Enlightenment” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Stephen Stein (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 80–99; and part of Chapter VII appeared as “Jonathan

viii

Acknowledgments

ix

Edwards and the Language of Nature: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning” in the Journal of Religious History 26 (February 2002), pp. 15–41 (all of them in somewhat different versions). I am grateful to the editors of these journals for permission to use these materials here.

This page intentionally left blank

INTRODUCTION
Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning analyses the works of Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) on natural philosophy in a series of contexts within which they may best be explored and understood. Edwards was an important early modern philosopher who developed a singular philosophy of nature, a unique view regarding the essential nature of reality, entitling him to a distinguished place among early modern philosophers who reacted against the metaphysical and theological implications that often accompanied the appearance of new modes of scientific thought and imagination from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Accordingly, the aim of my study is to place Edwards’s writings on natural philosophy in the broad historical, theological, and scientific context of a wide variety of religious responses to the rise of the New Philosophy of nature in the early modern period (focusing on astronomy, cosmology, and physics): John Donne’s reaction to the new astronomy of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, as well as to Francis Bacon’s new natural philosophy; Blaise Pascal’s response to Descartes’s mechanical philosophy; the reactions to Newtonian science by Jonathan Swift, John Edwards (not related to Jonathan Edwards), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, George Berkley, William Blake, and others. And finally Jonathan Edwards’s response to the scientific culture and imagination of his time—experimental, mechanical philosophy, or the doctrine according to which all natural phenomena can be explained and understood by the mere mechanics of matter and motion—and, consequently, his attempt to construct a plausible alternative to the mechanistic interpretation of the essential nature of reality, which would reconstitute the glory of God’s absolute sovereignty, power, and will within creation. Clearly, the major thinkers treated in my study were responding to the New Philosophy in different ways, yet as a whole their reaction presented an important chapter in the history of ideas in early modern history. As I argue, Edwards joins the thin ranks 1

2

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

of those admirable subjects, like Donne, Pascal, Leibniz, Berkley et al., who perceived that the New Philosophy of nature required a major rethinking of the received theological tradition and not simply its unreflective reassertion—or its abandonment. The history I try to relate in this study is an alternative history to the traditional history of the development of the New Philosophy in the early modern era. Instead of portraying the rise, progress, and advance of the new science (scientia) of nature in the early modern period, the history of Donne, Pascal, Swift, Berkeley, and Edwards, to name only a few, is rather the history of reactions to the New Philosophy of nature. Only in this broad context, I argue, Edwards’s philosophy of nature and his response to mechanical philosophy can be fully understood and appreciated. However, I am not proposing to alter the historiography of science. My goal is rather to tell the story of the reaction to the rise of the New Philosophy in early modern history. Likewise, mine is not a study of the “battle,” “warfare,” or “conflict” between religion and science. Rather, the aim of my study is to locate Edwards’s thought on natural philosophy within a strong tradition of suspicion about the configuration of general sensibility resulting from the rise of the New Philosophy. The discussion here is therefore about theology of nature among Christians, not the Christian rejection of an atheistic universe of thought. An overarching theme and thesis connects together all the chapters in this study into a coherent whole: an analysis of the variety of religious responses to the rise of new natural philosophy in the early modern period, or the threats, fears, and anxieties felt within religious circles in the face of the New Philosophy of nature. The rise of the new natural philosophy has been too often described in the history and historiography of early modern period as an unbroken, onward triumphant march of scientific truth out of ignorance, as an imminent, progressive advance. Very few studies have dealt with the wide variety of negative reactions to the development of new scientific thought and the many deep-seated fears and anxieties it aroused, especially in religious circles. Such a long history of fears and anxieties closely and constantly accompanied the development of the New Philosophy in early modern history, and though rarely described or analyzed in historiography it is crucial to any possible understanding of the period and its actors. Thinkers like Donne, Pascal, Swift, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Jonathan Edwards continuously exposed the Janus face of the New Philosophy in early modern history for traditional, consecrated religious thought and belief. They may have accepted some of its premises, such as

Introduction

3

atomism, but all of them were afraid of its serious threat and dangerous challenge to traditional definitions and formations of Christian identities. They opposed the new astronomy and cosmology, or the new Physica Coelestis, which rejected the view of a finite universe and an anthropocentric teleology. They felt confused in the face of infinity, of shaking systems of traditional cosmological knowledge, and of the decentering of the earth. They were alarmed by the basic postulate of the New Philosophy that nature operates according to mere mechanical principles, or natural laws, formulated in mathematical terms. With great dismay they observed that mechanical philosophy’s notion of a homogeneous, uniform and symmetrical, one-dimensional world of nature not only deprived the created order of any teleological end and purpose, but stipulated that nature could no longer manifest the presence of God. They lamented that mechanical philosophy’s mathematization and mechanization of the world of nature led to a divorce between physics and philosophy, since the forerunners of the new science of nature believed that physical questions should be settled purely through experimental inquiry. Sadly they observed the mechanical philosophers’ claim that the Almighty had created the world and then retired, releasing the realm of nature from its subordination to God and establishing it as a “self-moving engine.” With great suspicion they observed that the New Philosophy of nature focused on God the Creator rather than on Christ the Savior and Redeemer, thus removing God from intimate involvement in the daily workings of creation and created beings. They all thus reacted against the growing tendency to differentiate between nature and God, which radically transformed the traditional Christian dialectic of God’s utter transcendence and divine immanence by diminishing divine sovereignty with respect to creation, providence, and redemption. In sum, as these people understood it, the New Philosophy led to the demystifying of nature and the emptying of the world of theological considerations, hence to the disenchantment of the world and to the undermining of religion. Each chapter in my study illuminates, in John Donne’s words, the “harmes and feares” the rise of the New Philosophy caused within religious circles and the belief that the new natural philosophy “gave affront to all antiquities, and induced doubts, and anxieties.” These views were true not only of Donne but also of Pascal, Edwards, and many others as well. My study will analyze in detail these harms, fears, doubts, and anxieties in the thought and works of the representative figures I deal with.

4

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

My aim of course is not to distinguish between scientific and religious thinkers, but rather to illuminate the grave ramifications of new modes of scientific thought on traditional religious thought and belief. Thus, when Edwards claimed that “[T]here is no such thing as mechanism, if that word is taken to be that whereby bodies act each upon other, purely and properly by themselves,” he expressed the views of many who reacted to the New Philosophy’s image of the world of nature as a huge machine which runs by itself according to abstract laws of nature. Further, near the end of his life Edwards wrote: “[M]y heart hath been . . . against most of the prevailing errors of the present day, which I cannot with any patience see maintained (to the utter subverting of the gospel of Christ) with so high a hand, and so long continued a triumph, with so little control, when it appears so evident to me, that there is truly no foundation for any of this glorying and insult.” This deep-seated fear of natural philosophy’s new ideas appeared, for example, in Donne’s and Swift’s works, and the same apologetic effort to defend the Christian faith against the menace of new ideas is evident in Pascal’s Pensées. The study begins with an introductory chapter, “Philosophia ancilla theologiae: The Theological Origins of Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature,” in which I analyze the works of Jonathan Edwards on natural philosophy in a series of contexts. In contrast to studies which attempted to identify Edwards’s scientific thought with the Enlightenment (Locke) and modern science (Newton), I rather show the affinities between the content and form of Edwards’s philosophy of nature and some main features of Medieval, Scholastic, and Renaissance thought: theology as the “Queen of Sciences” (Regina Scientiarum), science as “handmaiden to theology” (philosophia ancilla theologiae), the emblematic or typological understanding of world phenomena, and belief in the “Great Chain of Being” (scala naturae). Edwards’s thought is based on the belief in omnia videmus in deo (“we see all things in God”), and he continuously pursued mens Dei (“the mind of God”) in creation. Believing that the Theatrum Mundi was created by the Deity to be the mirror of divinity, Edwards’s theology of nature conceived of the world as a grand theater for the contemplation of divine beauty; the natural world and its beauty was for Edwards the theater of God’s glory—Theatrum Dei Gloria. On the other hand, I argue that Edwards’s works on natural philosophy resembled the views of the school of “Physico-theology.” The English followers of this school of thought, the “‘Physico-theologians,” set out to prove the being and attributes of God by the order and harmony of nature, and

Introduction

5

through their worship of the God of nature to show “the wisdom of God in creation” in face of the threats which new modes of natural philosophy were posing to traditional Christian thought and belief in the early modern period, such as, for example, Cartesian mechanical philosophy of nature. This chapter sets the stage upon which the whole study will move—religious responses to the rise of the New Philosophy of nature in the early modern era. This important problem in the history and historiography of early modern period has been so far mostly neglected by historians and historians of science, but it is crucial to any possible understanding of early modern history. The second chapter, “The Rise of Modern Science and the Decline of Theology as the ‘Queen of Sciences’ in the Early Modern Era,” provides the essential scientific and theological background of the study by exposing the radicalism involved in the development of the New Philosophy of nature during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries based on a fundamental shift in metaphysical commitment away from Aristotelian essentialism toward a kind of mathematical materialism or corporealism. Whereas Aristotelian science strove to explain “how things exist,” the New Philosophy sought to find out “how things work,” and whereas Scholastic philosophers strove to explain why the world of nature operates as it does, Galileo sought to explain how it works, an approach that later became one of the essential features of modern scientific thought. Through an analysis of the thought and works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, I show an important transformation regarding the study of nature. Impelled by the growing discrepancy between their new astronomical discoveries and traditional scholastic philosophical thought, they developed new scientific conceptions and redefined their relation to theology. To establish the science of astronomy on new foundations, they argued that Scripture was not intended to describe the phenomena of the world; hence theology had no business assessing the merit of astronomical arguments. These pioneers of modern science refused to accord any priority to theological considerations in explaining and interpreting the phenomena of astronomy. They asserted that astronomy was not a “handmaiden to theology” (philosophia ancilla theologiae) rather an authoritative means of speaking for nature. Sapientia religionis then was not superior to scientia or knowledge. They all admitted that in relation to divine things, theology was indeed superior to all other sciences in explaining human salvation and redemption. On natural phenomena, however, its conventional role was no longer secure in the face of astronomical discoveries. Theology concerns transcendent

6

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

issues, science mundane ones; the first deals with salvation and the second with the working of nature. Thus, if during the Middle Ages theology was accorded the title of Regina Scientiarum (“Queen of Sciences”), or scientia scientiarum (the “science of sciences”), and natural philosophy, or science, was defined as philosophia ancilla theologiae (“handmaiden to theology”), the New Philosophy transformed this view considerably. For religious thought and belief this approach carried tremendous consequences, as John Donne’s thought and many others’ clearly revealed. John Donne was among the first thinkers who exposed the Janus face of the New Philosophy, the perils and risks that the new science of nature posed for traditional religious modes of thought and belief: while greatly impressed by the new astronomical discoveries of Kepler and Galileo, the metaphysical poet nonetheless lamented that the new astronomy and cosmology, or the new Physica Coelestis, which rejected the view of a finite universe and an anthropocentric teleology, “gave affront to all antiquities, and induced doubts, and anxieties.” And referring to the Copernican, heliocentric revolution, he wrote, the “Moving of th’earth brings harmes and feares.”As I show in Chapter III, “‘All Coherence Gone’—Donne and the ‘New Philosophy’,” Donne provided an important clue to the disturbing effects of the New Philosophy upon the human imagination, or more specifically upon traditional definition and formation of religious identities, during the early modern era. Donne of course was not the last one to reveal the important impact of the new science of nature on traditional religious thought and belief, and certainly not the only one to describe science’s Janus face, as can be seen in the long list of eminent religious thinkers and theologians. Many during the early modern period looked with confused eyes and great dismay on the development and growth of the New Philosophy which profoundly shattered the authority and integrity of the whole traditional medieval imago mundi. In Chapter IV, “‘God of Abraham’ and ‘Not of Philosophers’: Pascal against the Philosophers’ Disenchantment of the World,” I continue to trace the response to the New Philosophy in the early modern era by religious thinkers. The intellectual shift which took place in early modern history—the emergence of modern scientific thought—led to the disenchantment of the world. Nature was demystified and creation emptied of theological and teleological significance. The reaction to this profound transformation is most evident in the thought of Blaise Pascal. For Pascal the science of his time, especially that of Descartes and his mechanical philosophy of nature, confirmed the disenchantment of

Introduction

7

the world and the undermining of religion. With confusion and dismay he looked at the development of a rationalist New Philosophy which threatened to shatter consecrated traditional religious thought. Pascalian writings reflect the complex relationships and growing tensions between religion and science in the early modern period as is evidenced in his Apologie de la religion Chrétienne, known as the Pensées, where he denounced, among other things, Cartesian philosophy. Pascal’s thought manifests the disruptive effects of the New Philosophy on established religious thought and belief in the early modern era. As with Donne, Pascal’s thought too exposed the Janus face of the New Philosophy. Examined in the wider context of the response to Cartesian philosophy, Pascal’s Pensées are not only an “Apology for the Christian Religion” in the strict sense but also a staunch defense of the Christian worldview, a reaffirmation of traditional Christian thought and belief with respect to God, the human condition, nature, and history. By resisting the demystifying of nature and the emptying of the world of theological considerations, Pascal’s writings not only contributed to the development of religious thought in the early modern period but also his views constitute an important chapter in the history of ideas. In Chapter V, “Religion and the Newtonian Universe,” I continue to examine the religious response to the New Philosophy, or the rise of modern science, this time Newtonian experimental, mechanical natural philosophy, a new worldview according to which physical reality was thought to be satisfactorily explained in terms of corporeal interactions and mathematically determined spatio-temporal relationships. Newton’s Principia carried on and brought to completion the work of Galileo; he wished to reduce the phenomena of nature to general laws and to derive these laws from mathematical principles. Such mathematization and mechanization of nature led to a divorce between physics and philosophy, since Newton and his followers, the Newtonians, believed that physical questions should be settled purely through experimental inquiry. However, this separation of science from philosophy was unacceptable to many orthodox people since it led to the demystifying of nature and eventually to the disenchantment of the world. Newton’s concept of “God of Dominion” (Dominus Deus) and his notion of a Deity who is “very well skilled in mechanics and geometry” were also denounced. Given that Newton’s scientific work was intermingled with theological issues—as was the case also with Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes—it is not surprising that the Newtonian philosophy of nature aroused fear and anxiety,

8

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

and many believed it was leading to outright heresies such as Arianism, Socinianism, or Arminianism. Newton and the Newtonians, lamented the Church of England cleric John Edwards, advanced “some unheard-of Doctrines in Divinity, to new model our Religion, to mend the Gospel, and to present us as it were with a New Christianity.” Leibniz claimed that “Sir Isaac Newton, and his followers” developed “a very odd opinion concerning the work of God. According to their doctrine, God almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move.” Robert Greene denounced Newtonian science as leading to the “subversion and ruin of Religion.” Swift argued that Newton and the Newtonians created “new Systems of Nature” and pretended “to demonstrate them from Mathematical Principles”—a natural and easy progress from folly to madness. Rousseau believed that “the most enlightened of our learned men” were devoting “their talents and philosophy to destroying and debasing all that is sacred among men.” And Blake had no hesitation identifying Newton with Satan: “O Satan, my youngest born . . . Art Thou not Newton’s Pantocrator, weaving the Woof of Locke?” Edwards’s overall response to the Enlightenment new modes of thought is analyzed in Chapter VI: “Jonathan Edwards and the ‘Age of Enlightenment.’ ” The New England theologian stands out as one of America’s great original minds, one of the very few whose depiction of reality continues to attract attention even with the passage of time and the changes in worldview. Much of his theological and philosophical enterprise has been powerfully informed by constant dialogue with and struggle against important Enlightenment strains of thought: Deism, which questioned the authority of the Bible, the integrity and validity of revelation, the credibility of Old Testament prophecies and the reliability of New Testament miracles; the New Philosophy of nature, or experimental, mechanical natural philosophy; the Enlightenment’s refashioning of new modes of historical thought based on secular, historical time, and, finally, the British “School of Moral Sense,” which endeavored to ground morality and ethic exclusively in the benevolence of human nature. In contrast, Edwards believed in omnia videmus in deo and hence strove to establish all dimensions of human life, knowledge and experience, on God and His Word. He strongly denounced these Enlightenment new modes of thought and belief, which developed at the core of the British Empire. England, Edwards claimed, was no longer a model to be emulated in colonial British America: “England, the principal kingdom of the Reformation,” he observed, is overcome by “licentiousness in

Introduction

9

principles and opinions” such as “Arianism and Socinianism and Arminianism and deism.” Hence, nowhere in the world is there “so great apostasy of those that had been brought up under the light of the gospel to infidelity, never such a casting off the Christian religion and all revealed religion.” Indeed, much of Edwards’s intellectual development can be characterized, in his own words, as a long struggle “against most of the prevailing errors of the present day,” which tended to “the utter subverting of the gospel of Christ.” What sets Edwards apart from many contemporary champions of religious orthodoxy is indeed his attempt to provide a serious and systematic alternative to Enlightenment modes of conviction and persuasion. Finally, in the concluding Chapter VII, “Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning,” I analyze Edwards’s philosophy of nature along the line of several categories—the scientific revolution’s disenchantment of the world, atomic doctrine, the laws of nature, God and the world, the nature of the created order, idealism, or the thesis that physical objects exist only in the mind or cannot exist unless they are perceived—thus bringing the whole study into conclusion. In this concluding chapter I examine more specifically Edwards’s response to the New Philosophy, or scientific culture and imagination of his time—mechanical philosophy, or the doctrine that all natural phenomena can be explained and understood by the mere mechanics of matter and motion—and, consequently, illuminate his attempt to construct a plausible alternative to the mechanistic interpretation of the essential nature of reality, which would reconstitute the glory of God’s absolute sovereignty, power, and will within creation. For a long time Jonathan Edwards was thought of more as a preacher of hell-fire and revival than as a theologian, and rather as a Calvinist theologian than a philosopher of importance, and he was dismissed accordingly. Yet Edwards was more than a hell-fire preacher, more than a theologian. This New England divine was among the people who recognized and answered the challenges posed to traditional Christian belief by the emergence of new modes of thought in early modern history—the new ideas of the scientific thought and the Enlightenment. His force of mind is evident in his exposition of the poverty of mechanical philosophy and materialism, which radically transformed the traditional Christian dialectic of God’s utter transcendence and divine immanence by gradually diminishing divine sovereignty with respect to creation, providence, and redemption, thus leading to the disenchantment of the world. Instead, through idealistic philosophy

10

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

and natural typology, Edwards sought to mount a counteroffensive to materialist, mechanistic thought. He thus constructed a teleological and theological alternative to the prevailing mechanistic interpretation of the essential nature of reality, whose ultimate goal was the re-enchantment of the world by reconstituting the glory of God’s majestic sovereignty, power and will within the order of creation. As can be seen, I place Edwards’s philosophy of nature in the wider context of the variety of responses to the development of the New Philosophy in early modern history. The history I try to relate in this study is not the traditional history of the development of modern science. Instead of portraying the rise and progress of science, the thought of Donne, Pascal, Swift, and Edwards rather revealed the reaction to the New Philosophy. Only in this broad context, I would argue, can Edwards’s philosophy of nature and his response to mechanical philosophy be fully understood and appreciated. His is an early modern religious universe of thought; hence in order to fully appreciate his criticism of the scientific culture of his time we need to go back to the time in early modern history when the divorce between natural philosophy and theology began to take place, or to the period when the rise of modern scientific thought and imagination led to the gradual exclusion of religious considerations from the realm of nature, something Donne, Pascal, Leibniz, Swift, Berkeley, and Edwards, to name only a few, were not willing to accept or admit.

Chapter I

PHILOSOPHIA ANCILLA THEOLOGIAE: The Theological Origins of Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature
All things among themselves, possess an order; and this order is the form that makes the universe like God. Here do the higher beings see the imprints of the Eternal Worth, which is the end to which the pattern I have mentioned tends. Within that order, every nature has its bent, according to a different station, nearer or less near to its origin. Therefore, these natures move to different ports across the mighty sea of being, each given the impulse that will bear it on. Dante, Paradiso, Canto I The whole outward creation is but the shadows of beings [and] so made to represent spiritual things . . . it’s agreeable to God’s wisdom that it should be so, that the inferior and shadowy parts of his works should be made to represent those things that are more real and excellent, spiritual and divine, to represent the things that immediately concern himself and the highest parts of his work. Edwards, Miscellany 362 (c. 1728) [T]o find out the reasons of things in natural philosophy is only to find out the proportion of God’s acting. Edwards, The Mind

Of the extensive corpus of Edwards’s writings, no part is less explored, less analyzed, and less understood, than what is commonly called in Edwardsean historiography his “Scientific Writings,” that is those of his

11

12

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

works related to natural philosophy, such as “Of Being,” “Of Atoms,” and many others.1 So far only two major studies have attempted to deal seriously and systematically with Edwards’s philosophy of nature: the first is a long chapter in Perry Miller’s biography of 1949,2 and the second is Wallace Anderson’s lengthy “Introduction” to his 1980 Yale edition of Edwards’s works on natural philosophy.3 As every reader of these works will concur, Miller and Anderson tend to perpetuate the myth of the modernity of Edwards’s scientific thought. Constantly associating, and at times even identifying, Edwards’s natural philosophy with modern scientific thought, they situated the New England theologian’s philosophy of nature in the company of important scientists of his time, such as Newton, John Locke, and others. This “American student” of Locke and Newton, wrote Miller, “established certain readings” of both “so profound that only from the perspective of today [i.e. mid-twentieth century] can they be fully appreciated.”4 Miller’s Edwards is a Christian scientist and artist working in harmony with the pioneers of modern science, a man who was far ahead of his time. Anderson follows suit: “In its basic conception, Edwards’s theory of the nature of the physical world belongs decidedly to the modern rather than the medieval age.”5 However, whereas Miller’s and Anderson’s interpretations dwell on the close association they see between Edwards’s natural philosophy and the rise of modern scientific thought, it can be argued that the New England theologian’s philosophy of nature in fact had many affinities with Medieval, Scholastic, and Renaissance thought. Edwards’s philosophy of nature demands our attention precisely because he did not embrace the new scientific modes of thought and reasoning which developed during the sixteenth and seventeenth

1 Edwards’s various works dealing with natural philosophy can be found in Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 6: Scientific and Philosophical Writings, edited Wallace E. Anderson (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1980). In what follow, all references to Edwards’s published writings are to the volume and page in the Yale edition of the “Works of Jonathan Edwards.” 2 Perry Miller, Jonathan Edwards (New York: Delta, 1949), pp. 71–99. 3 Wallace E. Anderson, “Introduction,” 6: 1–143. One may add also Perry Miller, “Introduction,” in Images or Shadows of Divine Things, ed. Perry Miller (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1972 [1948]), pp. 1–41, and, most recently, Josh Moody, Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Knowing the Presence of God (Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America, 2005), especially chapter 3, “True Reality,” pp. 94–118. 4 Miller, Jonathan Edwards, 72–3. 5 Anderson, “Introduction,” 6: 47.

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

13

centuries, commonly called the “scientific revolution,”6 but rather was one of their sharpest critics as evident in his rejection of mechanical, experimental philosophy, the predominant scientific doctrine of his time, according to which all natural phenomena can be explained and understood by the mere mechanics of matter and motion.7 When placed within the proper ideological, theological, and scientific context, Edwards’s writings on natural philosophy shed light not only on his specific reaction to contemporary scientific culture but also on the broader issue of the relationship between science and religion in the early modern period, thus constituting an important chapter in the history of ideas. I shall pursue these arguments by analyzing Edwards’s works on natural philosophy in a series of contexts within which they may best be explored and understood. First, I will attempt to show the affinities between the content and form of Edwards’s natural philosophy and some main features of Medieval, Scholastic, and Renaissance thought: theology as the “Queen of Sciences” (Regina Scientiarum), or the “science of sciences” (scientia scientiarum), science as “handmaiden to theology” (philosophia ancilla theologiae), the emblematic or typological understanding of world phenomena, and belief in the “Great Chain of Being” (scala naturae). Furthermore, because Edwards believed that the Theatrum Mundi was created by the Deity to be the mirror of divinity, his theology of nature conceived of the world as a grand theater for the contemplation of divine beauty; the natural world and its beauty were thus for Edwards, as was the case with Calvin, a theater of God’s glory— Theatrum Dei Gloria. Second, I will argue that Edwards’s works on natural philosophy resembled the views of the school of “physico-theology.”
6 In recent years historians have begun to question the very concept of the Scientific Revolution, and even “to undermine one of our most hallowed explanatory frameworks, that of the Scientific Revolution.” See B. J. T. Dobbs, “Newton as Final Cause and First Mover,” in Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, ed. Margaret J. Osler (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), p. 25, and Richard S. Westfall’s rebuttal of Dobbs’ thesis in his “The Scientific Revolution Reassessed,” in Osler, pp. 41–55; Margaret J. Osler, “The Canonical Imperative: Rethinking the Scientific Revolution,” in Osler, pp. 3–22, and H. Floris Cohen, The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994). 7 On Edwards’s attack on mechanical philosophy, see Avihu Zakai, “Jonathan Edwards and the Language of Nature: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning,” The Journal of Religious History 26 (February 2002), pp. 15–41; idem, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Enlightenment (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003); idem, “The Age of Enlightenment,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Stephen Stein (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), pp. 80–99.

14

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

The English followers of this school of thought, the “physicotheologians,” set out to prove the being and attributes of God by the order and harmony of nature, and through their worship of the God of nature to show “the wisdom of God in creation” in face of the threats the new mode of scientific thought and reasoning were posing for to traditional Christian thought and belief in the early modern period, such as, for example, Cartesian mechanical philosophy of nature. Like most great, original minds, Edwards defies classification. In what follows, then, I do not attempt to identify him with any school of thought, but rather to point out the affinities between his ideas and some features of Medieval, Scholastic, and Renaissance thought, as well as those of the school of physico-theology.

1. PHILOSOPHIA ANCILLA THEOLOGIAE
It is impossible to identify Edwards’s natural philosophy with modern scientific thought if only in view of the affinities between his ideas and the medieval Scholastic view which defined theology as the “Queen of Sciences” and science as “handmaiden to theology.” In this traditional Christian view, the natural sciences and philosophy were assigned the role of servant: they have the privilege of being employed in the defense of revealed truths, providing support and aid in achieving soteriological understanding. In his natural philosophy, Edwards reiterated the medieval view of philosophia ancilla theologiae, declaring that “all arts and sciences, the more they are perfected, the more they issue in divinity, and coincide with it, and appear part of it.”8 More specifically, he argued, “after God had shown the vanity of human learning when set up in the room of the gospel,” or “was pleased to make foolish the wisdom” of classical learning and philosophy after Christ’s first coming, “God was pleased to make it [learning] subservient to the purpose of Christ’s kingdom as an handmaid to divine revelation.”9 In other words, first “the gospel came to prevail without the help of man’s wisdom,” but “then God was pleased to make use of learning as an handmaid.”10 Throughout history, Edwards said, “God has sufficiently shown men the insufficiency of (human reason).” Hence, he repeated over and over that God
Edwards, “Outline of ‘A Rational Account’” (c. 1740), 6: 397. Edwards, History of the Work of Redemption, 1739, 9: 278. 10 Ibid., 9: 440.
9 8

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

15

ordered “this great increase of learning” of the eighteenth century “as an handmaid to religion.”11 There could be no doubt that “divinity” is “above all” kind of “arts and sciences” since it “concerned God and the great business of religion.”12 The difference between Edwards and early modern as well as modern scientific thought cannot be clearer. For Galileo, as he wrote in 1610, the invention of the telescope, or “spyglass” as he called it, was of immeasurable importance as a scientific device in determining “the surface of the moon, the Milky Way, nebulous stars, and innumerable fixed stars, as well as four planets never before seen.”13 Yet for Edwards this scientific invention was rather evidence of the increase of knowledge of heavenly things, hence an important apocalyptic and eschatological sign:
The late invention of telescopes, whereby heavenly objects are brought so much nearer, and made so much plainer to sight, and such wonderful discoveries have been made in heaven, is a type and forerunner of the great increase in the knowledge of heavenly things that shall be in the approaching glorious times of the Christian church.14

Though Edwards undoubtedly would have been interested in such new astronomical information, for him the invention of the telescope was primarily evidence of the increase in knowledge of heavenly, divine things. Science ultimately was a means to a divine end. Edwards thus made an appropriation of the New Philosophy to fit his religious epistemology. Likewise, in Edwards’s apocalyptic expectations and eschatological visions after the “little revival” of 1734–1735 in Northampton, the most characteristic feature of the divine dispensation before the millennium would be the increase of learning, as in his own time:
God will improve this great increase of learning as an handmaid to religion, a means of a glorious advancement of the kingdom of his Son, when human learning shall be subservient to understanding the Scriptures and a clear explaining and glorious defending the doctrine of Christianity.15 Ibid., 9: 441. For Edwards’s adherence to philosophia ancilla theologiae, see Allen C. Guelzo, “Learning is the Handmaid of the Lord: Jonathan Edwards, Reason, and the Life of the Mind,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 28 (2004), pp. 1–18. 12 Edwards, “The Importance and Advantage of Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth,” 1739, 22: 85–6. 13 Galileo Galilei, “The Starry Messenger Revealing great, unusual, and remarkable spectacles, opening these to the consideration of every many, and especially of philosophers and astronomers,” 1610, in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, trans. Stillman Drake (New York: Anchor Books, 1957), p. 27. 14 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 146, 11: 101. 15 Edwards, History of the Work of Redemption, 9: 441.
11

16

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

For Edwards, then, the great advance of learning during the age of Enlightenment, including the natural sciences, was part of a grand teleological enterprise. Based on his theological convictions, therefore, Edwards’s natural philosophy evidently had more affinities with the Scholastic view of science as “handmaiden to theology,” and thus more with the Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine (354–430), and medieval theologians like the philosopher, Doctor Mirabilis, Roger Bacon (1214–1292), and the Doctor of the Church, Angelicus Doctor, Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), and much less with Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton, the forerunners of modern science. Edwards believed that “The Book of Scripture is the interpreter of the book of nature.” It is revelation which declares to us the “spiritual mysteries” that are “signified or typified in the constitution of the natural world.”16 Sacred, revealed truths are thus the sole foundations of interpretation and understanding of world phenomena, and not the demonstrated, rational truths of science based on the light of reason. By giving this role to religious truths in interpreting the “order of the world,”17 Edwards’s thought recalls Pascal’s, who declared that the “whole conduct of things ought to aim at the establishment and the greatness of religion.” “Religion,” Pascal said, “ought to be so truly the object and centre towards which all things lean, and whoever knows its principles should be able to explain both human nature in particular, and the whole conduct of the world in general.”18 Likewise, for Edwards
religion must be the end of creation, the great end, the very end. If it were not for this, all those vast bodies we see ordered with so excellent skill, so according to the nicest rules of proportion, according to such laws of gravity and motion, would be all vanity, or good for nothing and no purpose at all.19

Edwards had Pascal’s Pensées in his library. 20 Needless to say, Pascal was among the fiercest critics of the New Philosophy of nature, especially

Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 156 (c. 1743), 11: 106. Pascal, Pensées and Other Writings, trans. Honor Levi (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999), p. 171. 18 Ibid., p. 170. 19 Edwards, Miscellany gg, 13: 185. 20 Edwards had Pascal’s Pensées, translated as Thoughts on religion and other curious subjects, trans. Basil Kennett, 3rd ed. with a preface by Étienne Périer (London, 1731). For other ancient, medieval, and current scientific works, which Edwards owned and mentioned throughout my study, see Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 26: Catalogues of Books.
17

16

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

17

the mechanistic philosophy of Descartes. He and Edwards shared the same detestation for mechanical philosophy. Edwards’s use of the medieval and Scholastic concept of science as servant to theology contradicted not only modern scientific reasoning but also the views of the Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century. For Luther and Calvin the role played by reason was primarily soteriological; if salvation is through Christ alone, by Grace alone, through Faith alone, and what is necessary to salvation is revealed in Scripture alone, there is need for human agency in the divine work of salvation. The Reformers’ battle cry of “sola scriptura” made it difficult for them to countenance the Thomistic view of philosophy as handmaid of sacred doctrine, as if the revealed wisdom were somehow inadequate without reason making up the difference as it were. The Reformers were thus anxious to avoid any confusion of the “way of nature” and the “way of grace” which is implied by the language of “reason as handmaiden”—the soteriological implication being that revelation must be supplemented by the natural understanding in order to be sufficient for salvation.21

2. Edwards’s Typological and Emblematic View of the World of Nature
Edwards’s natural philosophy cannot and should not be associated with modern scientific thought because for him theology was still the queen of sciences, and science itself a servant. Likewise, his emblematic, symbolic view of the world of nature, the typological reading of created order, contradicted the mechanistic conception of the nature of reality. Based on his symbolic, allegorical reading of world phenomena, Edwards believed that “natural things were ordered for types of spiritual things.” The “type,” he explained, “is only the representation or shadow of the thing, but the antitype is the very substance, and is the true thing”; hence, Christ is “the true light of the world in
21 For the above discussion of the Protestant Reformers’ attitudes toward science I have benefited in private correspondence from the erudition of Professor Torrance Kirby of McGill University. See also Kirby, “Richard Hooker’s Discourse on Natural Law in the Context of the Magisterial Reformation,” at http://www.mun.ca/ animus/1998vol3/kirby3.htm, and Gary B. Deason’s study, “Reformation Theology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature,” in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, eds. Lindberg, David C. and Ronald L. Numbers (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1986), pp. 167–91.

18

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

opposition to the sun, the literal light of the world, that is a type of the Sun of Righteousness,” that is the antitype.22 As in Renaissance thinking, nature for him was a great treasure of divine signs and metaphors. In this grand theological teleology of typological order, the whole world is imbued with spiritual, divine meaning and significance. There are “types of divine things” in “the works of nature and constitution of the world.”23 Edwards thus believed that the Theatrum Mundi was created by the Deity to be the mirror of divinity, and his theology of nature conceived of the world as a grand theater for the contemplation of divine beauty; the world was the theater of God’s glory—Theatrum Dei Gloria. The emblematic worldview, “which sees nature as a vast collection of signs and metaphors, was a staple feature of Renaissance thought, but in the seventeenth century Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, and their followers rejected the notion that everything in nature carries a hidden meaning. Nature instead was to be taken at face value and investigated on its own terms” as long as one holds the view that “nature is an elaborate hieroglyph, important only as a source of mystery and wonder, then the separation of true phenomena from false becomes secondary, if not irrelevant. Such a worldview produced enchantingly elaborate works of art and literature, but its dissolution was an essential feature of the revolution in science.”24 In contrast, the mechanical philosophy’s notion of a homogeneous, uniform and symmetrical, one-dimensional world of nature required uniformity of all bodies as well as a universal uniform measure, or mathematics. As such, the New Philosophy of nature could not view natural phenomena as carrying hidden meanings and significances. It emptied the created order of teleological purposes, thus stipulating that nature did not manifest the presence of God. In other words, the New Philosophy of nature read the libri naturales, the Book of Nature, or the Liber creaturarum, the Book of the Creatures, as a coherent, orderly text produced by an omnipotent author, who, in contrast to the emblematic view of nature, remains distinct from, and unmirrored by, nature, His creation. Typology then was dispelled by modern science.
Edwards, “Images of Divine Things” 45, 11: 62–3. Ibid., 169, 11: 114. 24 William B. Ashworth, Jr. “Catholicism and Early Modern Science,” God & Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, eds. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1986), pp. 156–7. See also Katharine Park, “Nature in Person: Medieval and Renaissance Allegories and Emblems,” in The Moral Authority of Nature, eds. Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press 2004), pp. 50–74.
23 22

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

19

Seventeenth-century scientific thought constructed a new conception of the essential nature of reality, a new vision “of nature as thoroughly homogeneous and therefore nonhierarchical.”25 In classical and medieval theology, God “authored two books: the Bible and the Book of Nature.” In such a system of thought, “events in nature, like linguistic expressions, are signs. To study them is to decipher God’s meaning. Here natural observations do play a part in the determination of belief, but they do so only because they are a kind of testimony.”26 Thus, for Hugh of St. Victor (1096–1141), “the whole sensible world is like a kind of book written by the finger of God,” and “each particular creature is somewhat like a figure . . . instituted by the divine will to manifest the invisible things of God’s wisdom.”27 Edwards’s natural philosophy evidently belongs to this classical and medieval tradition in which everything in the world of nature is an inextricable and essential part of a grand divine scheme. In contrast, “the universe” for Galileo was rather a “grand book” written “in the language of mathematics,” and “its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures.” Scientific thought has nothing to do with revelation and theology. “Without the language of mathematics and geometry,” wrote Galileo, “one is wandering in a dark labyrinth.”28 This was also the view of Descartes, who attempted “to build a universe to suit his methematical ideal of nature,”29 claiming that nature can be defined through numbers—“the only principles which I accept, or require, in physics are those of geometry and pure mathematics; these principles explain all natural phenomena, and enable us to provide quite certain demonstrations regarding them” (italics in original).30 Likewise, Boyle declared that the world “was written in mathematical letters.”31 Against this Pascal protested that
Amos Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986), p. 10. 26 Nancy Murphy, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), p. 5. 27 Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), p. 1. 28 Galileo Galilei, The Assayer, 1623, pp. 237–8. 29 Peter Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500–1700 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001), 80. 30 René Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, 1644, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham et al 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985), I. p. 247. 31 Boyle, About the Excellency and Grounds of the Mechanical Hypothesis, 1674, in Selected Philosophical Papers of Robert Boyle, edited with an Introduction, M. A. Stewart (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991), p. 152.
25

20

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

“The God of the Christians does not consist of a God who is simply the author of mathematical truths and the order of the elements; that is the job of the pagans and Epicureans.”32 With the developing notion of a one-dimensional and nonhierarchical world of nature, the “testimony” of nature became more and more problematic, as did the notion of divine immanence and activity in the created order. “Nature no longer comprised a vast array of symbols which points to a transcendent realm beyond it.”33 Thus “no longer were natural phenomena to symbolize and reflect each other and that which is beyond them; the symbolic-allegorical perception of nature as a network of mutual references was discarded as a source for protracted equivocation.”34 For Descartes, for example, the world was not “a collection of signs that demonstrated divine attributes or pointed the path to God. He rejected outright any doctrine of final causes, stating that whatever the purposes of God, they were not impenetrable to be discerned by mere observation of nature.”35 As he wrote: “I consider the customary search for final causes to be totally useless in physics.”36 Descartes thus suggested that when “dealing with natural things we will . . . never derive any explanation from the purposes which God or nature may have had in view when creating them and we shall entirely banish from our philosophy the search for final causes.”37 Edwards’s view is the opposite. While Descartes claimed that we cannot “grasp the ends which he [God] set before himself in creating the universe,”38 Edwards strove to unveil God’s aim and goal in the creation, as can be seen for example in his Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 1755. The reason for the strong reaction of orthodox Christians to the mechanical universe is not hard to understand. It was “of the greatest consequence for succeeding thought that now the great Newton’s

Pascal, Pensées and Other Writings, fragment 690, p. 172. Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science, p. 168. 34 Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination, pp. 28–9. 35 Ashworth, Jr. “Catholicism and Early Modern Science,” p. 140 36 René Descartes, “Fourth meditation,” Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, , II. p. 39. This was also the view of Francis Bacon. See Ian Maclean, “White Crows, Graving Hair, and Eyelashes: Problems for Natural Historian in the Reception of Aristotelian Logic and Biology from Pomponazzi to Bacon,” in Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe, eds. Gianna Pomata and Nancy G. Siraisi (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), p. 167. 37 René Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, p. 202. 38 Ibid., p. 248.
33

32

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

21

authority was squarely behind that view of the cosmos which saw in man a puny, irrelevant spectator . . . of the vast mathematical system whose regular motions according to mechanical principles constituted the world of nature.”39 Deprived of its own integrity, as well as of teleological ends, the world of nature was transformed by mechanical philosophy into a huge machine, an engine or clockwork, based on mechanical principles and operating according to abstract laws. As such, of course, it could not play any role in the mystery of divine providence. So said Boyle, the “whole universe (the soul of man excepted),” is “but a great Automaton, or self-moving engine, wherein all things are performed by the bare motion (or rest), the size, the shape, and the situation, or texture of the parts of the universal matter it consists of.”40 Further, mechanical philosophy’s disenchantment of the world is demonstrated also by the replacement of the classical and medieval notion of a finite cosmos organized according to a grand theological teleology of order, or a great chain of being structured according to a hierarchy of values and entities, by the nonhierarchical world of nature, deprived of any value concepts. Boyle, for example, “rejects the view that nature is hierarchically constructed. Cosmic egalitarianism is a keystone of his thought.”41 To Edwards, as in classical and medieval theology, the world of nature is ontologically inferior and subordinated to a higher divine reality beyond and above it. The “whole outward creation is but the shadows of beings” and “so made to represent spiritual things.” The reason for this is that “it’s agreeable to God’s wisdom that it should be so, that the inferior and shadowy parts of his works should be made to represent those things that are more real and excellent, spiritual and divine, to represent the things that immediately concern himself and the highest parts of his work.”42 Or, in another place, “God does purposely make and order one thing to be in an agreement and harmony with another. And if so, why should not we suppose that he
39 Edwin A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay (New York: Dover, 2003 [1924]), p. 238. 40 Robert Boyle, “The Excellency of Theology Compared with Natural Philosophy,” 1665, as quoted in Otto Mayr, Authority, Liberty & Automatic Machinery in early Modern Europe Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1986), p. 56. 41 McGuire, “Boyle’s Conception of Nature,” Journal of the History of Ideas 33 (1972), p. 533. 42 Edwards, Miscellany 362, 13: 434. For Edwards’s typology, see Janice Knight, “Typology,” in The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 190–209.

22

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

makes the inferior in imitation of the superior, the material of the spiritual, on purpose to have a resemblance and shadow of them?”43 Edwards’s emblematic view of reality resembles that of Gregory of Nyssa (c. 331–c. 396) who “believed deeply in the unreality” of the “material world and yet recognized that it could provide signs and symbols that would lead mankind upward to God.”44 This was also Edwards’s view, and one may say about it what Herbert Butterfield wrote about Copernicus: “In general, it is important not to overlook the fact that the teaching of Copernicus is entangled (in a way that was customary with the older type of science) with concepts of value, teleological explanations, and forms of what we should call animism.”45 Edwards’s typological and emblematic reading of world phenomena rather resembles the views of the Jesuit Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621), for whom “the observation that the moon sometimes shines on the earth while keeping a dark side to heaven, became a reminder that man too will often turn his back on God.”46 Believing that the main function of the world of matter and motion, ontologically inferior and subordinated to the divine, is to reflect the images and shadows of the spiritual reality beyond and above it, Edwards insisted that “the things of the world are ordered [and] designed to shadow forth spiritual things.”47 Here lay the role he assigned to religion in explaining the world of nature: where the “glories of astronomy and natural philosophy consist in the harmony of the parts of the corporeal shadow of a world; the glories of religion consist in the sweet harmony of the greater and more real worlds with themselves, with one another and with the infinite fountain and original of them.”48 Conceiving nature as a specific though inferior mode of reality, Edwards could declare that “the works of nature are intended and contrived of God to signify and indigitate [represent] spiritual things.”49 In his cosmological vision, the created order was infused with transcendent meaning, and the existence of every being in the world was endowed with theological and teleological significance.
Edwards, Miscellany 8, 13: 53. David C. Lindberg, “Science and the Early Church,” in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, p. 31. 45 Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science (New York: The Free Press, 1965 [1957]), p. 44. 46 Ashworth, Jr. “Catholicism and Early Modern Science,” p. 157. 47 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 7 (1728), 11: 53. 48 Edwards, Miscellany 42 (1723), 13: 224. 49 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 55 (1737), 11: 66.
44 43

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

23

This view of world phenomena has more to do with medieval and Renaissance thought than with modern scientific reasoning. Michel Foucault wrote that until
the end of the sixteenth century, resemblance played a constructive role in the knowledge of western culture. It was resemblance that largely guided exegesis and the interpretation of texts; it was resemblance that organized the play of symbols, made possible knowledge of things visible and invisible, and controlled the art of representing them.50

In this mode of reasoning, “the world is covered with signs that must be deciphered,” and “nature, in itself, is an unbroken tissue of words and signs.”51 And again: “the nature of things, their coexistence, the way in which they are linked together and communicate is nothing other than their resemblance. And that resemblance is visible only in the network of signs that crossed the world from one end to the other.” Such, in sum “is the sixteenth century episteme.”52 And thus Edwards wrote: in the corporeal world “the sweetest and most charming beauty” is based upon “its resemblance of spiritual beauties.”53 In this context indeed, Edwards’s typological and emblematic reading of the world of nature resembles the views of Paracelsus (Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493–1541), alchemist, physician, astrologer and general occultist, who declared that:
We men discover everything that lies hidden in the mountains by external signs and correspondences, and thus also do we find all the properties of herbs and everything that is in the stones. There is nothing in the depths of the seas, nothing in the heights of the firmament, that man is unable to discover. No mountain, no cliff, is so vast as to hide or conceal what is in it from the eyes of man; it is revealed to him by corresponding signs.

Accordingly, there is “nothing that nature has not signed in such a way that man may discover its essence.”54 Edwards reiterated this medieval and Renaissance view, saying that the “things of the world are ordered

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage, 1994 [1966]), p. 17. 51 Ibid., pp. 32, 39–40. 52 Ibid., pp. 29–30. 53 Edwards, “Beauty of the World,” 6: 305. 54 Paracelsus, Selected Writings, ed. Jolande Jacobi (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1979), pp. 120–1.

50

24

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

[and] designed to shadow forth spiritual things.”55 In sum, on the “threshold of the modern age,” during “the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the peculiar existence and ancient solidity of language as a thing inscribed in the fabric of the world were dissolved in the functioning of representation; all language had value only as discourse.”56 One of the main aspects of the New Philosophy of nature was the transformation of the concept of nature. Instead of the emblematic worldview signifying a grand theological teleology of order, nature was perceived now as a one-dimensional realm of matter. Thus, said Descartes, “by ‘nature’ here I do not mean some goddess or any other sort of imaginary power. Rather, I am using this word to signify matter itself.”57 Earlier Galileo argued, “nature takes no delight in poetry,” meaning the realm of nature “is not poetic, multilayered polysemous, mysterious, arcane, and congeries of resemblances and affinities.”58 The stripping of nature of teleological and theological significance was essential to the definition of the phenomena of nature in mathematical terms, and thus to the mathematical formulation of the laws of nature, Newton’s great achievement in the Principia. The scientific and philosophical revolution of the seventeenth century thus led to a conception of the universe which can be described as “bringing forth the destruction of the Cosmos, that is, the disappearance, from the philosophically and scientifically valid concept, of the conception of the world as a finite, closed, and hierarchically ordered whole” and “its replacement by the indefinite and even infinite universe which is bound together by the identity of its fundamental components and laws, and in which all these components are placed on the same level of being.”59 Since all “natural bodies are essentially of the same kind,” the classical and medieval “distinction between earthly and celestial bodies” and motions “has become obsolete.”60 Descartes rejected the
55 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 7, 11: 61. On Paracelsus’ typological reading of nature see, James J. Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1995), pp. 123–66. 56 Foucault, The Order of Things, p. 43. 57 René Descartes, “The laws of nature of this world,” The World, 1629–33, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, , I. 92. 58 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 196. 59 Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: John Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968), p. 2. 60 Martin Heidegger, “Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics,” in Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, ed. David F. Krell (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), pp. 286, 288, 292.

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

25

Scholastic doctrine of a radical, essential difference between heaven and earth, declaring “the earth and the heaven are composed of one and the same matter,” hence “all the bodies in the universe are composed of one and the same matter.”61 The New Philosophy of nature is based also on reduction—the reduction of maximum data, or natural phenomena, into a minimum set of propositions from which it will be possible to deduce the varieties of phenomena in an empirical and logical way and thus arrive at a mathematical explanation. It attempts to deconstruct the whole into small components. Rational categories stand at the foundation of the new science. Typology, on the other hand, is based on the contention that because nature is engraved with God’s image, it too infinite, and no matter how much we learn about nature, we still know nothing. Instead of reducing world phenomena into minimum propositions, typology acknowledges the whole and does not attempt to explain it by its few propositions. Its logic is that of association or resemblance between things divine and mundane. Early modern scientific enterprise is based not only on mathematical language but also on scientific instruments, as can be seen in the work of Robert Hooke (1635–1703), one of the greatest experimental scientists of the seventeenth century, who played a decisive role in the scientific revolution by his use of “Optical Glasses,” the microscope, and telescope. By these newly invented instruments, Hooke said, “the subtilty of the composition of Bodies, the structure of their parts, the various texture of their matter, the instruments and manner of their inward motion, and all other possible appearance of things, may come to be more fully discovered.” The new experimental philosophy provides “many admirable advantages, towards the increase of the Operative, and the Mechanick Knowledge, to which this Age seems so much inclined.”62 Indeed, mechanical, and not theological, understanding and knowledge of the world of nature was the battle cry of the New Philosophy. In this context of the opposition between scientific reasoning and typological, emblematic understanding of the world of nature, one may further examine Miller’s and Anderson’s claim that Edwards adopted Newton’s science, or mechanical philosophy. Whereas Edwards’s natural
Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, pp. 232, 256. Robert Hooke, Micrographia: Or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minutes Bodied Made by Magnifying Glasses (London, 1665), in Malcolm Oster, ed., Science in Europe, 1500– 1800 (New York: Palgrave, 2002), p. 151.
62 61

26

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

philosophy was based on typology, Newton said that he concurred with “the ancients” that “the science of mechanics is of greatest importance in the investigation of natural things,” and with “the moderns” who “endeavored to subject the phenomena of nature to the laws of mathematics.” The essence of Newton’s natural philosophy consists in explaining the “phenomena of nature” from “mechanical principles.”63 Newton’s is indeed an “experimental philosophy” of nature. “The adherents of this system,” wrote the mathematician and astronomer Roger Cotes (1682–1716),
derive the causes of all things from the most simple principles possible; but then they assume nothing as a principle, that is not proved by phenomena. They frame no hypotheses, nor receive them into philosophy otherwise as questions whose truth may be disputed. They proceed therefore in a twofold method, synthetical and analytical. From some select phenomena they deduce by analysis the forces of Nature and the more simple laws of forces; and from thence by synthesis show the constitution of the rest.64

The “Newtonian Philosophy” is based upon “causes proved by phenomena, rather than causes only imagined and not yet proved. The business of true philosophy” of nature is therefore “to drive the nature of things from causes truly existent, and to inquire after those laws on which the Great Creator actually chose to found his most beautiful Frame of the World, not those by which he might have done the same, had he so pleased.”65 Nothing could be more further from Edwards’s typology than this disenchantment of the world of nature caused by the mechanical philosophers.66 The experimental,
63 Newton, “Newton’s Preface to the First Edition,” 1686, in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1934), I, pp. xvii–xviii. 64 Cotes, “Cotes’s Preface to the Second Edition,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1934), I, pp. xx–xxi. 65 Ibid., p. xxvii. 66 Max Weber argued that the origin of this process of the disenchantment of the world should be traced back to the Protestant Reformation, which brought about “the elimination of magic from the world.” See Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London: Routledge, 1995 [1904]), p. 105. Modern studies today rather tend to see the beginning of the disenchantment of the world, or the separation of the order of grace and the order of nature, with the “nominalist revolution,” of the fourteenth century. See Amos Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination, p. 27; Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: John Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968), pp. 5–27; Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in Hermeneutics

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

27

mechanical system of scientific reasoning is radically and absolutely opposed to Edwards’s emblematic reading of nature, which leads rather to the re-enchantment of the world. For Edwards, the mechanical philosophy’s disenchantment of the world was unwarranted. To reassert God’s power and will within creation, he returned to the classical and medieval metaphor of God’s two books. Scripture ought to be its “interpreter” because only God’s revelation can illuminate “those spiritual mysteries that are indeed signified or typified in the constitution of the natural world.”67 To Edwards, therefore, theology reminded the “Queen of Sciences.”

3. The Great Chain of Being
Together with his belief in science as “handmaiden to theology” and in a typological view of nature, Edwards adhered to the classical and medieval concept of the Great Chain of Being (scala naturae). Not only did Edwards reject the mechanical vision of a one-dimensional world of nature, but he denounced the consequences of such a view, which implies the exclusion of value concepts from the order of creation. One of the main consequences of the mechanical view of the universe was the “discarding by scientific thought of all considerations based upon value-concepts, such as perfection, harmony, meaning and aim, and finally the utter devalorization of being, the divorce of the world of value and the world of fact.”68 For example, the Cartesian theater of nature was radically different from the traditional Scholastic and Renaissance conception of the world: “The world of Descartes is by no means the colorful, multiform and qualitatively determined world of the Aristotelian, the world of our daily life and experience,” but “a strictly uniform mathematical world, a world of geometry.”69 This transformation, affecting the whole fabric of the universe, was unacceptable to orthodox Christians such as Edwards. Hence in his theology of nature he returned to the Platonic and Neo-Platonic notion of the Great Chain of Being, or, as he called it, “the order of creation,” and strove to show that the whole fabric of the universe is
of Nature and Culture (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 167–89. See also Gordon Leff, The Dissolution of the Medieval Outlook (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1976), pp. 36–58. 67 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things” 156 (c. 1743), 11: 106. 68 Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, p. 4. 69 Ibid., pp. 100–1.

28

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

indeed essentially founded on a teleology of values which in turn defines the ontological status of beings in the whole fabric of creation. Attempting to preserve God’s presence and redemptive activity in the world, Edwards invoked the notion of a hierarchically ordered universe, declaring that the whole created order is characterized by “communication between one degree of being and the next degree of being.”70 In other places he defines it as “the scale of existence,” “ranks of creatures,” or “the gradation or succession of created things.”71 This view resembles that of Dante’s Platonic and Neo-Platonic portrayal of the theater of the world:
All things among themselves, posses an order; and this order is the form that makes the universe like God. Here do the higher beings see the imprints of the Eternal Worth, which is the end to which the pattern I have mentioned tends. Within that order, every nature has its bent, according to a different station, nearer or less near to its origin. Therefore, these natures move to different ports across the mighty see of being, each given the impulse that will bear it on.72

Closer to Edwards’s own times, the New England theologian’s view of the Great Chain of Being had been developed previously, among others, by the Cambridge Platonists, a group of seventeenth-century philosopher-theologians including Henry More (1614–1687), Ralph Cudworth (1617–1688), and John Smith (1616–1652), who “adhered to the ancient doctrine of microcosm and macrocosm which they related to the great chain of being. Thus various levels of reality emanated from God in an ordered hierarchical structure.”73 The new culture of scientific thought and imagination, or mechanical, experimental philosophy, presented an opposition to the medieval concept of the “Great Chain of Being.” Yet, the concept did not disappear from the world of eighteenth-century imagination. As Edwards
Edwards, Miscellany tt (c. 1723), 13: 190. Edwards, Miscellany 1263, 23: 206–7, 211. 72 Dante, Paradiso, Canto I, trans. Allen Mandelbaum. 73 J. E. McGuire, “Boyle’s Conception of Nature,” p. 542. See also Michael Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981), p. 182, and C. A. Patrides, ed. The Cambridge Platonists (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980).
71 70

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

29

adhered to the cosmological worldview of the Great Chain of Being, the belief that God’s cosmic providential plan was evidenced in the structure of order inherent in the universe, so did many others of his time, such as Addison, Henry St. John Bolingbroke, Pope, Diderot, Kant, and many more. “It was in the eighteenth century that the conception of the universe as a Chain of Being, and the principles which underlay this conception—plentitude, continuity, gradation—attained their widest diffusion and acceptance.” Next “to the word ‘Nature,’ ‘the great Chain of Being’ was the sacred phrase of the eighteenth century, playing a part somewhat analogous to that of the blessed word ‘evolution’ in the late nineteenth century.”74 Edwards clung to the classical and medieval notion of a hierarchical universe structured according to a chain of being. In the order of “the creation,” he said, “there is an immediate communication between one degree of being and the next degree of being” according “to the order of being [emphasis added].”75 Yet, because in Edwards’s idealism the natural order was deprived of any participation in the affairs of divine providence, and since “nothing else has a proper being but spirits,”76 therefore, “in the various ranks of beings, those that are nearest to the first being should most evidently and variously partake of his influence,” or “be influenced by the operation of the Spirit of God.”77 His return to the classical and medieval notion of the chain of being signified a radical departure from current scientific thought. The notion of the hierarchical order of the universe as a chain of created spirits, based upon the concept of “excellency,” which defined these spirits’ relation to God, enabled Edwards to claim that “God created the world for the shining forth of his excellency,”78 thus establishing world phenomena as a mode of reality in which “the beauties of nature are really emanations, or shadows, of the excellence of the Son of God.”79 Believing thus that the whole of creation is the overflowing of divine being, continuity in the course of nature depends moment by moment on God’s immanent activity. In sum, Edwards’s thought
74 Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2001 [1936]), pp. 183–4. 75 Edwards, Miscellany tt (c. 1722), 13: 190. 76 Edwards, “The Mind,” 6: 337. 77 Edwards, Miscellany 178 (c. 1725), 13: 327. 78 Edwards, Miscellany 332 (c. 1728), 13: 410; Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 8: 526–36. 79 Edwards, Miscellany 108 (c. 1727), 13: 279; Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 8: 530–1.

30

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

is based, like that of the French Cartesian and rationalist Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715), on omnia videmus in deo—“we see all things in God”—and he continuously pursued the mind of God (mens Dei) in creation, as he stated for example in his work Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 1755:
the whole universe, including all creatures animate and inanimate, in all its actings, proceedings, revolutions, and entire series of events, should proceed from a regard and with a view to God, as the supreme and last end of all.80

4. The God of Mechanical Philosophers
Another dimension within which to measure the distance between Edwards and the premises of the New Philosophy of nature is related to the nature of God and the meaning of the Deity’s relationship to the world. Edwards’s natural philosophy cannot be assimilated to the dominant scientific thought of his time, mechanical philosophy, since the very premises of this new reasoning seriously undermined the traditional Christian conception of the personal God who operates through history and concerns himself with the affairs of intelligible creatures on earth. The impersonal God of mechanical philosophy, the lord of the physical world, and the cosmic lawgiver differed radically from the living God of the Bible whom Christians had worshipped for many centuries—God the Savior and Redeemer, the Triune God of special as well as of general providence, Jesus the personal Savior, and the Holy Spirit, the mediating power between God and human beings. According to Roger Cotes, the scientific principles of Newton’s natural philosophy “clearly manifest to us the most excellent counsel and supreme dominion of the All-wise and Almighty Being.”81 This view, which elevated the God of Dominion, or the Summus Deus, the Supreme God, at the expense of the Triune God, irritated many orthodox people in England. Newton was anti-Trinitarian, or Arian—denying that the Son is part of the Godhead—as were many other mechanical philosophers. Thus, for example, the English divine John Edwards wrote in 1714 that Sir Isaac Newton’s views in favor of “God of Dominion or the concept of Supreme God (Summus Deus)” was “in clear contrast to the traditional notion of the Trinity.”82 In 1728 the Bristol clergyman,
Edwards, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 8: 424. Cotes, “Cotes’s Preface to the Second Edition,” p. xxxii. 82 John Edwards, Some Brief Critical Remarks on Dr. Clarke’s Last Papers (London, 1714), p. 36.
81 80

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

31

orientalist, and moral reformer Arthur Bedford attacked Newton and his “disciples, Whiston and Clarke,” because their views “raised the specter of Arianism.” (William Whiston, 1667–1752, was a mathematician who succeeded Newton as Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, and Samuel Clarke (1675–1729), theologian and philosopher, was one of Newton disciples.) Likewise, the Presbyterian minister Robert Wodrow wrote in 1729 “that Newton had agreed with Clarke about the subordination of Christ to God,” that is the Arian position on Christology.83 Other English orthodox Christians denounced Newton’s concept of “God of Dominion.” In 1731 Joseph Trapp attacked Newton’s concept of God as Pantokrator: “the word God” in Scripture denotes “but Office only, Dominion, or Authority.”84 The New Philosophy of nature thus raised many fears and strong reactions among pious Christians in regard of the nature of God and the Trinity. One of the best examples of the reaction of religious orthodoxy to the new God of mechanical, experimental philosophy can be found in Pascal with whom Edwards might certainly have agreed. Pascal felt that scientific thought seriously threatened, even gravely undermined, traditional Christian belief. It should be noted, however, that Pascal himself was a scientist who contributed to the field of natural science, especially in the construction of mechanical calculators, considerations of probability theory, the study of fluids, and the elucidation of concepts such as pressure and vacuum. The development of the new astronomy filled him with a deep awe of the universe, expanded through new discoveries into infinity. He wrote: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.”85 In 1654, following a deep mystical experience, he devoted himself to theology and philosophy. Pascal, then, given his knowledge of and contribution to current scientific culture, was in a unique position to criticize the God of mechanical philosophers, such as Descartes and others:
The God of the Christians does not consist of a God who is simply the author of mathematical truths and the order of the elements; that is the job of the pagans

83 Scott Mandelbrote, “Eighteenth-Century Reaction to Newton’s Anti-Trinitarianism,” in Newton and Newtonianism: New Studies, eds. Jams E. Force and Sarah Hutton (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2004), pp. 97–8, 102. 84 Ibid., p. 102. For Newton’s concept of God as Pantokrator, see James E. Force, “Providence and Newton’s Pantokrator: Natural Law, Miracles, and Newtonian Science,” in Newton and Newtonianism: New Studies, pp. 65–92. 85 Pascal, Pensées, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (Penguin Books: Harmondsworth, 1976), fragment 201, p. 95.

32

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature
and Epicureans. He does not consist simply of a God who exerts his providence over the lives and property of people in order to grant a happy span of years to those who worship him: that is the allocation of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the Christians is a God of love and consolation; he is a God who fills the souls and hearts of those he possesses; he is a God who makes them inwardly aware of their wretchedness and his infinite mercy, who unites with them in the depths of their soul, who makes them incapable of any other end but himself.86

Since the God of the mathematicians and scientists is not the true God of orthodox Christianity, it is clear that Pascal became suspicious of scientific thought and scientific enterprise in general. The same vein of thinking appears in his famous cry:
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars. Certainty, joy, certainty, emotion, sight, joy/ God of Jesus Christ. Deum meum et Deum vestrum [My God and your God] . . . He can only be found in the ways taught/ in the Gospel. Greatness of the human soul.87

Pascal’s criticism of the scientific culture of his time is based on the natural philosophers’ growing exclusion of God from the order of nature. However, “Cartesian philosophy is quite inexplicable without God.” Descartes’s God is “the guarantor of right reason and of the reliability of clear and distinct ideas. It is God’s immutability that ensures the existence of laws and nature and necessitates the conservation of motion in the world. It is God’s continuous presence that conserves those laws. So God is considerably more than first cause for Descartes.”88 But Descartes’s God is the mechanical God, not the living God of the Bible. Pascal placed Christ, the personal, savior God, at the center of human life. He declared that the “whole conduct of things ought to aim at the establishment and the greatness of religion.” Religion “ought to be so truly the object and centre towards which all things lean.” Hence, “whoever knows” the principles of religion “should be able to explain both human nature in particular, and the whole conduct of the world in general.”89 Second, in answer to “the arrogance” of the natural philosophers and their mechanical God, Pascal argued that knowledge of “the order of the world,” or the created order, depended upon Christ: “Jesus Christ is the object of everything, and
86 87

Pascal, Pensées and Other Writings, fragment 690, p. 172. Pascal, “The Memorial,” in Pensées and Other Writings, p. 178. 88 Ashworth, Jr., “Catholicism and Early Modern Science,” p. 139. 89 Pascal, Pensées and Other Writings, fragment 690, p. 170.

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

33

the centre to which everything tends. Whoever knows him knows the reason for everything.” Any attempt therefore “to prove by reason from nature” the “existence of God” is “useless and sterile” because it is done “without Jesus Christ” who is “the reason for everything.”90 Further, unlike the God of natural philosophers, the “God of Jesus Christ” can “only be found in the ways he taught in the Gospel” and not in nature.91 Pascal thus criticized Descartes throughout the Pensées, declaring, more specifically, “I cannot forgive Descartes: in his whole philosophy he would like to do without God; but he could not help allowing him a flick of the fingers to set the world in motion; after that he had no more use for God.”92 These words reveal his growing concern about the New Philosophy, which tended to exclude Christ from the world of nature, seeking only to find evidence of the mechanical God in the operation of the created order. Orthodox Christians felt that the God of mechanical philosophers such as Descartes, and later Boyle and Newton, was not the true God that Christians had worshiped for many centuries. Indeed, for Boyle, “a God who could create a mechanical universe—who could create matter in motion, obeying certain laws out of which the universe as we know it could come into being in an orderly fashion—was far more to be admired and worshipped than a God who created a universe without scientific law.”93 And Newton: “We know him [God] only by his most wise and excellent contrivance of things, and final causes.”94 Yet this mechanical conception of God, as Pascal warned, certainly led to atheism and deism:
All those who seek God outside Jesus Christ and whose search stops with nature, either find no light which satisfies them, or come to devise a way of knowing and serving God without a mediator. They therefore sink into either atheism or deism, two things which the Christian religion abhors almost equally.95

He therefore declared: “Without Jesus Christ the world would not exist, for it would either have to be destroyed or it would be a kind
90 91

Ibid., fragment 690, p. 171. Pascal, “The Memorial,” in Pensées and Other Writings, 1654, p. 178. 92 Pascal, Pensées, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer, p. 355. 93 J. J. O’Connor and E. F. Robertson, “Robert Boyle,” in http://www-groups.dcs.stand.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Boyle.html. 94 Newton, “General Scholium,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, II, p. 546. 95 Pascal, Pensées and Other Writings, fragment 690, p. 172.

34

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

of hell.” The world, in sum, “exists only through Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ.”96 Like Pascal, Leibniz was quick to realize the serious implications of mechanical, experimental philosophy on traditional religious thought and belief, especially in regard to the nature of God. He said that the God of mechanical philosophers differed radically from the God of traditional Christianity. “Natural religion,” he wrote “seems to decay [in England] very much” because of new scientific thought: “Mr. Locke, and his followers, are uncertain at least, whether the soul be not material, and naturally perishable,” and “Sir Isaac Newton, and his followers, have . . . a very odd opinion concerning the work of God.” More specifically,
According to their doctrine, God Almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. Nay, the machine of God’s making is so imperfect, according to these gentlemen; that he is obliged to clean it now and then by an extraordinary concourse, and even to mend it, as a clockmaker mends his work; who must consequently be so much the more unskillful a workman, as he is oftener obliged to mend his work and set it right.97

Newton thus had a new conception of God and His works: an imperfect God, according to the mechanical philosopher, had created an imperfect universe. Apart from the problem of the nature of God, Leibniz attacked Newton and the mechanical philosophers also on the issue of God’s relationship to the world. He rejected Newton’s remark that “space is an organ, which God makes use of to perceive things by” on the ground that “if God stands in need of any organ to perceive things by,” then “it will follow, that they do not depend altogether upon him, nor were produced by him.”98 In other words, Newton’s view may lead to the belief that the universe is independent of God. Moreover, Leibniz argued that Newton’s “mathematical principles of [natural] philosophy” are “the same” as “those of the materialists”99 who, as Clarke admitted, believed “the frame of nature to be such as could have arisen from mere mechanical principles of matter and motion, of necessity and fate.”100
Ibid., fragment 690, p. 172. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s First Paper,” 1715, in The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, ed. H. G. Alexander (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1956), pp. 11–12. 98 Ibid., p. 11. 99 Leibniz, “Leibniz’s Second Paper,” The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, p. 15. 100 Samuel Clarke, “Dr. Clarke’s Second Reply,” The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, p. 20.
97 96

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

35

Evidently, Edwards would join Pascal and Leibniz, as well as many other orthodox Christians, in denouncing the premises of mechanical philosophy and its grave consequences for traditional Christian modes of thought in regard of the nature of God and His relationship with the world. For example, Edwards, who constantly stressed the notion of “God’s absolute sovereignty,” and “His arbitrary will,” did not accept the radical reduction of divine power by mechanical philosophy’s concept of the laws of nature, which tended to diminish God’s sovereignty and arbitrariness:
as we proceed and go from step to step among the several parts and distinct existences and events of the universe, that which way soever [sic] we go, the nearer we come to God, the less and less we should find that things are governed by general laws, and that the arbitrariness of the supreme cause and governor should be more and more seen.101

More specifically, against Newton’s “God of Dominion,” and his claim that God is “an agent acting constantly according to certain laws,”102 Edwards objected that God “is not seen to be the sovereign ruler of the universe, or God over all, any otherwise than he is seen to be arbitrary.” Reacting to the mechanical philosophers’ assertion that “divine operation” is “limited by what we call laws of nature,” Edwards declared that the use of such a concept to describe God’s relation with the order of creation was unwarranted. For what is implied in such a mechanistic view is that God “himself in common with his creatures” is “subject in his acting to the same laws with inferior beings” and is thus deprived of his place as “the head of the universe” and “the foundation & first spring of all.”103 Instead of the scientific concept of the laws of nature, Edwards believed that the “material world, and all things pertaining to it, is by the Creator wholly subordinated to the spiritual and moral world,” hence nature’s role lies ultimately in “showing forth and resembling spiritual things.” Divine activity in the world is not limited only to natural laws, since “God in some instances seems to have gone quite beside the ordinary laws of nature.” For example, “God in some things in providence, has set aside the ordinary course of things in the material
Edwards, Miscellany 1263, 23: 212 Newton, “Four Letters to Richard Bentley,” Letter III, February 25, 1693, in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings, ed., H. S. Thayer (New York: Hafner, 1974), p. 54. 103 Edwards, Miscellany 1263, 23: 212.
102 101

36

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

world to subserve to the purposes of the moral and spiritual, as in miracles.” In order “to show that all things in heaven and earth, the whole universe, is wholly subservient” to divine power and will, “God has once or twice interrupted” the course of nature “as when the sun stood still in Joshua’s time.”104

5. The School of “Physico-theology”
Edwards’s natural philosophy should not therefore be identified or associated with the form and content of modern scientific thought; rather his philosophy, or rather theology, of nature was closely related to some essential features of classical and medieval theology. There is however another important school of thought that merits consideration, that of “physico-theology,” or physical theology, since there are many affinities between the ideas of this school and Edwards’s natural philosophy. Physico-theology was developed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by various distinguished English philosophers and theologians who attempted to counteract the threat of atheism by proving God’s power and wisdom through the fabric of the world of nature, using the design argument. “As the phrase ‘physico-theology’ implies, the design argument assumed a correspondence between our experience of order in the natural and our derivation of behavioral norms for self and society” by “describing all natural effects as expressions of providential plan, design provided the basis for a theodicy.”105 Those who belonged to this school, the physico-theologians, strove to prove the existence of God from the order and harmony of nature, thus affirming the being and wisdom of the Deity in creation. They emphasized the worship of the God of nature; their goal was theological one in search for examples of God’s providential plan in creation and His care for His creatures. In contrast to sixteenth- and early seventeenth-centuries’ natural theology, however, physico-theology “emphasized not the immediately perceptible regularities of the heavens and the scala naturae but, instead, the intricate contrivances of living organisms.”106 Physico-theology developed through a series of works: Walter Charleton’s The Darkness of Atheism Dispelled by the Light of Nature (1654);
Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 43 (c. 1735), 11: 61. Michael Prince, Philosophical dialogue in the British Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), p. 84. 106 Brian W. Ogilvie, “Natural History, Ethics, and Physico-Theology,” in Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe, p. 95.
105 104

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

37

John Ray’s The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691) and Three Physico-Theological Discourses (1692); Richard Bentley’s A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin and Frame of the World (1692); William Derham’s Physico-Theology, or, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God from His Works of Creation (1711–1712); William Paley’s Natural Theology, or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature (1802); as well as the Dutch natural philosopher Bernard Nieuwentijdt’s The Religious Philosopher, Or, the Right Use of Contemplating the Works of the Creator (1724); and many others. For more than a hundred years defenders of the design argument bolstered their proofs with a variety of examples from astronomy and human physiology to show the intricate order and design of the world. They all expounded a natural theology, the belief that the nature of God could be understood by reference to His creation, the natural world. To this list one may add Cotton Mather’s Christian Philosopher (1721), and Jonathan Edwards himself, who was very much influenced by the ideas of the school, as can be seen in his works on natural philosophy where the theme of God’s “Wisdom in the Contrivance of the World” frequently appears, as well as many entries in the Miscellanies, where the theme of the “Wisdom of God in the Work of Redemption” recurs again and again. Physico-theology transformed the medieval, Scholastic view that traditionally defined theology as the “Queen of Sciences.” In the face of new scientific thought, based on experimental, mechanical philosophy, theology was no longer able to provide “objective truths” about the order of nature. Hence some physico-theologians, but by no means all, used the findings of the New Philosophy in order to affirm their religious beliefs and theological convictions. For example, the theologian and Master of Trinity College, Richard Bentley (1662–1742), whose works belong to the school of physico-theology, used “Newtonian philosophy” as “the safest protection against the attacks of atheists.”107 And Cotton Mather (1663–1728), who greatly rejoiced at Newton’s discoveries as a proof of God’s existence, claimed that natural “Philosophy is not Enemy, but mighty and wondrous Incentive to Religion,” and glorified “Sir Isaac Newton” the “Perpetual Dictator of the learned World.”108
Cotes, “Cotes’s Preface to the Second Edition,” pp. xxvii, xxxiii. Cotton Mather, The Christian Philosophers, 1721, ed. Winton U. Solberg (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994), pp. 7, 65. On Cotton Mather and the school of PhysicoTheology, see Jeffrey Jeske, “Cotton Mather: Physico-Theologian,” Journal of the History of Ideas 47 (Oct.–Dec., 1986), pp. 583–94.
108 107

38

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

The relationship between science and religion was thus transformed at the hands of the physico-theologians, and science was no longer regarded as “handmaiden to theology.” Rather, natural philosophy became a legitimate source of knowledge about the order of creation. It should be noted, however, that some physico-theologians denounced the new modes of scientific reasoning. John Ray, for example, attacked Descartes’s mechanical philosophy, and Jonathan Edwards denied the very premises of the mechanistic interpretation of reality. Yet, in their struggle against atheism and materialism, all the physico-theologians, as the name shows, strove to prove the being of God from the order and harmony of nature. They all stressed that the wisdom of God could be understood by reference to His creation as evidenced in the marvelous intricate order and design of the world. Edwards, however, went even further than most physico-theologians, claiming that one may find the “Wisdom of God in the Work of Redemption” in history as well, and not only in the realm of nature.109 Physico-theologians were philosophers and theologians who strove to refute atheism and materialism in part by incorporating the new scientific culture into their theology, that is, into the confines of traditional Christian thought and belief. In face of atheism as well as causal-mechanical natural science, the followers of this school emphasized the anthropocentric expediency of creation (of the “liber naturae”), tracing it in nature and thus deriving from it God’s omnipotence, grace, and wisdom in creation. Theirs, in sum, is a theology of nature, of explanations of the workings of the world of nature based on theological principles. Against this view, in his The Advancement of Learning (1605), Bacon wrote that to say, for example, “That the solidness of the earth is for the station and mansion of living creatures: and the like, is well inquired and collected in Metaphysicke, but in Physicke” it is “impertinent.”110 Later, in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant rejected the physico-theological proof of the existence of God, and much later still, William James denounced this school of thought, calling it “the naturalist superstition” of “the worship of the
109 The first instance of Edwards’s idea about the “Wisdom of God in the Work of Redemption” appeared in Miscellany 337 (c. 1728), 13: 412–3; later this theme runs all through the Miscellanies. It constituted as well the basis for Edwards’s series of sermons on the History of the Work of Redemption, 1739. See Avihu Zakai, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Enlightenment (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003). 110 Francis Bacon as quoted in Ian Maclean, “White Crows, Graving Hair, and Eyelashes,” p. 167.

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

39

God of nature.”111 But during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries physico-theology exercised much influence on the English thinking. John Ray (1628–1705), a devout Christian and “the first great naturalist to write at length on natural theology,”112 expounded the doctrine that the wisdom and power of God could be understood by studying His creation in The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691). There he attempted “to run over all the visible Works of God in particular, and to trace the Footsteps of His Wisdom in the Composition, Order, Harmony, and Use of every one of them.” Striving to prove the necessity of “belief in God,” he sought to demonstrate it “by Arguments drawn from the Light of Nature, and Works of Creation.” These “Proofs taken from Effects, and Operations, exposed to every Man’s View, not to be denied or questioned by any, are most effectual to convince all that deny or doubt of it.” Ray’s aim in the present discourse was “not only to demonstrate the Being of a deity, but to illustrate some of his principle Attributes; as namely his infinite Power and Wisdom.” In such reasoning, the whole universe is proof of the being and wisdom of the Deity: “The vast multitude of Creatures, and those not only small, but immensely great, the Sun and Moon, and all the Heavenly Host, are Effects and proofs of His Almighty Power.”113 In other words,
There is no greater, at least no more palpable and convincing Argument of the Existence of a Deity, than the admirable Art and Wisdom that discovers itself in the Make and Constitution, the Order and Disposition, the Ends and Uses of all the Parts and Members of this stately Fabrick of Heaven and Earth.114

Ray, taking the title of his book from Psalm 104.24—“O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all”— initiated a long tradition of natural theology in England, physicotheology, which held that the world of nature was a worthy subject of study, and that such an activity was pleasing to God. Ray wished also to prevent the mechanical philosophers, such as Descartes and Boyle,
William James, “Is Life Worth Living?” 1895, in Will to Believe and other Essays in Popular Philosophy, ed. Fredrick H. Burkhardt et al. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1979), p. 43. 112 Ogilvie, “Natural History, Ethics, and Physico-Theology,” p. 95. 113 John Ray, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation, 1691 (London, 1717), The Preface. 114 Ibid., p. 30.
111

40

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

from throwing theological and teleological considerations out of the realm of the New Philosophy of nature. He attacked Descartes and “his Followers” for “excluding and banishing all Consideration of final Causes from Natural Philosophy, upon Pretence that they are all and every one in particular undiscoverable by us; and that is Rashness and Arrogance in us to think we can find out God’s Ends, and be Partakers of his Counsels.”115 Like other enemies of Cartesianism, Ray claimed that denying the doctrine of final causes meant the denial of divine providence. Moreover, against Descartes’s and Boyle’s mechanical interpretation of nature, Ray argued that according to their mechanical principles “God had no more to do than to create the Matter, divide it into Parts, and put it into Motion, according to some few Laws, and that would of itself produce the World and all Creatures therein.”116 Yet, “these mechanick Philosophers” are in fact unable “to give an Account thereof from the necessary Motion of Matter, unguided by Mind for Ends.” He concludes: “I shall only add, that Natural philosophers, when they endeavour to give an Account of any of the Works of Nature by preconceived Principles of their own, are for the most Part grossly mistaken and confused by Experience.”117 So, as in medieval Scholastic theology, revelation was superior to experience, and the revealed, undemonstrated truths of faith had the ultimate priority over the demonstrated truths of reason. If theological and teleological considerations are inseparable from the study of nature, this study itself becomes an important religious activity, closely linked to scientific enquiry. A demonstration of this reasoning can be found in Richard Bentley’s A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin and Frame of the World, 1692, an endeavor to present Newtonian physics in popular form and to absorb them into a proof of the existence of an intelligent Creator. “Newton’s distinguished work will be the safest protection against the attack of atheists,” wrote Roger Cotes, and this was “first surprisingly demonstrated” by “Richard Bentley.”118 For orthodox Christians, then, physico-theology could provide an important weapon in the struggle against atheism. More specifically, Bentley wished to “include all the Proofs” for the being of God “from the Vital and Intelligent Portions of the Universe, the

115 116

Ibid., p. 38. Ibid., pp. 40–1. 117 Ibid., pp. 44–5. 118 Cotes, “Cotes’s Preface to the Second Edition,” p. xxxiii.

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

41

Organical Bodies of the various Animals, and the Immaterial Souls of Men.”119 William Derham’s Physico-Theology, or A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God from His Works of Creation (1711–1712) belonged to the same genre. This work, together with Derham’s Astro-Theology (1714) provided theological arguments for the being and attributes of God. Derham (1657–1735), however, had another goal in mind: to make use of natural philosophy in the service of religion, or to enlist “Philosophical Matters to Theological Use.”120 His work constituted a “Survey of the Works of Creation, or (as often called) of Nature,”121 offering a survey “through most Parts of the visible Creation, except the Waters.” This grand overview of the wisdom of God in creation was based upon a special method, the “Physico-theological Way,” hence the concept of a “physico-theology” aiming to prove “the Great Points of Christianity.”122 Derham’s purpose was to supply “the proof of the Christian Religion against Atheists, and other Infidels” by the “Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of an infinitely wise and powerful Creation” as revealed in “the Works of Creation.”123 His work constituted a grand “tour through the kingdoms of Nature (animal, vegetable and mineral) in search of examples of God’s providential care for His creatures.”124 Cotton Mather too belonged to the school of “physico-theology,” as can best be seen in his work The Christian Philosopher: A Collection of the Best Discoveries in Nature, with Religious Improvements (1721),125 also known as Religio Philosophica. His models, apart from Boyle’s The Christian Virtuoso (from which he took the original title of his book, but later changed to The Christian Philosopher), were Ray’s The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation, and Derham’s Physico-Theology. More specifically, for Mather as with other physico-theologians, the order of the stars in heaven “doth evidently demonstrate” the “infinite Power and Wisdom of God.” The whole frame of the created world “cannot but lead us into a transcendent Admiration of the Divine
119 Richard Bentley, A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin and Frame of the World, 1692, in Eight Sermons Preached at the Honorable Robert Boyle’s Lectures ... by Richard Bentley, sixth edition (Cambridge, 1735), p. 179. 120 William Derham, Physico-Theology, 1711–12, “The Dedication.” 121 Ibid., p. 3. 122 Ibid., “To the Reader.” 123 Ibid., p. 3. 124 Andrew Pyle, “Boyle Lectures (1692–1732),” in Thommes Continuum – The History of Ideas, online. 125 Mather, The Christian Philosophers, 1721.

42

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Wisdom! Yea, where the whole creation surveyed, it would be every where found . . . That God has chosen better for us, than we could have done for ourselves.” Gravity is “an evident Demonstration, not only of the World’s being made originally by a supreme intelligent Cause, but moreover that it depends every moment on some superior Being, for the Preservation of its Frame.” In sum, as for other physico-theologians, “the Piety of the Mind [is] awaken’d by the sight of God in His Works.”126 (Italics in original.) However, although the physico-theologians strove very hard to fight atheism and enhance Christian religious belief, many among them adopted positions that had rather serious implications for traditional Christian thought. To some of them the created order was based upon intrinsic divine order and harmony, following predictable laws of nature rather than on the arbitrary admonition of God’s providence. The insistence of some physico-theologians on a clockwork universe led to the displacement of important, cherished Christian principles. “Although the physico-theological disclosure of an intricately contrived universe was meant to provide a rational foundation for Christianity, it tended in practice to displace Christianity. In trying to prove God’s existence from natural phenomena, and in using new standards of proof and debate, it quietly relegated essential Christian ideas to the background, especially losing sight of the Son.”127 This was the criticism that was leveled by orthodox divines in England in the early seventeenth century, people like John Edwards and Arthur Young, who claimed that Newton’s and Samuel Clarke’s scientific positions led to Arianism, the view that the Son is not part of the Godhead.128 Cotton Mather of course was not an Arian, but the “Creator he depicted in The Christian Philosopher no longer seems the wrathful Jehovah” but rather “the smiling Deity of liberal eighteenth-century Protestantism, ordering things so, that ‘whatever is natural is delightful, and has a tendency to Good.’”129 Likewise, the mechanical clockwork universe described in Mather’s The Christian Philosopher, as well as by other physico-theologians, seems
Mather, The Christian Philosophers, pp. 46, 85, 92, 310. Kenneth Silverman, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), p. 250. 128 Scott Mandelbrote, “Newton and eighteenth-century Christianity,” in The Cambridge Companion to Newton, eds. I. Bernard Cohen and George E. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), p. 415; idem, “Eighteen-Century Reaction to Newton’s Anti-Trinitarianism,” pp. 93–111; John Edwards, Some Brief Critical Remarks on Dr. Clarke’s Last Papers, pp. 36–7. 129 Silverman, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather, p. 250.
127 126

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

43

incompatible with traditional Christian thought about the drama of human salvation and redemption: “The Great God has contrived a mighty Engine, of an Extent that cannot be measured, and there is in it a Contrivance of wondrous Motions that cannot be numbered. He is infinitely gratified with the View of this Engine in all its Motions, infinitely grateful to Him so glorious a Spectacle.”130 Even Samuel Clarke, Newton’s disciple, wondered about the growing mechanization of the world of nature by the mechanical philosophers, and their growing emphasis on the regularity of the world of nature at the expense of divine providence:
The notion of the world being a great machine, going on without the interposition of God, as a clock continues to go on without the assistance of a clockmaker; is the notion of materialism and fate, and tends (under the pretence of making God a supermundane intelligence) to exclude providence, and God’s government in reality of the world.131

Physico-theological writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries constituted an idiosyncratic reading of all kinds of natural phenomena according to theological and teleological considerations. The writers of this school formulated a theology dependent on physics, a divinity exemplified by natural philosophy. It was this school of physico-theology that William James denounced in the late nineteenth century.132 Yet James’s negative judgment should not prevent us from seeing that during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the school of physico-theology offered orthodox Christians an important tool in their attempts to fight atheism, materialism, and deism. This school of thought had a great influence on Edwards’s natural philosophy, as can be seen in the language and concepts in which he framed his theology of nature.

6. Edwards and the School of Physico-theology
Edwards’s philosophy of nature has many affinities with the physicotheology tradition, whose advocates attempted to prove the being and attributes of God from the fabric of the universe and to find evidence for the Deity’s power and wisdom by reference to nature, thus to
130 131

Ibid., pp. 250–1. Samuel Clarke, “Dr. Clarke’s First Reply,” in The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, p. 14. 132 James, “Is Life Worth Living?” p. 42.

44

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

confirm the validity of Christian theology. As physico-theologians attempted to locate all the phenomena of nature in the “Wisdom of God,” so did Edwards in what he called God’s “Wisdom in the Contrivance of the World.”133 Yet, unlike other physico-theologians, Edwards moved beyond the realm of nature to that of grace, or from space to time, as can be seen in the frequency of the notion of the “Wisdom of God in the Work of Redemption” in his writings, most clearly in the Miscellanies, where he set out to prove the being and attributes of God not only with reference to the created order and the world of nature but also in relation to time and history, conceiving the whole of history as the history of God’s work of redemption.134 Edwards’s language of nature as well as his concepts of natural philosophy are very similar to those of the physico-theologians, since they all engaged in writing theology of nature.For example, in his “Of Insects” (1719–1720) Edwards declared “we may behold and admire at the wisdom of the Creator, and be convinced that [he] is exercised about such little things” as insects.135 In his “Spider Letter” (1723), he praised “the wisdom of the Creator in providing the Spider,” and “all sorts of creatures,” with “all the necessities” for their existence, such as the spider’s “silver web.” This is evidence of “the exuberant goodness of the Creator.”136 In the series “Wisdom in the Contrivance of the World” (1732–1733), Edwards, among others, argued that the “wisdom of God” appeared in ordering the “weight of the atmosphere,” in “the contrivance of the eye,” writing that “the roundness of the earth shews the wisdom of God,” and that the “wisdom of God appears in placing of the Planets at a greater or lesser distance from the sun.”137 This is not the language of experimental, mechanical philosophy. Rather, this is the language and concepts of the physico-theologians in their defense of God against atheism and materialism. Edwards’s writings thus reflect a theological genre of his time— “physico-theology.” That said, what were his overall intentions in his works on natural philosophy? He did not aim to contribute to current scientific thought, as Miller and Anderson argue, but rather to demonstrate, like the physico-theologians, God’s glory and His infinite power and wisdom in the world, and thus to reinforce Christian belief against
Edwards, “Wisdom in the Contrivance of the World,” 1732–3, 6: 307–10. For Edwards’s philosophy of history, see Avihu Zakai, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Enlightenment. 135 Edwards, “Of Insects,” 6: 161. 136 Edwards, “The ‘Spider’ Letter,” 1723, 6: 164–5. 137 Edwards, “Wisdom in the Contrivance of the World,” 6: 307–10.
134 133

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

45

atheism and materialism. Edwards did not use scientific methods based on observation, experiment and demonstration, as did his contemporary Benjamin Franklin, but rather looked for proof of God’s wisdom and power in the marvelous fabric of the created order. Further, each element in his natural philosophy was composed with a definite aim. A few examples will suffice to confirm that Edwards’s goal was not the advancement of the New Philosophy, or modern scientific thought, but rather the glory of God and the truths of the Christian religion. In his essay “Of Being” (1722), Edwards wished to establish the essential connection between being and knowing, and to show that existence cannot be separated from consciousness in order to refute materialism. Since there is no being without knowing, Edwards claimed, “it is really impossible that anything should be, and nothing know it”; hence “nothing has any existence anywhere else but in consciousness.” Accordingly,
those beings which have knowledge and consciousness are the only proper and real and substantial beings, inasmuch as the being of other things is only by these. From hence we may see the gross mistake of those who think material things the most substantial beings, and spirit more like a shadow; whereas spirits only are properly substance.138

The affirmation of an essential connection between existence and being was aimed at the refutation of materialism, or in Edwards’s words, against “Hobbes’s notion that God is matter and that all substance is matter.” Instead, “nothing that is matter can possibly be God, and that no matter is, in the most proper sense, matter.”139 Here can be found the beginnings of Edwards’s formulation of idealism, or idealistic phenomenalism, the theory that physical objects exist only in the mind or cannot exist unless they are perceived. For example, he argued in “The Mind” that “all existence is mental.”140 Edwards’s idealism resembles that of Bishop George Berkeley (1685–1753), as appeared in his book A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 1710. Berkeley and Edwards, however, developed independently their idealism, or the view that physical objects exist only in the mind or cannot exist until they are perceived. As was the case with many other contemporary physico-theologians of that time, Edwards strove to prove God’s existence in His sovereign
138 139

Edwards. “Of Being,” 6: 204, 206. Edwards, “Things to be Considered an[d] Written fully about,” 6: 235. 140 Edwards, “The Mind,” 6: 341.

46

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

majesty and glory within the created world. Accordingly, in the essay “Of Atoms” (1722), he tried to make manifest the Deity’s infinite and absolute power in the world. He claimed that “it is God himself, or the immediate exercise of his power, that keeps the parts of atoms . . . together,” thus proposing that God’s divine activity controls and directs all the affairs of the material world, even the smallest particles of atoms. Accordingly, “it follows that all body is nothing but what immediately results from the exercise of divine power.” These contentions were meant to serve as “an incontestable argument for the being, infinite power, and omnipresence of God.” Like other physico-theologians, Edwards wishes here, as well as in his other writings on natural philosophy, to prove the existence of God from the order and harmony of nature, to make an exposition of natural theology according to which the nature of God could be understood by reference to His creation, the natural world. In “Of Atoms,” however, Edwards had yet another goal in mind. To prove God’s absolute sovereignty, he had to show that “what we call the laws of nature” are in fact “the stated methods of God’s acting with respect to bodies, and the stated conditions of the alteration of the manner of his acting.”141 The mechanical philosophers, who argued that the world of nature is operated by secondary causes or natural laws, set an intermediate realm between God and the created order, thus radically reducing the divine immanence and redemptive activity by placing limitations on God’s sovereignty. Against this mechanical view according to which God uses the laws of nature as the means of controlling world phenomena, Edwards spoke for the power of God’s immediate immanence and the Deity’s redemptive activity in the world of nature. In another place Edwards put this case more boldly: “Every atom in the universe is managed by Christ so as to be most to the advantage of the Christian, every particle of air or every ray of the sun.”142 This line of reasoning of course leads to the rejection of mechanical philosophy: “Hence we learn that there is no such thing as mechanism, if that word is taken to be that whereby bodies act each upon other, purely and properly by themselves.”143 Like the physico-theologians, Edwards used the scientific language of his time in order to prove the glory of God in the theater of the world. In contrast to Newton’s definition of correct scientific procedure—“for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called an
141 142

Edwards, “Of Atoms,” 6: 214–16. Edwards, Miscellany ff (c. 1723), 13: 184. 143 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” 6: 214–16.

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

47

hypothesis; and hypotheses, whatever metaphysical or physical, whatever of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy”144—Edwards’s natural philosophy, like that of many physico-theologians, was based on unproved hypotheses. Edwards’s long series “Things to be Considered an[d] Written fully about” provides further evidence that his work on natural philosophy belongs to the physico-theology. He follows Ray, Derham, and other physico-theologians in attempting to prove the being and attributes of God from the Deity’s works of creation and to show how the wisdom of God is manifested in the created order. He strives “to shew how infinite wisdom must be exercised in order that gravity and motion will be perfectly harmonious.” He wants “to shew how the least wrong step in a mote may, in eternity, subvert the order of the universe.” Accordingly he calls upon the reader to take “notice of the great wisdom that is necessary in order thus to dispose every atom at first, as that they should go for the best throughout all eternity.” All these arguments, of course, were intended to show “how God, who does this, must necessarily be omniscient and know every least thing that must happen throughout eternity.”145 Edwards attacks “that folly of seeking for a mechanical cause of gravity,” claiming that gravity rather arises from the “immediate operation of God,” and that “gravity depends immediately on the divine influence.” We “may infallibly conclude that the very being, and the manner of being, and the whole of bodies depends immediately on the divine power.”146 Edwards’s goal in his natural philosophical writings is obviously the glory of God. As he put it: “Thus infinite wisdom is as much concerned, not only in the excellent creation of the world, but merely the creation of it, as infinite power.”147 In the “Beauty of the World” Edwards began to construct the thesis that the “beauty of the world consists wholly of sweet mutual consents, either within itself, or with the Supreme Being.” Here we have the genesis of his typology, or, as he said in another place, the belief that the function of the world of matter and motion, being ontologically inferior and subordinated to a higher divine reality, is to reflect the images and shadows of spiritual reality beyond and above it: the “whole outward creation, which is but the shadows of beings, is so made to
144 145

Newton, “General Scholium,” p. 547. Edwards, “Things to be Considered an[d] Written fully about,” 6: 231–2. 146 Ibid., 6: 234–5. 147 Ibid., 6: 246.

48

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

represent spiritual things.”148 Accordingly, in the corporeal world “the sweetest and most charming beauty” is based upon “its resemblance of spiritual beauties.” For seeing that “bodies being but the shadows of beings, they must be so much the more charming as they shadow forth spiritual beauties.”149 In God’s “Wisdom in the Contrivance of the World,” Edwards showed his allegiance to the premises of physicotheology. A long series of natural phenomena—the weight of the atmosphere, the eye, the roundness of the earth, the order of the planets and comets, and many more—are explained and defined in this essay as based solely upon “the Wisdom of God.” There he argued, for example, that the “roundness of the earth shews the wisdom of God. If it were not round or nearly round, only some particular parts of it would be habitable.”150 In “The Mind” Edwards again displayed his adherence to physico-theology, arguing that “to find out the reasons of things in natural philosophy is only to find out the proportion of God’s acting.” Hence, “the corporeal world is to no advantage but to the spiritual.”151 Finally, in his “Outline of ‘A rational Account’,” Edwards set himself an important goal which reveals what he thought about the proper relationship between science and religion: “To shew how all arts and sciences, the more they are perfected, the more they issue in divinity, and coincide with it, and appear to be as parts of it.”152 No other words so clearly and powerfully capture Edwards’s intentions in his works on natural philosophy, as well as his deep and continuous indebtedness to classical, Scholastic, and medieval theology. Edwards’s works in general, and those on natural philosophy in particular, should be examined in the context of the ideological and theological transformations of his age. During his time, as he lamented, “every evangelical doctrine is run down,” and many “bold attempts are made” against “Christ, and the religion he taught.”153 No wonder that much of his Edwards’s intellectual life, as he wrote shortly before his death, can be characterized as a struggle “against most of the prevailing errors of the present day,” which tended to “the utter subverting of the gospel of Christ.”154 This applies to his many works on ethics and
148 149

Edwards, Miscellany 362 (c. 1728), 13: 434. Edwards, “Beauty of the World,” 6: 305. 150 Edwards, “Wisdom in the Contrivance of the World,” 6: 308. 151 Edwards, “The Mind,” 6: 353–6. 152 Edwards, “Outline of ‘A Rational Account,’” 6: 397. 153 Edwards, “To the Reverend Thomas Foxcroft,” 1757, 16: 695. 154 Edwards, “Letter to the Trustees of the College of New Jersey,” 1757, 16: 727.

Philosophia ancilla theologiae

49

morality, on history, against deism, and so forth.155 The realm of natural philosophy, or science, is no exception. Indeed, Edwards’s striving to preserve traditional Christian modes of thought and belief is very evident in his works on natural philosophy, where he tried, with other physico-theologians, to reassert the being and attributes of God from the order and harmony of nature, and to preserve God’s glory and majesty within the confines of the order of creation, against the menaces of atheism, materialism, and mechanical philosophy. Eventually, in the dialectic of the history of ideas, the premises of the school of physico-theology were rejected in light of Darwin and the triumph of the theory of evolution during the second half of the nineteenth century. At the end of the nineteenth century, William James called it “the naturalist superstition” of “the worship of the God of nature”:
There were times when Leibnitzes with their heads buried in monstrous wigs could compose Theodicies, and when stall-fed officials of an established church could prove by the valves in the heart and the round ligament of the hip-joint the existence of a “Moral and Intelligent Contriver of the World.” But those times are past; and we of the nineteenth century, with our evolutionary theories and our mechanical philosophies, already know nature too impartially and too well to worship unreservedly any God of whose character she can be an adequate expression.156

In the course of the development of modern scientific thought, mechanical philosophy gained more and more prominence and power. Yet this should not disguise the fact that during the early modern period the new scientific explanation of the essence of reality faced a significant reaction within the circles of orthodox Christians, who struggled with the mechanical interpretation of the world of nature because it radically transformed the traditional dialectic of God’s utter transcendence and immanence by diminishing the divine sovereignty with respect to creation, providence, and redemption, thus leading to the disenchantment of the world. Edwards’s works on natural philosophy testify that he participated in the reaction to modern scientific reasoning. In order to further understand the theological and philosophical origins of Edwards’s works on natural philosophy, in what will follow
155

On Edwards’s reaction to the variety of Enlightenment thought, see Zakai, “The Age of Enlightenment,” and Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Enlightenment. 156 James, “Is Life Worth Living?” p. 43.

50

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

I examine these works in the broad historical, ideological and theological, context of a wide variety of religious responses to the rise of the New Philosophy of nature in the early modern era: the decline of theology as the “Queen of Sciences” (Regina Scientiarum), or scientia scientiarum (the “science of sciences”); Donne’s reaction to the new astronomy as well as to Bacon’s new natural philosophy; Pascal’s response to Descartes’s mechanical philosophy; and, finally, the reactions to Newtonian science by Swift, Leibniz, Berkeley, Blake, and others.

Chapter II

THE RISE OF MODERN SCIENCE AND THE DECLINE OF THEOLOGY AS THE “QUEEN OF SCIENCES” IN THE EARLY MODERN ERA
There is one perfect wisdom, and this is contained in holy Scripture, in which all truth is rooted. I say, therefore, that one discipline is mistress of the others— namely, theology, for which the others are integral necessities, and which cannot achieve its end without them. And it lays claim to their virtues and subordinates them to its nod and command. Roger Bacon, The Opus majus, 1267 Theology is rightly the queen of sciences. Desiderius Erasmus, Adagia, IV, V, 1, 1500 While in theology it is authority that carries the most weight, in [natural] philosophy it is reason. Johannes Kepler, New Astronomy, 1609 That the title and authority of queen [of sciences] belongs to theology . . . I think will not be affirmed by theologians who have any skill in the other sciences. None of these, I think, will say that geometry, astronomy, music and medicine are much more excellently contained in the Bible than they are in the books of Archimedes, Ptolemy, Boethius and Galen. Galileo Galilei, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, 1615 Our later Mathematicians have rolled all the stones that may be stirred: and . . . fabricated new systems of the World, out of their own Daedalen heads. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621

Who could speak for nature? Who has the authority to unveil its secrets? And who, eventually, has the legitimacy to interpret it? Until the early modern period the answer to these questions was clear—theology. Since the Bible was assumed to be the oracle of God, a book in which 51

52

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

the Holy Ghost revealed the Deity’s intention in, and knowledge of creation, priority was ultimately given to theological dimensions in explaining natural phenomena. It was accepted that God had authored two books, Scripture and nature (libri naturales), or the Book of the Creatures (Liber creaturarum);1 His voice then as revealed in both should be interpreted by the Christian Church, speaking through its bishops and theologians. During the Middle Ages, therefore, theology was accorded the title of the “Queen of Sciences” (Regina Scientiarum), or scientia scientiarum (the “science of sciences”), and natural philosophy, or science, was defined as “handmaiden to theology” (philosophia ancilla theologiae). Sapientia religionis then was superior to scientia or knowledge. The view continued to be represented by Christian Renaissance Humanism figures like Erasmus, who remarked that “Theology is rightly the queen of sciences.”2 The early modern period, however, witnessed an important transformation in the long-established Christian tradition concerning who could speak for nature and who was entrusted to read the Deity’s mind (mens Dei) in creation, and this profound change was inextricable from the rise of modern natural philosophy, or science.3 As empirical (and
1 See Kenneth J. Howell, God’s Two Books: Copernican Cosmology and Biblical interpretation in Early Modern Science (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002). In his An Apology for Raymond Sebond, 1568, Michel de Montaigne wrote that “God has given us two books: the Book of the Universal Order of Things (or, of Nature) and the Book of the Bible.” Following Sebond, “the great Spanish Theologian and Philosopher,” he called the Book of Nature also “the Book of the Creatures [Liber creaturarum].” See Montaigne, An Apology or Raymond Sebond (London: Penguin Classics, 1993), pp. xl–l. 2 Desiderius Erasmus, Adagia, IV, V, 1, in Desiderii Erasmi, Roterodami opera omnia, ed. Jean Lclerc (Leiden, 1703–1706), II, 1053F. It should be noted, however, that already during the thirteenth century appeared several groups, such as the so-called radical Aristotelians, or Averroists, associated with University of Paris, who directly and explicitly challenged the ideas of theology as regina scientarium. See Gordon Leff, The Dissolution of the Medieval Outlook (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1976); Etienne Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New York: Charles Scribner, 1938); and Edward Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), Physical Science in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993 [1971]), History of Natural Philosophy: From Ancient World to the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press 2007), Science and Religion, 400 B. C. to A. D. 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2004), and God & Reason in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001). 3 On the new science of nature, see Brian Baigrie, “The New Science: Kepler, Galileo, Mersenne,” in A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Steven Nadler (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 45–59.

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

53

mathematical) scientific method rose into the ascendancy, scholastic theology and Scripture as a source of authority did lose their traditional status as the premier guide to understanding nature. In his essay “What is Enlightenment?” 1784, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) wrote: “Enlightenment is mankind’s exit from its self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without the guidance of another”4 (emphasis in original). In the same vein of argument one can say that the New Philosophy of nature emerged with its release from the traditional tutelage to theology. Or, conversely, in the broad course of the history of ideas, the development of modern scientific reasoning was preconditioned to a large extent on the dethroning of theology from its place as the queen of sciences. This is how Immanuel Kant defined this important transformation:
There was time when metaphysics was called the queen of all the sciences, and if the will be taken for the deed, it deserved this title of honor, on account of the preeminent importance of its subject. Now, in accordance with the fashion of the age, the queen proves despised on all side; and the matron, outcast and forsaken, mourns like Hecuba: “Greatest of all by race and birth, I now cast out, powerless” (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 13.508–10)5

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a new contender appeared who claimed to have authority and legitimacy to speak for nature—science. This can be seen in the works of three forerunners of modern scientific thought—Nicolas Copernicus (1473–1543), Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), and Galileo Galilei (1564–1642). Impelled by the growing discrepancy between their new astronomical discoveries and traditional scholastic philosophical thought, they developed new scientific conceptions and redefined their relation to theology.6 More specifically, to establish the science of astronomy on new foundations, they argued that Scripture was not intended to describe the phenomena of the world; hence theology had no business assessing the merit of astronomical arguments, such as Copernicus’ heliocentric system.
4 Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment,” 1784, in What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions, ed. James Schmidt (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1996), p. 58. 5 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1781, trans. P. Guyer and A. W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), p. 99. 6 On the rise of new visions of the universe in Renaissance and early modern period, see Miguel A. Granada, “New visions of the cosmos,” in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, ed. James Hankins (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007), pp. 270–86.

54

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

These pioneers of modern science refused to accord any priority to theological considerations in explaining and interpreting the phenomena of astronomy. They asserted that the science of astronomy should not be construed as a “handmaiden to theology” but rather as possessing authority to speak for nature. They all admitted that as far as divine things were concerned, theology was indeed superior to all other sciences in explaining human salvation and redemption, yet as regards natural phenomena, its traditional role was no longer secure in the face of astronomical discoveries. Theology concerns transcendent issues, science mundane ones, the first deals with salvation and the second with the explanation of nature. This rise of the New Philosophy of nature was greatly intertwined with Renaissance philosophy and the Protestant Reformation. Renaissance philosophy referred to the “philosophical activity within the area in which Latin was used as a cultural language from the age of Ockham to the revisionary work of Bacon, Descartes and their contemporaries.”7 One of its hallmarks was “an accelerated and enlarged interest, stimulated by newly available texts, in primary sources of Greek and Roman thought that were previously unknown or partially known or little read.”8 Along with this restoration of learning and scholarship, to that age belong the inventions of printing, the discovery of the New World, the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, and the New Philosophy, or the rise of modern natural philosophy. The new astronomy of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo was part of Renaissance philosophy, which “saw a number of ‘new’ philosophies—‘new’ in the sense of ‘non-Aristotelian’” that “challenged scholastics” and “Christian orthodoxy.”9 The goal of Renaissance philosophers—such as Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464), the first new philosophers of the Renaissance, Marsillo Ficino (1433–1499), Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494), and others—was to transform scholastic traditions inherited from the Middle Age and to assume power over nature. This was an important characteristic of the Renaissance as a whole and a precondition for the emergence of the new science in the early modern period in particular. For example, the new experimental technique of alchemy—the black art—that arose in the late
Charles B. Schmitt and Quentin Skinner, “Introduction,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, eds. Charles B. Schmitt and Quentin Skinner (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988), p. 5. 8 Brian P. Copenhaver and Charles B. Schmitt, Renaissance Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1992), p. 4. 9 James Hankins, “Introduction,” in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, p. 5.
7

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

55

Renaissance was based on the view that “God was manifested not only in the heavens but also in the whole of the earthly reality.” Hence “it was possible to discover the divine within the material.”10 No wonder that “theologians” accused the “new philosophies” of “wanting to make philosophy the rival rather than the handmaid to theology.”11 The Protestant Reformation also contributed to the rise of the new natural philosophy with its concept of God’s radical sovereignty, or the view that “God’s sovereignty excluded the active contribution of lesser beings to his work.” During the Middle Ages Thomas Aquinas (1224– 1274) produced a majestic synthesis of Aristotelian natural philosophy and Christian theology by interpreting “Aristotle’s principles inherent in nature as powers instilled there by God, which God used in his providential work.” Accordingly, “God cooperated with natural powers in a way that respected their integrity while accomplishing his purposes.” Unlike this medieval theory of cooperation, and against the GraecoRoman deus sive natura worldview (as promulgated by Spinoza), “the Reformation believed that an adequate understanding of sovereignty necessitated the exclusion of any contribution to divine providence from human beings or nature.” To protect therefore the glory of God and avoiding making the God’s actions contingent on the actions of created being, “the reformers affirmed the concept of radical sovereignty against the medieval view of accommodating sovereignty, or cooperation.”12 This was essential to the development of experimental science: “the world had to become demythologized or disenchanted of its ‘immanent divinity.’” Reformed thought thus deprived nature of intrinsic powers and purposes apart from the hand of God, and consequently “tamed nature for [scientific] investigation.”13 In what will follow, I want to look at attempts made by Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo to define the proper relation between natural philosophy and religion; to show how their discoveries in astronomy led to the rejection of the belief that theology is the “queen of sciences”; to show how their struggle over the authority to understand nature led to a new interpretation which contradicted the traditional geocentric
10 Harold P. Nebelsick, The Renaissance, The Reformation and the Rise of Science (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992), p. 134. 11 Hankins, “Introduction,” p. 6. 12 Gary B. Deason, “Reformation theology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature,” in God & Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, eds. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1986), pp. 169–70. 13 Nebelsick, The Renaissance, The Reformation and the Rise of Science, pp. 149, xix.

56

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

reading of certain scriptural passages; and, finally, to argue that the development of the New Philosophy of nature was inseparable from these early scientists’ rejection of the authority and legitimacy of theology in explaining the phenomena of the world. When Copernicus declared that “Astronomy is written for astronomers”14 he opened a wide gap between the study of natural philosophy and that of theology, thus throwing doubt on the notion of the former as subservient to the latter. Likewise, Kepler argued that “while in theology it is authority that carries the most weight, in [natural] philosophy it is reason.”15 Against classical and medieval cosmology, he argued that “the heavenly machine is not a kind of divine, live being, but a kind of clockwork” whose operations “are caused by a most simple . . . material force.”16 Finally, Galileo altogether denounced the notion that “the title and authority of queen [of sciences] belongs to theology” because no theologian “will say that geometry, astronomy, music and medicine are much more excellently contained in the Bible than they are in the books of Archimedes, Ptolemy, Boethius and Galen.”17

1. REGINA SCIENTIARUM—Theology as the “Queen of Sciences”
As stated, in the medieval scholastic world, theology was defined as the “Queen of Sciences” and science as “handmaiden to theology.”18 The natural sciences and philosophy were thus assigned a servile role. They had the privilege of being employed in the defense of revealed truths, providing support and aid in achieving soteriological understanding. The revealed, undemonstrated truths of faith thus had priority over demonstrated truths of reason. In Christian theology revelation is superior to all forms of knowledge, since in the study of salvation— soteriology—redemption is primarily through Christ, faith, and grace,
Nicolas Copernicus, On the Revolutions, trans. Edward Rosen (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1978), p. 5. 15 Johannes Kepler, New Astronomy, 1609, trans. William H. Donahue (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992), p. 66. 16 Kepler, “Letter to J. G. Herwart von Hohenburg,” 16 February 1605, as quoted in A. Koestler, “Johannes Kepler,” Encyclopedia of Philosophy, IV, p. 331. 17 Galileo Galilei, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina . . . Concerning the Use of Biblical Quotations in Matters of Science (1615), in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, trans. Stillman Drake (New York: Anchor Books, 1957), pp. 192–3. 18 On the culture of Scholasticism, see James Hankins, “Humanism scholasticism, and Renaissance Philosophy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, pp. 30–48.
14

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

57

and not through reason. The rise of the New Philosophy during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to a large extent signified rejection of this traditional scholastic view by exalting reason in approaching world phenomena.19 For example, in his “Ode Dedicated to Isaac Newton,” 1687, Newton’s friend the astronomer Edmund Halley (1656–1742) wrote: “In reason’s light, the cloud of ignorance / Dispelled at last by science.”20 And Roger Cotes (1682–1716), fellow of Trinity College and Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy, wrote in his “Preface” to the second edition of Newton’s Principia in 1713: “this most excellent method of philosophy,” namely experimental, mechanical philosophy, the predominant scientific doctrine of the time according to which all natural phenomena can be explained and understood by the mechanics of matter and motion alone, “is founded on experiments and observations.”21 Whereas scholastic philosophers believed that theology was the “Queen of Sciences” and science “handmaiden to theology,” by the seventeenth century no serious mechanical, experimental philosopher still held this belief. As Leibniz wrote: “recent [natural] philosophers wish to explain physical matters mechanistically.”22 The “handmaiden view” is originated with Augustine, who “accepted Greek philosophy as a useful, if not perfectly reliable, instrument. Philosophy, in Augustine’s influential view, was to be the handmaiden of religion—not to be stamped out, but to be cultivated, disciplined, and put to use.”23
If those who are called philosophers, particularly the Platonists, have said anything which is true and consistent with our faith, we must not reject it, but claim

On the relationship between religion and science in the early modern period, see and Nicholas Jolley, “The Relationship between Theology and Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. D. Garber and M. Ayers, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), I, pp. 363–92. 20 Edmund Halley, “Ode Dedicated to Newton,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1934), I, pp. xiv. 21 Roger Cotes, “Cotes’s Preface to the Second Edition,” 1713, in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, I, p. xxxii. 22 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Thoria motus concreti, as quoted in Dennis Des Chene, “From Natural Philosophy to Natural Science,” in The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Donald Rutherford (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), p. 67. 23 David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in the Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B. C to A. D. 1450 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 150.

19

58

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature
it for our own use, in the knowledge that they possess it unlawfully . . . pagan learning is not entirely made up of false teachings and superstitions. It contains also some excellent teachings, well suited to be used by truth, and excellent moral values. Indeed, some truths are even found among them which related to the worship of one God . . . The Christian, therefore, can separate these truths from their unfortunate associations, take them away, and put them to their proper use for the proclamation of the Gospel.24

In contrast to Luther, who argued that the “whole of Aristotle is to theology as darkness is to light,”25 Augustine did not doubt the utility of pagan philosophy, particularly the liberal arts, for Christians: “all the teachings of the pagans contain” not only “superstitious imaginings” but also “liberal disciplines more suited to the uses of the truth, and some most useful precepts concerning morals.”26 Augustine’s views became the staple of medieval theology. The Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure (1221–1274), argued that “theology is the queen of the sciences, because in the final analysis, all learning and knowledge depend upon divine illumination from Sacred Scripture, the study of which is the exclusive domain of theologians.” In Bonaventure’s thought, as with many scholars of the thirteenth century, “faith and reason were harmoniously unified, with the former ultimately guiding and informing the latter.”27 For Roger Bacon (1214– 1294), using Augustine’s handmaiden formula, “scientia as a whole was the handmaiden of theology.”28 In his Opus maius (1267), the Doctor Mirabilis argued that there is
one perfect wisdom, and this is contained in holy Scripture, in which all truth is rooted. I say, therefore, that one discipline is mistress of the others—namely, theology, for which the others are integral necessities, and which cannot achieve

24 Augustine of Hippo, de doctrina Christiana, II, xl. 60–1, as quoted in Alister E. McGrath, A Scientific Theology: Volume I: Nature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), p. 14. 25 Luther, Disputation against Scholastic Theology, as quoted in A. Mark Smith, “Knowing Things Inside Out: The Scientific Revolution from a Medieval Perspective,” American Historical Review 95 (June 1990), p. 735. 26 Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, trans. D. W. Robertson, Jr. (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill, 1958), p. 75, as quoted by David C. Lindberg, “Science as Handmaiden: Roger Bacon and the Patristic Tradition,” Isis 87 (1987), p. 523. For Latin and English parallel texts, see Roger P. H. Green ed. and trans., Augustine: De doctrina Christana (Cambridge: Clarendon Press, 1995). 27 Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages, p. 72. 28 McGrath, A Scientific Theology: Volume I: Nature, p. 7. See also, Lindberg, “Science as Handmaiden,” especially pp. 527–34.

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology
its end without them. And it lays claim to their virtues and subordinates them to its nod and command.29

59

This was also the view of Aquinas (1225–1274). The Doctor Angelicus indeed established “theology as an independent science” and “conceded autonomy to philosophy (and, therefore, also, to natural philosophy) as a science,” but “he still regarded it as subordinated to theology.”30 For Thomas “theology is to philosophy as the complete to the incomplete, the perfect to the imperfect.”31 Theology thus held the upper hand.

2. Copernicus—“Astronomy is Written for Astronomers”
For many years Nicolas Copernicus hesitated to publish his work On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543). Only on his deathbed, persuaded by friends, did he finally allow its publication: “I debated with myself for a long time whether to publish” the work “about the revolutions of the spheres of the universe” which “I wrote to prove the earth’s motion.” As Copernicus admitted, “the novelty and unconventionality of my opinion almost induced me to abandon completely the work which I have undertaken.”32 Thus, although the “conception of a heliocentric universe” was already “fully worked out by about 1512,” he dared to offer it to the public eye only some thirty years later.33 The reason is more than understandable, since this study announced the revolutionary hypothesis of the heliocentric system, claiming that according to “the wisdom of nature” in
the center of all [the universe] rests the sun. For who would place this lamp of a very beautiful temple in another or better place than this wherefrom it can illuminate everything at the same time? . . . And so the sun, as if resting on a kingly throne, governs the family of stars which wheel around.34
29 Roger Bacon, The Opus majus of Roger Bacon, ed. J. H. Bridges, 3 vols. (London: William and Norgate, 1900), III, p. 36, as cited in Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science, p. 226. 30 Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages, p. 74. 31 Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science, p. 232. 32 Copernicus, On the Revolutions, p. 3. 33 Allen G. Debus, Man and Nature in the Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978), p. 81. 34 Nicolas Copernicus, On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, Trans. Charles G. Wallis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995), pp. 3, 25–6. On the impact of Coprnicus’ cosmology on biblical interpretation and science in the early modernity, see Howell, God’s Two Books.

60

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

The Polish astronomer and mathematician had of course every reason to fear the wrath of his contemporaries. His astronomical system contradicted the holy Scripture’s vision of the earth as the center of the universe, along with its ultimate theological and teleological role of providing the sit where the drama of human salvation and redemption will be accomplished. Martin Luther (1483–1546), who vehemently rejected the heliocentric system and the decentering of the earth, “referred to Copernicus as that fool who wished ‘to reverse the entire science of astronomy.’” Philip Melanchthon (1497–1560), major Reformation theologian and associate of Luther in Wittenberg, likewise denounced Copernicus’ new system of the world:
The eyes are witness that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four hours. But certain men, either from the love of novelty, or to make a display of ingenuity, have concluded that the earth moves . . . Now, it is a want of decency to assert such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious.35

John Calvin (1509–1564) was even more disparaging. Believing that “Astronomy may justly be called the alphabet of theology,” he claimed that the stars “contribute much towards exciting in the hearts of men a high reverence for God.”36 Hence Calvin rebuked “those who reprove everything and pervert the order of nature.” Some, he continues “so deranged, not only in religion but who in all things reveal their monstrous nature, that they will say the sun does not move, and that is the earth which shifts and turns.”37 Later on, however, several Lutheran astronomers were crucial to the spread and development of Copernican views, among them Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) and Johannes Kepler. “Reformed thought,” wrote Nebelsick not only “renewed hope in history” but also “tamed nature for investigation.”38 Thus, according to Brahe, “Copernicus nowhere offends the principles of mathematics,
35 The quotations from Luther and Melanchthon appear in Debus, Man and Nature in the Renaissance, p. 98. For further negative reactions to the Copernican planetary system, see Owen Gingerich, “The Copernican Revolution,” in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Gary B. Ferngren (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 95–104. On Philip Melanchthon’s natural philosophy, see Howell, God’s Two Books, pp. 48–57. 36 John Calvin, Commentary on Jeremiah, 10: 1–2, as quoted in Belden C. Lane, “Spirituality as the Performance of Desire: Calvin on the World as a Theatre of God’s Glory,” in Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 1 (2001), p. 13. 37 John Calvin as cited in John H. Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), p. 96. 38 Nebelsick, The Renaissance, The Reformation and the Rise of Science, p. xix.

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

61

but he throws the earth, a lazy sluggish body unfit for motion, into a speed as fast as the ethereal torches.”39 By the end of the seventeenth century, according to one study, “many Protestants scientists were Copernicans, and many Protestant theologians seemed indifferent to the issue.”40 Later on, in 1615, Cardinal Bellarmine (St. Robert Francis Romulus Bellarmine, 1542–1621), the distinguished Jesuit theologian who had an important role in the Galileo affair, made it clear that any attempt to prove the heliocentric theory would face the ire of the Church:
to wish to affirm that the sun is really fixed in the center of the heavens . . . and that the earth is situated in the third sphere and revolves very swiftly around the sun, is a very dangerous thing, not only by irritating all the theologians and scholastic philosophers, but also by injuring our holy faith and making the sacred Scripture false.

Not only that the geocentric system was based on the authority of Aristotle and Ptolemy, Bellarmine argued, but it was, and most importantly, approved by “the Holy Scriptures as expounded by the holy Fathers.” Solomon who said the earth stands still and the sun moves, not only “spoke by divine inspiration, but was a man wise above all others, and learned in the human sciences and in the knowledge of all created things, which wisdom he had from God; so it is not very likely that he would affirm something that was contrary to demonstrated truth, or truth that may be demonstrated.”41 Copernicus’ aim was not to “reverse the entire science of astronomy,” as Luther claimed. He admitted that he became “annoyed that the movements of the world machine, created for our sake by the best and most systematic Artisan of all, were not understood with greater certainty by the [natural] philosophers, who otherwise examine so precisely the most insignificant trifles of this world.” It was at this juncture, where the traditional explanations provided by scholastic philosophers failed, that Copernicus “began to consider the mobility of the earth,” and to see if he might be able to offer a better hypothesis “for the revolution of the celestial spheres” based rather “on the assumption of some motion of the earth.” Copernicus was thus seeking
Gingerich, “The Copernican Revolution,” p. 100. Edwards B. Davis and Michael P. Winship, “Early Modern Protestantism,” in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, p. 122. 41 Bellarmine as quoted in Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, pp. 163–4.
40 39

62

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

to provide a more adequate explanation of “the general structure of the universe.” The hypothesis of the heliocentric framework for the planetary system, he knew, would be met by anger and rejection because it contradicted the traditional geocentric interpretation of certain passages in Scripture, and thus the whole worldview based on the biblical creation story of heaven and earth. Anticipating the objections to his heliocentric system, Copernicus constructed a new vision of science’s authority and legitimacy to speak for nature and to read the mind of God in creation:
Perhaps there will be babblers who claim to be judges of astronomy although completely ignorant of the subject and, badly distorting some passage of Scripture to their purpose, will dare to find fault with my undertaking and censure it.

He “disregard[ed]” his critics “even to the extent of despising their criticism as unfounded.” Copernicus held that religious thought and belief were no guarantee against ridiculous astronomical and cosmological errors, as the example of Lactantius (Lucius Caelius Firmianus Lactantius, c. 240–c. 320), an early Christian author, shows:
it is not unknown that Lactantius, otherwise an illustrious writer but hardly an astronomer, speaks quite childishly about the earth’s shape, when he mocks those who declared that the earth has the form of a globe. Hence scholars need not be surprised if any such person will likewise ridicule me. Astronomy is written for astronomers.42 [emphasis added]

Copernicus’ words signified an important shift as regards science’s right to interpret the secrets of nature or to portray a faithful picture of objective reality. His was the goal “to demonstrate the truth of heliocentricity according to the canons of mathematical proof: logical coherence and elegance,” and not according to the Bible.43 Copernicus’ attack on his critics, theologians, and scholastic philosophers alike, is twofold: first, critics of the heliocentric system are ignorant of the science of astronomy; second, they distort scriptural passages in order to advance the traditional geocentric system. Not only do theological considerations not have priority in regard of astronomical arguments— “Astronomy is written for astronomers”—but, as Lactantius’ example
42 43

Copernicus, On the Revolutions, pp. 4–5. Smith, “Knowing Things Inside Out,” p. 736.

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

63

shows, they may lead to the childish conclusion that the earth is flat and hence to the rejection of the antipodes. (The belief in Antipodes signified adherence to the classical concept of a spherical earth, while the rejection of Antipodes, as in Lactantius, was used as an argument for a flat earth. Augustine too had denied the existence of the Antipodes. Yet virtually all of the fathers and scholastics held the earth to be spherical.) Implied in Copernicus’ response is the view that science and not religion should speak for nature. Since only astronomers could understand the language and method of astronomy, only they should deal with issues of astronomy. The field thus became a special sphere of scientific activity whose practitioners should be astronomers and not theologians. The beginnings of modern natural philosophy thus went hand in hand with the denial of theology’s role as the queen of sciences, at least in the realm of astronomy. This was indeed an essential precondition for the construction of modern scientific thought based on physics, or secondary causation, as Kepler’s “celestial physics” shows.

3. Kepler—The New PHYSICA COELESTIS
If Copernicus was the first to differentiate radically between astronomy and theology, Johannes Kepler went further, establishing the science of astronomy on new foundations which saw it further released from the traditional subservience to theology. Whereas the German mathematician and astronomer became a Copernican early in his life— “I built my whole astronomy upon Copernicus’ hypothesis concerning the world”44—he himself initiated a radical shift in the understanding of celestial physics, or of the “heavenly machine.”45 As Kepler wrote, in his Astronomia Nova (1609), he established the science of astronomy on new scientific foundations—a new astronomical theory based on physical “causes,”46 or “Physica Coelestis,” namely celestial physics: “What

44 Johannes Kepler, Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, 1618, in Johannes Kepler, Epitome of Copernican Astronomy & Harmonies of the World, trans. Charles G. Wallis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995), p. 10. 45 Kepler, “Letter to J. G. Herwart von Hohenburg,” 16 February 1605, as quoted in Koestler, “Johannes Kepler,” p. 331. 46 Kepler, New Astronomy, p. 27.

64

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

is the relation between this science [astronomy] and others?” asked Kepler:
It is a part of physics, because it seeks the cause of things and natural occurrences, because the motion of the heavenly bodies is amongst its subjects, and because one of its purposes is to inquire into the form of the structure of the universe and its parts ... To this end, [the astronomer] directs all his opinions, both by geometrical and by physical arguments, so that truly he places before the eyes an authentic form and disposition or furnishing of the whole universe.47

This is the first time an astronomer had attempted to find the actual physical causes of the planetary movements, or to ascertain the physics of the solar system. “It was Kepler who first searched systematically for physical causes of celestial phenomena and whose mathematical application achieved a degree of accuracy previously unknown.”48 Kepler’s new principles of physics applied to the whole “theater of Nature,”49 both in heaven and on earth, thus signifying that “the earth itself and its moon must share a common physics with the planets.”50 This led eventually to the destruction of the Aristotelian and the scholastic cosmos based on a theological teleology of hierarchical space, or on an essential ontological qualitative difference between heaven and earth. For Kepler the world (mundus) comprises the entire corporeal universe, including the “fixed” stars (stellae fixae), or those celestial objects that do not wander with respect to one another in their sphere, in contrast to the planets (or “wandering” stars), which move with respect to one another and with respect to the fixed stars. Hence, while Copernicus, following astronomical views traditional since Aristotle, still maintained a distinction between earthly and celestial phenomena, Kepler rejected qualitatively differentiated space together with the view that the universe is structured according to a hierarchy of values and entities. Instead, he was the first to look for “a universal law based on terrestrial mechanics to comprehend the whole universe in its

47 Kepler, Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, as quoted in Peter Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500–1700 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001), p. 74. 48 Howell, God’s Two Books, p. 109. For the role of mathematics in Kepler’s astronomical thought, see Jean-Luc Marion, “The Idea of God,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 265–304. 49 Kepler, New Astronomy, p. 33. 50 I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (Cambridge, MA,: Harvard Univ. Press, 1985), p. 129.

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

65

quantitative details”51 (emphasis in original). This was a new cosmological conception of the universe; whereas the Aristotelian cosmos was characterized by an essential dualism between heaven and earth, Kepler, and later Galileo and Descartes, “broke down this dualism by postulating that physical causality permeated the entire universe.”52 Likewise, Descartes rejected the scholastic doctrine of a radical, essential difference between heaven and earth, declaring “the earth and the heaven are composed of one and the same matter”; hence “all the bodies in the universe are composed of one and the same matter”53 (italics in original). In the New Philosophy, the whole world structure, heaven and earth alike, is subject to a single law of construction. Kepler treated the earth as equal to the other planets, something very different from the traditional scholastic conception of the universe. A deeply religious man, the universe was for him a “bright Temple of God.”54 “We astronomers,” he declared, “are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature (libri naturales).”55 Yet in his overarching goal, “the reform of astronomy,”56 Kepler freed himself “from an animistic, teleologically oriented manner of thinking in scientific research.”57 This stand had many important implications with regard to the relation between science and religion. The universe, Kepler believed, “is properly intelligible in mathematical terms; its mathematics, especially geometry, which allows insight into the mind of God, the Creator, and hence into the deepest realms of natural philosophy.” Further, “the mathematics that structured astronomical theory was the very mathematics that underlay the structure of the universe itself.” Kepler was convinced that his astronomical discoveries “brought him nearer to an intimate understanding of the structure of God’s creation.”58 The mathematical sciences now transposed authority and legitimacy in the study, understanding, and interpreting of
51 Gerald Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Univ. Press, 1988), p. 55. 52 Koestler, “Johannes Kepler,” p. 332. 53 Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, 1644, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham, et al., 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985), I, pp. 232, 256. 54 Kepler, “To the Baron von Herberstein,” May 15, 1596, in Carola Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler: Life and Letters (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951), p. 32. 55 Kepler, “To Herwart,” March 26, 1598, in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 44. 56 Kepler, “Dedication of the second edition of the Mysterium Cosmographicum,” 1621, in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 128. 57 Albert Einstein, “Introduction,” in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 13. 58 Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences, pp. 74, 76.

66

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

world phenomena.59 No wonder that many attacked this position. The English scholar and Vicar of Oxford University, Robert Burton wrote for example in his The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621,
Our later Mathematicians have rolled all the stones that may be stirred: and . . . fabricated new systems of the World, out of their own Daedalen heads.60

The full title of Kepler’s book manifests its great departure from scholastic thought: New Astronomy Based on Causes, or Celestial Physics, treated by means of commentaries on the Motions of the Star Mars, from the Observations of Tycho Brahe, 1609. It was a new astronomy based on the notion of physical causation, which took physical reality into account: “I have mingled celestial physics with astronomy in this work,”61 he wrote. Medieval scholastic astronomy was descriptive in nature, supplying a purely descriptive geometry of the skies. Kepler’s aim was “chiefly to reform astronomical theory” by looking “into celestial physics and the natural causes of the motions” of the planets.62 He looked for a physics of the solar system, for “physical causes.”63 Instead of being described in traditional theological and teleological terms, the heavens are to be explained according to physical causes and causation: “the heavenly machine is not a kind of divine, live being, but a kind of clockwork” whose motions are caused by simple “material force.”64 Kepler’s New Philosophy of celestial physics was very different from that of Dante’s theology. The Florentine poet wrote thus in the last line of Paradiso of “the love [God’s love] which moves the sun and the other stars.” The basis of Kepler’s new astronomy is causality which provides “a philosophy or physics of celestial phenomena in place of the theology or metaphysics of Aristotle.”65 The classic Aristotelian universe, which envisioned the planets moving in uniform motions and in perfect circles, was replaced by Keplerian astronomy which described the
For the mathematisation of nature and natural science in early modern period, see Michael Mahoney, “The Mathematical Realm of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 703–55. 60 Robert Burton as cited by James Gleick, Isaac Newton (New York: Vintage, 2003), p. 16. 61 Kepler, New Astronomy, p. 47. 62 Ibid., p. 48. 63 Ibid., p. 48. 64 Kepler, “Letter to J. G. Herwart von Hohenburg,” 16 February 1605, as quoted in Koestler, “Johannes Kepler,” p. 331. 65 Kepler, “To John Georg Brengger,” Oct. 4, 1607, in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 75.
59

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

67

planets, like the earth, as floating freely in space and directed by mere physical forces or laws. Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion were the first modern “laws of nature”—laws dealing with natural phenomena, formulated in mathematical terms, and proposing universal relations that regulate particular phenomena. This reduction of astronomy to physical causation instead of divine causation transformed the traditional scholastic ties between astronomy and theology.66 Kepler’s was indeed a new science of astronomy, a “New Philosophy,”67 which the metaphysical poet John Donne (1572–1631) lamented in “The First Anniversary” (1611): “And new Philosophy calls all in doubt . . . The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit / Can well direct him where to look for it / And freely men confess that this world’s spent, When in the Planets, and the Firmament / They seek so many new.” With the new astronomical philosophy, Donne felt, “all cohaerence gone.”68 The metaphysical poet was right in his gloomy vision. Kepler’s new astronomy led to the destruction of classical and medieval cosmology: the “celestial spheres were gone,” and the “planets moved independently through space.”69 The goal of the New Philosophy, said Kepler, was “to reduce everything” in astronomy “to physical origins.”70 This led to the de-divination of the heavens. As Kepler wrote in 1605:
My aim is to show that the heavenly machine is not a kind of divine, live being, but a kind of clockwork . . . insofar as nearly all the manifold motions are caused by a most simple magnetic, and material force, just as all motions of the clock are caused by a simple weight. And I also show how these physical causes are to be given numerical and geometrical expression.71

Furthermore, “every detail of the celestial motions is caused and regulated by faculties of a purely corporeal nature, that is, magnetic.”72 The celestial world is a physical machine, a machine driven by “a single
66 For the concept of causation in the early modern period, see John Henry, “Causation,” in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, pp. 130–42. 67 Kepler, “Memorandum to Foreign Bookdealers,” in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 134. 68 John Donne, “The First Anniversary,” in The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne, ed. Charles M Coffin (New York: The Modern Library, 2001), pp. 198–9. 69 Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences, p. 77. 70 Kepler, “To Peter Crüger,” Feb. 28, 1624, in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 149. 71 Kepler, “Letter to J. G. Herwart von Hohenburg,” 16 February 1605, as quoted in Koestler, “Johannes Kepler,” p. 331. 72 Kepler, New Astronomy, p. 68.

68

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

terrestrial force, in the image of clockwork.”73 Kepler described this system in his Astronomica Nova, subtitled Physica Coelestis. Its radicalism is clear: he was the first to explain the mechanism of the solar system, the physics of the celestial machine, as governed by the laws of physical causality. It was a revolutionary conception of the universe, a mechanical vision in which “the real world is a world of objects and their mechanical interactions.”74 In other words, Kepler’s explanation of the physical operation of nature was based on mechanical principles defined in mathematical language. This was, in part, what made the scientific revolution possible; namely, “the replacement of a concrete, formalist, Aristotelian ontology, defined in essentially qualitative terms, with an abstract materialist (ultimately atomist) ontology, defined in exclusive mathematical terms.”75 It should be noted that “a mathematical, or relational, view of nature locates scientia not in the grasping of the inherent essences of individual things (e.g., ‘Aristotelianism’), nor in the correspondences and resemblances linking individual essences together into an overarching symbolic” network “but, rather, in the system of relations, operations and actions that constitute the phenomenal world of things.”76 This was, in Heidegger’s words, “the revolution of inquiry into nature” because nature now “is no longer the inner principles out of which the motion of the body follows; rather, nature is the mode of the variety of the changing relative positions of bodies, the manner in which they are presented in space and time.”77 In this sense Kepler, like his contemporary Galileo, “was trying to establish a new philosophical interpretation for ‘reality.’”78 His goal was, in his own words, “a philosophy or physics of celestial phenomena in place of the theology or metaphysics of Aristotle.”79 The source of this alternative philosophy of nature was a change of metaphysical commitment, or
a change of philosophical heart based on a fundamental shift in metaphysical commitment away from Aristotelian essentialism toward a kind of mathematical materialism or corporealism. In its turn, the shift in philosophical commitment Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought, p. 56. Ibid., p. 61. 75 Smith, “Knowing Things Inside Out,” p. 726. 76 James J. Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1995), pp. 83–4, n. 46. 77 Martin Heidegger, “Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics,” in Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, ed. David F. Krell (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 289. 78 Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought, pp. 60–1. 79 Kepler, “To John Georg Brengger,” Oct. 4, 1607, in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 75.
74 73

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology
fostered a new world view according to which physical reality was thought to be satisfactory explained in terms of corporeal interactions and mathematically determined spatio-temporal relationships.80

69

This was indeed nothing less than “a metaphysical revolution”81 in regard of the evolution of the New Philosophy of nature. The emergence of new mathematical astronomical thought and a novel understanding of the universe in the early modern period did not happen in a vacuum. Kepler wrote that “the ancient astronomical hypotheses of Ptolemy” are “to be completely removed” and “cast out of the mind.” Indeed, he continued, “I cannot do otherwise than to put solely Copernicus’ opinion concerning the world in place of those hypotheses,” namely the heliocentric in place of the geocentric, “and to persuade every one of it.”82 The New Astronomy aroused strong negative reactions. Kepler wrote about “those professors of the physical sciences who are irate with me, as well as with Copernicus” on account “of our having shaken the foundations of science with the motion of the earth.”83 And in regard to “the opinions of the pious” orthodox Christians “on these matters of nature,” or astronomy, Kepler, it is worth repeating, observed: “I have just one thing to say: while in theology it is authority that carries the most weight, in [natural] philosophy it is reason.”84 Whereas the power of revelation, authority, and tradition signified the basis of religious thought, then novelty, discovery, and experience became associated with the New Philosophy. Indeed Kepler was “first and foremost, an astronomer who based his astronomical models on observation; indeed the best observations obtainable.”85 Accordingly, like Copernicus who declared “Astronomy is written for astronomers,” Kepler differentiated between science and religion, theology and natural philosophy. He believed the science of astronomy acquired its authority to speak for nature not from religious but from physical
Smith, “Knowing Things Inside Out,” p. 727. It was Alexandre Koyré who developed the concept of the “mathephysical revolution” as the source for the evolution of modern science. See, Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968). 82 Kepler, Harmonices Mundi, 1619, in Malcolm Oster, ed., Science in Europe, 1500–1800 (New York: Palgrave, 2002), p. 56. 83 Kepler, New Astronomy, pp. 46–7. 84 Ibid., p. 66. 85 Daniel Garber, “Physics and Foundations,” in The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Period, eds. Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), p. 42.
81 80

70

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

considerations. With both Copernicus and Kepler, the rise of modern astronomical thought was an inextricable component of the release from tutelage to theology. The revolutionary thrust of Kepler’s scientific thought is also evident in the appearance of new biblical interpretations. We have seen that Copernicus rejected the traditional literal reading of certain biblical passages which opposed the heliocentric system, claiming that the exegetes’ distortion of scriptural passages led him to denounce such criticism of his ideas as unfounded.86 Kepler thought the same, writing that “many people fear the worst for themselves and for all earth’s creature on account of the extreme rapidity of this motion [of the earth].” However, there are “many more people who are moved by piety to withhold assent from Copernicus, fearing that falsehood might be charged against the Holy Spirit speaking in the scriptures if we say that the earth is moved and the sun stands still.”87 In response to these “pious” people’s criticism, Kepler offered new interpretations of the scriptural passages most troublesome for the heliocentric system, claiming that they posed no real challenge to Copernicus and his theory. These biblical interpretations in Kepler’s “Introduction” to his New Astronomy “were to attain a wider readership in the seventeenth century than anything else he wrote. They were usually bracketed with [Galileo’s] Letter to the Grand Duchess from their first appearance together in 1636.”88 The bringing together of these two works is evidence of a growing body of northern European readers who were very much interested in the new power, authority, and legitimacy, awarded to science in reading the mind of the creator. Kepler rejected the literal interpretation of Scripture. He wrote: “scripture also speaks in accordance with human perception when the truth of things is at odds with the senses,” as in the case of Psalm 19 where “the sun is said to emerge from the tabernacle of the horizon like a bridegroom from his marriage bed, exuberant as a strong man for the race.” Here, as often elsewhere in Scripture, we should “turn our eyes from physics to the aim of scripture.” The Bible does not deal with physics, or with physical descriptions of the world, hence “you do not hear any physical dogma here.” Granted that Scripture does not pretend to provide any physical, astronomical theory, no one can claim
Copernicus, On the Revolutions, pp. 4–5. Kepler, New Astronomy, p. 59. 88 Ernan McMullin, “Galileo on Science and Scripture,” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, ed. Peter Machamer (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), p. 300.
87 86

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

71

that the teaching of the Bible opposes the Copernician or Keplerian system. For Scripture “does not teach things of which men are ignorant,” such as astronomy, but its goal is “to recall to mind something they neglect, namely God’s greatness” in creation. Likewise, although it is said “that Psalm 104, in its entirety, is a physical discussion” where “God is said to have ‘founded the earth upon its stability, that it not be laid low unto the ages of ages,’” Kepler argues that in fact “nothing could be farther from the Psalmist’s intention than speculation about physical causes.”89 By denouncing the literal meaning of Scripture, Kepler rejected the view that the Bible offers any reliable physical description of the world, or that it could provide “objective” scientific truths about nature. On the other hand, against orthodox Christian fears that the new astronomy was in conflict with “the Holy Spirit speaking in scriptures,” Kepler observed, with joy, that the New Philosophy is rather glorifying God in his creation:
I hope that, with me, he [the reader of Astronomica Nova] will praise and celebrate the Creator’s wisdom and greatness, which I unfold for him in the more perspicacious explanation of the world’s form, the investigation of causes, and the detection of errors of vision. Let him not only extol the Creator’s divine beneficence in His concern for the well-being of all living things, expressed in the firmness and stability of the earth, but also acknowledge His wisdom expressed in its motion, at once so well hidden and so admirable.

For Kepler the new “physics of the heavens,” did not oppose religious belief in God’s glory and power in the world. His endeavor tended rather to enhance God’s greatness and goodness. Many people evidently did not accept these arguments, and Kepler attacked them in harsh words:
But whoever is too stupid to understand astronomical science, or too weak to believe Copernicus without affecting his faith, I would advise him that, having dismissed astronomical studies and having damned whatever philosophical opinions he pleases, he mind his own business, and betake himself home to scratch in his own dirt patch, abandoning this wandering about the world.90

Kepler was fully conscious not only of the revolutionary ramifications of the new science of astronomy, but also of the negative reaction of orthodox Christians. He declared that any pious human being “can be sure that he worships God no less than the astronomer.” But the astronomer has received a precious gift from God that lets him unveil
89 90

Ibid., pp. 59–63. Ibid., pp. 59, 65–6.

72

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

the secrets of the heavens: to the astronomer, he wrote, “God has granted the more penetrating vision of the mind’s eye, and an ability and desire to celebrate his God above those things he has discovered.”91 Since for Kepler the universe is a “bright Temple of God,”92 he held that “astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature.”93 Who, then, can speak for nature? And who has the authority to explain and interpret its secrets? For Kepler the answer is clear—science based on reason, and not theology based on divine revelation. “Kepler firmly believed in the integrity of both two books of God, Scripture and nature, but he was always careful to distinguish the different languages in which each was written.” Hence theology “was distinct from astronomy in his mind.”94 Accordingly, the Bible is not an authority on “the form of the world” because you “do not hear any physical dogma” in Scripture.95 Yet, how this reflects on the authority of the Fathers of the Church and the Doctors of the Church, who explained the world of nature according to the literal interpretation of the Bible? To answer this question, Kepler found ample support in the history of the church itself when pious Christian people made grave mistakes concerning the true nature of the world. As with Copernicus, the example of Lactantius came immediately to mind. Although “Lactantius is pious,” wrote Kepler in irony, he nonetheless “denied that the earth is round.” Likewise, “Augustine is pious” though he “denied the antipodes, and the Inquisition nowadays is pious, which, though allowing the earth’s smallness, denies its motion.” The wisdom of the Doctors of the Church thus did not preclude grave mistakes in the explanation of nature, and being a pious man does not signify ipso facto a thorough understanding of the physical phenomena. On the contrary, Kepler pointed out, religion is not a guarantee for a true understanding of the world. Thus, “with all due respect for the Doctors of the Church,” he claimed,
I prove philosophically not only that the earth is round, not only that is inhabited all the way around the antipodes, not only that is contemptibly small, but also that it is carried along among the stars.96

Ibid., p. 66. Kepler, “To the Baron von Herberstein,” May 15, 1596, in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 32. 93 Kepler, “To Herwart,” March 26, 1598, in Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler, p. 44. 94 Howell, God’s Two Books, pp. 116, 135. 95 Kepler, New Astronomy, p. 63. 96 Ibid., p. 66.
92

91

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

73

These words contain the coming of age of the new science. In face of the formidable authority and power of the Church(es), Kepler dared to claim that its teachings as regards the heavens could not be accepted at face value because they were based on unfounded hypotheses. His own new science treats “all of astronomy by means of physical causes rather than fictitious hypotheses.” As a result, he proudly declared: “every detail of the celestial motions is caused and regulated by faculty of purely corporeal nature.”97 The new “physics of the heavens”98 is thus radically different from that which Christians had been taught for many centuries. This difference evidently included the rejection of the notion of theology as the queen of sciences.

4. Galileo—The Book of Nature “is Written in the Language of Mathematics”
The life and career of Galileo coincided with that of Kepler, and the Italian physicist, astronomer, and philosopher corresponded intermittently with the German mathematician and astronomer. They shared a belief in the Copernican system, advocated similar approach toward the relationship between science and religion, and were aware of the need to exclude theological considerations from scientific investigations. Emphasizing the need for experiment, observation, and rigorous demonstration, and the applying of mathematical demonstrations to physical conclusions, the “scientist who, more than any other, was first and foremost in advancing the new art of experimental science was Galileo.”99 Further, by stressing the need for “demonstrated truths” as well as for “experiences and rigorous proofs”100 in order to explain the book of nature (libri naturales) and thus correctly read the mind of God (mens Dei), Galileo’s “way of stating and solving problems in natural philosophy in mechanical ways became the model of natural philosophy for the seventeenth century.”101 The new natural philosophy thus arose when people stumble on the idea that most complex natural process and behaviors could be broken down or factored into interactions of independently varying component processes, isolatable
Ibid., pp. 67–8. Ibid., p. 66. 99 Cohen, Revolution in Science, p. 135. 100 Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, pp. 206–7. 101 Peter Machamer, “Galileo’s Machines, his Mathematics, and his Experiments,” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, p. 55.
98 97

74

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

by experiment or observation of special case, so that their separate contributions could be assessed.102 Galileo stressed the need for carrying out experiments, a procedure “necessary in those sciences which apply mathematical demonstrations to physical conclusions.” And again, “positive assurances” about natural phenomena are “through experiments, long observation, and rigorous demonstration.”103 His physics thus diverged from traditional natural philosophy because it was based on observation and experience and not on theological and teleological considerations which cannot be proved by experiment. Here, in part, lies Galileo’s contribution to modern science which is characterized by a search for the laws according to which the world of nature operates, rather than a quest after causes. Whereas scholastic philosophers strove to explain why the world of nature operates as it does, Galileo sought to explain how it works, an approach that later became one of the essential features of modern scientific thought. Further, whereas Aristotelian science strove to explain “how things exist” modern science sought to find “how things work.”104 Accordingly, nature for Galileo “has only a literal sense to reveal to mankind: that is, the order and structure of the things in their geometrical relationships to one another—the how of nature, not the mysterious, polysemous why of theology.”105 No wonder that Galileo “rejected the [scholastic] physics of qualities and his limited concept of inertial motion chased the ghosts from nature’s machine.”106 In sum, if science is to be unrelentingly a pursuit of “how things work,” then it must regard the world mathematically and morphologically as a machine. Galileo’s first contribution to astronomical observation appeared in 1610 under the name Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger). As compared with Kepler’s massive Astronomia Nova, this was a rather small tract in which the Italian astronomer recounted his observations of celestial objects based on the use of the recently invented telescope,
102 See Timothy McDermott’s important essay, “Two Models of the Overlap of the Sciences: Modern Reductionism and Medieval Type of Abstraction,” in Incommensurability and Translation: Kuhnian Perspectives on Scientific Communication and Theory Change, ed. Rema Rossini Favretti et al. (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing: 1999), pp. 69–85. 103 Galileo as quoted in Cohen, Revolution in Science, p. 138; Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, p. 197. 104 See, McDermott, “Two Models of the Overlap of the Sciences,” pp. 69–85. 105 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 197. 106 Brian Copenhaver, “The Occultist Tradition and Its Critics,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, p. 475.

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

75

the “Spyglass lately invented.”107 In this work Galileo displayed his adherence to the Copernican system, claiming that “the sun” stood at “the center of the universe.”108 In another work he described how the telescope helped him to shatter the Aristotelian heavens: “we, thanks to the telescope, have brought the heavens thirty or forty times closer to us than they were to Aristotle, so that we can discern many things in them that he could not see.”109 As with Kepler, new astronomical discoveries led Galileo to transform the traditional view of the world system:
I have been led to the opinions and convictions that the surface of the moon is not smooth, uniform, and precisely spherical as a great number of philosophers believe it (and the other heavenly bodies) to be, but is uneven, rough, and full of cavities and prominences, being not unlike the face of the earth, relieved by chains of mountains and deep valleys.110

In contrast to Aristotle’s view that heavenly bodies are smooth and spherical, Galileo’s findings revealed a different heavenly physics of heavens, for the first time providing proof that the physics of heaven resembled that of the earth, a phenomenon which supported Copernicus’ theory. Galileo’s observations led to the discovery of sunspots, something that added to the weakening of classical astronomical thought: “if blemishes could appear and disappear on the face of the sun itself, the incorruptibility and inalterability of the heavenly bodies was destroyed.”111 As with the discovery of the surface of the moon, sunspots revealed that the physics of heaven did not differ much from that of the earth, something that radically contradicted Aristotle’s views.112 Aristotle argued that the celestial region is incorruptible and changeless because it was made from perfect matter, hence unalterable, in contrast to the four elements of the terrestrial region—earth, water, air, and fire—which are alterable: “The Aristotelian heavens were held to be perfect and substantively unchanging; all they did was to wheel around eternally,
107 Galileo, “The Starry Messenger Revealing Great, Unusual, and Remarkable Spectacles, Opening These to the Consideration of Every Man, and Especially of Philosophers and Astronomers,” 1610, in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, p. 21. 108 Ibid., p. 24. 109 Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems – Ptolemaic & Copernican, 1632, trans. Stillman Drake (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1967), p. 56. 110 Galileo, “The Starry Messenger,” p. 31. 111 Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, p. 83. 112 See Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages, pp. 63–9.

76

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

exhibiting no regeneration of new things or passing away of old.”113 In contract, Galileo argued:
So long as men were in fact obliged to call the sun “most pure and most lucid,” no shadows or impurities whatever had been perceived in it; but now that it shows itself to us as partly impure and spotty, why should we not call it “spotted and not pure”? For names and attributes must be accommodated to the essence of things, and not the essence to the names, since things come first and names afterward.114

Galileo’s sunspots were therefore “a momentous discovery at the time” since the Aristotelians maintained that “nothing could change in the heavens, and surely not the eternal and immutable Sun.”115 Galileo concluded his History and Demonstration Concerning Sunspots and Their Phenomena (1613) by saying: “in order that we may harvest some fruit from the unexpected marvels that have remained hidden until this age of ours,” such as sunspots, “it will be well if in the future we once again lend ear to those wise philosophers whose opinion of the celestial substance differed from Aristotle.”116 Galileo knew that “in making the celestial material alterable, I contradicted the doctrine of Aristotle.” Likewise, he rejected the Aristotelian essential dualism between heavens and earth. One may interpret heavenly phenomena by making an analogy with earthly ones because the celestial matter is no different from the terrestrial. On the basis of these and other findings, Galileo argued “all human reasoning must be placed second to direct experience.” The power of authority based on tradition and history was thus undermined in the New Philosophy in face of knowledge based on direct experience involving observation and experiment. Natural philosophers should “give assent to propositions that depend upon manifest observations” and not to “opinions repugnant to the senses and supported only by probable reasons.”117 The knowledge of nature has its own method of reasoning—observations, experiments, demonstrated truths—and these should have the priority in understanding the phenomena of the world over knowledge based on undemonstrated revealed truths.
Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences, p. 70. Galileo, “Letter from Galileo to Mark Welser,” May 4, 1612, in Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, p. 92. 115 William Shea, “Galileo’s Copernicanism: The Science and the Rhetoric,” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, p. 224. 116 Galileo, Letters on the Sunspots, 1613, in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, p. 118. 117 Ibid., p. 118.
114 113

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

77

Galileo’s contributions to the development of the New Philosophy encountered very strong criticism, and he had to deal extensively with the issue of the proper relation of science to religion. His views on the issue appeared in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina . . . Concerning the Use of Biblical Quotations in Matters of Science (1615). “The novelty of these things,” Galileo wrote to the Duchess118 about his new astronomical discoveries, “as well as some consequences which followed from them,” stood in great contrast “to the physical notions commonly held among academic philosophers,” that is, scholastic philosophers. It was quite natural that “no small number of professors” thought that he, Galileo, “placed these things in the sky to upset nature and overturn the sciences.” In face of astronomical discoveries scholastic professors rather showed “a greater fondness for their own opinions than for truth” and tried “to deny and disprove the new things.” At this important juncture, where new astronomical findings about the heavenly bodies were colliding with the teaching of the Church, these professors turned to the Bible, “sprinkling” their charges against the New Philosophy “with passages taken from places in the Bible which they had failed to understand properly, and which were ill suited to their purpose.”119 Initially, Galileo’s aim in the letter was “to reassure his readers that there is no real conflict between the new Copernican doctrine and the Scripture, properly understood.”120 However, as earlier with Copernicus and Kepler, the struggle over the significance of new astronomical findings was soon transformed into a bitter controversy about the meaning of certain passages in the Scriptures relating to the system of the world and the heavenly spheres, thus in fact into bitter controversy about biblical criticism. In his letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, Galileo declared his adherence to the Copernican system: “I hold the sun to be situated motionless in the center of the revolution of the celestial orbs while the earth rotates on its axis and revolves about the sun.” Although he knew that “this position” refuted “the arguments of Ptolemy and Aristotle,” he adopted it. What he was not willing to accept was that the people who opposed the New Philosophy “resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the

Originally the Duchess of Lorraine, on marrying Ferdinand I de’ Medici (Galileo’s patron at the University of Pisa), she became the Grand Duchess of Tuscany. 119 Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, p. 175. 120 McMullin, “Galileo on Science and Scripture,” p. 302.

118

78

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

authority of the bible.”121 He thus turned the denunciations of himself accusing his opponents of subverting religion and the authority of Scriptures, hence of using in vain the name of religion and of the sacred Bible:
They make a shield of their hypocritical zeal for religion. They go about invoking the Bible, which they would have minister to their deceitful purposes. Contrary to the sense of the Bible and the intention of the holy fathers.122

Reading the mind of God (mens Dei) was associated with the understating of His Word, and the understanding of the book of nature became closely associated with the right interpretation of Scripture. Here Galileo, like Copernicus and Kepler, entered into theological territory. With whom, then, did authority lie in the interpretation of controversial passages in Scripture? All these forerunners of modern science believed that theologians had no business assessing the values of astronomical arguments. Further, Galileo’s views, like those of Copernicus and Kepler, implied that because the new cosmology contradicted the literal sense of the words of Scripture, the pioneers of the New Philosophy “arrogated to themselves an authority in interpreting Scripture that belonged properly only to the Church, speaking through its bishops and theologians.”123 Against theologians and scholastic professors who claimed that the Bible provides true descriptions of physical phenomena, Galileo declared that “the primary purpose of the sacred writings” is “the service of God and the salvation of souls.” Since, as Kepler argued, no physical dogma is taught in Scripture, it is not intended to serve as a source of knowledge about the phenomena of the world; the Bible is not the place to look for the confirmation of scientific theories, such as the Copernican system. A “discussion of physical problems” ought “to begin not from the authority of scriptural passages, but from senseexperiences and necessary demonstrations.” The answer to the question who may speak for nature is clear—science based on experience,
Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, p. 177. Ibid., p. 179. It is interesting to see the resemblance between Galileo and Newton in regard of Scripture. “Like Galileo before him, Newton believed that Scripture is reasonable and composed in the tongue of the vulgar. Thus, there is an expectation that the Bible is written in plain and lucid language.” See, Stephen D. Snobelen, “ ‘God of Gods, and Lord of Lords’: The Theology of Newton’s General Scholium to the Principia,” Osiris 16: Science in Theistic Contexts: Cognitive Dimensions (2001), p. 199. 123 McMullin, “Galileo on Science and Scripture,” p. 300.
122 121

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

79

experiment, and demonstrations, and not religious authority based on sacred writings: “nothing physical which sense-experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called in question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages.”124 Galileo thus constructed a special sphere for scientific activity, devoid of any teleological and theological considerations, because the new science of nature founded on a different mode of thought and reasoning. This was indeed a momentous development in the long relationship between science and religion. The New Philosophy defined anew not only the science of astronomy but also the nature of God. Clearly, the God of Galileo is not the Deus Absconditus of Martin Luther, who hides himself and is unknown in creation, but rather the Deus Revelatus, the God who constantly reveals Himself in the fabric of the world. God, said Galileo, is not “less excellently revealed in nature’s actions than in the sacred statements of the Bible.” Since God reveals Himself in both His work and His word, Galileo claimed that scientific “demonstrated truths” may be used even in explaining the Scriptures: “having arrived at any certainties in physics, we ought to utilize these as the most appropriate aids in the true exposition of the Bible.” God “would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations.”125 Instead of denying the discoveries of the New Philosophy, as scholastic philosophers tended to do, Galileo claimed that new astronomical findings might help in the exposition of the Scriptures. Scientific “demonstrated truth” should be used in the study of nature because there are “sciences of which but the faintest trace” is “to be found in the Bible.” Chief among them is astronomy, of which “so little is found” in Scripture. The holy Scriptures do not pretend to teach us about the “phenomena of the celestial bodies.” On the contrary. “Far from pretending to teach us the constitution and motions of the heavens and the stars, the authors of the Bible intentionally forbore to speak of these things.” The reason was simple: the “Holy Spirit did not desire that men should learn things that are useful to no one for salvation.” Teleological and theological considerations therefore should not be involved in the science of astronomy. Galileo used all these arguments to advance his ultimate persuasion that “the Holy Ghost did not intend to teach us whether heaven moves or stands
124 125

Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, pp. 182–3. Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, pp. 183–4.

80

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

still.”126 Or, in the words of the epigram composed by his contemporary Cardinal Baronius (1538–1607): “the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.”127 The study of nature is not taught in the Bible since the purpose of the Scriptures is salvation. On this reasoning Scripture loses its traditional role as the source of knowledge about the world and the universe. Galileo placed limitations on scriptural authority, arguing that the Bible has no special say where nature is concerned, and no particular legitimacy to speak for nature. Instead of looking to the Scriptures in order to understand how heaven moves, Galileo insisted that only “necessary demonstrations and sense experiences ought to be respected in physical conclusions.”128 But science was not opposed to religion because each possessed its own distinct sphere in which its authority and legitimacy were fully asserted—the Bible over the way to salvation, and science over the reading and understanding of the mind of God in the grand book of nature. Galileo concluded:
nor is God any less excellently revealed in Nature’s actions than in sacred statements of the Bible. Perhaps this is what Tertullian meant by these words: We conclude that God is known first through Nature, and then again more particularly by doctrine.129

Since God was revealed in His works as well as in His words, nature became a legitimate, authoritative source for the knowledge of God. Science, as Galileo wrote in 1632 in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic & Copernican, may “discover the work of His hands” so that “we may recognize and thereby so much the more admire His greatness.”130 Accordingly, he warned “not to permit anyone to usurp scriptural texts and force them in some way to maintain any physical conclusion to be true” because this leads to closing “the road to free philosophizing about mundane and physical things, as if everything had already been discovered and revealed with certainty.”131 However, given that the secrets of nature are being constantly unveiled by the power of science, as evidenced in astronomical discoveries, the
Ibid., pp. 184–5. Cardinal Baronius as quoted in Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, p. 186, n. 8. 128 Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, p. 186. 129 Pietro Redondi, “From Galileo to Augustine,” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, p. 190. 130 Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, p. 464. 131 Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, p. 187.
127 126

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

81

book of nature “stands continually open to our gaze”132 and inquiry. Galileo speaks here as the experimental scientist. Scientists, he wrote, “apply mathematical demonstrations to physical conclusions.”133 And in natural philosophy any accepted “physical conclusion” may “at some future time” be found invalid according to “the senses and demonstrative or necessary reasons.” No one, therefore, “should close the road to free philosophizing about mundane and physical things.”134 Different methods of reasoning thus led to different approaches in theology and science. While the first was based on the power of revelation, the second was based on “demonstrative or necessary reasons.” Yet people “who are unable to understand perfectly both the Bible and the sciences” tended to confuse the two. By “glancing superficially through the Bible,” they arrogated “to themselves the authority to decree upon every question of physics on the strength of some word which they have misunderstood, and which was employed by sacred authors for some different purposes.”135 Rather than claim that science subverts traditional religious thought, Galileo attacked those who confounded their wrong readings of the Scriptures with their poor understanding of physics. In the end, however, because the Bible does not offer any physical theory, no one may attack the New Philosophy of astronomy on the basis of some scriptural passages. Galileo rejected the notion of theology as the queen of sciences in order to secure the natural philosophy’s autonomy and thus to pave the way for scientific progress. He thus sought to establish the independence of natural philosophy from theology, as in their own but different ways did Bacon and Descartes. First, Galileo turned against the “lay writers” and “theologians” who by attacking him “pretend to the power of constraining others by scriptural authority to follow in physical dispute.” These people argued that
since theology is the queen of all sciences, she need not bend in any way to accommodate herself to the teaching of less worthy sciences which are subordinate to her; these others [sciences] must rather be referred to her as to their supreme empress, changing and altering their conclusions according to her statues and decrees . . . that if in the inferior sciences any conclusion should

132 Galileo, The Assayer, 1623, in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, trans. Stillman Drake, pp. 237–8. 133 Galileo as quoted in Machamer, “Galileo’s Machines, his Mathematics, and his Experiments,” p. 68. 134 Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, p. 187. 135 Ibid., p. 190.

82

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature
be taken as certain in virtue of demonstrations or experiences, while in the Bible another conclusion is found repugnant to this, then the professors of this science [should] undo their proofs and discover the fallacies in their own experiences.136

Second, Galileo directly attacked the medieval, scholastic contention that “entitled sacred theology” the “title of ‘queen’” of the sciences. This appellation can be explained in two different ways. First, theology may deserve it “by reason of including everything that is learned from all other sciences and establishing everything by better methods and with profounder learning.” Galileo rejects this meaning altogether; no theologians “will say that geometry, astronomy, and medicine are much more excellently contained in the Bible than they are in the books of Archimedes, Ptolemy, Boethius and Galen.”137 The second sense is related to “its subject and the miraculous communication of divine revelation conclusions” concerning “chiefly the attainment of eternal blessedness.” Accordingly,
Let us grant then that theology is conversant with the loftiest divine contemplation, and occupies the regal throne among sciences by dignity. But acquiring the highest authority in this way, if she does not descend to the lower and humbler speculations of the subordinate sciences and has no regard for them because they are not concerned with blessedness, then her professors should not arrogate to themselves the authority to decide on controversies in professions which they have neither studied nor practiced. Why, this would be as if an absolute despot, being neither a physician nor an architect but knowing himself free to command, should undertake to administer medicine and erect buildings according to his whim—at grave peril of his poor patients’ lives, and the speedy collapse of his edifices.

As far as divine things are concerned, theology was indeed superior to all other sciences, but as regards natural phenomena, its traditional role was no longer secure in face of the new natural philosophical thought. In his desire to deny theology the status of “queen” of sciences, and to release science from its tutelage to theology, Galileo begged the reader “to consider with great care the difference that exists between doctrines subject to proof and those subject to opinion.” Theology concerns transcendent issues, science mundane ones, hence the first deals with salvation and the second with the explanation of nature. Granted this distinction, “demonstrated physical conclusions need not
136 137

Ibid., pp. 191–2 Ibid., pp. 192–3.

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

83

be subordinated to biblical passages, but the latter must rather be shown not to interfere with the former.”138 No other man of that time so boldly and fiercely attacked the cherished concept of theology as the queen of sciences. Indeed, being related to salvation, the revealed, undemonstrated axioms of faith had priority over the demonstrated truths of reason. But concerning “the grand book, the universe,” demonstrated truths had priority over revealed. For “the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed.” The book of nature “is written in the language of mathematics,” and “its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering in a dark labyrinth.”139 Mathematics thus became essential to any understanding of nature because the certainty of mathematical science is guaranteed absolutely by the true and inherent mathematical nature of the world of nature. Nature, thus believed Galileo, was perfectly “understandable through mathematical reasoning.”140 He thus inaugurated a major transformation in natural philosophy whereby mathematical language replaced revelation as the source for understanding the world of nature. Or in Heidegger’s words: “Up to the distinct emergence of the mathematical as a fundamental characteristic of thought, the authoritative truth was considered that of the Church and belief. The means for the proper knowledge of beings were obtained by way of the interpretation of the source of revelation, the writ and tradition of the Church . . . The detachment from revelation as the first source for truth and the rejection of tradition as the authoritative means of knowledge—all these rejections are only negative consequences of the mathematical project.”141 Theological considerations cannot unveil the secrets of nature since the book of nature is written in the “language of mathematics,” a language that since Galileo’s time has become the essential characteristic language of modern scientific thought. “Teleology as an ultimate principle of explanation” Galileo “set aside.” And as concerning nature, “The natural world was portrayed as a vast, self-contained mathematical
Ibid., pp. 193–5. Galileo, The Assayer, pp. 237–8. The centrality of mathematics in Galileo’s thought is described in Marion, “The Idea of God,” pp. 265–304, and in Mahoney, “The Mathematical Realm of Nature,” pp. 703–14. 140 Smith, “Knowing Things Inside Out,” p. 737. 141 Heidegger, “Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics,” p. 295.
139 138

84

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

machine, consisting of motions of matter in space and time, and man with his purposes, feelings, and secondary qualities was shoved apart as an unimportant spectator and semi-real effect of the great mathematical drama outside.”142 The “language of mathematics” is thus “the thread that enables” Galileo “to find his way through the labyrinth of nature; it is the lamp that sheds light on the truth, or rather the lamp of truth itself.”143 Pure mathematical reasoning thus became now the means to understand objective reality. As a specific sphere of inquiry, science possessed its own medium—mathematics—with which to describe natural phenomena. Nature is constructed now mathematically and geometrically. “Having reduced the objective world to mere embodiment of the Euclidean world in his mind, Galileo limited the actual characteristics of objective reality to mathematical attributes alone.”144 Moreover, by “subordinating mechanical laws of nature to divine guidance, mathematical physics provided the key to knowledge of God.”145 Or, as Voltaire wrote in the early eighteenth century, “Mathematics has subjected infinity to calculation.”146 For Galileo “mathematic meant geometry;” thus he “used a comparative, relativized geometry as the language of proof and mechanics, which was the language in which the book of nature was written.”147 In the grand book of the universe demonstrated truths acquired “through experiments, long observation, and rigorous demonstration,”148 had priority over theological ones in understanding the created order. Accordingly, argued Galileo, “how prejudicial (and how contrary to the primary intention of the Catholic Church) it would be to use scriptural passages for deciding physical conclusions,” which are not founded on “either experiments or logical proofs.” Given this, it is clear “that the interpretation which we impose upon passages of Scripture would be false whenever it disagree with demonstrated truths.”149 In the end, Galileo transformed the whole issue; instead of defending himself against accusations that the New Philosophy stood
142 Edwin A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay (New York: Dover, 2003 [1924]), p. 104. 143 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 194. 144 Smith, “Knowing Things Inside Out,” p. 739. 145 Redondi, “From Galileo to Augustine,” p. 201. 146 Voltaire, Letters on England, trans. Leonard Tancock (London: Penguin 2005), p. 82. 147 Machamer, “Galileo’s Machines, his Mathematics, and his Experiments,” pp. 64–5. 148 Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, p. 197. 149 Ibid., p. 206.

Rise of Modern Science and Decline of Theology

85

in opposition to the teachings of the Bible, he rather claimed that “demonstrated truths” should be the sole criteria upon which to judge the validity of scriptural passages. Thus, as concerned the variety of natural phenomena described in the Bible, the role of reason should be the sole arbiter. In sum, Galileo argued that scientists have the right to tell the theologians to go back and reinterpret Scripture, and this signified, among others, a serious shifting in favor of the authority of the scientist as regards who could speak for nature, who has the authority to unveil its secrets, and who, eventually, has the legitimacy to interpret it. The scholastic view of theology as the queen of sciences, and science as her handmaiden, continued well into the seventeenth century. With the construction of the New Philosophy of nature during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the relationship between science and religion became more and more problematic and with it theology’s role as the queen of sciences. As far as divine things were concerned, theology was held superior to all other sciences, but as regards natural phenomena, natural philosophers gradually denied theology’s regal role in explaining how nature works, and ceased to consider natural science as “handmaiden.” Intrinsic to this process was the history of the mathematical sciences. Until the sixteenth century, mathematics was not considered essential to scientific thought: “Aristotelian physics aimed at understanding qualitative processes. Quantities were at best peripheral to it, because they failed to speak of the essence of things.”150 But as the thought of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo shows, the emergence of the New Philosophy of nature was inseparable from the development of mathematics, or from the “mathematical project.” The mathematical sciences became an important way of learning about the natural world, seriously challenging scholastic philosophy. It is ironical that centuries after the dethroning of theology, Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855), mathematician and scientist, sometimes known as “the prince of mathematics,” reinvented the concept and conferred the title “queen of sciences” (Königin der Wissenschaften) on mathematics, a title which the mathematical sciences still enjoy today.

150

Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences, p. 65.

Chapter III

“ALL COHERENCE GONE”—DONNE AND THE “NEW PHILOSOPHY”
And new Philosophy calls all in doubt, The Element of fire is quite put out; The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit Can well direct him where to look for it . . . John Donne, An Anatomie of the World: The First Anniversary, 1611 [T]he sovereignty of man lieth hide in knowledge, wherein many things are reserved which kings with their treasures cannot buy, nor with their forces command. Their spies and intelligencers can give no news of them, their seamen and discoverers cannot sail there they grow. Now we govern nature in opinions, but we are thrall to her in necessities. But if we would be led by her in invention, we should command her in action. Francis Bacon, “The Praise of Knowledge,” 1592 [T]hey [the pioneers of the new natural philosophy] gave affront to all antiquities, and induced doubts, and anxieties, and scruples, and after, a libertie of believing what they would; at length established opinions, directly contrary to all established before. John Donne, Ignatius His Conclave, 1611 Others [divines] fear from example that movements and changes in philosophy will invade religion and settle there. Others, finally, seem anxious that something might be found in the investigation of nature which would undermine or at least weaken religion. Francis Bacon, The New Organon, 1620

The rise of new natural philosophy has often been described in the history and historiography of the early modern period in terms of a progressive advance, and not many studies have dealt with the wide variety of negative reactions to the development of new scientific reasoning and the many deep-seated fears and anxieties it aroused, especially in religious circles. John Donne was among the first to expose the Janus face of the new science, the perils and risks that the 86

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

87

New Philosophy of nature posed for traditional religious modes of thought and belief: while deeply impressed by the discoveries of Kepler and Galileo, the metaphysical poet nonetheless lamented that the new astronomy and cosmology, the new Physica Coelestis, which rejected the view of a finite universe and an anthropocentric teleology, “gave affront to all antiquities, and induced doubts, and anxieties.” Referring to the Copernican heliocentric revolution, Donne wrote the “Moving of th’earth brings harmes and feares.” He thus provides an important clue to the disturbing effects of the New Philosophy upon the imagination, and more specifically upon the traditional definition and formation of religious identities in early modern history. Donne of course was not the only one to depict the impact of the New Philosophy of nature on traditional religious thought and belief, and certainly not alone in describing the new science’s Janus face, as can be seen in the long list of thinkers and theologians, including Pascal, who reacted to the mechanical philosophy of Descartes.The same negative reaction is also apparent in Swift, Berkeley,Leibniz, and Jonathan Edwards, as well as many others who criticized the predominant scientific culture of their time, or the Newtonian scientific system. In early modern era many looked with confusion, dismay, and bewilderment at scientific developments which profoundly shattered the authority and integrity of consecrated traditional thought, the whole traditional medieval imago mundi. A long history of fears and anxieties closely and constantly accompanied the development of the New Philosophy in early modern history, and it is crucial to any understanding of the period and its actors. Donne’s thought is a good example of the impact and of the fears and anxieties aroused by the New Philosophy of nature. Many of his writings offer a response to the shattering of traditional religious views. In contrast to traditional Christian thinking, which sought in the Scriptures an explanation for the truths of natural philosophy, thus establishing a connection between the book and the world, between text and knowledge (scientia), the evolving scientific visions of the heavens and of earth radically contradicted consecrated religious assumptions, such as the structure of the heavens, the geocentric system, and the place and role of God within the universe. In the end, the medieval cosmological picture of a grand theological teleology of sacred order and harmony inherent in the order and form of the universe was refuted and eventually rejected, to pave the way for the modern scientific explanation of the world of natural phenomena. Whereas during the Middle Ages theology was the “Queen of Sciences” (Regina

88

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Scientiarum) and science a “handmaiden to theology” (philosophia ancilla theologiae), in the early modern period this changed radically when philosophia naturalis and scientia naturalis became more and more the authoritative and legitimate sources of knowledge about the order of creation. An understanding of Donne’s reaction to the New Philosophy may be facilitated by a comparison between the metaphysical poet and Francis Bacon, the herald of experimental philosophy and the philosopher of experience. Not only did they live and work in the same time and in the same place, but they developed strongly opposing views regarding the new science of nature.1 Thus if Donne’s work exhibited many deepseated fears, doubts, and anxieties stemming from the New Philosophy, as for example in his Ignatius His Conclave (1611), or the First Anniversary (1611), Bacon welcomed the advancement of learning and knowledge in apocalyptic and eschatological terms in the New Organon (1620). Whereas for Donne scientific discoveries and inventions “gave affront to all antiquities” and led to “the frailty and decay of this whole world,” for Bacon “discoveries are like new creations, and imitations of divine works,” hence essential to the advancement of learning and the increase of knowledge. Donne’s thought resembled that of the medieval thinkers who saw themselves as orderers and preservers of knowledge, not its creators, while Bacon, like Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, distinguished between divine and natural knowledge, warned that “the mingling of things human and things Divine” was “pernicious,” and emphasized that the goal of the new natural philosophy is the finding of new knowledge rather than the retrieving of the old. Donne placed Copernicus and Columbus as well as other pioneers of the New Philosophy in Hell, while Bacon tended to compare himself to Columbus, who found new worlds of knowledge and learning, claiming he was doing the same in regard of the “Interpretation of Nature.” Thus, as Columbus was confident he would discover new lands and continents beyond the seas, so Bacon was certain that his work on natural
1 It is highly probable that Donne knew Bacon and his writings. Moreover, in a very interesting and illuminating essay Catherine G. Martin has argued that Donne wrote the First Anniversary as an “assault on” Bacon’s “The Advancement of Learning.” See Martin, “The Advancement of Learning and the Decay of the World: A New Reading in Donne’s First Anniversary,” John Donne Journal 19 (2000), pp. 163–92. For Donne’s life and mind, see most recently John Stubbs, Donne: The Reformed Soul (London: Penguin, 2007), and David Wootton, “John Donne’s Religion of Love,” in Heterodoxy in Early Modern Science and Religion, eds. John Brooke and Ian Maclear (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 31–58.

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

89

philosophy would unveil the “oracles” of nature. No wonder that while Donne in his poetic imagination continued to emphasize the medieval tradition of contemptus mundi, or “contempt of the world,” Bacon challenged this same tradition, claiming the world of experience and experiment as the source of knowledge. A comparison between Donne and Bacon shows that while for Donne the New Philosophy signaled “all coherence gone,” Bacon described the advancement of knowledge in apocalyptic and eschatological terms, believing it would lead to the restoration of Solomon’s Temple, hence spiritual edification, or moral and intellectual enlightenment. Indeed, Bacon described his plans for the reform of natural philosophy as a work of preparation for the Sabbath, and the Sabbath he had in mind was the ultimate, everlasting Sabbath after the Day of Judgment, which he believed would be ushered in after “the augmentation of the sciences.” Donne deals with apocalyptic collapse, imagining himself a “Trumpet” announcing the eschatological moment of the frailty and decay of the world; Bacon saw himself as the herald of the dawn of a new age of learning. The comparison between Donne and Bacon is associated also with the different roles each assigned to himself and his works. Donne assumed the character of an English Elijah, a prophet proclaiming or rather prophesying the decay, decline, and eventual ruin of the world caused by the New Philosophy. This gloomy vision stands in contrast to Bacon’s vision comparing himself to Columbus; what the Admiral of the Ocean Seas did to geography Bacon intended to do in the realm of natural philosophy.2 Thus, while Donne’s works exposed the Janus face of the new science, Bacon’s announced the advancement of knowledge and learning. Seen in the context of the dialectic between consecrated tradition and new invention, the comparison between Donne’s and Bacon’s attitudes toward the New Philosophy may shed light not only on the relationship between science and religion in the early modern period
2 The same essential difference in terms of eschatological visions and expectations— the destruction of the world vs. its renewal at the end of time—is apparent for example in the thought of Luther, whose eschatology is of judgment and destruction of the created order, and of Calvin, whose eschatology is of hope and renewal of the order of creation. See Avihu Zakai, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Enlightenment (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003), pp. 243–5, and idem, “The Poetics of History and the Destiny of Israel: The Role of the Jews in English Apocalyptic thought during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 5 (1996), pp. 313–50, especially pp. 315–18.

90

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

but also on the extent to which religious thinkers viewed with fear and trembling the rise of the new natural philosophy which indeed shattered traditional epistemological integrity.

1. The New SCIENTIA NATURALIS
The rise of the New Philosophy of nature in the early modern period profoundly influenced religious modes of thought; instead of looking for the truths of natural philosophy in the Scriptures, the pioneers of the New Philosophy developed a revolutionary mode of scientia— knowledge—and a new way of acquiring and organizing knowledge, along with a new awareness of method and procedure, ordo scientiarium, in gaining that knowledge. If at the start “of the sixteenth century, scholastic versions of Aristotelian natural philosophy dominated the approach to knowledge of nature,”3 during that century and the next this approach underwent a radical change. Among the main marks of the New Philosophy of nature (philosophia naturalis, scientia naturalis) were discovery and innovation in gaining knowledge instead of basing it on the conservation of the traditional, as well as on new categories of experience and experiment as against text-bound knowledge. “The categories of ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’ lay at the heart of the conception of natural knowledge that dominated European learning at both the beginning and the end of the Scientific Revolution.”4 Bacon wrote in the New Organon (1620) that Aristotle “did not properly consult experience” and “his modern followers (the scholastic philosophers)” had “wholly abandoned experience.”5 In contrast, as Voltaire argued, Bacon was “the father of experimental philosophy” and the “precursor of [modern] science.”6 Indeed, Bacon, the “herald of experimental philosophy” and “the philosopher of experience,”7
3 Peter Dear, “The Meaning of Experience,” in The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Period, eds. Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), p. 106. 4 Ibid., p. 106. 5 Francis Bacon, The New Organon, 1620, ed. Lisa Jardine et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), p. 52. 6 Voltaire, Letters on England, trans. Leonard Tancock (London: Penguin, 2005), pp. 59–60. 7 Michael Malherbe, “Bacon’s Method of Science,” in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, ed. Markku Peltonen (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 75, 83. See also Peter Pesic, “Wrestling with Proteus: Francis Bacon and the ‘Tortue’ of Nature,” Isis 90 (Mar. 1999), pp. 81–94.

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

91

argued that “philosophy and the sciences may no longer float in the air, but rest upon the solid foundations of every kind of experience properly considered.”8 Likewise, Descartes rejected “the logic of the Schools” because such “logic corrupts good sense rather than increasing it. I mean instead of the kind of logic which teaches us to direct our reason with a view of discovering the truths of which we are ignorant.”9 And comparing scholastic and Renaissance natural philosophy “to a badly constructed house, whose foundations are not firm,” Descartes claimed “I know of no better way to repair it than to knock it all down, and build a new one in its place.”10 This was also Bacon’s goal. Attempting to advance learning and revive science, Bacon denounced those who relied in their interpretation of nature (interpretation naturae) on tradition, or “ancient consensus and the judgment of time” because it is based on “a very deceptive and feeble method.”11 The “condition of the traditional and received kind of learning,” is “barren of results,” and instead of providing an answer to the mystery of nature is “full of questions.” Bacon argued:
First then, away with antiquities, and citations or testimonies of authors; also with disputes and controversies and differing opinions; everything in short which is philological . . . And for all that concern ornaments of speech, similitudes, treasury of eloquence, and such like emptiness, let it be utterly dismissed.12

Instead of these relics of scholastic and renaissance tradition, Bacon argued that the New Philosophy should “turn from words to things.”13 This is the reason, in part, that he rejected syllogism: “I . . . reject demonstration by syllogism, as acting too confusedly, and letting nature slip out of its hand.”14 Later on Descartes too argued in his Discourse on the Method (1637) that “syllogisms and most of its techniques are of less
Bacon, The Great Renewal, in Bacon, The New Organon, p. 5. Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, 1644, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham et al., 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985), I, p. 186. 10 Descartes, The Search after Truth by Means of the Natural Light, c. 1641, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, II, pp. 406, 411, 417. 11 Bacon, Of the Advancement of Learning, ed. Arthur Johnson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 122. 12 Bacon, Parasceve [the day of preparation, before the Sabbath], 1620, as quoted in James J. Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1995), p. 199. 13 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 199. 14 Bacon, Parasceve, as quoted in Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 225.
9 8

92

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

use for learning things than for explaining to others the things one already knows.”15 Against syllogistic reasoning, Bacon claimed that natural philosophers should commit “themselves to the waves of experience,” and stay “close to nature” instead of offering speculations.16 For what “the sciences need is a form of induction which takes experience apart and analyzes it.”17 Bacon thus urged “a new method of investigating nature,” claiming “the worthlessness and infertility of the axioms or first principles from which the sciences have hitherto been derived.”18 In other words, in the interpretation of nature experience should replace speculation, and experience and experiment should replace consecrated authority and tradition:
For truth is rightly called the daughter of time and not of authority. Therefore it is no wonder if the spell of antiquity, of authors and of consent has so shackled men’s courage that (as if bewitched) they have been unable to get close to things themselves.19

To “make a general renewal of the sciences and arts and of all human learning,”20 Bacon composed his New Organon against Aristotle’s Organon, “tool” or “instrument.” This work, according to Voltaire, was “the scaffolding by means of which modern scientific thought has been built.”21 In this work Bacon developed the premises of his experimental, empirical method, in contrast to scholastic natural philosophy’s speculations about first principles and final causes. “Bacon’s argumentative strategy was thoroughly radical. In challenging orthodox natural philosophy, he did not simply criticize the usual means for pursuing it. Instead, he advocated a reconceptualization of natural philosophy itself.”22 Method,
15 Descartes, Discourse on the Method, 1637, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I, p. 119. 16 Bacon, “Preface to the Great Renewal,” in Bacon, The New Organon, pp. 8–9. 17 Bacon, “Plan of the Great Renewal,” in Bacon, The New Organon, p. 17. 18 Anthony Quinton, Francis Bacon (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980), p. 55. On Bacon’s method, see Peter Dear, “Method and the Study of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. D. Garber and M. Ayers, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), I, pp. 147–77. 19 Bacon, The New Organon, p. 69. On the relationship between philosophy and religion in the early modern period, see Peter Harrison, “Philosophy and the crisis of religion,” in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, ed. James Hankins (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007), pp. 234–49. 20 Bacon, The Great Renewal, p. 2. 21 Voltaire, Letters on England, p. 58. 22 Peter Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500– 1700 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001), p. 58.

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

93

thus, as was the case later with Descartes, was essential to any possible knowledge about nature, or scientia naturalis: “We need a method if we are to investigate the truth of things,” wrote Descartes23 (italics in original). For Bacon and Descartes alike, then, the idea of method provided “an epistemological guarantee for knowledge independent of metaphysical underpinnings.”24 In other words, the “methodological turn” established the foundations of early modern science as metaphysically neutral. This was why Kant accorded to Bacon such a prominent place in the development of modern scientific thought. Bacon, wrote Kant, initiated “a revolution in the way of thinking” which led to “the secure course of science” by grounding it “on empirical principles” instead of theological and teleological ones as in scholastic thought (emphasis in original). The essence of this revolution was that
reason has insight only into what it itself produces according to its own design; that it must take the lead with principles of its judgments according to constant laws and compel nature to answer its questions, rather than letting nature guide its movements by keeping reason, as it were, in leading-strings . . . Reason, in order to be taught by nature, must approach nature with its principles.25

An epistemological revolution therefore lies at the foundations of the New Philosophy of nature. Instead of metaphysics, which searches after truths above and beyond the realm of nature, such as first principles, teleological considerations, or final causes, the new natural philosophy was indeed the science of the world because it was based on experience and experiment. Its emerging new horizon was thisworldly, not the otherworldly of the scholastic philosophy of nature. Against teleological and theological considerations in the realm of nature, “the new theory of nature insisted on explanations through efficient causes, which meant explaining all changes and process by the action of material things.”26 Thus the new science of nature replaced contemplation with actual physical scientific activity and transcendental with immanent causation. Instead of the search after final causes in classical and scholastic thought, Bacon’s “disparagement of
23

Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, c. 1628, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I, p. 15. 24 Frank Hunt, “Introduction,” in On Modern Origins: Essays in Early Modern Philosophy, eds. P. Kraus and F. Hunt (New York: Lexington Books, 2004), p. xi. 25 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. P. Guyer and A. W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), pp. 108–9. 26 R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of Nature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), p. 94.

94

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

final causes in scientific explanation involved the abandonment of teleology with all its religious implications of purpose and value in natural phenomena.”27 Bacon argued that “teleology, like a virgin consecrated to God, produces no offspring—tanquam virgo Deo consecrate, nihil parit.”28 The rejection of teleology thus set apart Bacon and other pioneers of modern scientific thought from Aristotle’s idea of the final cause as well as from theological and providential modes of reasoning. The New Philosophy of nature, according to Bacon, should move away from divine philosophy and embrace empirical observation. Like Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, Bacon distinguished divine from natural knowledge; he warned that “the mingling of things human and things Divine prompted by the alliance of Aristotelianism and theology” was “pernicious,”29 and emphasized the “finding of new knowledge rather than retrieving old knowledge.”30 In sum, Bacon stressed that “the value of natural philosophy” is manifest “in what it can achieve, not in any claim to truth as such.”31 This new scientific reasoning was based on Bacon’s belief that the world of nature was no longer imago Dei; “the world itself was not made in the image of God.”32 Or in Bacon’s own words:
For as all works show forth the power and skill of the workman, and not his image, so it is of the work of God, which show the omnipotency and wisdom, but do not portray the image of the Maker.33

Rejecting the concept of the world as imago Dei leads evidently to the denial of the emblematic view of nature. In clear contrast to medieval and Renaissance philosophy of nature, in the New Philosophy nature no longer exhibits “a variety of types, signatures, or symbols that find
Zagorin, Francis Bacon (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999), p. 128. Collingwood, The Idea of Nature, p. 93. 29 Paolo Rossi, Francis Bacon: From Magic to Science (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978), p. 96. 30 Quinton, Francis Bacon, p. 30. Likewise, Perez Zagorin writes that “in order to promote the progress of natural philosophy,” Bacon maintained “a strict separation between” natural philosophy and “religion so that neither impinged upon the other.” See Zagorin, Francis Bacon, p. 48. 31 Stephen Gaukroger, The Emergence of Scientific Culture: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1210–1685 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. press, 2006), p. 168. 32 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 242. 33 Bacon, Parasceve, as quoted in Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 242.
28 27

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

95

their unity in a spiritual—whether transcendent or immanent— semiotic system.”34 In the dialectic between tradition and innovation, the scientific culture of early modern period developed a new attitude toward the libri naturales, the Book of Nature, or the Book of the Creatures, Liber creaturarum. “From its medieval form as a bookish Aristotelian discipline institutionalized in the universities, natural philosophy became increasingly associated during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with new authorities, new practices, and new institutions” as became clear from the emergence of new expressions such as “experimental natural philosophy.”35 During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries “commentaries on the libri naturales were more faithful to the text and more intent in discerning, and usually defending, its original meaning.”36 But this changed greatly during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the attack “on the sterile nature of scholastic book-learning.”37 Nature was thus posited against authority. Indeed, in the hands of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes, to name only a few, the Book of Nature—the dimension of experience and experiment—gradually became the main source and locus for understanding the world and traditional text-bound knowledge no longer exclusively determined the understanding of the world of nature. Descartes, for example, argued that “since the sciences contained in the books—at least those based upon merely probable, not demonstrative, reasoning—is compounded and amassed little by little from the opinions of many different person, it never comes so close to the truth” as “simple reasoning.”38 He argued therefore that
A good man is not required to have read every book or diligently mastered everything thought in the Schools. It would be, indeed, a kind of defect in his education if he had spent too much time on book-learning.39

Instead of learning from books, natural philosophers said they went to school with experience, thus rejecting textual authority and
Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 243. Ann Blair, “Natural Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Period, p. 365. 36 William A. Wallace, “Traditional Natural Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, eds. C. B. Schmitt et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007 [1988]), p. 203. 37 Gaukroger, The Emergence of Scientific Culture, p. 164. 38 Descartes, Discourse on the Method, p. 117. 39 Descartes, The Search after Truth by Means of the Natural Light, p. 400.
35 34

96

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

adopting discovery and invention. “Nature became a more abundant and almost infinite collections of phenomena waiting to be interpreted,” thus “offering a collection of discoveries yet to be made.”40 A new mode of scientific reasoning developed based on a new episteme— demonstrable knowledge in contrast to opinio, or opinion—as well as on a new methodus and new codification of knowledge, thus leading to new modes of scientific explanation. Instead of cherishing sanctioned, consecrated knowledge acquired and organized according to tradition based on revelation and the higher truths of religion, and against the traditional theological codification of knowledge, scientia as a mode of acquiring and organizing knowledge revealed an episteme based on discovery and innovation, or “demonstrable knowledge.”41 Bacon thus described his ideal of science: “The true and legitimate goal of the sciences is to endow human life with new discoveries and resources.”42 “[W]e have made,” he wrote, “the senses (from which, if we prefer not to be insane we must derive everything in natural things) sacred high priests of nature and skilled interpreters of its oracles.”43 Thus the libri naturales became a legitimate and authoritative source for scientia naturalis and not only the mind of God (mens Dei) as revealed in his Word. This profound transformation is clearly revealed later in the establishment of the “Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge,” 1660. Its motto of 1663 was Nullius in Verba—“On the words of no one,” or “Don’t take anyone’s word for it”—means the establishment the truth of scientific matters through experience and experiment rather than citation of authority. This motto reflected the determination of the Fellows to withstand the domination of authority such as Scholasticism and their goal to base all knowledge of natural phenomena on appeal to facts determined by experiment.44 The elevation of the libri naturales into a legitimate and authoritative source for scientia naturalis was a decisive epistemological and
40 Alfonso Ingegno, “The New Philosophy of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, p. 246. See also, Brian P. Copenhaver and Charles B. Schmitt, Renaissance Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), especially Ch. V: “Nature against Authority,” pp. 285–328. 41 Bacon, The New Organon, p. 30; Descartes, Discourse on the Method, p. 117. 42 Bacon, The New Organon, p. 66. 43 Bacon, “Plan of the Great Renewal,” p. 18. 44 This motto is taken from Horace:

Ac ne forte roges, quo me duce, quo lare tuter Nulluis addictus iurare in verba magistri. (Horace, Epistles, 1:1:13–14)

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

97

methodological shift. Where scholastic natural philosophy was based on revelation, sacred text and book, the new philosophy of nature more and more stressed nature as the source of our knowledge, giving rise to “the concept of independent study of nature, free as far as possible from metaphysical presuppositions.” Nature now “appeared as an intelligent activity directed, within the given material conditions, to achieving its own ends and therefore was transparent to man.”45 A new experimental scientia developed during the early modern period, exploring the world in the laboratory of nature and not solely in the mind of God. As a result, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the New Philosophy “was beginning to dissolve the imago mundi which had enclosed theology and philosophy for so long.” The outcome of this dissolution of the medieval world picture “was a religious crisis of unprecedented gravity.” In the history of science during the seventeenth century, from “Campanella to Bacon, from Descartes to Leibniz, the same themes lie at the heart of a continuous dialectic between tradition and innovation, at the heart of both a grandiose utopian project for social renewal and of thoughtful reminders of the concrete reality of the critical exercise of knowledge.”46 Closely related to this crucial epistemological transformation was an intellectual shift—the decline of the concept of theology as the queen of sciences. Theology was gradually losing its traditional title of scientia scientiarum, the “science of sciences.” And as theology was no longer accorded the epithet “Queen of Sciences” (Regina Scientiarum), so natural philosophy ceased to be regarded as “handmaiden to theology” (philosophia ancilla theologiae). For theologians and religious thinkers, such intellectual shift raised many questions: Who could speak for nature, who had the authority to unveil its secrets, and, eventually, who had the legitimacy to interpret it? In the past scientia naturalis had been based on theology, on religious truths and belief, and people looked there for answers. But with the advance of an experimental philosophy it seemed rather that antiquity and authority were hindrances to the progress of the new natural philosophy. The Schoolmen favored “the
You shall not ask for whom I fight Nor in what school my peace I find; I say no master has the right To swear me to obedience blind. (trans. C. T. Carr) 45 Ingegno, “The New Philosophy of Nature,” p. 245. 46 Cesare Vasoli, “The Renaissance Concept of Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, p. 73.

98

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

acceptance of consecrated traditional theories and precluding invention and discovery.”47 Or, in Bacon’s words, “men have been hindered from making progress in the sciences by the spell (I may say) of reverence for antiquity, and by the authority of men who have a great reputation in philosophy and by the consensus which derives from them.”48 In the New Philosophy the answer to the question, who had the authority and legitimacy to interpret the natural world was placed more and more in the hands of natural philosophers. Bacon depicted this transformation in regard of the vocation of natural philosophers and their need to move from the book to nature, from the text to the world:
The whole secret is never to let the mind’s eyes stray from the things themselves, and to take in images exactly as they are. May God never allow us to publish a dream of our imagination as a model of the world, but rather graciously grant us the power to describe the true appearance and revelation of the prints and traces of the Creator in his creatures.49

This epistemological and intellectual shift transformed the human existential condition, leading to human being’s sovereignty, which in turn bring to the enslavement of the world of nature. Bacon defined human sovereignty in terms of knowledge. As he wrote in “The Praise of Knowledge,” 1592:
Therefore, no doubt the sovereignty of man lieth hide in knowledge, wherein many things are reserved which kings with their treasures cannot buy, nor with their forces command. Their spies and intelligencers can give no news of them, their seamen and discoverers cannot sail where they grow. Now we govern nature in opinions, but we are thrall to her in necessities. But if we would be led by her in invention, we should command her in action.50

Knowledge is thus the source of human sovereignty. And seeing that knowledge brings to the mastery of nature, it leads as well to the disenchantment of the world.51 It is not surprising that in view of these profound epistemological and intellectual transformations, many theologians and religious
Paolo Rossi, “Bacon’s Idea of Science,” in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, p. 28. Bacon, The New Organon, p. 68. 49 Bacon, “Plan of the Great Renewal,” p. 24. 50 Bacon, “The Praise of Knowledge,” in Francis Bacon: The Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), p. 36. 51 For Bacon’s view of knowledge and the power of human sovereignty, see Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2002).
48 47

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

99

thinkers constantly and persistently expressed the growing tension and troubling relationship between the new science and religion in the early modern period. The potential implications of the new scientific thought on such issues as the nature of the world and human beings’ place in nature, God’s relationship with the created order, the status of religious and theological considerations in regard of the operation of natural phenomena, continuously and profoundly alarmed theologians and religious thinkers. They felt confused “in the face of infinity [in contrast to a finite universe], of shaking systems of traditional cosmological knowledge, and of the decentering of the earth was widely expressed.”52 The development of the new natural philosophy, therefore, with its revolutionary episteme, caused many fears and anxieties in religious circles. No one better described the dialectic between tradition and innovation, or between the new scientific discoveries and innovations and consecrated traditional religious thought and belief, than Donne, who wrote:
And new Philosophy calls all in doubt, The Element of fire is quite put out; The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit Can well direct him where to look for it . . .53

In this phrase Donne alluded to “the Copernican upheavals in astronomy and cosmology and to the Renaissance revivals of ancient atomism.”54 Donne was right of course. Scholastic natural philosophy being based, as Bacon says, on “mixtures of theology and philosophy” finds “room only for what is currently acceptable in philosophy; new things, though a change for the better, are all but dismissed and excluded.”55 Kepler, Galileo, and Bacon appealed to concrete experience, searching through observation and measurement for the real facts of the physical world. Kepler, for example, was “first and foremost, an astronomer who based his astronomical models on observation; indeed the best observations obtainable.”56 As Galileo wrote in his Dialogue
52 Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 28. 53 John Donne, An Anatomie of the World: The First Anniversary, in The Poems of John Donne, ed. Herbert J. C. Grierson, 2 Vols. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1951), I, p. 237. All references to Donne’s works, unless otherwise stated, are to this edition. 54 Roger Ariew and Alan Gabby, “The Scholastic Background,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, p. 429. 55 Bacon, The New Organon, p. 74. 56 Daniel Garber, “Physics and Foundations,” in The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Period, p. 42.

100

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic & Copernican, 1632: “Now we, thanks to the telescope, have brought the heavens thirty or forty times closer to us than they were to Aristotle, so that we can discern many things in them that he could not see; among other things these sunspots, which were absolutely invisible to him.”57 And Bacon declared that the “true order of experience . . . first lights the lamp” of interpreting nature, “then shows the way by its light, beginning with experience digested and ordered” and “from that to infer axioms, and then new experiments on the basis of the axioms so formed.”58 All this changed dramatically the role of the natural philosopher in early modern history. While in the past, the
author, commentator, natural philosopher of the Middle Ages and Renaissance had engaged in a hermeneutics in which all knowledge of nature was, in large measure, a reading and reappropriation of God’s text. Origins were all important; originality was not.59

But now, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, discovery, originality, and innovation became the staple of the new science of nature. The traditional authority of books, of a text-bound knowledge of the natural world, became thus more and more problematic in face of the rise of the knowledge generated by experience and experiment. In “natural science,” said Galileo, “knowledge of the effects is what leads to an investigation and discovery of the causes. Without this, ours would be a blind journey” in the exploration of the realm of nature and of the universe as a whole.60 More specifically, Galileo denounced those who think that “the truth is to be sought, not in the universe, not in nature, but (I use their words) by comparing texts.”61 The new science of nature signified a new episteme not based solely on philology, or the humanistic study of language and literature, but on “scientific truths” based on experience and experiment. Galileo, drawing a distinction between the world and the text, nature and the book, inaugurated an intellectual transformation—“the discrediting of
Galileo Galilei, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic and Copernican, 1632, p. 56. 58 Bacon, The New Organon, p. 67. 59 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 245. 60 Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, p. 417. 61 Galileo as quoted in Denis Albanese, New Science, New World (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1996), p. 152.
57

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

101

print-bound knowledge as it appears in emergent scientific ideology.”62 And Bacon followed through: he “rewrote the script of science” by introducing “new characters—institutions, ‘fact,’ ‘method,’ and experiment—into the story of science.”63 He believed indeed that God leaves his traces in nature, but unlike medieval and renaissance philosophy of nature, they are not mysterious signs, signatures, and symbols. “God’s marks and traces are his creatures and works.” In other words, God’s works “are imprinted by things; His Book of Nature written not in symbols, but in things themselves.”64 He therefore, like Descartes later, viewed nature not as a symbolic divine text. Both Baconian science and Cartesian science read “the Book of Nature as a coherent, orderly text produced by an omnipotent author, who, nonetheless, remains distinct from, and unmirrored by, nature, His creation.”65 The frame of reference of the New Philosophy being the book of nature and experience—or “the great book of the world” as Descartes defined it;66 its purpose was the search for physical laws, not final causes. Bacon refused “finalism” and gave force “to the mechanical philosophy.”67 Instead of explaining why the world of nature operates in this or another way, early modern scientific thought attempted to explain how, in Galileo’s words, it works “through experiments, long observation, and rigorous demonstration.”68 Later, with the Newtonian vision of a cosmos governed by mathematically defined laws of nature, mechanical causation replaced the divine, theological one. All these changes and transformations profoundly affected religious modes of belief. With the rise of the new astronomical science, theology became distinct from astronomy.69 The “destruction of the cosmos, the loss, by the earth, of its central and thus unique (though by no means privileged) situation, led inevitably to the loss, by man, of his unique and privileged position in the theo-cosmic drama of the creation, of which man was, until then, both the central figure and

Albanese, New Science, New World, p. 153. Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 208. 64 Ibid., pp. 233–4. 65 Ibid., p. 248. 66 Descartes, Discourse on the Method, p. 115. 67 Rossi, “Bacon’s Idea of Science,” p. 26. On Bacon’s rejection of final causes, see also Zagorin, Francis Bacon, pp. 64, 128. 68 Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, 1615, p. 197. 69 Howell, God’s Two Books: Copernican Cosmology and Biblical interpretation in Early Modern Science (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2002), p. 135.
63

62

102

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

the stake.”70 And no one has spoken better about the fears, doubts, and anxieties that accompanied by the rise of the New Philosophy than Donne. His are the fears about the dissolution of the received sense of the cosmos as a coherent, unified, and continuous order which Christians accepted for many centuries; his are the doubts aroused by the destruction of the hierarchical and harmonious order—the ontological horizon of Christendom—which provided the locus for the formation of religious identities. Donne reflects the disturbing effects of the new philosophy of nature which dissolved the imago mundi—the traditional medieval world picture that had enclosed theology and philosophy.

2. The New Science of Nature: Fears, Doubts, and Anxieties
The new astronomical and physical philosophy had a great impact in England during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries:
The poetic and religious imagination of the [seventeenth] century was not only influenced, but actually changed, by something latent in the “new astronomy.” New figures of speech appear, new themes of literature are found, new attitudes toward life are experienced, even a new conception of Deity emerged. These have little to do with the problem of the relative position of the earth and sun; they are not even, for the most part, the consequence of man’s knowledge that his earth is not a special creation of God’s, the center of the universe. The century was aware less of the position of the world than of the immensity of the universe, and the possibility of a plurality of worlds. It is this which troubles and enthralls; the solid earth shrinks to minute proportions as man surveys the new cosmos; it is a tiny ball, moving in indefinite space, and beyond it are other worlds with other suns, all parts of a cosmic scheme defeating imagination.71

Alexandere Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968), p. 43. 71 Marjorie Nicolson, Science and Imagination (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1956), pp. 2–3. For the wide range of speculations about the plurality of the worlds in general, and the likelihood that the moon in particular was inhabited, during the early seventeenth century, see David Cressy, “Early Modern Space Travel and the English Man on the Moon,” AHR 111 (October 2006), pp. 961–82; William Empson, “Donne the Space Man,” in William Empson: Essays on Renaissance Literature, ed. John Haffenden (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 78–128; “Godwin’s Voyage to the Moon,” in ibid., pp. 220–54, and “Thomas Digges his Infinite Universe,” in ibid., pp. 216–19.

70

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

103

Like the Renaissance of the preceding centuries, where the classical world was rediscovered; like the discovery of the new world of America, which revealed a fourth continent on earth and civilizations unknown to the people of Europe; or like the new set of beliefs of the Protestant Reformation, the “new astronomy” of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Bruno, Tycho Brahe, and others, radically transformed understanding of the universe. And as new geographical discoveries transformed the European world, contemporaries tended to compare Galileo’s and Columbus’ discoveries, making the Italian astronomer “equal to Columbus.” Yet, while “Columbus gave man lands to be conquered by bloodshed, Galileo gave man new worlds harmful to none.”72 The Italian philosopher, theologian, astrologer, and poet, Tommaso Campanella (1568–1639) hailed Galileo’s astronomical discoveries, declaring that as “Amerigo [Vespucci] gave his name to a new continent, so Galileo has given his to a new universe.”73 Scientific innovations became closely connected with geographical expansion, and taken together, all these discoveries in heaven and earth alike immensely broadened the European mind.74 These scientific and intellectual transformations led to various contrasting attitudes toward the notions of “discovery” and “innovation” and their contribution to the advancement of knowledge. A comparison between the attitudes of Donne and Bacon may articulate the problematic relationship between the New Philosophy and religion in the early modern period, illuminating the dialectic between tradition and innovation in Renaissance England. While Donne lamented that “new Philosophy calls all in doubt,”75 for Bacon the development of natural philosophy rather meant, as he said in his Instauratio Magna (The Great Instauration, 1620), the restoration of Solomon’s Temple and thus moral and intellectual enlightenment. This great “instauration” is made apparent in the famous engraved title page of Bacon’s book depicting the “ship of learning” returning from the open seas through the Strait of Gibraltar. For centuries these Pillars of Hercules marked the impassable boundaries of geographical knowledge. But now, with Columbus, the ship of discoveries returns laded with many
Nicolson, Science and Imagination, pp. 18–19. See also idem, The Breaking of the Circle: Studies in the Effect of the ‘New Science’ on Seventeenth-Century Poetry (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1960). 73 Tommaso Campanella as cited by Nicolson, Science and Imagination, p. 25. 74 For an important study on the close relationship between geographical and scientific discoveries in the early modern period, see Albanese, New Science, New World. 75 Donne, An Anatomie of the World, in Grierson, I, 237.
72

104

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

ideas. Under the engraving is a quotation from Daniel 12.4: “Many shall pass to and fro, and science [knowledge] shall be increased” (Multi pertransibunt & augebitur scientia).76 Innovation, discovery, and progress were in Bacon’s mind essential to the advancement of learning. To him “discoveries are like new creations, and imitations of divine works.”77 For Donne, on the other hand, they rather brought about the shattering of religious truths, thus causing people to doubt the world around them, and arousing many deep fears and anxieties. Or, as he put it in the First Anniversary (1611), because of the New Philosophy, “The art is lost, and correspondence too.”78 These conflicting views about the role of the New Philosophy led to contrasting attitudes toward nature. “Bacon’s belief in the progressive knowledge of the natural world as means to restore Adamic clarity, and implicitly to affect the redemption of nature, would strike Donne as an attempt to seize God’s prerogative.”79 Bacon in effect described his plans for the reform of natural philosophy in apocalyptic and eschatological terms as a work of preparation for the Sabbath. “The Sabbath he had in mind was the ultimate, everlasting Sabbath after the Day of Judgment, which he believed would be ushered in, according to biblical prophecy, after the augmentation of the sciences.”80 Closely related to the issue of the New Philosophy, discovery, and innovation, versus traditional knowledge and its preservation, is the notion of the meaning and nature of history. The growth of scientific knowledge is inextricable from the new importance assigned to secular, historical time which characterizes the early modern period. The development of natural philosophy with its new episteme emphasizing experience is evidence of the growing importance attached to historical in contrast to sacred time. In the traditional Christian interpretation of history, the whole space of time is pervaded by sacred, divine meaning; it is not uniform and empty, but rather endowed with sacred significance and prophetic revelation. This is especially true in regard to the future as a special dimension of time in which the drama
Bacon used this quotation from Daniel also in the text of the New Organon, p. 78. Bacon, The New Organon, p. 99. 78 Donne, First Anniversary, p. 243. 79 Desiree E. Hellegers, “The Politics of Redemption: Science, Conscience, and the Crisis of Authority in John Donne’s ‘Anniversaries,’” The New Orleans Review 18 (1991), p. 15, as cited in Martin, “The Advancement of Learning and the Decay of the World: A New Reading in Donne’s First Anniversary,” John Donne Journal 19 (2000), p. 198. 80 John Henry, The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (Palgrave: New York, 2002), p. 86.
77 76

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

105

of human salvation and redemption will be realized. “Until well into the sixteenth century, the history of Christianity is a history of expectations, or more exactly, the constant anticipation of the End of the World on the one hand and the continual deferring of the End on the other.” But this sense of time underwent a major change. Between 1500 and 1800, the period “in which modernity is formed, historical time gained new quality” signified by the “temporalization of history,” a quality which “characterizes modernity.”81 One mark of modernity is the increasing distance between the “space of experience” and the “horizon of expectations.”82 Visions focused on what lay beyond and above history gradually faded, and a new consciousness of time arose regarding the historical process itself. At this period, instead of Christian vertical expectations placing the end of time beyond the confines of history, “there has been an inversion in the horizon of expectations” for the fulfillment of human destiny within history.83 Where Christian ideology emphasized redemption from, and hence beyond, history, modern “temporalization of history” signified redemption of or in history, stressing human ability to bring about the perfecting of human nature, as well as of social and political institutions, within history itself. The structure of temporality was thus greatly modified and gained crucial importance in the historical consciousness and imagination. History was thus increasingly liberated from the portrayal of “human history as the realization of a divine plan” and became a dimension of time for achieving freedom and happiness.84 The transformation regarding the meaning and nature of time, along with the growing importance attached to secular, historical time, is also apparent in Donne and Bacon. They differed radically on the issue of the power and influence of discoveries, innovations, and the growth of knowledge. For Donne, Copernicus’ heliocentric
Reinhart Koselleck, “Modernity and the Plans of Historicity,” in Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), pp. 5–7. For the debate concerning modernity, see Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983 [1966]), Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993 [1985]), and Stephen Toumlin, Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1992). 82 Koselleck, “‘Space of Experience’ and ‘Horizon of Expectations’: Two Historical Categories,” in Futures Past, pp. 267–88. 83 Koselleck, “Modernity and the Plans of Historicity,” p. 7. 84 Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (New York: Norton, 1977 [1969]), p. 373.
81

106

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

revolution signaled distress: “Moving of th’earth brings harmes and feares.”85 The findings of the new natural philosophy meant that “new Philosophy calls all in doubt,” leading to the decline of authority and integrity when “all cohaerence gone.”86 In his Ignatius His Conclave, (1611),87 Donne placed Columbus in Hell among other “innovators,” or “Antichristian Heroes” (19), such as Copernicus, Machiavelli, and many other pioneers of modern thought, who shattered traditional Christian modes of belief. Their innovations and discoveries “gave an affront to all antiquitie, and induced doubts, and anxieties” by establishing new opinions “directly contrary to all established before” (9). In Donne’s geography of Hell, they belong to Lucifer’s space because their discoveries and innovations are the mark of the Devil’s work. For example, because “Christopher Columbus” found “all waies in the earth & sea open to him, [he] did not feare any difficulty in Hell” (69). When Donne placed innovation and discovery within “Satan’s inner sanctum,” the nature of change itself “becomes sin.”88 Donne equates geography with Hell, placing there discoveries and innovations. Bacon on the other equates geography with Utopia as in the New Atlantis (1626) and in his other writings. He acclaims the advancement of learning based on discoveries and innovations. Whereas Donne sent Columbus to Hell, for Bacon “Columbus’s discovery of America was rather the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, inaugurating a new age of learning—a typically confident Renaissance assessment of its own newness.”89 He “compared his undertaking to that of Columbus, and his philosophy to an adventurous voyage on the ocean.”90 Believing discovery and innovation to be the way of the advancement of learning, Bacon identified himself with Columbus, maintaining that what he was attempting to do in The New Organon (1620) in terms of the renewal of learning and the interpretation of nature should be compared with Columbus’ prophetic voyage to the new world: “And therefore we should reveal and publish our conjectures, which make it
Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding mourning,” in Grierson, I, p. 48. Donne, First Anniversary, p. 237. 87 John Donne, Ignatius His Conclave, ed. T. S. Healy, S. J. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969). All references to Donne’s Ignatius His Conclave are to this edition. 88 Albanese, New Science, New World, p. 42. 89 Brian Vickers, “Bacon and the Progress of Knowledge,” Journal of the History of Ideas 53 (Jul.–Sept. 1992), p. 496. See also, Charles Whitney, “Francis Bacon’s Instauratio: Dominion of and over Humanity,” Journal of the History of Ideas 50 (Jul.–Sept. 1989), pp. 371–90. 90 Rossi, “Bacon’s Idea of Science,” p. 26.
86 85

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

107

reasonable to have hope: just as Columbus did, before his wonderful voyage across the Atlantic Sea, when he gave reason why he was confident that new lands and continents, beyond those previously known, could be found.”91 Further, The New Organon, “which explains the actual art of interpreting nature and the true operation of the intellect,” would open the way to new worlds of learning and knowledge.92 In order to understand “the fabric of the universe, its structure” one “must always travel through the forests of experience” and not through consecrated tradition.93 In contrast therefore to Donne’s attempt at the ordering and preservation of traditional truths, Bacon propagated the view of the progress of knowledge, as in The Advancement of Learning (1605). History is a space of time in which human beings may bring about progress and thus fulfill their earthly aspirations and expectations. In this context, it is not surprising that one of the main tenets of “Bacon’s defense of learning was his strict separation of science and religion.”94

3. Donne and the “New Philosophy”
Donne’s thought is among the very early instances of the impact of the new natural philosophy on traditional religious thought and belief, and the fears and anxieties which accompanied the new scientific ideology:
And new Philosophy calls all in doubt, The Element of fire is quite put out; The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit Can well direct him where to look for it . . . ‘Tis all in pieces, all cohaerence gone; All just supply, and all Relation. (First Anniversary, 205–14)

Donne was no stranger to contemporary scientific thought, especially in the field of astronomy, keeping abreast, for example, of the works of Kepler and Galileo. He was “exceptionally learned and kept himself up to the hour if not of the minute in intellectual matters,” reading those who advanced the new philosophy and astronomy, among them Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Copernicus ,and Galileo.95 Indeed, “no other
Bacon, The New Organon, p. 77. Ibid., p. 25. 93 Bacon, “Preface to The Great Renewal,” p. 10. 94 Markku Peltonen, “Introduction,” in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, p. 19. 95 Denis Donoghue, “Introduction,” in The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne, ed. Charles M. Coffin (New York: Modern Library, 2001), pp. xxvii–xxviii.
92 91

108

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

poet of the seventeenth century” showed “the same sensitiveness to the consequences of the new discoveries of travelers, astronomers, physiologists and physicians as Donne.”96 One can find in his works the names of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, William Gilbert, and Galileo, to note only a few. “That Donne laid hold upon the matter of the new philosophy his work amply testified. Not only is there the evidence of his own statement that he read some of the most important books on the new thinkers, but also there is the richer and more valuable witness of the influence of their doctrines upon his own way of thinking.”97 Donne was not only fully aware of the scientific culture of his time; his works show the religious theological reaction to it, especially the many fears and anxieties it aroused in contemporaries. With regard to familiarity with scientific thought, Donne was an exception among contemporary English writers. While Shakespeare’s “poetic imagination showed no response either to new stars or to other spectacular changes in the cosmic universe,” Donne “was the first English poet whose imagination was stirred by the new discoveries.”98 He was influenced in particular by the new science of astronomy. As a result of the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, he wrote: “heaven lookes on us with new eyes.”99 More specifically:
As new Philosophy arrests the Sunne And bids the passive earth about it runne, So we have dull’d our mind.100

In his poem “A Valediction: Forbidding mourning” he wrote about the movement of the earth, thus apparently accepting the Copernican Revolution in astronomy, yet at the same time expressing the deepseated fears it aroused:
Moving of th’earth brings harmes and feares, Men reckon what it did and meant, But trepidation of the spheares, Though greater farre, is innocent.101

Grierson, The Poems of John Donne, II, p. 189. Charles M. Coffin, John Donne and the New Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1958), p. 81. 98 Nicolson, Science and Imagination, p. 42. 99 Ibid., p. 48. 100 Ibid., p. 48. 101 Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding mourning,” in Grierson, I, p. 50.
97

96

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

109

The passage shows New Philosophy’s double face; expressing more specifically the bewilderment, confusion and fear, aroused in the poet by astronomical discovery, as well as the anxiety caused by the heliocentric system. Donne indeed experienced a unique crisis: the “collapse of cosmology and epistemology simultaneously.”102 The same sense of alarm and dread appears in other works. In a sermon preached in 1626, Donne spoke of the traditional reading of the world of nature, saying that “we looke upon Nature” with “Aristotles Spectacles, and upon the body of man” with “Galens, and about the frame of the world” with “Ptolomies Spectacles.”103 His understanding of the world of nature was thus based on the Aristotelian interpretation; that of the human body on Galen, and on Ptolemy in astronomy. But in the same sermon he showed how the new scientific philosophy was shattering these views:
I need not call in new Philosophy, that denies settlednesse, acquiescence in the very body of the Earth, but makes the Earth to move in that place, where we thought the Sunne had moved; I need not that helpe, that the Earth it selfe is in Motion, to prove this, That nothing upon Earth is permanent; The Assertion will stand of it selfe, till some man assign me some instance, something that a man may relie upon, and find permanent.104

The new Philosophy, then, not only the new astronomy, contradicted traditional concept of the earth as the center of the universe, and with it the teleological theology of order inherent in the structure of the world where the whole universe reveals the fabric of redemption. Donne not only lamented the loss of the earth as the center of the world, but seized upon Copernican thought to proclaim that the very motion of the earth might help to emphasize “That nothing upon Earth is permanent.” Not only did the new astronomy lead to changes in heaven, and to mutability in the whole universe, thus increasing human insecurity, fears, and doubts, but all these transformations were sure and unmistakable signs of the world’s decay. In face of all this, Donne turned to eternity as a source of stability and permanence: Donne’s reaction to new stars and multiple worlds is “significant for

102 Toumlin, Cosmopolis, p. 83. For Donne’s religion, see Alison Shell and Arnold Hunt, “Donne’s religious world,” in The Cambridge Companion to John Donne, ed. Achsah Guibbory (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), pp. 65–82. 103 Donne, Sermon “Preached at the Funeral of Sir William Cokayne . . . Dec. 12TH, 1626,” in The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne, p. 524. 104 Ibid., p. 526.

110

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

the surprisingly commonplace context into which this new knowledge is put—that such changes in the Heavens are signs of the universe’s mutability, that the only permanence men are offered is in an eternity beyond the vicissitudes of time, and that the world’s evident decay and man’s consequently urgent need to repent are directed by God’s providence.”105 The new science of nature, instead of signaling progress and advance as Bacon envisaged in his utopian thought, rather reveals for Donne the overarching teleological and theological framework of time and history. His belief in the world’s decay exposes his eschatological cosmology. Divine and not physical causality permeated the fabric of the universe. The prevalence of all these fears, doubts, and anxieties is fully apparent in two major works in which Donne further developed his reaction to the New Philosophy, Ignatius His Conclave (1611), and the First Anniversary (1611). These works, and others in Donne’s corpus, are among the first examples of the reaction to the new modes of scientific thought and imagination in the early modern period. They thus offer an important clue to the disturbing effects of the New Philosophy of nature as well as to definition and formation of religious identities during the early modern period.

a) “Doubts and Anxieties”: Ignatius His Conclave Donne’s knowledge of current scientific thought as well as his reaction to it are evident in the satirical work Ignatius His Conclave, a bitter diatribe against St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Societas Jesu) which was established on September 27, 1540.106 With the Devotions, this was the most popular of Donne’s works during his life time. For our concern here, in Ignatius His Conclave, Donne displays his knowledge of the new astronomy.107 He reveals not only his knowledge of the new Philosophy, but exposes the many fears and doubts it caused. Here Donne employs the astronomers’ “discoveries and the frequent disillusionment they occasioned among his contemporaries to demonstrate the futility of searching for truth when human
105 G. F. Waller, “John Donne’s Changing Attitudes to Time,” in Studies in English literature, 14–1: The English Renaissance (Winter, 1974), p. 84. 106 For Donne’s satires, see Annabel Patterson, “Satirical Writings: Donne in Shadows,” in The Cambridge Companion to John Donne, pp. 117–32. 107 Coffin, John Donne and the New Philosophy, p. 83.

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

111

reason is unaccompanied by faith.”108 Since scientific innovation stood in opposition to theological certainties in Donne’s mind, he drew up a long list of villains and villainies based on sinful innovations and discoveries, among them the pioneers of the New Philosophy. Historically speaking, one of the reasons for the composition of Donne’s satire and his attack on the Jesuits was the shock caused by the assassination of Henry IV of France on May 14, 1610 by François Ravaillac. “Numerous pamphlets were published both in France and England attacking the Jesuits as the authors of the doctrine that violence may be used against kings who resisted the temporal sovereignty of the papacy.”109 In this work, Donne continued his quarrel with the Roman Catholic Church, his purpose being primarily to ridicule the Jesuits. The character of the composition is that of a Menippean satire (named after the third century cynic and satirist Mennippus of Gadara), rhapsodic in nature, combining many different targets of ridicule into a fragmented satiric narrative. The work is an antiCatholic polemic, and with another polemic work, Pseudo-Martyr (1610), it testified to Donne’s repudiation of Catholicism. Ignatius His Conclave is not only a satire on Loyola and the Jesuits. It also displays Donne’s awareness of the new scientific learning and his reaction to it. More specifically, it is not “for its attack on the Jesuits that the book” interested “readers, but for its references to the ‘new astronomy’ and the discoveries of Galileo and Kepler.”110 The work shows how exact and up to date Donne was with the new philosophy, citing for example from Kepler’s De Stella in Cygno (1606), and referring to Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius, published only a year before Donne’s satire appeared. The title of the work conveys its content: “Ignatius His Conclave: or, His Inthronisation in a late Election in Hell.”111 It represents Ignatius Loyola as a claimant to the highest place in the infernal hierarchy against all other “Antichristian Heroes” (19) and other pretenders to
108 R. Chris Hassel Jr. “Donne’s Ignatius His Conclave and the New Astronomy,” Modern Philology 68 (May 1971), p. 329. 109 Evelyn M. Simpson, A Study of the Prose Works of John Donne (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948), p. 192. 110 Ibid., 192. 111 The full title runs as follow: “Ignatius his Conclave: or, His Inthronisation in a late Election in Hell: Wherin many things are mingled by way of Satyr. Concerning The Disposition of Jesuites. The Creation of a new Hell, The establishing of a Church in the Moone. There is also added an Apology for Jesuites. All dedicated to the two adversary Angels, which are protectors of the Papall Consistory, and of the Colledge of Sorbon.”

112

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

such a place, like Copernicus, Paracelsus, and Machiavelli. Essentially, the work is a travel account, a cosmic journey in Heaven and in Hell. As in other travel accounts of the period, Donne was “hungrily carried to find new places, never discovered before” such as the inner “roomes in Hell” (9, 7). This pursuit of new geographical discoveries led Donne to explore further and further the “inwards places” in Hell, until he “saw a secret place” (9) in which all the important innovators of the world were gathered around Lucifer. Ignatius His Conclave is a cosmic voyage, a journey which ends with an ethnography and geography of Hell and a presentation of its principal occupants—Lucifer and St. Ignatius Loyola. According to the plot, the author is transported in an ecstasy to another world. There he encounters several important innovators and discoverers, mostly of the sixteenth century, who because of producing “new matter,” (11) or new theories—among them most notably Copernicus, Paracelsus, Machiavelli, and Columbus—are seeking admission to Lucifer’s domain in Hell. All these innovators and discoverers are competing before Lucifer. On the stage, next to him, is Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, hence a spiritual innovator, who troubles and subverts the world. Hell is thus identified with radical, new threatening innovations and discoveries; to Hell “only they had title, which had so attempted any innovation in this life” and thus “gave an affront to all antiquitie” by propagating new opinions “directly contrary to all established before” (9). The “figures that Donne selects to people his Hell” are all “men of the sixteenth century, all Catholics, and all in some way innovators. The first four treated, Copernicus, Paracelsus, Machiavelli, and Columbus could be called innovators on the grand scale.”112 The scene is laid in Hell, in “the remotest part of Satan’s eternal Chaos” (9), where “Emperour Sathan, Lucifer, Belzebub, Leviathan, Abaddon” (19) dwell. In this hellish space a special room is reserved for “innovators,” or “Antichristian Heroes” (19) who compete among themselves as to who will sit on the Throne of Hell or at the right hand of Satan. He who will convince Satan that he was the “principall Innovator” (95), or that his “new matter” was the biggest innovation ever perpetrated will be awarded the throne. Thus Donne’s geography of Hell is the geography of sinning. In this context of discoveries and innovations we encounter also the proponents of the New Philosophy—Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. Ignatius disputes with them and with a large
112

Healy, “Introduction,” in Ignatius His Conclave, p. xxix.

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

113

number of other innovators and discoverers for Lucifer’s favor. He is the chief speaker and throughout the work he demolishes the arguments of many innovators, such as Copernicus, Paracelsus, Machiavelli, Columbus, and Pope Boniface III, who in the seventh century claimed the See of Rome’s superiority over all churches in Christendom. At the end of the satire, with Ignatius’ victory and his crowning as the highest innovator, Lucifer suddenly experiences great fear of Ignatius’ abilities and thus dispatches him with the help of “Galileo the Florentine” to found a kingdom, a “Lunatique Church” in “the new World, the Moone” (81) on the pretext that Hell was not good enough for him.113 In such a catalogue of villains and villainies, the wide variety of innovations leading to sin and to theological uncertainty is the key to the satire. The setting of the competition in the inmost regions of Hell reflected Donne’s negative attitude toward new theories of all kinds. Donne “held a fundamentalist view of the created universe and history.”114 No wonder that all the innovators Donne gathered in Hell had proposed theories contrary to the common, traditional knowledge held since antiquity until Donne’s time:
only they had title, which had so attempted any innovation in this life, that they gave affront to all antiquities, and induced doubts, and anxieties, and scruples, and after, a libertie of believing what they would; at length established opinions, directly contrary to all established before. (9)

The text thus reflects “a generalized anxiety about novelty.”115 Lucifer’s space “becomes the most privileged domain of those who would be accounted cultural innovators.”116 The presence in Donne’s Hell of Columbus and Copernicus, for example, “suggests their equivalence as avatars of the new.”117 Likewise, “Mahomet [is] worthy of the name Innovator” because he produced a “new matter” or “a new” religion (11), and Paracelsus “deserves the name of an Innovator” (25) because of his attacks on Galen and the medicine of the Schools. Donne demonizes novelty.

For the early modern English fascination with the moon, see Cressy, “Early Modern Space Travel and the English Man in the Moon.” 114 Anthony Raspa, “Theology and Poetry in Donne’s Conclave,” English Literary History 32 (Dec. 1965), p. 489. 115 Albanese, New Science, New World, p. 41. 116 Ibid., p. 42. 117 Ibid., p. 58.

113

114

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

It is interesting to compare Donne’s journey in Hell to find the greatest sinful innovators with Bacon’s attitude toward innovation and discovery in The New Organon. Whereas Donne found discoverers and innovators in “the roomes in Hell” (7), Bacon called upon the “true sons of science” to join with him in transforming the interpretation of nature “so that we may pass the ante-chambers of nature which innumerable others have trod, and eventually open up access to the inner rooms.” Both look for “inner rooms” in Hell or in nature, but while Donne closed and sealed the gates of Hell upon the proponents of innovation and discovery, separating them from the sight or the face of the world, Bacon would like to unveil the secrets of nature and bring about “a renewal of learning and the sciences.”118 More specifically, according to Bacon, the “true and legitimate goal of the sciences is to endow human life with new discoveries and new resources.”119 If Donne enjoyed the privilege of exploring the dark confines of Hell, where the great innovators and explorers lurk, hiding from the light of day because of their sinful discoveries, Bacon established discovery and innovations as the essence of scientific enlightenment. In the rooms of Hell Donne discovered erroneous and sinful knowledge which opposed “all antiquities,” inducing “doubts, and anxieties,” while Bacon’s discovery is based on the light of experience and experiment which are essential for the advancement and progress of learning.120 The satire begins with the author in a state of “extasie” (5), which enables him to see the whole structure of Heaven and Hell, a reference to John of Patmos, author of Revelation, to whom was given the power to reveal and proclaim to all the world the course of sacred, redemptive history, reaching a culmination at the end of time. Likewise, Donne’s voice is revelatory and prophetic; he claims that his state of “extasie” provided him with the “liberty to wander through all places, and to survey and reckon all the roomes, and all the volumes of the heavens,” as well as “all the roomes in Hell.” Because of such a cosmic voyage, “all the channels in the bowels of the Earth; and all the inhabitants of all nations, and of all ages were suddenly made familiar to me.” (7–8) Significantly, in terms of Donne’s attitude toward the New Philosophy, it was this state of ecstasy which granted him the privilege
Bacon, The New Organon, p. 30. Ibid., p. 66. 120 It should be noted that in Bacon’s theory and practice of experimental science, “experiment is more than a method of discovery; it is an ordeal, a test of its subject’s true nature.” See John C. Briggs, Francis Bacon and the Rhetoric of Nature (Cambridge., MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1989), p. 3.
119 118

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

115

to roam the Heavens, a privilege he explicitly compares with that of Galileo, Kepler, and Tycho Brahe. Yet, these new philosophers of nature, he argued, “shall hardly find Enoch or Elias any where in their circuit” (7) in Heaven. Because scientific innovators disregarded and despised divine prophecies in their study of astronomy, the new astronomical and cosmological system had no place for the prophets who symbolize the apocalyptic warriors of the Old and New Testament. The role of these prophetic figures cannot be assessed nor tested by experience and experiment. In other words, the proponents of the new astronomy and cosmology have no place or function in their system for Enoch and Elijah. Scientific thought and traditional religious thought and belief are thus not compatible. Astronomical mechanical physics replaces eschatological cosmology. The satire is set in a special room reserved for “innovators” who are vying for the throne at Satan’s right hand. Innovation was a sin because it gave “affront to all antiquities, and induced doubts, and anxieties”; thus innovators are in Hell. Ignatius’ spiritual innovation is the crowning sin. In this context of innovation and discovery, sin and error, Donne’s negative reaction to the founders of early modern science and astronomy is very evident. “Both the Jesuits and the astronomers are clearly damnable, audacious, arrogant innovators. That is why they are all engaged in the same conclave, and that is what unites the satire.”121 Alongside religious and theological strife and controversy— Ignatius’ spiritual innovation leading to sin and error, or Muhammad’s invention of a new religion—the pioneers of the New Philosophy are guilty of introducing innovations and hence error and sin in terms of the traditional Christian worldview. In the special room reserved for “innovators,” Donne “spied a certain Mathematitian [Copernicus], which till then had ben busied to finde, to deride, to detrude Ptolomey”(13). The same negative attitude toward mathematicians and their innovations in regard of building new systems of the world appeared in Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, where he wrote: “Our later Mathematicians have rolled all the stones that may be stirred” and “fabricated new systems of the World, out of their own Dædalean heads.”122 But to return to Copernicus in Donne’s satire; he argues that the Polish astronomer and mathematician should be counted among the greatest innovators in the world since it was he
Hassel Jr. “Donne’s Ignatius His Conclave and the New Astronomy,” p. 331. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621, as cited by James Gleick, Isaac Newton (New York: Vintage, 2003), p. 16.
122 121

116

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

who “turned the whole frame of the world,” and hence became “almost a new Creator” (15). Copernicus indeed deserves an important place in Hell because his new cosmology has led to confusion and his new astronomical philosophy has brought uncertainty and anxiety with it. While Bacon’s imagined “ship of learning” sails past the old traditional bounds of knowledge in the frontispiece to the New Atlantis, for Donne the New Philosophy is a sign of frailty and decay rather than of the progress of human knowledge. Donne’s geography is that of Hell, of sin and innovation, Bacon’s of the new, of discovery, of progress and utopia, from the New Organon to the New Atlantis. Ignatius His Conclave unites “Columbus and Copernicus, as damnable agents of the new.” Donne’s attitude toward the episteme of the new scientia based on discovery and innovation appears here in its “articulation of a demonized novelty.” Because the “new” knowledge, science, is “recognized as without precedent, without (classical or divine) authority,” he regarded it as a sin.123 In the work, all the “innovators were, at the literal level of their existence, historical records of evil intentions.” Their “religious and political institutions, their law and literature, were all new matter” as compared to traditional Christian teachings.124 Innovation is a sin. In the case of innovations in astronomy this was all the more flagrant since the new astronomical science rejected the traditional harmony attributed to the Heavens, which was based on the grand theological teleology of sacred order inherent in the whole frame and the fabric of the universe. What tipped the balance for Donne was that human novelties, especially in natural philosophy, led directly to unfounded human pretensions. Galileo, he wrote, “hath summoned the other worlds, the Stars to come nearer to him, and give him an account of themselves.” Kepler “hath received it into his care that no new thing should be done in heaven without his knowledge” (7). Donne wrote about human invention and pretension, and about the astronomers’ striving to play God’s role in the Heavenly sphere. Alarmed by the potential intellectual revolutions of the new science, he asked:
Hath your raising up of the earth into heaven, brought men to that confidence, that they build new towers or threaten God againe? Or do they out of this notion of the earth, conclude, that there is no hell, or deny the punishment of sin? (17)

123 124

Albanese, New Science, New World, pp. 5, 39. Raspa, “Theology and Poetry in Donne’s Conclave,” p. 481.

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

117

A century later, Alexander Pope expressed the same fear and anxiety regarding the new mechanical science of Newton and his disciples. In his “An Essay on Man” (c. 1730), Pope deplored the prominent role human beings were assigning to themselves in the cosmos based on the achievements of the new natural philosophy in finding the structure of the universe, an undertaking that amounted to the dethroning of God and the assumption of his place in ordering the universe:
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides, Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides; Instruct the planets in what orbs to run, Correct the old Time, and regulate the sun . . .125

Likewise, in Gulliver’s Travels (1726) Swift denounced human pride in general and scientific arrogance in particular, which he thought incompatible with Christian charity and humility. Thus, despite the gap of a century between them, fear and anxiety caused by the New Philosophy were shared by Donne, Pope, and Swift alike. Donne’s placing of Copernicus, as well as other forerunners of the New Philosophy, in Hell brings to mind Dante’s portrayal of Epicurus seated among the heretics in the Inferno, imagining him there because of his belief in the death of the soul and, hence, his atheism: “Here” in Hell, “all those who followed Epicurus’ trend / Are tombed with him because he held and thought / The soul dies when the body meets its end.”126 Likewise, in his picture “Newton,” 1795, Blake placed Newton in a cave shrouded in darkness.127 From Dante to Blake, then, innovation was considered a grave sin and hence the forerunners of New Philosophy were excluded from the sight or the face of the world. In Ignatius His Conclave, Donne shows his negative reaction to inventions at the expense of tradition, and, therefore of authority. In contrast, his contemporary, Bacon, defended the notion of invention and discovery as an important tool in The Advancement of Learning, writing that “it cannot be sound strange if sciences be no further discovered . . . if the art itself of invention and discovery hath been passed over.”128 In “the
Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man,” II, 19–34, in Alexander Pope, A Critical Edition of the Major Works, ed. Pat Rogers (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 281–2. 126 Dante, “Hell,” Canto X, 14–15, in Dante: The Divine Comedy, trans. Peter Dale (London: Anvil Press, 1996), p. 40. 127 See, John Cage, “Blake’s Newton,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 34 (1971), pp. 372–7. 128 Bacon, Of the Advancement of Learning, p. 118.
125

118

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Praise of Knowledge,” Bacon claimed that invention is essential to the taming of nature: “Now we govern nature in opinions, but we are thrall to her in necessities. But if we would be led by her in invention, we should command her in action.”129 Later on, in the Novum Organum (1620), Bacon attempted to devise a new logic, New Organon, “which would provide a universally appropriate model for the procedure of scientific discovery.” The constant search for logic adapts the searcher “for the discovery of new knowledge.” Bacon made “discovery the primary mode of human experience.”130 In the preface to The Advancement of Learning, Bacon tried to assuage the fears and anxieties which Donne and various contemporary thinkers and theologians raised in face of the development of the New Philosophy. The aim of The Advancement was in part to free human beings from “ignorance” which appeared “sometimes in the zeal and jealousy of divines.” As for these “divines,” they claimed that “knowledge is of those things which are to be accepted with great limitation and caution: that the aspiring to overmuch knowledge was the original temptation and sin whereupon ensued the fall of man: that knowledge hath in it somewhat of the serpent, and therefore where it entereth into a man it makes him swell.”131 Fifteen years later, in the Novum Organum, Bacon had more harsh things to say about religious people’s negative reaction to the New Philosophy: “the growth of natural philosophy has been inhibited, since religion, which has the most enormous power over men’s mind, has been kidnapped by the ignorance and reckless zeal of certain persons, and made to join the side of the enemy.” Yet even Bacon had to admit, thus clearly affirming Donne’s deep fears and anxieties, that religious people “fear from example that movements and changes in philosophy will invade religion and settle there.”132 Donne is an exemplification of this contention.

b) “All Coherence Gone”: The First Anniversarie Donne shows the extent to which the new episteme and scientia evident in the development of the New Philosophy of nature contradicted
Bacon, “The Praise of Knowledge,” p. 36. Lisa Jardine, Francis Bacon: Discovery and the Art of Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974), pp. 6, 69, 170. 131 Bacon, Of the Advancement of Learning, p. 6. 132 Bacon, The New Organon, p. 75.
130 129

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

119

consecrated traditional modes of religious thought and belief. This is again apparent in An Anatomie of the World (1611), written in the same year as Ignatius His Conclave. The following year the Anatomie was given the title of the First Anniversarie, after Donne had composed the Second Anniversary called Of the Progress of the Soule in 1612. The immediate purpose was to commemorate the death in December 1610 of fifteenyear-old Elizabeth Drury, the daughter of his patrons, Sir Robert and Lady Drury.133 Given the underlying thematic structure of the poems, the Anniversaries can be read together. In the Anatomie, written for the first anniversary of the death of Elizabeth Drury, Donne described the decline of the world: “Wherein, By occasion of the untimely death of Mistris Elizabeth Drury, the frailty and the decay of this whole World is represented.”134 In this work Donne took on the role of the herald of the world’s decay and ruin, urging the reader “learn’st thus much by our Anatomie” (185, 371), which analyses the “Sicke World” (56) or in general “the worlds condition” (219). The poem is a depiction of the terrible landscape of the fallen world. With this prophetic revelatory voice the author took on himself the role of an English Elijah, proclaiming or prophesying indeed the decay, decline, and destruction of order and value, hence the eventual ruin of the world caused by the “new Philosophy” (237). Moreover, at the end of the Anatomie Donne took on himself “the great Office” of “Moses” (468, 463), announcing the need to fly from the doomed world of Egypt. This same glorious prophetic vision appeared also at the end of the Second Anniversary, Of the Progress of the Soule, where Donne imagines himself “The Trumpet, at whose voice the people came” (528),135 that is, the trumpet of the Book of Revelation, proclaiming the need to forsake this fallen, doomed earth, and enter God’s heavenly Kingdom. It is interesting to compare this prophetic vision with that of Bacon who in the New Organon compared himself to Columbus, the discoverer of new worlds and treasures of knowledge. Bacon was confident that his “Interpretation of Nature” would discover new worlds exactly as Columbus “was confident that new lands and continents, beyond those previously known, could be found” because of his geographical discoveries.136
133 Jonathan F. S. Post, “Donne’s Life: A Sketch,” in The Cambridge Companion to John Donne, p. 12. 134 Donne, First Anniversary, p. 229. 135 John Donne, The Second Anniversary: Of the Progress of the Soule, 1612, in Grierson, I, p. 266. 136 Bacon, The New Organon, pp. 15, 77.

120

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Whereas in Ignatius His Conclave Donne claimed that new inventions and the New Philosophy led to the destruction of theological and religious certainty by giving “affront to all antiquities, and induced doubts, and anxieties, and scruples, and after, a libertie of believing what they would; at length established opinions, directly contrary to all established before” (9), in the Anatomie he moved further, declaring that the “And new Philosophy calls all in doubt” (237), and constitutes an integral part of the decay and decline of the world as a whole. The New Philosophy not only shakes the foundation of knowledge, of epistemological and theological integrity, but also the very foundations of the world by leading to its decline and ruin. The same sense of “all coherence gone” figures in The Progress of the Soule, the Second Anniversarie. The two Anniversaries separated by a year are organized by a theological teleology of order: “in the First Anniversary we see the descent of sin in the scale of being from the angels to nature, or the effects of the Fall which brought death into the world. In the Second Anniversary we see the rise of man on the scale of being to virtue and Heaven, or lessons of the Fall that concern his progress.”137 It is in this grand theological and philosophical context that one may place Donne’s reaction to the new science of nature and its disturbing effects on traditional belief. The theme of the “decline of the world” was very common at this period in England,138 as well as elsewhere in Europe; “in this decline and last days of the World,” wrote Michael de Montaigne.139 The idea that the world is decaying—a notion inherited from the Middle Ages— was part of the Renaissance cosmic order. This was also Donne’s meaning of the word “world” in the poem: “in the Anniversaries we are reminded that ‘world’ as a name is related to ‘cosmos,’ meaning order, harmony, system as opposed to chaos.”140 Indeed, social and political changes as well as religious and ideological transformations greatly contributed to this sense of losing the harmony and order of the cosmos. Donne was not alone in his gloomy description of the decline and fall of the world. Yet he was unique in ascribing this decline and decay to the rise of the New Philosophy. In Donne’s thought, the New

137 George Williamson, “The Design in Donne’s ‘Anniversaries’,” Modern Philology 3 (Feb. 1963), p. 188. 138 Victor Harris, All Coherence Gone (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1949). 139 Michel de Montaigne, An Apology or Raymond Sebond (London: Penguin Classics, 1993), p. xli. 140 Williamson, “The Design in Donne’s ‘Anniversaries’,” p. 188.

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

121

Philosophy of nature was one of the main sources for the evident decline in the harmony of the traditional sacred order. In the First Anniversary Donne found himself “amidst the chaos of a ruined universe”141:
The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit Can well direct him where to look for it. (207–8)

In the second the picture is radically different. The ruined universe described in the first poem is restored. Elizabeth Drury’s soul is called to the “Triumphant Church” in Heaven (101) and there enjoys “Gods presence” (451). On the second anniversary of her death the poet could write:
Thou art the Proclamation; and I am The trumpet, at whose voice the people came. (527–8)142

If Ignatius His Conclave is an attack on the pioneers of modern scientific thought, An Anatomie of the World reveals the great extent to which the new natural philosophy had transformed the traditional religious view of the world and the universe. It also shows the imprint of Donne’s wide knowledge of the new astronomy. Much of the imagery in this poem is derived from new scientific learning. One can find here a long list of intellectual shifts which threaten traditional views, until indeed, as the poet laments, the outcome is that “Tis all in peeces, all cohaerence gone.” (213) That is, all order and harmony achieved by old, traditional astronomical and cosmological world picture was gone, such as the view that the earth is the center of the universe, along with the theological implications; the doctrine of the inalterability of the Heavens; the existence of the traditional solid orbs; and so on. In this poem one further finds Donne’s engagement with new scientific ideas, the New Philosophy as he called it. The Anatomie’s aim is to provide an analysis of the “Sicke World” (56), and there Donne portrayed the dismay caused by the new science of nature:
And freely men confesse that this world’s spent, When in the Planets, and the Firmament They seeke so many new; then see that this Is crumbled out againe to his Atomies. ‘Tis all in peeces, all cohaerence gone; All just supply, and all Relation. (209–14)
141 142

Ibid., p. 102. Donne, “Of the Progress of the Soule,” in Grierson, I, p. 266.

122

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

These lines are not a meditation on the evils of the world aimed at encouraging the reader to repudiate the sick world of nature, “the worlds whole frame” (191) in favor of the world of grace. This is not merely evidence of contemptus mundi for the sake of the glories of paradise. For Donne shows to what extent new scientific thought had pervaded the imagination and influenced existence. In this sense, his poem is truly “an Anatomie of the world” describing a cosmos of order and harmony profoundly and radically transformed and degenerated. The main theme of the work is an “Anatomie” of the “Sicke World.” In face of the death of Elizabeth Drury in 1610, the source of the poem, Donne understood the fragility of human beings. But he transposed this gloomy vision to the world as a whole,
Then, as mankinde, so is the worlds whole frame Quite out of joint, almost created lame (191–2)

One of the main reasons for the “worlds decay” (377) and the destruction of traditional coherence is the new scientific learning which has shattered the traditional “worlds whole frame” and led to the destruction of heaven and earth. The First Anniversary deals with the disproportion and decay of the cosmos. An important dimension of the decay is “the distressing evidence of distortion and disruption of the Ptolemaic cosmic order” caused by the new astronomical philosophy.143 Because of astronomical discoveries the harmonious Ptolemaic system has become unreliable and a target of doubts and suspicion. The decay of the world is thus most evident in the destruction of beauty and harmony caused by new astronomical discoveries:
For the worlds beauty is decai’d, or gone, Beauty, that’s colour, and proportion. (249–50)

Moreover,
We thinke the heavens enjoy their Sphericall, Their round proportion embracing all. (251–2)

But now astronomers have found “New starres, and old doe vanish from our eyes: As thought heav’n suffered earthquake, peace or war”
143 Barbara K. Lewalski, Donne’s Anniversaries and the Poetry of Praise: The Creation of a Symbolic Mode (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1973), p. 254.

Donne and the “New Philosophy”

123

(260–1). All the proportions upon which the harmony and order of the heavenly sphere is based have vanished:
So, of the Starres which boast that they doe runne In Circle still, none ends where he begun. All their proportion’s lame, it sinkes, it swells. (275–7)

The new celestial physics of the astronomers have brought with them cosmic distortions as and coercions:
Man hath weav’ed out a net, and this net throwne Upon the Heavens, and now they are his own. Loth to go up the hill, or labour thus To go to heaven, we make heaven come to us. We spur, we reine the stares, and in their race They’re diversly content t’obey our pace. (280–4)

In Donne’s work, human pretensions to rule and measure the world lead to the feeling that “the worlds whole frame” is “Quite out of joint” (191–2). The poet’s deep sense of “all coherence gone” is thus directly posited against the harmony embodied in the figure of Elizabeth Drury—“Harmony was shee” (313). “Elizabeth Drury is praised as the measure of symmetry because, by reflecting the goodness of created nature, here regenerate soul embodies the very principle of proportion, harmony itself.”144 She is placed also in the context of time and history; her death led to the loss of harmony, evidence of the decline of the world from the primordial state of innocence and purity. Decay is also evident in the “disruption, the near cessation, of the influence of heaven upon earth,” of the order of grace upon the order of nature.145 In the traditional Christian teleology of nature and history, the order of grace conditions the course of heaven and earth from the beginning to the end of time. But now, with Elizabeth’s death, nature “is seen almost devoid of the influence” of grace.146 Elizabeth Drury’s death is used by the poet to expound the gloomy state of decay of the world to which the New Philosophy has contributed so heavily by taking away harmony, beauty, and coherence, from the world. Deprived of goodness and grace, the only possible way for the regenerated soul is indeed spiritual life in heaven. In the Elegie on

144 145

Ibid., p. 255. Ibid., p. 258. 146 Ibid., p. 259.

124

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Prince Henry (1613) Donne again combined the themes of personal loss and the dissolution of the old world system:
If then least moving of the center, make More, then if whole hell belch’d, the world to shake, What must this do, center distracted so, That we see not what to believe or know? (21–4)147

As with the death of Elizabeth Drury, here too Prince Henry’s death caused a general confusion in the poet’s imagination whereby the “moving of the center” led “the world to shake.” From the pioneers of the New Philosophy Donne learned that “trees would be uprooted, birds frustrated in their flight, and animals precipitated if the air actually whirled about as the new philosophers teach.”148 He wrote thus in “Feasts and Revells,”
And where the doctrine new That the earth mov’d, this day would make it true; For every part to dance and revell goes. They tread the ayre, and fal not where they rose. (186–9)149

147 Donne, “Elegie upon the untimely death of the incomparable Prince Henry,” in “Epicedes and Obseqvies Upon The Deaths of sundry Personage,” Grierson, I, p. 268. 148 Coffin, John Donne and the New Philosophy, p. 114. 149 Donne, “Feasts and Revells,” in “Epithalamions, or Marriage Songs,” Grierson, I, p. 139.

Chapter IV

“GOD OF ABRAHAM” AND “NOT OF PHILOSOPHERS”: Pascal against the Philosophers’ Disenchantment of the World
I cannot forgive Descartes: in his whole philosophy he would like to do without God; but he could not help allowing him a flick of the fingers to set the world in motion: after that he had no more use for God. Blaise Pascal, Pensées Pascal mentioned “the opinions of Copernicus” with disdain, but his work reflects the confusion of a theologian exiled from the orb of the Almagest and lost in the Copernican universe of Kepler and Bruno. Jorge Luis Borges, “Pascal’s Sphere,” 1964 When dealing with natural things we will, then, never derive any explanation from the purposes which God or nature may have had in view when creating them [and we shall entirely banish from our philosophy the search for final causes]. For we should not be so arrogant as to suppose that we can share in God’s plans. Descartes, Principia Philosophiae (Principles of Philosophy), 1644 [T]he only principles which I accept, or require, in physics are those of geometry and pure mathematics; these principles explain all natural phenomena, and enable us to provide quite certain demonstrations regarding them. Descartes, Principia Philosophiae (Principles of Philosophy), 1644

Intellectual shifts which took place in the early modern period led to the disenchantment of the world. Nature was demystified and creation emptied of theological and teleological significance. Reaction to this profound transformation is most evident in the thought of Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). For Pascal the New Philosophy, especially that of 125

126

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

René Descartes (1596–1650) and his mechanical philosophy of nature, confirmed the undermining of religion. With confusion and bewilderment Pascal looked at the development of a rationalist natural science which threatened to shatter the whole traditional medieval imago mundi. Pascal’s thought reflects not only fears and anxieties but also the complex relationships and growing tensions between religion and science in the early modern period as evidenced in his Apology of the Christian Church (Apologie de la religion Chrétienne), known as the Pensées, where he denounced among others Cartesian philosophy. Pascal’s thought closely reflects the perturbing effects of the new science of nature on traditional definitions and formations of religious identities during early modernity. Like John Donne, he exposed the Janus face of the new science of nature, the perils and risks that the New Philosophy posed for traditional religious modes of thought and belief. Discoveries in astronomy and consequently the decentering of the earth inspired Pascal with fear and anxiety: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread,” he wrote, and the new Physica Coelestis of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, led him to an existential sense of exile and alienation in the cosmos: “when I survey the whole universe in its dumbness and man left to himself with no light, as though lost in this corner of the universe . . . I am moved to terror.” This sense of loss, alienation, and isolation, encapsulates the serious ramifications that an open and infinite universe, as against a closed and finite one, was felt to have on the human condition: “I see the terrifying spaces of the universe hemming me in, and I find myself attached to one corner of this vast expanse without knowing why I have been put in this place.” Pascal is indeed the master of anxiety: “Man’s condition” he wrote is “anxiety.” Pascal’s reaction to the Physica Coelestis reflects the loss that humans suffered with the transformation from the finite into the infinite universe. Gone is the marvelous universe of Dante, the glorious anthropocentric, geocentric vision of the cosmos based on a teleology of sacred order and structured according to the unfolding drama of human salvation and redemption. Instead, Pascal confronted an alien universe and a bewildering world of nature. He found himself “engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not,” wondering: “Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me?” Unable to discern God’s signature in the fabric of the world, Pascal lamented: “I look around in every direction and all I see is darkness. Nature has nothing to offer me that does not give rise to doubt and anxiety.”

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

127

Yet, it was not only the infinite abyss of spaces that filled Pascal with awe and dread but also the “philosophers and scholars” on earth who were constructing new rationalist philosophy of nature. Chief among them was Descartes. Like Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, Descartes’s thought exposed the conflict between obsolete scholasticism and the new rational natural philosophy, thus contributing to the tensions between the ideal of scientific exposition and the philosophy of the Schools. Descartes’s effort to construct Mathesis universalis—a universal knowledge (scientia) and a mathematical understanding of the world— conceived as a complete mechanical system, conflicted with scholastic natural philosophy. Addressing many of the inherent weaknesses of medieval thought, Descartes presented new modes of perception which implied the refutation of earlier theories: his science was to be based on mathematical principles, in contrast to the qualitative explanatory apparatus of his predecessors, and his model was a mechanistic explanation which avoided reference to final, teleological causes and purposes. With a mechanical causality replacing the theological and teleological, Cartesian philosophy had a substantial degree of autonomy as compared with scholastic subordination of physics to theology. It was thus in conflict with the revealed truths of the Bible, not least because Descartes claimed that after the creation of the world “God will never perform any miracle” and “will not disrupt in any way the ordinary course of nature.” Pascal’s reaction to Cartesian philosophy shows the growing tension between religion and science in early modern history as well as the fear and concern the New Philosophy aroused in religious circles. Pascal met Descartes twice in Paris during the fall of 1647 and he had a good knowledge of Descartes’s writings. Both, it should be remembered, contributed to the development of science: Pascal with respect to the construction of a mechanical calculator, considerations on probability theory, the study of fluids, and the clarification of concepts such as pressure and vacuum; Descartes as an original physicist and physiologist. Today he is called “the father of modern mathematics” because of his influence on geometry and algebra. Apart from their shared scientific interests, Descartes and Pascal both underwent an important conversion experience, a mystical moment which was essential to their intellectual development. These spiritual experiences were by no means analogous events. Rather, this spiritual experience launched their respective careers on a conflicting course, leading eventually to opposing vocations. On the night of the 10th of November 1619, at the age of 23, Descartes had an epiphany

128

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

which convinced him that “he had discovered the foundations of a marvelous science.” This was the beginning of his effort to construct a Plan of Universal Science, Mathesis universalis, a whole new science which would replace the scholastic philosophy of nature. Similarly, in 1654, at the age of 31, on the night of November 23, Pascal underwent a remarkable religious conversion which transformed his whole existence. A vision invaded his inner being and forced itself upon him like an ecstatic revelation. Vividly sensing the presence of divine grace, he repudiated the rationalist “God of the philosophers” in favor of the “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,” and from that moment on he dedicated his life to the writing of an Apology of the Christian Church, the Pensées. This apologetic project dominated Pascal until his death in 1662. After his conversion moments Descartes moved from faith to reason, Pascal from reason to faith. An important dimension of Pascal’s apologetic project was a vehement opposition to Cartesian natural philosophy, psychology, and epistemology, thus offering important evidence of the growing tensions within religious circles in face of the new science of nature. “Descartes useless and uncertain,” wrote Pascal, meaning not only Descartes’s notion of a rational mechanical God but also the Cartesian mechanistic theater of the world of nature as well as its dream “de reductione scientia ad mathematicam.” Scientific theism, the basis of the new rational philosophy of nature where God is only the guarantee of knowledge but not the savior and redeemer of the Bible, constituted a serious threat to traditional Christian religious thought and belief.

1. “The Eternal Silence of These Infinite Spaces Frightens Me”
For Pascal the “science of his time has simply confirmed” the “disenchantment of the world.”1 He gazed with alarm and bewilderment at
1 Jean Khalfa, “Pascal’s Theory of Knowledge,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Nicolas Hammond (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), p. 139. For Pascal’s life and thought, see Marvine R. O’Connell, Blaise Pascal: Reasons of the Heart (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997); John R. Cole, Pascal: The Man and His Two Loves (New York: NYU Press, 1995); Francis X, J. Coleman, Neither Angel Nor Beast: The Life and Work of Blaise Pascal (New York: Routledge, 1986); A. J. Krailsheimer, Pascal (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980); Roger Hazelton, Blaise Pascal: The Genius of his Thought (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974); Jam Miel, Pascal and Theology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1969); Graeme Hunter, “Blaise Pascal,” in A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy,

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

129

the vast, infinite space which the Physica Coelestis of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo presented. The “heavens,” wrote Copernicus, “are immense by comparison with the earth,” and “the earth is related to the heavens as a point to a body, and a finite to an infinite magnitude.”2 Pascal echoes this in his: “The whole visible world is only an imperceptible dot in nature’s ample bosom” (L 199).3 He well understood that the immense expansion of the universe carried tremendous implications not only for the human condition but also for traditional religious thought. More concretely, it meant fear and anxiety: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me” (L 201). He thus felt confused in the face of the infinity of the universe, of shaking traditional cosmological modes of knowledge, and of the decentering of the earth. Pascal “employs astronomical references to express feelings of dread, terror, and alienation. For him, the heavenly cosmos does not affirm God’s existence, but instead reveals an immense abyss from which He is absent or hidden.”4 The new astronomy’s infinite abyss of the universe aroused fears, doubts, and anxieties: “I see the terrifying spaces of the universe hemming me in, and I find myself attached to one corner of this vast expanse without knowing why I have been put in this place” (L 427). Not only do human beings find themselves lost, exiled, and alienated
ed. Steven Nadler (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 96–112; Michael Moriarty, Early Modern French Thought: The Age of Suspicion (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), and Fallen Nature, Fallen Selves: Early Modern French Thought (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006), Matthew W. Maguire, The Conversion of Imagination: From Pascal through Rousseau to Tocqueville (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2006); Matthew L. Jones, The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution: Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, and the Cultivation of Virtue (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), and Lucien Goldman, The Hidden God: A Study of Tragic Vision in the Pensées of Pascal and the Tragedies of Racine (London: Routledge, 1977). 2 Copernicus, On the Revolution, trans. Edward Rosen (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1978), pp. 13–14. On the new science of nature, see Brian Baigrie, “The New Science: Kepler, Galileo, Mersenne,” in A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Nadler, pp. 45–59. 3 Pascal, Pensées, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (London: Penguin, 1995). This edition, marked L in the text, is based on the first copy of Pascal’s work. In the following, all references to Pascal’s Pensées, unless otherwise stated, are to this edition. On the nature and character of Pascal’s Pensées, see Nicolas Hammond, “Pascal’s Pensées and the art of persuasion,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, pp. 235–52, and Jacob Meskin, “Secular Self-Confidence, Postmodernism, and Beyond: Recovering the Religious Dimension of Pascal’s Pensées,” Journal of Religion (Oct. 1995), pp. 487–508. 4 Ernest Fontana, “Patmore, Pascal, and Astronomy,” Victorian Poetry 41.2 (2003), p. 278.

130

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

within the infinite and inscrutable cosmos, but they are unable to find or recognize God in the structure of the universe:
When I survey the whole universe in its dumbness and man left to himself with no light, as though lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him when he dies, incapable of knowing anything, I am moved to terror. (L 198)

These words testify more than anything else to the perception that the traditional classical and medieval concept of the “cosmos”—in the sense of a completed geo-centered whole organized according to a well-defined theological teleology of order—had lost its meaning and significance. So powerful and gloomy was this state of fear and trembling in face of the “whole universe in its dumbness” that Pascal even wondered “whether God has left any traces of himself” in the order of creation (L 198). Indeed he found himself in a limbo without a sure positive or negative answer to that important question, which in turn greatly enhanced his miserable condition:
I look around in every direction and all I see is darkness. Nature has nothing to offer me that does not give rise to doubt and anxiety. If I saw no signs there of a Divinity I should decide on a negative solution: if I saw signs of a Creator everywhere I should peacefully settle down in the faith. But, seeing too much to deny and not enough to confirm, I am in a pitiful state. (L 429)

The sense of loneliness and confusion within an alien and silent universe is further compounded by the unintelligibility of nature: God, Pascal believed, “is not manifested, but irretrievably hidden in nature.”5 The whole of creation, therefore, heaven and earth alike, is unintelligible and inscrutable. Pascal of course was more than eager to know if God had left his signature on the world. Gloomily, however, he admitted he had no answer to that question. His is a hidden God— Deus absconditus—as against Deus Revelatus, the God who constantly reveals His glory and presence in the creation.6 An essential doctrine of the New Philosophy was the intelligibility of nature and of the world—the whole of creation was deemed a laboratory for the researches of the rationalist natural philosophers. But for
Ashworth, Jr. “Catholicism and Early Modern Science,” in God & Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, p. 144. 6 On Pascal’s hidden God, see Goldman, The Hidden God.
5

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

131

Pascal the world was unintelligible and God’s mind inscrutable: “men are in darkness and remote from God” because “he has hidden himself from their understanding”, and “this is the very name which he gives himself in Scripture: Deus absconditus” (L 427). The essence of the human condition is total uncertainty with respect to the structure of the world and God, of the creation and its Creator. Not only is God hidden and cannot be found in His creation, but man is totally “lost” in the world without knowing who put him there and why. He lives in a “little dungeon, in which he finds himself lodged, I mean the universe” (L 199). In more personal terms, Pascal is terrified in contemplating himself “swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me.” He wondered: “Who put me here? By whose command and act were this time and place allotted to me?” (L 68, L 113). This sense of being lost, of alienation, loneliness, fear, and bewilderment, characteristic of Pascal, shows the ramifications of the new Physica Coelestis on the human condition: “I know not who put me into this world, nor what the world is, nor what I am myself. I am terribly ignorant about everything.” Such feelings are greatly enhanced by the new astronomy’s infinite horizons of space:
I see the terrifying spaces of the universe hemming me in, and I find myself attached to one corner of this vast expanse without knowing why I have been put in this place . . . I see only infinity on every side, hemming me in like an atom or like the shadow of a fleeting instant. All I know is that I must soon die, but what I know least about is this very death which I cannot evade. (L 427)

The destruction of the medieval cosmos by the new astronomical theories of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led in the end to pessimism and despair, which clearly exposed the Janus face of science: “the destruction of the cosmos, the loss, by the earth, of its central and thus unique (though by no means privileged) situation, led inevitably to the loss, by man, of his unique and privileged position in the theocosmic drama of the creation, of which man was, until then, both the central figure and the stake. At the end of the development we find the mute and terrifying world of Pascal . . . the senseless world of modern scientific philosophy. At the end we find nihilism and despair.”7 In Pascalian terms, no mercy or comfort is offered to human beings in the newly discovered infinity of the universe, and the state of the
7 Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: John Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968), p. 43.

132

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

human condition is doomed to be obscured by a hidden God whose mind and creation are inscrutable. In such an unintelligible universe and inscrutable God, Pascal has only a very gloomy vision for himself:
Just as I do not know whence I come, so I do not know whither I am going. All I know is that when I leave this world I shall fall ever into nothingness or unto the hands of a wrathful God, but I do not know which of these two states is to be my eternal lot. Such is my state, full of weakness and uncertainty. (L 427)

Certainly, in face of “a wrathful God” it is hard if not impossible to find benevolence in the world, and human beings’ portion is judgment and annihilation. With these gloomy words Pascal delineated science’s Janus face; the development of new astronomical theories deprived the universe of any inherent theological teleology of order. The new astronomical infinite space, wrote Borges, appalled Pascal:
the absolute space that inspired the hexameters of Lucretius, the absolute space that had been a liberation for Bruno, was a labyrinth and an abyss for Pascal. He hated the universe, and yearned to adore God. But God was less real to him than the hated universe. He was sorry that the firmament could not speak; he compared our lives to those of shipwrecked men on a desert island. He felt the incessant weight of the physical world; he felt confused, afraid, and alone.8

Pascal indeed “mentioned ‘the opinions of Copernicus’ with disdain,” but his “work reflects the confusion of a theologian exiled from the orb of the Almagest and lost in the Copernican universe of Kepler and Bruno.”9 Pascal was not alone in being frightened and disturbed by the silence of the New Philosophy about the meaning of the created order as well as of human life and destiny. Three hundred years later the physicist and Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger said,
Most painful is the absolute silence of all our scientific investigations towards our questions concerning the meaning and scope of the whole display [of the world of nature]. The more attentively we watch it, the more aimless and foolish it appears to be. The show that is going on obviously acquires meaning only with regard to the mind that contemplates it.10
8 Jorge Luis Borges, “Pascal’s Sphere,” 1951, in Other Inquisitions, 1937–1952 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964), pp. 8–9. 9 Jorge Luis Borges, “Pascal,” in Other Inquisitions, p. 93. 10 Erwin Schrödinger, “Mind and Matter,” 1956, in What is Life? With Mind and Matter & Autobiographical Sketches (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006 [1967]), p. 138.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

133

2. Pascal against the “Philosophers”
Pascal was not a philosopher; he was first and foremost a theologian; he “always uses the term ‘philosophy’ in a pejorative sense.”11 Differentiating himself from the philosophers, Pascal declared “To have no time for philosophy is to be a true philosopher” (L 513), and “to mock philosophy is to do real philosophy.”12 Chief among the philosophers he attacked were Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) and Descartes; Montaigne because he believed in human ability, self-sufficiency, and self-knowledge, to the point where religion was unnecessary,13 and Descartes because by the sciences “Descartes understands ‘scientia’, that is to say, those kinds of knowledge that are capable of logical demonstration” or “all knowledge open to demonstrative or logical proof.”14 Pascal rejected Descartes and other rationalist philosophers’ optimism with respect to human reason and its ability to comprehend the structure of the world. Consequently, he was more than skeptical of their effort to construct a coherent, plausible natural philosophy which might be able to explain the fabric of the universe. Aiming to show “the folly of human knowledge and philosophy” (L 408), Pascal rejected the philosophers’ “principles of truth,” namely reason and the senses:
Man is nothing but a subject full of natural error that cannot be eradicated except through grace. Nothing shows him the truth, everything deceives him. The two principles of truth, reason and senses, are not only both not genuine, but are engaged in mutual deception. The senses deceive reason through false appearance . . . They both compete in lies and deception. (L 45)

The Pensées may be regarded as “a monumental objection” to Descartes “overwhelming optimistic view of the capacities of the human mind.”15 Indeed, as Voltaire wrote, “the spirit in which Pascal wrote” the “Pensées was to portray man in a hateful light. He is determined to depict us all as evil and unhappy . . . He vilified the human race
Moriarty, Early Modern French Thought: The Age of Suspicion, p. 1, n. 1. Ibid., p. 1, n. 1. 13 For the relationship between Montaigne and Pascal, see Pierre Force, “Innovation and Spiritual Exercise: Montaigne and Pascal,” Journal of the History of Ideas (2005), pp. 17–35; and Henry Phillips, “Pascal’s reading and inheritance of Montaigne and Descartes,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, pp. 20–39. 14 Pauline Phemister, The Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz (Cambridge: Polity, 2006), p. 21. 15 Phillips, “Pascal’s reading and inheritance of Montaigne and Descartes,” p. 34.
12 11

134

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

eloquently.”16 Moreover, Pascal believed that reason’s “last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it,” and if “natural things are beyond it, what are we to say about supernatural things?” (L 188). He rejected Descartes’s belief that we may know God “with the aid of philosophy rather than theology,” namely through reason and not through faith.17 Pascal argued that natural things too are beyond the reach of human reason. In both spheres, the natural and the supernatural, the human mind cannot encompass things beyond and above it. In other words, human agency is not a guarantee of the knowledge of God or of the natural order; hence Descartes’s Mathesis universalis has no sound epistemological basis. Pascal asserted further, pace the rationalist philosophers, that knowledge does not mean existence, nor does incomprehensibility mean nonexistence: “Everything that is incomprehensible does not cease to exist” (L 149, L 230). The true nature of reality can not be perceived solely and exclusively through the prism of reason and the senses: “it is quite possible to know that something exists without knowing its nature” (L 418). To Pascal Descartes signified science’s Janus face not least because Descartes was engaged in system-building,18 the creation of a universal science which renounced the scholastic philosophy of nature and developed a new mechanical causality, leading to the disenchantment

Voltaire, Letters on England, trans. Leonard Tancock (London: Penguin, 2005), p. 120. 17 Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, 1638–40, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham, et al. 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985), II, p. 3. For Descartes’s life and thought, see Desmond M. Clarke, Descartes: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006); Deborah J. Brown, Descartes and the Passionate Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006); Daniel Garber, Descartes Embodied: Reading Cartesian Philosophy through Cartesian Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001) and Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1992); Michael Losonsky, Enlightenment and Action from Descartes to Kant: Passionate Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001); Stephen Gaukroger, Descartes: An Intellectual Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995); John Cottingham, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995); Moriarty, Early Modern French Thought; Jones, The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution, and Phemister, The Rationalists. 18 For Descartes’s attempt to build a universe, or his strive to construct a whole new philosophy of nature, see Peter Dear, “Mechanism: Descartes Builds a Universe,” in Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500–1700, (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001), pp. 80–100.

16

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

135

of the world.19 In 1629 Descartes declared his intention “to explain all the phenomena of nature, that is to say, the whole of physics.”20 As he wrote in his The Search after Truth:
I do not wish to be one of those jobbing builders who devote themselves solely to refurbishing old buildings because they consider themselves incapable of undertaking the construction of new ones. (406)

Comparing scholastic and Renaissance natural philosophy “to a badly constructed house, whose foundations are not firm,” Descartes declared, “I know of no better way to repair it than to knock it all down, and build a new one in its place.”21 And in the Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641, he wrote that his goal is “to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations if I want to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last.”22 No wonder that in the Principles of Philosophy (Principia Philosophiae), 1644, Descartes rejected
the logic of the Schools, for this is strictly speaking nothing but a dialectic which teaches ways of expounding to others what one already knows or even of holding forth without judgment about things one does not know. Such logic corrupts good sense rather than increasing it. I mean instead the kind of logic which teaches us to direct our reason with a view of discovering the truths of which we are ignorant.23

19 Descartes’s contribution to the disenchantment of the world is discussed in the studies of Han Van Ruler, “Minds, Forms, and Spirit: The Nature of Cartesian Disenchantment,” Journal of the History of Ideas (July 2000), pp. 381–95; and The Crisis of Causality: Voetius and Descartes on God, Nature and Change (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995). See also Michael Della Rocca, “Causation Without Intelligibility and Causation Without God in Descartes,” in A Companion to Descartes, eds. Jamet Broughton and John Carriero (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008), pp. 235–50; and Steven Nadler, ed., Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Pre-Established Harmony (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1993). 20 Descartes to Mersenne, November 13, 1629, as quoted in Roger Ariew and Alan Gabby, “The Scholastic Background,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), I, p. 428. 21 Descartes, The Search after Truth by Means of the Natural Light, 1701, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, II, pp. 406, 411, 417. 22 Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, p. 12. For Descartes’s philosophy of nature, see Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences, and “A Mechanical Microcosms: Bodily Passions, Good Manners, and Cartesian Mechanism,” in Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Knowledge, eds. C. Lawrence and S. Shapin (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1998), pp. 51–82. 23 Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, p. 186.

136

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

In this work Descartes’s goal was to lay out a full natural philosophy which would replace Aristotle’s. Accordingly, Descartes along with other forerunners of modern science replaced “a concrete, formalist, Aristotelian ontology, defined in essentially qualitative terms, with an abstract materialist (ultimately atomist) ontology, defined in exclusive mathematical terms.”24 Further, instead of relying on consecrated authority and tradition in the study of nature, Descartes like Bacon emphasized innovation and discovery, the hallmark of the new rationalist philosophy of nature. Descartes tried to re-construct the field of natural philosophy and provide a new episteme. This purpose is apparent in the title of his work Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and Seeking the Truth in the Sciences (1637), and is made even more explicit in the alternative title: The Plan of a universal Science which is capable of raising our nature to its highest degree of perfection.25 In the case of Bacon, such a grand attempt to renew the whole of science earned him the ire of Donne, and with respect to Descartes, the anger of Pascal. Descartes’s “main contribution to the history of ideas was his effort to construct a philosophy that would be sympathetic to the new sciences that emerged in the seventeenth century.”26 Pascal of course was not alone in his denunciation of Cartesian philosophy and many shared his fear of Descartes’s philosophy of nature.27 The Dutch philosopher Johannes Bertling argued that Cartesianism constituted “dangerous tenets that threaten the truth and purity of the heavenly Doctrine.”28 Likewise, Le Maistre de Sacy, one of the Jansenists of Port-Royal, feared that “Cartesian philosophy” was “undermining true religion by demystifying nature and emptying the world of its theological significance.”29 He wrote:
24 Smith, “Knowing Things Inside Out: The Scientific Revolution from a Medieval Perspective,” American Historical Review 95 (Jun. 1990), p. 726. 25 See “Translator’s preface” to Descartes’s Discourse and Essays, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I, p. 109. On Descartes’s method, see Peter Dear, “Method and the Study of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 147–77. 26 Clarke, Descartes, book jacket. 27 For the variety of negative reactions against Cartesian philosophy, see Nicholas Jolley, “The Reception of Descartes’ Philosophy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, pp. 393–423. 28 Ruler, The Crisis of Causality, p. 1. 29 Steven M. Nadler, “Arnauld, Descartes, and the Transubstantiation: Reconciling Cartesian Metaphysics and Real Presence,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Apr.–Jun. 1988), p. 229.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

137

God created the world for two reasons . . . one, to provide an idea of his greatness; the other, to depict invisible things in the visible. Mr. Descartes has destroyed the one as well as the other . . . Instead of recognizing invisible things in the visible, such as the God of nature in the sun, and seeing an image of his grace in all that he has produced in plants, he insists, on the contrary, on providing reason for everything.30

And John Ray, the famous English naturalist, philosopher, and theologian, argued that “Descartes and his Followers” demystified nature and emptied the world of theological considerations by
excluding and banishing all Consideration of final Causes from Natural Philosophy, upon Pretence, that they are all and every one in particular undiscoverable by us; and that is Rashness and Arrogance in us to think we can find out God’s Ends, and be Partakers of his Counsels.31

The mark of the Cartesian philosophy of nature was indeed the elevation of reason over divine revelation, the rejection of traditional beliefs in favor of innovation and discovery, and consequently the refusal to admit religious and theological considerations in the science of nature. Descartes wanted in his own words “to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations.”32 In such an enterprise, as with Bacon, the new credo was discovery and innovation. “Now we govern nature in opinions,” wrote Bacon, “but we are thrall to her in necessities. But if we would be led by her in invention, we should command her in action.”33 And according to Descartes, we “ought to read the writings of the ancients” but “at the same time there is a considerable danger that if we study these works too closely traces of their errors will infect us.”34 The frame of reference for Cartesian philosophy, again as with Bacon, was the book of nature (libri naturales) and experience—“the great book of the world” as Descartes called it—and not the sacred tradition.35 With reason as the
Le Maistre de Sacy, as quoted by Nadler, “Arnauld, Descartes, and the Transubstantiation,” p. 229. 31 John Ray, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation, 1717 (1691), p. 38. 32 Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, p. 12. 33 Bacon, “The Praise of Knowledge,” in Francis Bacon: The Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), p. 36. 34 Descartes, Rules of the Direction of the Mind, 1684 (c. 1628), in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I, p. 13. 35 Descartes, Discourse on the Method, 1637, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I, p. 115.
30

138

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

sole arbiter of knowledge, the traditional religious axioms are no longer truths acceptable in the study of nature. Where in the past revealed truths constituted the basis of reason, now reason judged the compatibility of religious thought in natural philosophy. To reject the new rational natural philosophy’s exclusion of theological and teleological considerations from the realm of nature, Pascal had first to counter the philosophers’ overwhelming optimism and confidence in human reason. Pascal rejected the human illusions of achieving a clear and coherent notion of nature based on reason because he did not believe in human ability to comprehend the whole of nature, visible and invisible: “The whole visible world is only an imperceptible dot in nature’s ample bosom.” Because of the vast, infinite size of nature, human imagination cannot comprehend it: “Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere” (L 199). Philosophers should not develop any unjustified pretensions and presumptions regarding reason and its strength in understanding nature but rather humble themselves before the inscrutable infinity of the universe:
Let man, returning to himself, consider what he is in comparison with what exists; let him regard himself as lost, and from this little dungeon, in which he finds himself lodged, I mean the universe, let him learn to take the earth, its realms, its cities, its houses and himself at their proper value. (L 199)

Pascal wrote these words in the entry “Disproportion of man” in the Pensées, where he developed at length his contention that human beings do not deserve the importance and influence the rationalist philosophers accord them in penetrating the secrets of nature.36 Remaining within the Augustinian tradition, Pascal believed that with the Fall humanity was corrupted, and hence nature as well: Scripture says “that God is a hidden God, and that since nature was corrupted he has left men to their blindness, from which they can escape only through Jesus Christ” (L 781). Believing moreover that “Man . . . is so happily constituted that he has no exact principle of truth” (L 44), Pascal attacked human hubris in regard of the understanding of nature, which he considered as “disproportionably” to human beings’
Matthew L. Jones argues in his study The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution that Pascal wrote the “Disproportion of man” against the Jesuit Francisco Suárez who believed that “human beings naturally have cognitive abilities ‘proportionate’ to knowing nature through the senses with certainty, before and after the Fall” (p. 139).
36

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

139

real and true “proper value,” namely, their gloomy state of being lost, confused, and ignorant, in the dungeon of the universe. He compared the human condition to the state of a “man in a dungeon, not knowing whether sentence has been passed on him, with only one hour left to find out, and that hour enough, once he knows it has been passed, to have it revoked” (L 163, L 434). Such a terrible existential state determines ipso facto the incapacity of human reason. “Disproportion of man” demonstrates “the inherent incapacity of human reason ever to encompass what there is to know of the universe, and the incapability of the finite to contain the idea of the infinite.”37 Pascal is not only a master of anxiety but also a prophet of human inability and incapacity. In Pascalian thought the impossibility of true absolute knowledge is thus grounded not only in the deception of reason and the senses but also in the infinity of the unknown. Unfounded belief in human beings’ reason leads to “improper” appreciation of their place in the world and accords them unjustified power and a role “disproportionate” to their true state. Pascal pleaded with the reader to consider the human condition in the context of the “infinite”:
For, after all, what is man in nature? A nothing compared to the infinite, a whole compared to nothing, a middle point between all and nothing, infinitely remote from an understanding of the extremes; the end of things and their principles are unattainably hidden from him in impenetrable secrecy. (L 199)

Such is the human condition: “infinitely remote from an understanding” of the world in which life is set. The new scientia and episteme developed by rationalist philosophers of nature is thus unfeasible because “the end of things and their principles are unattainably hidden” from us “in impenetrable secrecy.” The empirical, experimental method of the New Philosophy of nature thus has no basis since the only legitimate explanation is the teleological one, which considers “the end of things and their principles.” Pascal therefore argued that without divine revelation “we know nothing, and can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in nature itself” (L 417). In his

Phillips, “Pascal’s reading and the inheritance of Montaigne and Descartes,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Hammond (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), p. 34.

37

140

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

reaction to the “method” of natural philosophers such as Descartes: “Pascal generally uses the term method ironically and pejoratively.”38 Understanding of the world is doomed to fail because all of our existence hinges “between these two abysses of infinity and nothingness,” and everyone who understands this “will tremble at these marvels.” Referring directly to the natural philosopher, Pascal says, “I believe that with his curiosity changing into wonder he will be more disposed to contemplate [the two abysses] in silence than investigate them with presumption.” Yet, since that our existential condition determines our intellectual life, instead of futile inquiry into the principles of nature we need rather to contemplate the marvels of the world. Against an inquiry based on reason and rational proofs, Pascal advocated a contemplation of the wonders of the natural world. Denial of any possible true knowledge of the world is based in Pascal’s epistemology on the state of the human condition, which is “full of natural error.” Only when seen in the true context of “nothingness from which he emerged and the infinity in which he is engulfed” is man’s true place revealed; he is “eternally hopeless of knowing either their principles or their end.” In sum, wrote Pascal,
All things have come out of nothingness and are carried onward to infinity. Who can follow these astonishing processes? The author of these wonders understands them: no one else can.

Hence the impossibility of depicting invisible things in the visible. The whole of the rationalist philosophers’ enterprise is thus doomed to failure since only the Deity can comprehend the “astonishing processes” taking place in creation. To demonstrate this, Pascal discussed the “two infinities of science,” the “greatness” of things such as the stars and “the infinitely small,” the incomprehensibly vast and the incomprehensibly minute which the human eye cannot see. Because rationalist philosophers have “failed to contemplate these infinities,” they “have rashly undertaken to probe into nature as if there were some proportion between themselves and her.” Rejecting these pretensions and ambitions “to know the principles of things and go on from there to know everything,” Pascal remarked that rationalist philosophers were “inspired by a presumption as infinite as their subject”

38 Pierre Force, “Pascal and philosophical method,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Hammond, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), p. 216.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

141

(L 199). Or, in other words, they are involved deeply in selfcontradiction. In the phrase “the principles of things” Pascal clearly alludes to Descartes’s “search” in the Principles of Philosophy “for first causes or principles” of “the knowledge of things.”39 Pascal protested that “we know better,” and “we understand” that “nature has engraved her own image and that of her author on all things,” thus “almost all” things in the world “share” nature “double infinity,” the infinity “of greatness” revealed in heaven and the “infinitely small” evident on earth (L 199). Likewise, to refute the philosophers’ overestimation of human ability, he argues: “There are perfections in nature to show that she is the image of God and imperfections to show that she is no more than his image” (L 934). The concepts of perfection and image are clearly a relic of Renaissance philosophy and are incompatible with rationalist scientific reasoning. Although engraved in and imbued with the images of its creator, the realm of nature is inaccessible to the human mind and cannot be mapped and defined by human reason as the philosophers pretended to do. Pascal saw important examples of these grand pretensions in Descartes’s Principles of Philosophy and in Pico della Mirandola’s Of All that Can be Known (1486). More specifically, he denounced Descartes’s “Of the principle of Philosophy, and the like,” as “pretentious” and futile attempts to understand “all that can be known” about the universe in heaven and on earth. Descartes, it may be recalled, argued in the Principles of Philosophy for “the search for first causes or principles,” the quest after “a perfect knowledge of all things that mankind is capable of knowing.”40 Moreover, Descartes believed that we may have “absolute certainty” or knowledge since this “certainty is based on a metaphysical foundation, namely that God is supremely good and in no way a deceiver, and hence that the faculty which he gave us for distinguishing truth from falsehood cannot lead us into error, so long as we are using it properly . . . Mathematics demonstrations have this kind of [absolute] certainty.”41 Against such a naïve, misleading and unfounded illusion, Pascal declared that human beings should rather know their weakness and limitation: “Let us then realize our
Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, pp. 179–8. Ibid., pp. 179–80. 41 Ibid., p. 290. For the role of mathematics in Descartes’s thought, see Michael Mahoney, “The Mathematical Realm of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of SeventeenthCentury Philosophy, pp. 703–55.
40 39

142

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

limitation. We are something and we are not everything. Such being as we have conceals from us the knowledge of first principles” (L 199). In contrast to the Cartesian search for “first principles” and “absolute certainty,” and instead of praising the human mind’s ability to penetrate the secrets of nature, Pascal emphasized human incapacity:
Such is our true state. That is what makes us incapable of certain knowledge or absolute ignorance. We are floating in a medium of vast extent, always drifting uncertainly, blown to and fro; whenever we think we have a fixed point to which we can cling and make fast, it shifts and leaves us behind; if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips away, and flees eternally before us. Nothing stands still for us. (L 199)

Almost a century later, Pope wrote in the same vein in An Essay on Man (c. 1730): “In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies / All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.”42 This attack on philosophical pride and hubris was expressed also by the physician and author John Arbuthnot (1667–1735), Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), and Samuel Johnson (1709–1784). Pascal does not undertake any praise of human reason but rather deals with disillusion in it, presenting throughout the Pensées its inherent weakness and incapacity. Rationalist philosophers’ striving to provide new method and knowledge of the world of nature is futile because of the dialectical weakness inherent in the human condition. Here Pascal turns to the myth of the Tower of Babel as an example illuminating human hubris:
We burn with desire to find a firm footing, an ultimate, lasting base on which to build a tower rising up to infinity, but our whole foundation cracks and the earth opens up into the depth of the abyss. (L 199)

Donne evoked the same myth in his attack on the Physica Coelestis of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo: “Hath your raising up of the earth into heaven, brought men to that confidence, that they build new towers or threaten God againe?”43 The Tower of Babel was evidently a useful recourse in the anti-new science argument, providing an important clue as to the tensions between religion and science in the early modernity. Pascal then is very skeptical of the power of human reason: “Let us seek neither assurance nor stability; our reason is always
Pope, “An Essay on Man,” I, pp. 123–4. John Donne, Ignatius His Conclave, ed. T. S. Healy, S. J. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 17.
43 42

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

143

deceived by the inconsistency of appearance.” And once we understand our true state, that man is only a very small part of the infinite whole, “each of us can stay quietly in the state in which nature has placed him,” namely, “the middle station allotted us” between nothingness and infinity (L 199). Pascal is not only a master of anxiety but also a master skeptic of human capacity for knowledge: “How could a part possibly know the whole?” Being a part, however minute, of the natural world, human beings may indeed believe they know some few aspects of it, but “the parts of the world are all so related and linked together that I think it is impossible to know one without the other and without the whole.” Likewise, “I consider it as impossible to know the parts without knowing the whole as to know that whole without the individual parts.” Pascal was thus obliged to return to contemplation as against rationalist reasoning: “The eternity of things in themselves or in God must still amaze our brief span of life.” He proposed contemplation instead of the pursuit “to know things absolute” (L 199). Another dimension of human beings’ “inability to know things absolute” is the fact that we “are composed of two opposing natures of different kinds, soul and body,” spirit and matter. It is “inconceivable” therefore that “matter knows itself. We cannot possibly know how it could know itself.” Further, “if we are simply material, we can know nothing at all.” Referring to Descartes’s essential dualism between mind and body, Pascal argued “if we are composed of mind and matter, we cannot have a perfect knowledge of things which are simply spiritual or corporeal.” This is the crux of his objection to the philosophers who confusedly speak about mind and corporeal things:
That is why nearly all philosophers confused their ideas of things, and speak spiritually of corporeal things and corporeally of spiritual ones, for they boldly assert that bodies tend to fall, that they aspire towards their center, that they flee from destruction, that they fear a void, that they have inclinations, sympathies, antipathies, all things pertaining only to things spiritual. And when they speak of minds, they consider them as being in place, and attribute to them movement from one place to another, which are things pertaining only to bodies. (L 199)

Pascal declared, “man is to himself the greatest prodigy in nature, for he cannot conceive what body is and still less what mind is, and least of all how a body can be joined to a mind” (L 199). Our dualistic human nature is one of the greatest proofs of “our weakness” to understand ourselves properly and hence the greatest obstacle to our ability to know the world as a whole.

144

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Pascal did not trust rational naturalist philosophers and their “abstract sciences,” making a note to himself: “Write against those who probe science too deeply. Descartes” (L 553). And in a revealing confession he summed up his attitude toward rationalist philosophers:
I had spent a long time studying abstract sciences, and I was put off them by seeing how little one could communicate about them. When I began the study of man I saw that these abstract sciences are not proper to man, and that I was straying further from my true condition (L 687).

These words may be examined in the context of Pascal’s attack on Cartesian philosophy. Descartes is “useless and uncertain” (L 887), meaning the uselessness and unfruitfulness of Cartesian effort at the construction of a Mathesis universalis conceived as a complete mechanical system of the universe. Yet, even if Cartesian scientific construction “were true we do not think that the whole of philosophy would be worth an hour’s effort” (L 84). Eventually, only by turning to “the study of man,” as Pascal had learnt, may one find a true vocation since this study “is better” suited to man if “he wants to be happy.” The “study of man” should be “his true and proper study” (L 687). Several decades later Pope too declaimed “The proper study of mankind is Man.”44 This assertion brings us to another dimension of Pascal’s attack on reason and the rationalist search for first principles and absolute certainty. Pascal’s goal was “to humiliate reason, which would like to be the judge of everything” (L 110). He of course did not object to the search after first principles but he thought it should be based on the heart instead of on reason, as with Descartes, or on intelligence in the case of Aristotle.45 For Pascal there is an essential difference between the order of the mind and the order of the heart, between knowledge based on reason and the knowledge of the emotions. The heart belongs to the order of salvation, “it is the place in us in which God acts, makes himself perceived, as well as felt or loved, and in short operates our salvation.”46 “We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them.” Hence “knowledge of first principles, like space, time, motion, number, is as solid as any derived through reason, and it
44 45

Pope, “An Essay on Man,” II, p. 2. Force, “Pascal and philosophical method,” p. 220. 46 Miel, Pascal and Theology, p. 158.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

145

is on such knowledge coming from the heart and instinct, that reason has to depend and base all its arguments” (L 110). In Pascal’s epistemology we reason with our soul: “Our soul is cast into the body where it finds number, time, dimensions; it reasons about these things and calls them natural, or necessary, and can believe nothing else” (L 418). Or conversely, the “heart has its own reasons of which reason knows nothing” (L 423). In contrast to the Cartesian cogito, Pascalian psychology, like his epistemology, stresses the function of the heart. It is the order of the heart, not the order of the mind, which allows us to grasp the first principles of the world. “Thus without Scripture, whose only subject is Christ, we know nothing, and can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in nature itself” (L 417). This view of the human condition greatly influenced evangelical leaders such as Charles Wesley and George Whitefield later during the eighteenth century.

3. “The God of Abraham” and not “the God of Philosophers”
Following his conversion moment, Pascal wrote in “The Memorial,” which was later included in the Pensées, “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars” (L 913). Rejecting the rational God of the philosophers, most notably Descartes’s God, he wrote an entry entitled “Against the philosophers who have God without Christ” (L 142), claiming that we “know God only through Christ. Without this mediator, all communication with God is broken off” (L 189). Thus Descartes and “all those who have claimed to know God and prove his existence without Jesus Christ have only had futile proofs to offer” because it is “in him and through him” that “we know God.” Pascal continues by mocking the rational God of the philosophers: “without Scripture, without original sin, without the necessary mediator, who was promised to come, it is impossible to prove absolutely that God exists.” In other words, “Jesus is the true God of men” (L 189). Faith, and not reason or demonstrative logical proof, is for Pascal the only way to know the God of the Bible: “reason gives access only to the God of philosophers, and not to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”47 Pascal claimed that “Faith is a gift of God.” But in the
47 Anthony McKenna, “The Reception of Pascal’s Pensées in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, p. 258.

146

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

hands of the rationalist philosophers faith became “a gift of reason” and not of God, while in Christianity the essence of faith is a gift of God (L 588). Metaphysical ideas cannot offer proof of the existence of God. In fact, the philosophers’ “metaphysical proofs for the existence of God” are “so remote from human reasoning” that “an hour later” people who accepted them “would be afraid they had made a mistake.” Moreover, the outcome of the philosophers’ rational proofs of God is nothing but Deism, namely, “knowing God without Christ,” or “communicating without a mediator with a God known without a mediator” (L 189). In traditional Christian belief it is “not only impossible but useless to know God without Christ” (L 191). The philosophers’ concept of a rational God is totally unfounded because you do not need to prove the existence of God but rather to believe in Him. “Faith is different from proof,” Pascal wrote. “One is human and the other a gift of God.” The place of faith is in the heart, not in the mind: “But this faith is in our hearts, and makes us say not ‘I know’ but ‘I believe’ ” (L 7). There is an essential difference between the order of the heart based on faith, saving grace and revealed truths, and the order of the mind, Descartes’s cogito, based on demonstrative, logical proofs: “The heart has its order, the mind has its own, which uses principles and demonstrations. The heart has a different one” (L 298). Pascal could thus claim that the “heart has its own reasons of which reason knows nothing” (L 423). It is the heart therefore “which perceives God and not reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason” (L 424). Rationalist reasoning is radically different from the reasons of the heart; the first deals with demonstrative, logical proofs, while the heart by its own reasons perceives God. For Pascal the Cartesian rational God is obviously not the God of the Bible. “God is pure intelligence,”48 wrote Descartes, hence our knowledge of the Deity is a subject “where demonstrative proofs ought to be given with the aid of philosophy rather than theology.”49 All we know of God may be thus acquired “by reasons drawn from nowhere but ourselves.”50 Hence “everything that may be known of God can be demonstrated by reasoning which has no other source but our own mind.”51 With these statements Descartes contributed to the major
48 49

Descartes, “Early Writings,” in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I, p. 5. Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, p. 3. 50 Phillips, “Pascal’s Reading and the Inheritance of Montaigne and Descartes,” p. 34. 51 Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, p. 3.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

147

shift in the idea of God taking place in seventeenth-century philosophy, in which “the radical position of subjectivity is replaced by the impersonal recognition of transcendence as a point of departure for philosophical reflection—God is now a term in demonstration, and no longer the assumed goal of a journey toward Him.”52 To Pascal these rationalist contentions were inadmissible: “If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural” (L 173). And “Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are infinite number of things which are beyond it” (L 188). Pascal is very skeptical of the power of reason to find the truth: “That would surely be enough if reason were reasonable. It is quite reasonable enough to admit that it has so far found no firm truth.” Or in other words, “Let us see if it lies within the powers and grasp of reason to seize the truth” (L 76). Descartes’s God is the guarantor of scientia, knowledge, rather than the revealed God of the Bible: “For Descartes the clarity and incontrovertible nature of his idea of God stands as guarantee of the truth of all ideas clearly and distinctly conceived. A clear idea of God is therefore accessible to the human mind and, while revealed truth stands as the ultimate authority, can be proved by human reason unaided by divine agency.”53 Such a belief in human reason met with strong objection from Pascal: “Disproportion of man”—meaning human beings taking upon themselves an improper role and unjustified place in the world— “is where unaided knowledge brings us. If this is not true, there is no
Jean-Luc Marion, “The Idea of God,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, 265–304. Further discussion of the God of the philosophers can be found in Georg Ficht, “God of the Philosophers,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion (Mar. 1980), pp. 61–79; and in Nicholas Jolley, “The Relationship between Theology and Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 363–92. 53 Phillips, “Pascal’s reading and the inheritance of Montaigne and Descartes,” p. 34. On the role of God in Descartes’s philosophy, see Jean Marie Beyssade, “The idea of God and the proof of his existence,” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, pp. 175–99; Harry Frankfurt, “Descartes on the Creation of the Eternal Truths,” Philosophical Review (Jan. 1977), pp. 36–57; John Cottingham, “The Role of God in Descartes’s Philosophy,” in A Companion to Descartes, pp. 288–301; Paul De Hart, “The Ambiguous Infinite: Jüngel, Marion, and the God of Descartes,” Journal of Religion (Jan. 2002), pp. 75–96; Marion, “The Idea of God,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy; and Margaret J. Osler, “Descartes and Charleton on Nature and God,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Jul.–Sep. 1979), pp. 445–56; “Eternal Truths and the Laws of Nature: The Theological Foundations of Descartes’ Philosophy of Nature,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Jul.–Sep. 1985), pp. 349–62, and Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy: Gassendi and Descartes on contingency and necessity in the created world (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998).
52

148

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

truth in man, and if it is true, he has good cause to feel humiliated” (L 199). Without divine agency human knowledge cannot reach the truth: “Man without faith can know neither true good nor justice” (L 148). Saving faith then is a prerequisite for any possible true knowledge. But faith, moreover, “is a gift of God. Do not imagine that we describe it as a gift of reason.” In opposition to Descartes who claimed that our knowledge of God is based on reason, Pascal declared that reason is not “a way to faith” (L 588). As for God, “by faith we know his existence, through glory we shall know his nature” (L 418). Not only did Pascal reject “the arrogance of the philosophers” who claimed that God can be proved by human reason unaided by divine agency, but he accused them as well of being Deists because they worshiped “a God considered to be great and mighty and eternal, which is properly speaking deism almost as remote from the Christian religion as atheism, its complete opposite” (L 449). Deists excluded revelation from providence, thus arousing the fear that the Jehovah of the Old Testament could hardly be identified with their God in particular and the God of the philosophers in general, as Pascal observed. In the same vein Pope denounced the deist idea of God “wrapt up in self, a God without a thought, regardless of our merit or default.”54 Certainly, the deists’ main concern was not with the existence of God as such; they needed the transcendental in order to support their physics and ethics. Most deists believed that God who created the universe is known by the light of reason and that He rewards good and punishes evil in this life as well as in the next. Not surprisingly, many, like Pascal, were suspicious of the deistic elevation of reason at the expanse of revelation. In opposition to the deistic, rationalist God of the philosophers, Pascal declared that Christianity “properly consists in the mystery of the Redeemer.” It is based on faith, not on reason, and “that is why I shall not undertake here to prove by reasons from nature either the existence of God, or the Trinity” (L 449). Moreover, “I marvel at the boldness with which these people [the philosophers] presume to speak of God” and at their purpose to offer a “proof of the existence of God from the works of nature” (L 781). Revelation, revealed truth, he claimed instead, is the essence of religious faith and belief. The attempt by rational philosophers to prove God “by reasons from nature” met with Pascal’s wrath: “It is remarkable that no canonical author has ever
54 Alexander Pope, The Dunciad (1742), in Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope, ed. Aubrey William (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969), p. 372.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

149

used nature to prove God” (L 463), and it is only “a sign of weakness to prove God from nature” (L 466). Clearly, if the existence of God may be proved by the phenomena of nature, than everyone might find and know God. But for Pascal, the knowledge of God comes only through revelation, or Scripture and grace. At this point Pascal’s attack on the philosophers’ God reaches its height:
The Christian God does not consist merely of a God who is the author of mathematical truths and the order of the elements. This is the portion of the heathen and Epicureans. He does not consist merely of God who extends his providence over the life and property of men so as to grant a happy span of years to those who worship him. That is the portion of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the Christians is the God of love and consolation: who is a God who fills the soul and heart of those whom he possesses: he is a God who makes them inwardly aware of their wretchedness and his infinite mercy: who unites himself with them in the depths of their soul: who fills it with humility, joy, confidence and love: who makes them incapable of having any other but him. (L 449)

There can be no better description of the contrast between the traditional God that Christians had worshiped for many centuries and the God of the philosophers. The New Philosophy of nature radically transformed not only the traditional concept of space and time, but also the meaning and nature of the Deity. When Pascal rejected the philosophers’ God who is “the author of mathematical truths and the order of the elements,” he referred among others to Descartes whose “God guarantees the truth and certainty of mathematics.”55 Descartes’s assumption is that of the Stoic faith in a beneficent God and uncorrupted nature. A good God cannot deceive us, and our reason is from God; hence our reason is to be trusted. In Descartes’s words: “Absolute certainty” is “based on a metaphysical foundation, namely that God is supremely good and in no way a deceiver, and hence that the faculty which he gave us for distinguishing truth from falsehood cannot lead us into error . . . Mathematical demonstrations have this kind of [absolute] certainty.”56 Pascal denounced those who in order to find God make a distinction between God and Christ and “go no further than nature,” as do the deists and atheists:
All those who seek God apart from Christ, and who go no further than nature, either find no light to satisfy them or come to devise a means of knowledge and serving God without a mediator, thus falling into either atheism of deism, two things almost equally abhorrent to Christianity. (L 449)
55 56

Phillips, “Pascal’s reading and the inheritance of Montaigne and Descartes,” p. 36. Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, p. 290.

150

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

This is why Pascal so much resented Descartes’s God: “I cannot forgive Descartes: in his whole philosophy he would like to do without God; but he could not help allowing him a flick of the fingers to set the world in motion: after that he had no more use for God.”57 This was also the view of John Ray, who argued that Descartes and his followers, “the mechanick Theists,” believed that “God had no more to do than to create the Matter, divide it into Parts, and put it into Motion, according to some few Laws, and that would of itself produce the World and all Creatures therein.”58 Descartes in fact believed that God intervenes continually in creation, claiming in Le Monde (1644) that “God continues to preserve” nature “in the same way that he created it.”59 In the Cartesian system “God must continually re-create the world at every moment, or else it would pass into nonexistence.”60 Yet the Pascal’s reading of Descartes is significant because it exposes growing fears from the Cartesian philosophy of nature, revealing more specifically how it “could be held to lead away from rather than back to God. Science, as an autonomous activity legitimated once the idea of God had guaranteed the truth of properly conceived ideas, becomes a distraction to the true nature of considering man in relation to God.”61 Evidence can be found in Le Monde where Descartes portrayed a mechanistic understanding of the theater of nature deprived of teleological and theological considerations, something radically different from the scholastic worldview.62 Indeed, in Cartesian philosophy no “special creative acts, no divine purpose are invoked; rather, the universe is like a machine whose operations unfold automatically in accordance with the laws of matter in motion.”63
57 Pascal, “Sayings Attributed to Pascal,” II, in Pensées, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (London: Penguin, 1995), p. 330. 58 Ray, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation, pp. 41–3. 59 Descartes, The World, 1664, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I, p. 92. 60 Daniel Garber, “Mind, Body, and the Laws of Nature in Descartes and Leibniz,” in Garber, Descartes Embodied, p. 163. 61 Phillips, “Pascal’s reading and the inheritance of Montaigne and Descartes,” p. 37. 62 Descartes’s attitude toward scholastic philosophy is discussed in Roger Ariew, “Descartes and scholasticism: the intellectual background to Descartes’ thought,” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, pp. 58–90. See also, Steven Nadler, “Doctrines of Explanation in Late Scholasticism and Mechanical Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 513–52, Daniel Garber et al., “New Doctrines of Body and Its Power, Place, and Space,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 553–623, and M. W. Stone, “Aristotelianism and Scholasticism in Early Modern Philosophy,” in A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, pp. 7–24. 63 John Cottingham, A Descartes Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), p 41.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

151

Pascal denounced the rational God of the philosophers because in many cases, and very clearly in the case of Descartes, he was a mechanical God and not the Savior and Redeemer God of Christianity. Descartes argued that “God will never perform any miracle” and He “will not disrupt in any way the ordinary course of nature.”64 The Deity’s immutability and uniformity in the Cartesian system precluded any extraordinary divine intervention in nature. Second, in the Cartesian mechanism, with the creation of the world God “divided” matter into “many parts,” and then, from “the first instant of their creation, he causes some to start moving in one direction and others in another, some faster and others slower” and “he causes them to continue moving thereafter in accordance with the ordinary laws of nature.” In this mechanistic conception of the world of nature, the Deity “imposed on” nature the laws of nature and thus “untangled the confusion of the chaos.”65 But once these laws of motion were laid down only slight reference was made to God. Pascal therefore was not inaccurate when he said that after setting the world in motion, Cartesian philosophy “had no more use for God.”66 In Descartes’s philosophy, God is pictured as a mechanistic God. Against the deist, mechanical God, who exercises only general providence by starting and running the world machine, a Creator who created the world but is not involved in it, Pascal invoked the “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars” (L 913), namely the living God of the Bible who constantly intervenes not only in the world and nature but also in time and history. Pascal’s God is “Deus Absconditus,” the “hidden God,” who “has hidden himself” from human “understanding,” and he is “recognized only by those who genuinely seek him” (L 427), unlike the God of the philosophers, whom reason may discover. He admitted that “it is not true that everything reveals God, and it is not true that everything conceals God. But it is true at once that he hides from those who tempt him and that he reveals himself to those who seek him” (L 444). Divine
64 Descartes, The World, p. 97. On relationship between miracles and science in the early modernity, see Peter Harrison, “Miracles, Early Modern Science, and Rational Religion,” Church History (Sep. 2006), pp. 493–510; Peter Dear, “Miracles, Experiments, and the Ordinary Course of Nature,” Isis (Dec. 1990), pp. 663–83, and Jolley, “The Relationship between Theology and Philosophy,” pp. 363–92. 65 Descartes, The World, pp. 91–2. For the rise of the concept of natural laws in early modern natural science, see J. R. Milton, “Laws of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 680–701. 66 Pascal, “Sayings Attributed to Pascal,” II, p. 330.

152

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

revelation is the property of those who believe in God and most properly belongs to them. This view carries weighty consequences regarding the human ability to understand the Deity from the order of nature, as the philosophers and deists maintained: “What can be seen on earth indicates neither the total absence nor the manifest presence of divinity, but the presence of a hidden God. Everything bears this stamp” (L 449). Nature therefore does not reveal but rather conceals the divine presence. Pascal’s God has hidden himself from human knowledge; hence far from “teaching that God’s presence is manifested in the world, the Christian religion as affirmed by Augustine concludes that God is knowable only through revelation.”67 As saving grace becomes the prerequisite for faith, it is also essential for any possible true knowledge of the world: “Man is nothing but a subject full of natural error that cannot be eradicated except through grace” (L 45). Again, “without Scripture” or revelation we cannot know God and “nature itself” (L 417). There is however a very interesting analogy between Pascal and Descartes with respect to the concept of Deus Absconditus. Descartes’s God too “is not symbolized by the things He created; He does not express Himself in them. There is no analogy between God and the world; no imagines and vestigial Dei in mundo.”68 The Pascalian God is the living God of the Bible who continually acts in the time and history. Descartes’s God is “a truthful God; thus the knowledge about the world created by Him that our clear and distinct ideas enable us to reach is a true and authentic knowledge.”69 This is the basis for Cartesian science, that God is the guarantee of our knowledge. But this is clearly not the God of the Bible. Pascal’s Deus Absconditus, on the other hand, has left no visible signs of himself in the order of nature, but in the order of time and history the Deity incessantly reveals himself to fallen humanity. “This is why the bulk of the Pensées deal with hermeneutics: messianism, prophecies, figures, miracles, the paradoxical survival of a people created by a book, which makes the whole book a proof of what it says, etc.”70 Pascal’s God manifests himself and his plan of salvation and redemption in time and history:
God is hidden. But he lets those who seek find him. Visible signs of him have always existed throughout the ages. Ours are the prophecies, other ages had

67 68

David Wetsel, “Pascal and holy writ,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, p. 164. Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, p. 100. 69 Ibid., pp. 100–1. 70 Khalfa, “Pascal’s theory of knowledge,” pp. 138–9.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

153

other signs. These proofs all hang together . . . Thus every age, having signs appropriate to itself, has thereby known the others.71

For Pascal’s generation prophetic divine revelations were a true visible signature of the Deity in creation. Yet understanding of such truths is only gained through faith and the heart, not by reason and rationalism. In the end, Pascal argued, history is the realm where one may find the truth: “The history of the Church should properly be called the history of truth” (L 776).

4. The Theater of Nature: NATURA NATURATA and NATURA NATURANS
Apart from his skepticism regarding the power of human reason, cogito, and his rejection of the God of the philosophers, Pascal’s thought differs radically from the rationalist philosophers’ explanation of the theater of nature, more specifically, from the Cartesian explanation of the world based on casual mechanism.72 For Pascal nature is active and developing. “Pascal maintains the Scholastic distinction between a natura naturans [nature in the active sense] and natura naturata [nature in the passive sense].”73 Adhering to the idea of natura naturans, Pascal wrote “nature is always active,”74 hence “nature has engraved her own image and that of her author on all things” (L 199). Descartes, on the other hand, “described his physics as being, in essence, mechanistic insofar as its explanations were meant to be couched exclusively in terms of matter pushing against other matter.”75 Against the passive, uniform, senseless and homogeneous world of nature of mechanical philosophy, explained by the mechanics of matter and motion alone,76
71 Pascal, “Additional Pensées, 14, in Pensées, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (London: Penguin, 1995), pp. 333–4. 72 On mechanistic explanations in the seventeenth century, see Steven Nadler, “Doctrines of Explanation in Late Scholasticism and Mechanical Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 513–52. 73 A. W. S. Baird, “Pascal’s Idea of Nature,” Isis 61 (Autumn, 1970), p. 317. 74 Pascal, Oeuvres completes, ed. M. Le Guren, 2 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1998–2000), I, p. 455, as cited by Desmond M. Clarke, “Pascal’s Philosophy of Science and the Scientific Revolution,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, p. 114. 75 Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences, p. 98. 76 On the conception of nature in the mechanistic philosophy, see Deason, “Reformation Theology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature,” in God & Nature, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1986), pp. 167–91.

154

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Pascal believed that “it is through the agency of nature, constructed as an active and generative power in its own right, that God orders the world and accomplishes his purpose.”77 During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a new theory of nature emerged, the naturalist philosophy of the Renaissance, which regarded nature as “something divine and self-creative; the active and passive sides of this one self-creative being they distinguished by distinguishing Natura naturata, or the complex of natural changes and process, from natura naturans, or the immanent force which animates and directs them.”78 The scholastic term Natura naturata means the passive side of nature—“nature natured,” nature in the sense of the physical world, that is, “nature already created,” the idea of nature as an ensemble de phénomènes. It implies a passive God in which things have already been created, and modifications are secondary to the unchangeable identity of things, whereas natura naturans means the active side of nature—“nature naturing,” the idea of nature as an active principle, “the active or creative power of Nature which is God.”79 The term thus depicts an active, alive, and changing God who at the same time does not lose his reality. It is precisely the view of nature as an ensemble de phénomènes, the passive side of nature, that mechanistic physics advanced, while for Pascal nature meant an active principle. Pascal’s criticism of Descartes’s mechanical philosophy resulted in part from these two fundamentally different concepts of nature. He retained the scholastic distinction while the New Philosophy rejected it, defining nature solely as a uniform and homogeneous realm operated according to invariable laws and based on invariable sequences of cause and effect. To explain the phenomena of the world of nature, rationalist natural philosophers attempted to reduce nature to mathematics.80 It was Descartes “who clearly and distinctively formulated the principles of the new science, its dream de reductione scientia ad
Baird, “Pascal’s Idea of Nature,” p. 317. R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of Nature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), pp. 94–5. On the changing images of nature in the medieval and Renaissance periods, see Katharine Park, “Nature in Person: Medieval and Renaissance Allegories and Emblems,” in The Moral Authority of Nature, eds. L. Daston and F. Vidal (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 2004), pp. 50–73. 79 Jonathan Israel, The Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), p. 162. 80 For the mathematization of nature, see Mahoney, “The Mathematical Realm of Nature,” pp. 703–55.
78 77

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

155

mathematicam,”81 the belief that nature is written in the language of mathematics, which would establish mathematics as the privileged language of natural philosophy.82 No wonder that for Descartes mathematics was the key to interpreting God’s book of nature. The mathematicization of physics implied restricting the language of science to what can be expressed in mathematical terms. “I proved,” wrote Descartes, “by mathematical demonstration, all those things . . . concerning the structure of the heavens and the earth.”83 The mathematicization of nature destroyed the medieval world picture: “The world of Christian scholasticism was a world of full meaning: divine plans and divine designs. One of Descartes’s most controversial positions was to put such considerations out of the bounds for the physicists.”84 This is most evident in Descartes’s concept of nature: “by ‘nature’ here I do not mean some goddess or any other sort of imaginary power. Rather, I am using this word to signify matter itself.”85 Later on Kant wrote in the same vein: nature is “the sum total of all things, insofar as they can be object of our senses, and thus also of experience. Nature, in this meaning, is therefore understood as the whole of all appearances, that is, the sensible world, excluding all nonsensible objects.”86 Stripping nature of theological significance was essential to the definition of the natural phenomena in mathematical terms and thus to the mathematical formulation of the laws of nature. In Descartes’s words: “the only principles which I accept, or require, in physics are those of geometry and pure mathematics; these principles explain all natural phenomena, and enable us to provide quite certain demonstrations regarding them” (italics in original).87 Theological and teleological considerations

81 Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, p. 99. For the role of mathematics in Descartes’s thought, see Marion, “The Idea of God,” pp. 265–304. 82 Peter Hans Reill, Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2005), p. 35. 83 Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, as quoted by Clarke, “Descartes’ philosophy of science and the scientific revolution,” pp. 278–9. 84 Daniel Garber, “Physics and Foundations,” in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science, eds. K. Park and L. Daston (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), p. 63. See also Garber, “Descartes’ Physics,” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, pp. 286–334. 85 Descartes, “The Laws of Nature of This World,” in The World, p. 92. 86 Immanuel Kant, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, trans. and ed. Michael Friedman (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004), p. 3. 87 Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, p. 247.

156

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

have no place in Cartesian physics:
When dealing with natural things we will, then, never derive any explanation from the purposes which God or nature may have had in view when creating them [and we shall entirely banish from our philosophy the search for final causes]. For we should not be so arrogant as to suppose that we can share in God’s plans.88

Our ignorance of God’s intentions “prevents us from appealing to final causes in physics.”89 In other words, like the Baconian project, Cartesian science too read “the Book of Nature as a coherent, orderly text produced by an omnipotent author, who, nonetheless, remains distinct from, and unmirrored by, nature, His creation.”90 What is evident here is the plea not to search the mind of God (mens Dei) in creation: God created the world “by pure will, and even if He had some reasons for doing it, these reasons are only known to Himself, we have not, and cannot have, the slightest idea of them. It is therefore not only hopeless, but even preposterous to try to find His aim.”91 Or in Descartes’s words:
Although in Ethics, where it is often permissible to use a conjuncture, it is something pious to consider what end we can conjuncture for God to have set out for Himself in ruling the universe, this is certainly out of place in Physics, where everything ought to shine with firmest reason. Neither can we pretend that some of God’s ends are better displayed to us than others for all [of God’s ends] are hidden in the same way in the abyss of his inscrutable wisdom.92

This position has important ramifications on the relationship between religion and science. “Theological conceptions and explanations have no place and no value in physical science, just as they have no place and no meaning in mathematics.”93 Descartes, in other words, “left the old castle of scholasticism for a palace of his own making, where
88 Descartes, Principia Philosophiae, as quoted in Garber, “Physics and Foundations,” pp. 63–4. For an analysis of Descartes’s doctrine of creation of and created truths, see Thomas M. Lennon, “The Cartesian Dialectic of Creation,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, pp. 331–62. 89 Daniel Garber, “Leibniz: Physics and Philosophy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz, ed. Nicholas Jolley (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), p. 326. 90 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1995), p. 248. 91 Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, p. 100. 92 Descartes as cited by Garber, “Mind, Body, and the Laws of Nature in Descartes and Leibniz,” p. 162. 93 Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, p. 100.

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

157

corridors of reason led from a basement of method and metaphysics to a penthouse of morals, mechanics, and medicine.”94 According to Cartesian philosophy, after the creation of the world God “continues to preserve it in the same way that he created it.” Given that God never changes his action, “it follows of necessity, from the mere fact that he continues thus to preserve it, that there must be many changes in its parts which cannot . . . properly attributed to the action of God (because that action never changes).” Changes in nature are not the result of divine activity but of the laws of nature. They take place as particles of matter “from the time they began to move, they also began to change and diversify their motions by colliding with one another.”95 The laws of nature and not God’s direct hand thus regulated internal changes in nature. The conflict between the scholastic and Cartesian ideas of natural change was based to a large extent on finalistic and non-finalistic theories of causation. Aristotelian and scholastic science “stressed the importance of final causes in explaining natural phenomena,” whereas “Descartes banished final causes from physics. Teleological explanation has no rôle whatsoever to play in the investigation of natural phenomena.”96 This was also Bacon’s view, who argued that “teleology, like a virgin consecrated to God, produces no offspring.”97 Moreover, since “God is immutable” and “acting always in the same way,” it follows according to Descartes that “God will never perform any miracle” and “will not disrupt the ordinary course of nature.”98 The Deity’s immutability and uniformity ruled out any extraordinary divine intervention, in contradiction of the revelations of the Bible. The Cartesian theater of nature was radically different from the traditional scholastic and Renaissance conception of the world:
The world of Descartes is by no means the colorful, multiform and qualitatively determined world of the Aristotelian, the world of our daily life and experience . . . but a strictly uniform mathematical world, a world of geometry made real about which our clear and distinct ideas give us a certain and evident knowledge.

Brian Copenhaver, “The Occultist Tradition and Its Critics,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I, p. 475. 95 Descartes, “The Laws of Nature of This World,” in The World, pp. 92–3. 96 Nadler, “Doctrines of Explanation in Late Scholasticism and Mechanical Philosophy,” p. 529. 97 Collingwood, The Idea of Nature, p. 93. 98 Descartes, “The Laws of Nature of This World,” pp. 96–7.

94

158

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

There is nothing else in this world but matter and motion; or, matter being identical with space or extension, there is nothing else but extension and motion.99

Conceiving of the physical reality in terms of pure spatial extension, Descartes “denied light and color all qualitative or formal existence.”100 This new view of nature was based on a fundamental shift in metaphysical commitment “from Aristotelian essentialism toward a kind of mathematical materialism.” Now “physical reality was thought to be satisfactory explained in terms of corporeal interactions and mathematically determined spatio-temporal relationships.”101 Yet, the price of this new mechanistic view was high: the replacement of “the qualitatively rich and psychologically comfortable world view of the Middle Ages with the thoroughly cheerless and dehumanized, albeit demystified, world view that came to prevail during the seventeenth century.”102 The results of this radical mechanistic approach to natural philosophy were dramatic, to say the least, in terms of the disenchantment of the world of nature:
The world that people had thought themselves living in—a world of rich with colour and sound, redolent with fragrance, file with gladness, love and beauty, speaking everywhere of purposive harmony and creative ideals—was crowded now into minute corners in the brains of scattered organic being. The really important world outside was a world of hard, cold, colourless, silent and dead; a world of quantity, a world of mathematically computable motions in mechanical regularity.103

The Cartesian theater of nature, based on a mechanical explanation of physical phenomena, replaced “the medieval and Renaissance approach to the scientific study of the natural world which relied heavily on syllogistic reasoning over experimentation.”104 In his Discourse on the Method Descartes argued that “syllogisms and most of its techniques are of less use for learning things than for explaining to others the things one already knows.”105 Instead, he formulated the New Philosophy’s principles, “its dream de reductione scientiae ad mathematicam, and of the
Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, pp. 100–1. Smith, “Knowing Things Inside Out,” p. 741. 101 Ibid., p. 727. 102 Ibid., p. 743. 103 Edwin A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay (New York: Dover, 2003 [1924]), pp. 238–9. 104 Phemister, The Rationalists, p. 1. 105 Descartes, Discourse on the Method, p. 119.
100 99

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

159

new, mathematical cosmology.”106 It should be noted that Bacon too rejected syllogism outright: “I . . . reject demonstration by syllogism, as acting too confusedly, and letting nature slip out of its hand.”107 Pascal opposed such explanations of nature and of God’s role in creation, arguing instead that human beings are incapable to understand and therefore unable to explain the things of the world because “we colour them with our qualities and stamp our own composite being on all the simple things we contemplate” (L 199). Being extremely skeptical of human ability to understand the structure of the world, he warned against imposing our limited perceptions on reality. He is “constantly telling us what knowledge cannot be, and in particular stresses the vanity of efforts toward a comprehensive knowledge of nature.”108 Since we are unable to know the world on the basis of our limited and finite perceptions, these modes of perception cannot be the measure of things. Pascal thus rejected Kepler’s, Galileo’s and Descartes’s mathematicization of nature and the view that nature “is written in the language of mathematics.” To assert that “nature is mathematical” means for Pascal “to shape the external world of nature in conformity with the mind’s subjective modes.”109 Hence he called Cartesianism “the Romance of Nature, something like the story of Don Quixote.”110 In this context Pascal expressed his aim to write “against those who probe science too deeply. Descartes” (L 553). To Pascal Descartes is the epitome of the rationalist natural philosopher; and he spared no effort to show his dislike of Cartesian philosophy: “Descartes useless” (L 887). One of the reasons is Descartes’s mechanical philosophy, which Pascal denounced:
Descartes. In general terms one must say: “That is the result of figure and motion,” because it is true, but to name them and assemble the machine is quite ridiculous. It is pointless, uncertain, and arduous. Even if it were true we do not think that the whole of philosophy would be worth an hour’s effort. (L 84)

More directly, Pascal opposed the mechanical philosophers who “say that heat is merely the movement of certain globules and light the
Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, p. 99. Bacon, Parasceve, 1620, as quoted in Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 225. 108 Khalfa, “Pascal’s theory of knowledge,” p. 124. 109 Baird, “Pascal’s Idea of Nature,” p. 312. 110 Pascal, “Sayings Attributed to Pascal,” IX, p. 331.
107 106

160

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

conatus recedendi (centrifugal force) that we feel, we are amazed. What! Is pleasure nothing but a ballet of spirits?” (L 686) Pascal completely rejected Descartes’s attempt to explain world phenomena in mathematical, mechanistic terms. Indeed, “it is striking how unconvinced Pascal remains by the seventeenth-century attempts to elaborate an overall mechanistic worldview.”111 More specifically, Descartes’s detailed analysis of “the whole structure of the world of nature” on the basis of “geometric concepts,” and his attempts “to explain its manifold process by means of a cosmic ‘machine’ functioning according to laws which admit of precise mathematical formulation—all this is in Pascal a complete waste of time.” In other words, he opposed the tendency to reduce physics to geometry because the latter is based on nonexisting abstractions, and thus does not deal with the real physical world. “Pascal expressly denies reality to geometrical concepts.”112 The mechanistic conception of nature signifies uniformity and homogeneity, a closed system functioning according to invariable laws based on the invariable sequences of cause and effect. Pascal’s view of nature is very different:
When we see the same effect always occurring, we conclude that it is necessarily so by nature, like the fact that it will dawn tomorrow etc., but nature often gives us the lie and does not obey its own rules. (L 660)

He defined nature in terms of progress, growth, and development: “Nature acts by progress . . . It goes and returns, then advances further, then twice as much backward, then more forward than ever, etc.”113 Surely, this is a relic of Renaissance thought. No wonder that Pascal’s idea of nature is “out of tune with the Cartesian tendency dominant in the thought of his period.”114 Pascal views nature in theological and teleological terms. “Nature is corrupt,” he declared. “Without Christ man can only be vicious and wretched. With Christ man is free from vice and wretchedness” (L 416, L 642).115 Unaided by divine revelation we find only obscurity and
Baird, “Pascal’s Idea of Nature,” pp. 309, 307. Ibid., p. 309–11. 113 Pascal, Pensées, trans. W. F. Trotter (New York: Modern Library, 1941), 355, p. 118. 114 Baird, “Pascal’s Idea of Nature,” p. 313. 115 See the discussion on Pascal’s corrupt nature in Moriarty, Fallen Nature, Fallen Selves, pp. 125–32. The possibility and impossibility of knowledge after the Fall is discussed in Peter Harrison, “Original Sin and the Problem of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Apr. 2002), pp. 239–59.
112 111

“God of Abraham” and “Not of Philosophers”

161

confusion “in nature itself” (L 417). Stressing the corruption both of nature and of human beings, Pascal’s apologetic project is fully revealed. He pleaded for the superiority of religion over science: “the aim is to show the superiority of a religion different from all others” by asserting “the essential corruption of nature, physically as well as human.”116 The Cartesian vision of a universal science is doomed to fail precisely on this point of the corruption inherent in creation. Together with his concept of the “Hidden God” Pascal emphasized the hidden secrets of nature: “The secrets of nature are hidden. Although nature is always active, its effects are not always noticed.”117 Pascal upheld “the superiority of Christianity” with respect to the knowledge of the natural world.118 He thus denounced the whole Cartesian scientific enterprise, saying “men are by nature eternally powerless to deal with any science in an absolutely accomplished order.”119 In the wider ideological context of the response to the rise of Cartesian philosophy, Pascal’s Pensées are not only an “Apology for the Christian Religion” in the strict sense but also a staunch defense of the Christian worldview, a reaffirmation of traditional Christian thought and belief with respect to God, the human condition, nature, and history. Against the elimination of theological and teleological considerations from the realm of nature by the pioneers of modern scientific thought such as Descartes, Pascal reads everything in a theological and teleological way, according to divine causation. In the end, Descartes and the rationalist trend he inaugurated in the early modern period, the liberation of the New Philosophy of nature from its tutelage to theology, eventually triumphed in scientific thought. To quote Schrödinger:
Let me briefly mention the notorious atheism of science . . . No personal god can form part of a world model that has only become accessible at the cost of removing everything personal from it . . . I do not find God anywhere in space and time—that is what the honest naturalist tells you.120

Pascal, like Donne before him, opposed this rationalist and eventually atheist trend. And by resisting the demystifying of nature and the
Khalfa, “Pascal’s theory of knowledge,” pp. 129–30. Clarke, “Pascal’s philosophy of science and the scientific revolution,” p. 114. 118 Khalfa, “Pascal’s theory of knowledge,” p. 130. 119 Pascal, Oeuvres completes, ed. M. Le Guren, 2 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1998–2000), II, p. 157, as cited by Khalfa, “Pascal’s theory of knowledge,” p. 134. 120 Schrödinger, “Mind and Matter,” pp. 138–9.
117 116

162

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

emptying of the world of theological considerations, his writings not only contributed to the development of religious thought in the early modern period but his views constitute an important chapter in the history of ideas. As T. S. Eliot wrote, Pascal’s “despair, his disillusion, are, however, no illustration of personal weakness; they are perfectly objective, because they are essential moments in the progress of the intellectual soul; and for the type of Pascal they are the analogue of the drought, the dark night, which is an essential stage in the progress of the Christian mystic.”121

121 T. S. Eliot, “The Pensées of Pascal,” Collected Essays (London: Faber and Faber, 1969), p. 412.

Chapter V

RELIGION AND THE NEWTONIAN UNIVERSE
[T]he Corpuscular Account of Nature should be avow’d and contended for by such patrons, who make their Enmity to religion and Virtue, not their Affection to the Truth, the cause and Principle of their Researches . . . we shall evince the incompetency of the present Mathematicks to furnish us with any just or adequate. Reasoning upon nature. Robert Greene, The Principles of Natural Philosophy, 1712 [I]n this Learned age some Parts of Humane Knowledge are censur’d, and the very Principles of some Arts, especially those that relate to Natural Philosophy, have undergone a great Alteration; therefore they [Newton and the Newtonians] may venture to advance some unheard-of Doctrines in Divinity, to new model our Religion, to mend the Gospel, and to present us as it were with a New Christianity. Such is the Bold Spirit, such is the Degenerate State of Our Times. John Edwards, Some New Discoveries of the Uncertainty, Deficiency, and Corruptions of Human Knowledge and Learning, 1714 [O]ur souls have been corrupted in proportion to the advancement of our sciences and arts toward perfection . . . the works of the most enlightened of our learned men provide us with so little that is useful . . . they go everywhere armed with their deadly paradoxes, undermining the foundations of faith, and annihilating virtue. They smile disdainfully at the old-fashioned words of fatherland and religion, and devote their talents and philosophy to destroying and debasing all that is sacred among men. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse, 1750 O Satan, my youngest born, art thou not Prince of the Starry Hosts And of the Wheels of Heaven, to turn the Mills day & night? Art Thou not Newton’s Pantocrator, weaving the Woof of Locke? William Blake, “Milton,” 1804–1808 Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings Conquer all mysteries by rule and line. John Keats, “Lamia,” 1820

163

164

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

In his Letters on England, 1733, Voltaire claimed that Newton was the “greatest man” of all times, a man “who received from heaven a powerful genius” and “used it to enlighten himself and others.” But there were many orthodox believers in England who totally disagreed with Voltaire and denied the view that Newton might “enlighten” his age. Rather, they claimed that Newton’s New Philosophy of nature would lead to the demystifying of nature and eventually to the disenchantment of the world. Thus, as with the New Philosophies of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes, which profoundly modified traditional Christian thought and belief, Newton’s experimental, mechanical philosophy was also viewed by many as seriously endangering the foundations of Christian religion and virtue. These orthodox people vehemently rejected Newton’s reduction of nature to a mathematics that subjected infinity to calculation, his experimental, mechanical philosophy, and his belief that all natural phenomena are reducible to motion and its general laws. They further observed, with fear and anxiety, that Newton’s thought was leading to heresies such as Arianism and Socianism, the views that rejected the divinity of Jesus Christ. For many in England Newton’s natural philosophy revealed rather the Janus face of science, its serious threat and dangerous challenge to traditional definitions and formations of Christian identities. Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica), or Principia, 1687, carried on and brought to completion the work of Galileo; he wished to reduce the phenomena of nature to general laws and to derive these laws from mathematical principles. Following Galileo, Newton believed that without mathematics nature would remain a sealed book; mathematics was the key to understand the essential nature of reality, or the labyrinth of nature. But the mathematization of nature was not acceptable to many orthodox believers. To them Newton’s search for the “mathematical principles of natural philosophy” meant not only the de-sacralization of nature but that mathematics would replace theological reasoning and considerations regarding the essential structure of the world. Similarly, Newton’s concept of a “God of dominion” (Dominus Deus), and his idea of a mechanical God who is “very well skilled in mechanics and geometry,” was opposed to the teaching of the Bible and the Church. Newtonian science then, as had been the case with Copernicus and other forerunners of early modern science, aroused deep anxiety. Not only did it tend to explain the world in mathematical and mechanical terms, striving to understand the phenomena in terms of matter, motion, and forces, but also it countered with some of the most sacred

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

165

notions of Christianity, such as the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the Deity’s relationship with the created order. People believed that Newton and his followers, the Newtonians, such as the theologian and philosopher Samuel Clarke (1675–1729) and the natural philosopher and theologian William Whiston (1667–1752), were profoundly endangering traditional religious thought and belief. In sum, Newtonian science revealed itself as an intellectual power able to disturb and transform traditional religious thought and belief with its uncompromising and radical plea for rational knowledge of nature, understood according to corporeal interactions and mathematically determined spatio-temporal relationships.

1. Newton and the Newtonians
Newton was “chief architect of the modern world,” showing among others “how to predict the courses of the heavenly bodies and so established our place in the cosmos.” With him the Aristotelian cosmology was finally put to rest: “a worldview that staggered under the assault of Galileo and Descartes and finally expired in 1687, when Newton published” the Principia.1 As the Scottish poet and playwright James Thompson (1700–1748) wrote in 1727:
Let Newton, pure intelligence, whom God To mortals lent to trace his boundless works From laws sublimely simple, speak thy fame In all philosophy.2

Newton chose the title Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica “to parallel Descartes’s’ Principia Philosophiae (1644)” and intended his own Principia “to supplant” it “once and for all.”3 Experimental philosophers, striving to create a natural philosophy free of occult qualities, “believed in matter without magic—inanimate brute matter, as Newton often called it. The virtuosi of the Royal Society wished
James Gleick, Isaac Newton (New York: Vintage, 2003), pp. 3, 49. James Thompson, “Summer,” 1727, as quoted in Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Newton Demands the Muse: Newton’s Opticks and the Eighteenth Century Poets (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1946), p. 74. 3 I. Bernard Cohen and George E. Smith, “Introduction,” in The Cambridge Companion to Newton, eds., Cohen and Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), p. 2; Andrew Janiak, “Introduction,” in Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, ed. Andrew Janiak (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004), p. xvii.
2 1

166

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

to remove themselves from charlatans, to build all explanations from reason and not miracles.”4 Newton found the truth to the secrets of the universe in experimental science. As the poet, playwright, and critic John Dryden (1631–1700) wrote, the new science stripped nature of its mystery:
The Ebbs of Tydes, and their mysterious flow We, as Arts Elements shall understand And as by Line upon the Ocean go, Whose paths shall be familiar as the Land.5

With the aid of mathematics Newton’s revelation was a greater one than those of Moses or St. John the Divine: “Against Mathematics she [nature] had no Defence / And yields to experimental consequence.”6 Indeed, as Voltaire wrote, Newtonian “mathematics has subjected infinity to calculation.”7 Experimental mechanical natural philosophers believed, as Newton declared, that Natura valde smplex est et sibi consona—“Nature is exceedingly simple and conformable to herself. Whatever reasoning holds for greater motions, should hold for lesser ones as well.”8 Newton emphasized these dicta time and again: “that nature is consonant; that nature is simple; that nature is conformable to herself. Complexity can be reduced to order.”9 The Baconian belief that human beings can discover the secrets of nature, thus commanding and taming her, is involved in both the Principia and the Opticks (1704). The frame of reference of Newton’s experimental philosophy was not based on theological considerations but on experience and experiment aided by mathematical demonstrations. Accordingly, he defined his pursuit as “experimental; and it is not the business of experimental philosophy to teach the causes of thing any further than they can be proved by experiments.”10 In his vision of the cosmos, governed by mathematically
Gleick, Isaac Newton, p. 104. John Dryden, Annus Mirabilis, 1667, in Dryden: Poetry, Prose and Play, ed., Douglas Grant (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1952), p. 60. See also Earl Milner, “The Poets and Science in Seventeenth Century England,” in The Use of Science in the Age of Newton, ed. John G. Burke (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1983), p. 14. 6 John Theophilus Desaguliers, The Newtonian System of the World, 1729, as quoted in Nicolson, Newton Demands the Muse, p. 136. 7 Voltaire, Letters on England, trans. Leonard Tancock (London: Penguin, 2005), p. 82. 8 Newton as quoted in Gleick, Isaac Newton, p. 130. 9 Gleick, Isaac Newton, p. 165. 10 Newton,”An Account of the Book Entitled Commercium Epistolicum,” 1715, in Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, p. 123.
5 4

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

167

defined laws of nature, mechanical causation replaced the divine: “nature involves only mechanical causation.”11 In this sense, Newton’s Principia “is the single work that most effected the divorce of physics, and hence of science generally, from philosophy.”12 The reason was simple: Newton believed that “questions about what there is physically should be settled purely through experimental inquiry,”13 and that “questions that go beyond the ability of experiment to resolve, had became metaphysical in a pejorative sense and had been placed beyond the domain of the natural philosophers.”14 In other words, according to “Newton’s mechanics there is no natural phenomenon which is not reducible to motion and its general laws.”15 Or in Newton’s words:
Natural Philosophy consists in discovering the frame and operations of Nature, and reducing them, as far as may be, to general Rules or Laws—establishing these rules by observations and experiments, and thence deducing the causes and effects of things.16

But the price paid for this scientific reasoning, this divorce of physics from philosophy, was very high. It was “of the greatest consequence for succeeding thought that now the great Newton’s authority was squarely behind that view of the cosmos which saw in man a puny, irrelevant spectator” of “the vast mathematical system whose regular motions according to mechanical principles constituted the world of nature.”17 This Newtonian worldview was evidently unacceptable to many orthodox believers, who questioned the sincerity and religious solidity of the new experimental philosophy. Already in 1675 the
11 Andrew Janiak, Newton as Philosopher (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008), p. 174. 12 Cohen and Smith, “Introduction,” p. 2; Janiak, “Introduction,” in Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, p. xii. 13 Cohen and Smith, “Introduction,” p. 2. 14 Daniel Garber, “Physics and Foundations,” in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science, eds. K. Park and L. Daston (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), p. 68. But compare Kant: “all natural philosophers who have wished to proceed mathematically in their occupation have always, and must have always, made use of metaphysical principles (albeit unconsciously), even if they themselves solemnly guarded against all claims of metaphysics upon their science.” See, Immanuel Kant, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, trans. and ed. Michael Friedman (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004), p. 8. 15 Ernst Cassirer, “Newton and Leibniz,” Philosophical Review (Jul. 1943), p. 381. 16 Newton, “Scheme for establishing the Royal Society,” as quoted in Janiak, “Introduction,” in Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, p. ix. 17 Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay (New York: Dover, 2003 [1924]), p. 238.

168

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Reverend John Standish attacked those who “impiously deny both the Lord” and “his holy Spirit,” making “Reason, Reason, Reason, their only Trinity.”18 This reaction was more apparent after the publication of the Principia in 1687. In his Letters on England, 1733, Voltaire declared that Newton was the “greatest man” of all time:
For if true greatness consists in having received from heaven a powerful genius and in having used it to enlighten himself and others, a man such as Newton, the like of whom is scarcely to be found in ten centuries, is the truly great man . . . It is to the man who rules over mind by the power of truth, not to those who enslave men by violence, it is to the man who understands the universe not to those who disfigure it, that we owe our respect.19

Newton might be a great man, but he was clearly not a hero to many orthodox people. Some of them not only “recognize[d] heresy in the [General] Scholium, but also his Principia was attacked for supposed latent materialistic features.”20 Such people grasped Newton’s “heretical theology” and believed it affected—or distorted—his natural philosophy.21 They accordingly denounced Newton’s reduction of nature to mathematics, his experimental, mechanical philosophy, his belief that all natural phenomena are reducible to motion and its general laws, his concept of God of dominion, and not least, his Arianism, the belief that denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. The “Arian faction is beginning to revive in England as well as in Holland and Poland,” wrote Voltaire. And the “great Mr. Newton honoured this opinion by favouring it.”22 (Arianism, briefly, a heresy which arose in the fourth century, denies the divinity of Jesus Christ; it denies that the Son is of one essence, nature, or substance with the Father; Jesus is not consubstantial [homoousios] with God, and therefore not like Him, or equal in dignity, or co-eternal, or within the real sphere of Deity.) Recent studies have confirmed Voltaire’s view. “Isaac Newton was a heretic,” wrote Stephen Snobelen, denying much of the Anglican
18 John Standish as quoted in Margaret C. Jacob, The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689–1720 (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1976), p. 47. 19 Voltaire, Letters on England, p. 57. 20 Stephen D. Snobelen, “Isaac Newton Heretic: The Strategies of a Nicodemite,” British Journal for the History of Science 32 (Dec. 1999), p. 419. See also Snobelen, “‘God of Gods, and Lord of Lords’: The Theology of Newton’s General Scholium to the Principia,” Osiris 16 (2001), pp. 169–208. 21 Snobelen, “‘God of Gods, and Lord of Lords,’” p. 170. 22 Voltaire, Letters on England, p. 42.

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

169

Church’s “faith and practice.” Newton became “a heretic in the early 1670s” but “never made a public declaration of his private faith—which the orthodox would have deemed extremely radical.” He was, says Snobelen, an Arian and Socinian in his religious views and belief. (The Socinians, or Polish Brethren, were a Biblicist, radical anti-Trinitarian religious movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.) Newton was a heretic “to the orthodox,” who attacked him and his friends, such as Locke (1632–1704), Whiston, Clarke, and others.23 Furthermore, not only did Newton reject the belief that human souls live on between death and resurrection but he also rejected the literal existence of demons. “For Newton, neither disembodied souls nor demons had any real existence.”24 Although Newton never publicly declared his religious beliefs, many orthodox people in England knew his heretical views through his works as well as through those of his disciples such as the philologist and classical scholar Richard Bentley (1662–1742), Clarke, and Whiston. In other words, orthodox people were quick to learn that the Newtonian philosophy of nature was developing new doctrines of Divinity and formulating new models of Christianity which could lead to outright heresy. As Berkeley wrote, “Sir Isaac Newton had presumed to interpose in prophecies and Revelations, and to decide in religious affairs.”25 Such unorthodox views found their way into the Principia. The “theological elements in the General Scholium to the second edition of the Principia, 1713, were meant to proclaim [Newton’s] antitrinitarian faith.”26 The General Scholium was informed not only by Arianism but also by Socinianism, especially as regard Newton’s concept of the God of dominion.27 “A Trinitarian could not have written the General Scholium.”28 The English divine and antiquary scholar George Hickes

Snobelen, “Isaac Newton Heretic, pp. 381, 396, 383. Snobelen, “God of Gods, and Lord of Lords,” p. 186. 25 George Berkeley, as quoted in Scott Mandelbrote, “Newton and eighteenth-century Christianity,” in The Cambridge Companion to Newton, p. 417. 26 Gleick, Isaac Newton, p. 112. See also Scott Mandelbrote, “Eighteenth-Century Reactions to Newton’s Anti-Trinitarianism,” in Newton and Newtonianism, eds. James E. Force and Sarah Hutton (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2004), pp. 93–112. 27 Snobelen, “Isaac Newton Heretic, pp. 406–7. See also James E. Force, “Newton’s God of Dominion: The Unity of Newton’s Theological, Scientific, and Political Thought,” in Essays on the Context, Nature, and Influence of Isaac Newton’s Theology, eds. James E. Force and Richard H. Popkin (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990), pp. 75–102. 28 Snobelen, “‘God of Gods, and Lord of Lords,’” p. 186.
24

23

170

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

(1642–1715) wrote in 1713: “Newtonian philosophy . . . hath made Not only so Many Arrians but Theists.”29 Like Hickes, many attacked Newton and the Newtonians. His assaults on Newtonianism make the lawyer, politician, and writer Roger North (1651–1734) “representative of the orthodox attitude toward the new philosophy founded upon the Principia in 1687.”30 North criticized Clarke, “accusing him of attempting ‘to set up reason against Revelation.’” Here North was defending the revelation of the Trinity against Clarke’s Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity, 1712. Hickes, writing to North, said this about the Newtonian New Philosophy of nature: “It is their Newtonian philosophy wch hath Made Not only many so many Arians but Thesists, and that Not only among ye laity but I fear among our divines” 31 (italics in original). North himself was a Cartesian. But his critique of Newtonian natural philosophy shows how thoroughly he “believed that Newtonianism and heterodoxy were woven together.”32 For him as well as for many other orthodox people, heterodox theology and the new scientific philosophy of Newton and his followers were so intimately related as to be inextricable. Newtonian science, he believed, not only “perverts the knowledge of things”33 but also leads to heretical views. Individuals like Roger North saw the rise of Newtonian natural philosophy as capable of profoundly affecting religious and theological views, leading to heresy. For many orthodox believers it may have seemed that “the seventeenth-century warning against mechanical philosophy had come to fruition in the Newtonian philosophy.” Although North and his fellows attacked Clarke and Whiston, they all very well understood that it was “the Newtonian philosophy which should be held responsible.”34 The great influence of the New Philosophy on religious thought becomes clear in the works of Clarke and Whiston. Influenced by Newton, Clarke fashioned a concept of God which contrasted with traditional orthodox Christian belief. A committed rationalist in his theology, he doubted the orthodox Athanasian conception of the Trinity,
George Hickes as cited by Snobelen, “Isaac Newton Heretic,” p. 414. Larry Stewart, “Samuel Clarke, Newtonianism, and the Factions of Post-Revolutionary England,” Journal of the History of Ideas 42 (Jan.–Mar. 1981), p. 63. See also Larry Stewart, “The Trouble with Newton in the Eighteenth Century,” in Newton and Newtonianism, pp. 221–38. 31 Hickes as cited by Stewart, “Samuel Clarke,” p. 65. 32 Stewart, “Samuel Clarke,” p. 65. 33 Ibid., p. 67. 34 Ibid., p. 72.
30 29

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

171

namely 3 persons = 1 substance (Athanasius, 293–373, was the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the Trinity). To Clarke’s rationalism the concept of the Trinity was unintelligible and could not be properly based on Scripture. According to Voltaire, “the strongest upholder of the Arian doctrine is the illustrious Dr. Clarke. This is a man of unswerving virtue and gentle disposition, more interested in his opinion than excited about making converts, solely concerned with calculations and demonstrations—a real reasoning machine.”35 Likewise, as a result of his contact with Newton and Clarke, Whiston too “embraced an anti-trinitarian theology similar to Arianism,”36 and in 1710 was expelled from his professorship at Cambridge because of publishing his disagreement with the doctrine of the Incarnation. During the reign of Queen Anne (1702–1714), the High Church sounded the alarm—“Church in Danger.” This represented a real fear among a distinct group in the Anglican Church, who emphasized aspects of Christianity usually more associated with Catholicism, such as ceremony and hierarchy, and opposed the Dissenters. Such people believed that the Anglican Church was being “destroyed by insidious forces from within, embodied by the activities of the Newtonian theologians Whiston and Clarke.” The issue, among others, was “the question of the influence of Newtonian natural philosophy in the unorthodox scriptural interpretations” of these “two deviant divines.”37 The new science’s Janus face caused deep anxiety as many people felt that “the Newtonian metaphysics, of which Clarke was the leading exponent, was the foundation of an unorthodox view of the Trinity.”38 This connection, it should be noted, was made by Newtonians and anti-Newtonians alike. Basing himself on Newtonian science, especially the Principia, Clarke rejected the Athanasian doctrine of the three persons of the Trinity. Like Newton and Locke, he developed “heterodox views of the Trinity” and “published a treatise considered to be too close to Arianism.”39 At the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the
Voltaire, Letters on England, p. 42. Stephen D. Snobelen, “‘Whiston, William (1667–1752),” in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/ article/29217]. 37 Stewart, “Samuel Clarke,” p. 53. 38 Ibid., p. 53. 39 D. Bertoloni Meli, “Caroline, Leibniz, and Clarke,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Jul. 1999), pp. 473–4.
36 35

172

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

eighteenth century, the issue of Arianism surfaced again not least because of Newtonian science. In 1704 Clarke declared that God “must of Necessity be but one.” To think otherwise is a contradiction since “Necessity absolute in itself, is Simple and Uniform, without any possible Difference or Variety.”40 Clarke denied the Athanasian Doctrine of the diversity of persons in the name of divine unity. The same view appeared again in 1712 in his The Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity and he was immediately denounced as an Arian. The accusation was of course correct. Clarke admitted in 1714 that he regarded the idea of three persons in the same individual substance to be a “self-evident . . . Contradiction.”41 With the appearance in 1713 of the second edition of Newton’s Principia, Clarke adopted the new “General Scholium” which contained Newton’s concept of God—“Deus non est Aeternitas vel Infinitas, sed aeternus & infinitus [He is not eternity and infinity, but eternal and infinite].”42 Newton’s God “was infinitely more than an Old Testament creator.” For Clarke as for other followers “this Newtonian view of God was the foundation upon which rested so much of their theology.” Clarke himself admitted that “his theology rested largely on Newtonian metaphysics.” Newtonian New Philosophy thus signified among others a new theological approach to nature, a fundamental metaphysical shift of attitude toward the created order. In the upshot, Clarke’s defenders found in “Newton a foundation for their scriptural views while his detractors” simply “saw in this the confirmation of their suspicions about the new philosophy.”43

2. God “Very Well Skilled in Mechanics and Geometry”
Contemporaries of Newton only suspected what modern study has confirmed: Newton held heretical views on God. As Newton wrote to Richard Bentley in 1692, the Deity is “very well skilled in mechanics

Samuel Clarke, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (London, 1705), pp. 93–4. 41 Clarke as cited by Stewart, “Samuel Clarke,” p. 58. 42 Newton, “General Scholium,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1934), II, p. 545. 43 Stewart, “Samuel Clarke,” pp. 59–60.

40

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

173

and geometry.”44 His is a mechanical God, not the Triune God. Newton’s God is a “Being [who] governs all things, not as the soul of the world [anima mundi], but as Lord over all [universorum dominus]: And on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God [dominus deus pantokrato ˉ r], or Universal Ruler.”45 This concept of a God of Dominion is based on a natural theology of dominion which “defined divine authority primarily in terms of rules and means by which material resources were transformed into the harmonious world order.”46 However, Newton’s God is not the God of the Deists. His God indeed “established the rules by which the universe operates, a handiwork that humans must strive to know. But this God did not set his clockwork in motion and abandon it.”47 The concept of a voluntarist God, an active, willful God of dominion, is not the Deists’ remote, impersonal notion of the Deity:
He is omnipresent not only virtually, but also substantially . . . In him are all things contained and moved . . . he exists always and everywhere. Whence also he is all similar, all eye, all ear, all brain, all arm, all power to perceive, to understand, and to act.48

Still, although Newton’s claimed that his God was none other than “the God of Israel,” his God is in fact a “strictly Unitarian” God.49 One God as against the Triune God. The General Scholium never refers to Jesus Christ. Further, Newton says we cannot understand the essence of the One God—“We have ideas of his attributes, but what the real substance of anything is we know not.” All we may know about the Deity is “only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final causes.”50 Since we may “increase our knowledge of the divine being by studying natural phenomena through the methods of the Principia,” the “study of God is part of natural philosophy.”51 Instead of
44 Newton’s first letter “To the Reverend Dr Richard Bentley,” Dec. 10, 1692, in Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, p. 96. See also E. W. Strong, “Newton and God,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Apr. 1952), p. 153. 45 Newton, “General Scholium,” p. 544. 46 Michael Ben-Chaim, “The Discovery of Natural Goods: Newton’s Vocation as an ‘Experimental Philosopher,’” British Journal for the History of Science 34 (Dec., 2001), p. 401. 47 Gleick, Isaac Newton, p. 108. 48 Newton, “General Scholium,” p. 545. 49 Snobelen, “‘God of Gods, and Lord of Lords,’” p. 177. 50 Newton, “General Scholium,” p. 546. 51 Janiak, Newton as Philosopher, p. 165.

174

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

the Triune God who revealed himself to fallen humanity Newton’s God is the God of Dominion, a Deity who is
The father almighty in dominion, the first author of all things who bears a fatherly affection toward all his offspring, & reigns over them with an universal invincible irresistible dominion.52

Newton is not interested in the metaphysical nature of God, or his essence, but only and solely with his dominion. He therefore rejected the Athanasian Doctrine of the three persons of the Trinity “not just as an error but as sin, and the sin was idolatry. For Newton this was the most detested of crimes. It meant serving false gods.”53 Newton’s unorthodox view of God appears in his definition of “God as physical,”54 in his claim that God has a body—“and Deity is the dominion of God not over his own body”55 (my emphasis)—and by describing the Deity as “very well skilled in mechanics and geometry.” No wonder that many attacked Newton for his conception of God. The Church of England clergyman John Edwards (1637–1716) declared in 1714 that “Sr. Isaac” adopted “Spinoza’s Conceit concerning God, who mixes him with Matter, and sometimes scarcely distinguishes him from the Body of the Universe.”56 And Leibniz argued that Newton and the Newtonians made “God himself a corporeal being,”57 further claiming that Newton “cherishes astonishing ideas about God”58 and has “a very odd opinion concerning the work of God.”59 Leibniz also accused Locke, Newton, and Clarke of Socinianism.60 Discussion of Newton’s God leads to the issue of the relation between his theism and his natural philosophy. What significance should be attributed to Newton’s theism in his scientific account of nature? More specifically, were the discussions dealing with God in the General Scholium at the end of Book III of the Principia and in the Queries in
Newton as quoted in Snobelen, “God of Gods, and Lord of Lords,” p. 181. Gleick, Isaac Newton, p. 113. 54 Janiak, Newton as Philosopher, p. 165. 55 Newton, “General Scholium,” p. 544. 56 John Edwards, Some Brief Critical Remarks on Dr. Clarke’s Last Papers (London, 1714), p. 38. 57 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s First Paper,” 1715, in The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, ed. H. G. Alexander (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1956), p. 11. 58 Leibniz as quoted in Janiak, Newton as Philosopher, p. 165, n. 1. 59 Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s First Paper,” p. 11. 60 Meli, “Caroline, Leibniz, and Clarke,” p. 486.
53 52

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

175

Opticks essential to Newton’s scientific thought in terms of providing the source for the science preceding them? The first edition of the Principia (1687) did not speak of God and the first edition of the Opticks (1704) also said nothing about God. The first edition of the Principia displays “little outward evidence of religious content. Indeed, the 1687 edition contains only a solitary reference to God (as creator) and a single mention of Scriptures.”61 Only in the second edition of the Principia, 1713, twenty-six years after the publication of the first edition, did Newton insert, upon the urging of the mathematician and astronomer Roger Cotes, the General Scholium. Does this mean that Newton developed his natural philosophy without reference to God, or that his “system of the world” does not need a Deity? Did he believe that a scientist needs no knowledge of God in order to know the system of the world and the mechanism of things? It should be noted that only in 1692, in his “First letter” to Richard Bentley, 1692, did Newton say: “WHEN I wrote my treatise about our system [Principia], I had an eye upon such principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a deity, and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.”62 Newton may have had the Deity in mind, but this does not mean that God is essential to his system in explaining the work of nature. As Newton further revealed his mind in this letter to Bentley:
To make this system [of the world], therefore, with all its motions, required a cause which understood, and compared together, the quantities of matter in the several bodies of the sun and planets, and the gravitating powers resulting from thence . . . and to compare and adjust all these things [of the world] together, in so great a variety of bodies, argues that cause to be not blind and fortuitous, but very well skilled in mechanics and geometry.63

But this speculation of course was not based on experimental knowledge and does not come within the compass of scientific knowledge, or “experimental philosophy.” In the scientific theory presented in the Principia, Newton emphasized principles inferred from phenomena and went on to what is evident from mathematical reasoning. Thus he wrote in another place:
As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult things by the Method of Analysis ought ever to precede the Method of Composition.
61 62

Snobelen, “God of Gods, and Lord of Lords,” p. 173. Newton’s first letter “To the Reverend Dr Richard Bentley,” p. 94. 63 Ibid., p. 96.

176

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy.”64

Knowledge of God is not essential in order to know the world machine. Experience, experiment, and observation are the hallmark of “experimental philosophy,” whose main goal is the discovery of “the frame and operations of Nature.” By reducing these “to general Rules or Laws,” based on “observations and experiments” one may be able to find “the causes and effects of things.”65 Reason, not revelation, the human mind and not theological considerations, were at the heart of Newton’s experimental philosophy. Likewise, the first edition of the Opticks (1704) said nothing about God. Newton’s science of optics was developed without reference to the Deity. He thus seems to be saying that the results achieved in natural philosophy are a consequence of scientific method employed independently of religious considerations. Indeed, as he wrote in Query 28 of the Opticks of 1718, “the main business of natural Philosophy is to argue from Phanomena without feigning Hypotheses, and to deduce Causes from Effects.”66 In these words Newton “defends the autonomy of natural science in method of inquiry and demonstration and its priority to any religious and moral attachments.”67 This approach which divorced physics and science in general from philosophy recalls Kepler’s and Galileo’s views on the relationship between science and religion. Newton argued that science is autonomous with regard to theology, a position both Kepler and Galileo adopted but Leibniz and many orthodox people abhorred. The “results achieved in natural philosophy are a consequence of the scientific method employed independent of what may be ‘allowed’ about God’s ability to create things,” or, as Newton wrote in Query 23 of Opticks (1718) “thereby to vary the Laws of Nature, and make worlds of several sorts in several Parts of the

64 Newton, Opticks, Or A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections & Colours of Light, 1730 (New York: Dover, 1952), p. 404. 65 Newton, “Scheme for establishing the Royal Society,” as quoted in Janiak, “Introduction,” in Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, p. ix. 66 Newton, Opticks, p. 369. 67 Strong, “Newton and God,” p. 157.

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

177

Universe.”68 Unlike scholastic philosophy, Newton does not maintain “priority of faith to reason.” He argues that “knowledge established in natural philosophy contributes to acknowledgment of the first cause, and is highly to be valued for this reason.” The science of nature may be employed to gain knowledge of God, but “the priority and autonomy of science is consistently asserted.”69 As Newton wrote in Query 31:
And thus nature will be very conformable to herself and very simple, performing all the great Motions of the heavenly Bodies by the Attraction of Gravity, which intercedes those Bodies, and almost all the small ones of their Particles by some other attractive and repelling Powers which intercede the Particles.70

For Newton “a scientist needs no knowledge of God to know the mechanism of things, but it would nonetheless be impious to suppose that the world could exit in its order without supervision of an intelligent Agent.”71 Newton’s idea about God in the General Scholium was “presented to remove a prejudice laid against his science, namely, that the science had dismissed God, or that it was incompatible with belief in God as author and preserver of the system of nature.”72 All this is not to say that Newton did not consider God essential to a true knowledge of the world. He believed that “we can increase our knowledge of the divine being by studying natural phenomena through the methods of the Principia.” Moreover, the idea that “God does not exist beyond the bounds of the universe, but is instead intimately present to every object in nature throughout the history of the universe, underwrites his view that the study of God is part of natural philosophy.”73 However, theological considerations were not essential to the formation of Newton’s physics and did not figure as an integral part of his experimental, mechanical philosophy. This position leading to the divorce of science from philosophy greatly angered the orthodox people. For them the Newtonian New Philosophy of nature seriously endangered and critically undermined traditional Christian thought and belief.

68 69

Ibid., p. 157. Ibid., p. 159. 70 Newton, Opticks, p. 397. 71 Strong, “Newton and God,” p. 167. 72 Ibid., p. 164. 73 Janiak, Newton as Philosopher, p. 165.

178

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

3. Science’s Disenchantment of the World and the Eighteenth-century Imagination
In 1668 Dryden asked rhetorically:
Is it not evident, in these last hundred years (when the Study of Philosophy has been the business of all the Virtuosi in Christendom) that almost a New Nature has been reveal’d to us? That more errours of the School have been detected, more useful Experiments in Philosophy have been made, more Noble Secrets in Opticks, Medicine, Anatomy, Astronomy, disover’d, than in all those credulous and doting Ages from Aristotle to us?74

Likewise, Voltaire argued in 1733:
A New Universe has been discovered by the scientists of the last century . . . Galileo with his astronomical discoveries, Kepler with his calculation, Descartes at least in his dioptrics, and Newton in all his works, have seen the mechanism of the working of the world. Mathematics has subjected infinity to calculation.75

Yet, with the scientific triumph that culminated in mechanical philosophy of nature and Newtonian physics, the “glorious romantic universe of Dante and Milton, that set no bounds to the imagination of man as it played over space and time, had now been swept away.” And instead of “a world rich with colour and sound, redolent with fragrance, filled with gladness, love and beauty, speaking everywhere of purposive harmony and creative ideals,” in the new mechanical philosophy the “really important world outside was a world hard, cold, colourless, silent, and dead. A world of quantity, a world of mathematically computable motions in mechanical regularity.”76 This, for example, is how the essayist, poet, and government official Joseph Addison (1672–1719) saw the contradiction between the new mechanistic image of the universe as a vast mathematical system, and popular, traditional reverence and awe toward the world of nature: “We are everywhere entertained with pleasing shows and apparitions, we discover imaginary glories in the heavens, and in the earth, and see some of this visionary beauty poured out upon the whole creation.” But all these wonders and beauties in the world of nature and in heaven’s glory had vanished with “that great modern discovery, which is at
John Dryden, Of Dramatic Poesie, 1668, in Dryden: Poetry, Prose and Play, ed. Douglas Grant, p. 385. 75 Voltaire, Letters on England, p. 82. 76 Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, pp. 238–9.
74

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

179

present universally acknowledged by all inquiries into natural philosophy, namely that light and colours, as apprehended by the imagination, are only ideas in the mind and not qualities that have any existence in matter.” People’s “souls are at present . . . lost and bewildered in a pleasing delusion” because of the disenchantment of the world caused by the New Philosophy.77 The reason for this strong negative reaction is evident. Newton’s authority stood behind the view that human beings are only spectators “of the vast mathematical system whose regular motions according to mechanical principles constituted the world of nature.”78 As Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “whatever theory” of mechanical philosophy “you choose, there is no light or colour as a fact in external nature. There is merely motion of material . . . Nature is a dull affair, soundless, scentless, colourless; merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly. However you disguise it, this is the practical outcome of the characteristic scientific philosophy which closed the seventeenth century.”79 Deprived of the innate integrity of Aristotelianism, as well as of inner teleological development and goals as in Scholasticism, the world of nature in experimental mechanical philosophy was transformed into a huge machine, an engine or a clockwork, based upon cold mechanical principles and operating according to abstract laws. As such, it could not play any part in the mystery of divine providence. The natural world, therefore, became “an engine which consists of raw masses wandering to no purpose in undiscoverable time and space, and is in general wholly devoid of any qualities that might spell satisfaction for the major interests of human nature, save solely the central aim of the mathematical physics.”80 The New Philosophy reduced the phenomena of the physical, material world to the mechanics of the motion of bodies in time and space which can be expressed in abstract mathematical terms. At the same time, it raised to a high eminence the power of human reason to unveil, and hence to understand, the wonders as well as the mysteries of the created order. Although the poet Alexander Pope contributed to the host of elegies and eulogies pouring out of the English press
Joseph Addison, Spectator # 413, as quoted in Marjorie Hope Nicolson, “Newton’s Opticks and Eighteenth-Century Imagination,” in Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 5 Vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974), III, pp. 397–8. 78 Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, p. 238. 79 A. N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1953 [1926]), pp. 67–9. 80 Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, p. 299.
77

180

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

during 1727–1728 after Newton’s death in 1727, he was nevertheless very critical of the mechanical conception of nature and of the excessive role it accorded to human beings in understanding the world of nature, as had been the case in Donne’s and Pascal’s reactions to the hubris of the New Philosophy. In “An Essay on Man,” c. 1730, Pope deplored the prominent role human beings were assigning to themselves in the cosmos, a role which to him amounted to the dethroning of God and the assumption of his place in ordering the universe:
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides, Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides; Instruct the planets in what orbs to run, Correct the old Time, and regulate the sun . . . Go teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule -Then drop into thyself, and be a fool! Superior beings, when of late they saw, A mortal man unfold all nature’s laws Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape, And showed a Newton as we show an ape.81

Pope was not alone in his dislike of the excesses to which the New Philosophy seemed to have gone “in elevating science and metaphysics above religion and ethics, in believing that ultimate truth was to be found in the works of mathematicians, scientists, philosophers.”82 By the end of the eighteenth century, there is much evidence that the great admiration for Newton’s scientific achievements, so apparent at the beginning of that century, had undergone a change; “The End of Epicurean or Newtonian Philosophy,” wrote Blake, “is Atheism.”83 But already during the early decades of the eighteenth century, Newton and the Newtonians were attacked from all sides as many discovered the Janus face of the New Philosophy, or its dangerous threats to traditional religious thought and belief. In the early eighteenth century, wrote Peter Gay, “evidence for a growing disenchantment, a growing component of critical rationalism in the mind of educated Christians, is overwhelming. For religious men sensitive or learned enough to participate in the currents of their century this was a time of trouble.”84
Pope, “An Essay on Man,” II, 19–34, pp. 281–2. Nicolson, “Newton’s Opticks and Eighteenth-Century Imagination,” p. 397. 83 William Blake, “Annotation to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourse,” in Blake: Complete Writings, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969), pp. 474–5. 84 Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (New York: Norton, 1977), 339.
82 81

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

181

4. Reaction to Newton and the Newtonians’ “Subversion and Ruin of Religion”
a) John Edwards against the Newtonian “New Systems in Divinity” The views of Newton and the Newtonians were continuously and vehemently attacked by orthodox Christians in England.85 Among them was John Edwards, 1637–1716 (there is no connection with Jonathan Edwards), Church of England clergyman and son of Thomas Edwards (c.1599–1648). Like his celebrated religious controversialist father, John Edwards was a vigorous defender of Christian orthodoxy concerning the doctrine of the Trinity against the attack of Socinian sympathizers, as in his Socinianism Unmasked (1696) and The Socinian Creed (1697). Furthermore, being possessed of rigid high-Calvinistic views, John Edwards took upon himself the task of defending the orthodox faith of the Church of England in face of the New Philosophy. “If we be not elated with Pride, or sunk into Stupidity,” he declared, “we cannot but bewail and lament the miserable Lot of Mankind in this lower World, with respect not only to their Moral Defects, but those which related to their Understanding.” Accordingly, in his Some New Discoveries of the Uncertainty, Deficiency, and Corruptions of Human Knowledge and Learning (1714), he proposed to “discover our Deficiency in some of the Arts and Sciences,” because these fields of learning and knowledge tend to promote “Affectation of Novelty, of Scepticism and Unsettledness of Mind, of Pride and Arrogance.” John Edwards’s main goal in this work was to show that, as against the rationalist concepts developed by the natural philosophers, we should passionately search after “that Perfect and Consummate State of Knowledge, which we shall arrive to in the Regions of the Blessed.”86 John Edwards claimed that the New Philosophy of Newton and his followers had radically deviated from and posed a dangerous threat to traditional Christian thought, with devastating effect on the foundations of divinity and theology. The new modes of scientific thought, in other words, were transforming traditional religious belief and leading
85 On reactions to Clarke and Newton’s anti-Trinitarianism and Arianism, see Mandelbrote, “Eighteenth-Century Reactions to Newton’s Anti-Trinitarianism,” pp. 93–111. 86 John Edwards, Some New Discoveries of the Uncertainty, Deficiency, and Corruptions of Human Knowledge and Learning (London, 1714), p. i.

182

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

to the creation of a new model of “Religion” and thus to “a New Christianity”:
[I]n this Learned age some Parts of Humane Knowledge are censur’d, and the very Principles of some Arts, especially those that relate to Natural Philosophy, have undergone a great Alteration; therefore they [Newton and the Newtonians] may venture to advance some unheard-of Doctrines in Divinity, to new model our Religion, to mend the Gospel, and to present us as it were with a New Christianity. Such is the Bold Spirit, such is the Degenerate State of Our Times.87

Newtonian experimental philosophy corrupts Divinity because it leads to the fashioning of a “New System in Divinity.” John Edwards had in mind no doubt Newton’s and Clarke’s concept of God:
I can’t but take Notice of those Mistakes and Corruptions which were crept even into Divinity. The false Relish of some of this Age about some of the Articles of Religion is Remarkable. Some Doctrines which the Reformers of our Church restored and left to us, are despis’d and thrown aside: And the Judgments of other Reformed Churches and Protestant Writers is abandoned by these Persons. Instead of retaining their Old Principles, they are coining New Systems in Divinity.88

Religion, as John Edwards’s book demonstrates, found itself on the defensive as the new experimental scientific culture encroached on traditional Christian belief. The New Philosophy not only attempted to provide a new vision of the essential nature of reality but also to redefine anew the essence of Christianity. “These Men,” the rationalist, experimental, mechanical philosophers, “are Posture-masters rather than Divines, and they think it is commendable to appear in all Shapes in Religion” and thus “to advance some unheard of Doctrines in Divinity,” and to present “a New Christianity.”89 John Edwards was not far from the truth because for Newton, as we saw earlier, “the notion of the divine trinity represented the culmination of the human tendency to corrupt religion into idolatry.”90 The same applied to Clarke whose “Heretical Doctrines” regarding the Trinity were presented in “Scripturedoctrine of the Trinity” (1712). John Edwards rejected Clarke’s antiTrinitarian concept of the Deity, “namely, That the Father, the first
Ibid., p. ii. Ibid., pp. i–ii. 89 Ibid., p. ii. 90 Mandelbrote, “Eighteenth-Century Reactions to Newton’s Anti-Trinitarianism,” p. 107.
88 87

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

183

Person in the Trinity, is the Only True God; and that the other Two Persons, the Son and the Holy Spirit, can lay no claim to the Divinity, properly speaking.” Newton and Locke also adhered to this position. John Edwards claimed that he had already warned that “Arminianism was to open the Scene for Arianism and Socinianism” in England. (Arminianism refers to the views of those Protestants who rebelled against Calvin’s decretum horrible of absolute predestination, that is of salvation and damnation without regard to merit or demerit.) As for John Edwards, he had no hesitation in defining the main cause of Newton and Clarke’s heresy: it was “the over-valuing of Human Reason.”91 In another tract, Some Brief Critical Remarks on Dr. Clarke’s Last Papers (1714), John Edwards continued his attack on Clarke, but here, in the “Postscript” to the work, he directed his efforts against Newton as well. In opposition to the “Orthodoxy” of “the Church of England” Newton, and later Clarke, developed the “Notion, that [God] is a relative Word, and a Word of Dominion and Power.” John Edwards was alarmed to note that “Our Celebrated Philosopher and Mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton, hath taken up these odd Notions” in the Principia, namely, that God “is a Relative Word and a word of Dominion” (Deus est vox Relativa & Deitas est Dominatio Dei.) John Edwards was quick to observe: “It is remarkable, that these Words and what follows were not in the first edition” of the Principia of in 1687, but “Sir Isaac and Dr. Clarke, having lately conferr’d Notes together . . . have added them” into the “General Scholium in the second Edition” of 1713. Thus concluded John Edwards: it “seems it was agreed upon, that Sir Isaac should appear in favour of those Notions which Dr. Clarke had published,” namely “[Deus] est vox relative” and “[Deitas] est Dominatio Dei.”92 The new scientific thought, John Edwards said, had not only led to the spread of dangerous heresies, such as Arminianism, Socinianism, and Arianism, but also to the development of heretical and revolutionary concepts regarding God’s relationship with the created order. This can be seen in Newton’s concept of God as God of Dominion (Dominus Deus) and as the Supreme God (Summus Deus), portraying the Deity’s relation to the world in mechanical terms. “Who would have thought,” lamented John Edwards, “that such wild Jargon as this, could come from the Pen of so great a Man” as “Sir Isaac Newton, who hath justly merited the Applause of the learned World, for his admirable Efforts
91 92

Edwards, Some New Discoveries, p. iii. John Edwards, Some Brief Critical Remarks on Dr. Clarke’s Last Papers, pp. 36–7.

184

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

in Natural Philosophy and Mathematics?”93 Like Leibniz later, John Edwards was puzzled to see that Newton attributed “to God a body” in saying “the Deity is the Dominion of God, not on his own Body”94 (italic in original). In view of this heretical view, John Edwards lamented, “Sr. Isaac seem[s] to approach to Spinoza’s Conceit concerning God, who mixes him with Matter, and sometimes scarcely distinguishes him from the Body of the Universe.”95 Leibniz expressed the same view when he said that Newton defined “God as physical.”96 The very wording “Supreme God,” remarked John Edwards, “is the Epithet that all the Arians and Socinians use, to distinguish the Father from the Son, who they hold to be an inferior God.”97 Thus, like Pascal almost a century earlier, who opposed the God of the philosophers and the scholars—“Dieu d’Abraham, Dieu d’Isaac, Dieu d’Jacob, non des philosophes et des savants,”98 the orthodox John Edwards fiercely resented the new scientific attributes of God. Newton tells us,
That the Supreme God . . . is Lord God, because of his Dominion, for it is this Dominion that makes him God. But why is this Attribute chosen out before all the rest, to constitute a Deity? One would think, that Goodness, Holiness, Mercifulness and Benignity, should have had the Precedence.

John Edwards poses an interesting question: What was the Deity’s status before the creation? “Deus and Dominus were not always convertible; God had not Dominion, when there were none to have Dominion over. He was not Lord, when he had no Servants.” Further, he argued that Newton and the Newtonians’ God of Dominion denotes tyrannical, imperious, and despotic powers, clearly not the attributes of the traditional God of the Bible:
Dominion then is not so fit a Word (if you must needs have but one Word) to be made choice of to express the Deity, as Holiness, or Goodness, which are not capable of being misinterpreted . . . That Dominion makes a God, some may think, it may more properly be applied to him, who is styled the God of this World, who is Tyrannical, Imperious and Despotic, than the True God.99

Ibid., p. 37. Ibid., p. 37. 95 Ibid., p. 38. 96 Janiak, Newton as Philosopher, p. 165. 97 Edwards, Some Brief Critical Remarks, p. 39. 98 Pascal, Pensées, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (Penguin Books, 1976), Fragment # 913, p. 309. 99 Edwards, Some Brief Critical Remarks, pp. 39–40.
94

93

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

185

Citing from the Principia and the Opticks, John Edwards argued that Newton in fact held the same views that “Dr. Clarke and Mr. Whiston have publickly asserted,” namely that “there is a Supreme God (Summus Deus, which he mentions more than once) and he is made so by the Supremacy of his Dominion, whilst there are other Gods that are Inferior and Subordinate, they having a lesser Dominion and power.” No one can doubt that Newton “means God the Father, by the Supreme God, and that the Son and Holy Ghost are implied as Inferior Gods?” Yet, these views “run counter to the Determination of the Catholic Church, and to our own Excellent Church [of England] in particular.”100 John Edwards was not alone in the early eighteenth century in his attack on Newton and the Newtonians. Many in England followed his lead, especially as regards Newton’s presumed Arianism, his accordingly anti-Trinitarian conception of God, and his concept of God as Pantokrator. In 1728 Arthur Bedford of Bristol wrote that Newton and his “disciples, Whiston and Clarke” raised “the spectre of Arianism.” The Presbyterian Robert Wodrow argued in 1729 “that Newton had agreed with Clarke about the subordination of Christ to God,” the Arian position and Christology.101 Other orthodox clergymen attacked Newton’s concept of a “God of Dominion” which followed from his Arian views. In 1731 Joseph Trapp rejected Newton’s concept of God as Pantokrator: “the word God” in Scripture does not denote “but Office only, Dominion, or Authority.”102 It will be recalled that in the General Scholium Newton argued that God “rules all things, not as the world soul but as the lord of all. And because of his dominion he is called Lord God Pantokrator.”103

b) Robert Greene against Mechanical Philosophy’s “Subversion and Ruin of Religion” That the Newtonian New Philosophy of nature seriously undermined traditional Christian belief was commonly held in orthodox circles.
Ibid., p. 40. Mandelbrote, “Eighteenth-Century Reactions to Newton’s Anti-Trinitarianism,” pp. 97–8. 102 Ibid., p. 102. For Newton’s concept of God as Pantokrator, see James E. Force, “Providence and Newton’s Pantokrator: Natural Law, Miracles, and Newtonian Science,” in Newton and Newtonianism: New Studies, eds. Force and Hutton, (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2004), pp. 65–92. 103 Newton, “General Scholium,” in Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, p. 90.
101 100

186

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

A member of these was the natural philosopher Robert Greene (1678–1730), who “devoted his teaching and writings in defence of the Christian religion and of what he considered a form of natural philosophy that was not antagonistic to true religion.”104 In his book The Principles of Natural Philosophy (1712), Greene sought “to undermine the claims of those theologians who down-played the role of the church as an interpreter of revelation by focusing on forms of natural religion that could be arrived at through the use of reason.”105 He denounced the influence of “those Divines in our present Age, who are too fond of what they call Rational, who put too great a stress upon their reasoning from nature.”106 Attempting to defend revealed religion against all sorts of Deists, Greene developed “an alternative system of natural philosophy to put in place of the dominant mechanical philosophy, which he viewed as promoting materialism.” Fearing that Newton’s works “could lend aid to the rationalists and materialists,” Greene wrote in 1727 that the Newtonian system was “much the same [as the Cartesian] as to the Principles of a Similar and Homogeneous Matter.” Against the experimental mechanical philosophers Greene argued that “matter was neither passive nor homogenous.”107 The main purpose of Greene’s The Principles of Natural Philosophy was to show “the Insufficiency of the Present System” of natural philosophy and to present “some New Principles” which will “furnish us with a True and Real Knowledge of Nature.”108 He set out to fight “against the Insults of the several Atheists, Deists, Socinians,” and “the Arrians of our Age,”109 who, guided by “Atheism and Irreligion,” transformed the science of nature. The New Philosophy was thus inextricable from religious heresy, and vice versa. Opposition to these unorthodox, radical views is more than necessary since “Philosophy,” i.e. natural philosophy, “that great Instructor of our Reason, and the sole Foundation and Source of all our Natural Knowledge, has been late too carelessly resign’d into the hand of those, who have apparently writ [sic] with a Prejudice to Religion.” Whereas the new experimental, mechanical interpretation endangered the Christian faith, a true
104 John Gascoigne, “Robert Greene,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 60 vols. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004), XXIII, p. 582. 105 Ibid., p. 582. 106 Greene as quoted in Gascoigne, “Robert Greene,” pp. 583–4. 107 Gascoigne, “Robert Greene,” p. 582. 108 Robert Greene, The Principles of Natural Philosophy (Cambridge, 1712), the book’s title. 109 Ibid., “The Dedication.”

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

187

understanding of the world of nature should be based on orthodox religious views. Greene’s purpose therefore was “to rescue this Noble and Divine Science” of natural philosophy “out of the Guardianship and Patronage of such corrupt Invaders of its Innocence and Simplicity.” Stressing that natural philosophy is a “Divine science,” he opposed those heretical “Invaders” of the study of nature. More specifically, Greene listed “Sir Isaac Newton, Mr. Halley”—Edmund Halley (1656–1742), astronomer, geophysicist, and mathematician— and others, such as “Mr. Hobs [Hobbes], Mr. Lock [sic], and Spinoza,” declaring “we have been oblig’d to depart from their Sentiments and Apprehensions of Nature.” Thus revealing the growing distrust among orthodox Christian with regard to the New Philosophy of nature, Greene held that the novel ideas of these forerunners of the New Philosophy were leading to “the subversion and Ruine of Religion.”110 Greene especially attacked the “Corpuscular” or atomist “Account of Nature.” Those who adhere to this system “make their Enmity to religion and Virtue, not their Affection to the Truth, the cause and Principle of their Researches.” Moreover, he disagreed with the natural philosophers’ mathematization of nature, arguing “we shall evince the incompetency of the present Mathematicks to furnish us with any just or adequate Reasoning upon nature.” Against those who stressed “Reasoning from Nature,” Greene adopted the medieval conception of “Nature” as “one Revelation to us of the Almighty Justice and Goodness.” Instead of Newtonian philosophy, then, Greene maintained that the world of nature reflects divine things above and beyond itself: “there being no Rational Science, nor any Natural religion which has the like Evidences, which Revelation has.”111 The new science of nature is thus not compatible with the medieval and scholastic one which is based on divine revelation; a mechanical causality cannot replace the divine one in the exploration and explanation of nature. In another book, more encyclopedic in form and content, The Principles of the Philosophy of the Expansive and Contractive Forces (1727), Greene continued his attack on the “Modern Philosophy” of nature and “the Principles of Mechanical philosophy.” In this work he dealt with experimental, mechanical “Modern Schemes and Systems of Nature,” among others “the Principles of the Mechanical Philosophy

110 111

Ibid., “The Preface.” Ibid., “The Preface.”

188

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

of Galileus” and “Sir Isaac Newton.”112 He rejected the postulate of “mechanical philosophy” that “Matter” is “Similar and Homogeneous.”113 Newton says, wrote Greene, that “Matter is every where of the same Nature, and has the same Essential Attributes, whether in the Heavens, or in the Earth.” But “Matter is not homogenous.”114 This was not a minor issue. Seventeenth-century science had constructed a new concept of the nature of reality, a new vision “of nature as thoroughly homogeneous and therefore nonhierarchical,” in opposition to the classical and medieval view in which nature “reveals God’s symbolic presence, and was seen as a system of symbols, or signatures of God.”115 The New Philosophy required uniformity of all bodies as well as a universal uniform measure—mathematics. Bodies “have no concealed qualities, powers, and capacities. Natural bodies are now only what they show themselves as, within this projected realm” of nature.116 In other words, whereas Aristotelian science strove to explain “how things exist,” the New Philosophy sought to find out “how things work.” With the developing scientific notion of a one-dimensional, homogeneous, symmetrical, uniform, and non-hierarchical nature, the “testimony” of nature became more and more problematic, as did the notion of divine immanence and activity in the created order. In the end, the medieval idea of God’s symbolic presence in creation, and hence of a universe replete with transcendent meanings and hints, was replaced in seventeenth-century scientific thought by the notions of univocation and homogeneity. Greene rejected Newton’s work on the grounds that the mechanical “Philosophy of Homogeneous Matter” is a “revival of Epicureanism,” and as such “undermining Christian belief.”117

112 Greene, The Principles of the Philosophy of the Expansive and Contractive Forces (Cambridge, 1727), “The Preface” and “The Contents.” 113 Ibid., p. 1. See also pp. 61–80. 114 Ibid., p. 23. 115 Amos Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986), pp. 10, 49. 116 Martin Heidegger, “Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics,” in Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, ed. David F. Krell (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), pp. 291–2. 117 John Gascoigne, Cambridge in the Age of the Enlightenment: Science, Religion and Politics from the Restoration to the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 167–9.

Religion and the Newtonian Universe c) Leibniz against Newton’s “Very Odd Opinion Concerning the Work of God”

189

Leibniz was one of the most stringent critics of Newton and his system.118 Like Bacon and Descartes, “Leibniz tenaciously pursued the dream of a systematic reform and advancement of all the sciences,” and this to be “undertaken as a collaborative enterprise supported by an enlightened ruler.”119 But unlike Bacon and Descartes, and more like Donne and Pascal, the Hanoverian philosopher had deep “fears about” the development of the New Philosophy. For he truly believed that the experimental, mechanical mathematical philosophy of Newton and the Newtonians led to the “decay (in England)” of “Natural Religion.”120 One of Leibniz’s main purposes therefore was “to clear the mechanical philosophy of the impiety with which it is charged.”121 His own approach to natural philosophy was teleological and based on final causes.122 As Leibniz wrote: “recent [natural] philosophers wish to explain physical matters mechanistically.”123 Like the French Cartesian Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715), Leibniz believed that “We see all things in God”—omnia videmus in deo—from which he developed the notion of divine causality. The physical world “cannot be sufficiently
Janiak, “Introduction,” in Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, pp. xxviii–xxxi. The literature on Leibniz and on his reaction to Newton is extensive: see Maria Rosa Antognazza, Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009), and Idem, Leibniz on the Trinity and the Incarnation: Reason and Revelation in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2007); Pauline Phemister, The Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz (Cambridge: Polity, 2006); The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz, ed. Nicholas Jolley (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995); Donald Rutherford, Leibniz and the Rational Order of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998); Donald Rutherford and J. A. Cover, eds., Leibniz: Nature and Freedom (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005); Paul Lodge, ed., Leibniz and His Correspondents (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004); and Pauline Phemister and Stuart Brown, eds. Leibniz and the English Speaking World (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007). 119 Antognazza, Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography, p. i. 120 Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s First Paper,” p. 11. See also Margula R. Perl, “Physics and Metaphysics in Newton, Leibniz, and Clarke,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Oct.–Dec. 1969), p. 507. 121 Leibniz as quoted in Jonathan Bennett, “Leibniz’s Two Realms,” in Leibniz: Nature and Freedom, p. 136. 122 See, Laurence Carlin, “Leibniz on Final Causes,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 44 (2006), pp. 217–33. 123 Leibniz, Thoria motus concreti, as quoted in Dennis Des Chene, “From Natural Philosophy to Natural Science,” in The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Donald Rutherford (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), p. 67.
118

190

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

explained in mechanistic terms.”124 But everything can be explained in terms of God’s intentions, or “through final causes, through God, governing bodies for his glory, like an architect.”125 The principles of Physics, or natural laws, obtain because God wants them to do so:
These laws of motion . . . cannot be explained by the mere consideration of efficient causes or of matter. For I have found that we have to bring in final causes, and that these laws do not depend on the principle of necessity . . . but on the principle of compatibility, the choices of wisdom.126

Against the experimental philosophers, who developed “a law-based conception of science,” Leibniz constructed “a cause-based conception.”127 For him “worldly events and creatures are deeply dependent upon divine causation.”128 It is not surprising therefore that Newtonian philosophy was “a bit odd” to Leibniz. More specifically, for him Newtonian “gravitational attraction with its action at a distance introduced a miraculous element into the explanation of natural events.”129 Leibniz was a rationalist, “perhaps the most resolute champion of rationalism who ever appeared in the history of philosophy.” He glorified the power of reason. For him “there exists no separation, no chasm, between ‘reason’ and ‘reality.’ There is nothing in heaven or on earth, no mystery in religion, no secret in nature, which can defy the power and efforts of reason.”130 Newton on the other hand did not think that nature could be penetrated by human reason:
I do not know what I may seem to the world, but, as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.131

Newton maintained the inadequacy of pure reason in both science and theology, and thought that “nature was accessible to, but not

Stuart Brown, Leibniz (Brighton: Harvester, 1984), p. 192. Leibniz as quoted in Garber, “Physics and Foundations,” p. 65. 126 Leibniz as quoted in Bennett, “Leibniz’s Two Realms,” p. 136. 127 Nicolas Jolley, “Leibniz and Occasionalism,” in Leibniz: Nature and Freedom, p. 133. 128 Sukjae Lee, “Leibniz on Divine Concurrence,” Philosophical Review 113 (April 2004), p. 204. 129 Antognazza, Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography, p. 532. 130 Cassirer, “Newton and Leibniz,” p. 379. 131 Gleick, Isaac Newton, p. 4.
125

124

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

191

penetrable by, human reason.”132 In this he followed Boyle for whom “unaided reason was incapable of telling us anything true about the created order; it was capable merely of comprehending to a limited degree the order revealed to us by our senses.” That was why Boyle emphasized the experimental life: “It was the only way to understand a freely created universe.”133 Leibniz’s attack on Newton and the Newtonians emerges in the The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, 1715–1716, a philosophical-theological exchange.134 As we have seen, Samuel Clarke was an influential theologian and propagandist of Newton’s views. Yet, not only was Clarke Newton’s spokesman but “evidence exists to show that Newton provided notes for some of [Clarke’s] replies, and that further, he dictated others.”135 Newton thus helped Clarke in drafting replies to Leibniz. In 1715 Samuel Clarke wrote to Caroline, Princess of Wales, arguing that
Natural philosophy . . . so far as it affects religion, by determining questions concerning liberty and fate, concerning the extent of the powers of matter and motion, and the proof from the phenomena of continual government of the world; is of very great importance [and] the true and certain consequences of experimental and mathematical philosophy . . . confirm, establish, and vindicate against all objections, those great and fundamental truths of natural religion.136

Leibniz did not accept this portrayal of the merits and advantages of the new “experimental and mathematical philosophy.” As he wrote to the same Princess Caroline in 1715 in response to Clarke: “Natural Religion itself, seems to decay (in England) very much. Many will have human souls to be material: others make God himself a corporeal being.”137 Instead of Clarke’s contention that “experimental and mathematical philosophy . . . confirm, establish, and vindicate” the “great and fundamental truths of natural religion,” Leibniz declared it was opposed to the teaching of the Christian tradition, bringing about the decline of natural religion, and eventually leading to sin and heresy.
Cassirer, “Newton and Leibniz,” p. 380. Davis and Winship, “Early Modern Protestantism,” in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Ferngren (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2002), p. 124. 134 H. G. Alexander, ed. The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence. 135 Perl, “Physics and Metaphysics in Newton, Leibniz, and Clarke,” p. 507. 136 Samuel Clarke, “To Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales,” 1715, in The LeibnizClarke Correspondence, p. 6. 137 Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s First Paper,” p. 11.
133 132

192

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Leibniz of course was not alone in this denunciation of Newton and his followers. Caroline wrote to Leibniz in 1715 that Newton and Clarke “have a different notion of the soul: they say that God can annihilate the soul . . . I am of a completely different opinion. I believe that God has made souls immortal.”138 Attempting further to display the dangerous theological ramifications of Newton and the Newtonians, Leibniz wrote that “Sir Isaac Newton and his followers” have also
a very odd opinion concerning the work of God. According to their doctrine, God almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. Nay, the machine of God’s making, is so imperfect, according to these gentlemen, that he is obliged to clean it now and then by extraordinary concourse, and even to mend it, as a clockmaker mends his work; who must consequently be so much the more unskillful a workman, as he is oftener obliged to mend his work and to get it right. According to my opinion, the same force and vigour remains the same always in the world, and only passes from one part of matter to another, agreeably to the laws of nature, and the beautiful pre-established order. And I hold, that when God works miracles, he does not do it in order to supply the wants of nature, but those of grace. Whoever thinks otherwise, must have a very mean notion of the wisdom and the power of God.139

Leibniz thus held that Newtonian science was rather seriously endangering and critically undermining traditional Christian religious thought. Although he too imagined the world as a watch, Leibniz argued that it “goes without wanting to be mended by him: otherwise we must say, that God bethinks himself again.” For “God has foreseen everything” and he has “provided a remedy for every thing beforehand; there is in his work a harmony, a beauty, already pre-established.” This does not exclude God’s providence: “on the contrary it makes it perfect. A true providence of God, requires a perfect foresight.”140 Newton’s God created not the most perfect universe—“when God created the World, he made an imperfect machine”141—but He also lacked foreknowledge and had to intervene from time to time to repair
138 Caroline, Princess of Wales, as quoted in Antognazza, Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography, p. 534. 139 Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s First Paper,” pp. 11–12. 140 Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s Second Paper,” in The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, pp. 18–19. 141 Leibniz as quoted in Snobelen, “‘God of Gods, and Lord of Lords,’” p. 176.

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

193

the world. For Leibniz this means that Newton and his disciples had robbed God of his power to create the best, perfect world according to the Deity’s wisdom and will. What Leibniz objected to was that God does need to be involved with Newton’s system of the world. He regarded this God as an inferior mechanic, precisely because Newton’s God needed to adjust the cosmic clock from time to time. Naturally, “the omnipotent and omniscient God of the Christian tradition could not be reduced to an unskilled clockmaker who continuously needed to mend and rewind his handiwork.”142 Leibniz’s God is “an infinitely skillful craftsman, one who is disposed to create that world which in and of itself contains the greatest possible perfection.”143 On the other hand, continues Leibniz, Newton and the Newtonians developed not only a very “odd opinion concerning the work of God”; they also cherished “astonishing ideas about God,”144 as is evident in the views of “Newton’s sect (sectateurs),” those who “denied that we can participate in the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.”145 Leibniz rejected Clarke’s claim that experimental and mathematical philosophy can “confirm, establish, and vindicate” the “great and fundamental truths of natural religion.”146 Instead he argued that “the mathematical principles of philosophy” employed by Newton and his followers, “the Christian mathematicians,” are clearly “the same” as those of “materialism” since both use mechanical, experimental materialist explanations. But, in the struggle against materialism “not mathematical principles,” as Clarke argued, but rather “metaphysical principles ought to be opposed to those of the materialist.”147 Mathematical principles concern “only mere mathematics, viz. numbers, figures, arithmetic, geometry,” but metaphysical principles concern “more general notions, such as are cause and effect.”148 Or, “Mathematical science provides magnitude, figure, situation, and their

Antognazza, Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography, p. 535. Donald P. Rutherford, “Nature, Laws, and Miracles: The Root of Leibniz’s critique of Occasionalism,” in Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony, ed. Steven Nadler (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993), p. 158. 144 Leibniz as quoted in Janiak, Newton as Philosopher, p. 166, n. 5. 145 Meli, “Caroline, Leibniz, and Clarke,” p. 474. 146 Samuel Clarke, “To Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales,” in The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, p. 6. 147 Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s Second Paper,” p. 15. 148 Leibniz, “Mr. Leibniz’s Third Paper,” in The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, p. 25.
143

142

194

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

variations, but metaphysics provides existence, duration, action and passion, force of acting, and end of action.”149 d) Swift against the “New Systems of Nature” The triumph of the Newtonian philosophy of nature was denied by many in England. The statesman, essayist, and the patron of Jonathan Swift, Sir William Temple (1628–1699) wrote:
Our [modern scientific learning] leads us to presumption, and vain ostentation of the little we have learned, and makes us think we do, or shall know, not only of all natural, but even what we call supernatural things; all in the heavens, as well as upon the earth; more than all mortal men have known before our age; and shall know in time as much as angels.150

This substantial antiscientist sentiment was expressed also by the physician and author John Arbuthnot (1667–1735), by Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), and Samuel Johnson (1709–1784). Arbuthnot “ridiculed the kind of science that had become associate with the term virtuoso and projector,” such as that of Boyle and others.151 Against the philosophical pride and hubris which stood in contrast to the word of God, Arbuthnot wrote:
In vain thou hop’st for bliss on this poor clod, Return, and seek thy father and thy God; Yet think not to regain thy native sky, Born on the Wings of vain philosophy . . . Let humble thoughts thy wary footsteps guide. Regain by meekness what you lost by pride.

Yet, what began for Arbuthnot “as one scientist’s concern for the unintended errors and excesses of his colleagues, in the hands of Jonathan Swift turned into a full-blown antagonism to the scientific enterprise.”152
149 Leibniz as quoted in Brown, Leibniz, p. 193. Compare Leibniz’s view with that of Kant: “Natural science presupposes . . . metaphysics of nature. For laws, that is, principles of the necessity of that which belong to the existence of a thing, are concerned with a concept that cannot be constructed, since existence cannot be presented a priory in any intuition. Thus proper natural science presupposes metaphysics of nature.” See, Kant, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, p. 5. 150 Sir William Temple as quoted in Richard G. Olson, “Tory-High Church Opposition to Science and Scientism in the Eighteenth Century: The Works of John Arbuthnot, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Johnson,” in The Use of Science in the Age of Newton, ed., John G. Burke (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), p. 184. 151 Olson, “Tory-High Church Opposition,” pp. 172, 174, 177. 152 Ibid., pp. 181–2.

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

195

Swift’s conservative, antiscientific sentiment, was an integral part of Augustan England, where many critics of the New Philosophy “found the whole business of examining nature irrelevant, however it was conducted. They discovered the same weakness in the natural philosophers that they had in the philologists and antiquarians, a concern with matters obscure and impractical.”153 Swift launched a very broad moralistic assault on current natural philosophizing, or, as he called it, “the Modern Philosophy of Europe.”154 He was a secretary for Sir William Temple, who greatly influenced his views about modern learning and the New Philosophy. Temple believed that scientific learning led human beings away from living virtuously and piously—“human learning seems to have very little to do with true Divinity,” he claimed.155 Furthermore, for Temple as later with Arbuthnot, the new scientific thought was leading directly to a vain and presumptive belief in the power of human reason. Swift’s views of learning and the new science were similarly very negative: scientific or philosophical systems, including Newtonian gravitational attraction, were based on conjecture and would pass into oblivion. Thus he attacked the “Professors,” or Newton and the Newtonians, who disdained “the old Evasion of occult Causes” of Aristotelianism and instead developed a new science of nature and general laws of nature.156 Swift expressed his rejection of the New Philosophy as early as 1691, in the poem “To the Athenian Society:”
Look where exalted Virtue and Religion sit Enthroned with heavenly wit, Look where you see The greatest scorn of learned vanity . . .157

153 Joseph M. Levine, Dr. Woodward’s Shield: History, Science, and Satire in Augustan England (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1991), p. 125. 154 Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Claude Rawson (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008), p. 94. Unless otherwise stated, all references to Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels are to this edition. An analysis of the Swiftian satires can be found in Michael F. Suarez, s. j. “Swift’s satire and parody,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift, ed. Christopher Fox (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), pp. 112–27; Michael Seidel, “Satire, lampoon, libel, slander,” in The Cambridge Companion to English Literature: 1650–1740, ed. Steven N. Zwicker (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), pp. 33–57, and John Mullan, “Swift, Defoe, and narrative forms,” in The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, pp. 250–75. 155 Sir William Temple, as quoted by Olson, “Tory-High Church Opposition,” p. 184. 156 Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, p. 94. 157 Swift, “To the Athenian Society,” 1691, VII.

196

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Swift developed a very deep conservative antiscientific attitude in his writings, especially A Tale of a Tub (1704) and Gulliver’s Travels (1726).158 In the first he attacked “the parentage and seriousness of the Royal Society,” claiming that scientific speculations may lead also “to religious deviance, or ‘enthusiasm,’ and to political revolution.”159 There is, he wrote, only a subtle difference between “Alexander the great, Jack of Leyden [a Dutch Anabaptist, 1509–1536, who set up a theocracy in Münster], and Monsieur DesCartes.”160 The errors and extremities of the New Philosophy were thus closely intermingled in his mind with the sins of religious enthusiasm. Further, not only did Swift attack current scientific thought, but he denounced such an attempt as John Ray’s book Wisdom of God Manifested in the Creation (1691) to elucidate the wise, rational, and intentional design of the universe. Ray belonged to the English school of “Physico-theology”— the followers of this school of thought, the “Physico-theologians”— people like Richard Bentley, the Church of England clergyman and natural philosopher William Derham (1657–1735), and the theologian and moralist William Paley (1743–1805)—set out to prove the being and attributes of God by the order and harmony of nature, and through their worship of the God of nature to show “the wisdom of God in creation.” Against Ray’s description of the wise, rational and intentional, design of the world, the Swiftian perspective rather emphasized that “nature is gross and horrible.”161 Here, as well as in many other places, Swift’s thought resembled that of Pascal, who also believed that “Nature is corrupt” (L 416).

For discussion of these works, see Judith C. Muller, “A Tale of the Tub and early prose,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift, pp. 202–15; J. Paul Hunter, “Gulliver’s Travels and the later writings,” in Ibid., pp. 216–40; Douglas L. Patey, “Swift’s Satires on ‘Science’ and the Structure of Gulliver’s Travels,” ELH 58 (Winter, 1991), pp. 809–39. A. W. F. Edwards claimed in “Is the Frontispiece of Gulliver’s Travels A Likeness of Newton?” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 50 (Jul. 1996), pp. 191–4, that the frontispiece of the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels presented a portrait of Captain Lemuel Gulliver in the likeness of Sir Isaac Newton. 159 Olson, “Tory-High Church Opposition,” pp. 186–7. 160 Swift, A Tale of a Tub, 1704, in Jonathan Swift: The Major Works, eds. Angus Ross and David Woolley (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), p. 143. Unless otherwise stated, all references to A Tale of a Tub are to this edition. On Swift and Descartes, see Michael R. G. Spiller, “The Idol and the Stove: The Background to Swift’s Criticism of Descartes,” Review of English Studies 25 (Feb. 1974), pp. 15–24. 161 Swift as quoted in Olson, “Tory-High Church Opposition,” p. 190.

158

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

197

Swift invented the term “modernism” and used it pejoratively to attack among others “the New Science.”162 The Modernity of which Swift was an enemy included the New Philosophy, Newtonian “natural philosophy.”163 Tireless satirizing the Janus face of “the New Systems” of nature, one of Swift’s main intentions was to show the New Philosophy’s “dangerous” and “potentially antihuman” character.164 “There is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some Philosophers have not maintained for truth.”165 Thus in Gulliver’s Travels—under its full name Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships— he attacked the mathematical and scientific culture of his time, declaring that
new Systems of Nature were but new Fashions, which would vary in every Age; and even those who pretend to demonstrate them from Mathematical Principles, would flourish but a short Period of Time, and be out of vogue when that was determined. (184–5)

Swift was referring here to Newton’s Principia. Indeed, “Swift’s assault on Newton’s science was not only premeditated, but carefully executed as well.” And the sources for “all the theories of the Laputans and the Balnibarians” in Gulliver’s Travels “are to be found in the works of Swift’s contemporary scientists and particularly in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.”166 Swift’s reaction to the New Philosophy is already evident in A Tale of the Tub, a defense of Sir William Temple’s Essay on Ancient and Modern Learning (1690), in which Temple rejected the New Philosophy. Swift began his attack on the natural philosophers’ speculations with a reference to Aristophanes’ Clouds (423 BCE), claiming that “the philosopher’s way in all ages has been by erecting certain edifices in the air.”167 More

Frank Boyle, Swift as Nemesis: Modernity and Its Satirist (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2000), pp. xi–xii. 163 Mullan, “Swift, Defoe, and narrative forms,” p. 264. 164 Boyle, Swift as Nemesis, pp. xiii–xiv. 165 Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, p. 175. 166 Marjorie Nicolson and Mora M. Mohler, “The Scientific Background of Swift’s Voyage to Laputa,” in Nicolson, Science and Imagination (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1956), pp. 110–54; Collin Kiernan, “Swift and Science,” Historical Journal 14 (1971), p. 710. 167 Swift, A Tale of a Tub, p. 86. For an important study which explores Swift’s writing in general, and A Tale of a Tub in particular, not only as satire but primarily as parody, see Robert Phiddian, Swift’s Parody (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. 1995).

162

198

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

specifically, he condemned “the great introducers of new schemes in philosophy,” wondering
from what faculty of the soul the disposition arises in mortal man, of taking into his head to advance new systems with such eager zeal, in things agreed on all hands impossible to be known. (141)

The works of such innovators and promoters of “new Systems of Nature,” continued Swift, signified a natural and easy progress from folly to madness:
having generally proceeded in the common course of their words and actions, by a method very different from the vulgar dictates of unrefined reason, agreeing for the most part in their several models, with their present undoubted successors, the Academy of modern Bedlam [the famous mental hospital in London]. (141)

In the past Donne placed Copernicus and Columbus as well as other pioneers of the New Philosophy in Hell. Now Swift argued that Epicurus and Descartes, among others, belong to “the Academy of modern Bedlam,” or to this group of innovators and inventors who formulated “new Systems of Nature,” striving in their great pretension to reduce the whole human experience to simple notions, such as “atom,” “void,” and Descartes’s “vortex.” Against the sheer hubris of the scientific innovators and invention, Swift argued:
For what man in the natural state or course of thinking, did ever conceive it in his power to reduce the notions of all mankind exactly to the same length, and breadth, and height of his own? Yet this is the first humble and civil design of all innovators in the empire of reason. (141)

He therefore denounced “the commonwealth of learning,” those who stood for “modern” learning instead of the “ancient” traditional learning, mocking the former by claiming that for the moderns “memory” is but
a little subject. Because, memory being an employment of the mind upon things past, is a faculty for which the learned in our illustrious age have no manner of occasion, who deal entirely with invention, and strike all things out of themselves. (141)

The story of Laputa in Gulliver’s Travels clearly illustrates Swift’s rejection of the New Philosophy not only for irrelevance but also because of its amorality and hence inhumanity. “The question for Swift

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

199

was: should money be spent examining the heavens or in ending poverty on earth?” Likewise, as was the case with his lifelong friend the poet Alexander Pope, Swift denounced the pride of Newtonian science, as for example its pretentious definition of “absolute time and absolute space:” “When Swift condemned pride as the worst vice of all, it was exemplified for him in the attitude of Newton who could talk of such absolutes as ‘space’ and ‘time.’ For Swift, absolute does not exist in science, or in human affairs generally . . . The only exception to this . . . is in religion, in God and Revelation, where absolute certainly exist.”168 To Swift science was “the handmaid of his religion.”169 In Gulliver’s Travels Swift created “a whole race of absentminded mathematical speculators suspended in a flying Island,” Laputa.170 He mocked the Laputian scholars, philosophers, and scientists, as people lost in theoretical abstractions and conceptions. Thus, despite their excellent mathematical abilities, the Laputians are unable to build a simple house with straight walls and squared corners.171
Their Houses are very ill built, the Walls bevil without one right Angle in any Apartment, and this Defect ariseth from the Contempt they bear to practical geometry; which they despise as vulgar and mechanick. (150)

Swift laughed at their fears that the sun would burn out or that a comet would collide with the earth. Likewise, he ridiculed the strange experiments conducted at the Grand Academy of Lagado, such as the experiment of “extracting Sun-Beams from Cucumbers” (167).172 Rationalism, experimentalism, and mechanism, the hallmarks of the New Philosophy of science, are thus satirized by showing the perversions of reason perpetrated in the Academy of Lagado:
I have not seen a more clumsy, awkward, and unhandy People. Nor so slow and perplexed in their Conceptions upon all other subjects, except those of

Kiernan, “Swift and Science,” pp. 712, 720. Ibid., p. 717. 170 Olson, “Tory-High Church Opposition,” p. 189. 171 See Gulliver’s Travels, Book 3, Chapter 2. 172 Although the Academy of Lagado is usually identified with the Royal Society, some scholars associate it rather with the Cartesians and the University of Leiden. See, David Renaker, “Swift’s Laputians as a Caricature of the Cartesians,” PMLA 94 (Oct. 1979), pp. 936–44; and Dolores T. Palomo, “The Dutch Connection: The University of Leiden and Swift’s Academy of Lagado,” Huntington Library Quarterly 41 (Nov. 1977), pp. 27–35.
169

168

200

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Mathematicks and Musick . . . the whole Compass of their Thoughts and Mind, being shut up within the two forementioned Sciences. (150)

More seriously, the scientific speculations of the Academy of Lagado were leading to the undermining of religion and constituted a danger to humanity. Swift criticized the uselessness and futility of the New Philosophy of science, as well as the views of natural philosophers as being based on inhuman ideas. To him, the products of modern learning are “recognized as malevolent rather than benevolent or simply ridiculous.” In this anti-modernist perspective “he saw excessive pride as endemic, rather than accidental, to scientific speculation, and because, like Pascal and Rousseau” he “saw religion and morality as part of a different order of existence, one that is forever untouchable by the reason of natural science.”173 Newton, Locke, and Clarke transformed cherished religious beliefs by reducing them to “the reason of natural science.” Swift, like so many at his time, totally opposed such a reduction of religious faith to rational scientific reasoning. Accordingly, he saw science as being “more dangerous the more its techniques are extended to political and religious concern.” Religion and morality should be “forever untouchable by the reason of natural science.”174 In Gulliver’s Travels Swift denounces human pride in general and scientific arrogance in particular, which he thought incompatible with Christian charity and humility. He is misanthropic: “how contemptible a Thing was human Grandeur, which could be mimicked” by “diminutive Insects” (96). As he declared: “I have got materials toward a treatise, proving the falsity of that definition animal rationale, and to show it should be only rationis capax. Upon this great foundation of misanthropy” the “whole of my Travels is erected.”175 Against the Enlightenment belief in the dignity of human beings and their inherent intellectual abilities, Swift developed disillusioned perception of human beings, claiming they are “the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth” (121). When he declares “how diminutive, contemptible,

Olson, “Tory-High Church Opposition,” pp. 189, 191. Ibid., pp. 190–1. 175 Swift as quoted in T. O. Wedel, “On the Philosophical Background of Gulliver’s Travels,” in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House, 1986), p. 11.
174

173

Religion and the Newtonian Universe

201

and helpless an Animal was Man in his own Nature” (126), his pessimistic views of human beings resemble those of Pascal, who wrote:
Man is nothing but a subject full of natural error that cannot be eradicated except through grace. Nothing shows him the truth, everything deceives him. (L 45)

At the time when Swift was developing his negative views of human nature, the dignity of human nature was being actively asserted; Locke and the Deists offered people a new trust in reason and the first half of the eighteenth century witnessed an attempt on the part of Enlightenment thinkers to establish new concepts of moral theory, among them the theory of a “moral sense,” the sensus communis of classical thought. Locke wrote: “All the great Ends of Morality and Religion, are well enough secured, without philosophical proofs of the Soul’s Immateriality.”176 Enlightenment writers such as the Scottish philosophers Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) and David Hume (1711–1776) argued that it is possible to have knowledge of good and evil without, and prior to, knowledge of God. The main assumption behind this conception of ethics was the belief that human beings can know from within themselves, without reliance on traditional sources of religious authority, what God intends and expects of them as moral creatures. One should examine Swift’s satires against this “modernist” Enlightenment strain of thought in the early eighteenth century. The Yahoos in the fourth book in Gulliver’s Travels resemble the human condition in Hobbes’s state of nature characterized by perpetual war between every human being against the other, making society, art and letters, impossible. The Houyhnhnms are rather like the human condition in Locke’s state of nature; they are rational creatures living according to reason in a state of liberty characterized by mutual benevolence. However, Swift did not identify the human condition with either the Houyhnhnms, man as animal rational, or with the Yahoos. For him human beings are animal rationis capax, showing that he was one of the few in his time bold enough to attack not only the New Philosophy but also Enlightenment optimism in human reason. Through the various exotic voyages in Gulliver’s Travels Swift examined the human condition, and his descriptions deny the Enlightenment belief in human beings’ goodness, power, and ability.
176 Locke as quoted in Nicholas Jolley, “Leibniz on Locke and Socinianism,” Journal of the History of Ideas 39 (Apr.–Jun. 1978), p. 242.

202

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Swift exposes, layer by layer, human vanity and folly, vices, sins, and shortcomings. For these he blamed in part the new philosophers of nature and their “New Systems.” “Gulliver’s Travels is an experiment in godlessness that leaves its narrator without humility or hope. It is a mockery of individualism.” In this respect, “Swift seems to ridicule the modern world.”177 Swift was of course not alone in his view of the negative impact of the New Philosophy. Rousseau wrote in his Discourse (1750), that “our souls have been corrupted in proportion to the advancement of our sciences and arts toward perfection.” Moreover, he continued, “the works of the most enlightened of our learned men” provide us “with so little that is useful” with their “deadly paradoxes, undermining the foundations of faith, and annihilating virtue.” Worst of all:
They smile disdainfully at the old-fashioned words of fatherland and religion, and devote their talents and philosophy to destroying and debasing all that is sacred among men.178

Dr. Johnson also decried the course of the New Philosophy as incompatible with true religion and divinity. Writing in 1779, he said that natural philosophers “seem to think that we are placed here [on earth] to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars. Socrates was rather of the opinion, that what we had to learn was, how to be good, and avoid evil.”179 But perhaps the poet William Blake was the most urgent in his assault on the New Philosophy.

e) Blake’s “Contempt & Abhorrence” of Bacon, Locke, and Newton Newton’s philosophy of nature as it appeared in the Principia and the Opticks led to the disenchantment of the world. He unraveled the rainbow with his prism, reduced nature to philosophy, and tried, in Keats’ words, to “Conquer all mysteries by rule and line”:
Do not all charms fly At the mere touch of cold philosophy? There was an awful rainbow once in heaven: Mullan, “Swift, Defoe, and narrative forms,” p. 269. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse, 1750, in Rousseau, The First and Second Discourses, ed. Roger D. Master (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964), pp. 39, 51. 179 Samuel Johnson, Life of Milton, 1779, as cited in Olson, “Tory-High Church Opposition,” p. 194.
178 177

Religion and the Newtonian Universe
We know her woof, her texture; she is given In the dull catalogue of common things. Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings Conquer all mysteries by rule and line.180

203

Against the disenchantment brought about by the mechanization of the world and by mathematical physics, many in England deeply distrusted the science of Newton and the Newtonians. Among them were the naturalist and theologian John Hutchinson ((1674–1737) and his followers the Hutchisonians, a group of physico-theologians, who were “determined to overthrow the unscriptural physics and consequent unorthodoxies they supposed the Principia foster. All the ills of the age they traced to the mathematical philosophy which, they claimed, had reduced God to matter and rendered revelation superfluous.”181 To these people who denounced Newtonian science one should add William Blake (1757–1827), poet and visionary, who attacked the New Philosophy of Newton and Locke, and Bacon before them. Rejecting the scientific culture of his time, Blake wrote
If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.182

Against mechanical science, psychology, and epistemology, Blake declared his prophetic vocation in Jerusalem, 1804–1820:
O Divine Spirit, sustain me on thy wings, That I may awake Albion from his long & cold repose; For Bacon & Newton, sheath’d in dismal steel, their terrors hang Like iron scourges over Albion: Reasoning like vast Serpents Infold around my limbs, bruising my minute articulations.183
180 John Keats, “Lamia,” in John Keats: The Complete Poems, ed. John Bernard (London: Penguin, 2006), p. 431. For the revolt against mechanical psychology and epistemology in England during the eighteenth century, see: E. P. Thompson, Witness against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Laws (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993). 181 Albert J. Kuhn, “Glory or Gravity: Hutchinson vs. Newton,” Journal of the History of Ideas 22 (Jul.–Sep. 1961, p. 303. See also Kuhn, “Nature Spiritualized: Aspects of Anti-Newtonianism,” English literary History 41 (Autumn, 1974), pp. 400–12; and John C. English, “John Hutchinson’s Critique of Newtonian Heterodoxy,” Church History 68 (Sep. 1999), pp. 581–97. 182 William Blake, “There is no Natural Religion,” 1788, in Blake: Complete Writings, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969), p. 97. Unless otherwise stated, all references to Blake’s works are to this edition. 183 Blake, “Jerusalem,” p. 635.

204

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

According to E. P. Thompson, Blake’s reaction to “rationalism, political economy, utilitarianism, science, liberalism,” represented an alternative culture of “anti-rationalism” or the “counter- Enlightenment.”184 Newtonian science with its mechanization and mathematization of the world led inevitably to the empting of nature of theological and teleological considerations: “The bounded is loathed by its possessor. The same dull round, even of the universe, would soon become a mill with complicated wheels.” In his apocalyptic, prophetic visions Blake strove to re-enchant of the realm of nature so that it might reflect divine things beyond and above itself: “He who sees the infinite of all things, sees God. He who sees the Ratio only, sees himself only.”185 For Blake indeed the whole universe is replete with transcendent meanings and hints, images of divine things:
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity, too great for the eye of man.186

Blake felt “Contempt & Abhorrence” of the works of “Newton & Locke” and of “Bacon”187 since “they mock Inspiration & Vision.”188 “Bacon, Locke, and Newton,” Blake continues, “are the three great teachers of Atheism, or of Satan’s doctrine.”189 He attacked these forerunners and propagators of the New Philosophy and the Enlightenment because, led by their scientific thought and reasoning, they all
Deny a Conscience in Man & the Communion of Saints & Angels Contemning the Divine Vision & Fruition, Worshipping the Deus Of the Heathen, the God of This World, & the Goddess Nature

Thompson, Witness against the Beast, pp. xviii–xix. Blake, “There is no Natural Religion,” pp. 97–8. 186 Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” 1790–3, p. 151. On Blake’s attitude toward nature, see Barbara F. Lefcowitz, “Blake and the Natural World,” PMLA 89 (Jan., 1974, pp. 121–31. 187 Blake, “Annotation to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourse,” 1808, pp. 476–7. In his picture “Newton,” 1795, Blake placed Newton in a cave shrouded in darkness. See, John Cage, “Blake’s Newton,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 34 (1971), pp. 372–7. 188 Blake as quoted in Thompson, Witness against the Beast, p. 113. 189 Blake as quoted in Wai Chee Dimock, “Nonbiological Clock: Literary History against Newtonian Mechanics,” South Atlantic Quarterly 102 (Winter 2003), p. 168.
185

184

Religion and the Newtonian Universe
Mystery Babylon the Great, the Druid & hidden Dragon Harlot . . .190

205

He detested Locke because of his epistemology which held that external reality is primal, and the mind is merely a passive receptor of that reality and its imprint upon the senses. Blake elevated revelation above empiricism. Thus he wrote in “There is No Natural Religion,” 1788: “Man’s perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception; he perceives more than sense.”191 And he hated Bacon: “Bacon’s Philosophy has Destroy’d Art & Science.”192 But he hated even more the mathematization of nature by Galileo, Descartes, and Newton, or the view that nature “is written in the language of mathematics.” Already in 1694 the English scholar William Wotton wrote in his Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning that many in England feared the “Studying of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics was a ready Method to introduce Scepticism at least, if not Atheism.”193 Blake reaffirmed this fear when he wrote against mathematical reasoning in explaining the world: “God forbid that Truth should be Confined to mathematical Demonstration!” The new scientific explanation only aroused his anger: “All that is Valuable in Knowledge is Superior to demonstrative Science, such as is Weighed or Measured.” Like Pascal, who spared neither time nor effort to express his dislike of Cartesian philosophy—“All those who seek God apart from Christ” are “falling into . . . atheism” (L 449)—Blake consistently stressed his dislike of Newton: “Such is the End of Epicurean or Newtonian Philosophy; it is Atheism.”194 And he blamed Newton for celebrating the triumph of reason over imagination and for pursuing truth by the ways of doubt and experiment:
Reason says Miracles. Newton says Doubt Aye thats the way to make all nature out Doubt Doubt & dont believe without experiment.195

Blake, Jerusalem, as cited in Thompson, Witness against the Beast, p. 196. Blake, “There is no Natural Religion,” p. 97. 192 Blake, “Annotation to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourse,” 1808, p. 470. 193 William Wotton as cited in R. H. Syfret, “Some Early Critics of the Royal Society,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 8 (Oct., 1956), p. 44. 194 Blake, “Annotation to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourse,” pp. 474–5. 195 Blake, “On the Virginity of the Virgin Mary & Johanna Southcott,” in The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman (New York: Anchor, 1988), p. 501.
191

190

206

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

In “Milton,” 1804–1808, Blake even compared Newton to Satan, making Los say:
O Satan, my youngest born, art thou not Prince of the Starry Hosts And of the Wheels of Heaven, to turn the Mills day & night? Art Thou not Newton’s Pantocrator, weaving the Woof of Locke?196

The appellation “Pantocrator” appears in the Greek New Testament and Newton used it in the General Scholium of the Principia to denote God as a universal ruler, or “God of dominion.” In “Milton” Blake continued to attack the tyranny of the mechanical, scientific explanation of the Deity, promising: “To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour . . . To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albion’s covering.”197

196 197

Blake, “Milton,” 1804–8, p. 483. Ibid., p. 533.

Chapter VI

JONATHAN EDWARDS AND THE “AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT”
Religion has contributed to render CHRISTENDOM the scene of religious wars and divisions. Religions arise in ages totally ignorant and barbarous [and] consist mostly of traditional tales and fictions. David Hume, “Of Parties in General,” 1741 [M]y heart . . . was against most of the prevailing errors of the present day, which I cannot with any patience see maintained (to the utter subverting of the gospel of Christ) with so high a hand, and so long continued a triumph, with so little control, when it appears so evident to me, that there is truly no foundation for any of this glorying and insult. Edwards, “Edwards, “Letter to the Trustees of the College of New Jersey,” 1757 Our age is, in special degree, the age of criticism, and to criticism everything must submit. Religion through its sanctity, and law-giving through its majesty, may seek to exempt themselves from it. But they then awaken just suspicion, and cannot claim the sincere respect which reason accords only to that which has been able to sustain the test of free and open examination. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1781 [During the age of Enlightenment] the role of reason was magnified, that of revelation was depressed. The scriptures were subjected to intensive and often to unsympathetic scrutiny. Miracles were challenged. Prophecy was reassessed. Christian thought faced a threat which might have stripped it of all its uniqueness and authority. Gerald R. Cragg, The Church and the Age of Reason, 1990

Jonathan Edwards stands out as one of America’s great original minds, one of the very few whose depiction of reality continues to attract attention even with the passage of time and the changes in worldview. Much of his theological and philosophical enterprise has been powerfully informed by constant dialogue with and struggle against important 207

208

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Enlightenment strains of thought: Deism, which questioned the authority of the Bible, the integrity and validity of revelation, the credibility of Old Testament prophecies and the reliability of New Testament miracles; the New Philosophy of nature, or experimental, mechanical natural philosophy; the Enlightenment’s refashioning of new modes of historical thought based on secular, historical time, and the British “School of Moral Sense,” which endeavored to ground morality and ethic exclusively in the benevolence of human nature. In contrast to these rational, enlightened thought, Edwards believed in omnia videmus in deo—”We see all things in God”—and hence strove to establish all dimensions of human life, knowledge, and experience, on God and His Word. He therefore strongly denounced these welldefined Enlightenment modes of thought and belief, which developed at the core of the British Empire. Albion, Edwards claimed, was no longer a model to be emulated: “England, the principal kingdom of the Reformation,” he observed, is overcome by “licentiousness in principles and opinions” such as “Arianism and Socinianism and Arminianism and deism.” Hence, nowhere in the world is there “so great apostasy of those that had been brought up under the light of the gospel to infidelity, never such a casting off the Christian religion and all revealed religion.”

1. The Enlightened Age
From the second half of the seventeenth till the end of the eighteenth century, Western Christianity underwent a profound intellectual transformation; it went through a prolonged series of critical self-reexaminations of its basic intellectual foundations in many spheres—religion and science, society and politics, morals and manners, gender and race, economy and markets, education and childhood, crime and punishment—and this reassessment marked the disenchantment of the world, and the beginning of the modern age as we know it today. “Our age is, in special degree, the age of criticism,” wrote Immanuel Kant in Critique of Pure Reason, 1781, “and to criticism everything must submit. Religion through its sanctity, and law-giving through its majesty, may seek to exempt themselves from it. But they then awaken just suspicion, and cannot claim the sincere respect which reason accords only to that which has been able to sustain the test of free and open examination.”1 The intellectual
1

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman K. Smith (New York: Palgrave, 2003), p. 9.

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

209

movement associated with this important ideological and cultural transformation in the history of Western civilization is commonly called the age of Enlightenment.2 Instead of accepting traditional religious worldviews at face value, or uncritically adopting the values of established authority, Enlightenment thinkers elevated the role of the mind and emphasized the power of reason, thus leading to the abolition of customarily accepted moral and religious absolutes. “In much the same way that the world became the object of scientific inquiry in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through a process of desacralisation, so too, religious practices” were “demystified by the imposition of natural laws.” And as “the physical world ceased to be a theatre in which the drama of creation was constantly re-directed by divine interventions,”3 so too the variety of human experience seemed more and more the outcome of natural and historical processes rather than the work of God. Once considered the sole source and locus for human experience and expectations, religious thought and belief were increasingly pushed out of the realms of nature, politics, ethics, and history.4 The “enlightened age” witnessed the replacement of religion by reason as the main agent for providing “objective truths” about the world in which human life is set. The supremacy and primacy of divine revelation were attacked: “The role of reason was magnified, that of revelation was depressed. The scriptures were subjected to intensive and often to unsympathetic scrutiny. Miracles were challenged. Prophecy was reassessed. Christian thought faced a threat which might have stripped it of all its uniqueness and authority.”5 Indeed, religion and morality continued to be of primary concerns, but they became subject to critical examination. The period is marked by the loss of the unquestioned, traditional legitimacy of a divinely instituted order. Enlightenment thinkers fostered trust in human power and ability, arguing for the authority of reason rather than the
James Schmidt, ed. What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and TwentiethCentury Questions (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1996). 3 Peter Harrison, “Religion” and the Religions in the English Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), p. 5. 4 For the detaching of politics from theological consideration and the new approach to politics focusing exclusively on human nature and human needs during the age of Enlightenment, see, Mark Lilla, The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern Mind (New York: Knopf, 2007), especially chapter 2: “The Great Separation,” pp. 55–106. 5 Gerald R. Cragg, The Church and the Age of Reason (London: Penguin, 1990), p.13.
2

210

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

traditional authority of Scripture. In England most writers, following John Locke, did not substitute reason for Scripture but called for a more reasonable approach to Scripture. On the continent rationality was advocated as a means of establishing authoritative systems of thought based on reason, leading humanity toward progress out of what was termed a long period of irrationality, superstition, tyranny, and barbarism. This is ultimately what distinguished Western Christian culture from other civilizations at this period. To orthodox Christians such a radical transformation constituted a threat to traditional religious thought and belief. As was the case with Donne and Pascal in the past, the New England theologian Jonathan Edwards too recognized and grappled in his time with the challenges posed to Christian orthodoxy by the emergence of new modes of thought, or the New Philosophy: Deistic attacks on revealed religion, the physical discoveries of Newton, the development of new narratives of history, and the emergence of new moral theories. Indeed, much of Edwards’s life of the mind can be characterized as a struggle “against most of the prevailing errors of the present day,” which tended to “the utter subverting of the gospel of Christ.”6 During this time, “every evangelical doctrine is run down,” and many “bold attempts are made” against “Christ, and the religion he taught.”7 What sets Edwards apart from many contemporary champions of religious orthodoxy is indeed his attempt to provide a serious and systematic alternative to Enlightenment modes of conviction and persuasion. Living in an age of rapid and dramatic intellectual innovations, he took upon himself the task of refuting them. Like the French Cartesian Nicolas Malebranche, Edwards believed in omnia videmus in deo, claiming “the whole universe, including all creatures animate and inanimate, in all its actings, proceedings, revolutions, and entire series of events, should proceed from a regard and with a view to God, as the supreme and last end of all.”8 Edwards then strove to establish all dimensions of human life, knowledge and experience, on God and His Word. Accordingly, he launched his fierce attack on Deism, the New Philosophy of nature, the Enlightenment’s refashioning of new modes of historical thought, and the British “School of Moral Sense.”

6 7

Edwards, “Letter to the Trustees of the College of New Jersey,” 1757, 16: 727. Edwards, “To the Reverend Thomas Foxcroft,” 1757, 16: 695. 8 Edwards, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 8: 424.

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

211

2. Deism
Edwards’s encounter with and reaction to Enlightenment thought is no more apparent than in his long and constant struggle against Deism, as can be seen in many of his works. The reason for this is not hard to find: the proponents of this mode of thought denied some of Christianity’s essential creeds, and their radical ideas were subversive of revealed religion. Deism emerged in England at the end of the seventeenth century and the early eighteen century. It signified the crisis of Christian culture during the age of Enlightenment, as manifested in the fracturing of doctrinal orthodoxy through attacks on established theological culture and authority, such as the authority of the Bible, the integrity and validity of revelation, the credibility of Old Testament prophecies and the reliability of New Testament miracles.9 Deists generally believed in one and only one God who has moral and intellectual virtues in perfection and whose active powers are displayed in the world; a God who created, sustained, and ordered the world by means of divinely sanctioned natural laws, both moral and physical. Emphasizing that God’s ordering of events constitutes a general providence but denying special providence, and claiming that miracles or other miraculous divine interventions violate the lawful natural order, the Deists raised the fears that the Jehovah of the Old Testament could hardly be identified with their God and the mechanical God of natural philosophers. Thus in The Dunciad (1742), the poet Alexander Pope denounced the deist idea of God who is “Wrapt up in Self, a God without a Thought, Regardless of our merit or default.”10 If Deism was the Enlightenment philosophy of religion, it was above all a religion of reason, a rational religion, or a religion of nature: “there is a Religion of Nature and Reason written in the Hearts of every One of us from the first Creation,” claimed Matthew Tindal (1657–1733) in Christianity as Old as the Creation, 1730, a book considered the “Bible of Deism.”11 Deist writers stressed belief in a God based on reason and experience in contrast to faith and revelation, and most of them believed that the God who created the universe is known by
9 Justin Champion, Republican Learning: John Toland and the Crisis of Christian Culture, 1696–1722 (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 2003), pp. 5–6. 10 Alexander Pope, The Dunciad (1742), in Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope, ed. Aubrey William (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969), p. 372. 11 Matthew Tindal, Christianity as Old as the Creation (London, 1730), p. 70.

212

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

the light of reason. They therefore questioned revealed religion, or religion based on a special revelation of God, emphasizing instead rational, natural religion. Asserting the existence of a God upon the testimony of reason, they argued that human reason alone is sufficient to provide the knowledge necessary to lead a moral and religious life. John Toland (1670–1722) claimed in Christianity not Mysterious, 1695, that “by Reason we arrive at the certainty of God’s own existence.”12 Christianity, then, is neither contrary to reason nor above reason. Deists denied the traditional Christian view of human corruption, as well as the belief that human beings’ reason is so corrupted by sin that special revelation is necessary for the conduct of moral life. Instead they argued that reason should be the basis of belief and that it is essential in making moral decisions. Tindal declared that “Our Reason, which gives us a Demonstration of the Divine Perfections,” directs us also in regard to ethics and morals “concerning the Nature of those Duties God requires . . . to ourselves, and one another.”13 Dwelling on the notion of “natural religion”—a universal genus of religion based on the light of reason or nature—Deists claimed that reason could look up through Nature to Nature’s God. “Religion of Nature,” argued Tindal, is based on “every Thing that is founded on the Reason and Nature of Things,” and it “consists in observing those Things, which our Reason, by considering the Nature of God and Man, and the Relation we stand in to him and one another, demonstrates to be our Duty.”14 Deism thus offered a new and optimistic view; no radical, essential evil was allowed within the well-ordered world created by a good God. Deist writers also attacked the validity of sacred prophecies. Anthony Collins (1676–1729) declared in A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, 1724, that “to understand the Prophet as having the conception of the Virgin Mary and birth of her son Jesus literally and primarily in view, is a very great absurdity.”15 Whereas Collins rejected the reliability of sacred prophecies, Thomas Woolston (c. 1668–1733) attacked the credibility of the New Testament miracles in Discourses on the Miracles of Our Saviour (1727), claiming that they are full of absurdities: “the literal History of many of the Miracles of Jesus,
John Toland, Christianity not Mysterious (London, 1696), p. 127. Tindal, Christianity as Old as the Creation, p. 16. 14 Ibid., pp. 13–14. 15 Anthony Collins, A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (London, 1724), p. 42.
13 12

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

213

as recorded by the Evangelists, does implies Absurdities, Improbability and Incredibility,” and this in fact is “very dishonorable to the name of Christ.”16 Another deist attack on Christian orthodoxy concerned the “scandal of particularity”—the notion that God revealed himself only to a minute group of people and not to the rest of the world. This view entails, according to Edward, first Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583– 1648), that “the far greatest part of Mankind must be inevitably sentenced to Eternal Punishment,” a view he thought “too rigid and severe to be consistent with the Attributes of the Most Great and Good God.”17 Even the poet John Dryden (1631–1700), who attacked Deism in Religio Laici (1682), wondered, why before Christ’s coming, “the whole world, excepting only the Jewish nation, should lie under inevitable necessity of everlasting punishment, for want of that revelation which was confined to so small a spot of ground as that of Palestine.”18 Together with other orthodox Christians, such as the English natural philosopher Robert Greene, John Edwards, Church of England clergyman, Jonathan Swift, the Irish philosopher George Berkeley (1685–1753),19 William Blake, and many others, Jonathan Edwards believed that deist views were destroying the foundations of Christianity, and he took upon himself a lifelong mission of refutation.20 He knew the ideas of the best-known Deists, such as Toland, Collins, and Tindal; beside, he could easily become acquainted with their views through books written by their opponents, such as Elisha Smith, The Cure of Deism, 1736; John Leland, View of the Principle Deistical Writers, 1745; and Philip Skelton, Deism Revealed, 1749.21
Thomas Woolston, A Discourse on the Miracles of Our Savior (London, 1727), pp. 4, 19. Herbert, Lord of Cherbury, Antient Religion of the Gentiles (London 1711), pp. 1–2. 18 John Dryden, Religio Laici, 1682, in John Dryden, ed. Keith Walker (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987), p. 220. 19 George Berkeley’s attack on deist writers, such as Collins and Shaftesbury, appeared, among others, in his book Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher . . . Containing an Apology for the Christian Religion, against those who are called Free-Thinkers (London, 1732). 20 In the following discussion of Edwards’s reaction to Deism I rely on Gerald McDermott’s excellent studies, Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods: Christian Theology, Enlightenment Religion, and Non-Christian Faiths (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000); and “Franklin, Jefferson and Edwards on Religion and the Religions,” in Jonathan Edwards at 300: Essays on the Tercentenary of His Birth, eds. Kenneth Minkema and Harry Stout (Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America, 2005), pp. 65–85. 21 Peter J. Thuesen, “Edwards’ Intellectual Background,”in Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Sang H. Lee (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 27–8.
17 16

214

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Edwards rejected the Deists’ elevation of reason above revelation as well as their view that reason alone can show humanity basic religious truths: “natural light” is never able to show how sinful humans can be reconciled to their Creator, and “the light of nature alone” cannot prove “that there is a future state,” hence assurance of salvation is impossible to find by reason alone.22 Indeed, reason is capable of knowing God, but only when the cognitive faculties are correctly disposed. God cannot be known by an “objective” reason that has not been enlivened by spiritual experience. Accordingly, Edwards attacked “Tindal’s main argument against the need of any revelation,” calling it an “empty, insipid kind of doctrine.”23 While the Deists assumed that reason can unveil the goodness and justice of God, thus inferring that religion is reasonable and non-mysterious, Edwards held that human reason after the Fall is very limited and incapable of possessing the saving knowledge of God, which comes only through knowledge of Christ as presented in scriptural revelation: only through “the Christian revelation,” he wrote, “the world has come to the knowledge of the only one true God.”24 Since the “whole of Christian divinity depends on divine revelation,” not only do “we stand in the greatest necessity of a divine revelation,” but “it was most fit and proper” that God gave us such a revelation—Christ.25 Believing that reason is prevented by sin from leading human beings to the true God, Edwards was convinced that revelation is necessary to supply what fallen reason can not. Against Deists and other proponents of the “moral sense” inherent in human nature, Edwards insisted on the centrality of revelation to all true system of morality: “He that sees the beauty of holiness, or true moral good, sees the greatest and most important thing in the world, which is the fullness of all things, without which all the world is empty, no better than nothing, yea, worse than nothing.” Theological considerations, then, are inextricable from true morality, for “spiritual understanding primarily consists” in the sense “of the moral beauty of divine things.” True morality “consists in the beauty of the moral perfections of God, which wonderfully shines forth in every step” of the “method of salvation;” a method of delivering “us from sin and hell,” and of bringing us to the “happiness which consists in the possession and enjoyment of moral good, in a way sweetly agreeing with God’s moral
22 23

Edwards, “Miscellany 1239,” 23: 175. Edwards, “Miscellany 1337,” 23: 342. 24 Edwards, “Miscellany 519,” 18: 64. 25 Edwards, “Miscellany 837,” 20: 52–3.

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

215

perfections.”26 There is no such thing as morality without worship; worse, it is blasphemous because it flouts the one who founded and sustains true morality: “True virtue most essentially consists in benevolence to Being in general” or God; it is “that consent, propensity and union of heart to Being in general.”27 In sum, for Edwards the unregenerate reason is incapable of understanding the essence of true religion and hence the nature and purpose of moral virtue which is inextricable from faith.28 In face of deistic rejection of the Bible as written revelation, and the argument that God had already revealed in nature and reason all human beings need to know, hence the special revelation in the Bible was not only unnecessary but patently fraudulent, Edwards declared that if “the New Testament ben’t a true revelation of God, then God never has yet given the world any clear revelation of future state.” “We must therefore suppose,” he continues, “that God did design a further revelation than the Old Testament, because a future state was not clearly revealed by that.”29 In another place he argued that only the Christian revelation had been able to provide true knowledge of God, the world, the nature and destiny of human beings, sin and punishment, and redemption.30 In contrast to the deist claim that religion is not mystery, Edwards argued that even the “wiser heathen were sensible that the things of [the] gods are so high above us.”31 Mystery is to be expected in religion because religion is concerned with spiritual things that are not the objects of our senses. He thus denounced the deist denial of mystery to religion, and rejected the claim that morality is the essence of religion, thus subordinating religion to morality. For him morality and justice “are only for the advancement of the great business [religion], to assist mutually each other to it.”32 On the other hand, Edwards accepted the deist premise that it would be unjust for God to withhold his revelation from the majority
Edwards, Religious Affections, 2: 271–4. Edwards, The Nature of True Virtue, 8: 540; “‘Controversies’ Notebook: The Nature of True Virtue,” 21: 322–3; “Miscellany 1208,” 23: 139–40. 28 See John F. Smith, “Christian Morality and Common Morality,” in Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Sang H. Lee (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 150–1. 29 Edwards, “Miscellany 582,” 18: 118. See also Edwards, Notes on Scripture, 15: 175. 30 Edwards, “Miscellany 128,” 13: 291–2. 31 Edwards, “Miscellany 964,” 20: 248. 32 Edwards, “Miscellany kk,” 13: 186.
27 26

216

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

of the world, that is, their argument about the “scandal of particularity.” Accordingly, he used the notion of prisca theologia (ancient theology)—an important tradition in apologetic theology that attempted to prove that vestiges of true religion (monotheism, the Trinity, creatio ex nihilo) were taught by certain non-Christian traditions, arguing that “the Heathen Philosophers had their notions of the unity of God, of the Trinity.”33 He recalled the claim of the second-century philosopher Numenius of Apamea: “What is Plato but Moses speaking in the Attic Language?”34 Knowledge of true religion among the heathen, therefore, is based on revelation and not, as the Deists argued, on the light of natural reason.

3. Natural Philosophy
Together with his attack on Deism, Edwards denounced the New Philosophy of nature, or the dominant scientific culture and imagination of enlightened Europe—experimental, mechanical philosophy, the doctrine that all natural phenomena can be explained and understood by the mere mechanics of matter and motion. Edwards believed that the Theatrum Mundi is the mirror of divinity; hence the world is the theater of God’s glory—Theatrum Dei Gloria—a special space-time designed from eternity to reveal the glory of God. Accordingly, he attempted to provide a philosophical and theological alternative to the mechanistic explanation of the essential nature of reality, an alternative that would reconstitute the glory of God’s absolute sovereignty, power, and will within creation. This can be seen in a long series of writings on natural philosophy—most notably “Of Being” (1722), “Of Atoms” (1722), and “The Mind” (1724) which reveal Edwards’s knowledge of the works of mechanical philosophers such as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton, and present his attempt to construct a theology or a typology of nature in opposition to mechanical natural philosophy. The mechanization of the natural world was an important feature of late seventeenth-century science. Its “basic postulate was that nature operates according to mechanical principles, the regularity of which can be expressed in the form of natural laws.”35 Mechanical philosophers conceived of the world as a huge machine running like the work
Edwards, “Miscellany 953,” 20: 222. Edwards, “Miscellany 1355,” 23: 548. 35 John H. Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991), p. 119.
34 33

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

217

of a clock according to abstract mechanical laws of nature. Boyle said that nature is a “compounded machine,”36 and the “whole universe” is “but a great Automaton, or self-moving engine, wherein all things are performed by the bare motion (or rest), the size, the shape, and the situation, or texture of the parts of the universal matter it consists of.”37 Likewise, Newton believed that a true understanding of the phenomena of nature is based upon “rational mechanics,” or “reasoning from mechanical principles” on all “the phenomena of Nature” which are formulated according to “mathematical principles.”38 The mechanization of the natural world led to the mechanization of God’s providential activity in the world. Once set going by God, the course of nature and the phenomena of the world are the product of mere mechanical laws and no longer manifest the divine immanence: “the phenomena of the world,” wrote Boyle, “are physically produced by the mechanical affections of the part of matter, and what they operate upon one another according to mechanical laws.”39 God’s providential scheme was confined mainly to the establishment and maintaining of the general, external laws of nature which regulate the world phenomena. Accordingly, Newton’s God is a cosmic legislator, “a Universal Ruler,”40 who is “an agent acting constantly according to certain laws.”41 With the mechanization of the natural world, the notion of God’s relationship to it changed dramatically: “The sovereign Redeemer of Luther and Calvin became,” in scientific thought, “the sovereign Ruler of the world machine.”42 Newton’s God was first
Robert Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature, 1686, in Selected Philosophical Papers of Robert Boyle, ed. M. A. Stewart (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991), p. 191. 37 Robert Boyle, The Excellency of Theology Compared with Natural Philosophy, 1665, as quoted in Otto Mayr, Authority, Liberty & Automatic Machinery in Early Modern Europe, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1986), p. 56. 38 Newton, “Newton’s Preface to the First Edition,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1934), I, xvii–xviii. 39 Boyle, About the Excellency and Grounds of the Mechanical Hypothesis, 1674, in Selected Philosophical Papers of Robert Boyle, p. 139. 40 Newton, “General Scholium,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1934), II, p. 544. 41 Newton, “Four Letters to Richard Bentley,” Letter III, February 25, 1693, in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings, ed. H. S. Thayer (New York: Hafner, 1974), p. 54. 42 Deason, “Reformation Theology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature,” in God and Nature, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1986), p. 187.
36

218

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

and foremost “the kosmokrator, ruler over everything,”43 or “a ‘universal ruler’ (pantokrator),”44 and not, as in classical and medieval thought, a God whose symbolic presence was manifested in the nature and harmony of creation. For him “only a God of true and supreme dominion is a supreme and true God” and this “at the expense of God’s love and, apparently, God’s intellect.”45 Fully aware of the ramifications inherent in the premises of mechanical philosophy as they affected the traditional Christian dialectic of God’s transcendence and immanence, Edwards recognized that the New Philosophy was leading increasingly to a separation between the order of grace and the order of nature, between God and the world, and was thus incompatible with traditional Christian belief. He was alarmed by the mechanistic conception of the world of nature as a self-contained and independent reality, a self-inclusive machine running by itself according to abstract, universal laws of nature. And with great dismay he observed that mechanical philosophy’s notion of a homogeneous, uniform and symmetrical, one-dimensional world of nature, not only deprived created order of any teleological ends and purposes, but stipulated that nature could no longer manifest the presence of God. In response, Edwards constructed his own theology of nature, or typology—interpreting the physical world as a representation or a “shadow” of the spiritual one which celebrates God’s glory and sovereignty as they are evidenced in the coherence and beauty, order and harmony, of world phenomena. His goal was to prove God’s existence in his majesty and glory within the created world. Hence he attacked mechanical philosophy, claiming “there is no such thing as mechanism” if that word meant that “bodies act each upon other, purely and properly by themselves,” because “the very being, and the manner of being, and the whole of bodies depends immediately on the divine power.”46
Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century, (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986), p. 90. 44 J. E. McGuire, “The Fate of the Date: The Theology of Newton’s Principia Revisited,” in Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, ed. Margaret J. Osler (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), p. 276. 45 Force, “Newton’s God of Dominion,” in Essays on the Context, Nature, and Influence of Isaac Newton’s Theology, eds. Force and Popkin, pp. 79, 83. See also Mandelbrote, “Newton and Eighteenth-Century Christianity,” in The Cambridge Companion to Newton, eds. Cohen and Smith, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 409–30. 46 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” 6: 216; “Things to be Considered an[d] Written fully about,” 6: 235.
43

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

219

He appropriated the atomic doctrine of the dominant mechanical philosophy of his time but Christianized it, arguing that God’s infinite power is responsible for holding the “atoms together”; hence the very framework of the material universe is evidence of God’s omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniactivity: “the very being, and the manner of being, and the whole of bodies depends immediately on the divine power.”47 Further, claiming that every “atom in the universe is managed by Christ so as to be most to the advantage of the Christian,”48 he reestablished God’s direct and intimate relation with the world. Likewise he rejected the mechanistic understanding of the concept of “natural laws,” because these laws, setting up a mediating sphere between God and his creation, restricted God’s infinite power and limited divine immanence within the phenomena of the world: what “we call the laws of nature” are only “the stated methods of God’s acting with respect to bodies.”49 Accordingly, Edwards denounced the mechanical philosophers’ claim that God “himself, in common with his creatures,” is “subject in his acting to the same laws with inferior beings,” thus dethroning God from his place as “the head of the universe” and “the foundation and first spring of all.”50 In “The Mind” Edwards formulated his idealistic phenomenalism: “the world, i.e. the material universe, exists nowhere but in the mind,” and, given that “all material existence is only idea,” the “world therefore is an ideal one.”51 His main goal was to show that the essence of reality is a matter of relationship between God and the created order. Hence, argued Edwards, “that which truly is the substance of all bodies is the infinite exact and precise and perfectly stable idea in God’s mind.”52 Accordingly, the principle underlying Edwards’s theological teleology of order inherent in the structure of the universe was the concept of “Excellency.” Edwards defined this as the “consent of being to being, or being’s consent to entity,” which in turn defined the relationship within the hierarchy of spirits according to their consent to the supreme being, God. “So far as a thing consents to being in general,” Edwards wrote, “so far it consents to him,” hence “the more perfect created spirits are, the nearer do they come to their creator in
Edwards, “Of Atoms,” p. 214; “Things to be Considered,” p. 235. Edwards, “Miscellany ff,” 13: 184. 49 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” p. 216. 50 Edwards, “Miscellany 1263,” 23: 212. See also Edwards, Notes on Scripture, pp. 373, 388. 51 Edwards, “The Mind,” 6: 350–6. 52 Edwards, “The Mind,” 6: 344.
48 47

220

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

this regard.” Seeing that “the more the consent is, and the more extensive, the greater is the excellency,” therefore in “the order of beings in the natural world, the more excellent and noble any being is, the more visible and immediate hand of God is there in bringing them into being” with “the most noble of all” the “soul of man.”53 In undertaking to provide an alternative view of the essence of reality which would lead eventually to the re-enchantment of the world, Edwards’s ultimate goal was the demonstration of the infinite power of God’s absolute sovereignty in both the “order of nature” and the “order of time.”54 His interpretation of natural phenomena therefore constituted a radical departure from the prevalent mechanical philosophy. Believing that “the corporeal world is to no advantage but to the spiritual,” he claimed that “to find out the reasons of things in natural philosophy is only to find out the proportion of God’s acting.”55 In this venture of the re-deifying of the world, Edwards was not alone, as can be seen in the close affinities between his thought and that of other antiNewtonians at that time, such as, Leibniz, the naturalist and theologian John Hutchinson (1674–1737), the Irish philosopher George Berkeley, and many others, who were opposed to distancing God from the phenomena of nature, or detaching the order of grace from the order of nature, as Newton’s universal active principles appeared to do.

4. History
The same drive to uphold traditional religious belief informs Edwards’s contribution to historical thought. His philosophy of history took shape, in part, in opposition to intellectual developments in the early modern European period, and specifically to the new modes of historical thought which were leading to the exclusion of theistic considerations from the realm of history.56 Edwards developed the
Ibid., 336–7; “Miscellany 541,” 18: 89. Edwards, “Miscellany 704,” 18: 320; Freedom of the Will, 1: 177. 55 Edwards, “The Mind,” pp. 353–5. 56 The development of the various Enlightenment narratives of history is discussed, among others, in Karen O’Brien, Narratives of Enlightenment: Cosmopolitan History from Voltaire to Gibbon (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997); Philip Hicks, Neoclassical History and English Culture: From Clarendon to Hume (London: Macmillan Press, 1996); and J. G. A. Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 1: The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737–1764 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999); vol. 2: Narratives of Civil Government (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999); vol. 3: The First Decline and Fall (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003); vol. 4: Barbarism: Savages and Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005).
54 53

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

221

view that the course of history is based exclusively on God’s redemptive activity as a response to the Enlightenment narratives which rejected the Christian sense of time and vision of history. “Shall we prize a history that gives us a clear account of some great earthly prince or mighty warrior, as of Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, or the duke of Marlborough,” asked Edwards, “and shall we not prize the history that God has given us of the glorious kingdom of his son, Jesus Christ, the prince and savior of the world?”57 Against the de-Christianization and de-divination of the historical process, Edwards sought the re-enthronement of God as the sole author and lord of history. The “enlightened age” posed grave implications for traditional Christian thought. It signified an entirely new attitude toward history, stressing human autonomy and freedom in determining its course and progress. Enlightenment historians refused “to recognize an absolutely supernatural or an absolutely super-historical sphere,” and attempted to free historical thought “from the bonds of Scripture dogmatically interpreted and of the orthodoxy of the preceding centuries.”58 Instead of ordering the structure of history on the dimension of “sacred time,”59 or the operation of divine providence, Enlightenment historical narratives were based on secular, historical time. Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke (1678–1751), Voltaire (1694–1778), David Hume (1711–1776), and Edward Gibbon (1737–1794), to name only a few, strove to “liberate history writing from its subservience to theology” and to free it from the theological view which conceived “the course of human history as the realization of a divine plan.”60 Instead of seeing the historical process as contingent on a metaphysical reality beyond and above it, Enlightenment historians gave their highest attention to human beings’ actions and deeds. No longer considered as the narrative of a God-given providential plan, the historical realm came to be defined as a space of time intended for the realization of the possibilities and abilities inherent in the nature of human beings. Enlightenment historians view mankind as “advancing steadily from primitive barbarism to reason

Edwards, History of the Work of Redemption, 9: 291. Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962), p. 199. 59 Pocock, “Modes of Action and their Pasts in Tudor and Stuart England,” in National Consciousness, History and Political Culture in Early Modern Europe, ed. Orest Ranum (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1975), pp. 98–117. 60 Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (New York: Norton, 1977), pp. 372–3.
58

57

222

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

and virtue and civilization.”61 In place of the religious vision of history as the drama of human salvation and redemption which would be realized beyond history, historical thought in the age of Enlightenment developed the concept of “progress,” or the notion of an immanent human advance based on the belief that utopian visions regarding human freedom and happiness could be fulfilled within history. Historia Humana gradually replaced salvation history in the European mind. This involved not only the detachment of grace from time, redemption from history, and divine agency from temporal events, but ultimately the rejection of the Christian historical worldview. To Enlightenment historians the uses of studying history were primarily political, social, and educational, and much less theological and religious. Lord Bolingbroke claimed: “We ought always to keep in mind, that history is philosophy teaching by examples how to conduct ourselves in all the situations of private and public life.”62 Hume argued that history’s main use is to reveal the progress of “human society” from “its infancy . . . towards arts and sciences.”63 Historia Humana, the annals of human institutions, civil society, laws, manners, nations, and so on, in contrast to the sacred, became the enterprise of Enlightenment historians. The chief use of “history,” said Hume, is “to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature, by showing men in all varieties of circumstances and situations,” enabling us to “become acquainted with the regular springs of human action and behaviour.”64 Even more serious for traditional religious thought and belief were the Enlightenment historians’ denunciations of the Christian interpretation of history. Hume wrote that religion “has contributed to render CHRISTENDOM the scene of religious wars and divisions. Religions,” including Christianity, “arise in ages totally ignorant and barbarous” and “consist mostly of traditional tales and fictions.”65 Also
G. Barraclough, “Universal History,” 1962, as quoted in Sidney Pollard, The Idea of Progress (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), p. 33. 62 Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke, Letters on the Study and Use of History, 1735, in The Works of . . . Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, 8 vols. (London, 1809), III, pp. 349–50. 63 David Hume, Essays, Moral Political and Literary, ed. T. H. Green, 2 vols. (London, 1882), II, p. 389. 64 Hume, “History as Guide,” in The Portable Enlightenment Reader, ed. Isaac Kramnick (New York: Penguin, 1995), p. 359. 65 Hume, “Of Parties in General,” 1741, in David Hume: Essays Moral, Political and Literary, ed. Eugene F. Miller (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1985), pp. 62–3.
61

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

223

grave for the traditional Christian narrative of history was the threat to the authority of the Bible as a historical source. Bolingbroke directed a major assault on sacred ecclesiastical history: the “historical part” of the “Old Testament,” he wrote, “must be reputed insufficient” to the study of history “by every candid and impartial man.” Not only is the Bible an insufficient and unreliable source, but “history has been purposely and systematically falsified in all ages” by church historians. Instead of providing historical truths, the Christian interpretation of history has led to the “abuse of history.”66 Edwards owned and read many works by Enlightenment historians, among them Pierre Bayle’s Historical and Critical Dictionary, 1702; Samuel Pufendorf’s An Introduction to the History of the Principal Kingdoms and States of Europe, 1702; Bolingbroke’s Remarks on the History of England, 1731; and Letters on the Study and Use of History, 1752; and Hume’s Essays Moral, Political and Literary, 1742. Aware of these modes of European historical thought, and in response to them, Edwards formulated his own philosophy of salvation history; its fullest and most systematic exposition is found in the thirty sermons on the History of the Work of Redemption, 1739. Against the Enlightenment historians’ new modes of historical, secular time which denied any theistic interpretation of the historical process, Edwards viewed history as lying exclusively in the mind of omniscient God. Taking God as the sole author of history, he argued that history was constructed by divine providence as a special dimension of sacred, redemptive time designed solely for the accomplishment of God’s work of redemption, the “rise and continued progress of the dispensations of grace towards fallen mankind.”67 The historical process therefore should be understood from the perspective of its maker and author. In this sacred, redemptive context, the “pourings out of the Spirit” and its historical manifestations in the form of revivals and awakenings constitute the ultimate mark of divine agency in the order of time: “from the fall of man to this day wherein we live the Work of Redemption in its effects has mainly been carried on by remarkable pourings out of the Spirit of God” at “special seasons of mercy,” or revivals, such as during the age of the apostles, or the Protestant Reformation.68 Religious awakening is the essence of
Bolingbroke, Letters on the Study and Use of History, in Lord Bolingbroke: Historical Writings, ed. Isaac Kramnick, (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1972), pp. 35–6, 51, 53–5. 67 Edwards, History of the Work of Redemption, p. 285. 68 Ibid., pp. 143, 376–81, 438–40.
66

224

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

providential history, and the main manifestation of divine agency in worldly time. Edwards’s historical narrative therefore deals primarily with the outpouring of the Spirit of God in “dispensations of providence”69 and, correspondingly, with its historical manifestations in the form of decisive periods of awakenings throughout history. His aim was to demonstrate that the fate of human beings cannot be separated from divine action in time: given that the whole course and progress of history is based on the effusion of the Spirit as manifested in periods of decisive revivals, history is God’s grand “theater” because His transcendent ends determine the drama of human history on earth. Edwards thus defined history as a sacred space of time destined from eternity for God’s own self-glorification—the display of the Deity’s excellence in creation as evidenced in His work of redemption; hence human beings’ existence as well as their history is totally dependent on God. Such was Edwards’s reply to the exclusion of theistic considerations from the realm of time and history by Enlightenment historians.70

5. Ethics and Morals
Edwards’s long involvement with issues of ethics and morals, apparent in his various “Ethical Writings,” such as Charity and Its Fruits, 1738; Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 1755; and The Nature of True Virtue, 1755; may be understood in the wider ideological context of early modern history and the “Enlightenment project,” or its “new science of morals,” which presented a contrast to Christian teaching. The first half of the eighteenth century witnessed an attempt on the part of Enlightenment thinkers to establish new concepts of moral theory. Chief among these was the theory of a “moral sense,” the sensus communis of classical thought. Claiming that the moral sense is the faculty by which we distinguish between right and wrong, writers such as Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) and David

Edwards, History of the Work of Redemption, 511; Notes on Scripture, p. 385. See Avihu Zakai, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History: The Re-Enchantment of the World in the Age of Enlightenment, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003. Reprint: Paperback edition, 2009.
70

69

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

225

Hume, as well as other members of the British School of Moral Sense, argued that it is possible to have knowledge of good and evil without, and prior to, knowledge of God. The main assumption behind this conception of ethics and morals was the belief that human beings can know from within themselves, without reliance on traditional sources of religious authority, what God intends and expects of them as moral creatures. The term “moral sense” was first suggested by Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713) in An Inquiry Concerning Virtue, 1699; and in Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, 1711. In these works he appeals to psychological experience as a foundation for morality, attributing to a moral sense our ability “to be capable of Virtue, and to have a Sense of Right and Wrong,”71 to distinguish between good and evil, virtue and vice. This sense, he believed, along with our common affection for virtue, accounts for the possibility of morality. Francis Hutcheson, Shaftesbury’s principal follower, a professor of Moral Theology at Glasgow, argued in his Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725) that human beings have disinterested motives, namely, they can act for the sake of the good of others and not merely for their self-advantage: since “no love to rational Agents can proceed from Self Interest, every action must be disinterested, as far as it flows from Love to rational Agents.” This disinterested motive, which he terms “Benevolence, or Love”—the quality of being concerned about others for their own sake—constitutes “the universal Foundation” of the “Moral Sense.”72 The same endeavor to ground morality exclusively in the benevolence of human nature appears also in Hume’s moral philosophy. For him, as with Hutcheson, morality is an entirely human affair based on human nature and not on a divine will: “morality,” he claimed, “is nothing in the abstract nature of things, but is entirely relative to the
71 Shaftesbury [Anthony Ashley Cooper], An Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit, 1699, in British Moralists: Selection from Writers Principally of the Eighteenth Century, ed. L. A. SelbyBigge, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897), I, pp. 23, 33; idem, Characteristic of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, 1711, ed. Lawrence E. Klein (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999), pp. 37–9, 48–53. 72 Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry Concerning the Original of Our Ideas of Virtue or Moral Good, 2nd edition, 1726, in British Moralists: Selection from Writers Principally of the Eighteenth Century, I, pp. 87, 99, 118; Idem, Philosophical Writings, ed. R. S. Downie (Dent: London, 1994), pp. 70–6.

226

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

sentiment of mental taste of each particular being.”73 Believing that ethics and religion were separate subjects of inquiry, Hume attempted to provide an analysis of moral principles without connection to religion, defining “virtue as personal merit, or what is useful and agreeable to ourselves and to others.”74 Edwards knew many works by Enlightenment moral theorists, including Shaftesbury’s Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, 1711; Hutcheson’s An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, 1725; and An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections with Illustration on the Moral Sense, 1728; as well as of Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748; A Treatise on Human Nature, 1739; and Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 1751. In these works he could see that the new theories of ethics were leading to the detachment of the moral system from God; the Enlightenment debate on moral philosophy, especially its theory of innate moral sense, contained thus serious implications for Christian ethics. In response, Edwards declared that it is “evident that true virtue must chiefly consist in love to God,”75 and that “all true virtue” is based on “love of Being, and the qualities and acts which arise from it.”76 Since the essence of “true virtue” is “benevolence to being in general,” or God, there is no “true virtue without supreme love to God and making God our supreme end.”77 Edwards devoted much time and energy to refuting the moral sense theory because he would not accept a theory of morals or virtue based exclusively on human nature and independent of God, who exercises “absolute and universal dominion” over the created order: “the whole universe, including all creatures animate and inanimate, in all its actings, proceedings, revolutions, and entire series of events, should proceed from a regard and with a view to God, as the supreme and last end of all.”78 Thus in Charity and Its Fruits, preached in 1734–1735, he asserted that from “love to God springs love to man”; hence without
73 Hume, Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, 1748, p. 14; Francis Hutcheson: On Human Nature ed. Thomas Mautner, (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993), p. 152. 74 Isabel Rivers, Reason, Grace, and Sentiment: A Study of the Language of Religion and Ethics in England 1660–1780, 2 vols; II: Shaftesbury to Hume (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), p. 288. 75 Edwards, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 8: 550. 76 Edwards, The Nature of True Virtue, 8: 548. 77 Edwards, “‘Controversies’ Notebook: The Nature of True Virtue,” 21: 322, 314. 78 Edwards, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, p. 424.

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

227

“love to God there can be no true honor,” or virtue.79 Against the attempts by Enlightenment writers to base ethics and morals on secular and naturalistic foundations, Edwards declared that the gracious affections stand above and beyond the natural affections of which all are capable, and true virtue stands above and beyond the disinterested benevolence that marks the ultimate achievement of natural man: “what our modern philosophers call natural Moral Test is a different thing from virtue,”80 because “a supreme regard to the Deity is essential to true virtue.”81 In Freedom of the Will (1754) Edwards attacked the Arminians’ and Deists’ “grand article concerning the freedom of the will requisite to moral agency,” the belief that absolute self-determination of will is necessary for human liberty and moral virtue. Since “every event” in the physical as well as the moral world “must be ordered by God,” the “liberty of moral agents does not consist in self-determining power.” Accordingly, in this work he wished to demonstrate that “God’s moral government over mankind, his treating them as moral agents” is not “inconsistent with a determining disposal of all events.” Human beings must do as they will, in accordance with their fallen nature, and they have liberty only in the sense that nothing prevents them from doing what they will in accordance with their nature. But “nothing in the state or acts of the will of man is contingent,” for “every event of this kind is necessary.” God’s foreknowledge eliminates the possibility of contingency in the world, for contingency is the antithesis of God’s unlimited prescience. Given that “the power of volition” belongs only to “the man or the soul,” there is no such thing as “freedom of the will.”82 That freedom is incompatible with the individual’s necessary willing of what he or she can will in accordance with a nature of self already determined. Edwards therefore attacked the “doctrine of self-determining will, as the ground of all moral good and evil,” because it “tends to prevent any proper exercise of faith in God and Christ, in the affair of our salvation, as it tends to prevent all dependence upon them.”83 Likewise, against the Enlightenment notion of human beings as fundamentally rational, moral, and benevolent, Edwards’s Original
Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, 8: 137, 142. Edwards, “‘Controversies’ Notebook: The Nature of True Virtue,” p. 314. 81 Edwards, “Miscellany 1208,” 23: 139. 82 Edwards, Freedom of the Will, 1: 431–3; Notes on Scripture, p. 388. 83 Edwards, “To the Reverend John Erskine,” August 3, 1757, 16: 721. See also Allen C. Guelzo, “Freedom of the Will,” in The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Sang H. Lee (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 115–29.
80 79

228

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Sin (1758) provided “a general defense of that great important doctrine”—of original sin. This doctrine proclaims both the depravity of the human heart and the imputation of Adam’s first sin to his posterity: all Adam’s posterity inherits the existential state of being “exposed, and justly so, to the sorrows of this life, to temporal death, and eternal ruin, unless saved by grace.” But corruption of humankind cannot be accounted for by considering the sin of each individual separately. It is essential to the human condition and is based on “the arbitrary constitution of the Creator” in creation.84 Thus, in response to the Enlightenment writers’ belief in human moral sense, Edwards declared “we are by nature, companions in a miserable helpless condition,” namely human depravity.85 During the eighteenth century the controversy over human depravity signified an important struggle about the nature of human beings and their potentialities. As a result of emphasize during the age of Enlightenment of human beings as fundamentally rational, morally and benevolently inclined, endangered the Christian doctrine of original sin. Edwards wrote Original Sin against, among others, John Taylor (1694–1761), a Presbyterian minister who published The ScriptureDoctrine of Original Sin in 1740, accusing Calvinism of turning God into a monster: “pray consider seriously what a God He must be who can be displeased with and curse His innocent creatures even before they have a being.”86 Further, Taylor argued that virtue and holiness result from the free and right choices of human beings. Among respondents to Taylor were John Wesley (1703–1791), the founder of the Methodist movement, who in The Doctrine of Original Sin (1757) charged Taylor with overthrowing the foundations of primitive, scriptural Christianity, and Jonathan Edwards who argued that if we do not posit universal depravity we cannot explain how every individual does, in fact, freely choose what is evil. Finally, in The Nature of True Virtue, 1755, Edwards replied directly to the contemporary “controversies and variety of opinions” about “the nature of true virtue.” His aim was to define the disposition that distinguished the godly, claiming that true “virtue most essentially consists in benevolence to Being in general.” A true system of morals and ethics is therefore inseparable from religion because the former is grounded on the latter; religion is the true foundation and only source
84 85

Edwards, Original Sin, 3: 102, 395, 403. Ibid., p. 424. 86 John Taylor, The Scripture-Doctrine of Original Sin (London, 1740), p. 151.

Jonathan Edwards and the “Age of Enlightenment”

229

of all virtue. Since “true virtue must chiefly consist in love to God, the Being of beings,” continues Edwards, “he that has true virtue, consisting in benevolence to Being in general [or God], and in that complacence in virtue, or moral beauty, and benevolence to virtuous being, must necessarily have a supreme love to God, both of benevolence and complacence.” Against Hutcheson’s and Hume’s separation of morals and religion, Edwards claimed that virtue is by necessity grounded on God since the Deity “is the head of the universal system of existence,”87 hence “nothing is of the nature of true virtue, in which God is not the first and the last.”88 Edwards was fully aware of the grave implications of Enlightenment new theories of ethics and morals for the Christian faith: “unless we will be atheists, we must allow that true virtue does primarily and most essentially consist in a supreme love to God.” Those who oppose this assertion deny that “God maintains a moral kingdom in the world.” Morality, then, cannot be separated from God: “a virtuous love in created beings, one to another, is dependent on, and derived from love to God.” Moreover, the foundation of morality can not be separated from the theological teleology of order inherent in the universe: “they are good moral agents whose temper of mind or propensity of heart is agreeable to the end for which God made moral agents.” The “last end for which God has made moral agents must be the last end for which God has made all things: it being evident that the moral world is the end of the rest of the world; the inanimate and unintelligent world being made for the rational and moral world.”89 In the English Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, Edwards’s views, strongly opposed to the dominant philosophy of Locke, Newton, Hume, and the Deists illustrate the expiring power of Calvinism. But in terms of the formation of American culture, his attacks on Enlightenment’s secular modes of thought helped to create a well-defined American Protestant culture.90 More specifically, Edwards’s rejection of the British school of “moral sense” was incorporated, adopted, and
Edwards, The Nature of True Virtue, 8: 539–51. Ibid., p. 560. 89 Ibid., pp. 552–60. 90 See, Avihu Zakai, “Jonathan Edwards, the Enlightenment, and the Formation of Protestant Tradition in America,” in The Creation of the British Atlantic World, eds. Elizabeth Mancke and Carole Shammas et al. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 182–209.
88 87

230

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

diffused by the New Divinity School in New England, and in fact was its hallmark during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Likewise, his reaction to the Enlightenment narratives of history led to the development of a singular evangelical historiography, which, by placing revival at the center of salvation history, conditioned many generations of Protestants in America to see religious awakening as the essence of divine agency in time and history.

Chapter VII

JONATHAN EDWARDS’S PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning
Hence we learn that there is no such thing as mechanism, if that word is taken to be that whereby bodies act each upon other, purely and properly by themselves. Edwards, “Of Atoms” [T]he whole universe, including all creatures animate and inanimate, in all its actings, proceedings, revolutions, and entire series of events, should proceed from a regard and with a view to God, as the supreme and last end of all. Edwards, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 1755 ‘Tis very fit and becoming of God, who is infinitely wise, so to order things that there should be a voice of his in his work instructing those that behold them, and pointing forth and showing divine mysteries and things more immediately appertaining to himself, and his spiritual kingdom. Edwards, “Images of Divine Things”

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was perhaps the outstanding theologian and certainly the ablest philosopher to write in America before the great period of Charles S. Peirce (1839–1914), William James (1842–1910), Josiah Royce (1855–1916), and John Dewey (1859–1952). Judged over two centuries, Edwards stands out as one of America’s great original minds, one of the very few whose “depiction of reality has known enduring attraction.”1 He is considered as the “foundation stone in the

1 Nathan O. Hatch and Harry S. Stout, “Introduction,” in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience, eds. Hatch and Stout (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), p. 3.

231

232

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

history of American philosophy”;2 and the unique theology and philosophy he formulated “entitled him to the rank of the greatest American theologian and the greatest American philosopher before the Civil War.”3 Yet Edwards was not only a prominent American intellectual. He was also an important early modern philosopher who developed a singular philosophy of nature, a unique view regarding the essential nature of reality, entitling him to a distinguished place among early modern philosophers—such as Giordano Bruno (1548– 1600), Blaise Pascal, Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Bishop George Berkeley (1685–1753)—who reacted against the metaphysical and theological implications that often accompanied the appearance of new scientific thought and imagination during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, traditionally referred to as the scientific revolution. As I argue, Edwards joins the thin ranks of those admirable subjects, like Donne, Pascal, Leibniz, and Berkeley, who perceived that the New Philosophy of nature required a major rethinking of the received theological tradition and not simply its unreflective reassertion—or its abandonment. On the other hand, Edwards’s natural philosophy may be examined as well in the context of the reaction by “many guardians of theological orthodoxy” in England against certain trends in contemporary natural philosophy, and their “theologically based suspicions of Newton’s work.”4 By examining the unique natural philosophy that Edwards constructed in reaction to new modes of scientific thought and imagination, and by showing his striving to provide a plausible alternative to the predominant scientific reasoning of his time, my goal is to restore Edwards to his due prominence in early modern philosophy. Edwards formulated the premises of his natural philosophy, or indeed his theology of nature, in a long series of “scientific andphilosophical writings,”5 though many references can be found also in
Bruce Kuklick, “Jonathan Edwards and American Philosophy,” in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience, p. 246. 3 Elizabeth Flower and Murray G. Murphey, A History of Philosophy in America, 2 vols. (New York: Capricorn Books, 1977), I, p. 137. 4 Michael Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981), p, 187; John Gascoigne, Cambridge in the Age of the Enlightenment: Science, Religion and Politics from the Restoration to the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), p. 169, and “From Bentley to the Victorians: The Rise and Fall of British Newtonian Natural Theology,” Science in Context 2 (1988), pp. 219–56. 5 Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 6: Scientific and Philosophical Writings, ed. Wallace E. Anderson (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1980). The most important of these
2

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

233

other writings and sermons. He composed most of these entries during the 1720s, in attempting to understand the essential nature of reality, or the dimension of the physical and material world within which human life is set. At that time, as he wrote in 1725, his goal was to ascertain God’s relation to his creation, and to define the relationship between the order of grace and the order of nature: “The very thing” was to get a clear “knowledge of the manner of God’s exerting himself” with respect “of his operations concerning Matter and Bodies.”6 Believing in omnia videmus in deo (“We see all things in God”), Edwards searched after the mind of God in creation (mens Dei). For him the Theatrum Mundi was created by the Deity to be the mirror of divinity, hence the natural world is the theater of God’s glory—Theatrum Dei Gloria. Accordingly, Edwards’s philosophical theology in general and his theology of nature in particular were based on the belief that “the whole universe, including all creatures animate and inanimate, in all its actings, proceedings, revolutions, and entire series of events, should proceed from a regard and with a view to God, as the supreme and last end of all.”7 For a long time Edwards was thought of rather as a preacher of revival and hell-fire than as a theologian, and rather as a Calvinist theologian than a philosopher of importance, and he was dismissed accordingly. However, with the possible exception of Benjamin Franklin, Edwards was the most influential and widely read writer of colonial America. This New England divine was among the people who recognized and faced the serious challenges posed to traditional Christian thought and belief by the emergence of new modes of thought in early modern history: the physical discoveries of Newton, the psychological observations of Locke, and the popular acceptance of the Enlightenment belief in “God more kind and man more worthy.” Indeed he was almost alone in the eighteenth century in rejecting the idea of the universal moral sense and the essential goodness of the common man, or of “the psychological optimism of the Shaftesbury-Hutcheson

works of natural theology are several tracts on “Natural Philosophy,” such as “Of Being,” “Of Atoms,” and “The Mind.” 6 Edwards, “Diary,” Feb. 12, 1725, 16: 787. 7 Edwards, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 8: 424. On Edwards and the divine nature, see Oliver Crisp, “How Occasional was Edwards’ Occasionalism?” in Jonathan Edwards:Philosophical Theologian, eds. Paul Helm and Oliver Crisp (Ashgate: Farnham, Surrey, 2003), pp. 61–77; and “Jonathan Edwards on the Divine Nature,” Journal of Reformed Theology 2 (2009), pp. 175–201.

234

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

gospel of the innate goodness of man.”8 Edwards, then, was more than a revivalist, more than a theologian. He was a bold and independent philosopher who engaged with Enlightenment ideas, attempted to understand the constitution of the natural world and ascertain God’s relation to the physical world. Nowhere is his force of mind more evident than in his reaction against the dominant scientific culture and imagination of his time—mechanical philosophy, the doctrine that all natural phenomena can be explained and understood by the mere mechanics of matter and motion—and, consequently, in his quest to provide a meaningful philosophical and theological alternative to the mechanistic explanation of the essential nature of reality, an alternative that reconstituted the glory of God’s absolute sovereignty, power, and will within creation. Through idealistic philosophy and natural typology, Edwards sought to mount a counteroffensive to materialist, mechanistic thought. In that way he constructed a teleological and theological alternative to the prevailing mechanistic interpretation of the essential nature of reality, whose ultimate goal was the re-enchantment of the world by reconstituting the glory of God’s majestic sovereignty, power, and will within the order of creation.

1. Edwards and the New Philosophy
Edwards’s works on natural philosophy are inextricable from the long and continuous debate on natural philosophy which took place in early modern history following the rise of the New Philosophy. Edwards’s philosophy of nature is radically different from the premises of the New Philosophy of nature because he believed in omnia videmus in deo, or in the active role of God in every aspect of the world. Convincing that the world was created by the Deity to be the mirror of divinity, Edwards’s natural philosophy is based on a constant search after God’s mind in creation as can be seen, for example, in his work Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 1755. Like Leibniz, Edwards was a rationalist of sorts who believed that the whole of God’s work in creation is opened to our gaze and understanding, hence we can know God’s goal and aim in the creation of the world. In contrast, Pascal believed in a hidden God, hence his is an unintelligible universe and inscrutable God, and Bacon, Descartes, and Newton did
8 Norman Fiering, Jonathan Edwards’s Moral Thought and Its British Context (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1981), p. 148.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

235

not think human beings are able to understand the Deity’s aims in creation. The forerunners of the New Philosophy of nature—Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, and Newton—rejected teleological and theological considerations in the study of nature, while the frame of reference of Pascal, Leibniz, and Edwards was based on theological teleology. Reason, not revelation, was the basis of the New Philosophy. Bacon refused “finalism”; he developed the premises of his experimental, empirical method, in contrast to scholastic natural philosophy’s speculations about first principles and final causes. Bacon argued that “teleology, like a virgin consecrated to God, produces no offspring.”9 The rejection of teleology thus set apart Bacon and other pioneers of modern scientific thought from Aristotle’s idea of the final cause as well as from theological and providential modes of reasoning. Descartes too rejected “finale causes,” claiming that we cannot “grasp the ends which he [God] set before himself in creating the universe.”10 For Descartes, our ignorance of God’s intentions “prevents us from appealing to final causes in physics.”11 His therefore is not the search after God’s mind in creation: God created the world “by pure will, and even if He had some reasons for doing it, these reasons are only known to Himself, we have not, and cannot have, the slightest idea of them. It is therefore not only hopeless, but even preposterous to try to find His aim.”12 Descartes thus banished final causes from physics: “Teleological explanation has no rôle whatsoever to play in the investigation of natural phenomena.”13 Likewise, Newton argued that “it is not the business of experimental philosophy to teach the causes of things any further than they can be proved by experiments.”14 His experimental philosophy therefore was not based on theological considerations but rather on experience and experiment aided by mathematical demonstrations. In contrast, at the heart of Edwards’s philosophy of nature stood revelation, not reason.

Collingwood, The Idea of Nature, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), p. 93. Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, p. 248. 11 Garber, “Leibniz: Physics and Philosophy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz, ed. Jolley, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), p. 326. 12 Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, (Baltimore: John Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968), p. 100. 13 Nadler, “Doctrines of Explanation in Late Scholasticism and Mechanical Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), p. 529. 14 Newton, “An Account of the Book Entitled Commercium Epistolicum,” p. 123.
10

9

236

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

The New Philosophy searched for physical laws, not final causes. Instead of explaining why the world of nature operates in this or another way, early modern scientific thought attempted to explain how it works. Its scientific reasoning was based in part on Bacon’s belief that the world of nature was no longer imago Dei—God is distinct from and unmirrored by the created order. As Bacon argued: “For as all works show forth the power and skill of the workman, and not his image, so it is of the work of God, which show the omnipotency and wisdom, but do not portray the image of the Maker.”15 Newton too thought that all we may know about the Deity is “only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things.”16 Pascal strongly opposed this view of the New Philosophy, claiming we know God only through His revelation not through our reason. Pascal’s God is the savior God and not the God of the philosophers. Hence attempts made by rational philosophers like Descartes to prove God “by reasons from nature” met with Pascal’s wrath: “It is remarkable that no canonical author has ever used nature to prove God” (L 463), wrote Pascal, and it is only “a sign of weakness to prove God from nature” (L 466). Pascal thus, like Augustine, concludes that God is knowable only through revelation, or Scripture and grace. Edwards’s position however was more complex; he developed his typology against the New Philosophy’s disenchantment of the world, claiming the Book of Nature reflects images of divine things beyond and above it. Along with its rejection of theological and teleological considerations in the study of nature, the New Philosophy rejected the typological, emblematic view of nature. Bacon believed that God’s “Book of Nature written not in symbols, but in things themselves.”17 He therefore, like Descartes later, viewed nature not as a symbolic divine text. Likewise, Descartes’s God “is not symbolized by the things He created; He does not express Himself in them. There is no analogy between God and the world; no imagines and vestigial Dei in mundo.”18 Both Baconian science and Cartesian science read “the Book of Nature as a coherent, orderly text produced by an omnipotent author, who,
15 Bacon, Parasceve, as quoted in Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1995), p. 242. 16 Newton, “General Scholium,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1934), II, p. 546. 17 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, pp. 233–4. 18 Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, p. 100.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

237

nonetheless, remains distinct from, and unmirrored by, nature, His creation.”19 In contrast, Edwards asserted that the world of nature reflects images of divine things. Following Calvin, he believed that the world is the mirror of divinity, a view which stood at the root of his typological and emblematic view of the world. Likewise, in contrast to Pascal’s Deus Absconditus who left no visible signs of himself in the order of nature, Edwards God is Deus Revelatus, the God who constantly reveals His glory and presence in the creation. In contrast to the “God of the Philosophers,” the mechanical God of Descartes and Newton, Edwards’s God is Deus Revelatus, the God who constantly reveals His glory and presence in the creation. This is the source of Edwards’s typology. Nature reflects transcendent meanings and symbols of divine things beyond and above it. Scripture therefore is the “interpreter of the book of nature,” because only God’s revelation can illuminate “those spiritual mysteries that are indeed signified or typified in the constitution of the natural world.”20 Accordingly, instead of the New Philosophy’s notion of a homogeneous, uniform and symmetrical, one-dimensional world of nature, deprived of theological and teleological considerations and hence could no longer manifest the presence of God, the created order for Edwards was a great treasure of divine signs and metaphors—the whole world is imbued with spiritual, divine meaning and significance. There are “types of divine things” in “the works of nature and constitution of the world.”21 In contrast to this typological and emblematic view, Bacon indeed believed that God leaves his traces in nature, but unlike medieval and renaissance philosophy of nature, they are not mysterious signs, signatures, and symbols. “God’s marks and traces are his creatures and works” and His works “are imprinted by things.”22 Bacon therefore, as was the case with Descartes, viewed nature not as a symbolic divine text. And Pascal even wondered “whether God has left any traces of himself” in the order of creation (L 198). “I look around in every direction and all I see is darkness. Nature has nothing to offer me that does not give rise to doubt and anxiety” (L 429). In contrast to Edwards’s Deus Revelatus, Pascal’s God is a hidden God—Deus absconditus: “men are in darkness and remote from God” because “he has

19 20

Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 248. Edwards, “Images of Divine Things” 156 (c. 1743), p. 106. 21 Ibid., 169, 11: 114. 22 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, pp. 233–4.

238

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

hidden himself from their understanding”, and “this is the very name which he gives himself in Scripture: Deus absconditus” (L 427). Edwards’s Theatrum Mundi is the theater of God’s glory—Theatrum Dei Gloria. And given that there are types of divine things in the constitution of the natural world, divine revelation is the interpreter of the book of nature. The Cartesian and Newtonian mechanistic theater of the world was totally different; it was based on the belief in de reductione scientia ad mathematicam, the view that nature is written in the language of mathematics. For Galileo, Descartes, and Newton mathematics was the key to interpreting the book of nature; without mathematics nature would remain a sealed book. The mathematization of physics thus implied restricting the language of science to what can be expressed in mathematical terms. “I proved,” wrote Descartes, “by mathematical demonstration, all those things” concerning “the structure of the heavens and the earth.”23 In contrast to this mathematical understanding of the essential nature of reality, Edwards believed in omnia videmus in deo. Further, Edwards believed in divine causality instead of mechanical one. For him, as was the case with Leibniz, “worldly events and creatures are deeply dependent upon divine causation.”24 He therefore opposed a law-based conception of science, and like Leibniz constructed a cause-based conception. And where for Galileo and Newton mathematics was the key to unveil the mysteries of nature, for Edwards it was rather typology, the emblematic view of nature, and idealism. The New Philosophy opposed the emblematic view of nature because it was based, in part, on Bacon’s belief that the world of nature was no longer imago Dei, or was not made in the image of God.25 Against this disenchantment of the world of nature, Edwards constructed his philosophy of nature and typology. While Edwards’s natural philosophy was radically different from the premises of the New Philosophy of nature, in his enterprise of the re-enchantment of the world he shared the views of many who exposed the Janus face of the New Philosophy in early modern history, or those who opposed the development of the New Philosophy because of the perils and risks it posed for traditional religious thought and belief. Like Donne, who was among the first to expose the menace of the new science of nature, Edwards too was afraid of the grave threats of the
Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, as quoted by Clarke, “Descartes’ philosophy of science and the scientific revolution,” pp. 278–9. 24 Lee, “Leibniz on Divine Concurrence,” Philosophical Review 113 (April 2004), p. 204. 25 Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man, p. 242.
23

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

239

New Philosophy. Where Donne talked about the “harmes and feares”26 caused by the New Philosophy, Edwards described his intellectual life as a constant struggle “against most of the prevailing errors of the present day,” which tended to “the utter subverting of the gospel of Christ.”27 Like Pascal, who denounced Descartes’s notion of a rational mechanical God, the Cartesian mechanistic theater of the world of nature as well as its dream “de reductione scientia ad mathematicam,” Edwards too rejected the mechanical and mathematical view of nature as constituting a serious threat to traditional Christian modes of thought. Edwards shared as well the views of John Edwards, Robert Greene, Jonathan Swift, and others, who rejected mechanical philosophy’s belief that all natural phenomenon are reducible to motion and its general laws, and feared that the New Philosophy was leading to heresies such as Arianism, Socinianism, and Arminianism. For these orthodox people Newton’s “mathematical principles of natural philosophy” meant not only the de-sacralization of nature but also that mathematics would replace theological reasoning and considerations regarding the essential structure of the world. Jonathan Edwards shared with John Edwards and others the view that the New Philosophy had not only led to the spread of dangerous heresies, such as Arminianism, Socinianism, and Arianism, but also to the development of heretical concepts of God and thus advanced “some unheard of Doctrines in Divinity.”28 Jonathan Edwards too lamented the spread of these heresies in England, which totally opposed “the gospel of Christ.”29 Like Robert Greene, Edwards also denounced the views that Cartesian and Newtonian science developed in regard of the “Principles of a Similar and Homogeneous Matter,” which deprived created order of teleological ends and purposes. Against this view both Greene and Edwards adopted the medieval conception of “Nature” as “one Revelation to us of the Almighty Justice and Goodness”; the world of nature reflects divine things above and beyond itself. Edwards fought as well with Greene “against the Insults of the several Atheists, Deists, Socinians,” and “the Arrians of our Age,” who, guided by “Atheism and Irreligion,” transformed the science of nature. In the eyes of these orthodox people, the New Philosophy was inextricable from religious
26 Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding mourning,” in Grierson, The Poems of John Donne, 2 Vols. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1951), I, p. 48. 27 Edwards, “Letter to the Trustees of the College of New Jersey,” 1757, 16: 727. 28 John Edwards, Some New Discoveries of the Uncertainty, Deficiency, and Corruptions of Human Knowledge and Learning (London, 1714), pp. ii–iii. 29 Edwards, “Letter to the Trustees of the College of New Jersey,” 16: 727.

240

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

heresy thus leading to “the subversion and Ruine of Religion.”30 This was also the case with Berkeley who developed, like Edwards, his idealism in order to combat mechanical philosophy and materialism. In both the idealist philosophy of Berkeley and Edwards, esse est percipi (“to be is to be perceived”). Berkeley wrote that as regard of “unthinking things,” their “esse is percipi,” namely, their existence is based on their being perceived. Materialism, he believed, leads to skepticism and thus to atheism and irreligion: the view that “unthinking things are thought to have a natural subsistence of their own, distinct from being perceived by spirits,” Berkeley argued, is “the very root of scepticism.” Hence Materialism, or “the doctrine of matter or corporeal substance” is “the main pillar and support of scepticism” and “raised all the impious schemes of atheism and irreligion.”31 These were also Edwards’s views.

2. The Genesis of Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature
Edwards began his undergraduate studies at Yale in 1716, and it was there that he first became acquainted with the new scientific ideas coming out of Europe. These theories reached New England as early as the middle of the seventeenth century. “The Copernican theory was known” as well as “Kepler’s work.”32 In the early years of the eighteenth century, Newton’s and Locke’s writings gradually found their way into New England and transformed the curriculum at Harvard and Yale. With the modernization of the Yale curriculum during the year 1717–1718,33 Edwards encountered the new modes of scientific reasoning and the novel ideas of the early Enlightenment, which he saw as tending “to diminish divine sovereignty in respect of creation, providence, and redemption and to enhance human independence, producing by degrees an estimate of mankind more morally capable and of God more benevolent.”34 For the rest of his life, the dialogue
30 Greene, The Principles of Natural Philosophy (Cambridge, 1712), “The Dedication” and “Preface.” Preface.” 31 Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, in George Berkeley: Philosophical Works, ed. M. R. Ayers (London: Dent, 1975), pp. 78, 103–5. 32 Flower and Murphey, A History of Philosophy in America, I, p. 62. 33 Anderson, “Introduction,” 6: 15; Flower and Murphey, A History of Philosophy in America, I, pp. 81–3. 34 William K. B. Stoever, “The Calvinist Theological Tradition,” in Encyclopedia of American Religious Experience, eds. C. H. Lippy and P. W. Williams, 3 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1988), II, p. 1044.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

241

with these early modern intellectual movements was an inseparable part of his entire philosophical and theological enterprise.35 More specifically, Edwards’s attempt to provide a serious and systematic response to the challenges posed by mechanical philosophy to traditional Christian thought and belief established him as one of the most acute critics of current dominant scientific thought and imagination. This is particularly evident in his long series of writings on natural philosophy, composed during the 1720s, where he strove to construct a theology of nature, as well as a typology of nature, and hence of the essential nature of reality, in opposition to the mechanistic interpretation of nature that had become the predominant mode of scientific thought. The significance of Edwards’s response to the metaphysical and theological principles that often accompanied mechanical philosophy should be seen in the wider intellectual context of colonial New England. He was almost alone in British America in taking upon himself the mission of responding to the grave challenges posed to traditional religious faith and belief by the new culture of time and space inaugurated by mechanical philosophy.36 Indeed, among contemporaries, he was alone in his “pursuit of reality,” attempting to understand the “constitution of the natural world” and ascertain “God’s relationship to his physical creation.”37 Fully aware of the grave ramifications inherent in the premises of mechanical philosophy as they affected the traditional Christian dialectic of God’s transcendence and divine immanence, Edwards recognized that the new scientific interpretation was leading increasingly to the disenchantment of the world, the growing separation between the order of grace and the order of nature,38 God and the world, and was thus incompatible with traditional Christian belief.
35 For Edwards’s list of reading, which reflects his participation in the new scientific worldview of the Enlightenment, see Jonathan Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 26: Catalogues of Books, ed. Peter J. Thuesen (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2008). 36 The meaning of the term “mechanical” in seventeenth-century thought is discussed in J. E. McGuire, “Boyle’s Conception of Nature,” Journal of the History of Ideas 33 (1972), p. 523 n. 2. 37 Wilson H. Kimnach, “Jonathan Edwards’s Pursuit of Reality,” in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience, pp. 102–4. 38 For various theological attempts to define the separation between the order of grace and the order of nature along with its ramifications regarding the issue of modernity, see Louis Dupré‘s studies, Passage to Modernity, “The Dissolution of the Union of Nature and Grace at the Dawn of the Modern Age,” in The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Philip Clayton (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing

242

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Edwards fully grasped the Janus face of the New Philosophy, or the serious challenges posed by mechanical philosophy and materialism to religious modes of faith and experience. He was alarmed by the mechanistic conception of the world of nature as a self-contained and independent reality, a self-inclusive machine running by itself according to abstract, universal laws of nature, freed from subordination to God’s dominion and not affected by His unceasing watchful eyes. With great dismay he observed that mechanical philosophy’s notion of a homogeneous, uniform and symmetrical, one-dimensional world of nature, not only deprived created order of any teleological ends and purposes, but stipulated that nature could no longer manifest the presence of God. He feared that mechanical philosophy’s mathematization and mechanization of the world of nature led to a divorce between physics and philosophy, since Newton and the Newtonians believed that physical questions should be settled purely through experimental inquiry. Sadly he observed the mechanical philosophers’ claim that the Almighty had created the world and then retired, released the realm of nature from its subordination to God and establishing it as a “self-moving engine.” With great suspicion he observed that the New Philosophy of nature focused on God the Creator than on God, Christ, the Redeemer, thus removing God from intimate involvement in the daily workings of creation and created beings. In sum, the New Philosophy led to the demystifying of nature and the emptying of the world of theological and teleological considerations, hence to the disenchantment of the world and to the undermining of religion. In response Edwards constructed his own theology of nature and typology—interpreting the physical world as a representation or a “shadow” of the spiritual which celebrates God’s glory and sovereignty as they are evidenced in the coherence and beauty, order and harmony, of world phenomena. While undertaking to provide an alternative view of the essence of reality which would lead eventually to the re-enchantment of the world, Edwards’s ultimate goal was the demonstration of the infinite power of God’s absolute sovereignty in both the “order of nature” and the “order of time.”39 For him the challenge of the new scientific theories was “not
House, 1988), pp. 95–121; and “Nature and Grace: Fateful Separation and Attempted Reunion,” in Catholicism and Secularization in America, ed. David L. Schindler (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1990), pp. 52–73. 39 Edwards, Miscellany 704 (c. 1736), 18: 314; Edwards, Freedom of the Will, 1754, 1: 177.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

243

atheism but the gradual elimination of God’s special providence.”40 Edwards’s interpretation of natural phenomena therefore constituted a radical departure from the prevailing mechanical philosophy. Believing “the corporeal world is to no advantage but to the spiritual,” he claimed that “to find out the reasons of things in natural philosophy is only to find out the proportion of God’s acting.”41 In this venture of the re-enchantment of the world, Edwards was not alone in the British world, as can be seen in the close affinities between his thought and that of other anti-Newtonians at that time, such as George Berkeley and the English naturalist and theologian John Hutchinson (1674–1737).42 The genesis of Edwards’s construction of the theology of nature can be found in his conversion experience which took place in 1721, when he was seventeen years old.43 This spiritual experience radically transformed his entire existential condition; he had found “God’s absolute sovereignty” over the entire order of creation, and this conviction, he declared, “is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes.”44 More specifically, the experience of
40 James Hoopes, “Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Psychology,” The Journal of American History 69 (1983), p. 863 41 Edwards, “The Mind,” 6: 353–5. 42 Edwards’s criticism of mechanical philosophy may be considered in the wider context of British anti-Newtonians, such as Berkeley, Hutchinson, and others, who opposed to distancing God from the phenomena of nature, or detaching the order of grace from the order of nature, as Newton’s universal active principles appeared to do. Berkeley and Edwards developed independently their “idealism,” or the view that physical objects exist only in the mind or cannot exist until they are perceived. Both evidently ran the risk of emptying nature of any intrinsic structure and principles of its own. For a comparison of their views, see Christopher Kaiser, Creation & the History of Science (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pp. 244–53; Anderson, “Introduction,” pp. 102–3. For John Hutchinson’s criticism of Newton and the Newtonians, see Albert T. Kuhn, “Glory or Gravity: Hutchinson vs. Newton,” Journal of the History of Ideas 22 (Jul.–Sep., 1961, pp. 303–22; “Nature Spiritualized: Aspects of Anti-Newtonianism,” English literary History 41 (Autumn, 1974), pp. 400–12; and John C. English, “John Hutchinson’s Critique of Newtonian Heterodoxy,” Church History 68 (Sep. 1999), pp. 581–97. 43 For an analysis of Edwards’s morphology of conversion, and the centrality of the conversion moment in the formation of his philosophical theology, see Zakai, “Young man Edwards: Religious Conversion and Theologia Gloria,” in Zakai, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History, The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Enlightenment, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003. Reprint: Paperback edition, 2009, pp. 51–84; and “The Conversion of Jonathan Edwards,” Journal of Presbyterian History, 76–1 (1998), pp. 1–12. 44 Edwards, “Personal Narrative,” 16: 792.

244

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

conversion crucially informed both the creation of Edwards’s theology of nature and its content and form, leading directly to his enterprise of reconstructing the whole created order, or the entire material world, according to his newly acquired religious convictions and persuasions. Thus, equipped with a new knowledge of his religious identity, Edwards developed a new sense of his existential condition within a close-knit divine universe, in which “God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing.”45 An impressive outpouring of writings on “Natural Philosophy” followed in which the young man tried to convert the world around him and to reconstruct it according to his newly gained religious convictions and theological persuasions. As these writings clearly show, Edwards’s interpretation of the essential nature of reality constituted a serious and systematic attempt to provide a meaningful alternative to the growth of new modes of thought in early modern Europe that countered traditional Christian thought and belief. In his works on “Natural Philosophy,” Edwards constructed a singular natural philosophy, or indeed theology of nature, according to which the material world of every day life was only the manifestation of a divine universe, wonderfully made and harmonized according to God’s will and design. Everything in the physical realm seemed to him to have a specific part and role in a well-designed and close-knit divine universe ruled directly and immediately by God’s absolute sovereignty: “And very much of the wisdom of God in the creation appears in his so ordering things natural, that they livelily represent things divine and spiritual.”46 Given the world of nature conceived as totally dependent upon God’s power and will, it was obviously an integral part of the grand teleological and theological structure of order inherent in the universe and God’s cosmic providential plan. As Edwards argued in 1723, “Every atom in the universe is managed by Christ so as to be most to the advantage of the Christian, every particle of air or every ray of the sun.”47 Edwards developed his cosmological conception of real being and true substance in order, in part, to refute materialism. He rejected Hobbes’ materialism, which held that the universe is a complete, autonomous, and self-sustaining system of unthinking bodies subject only to inherent, necessary, and mathematically exact laws of mechanical
45 46

Ibid., pp. 793–4. Edwards, Miscellany 119 (c. 1724), 13: 284. 47 Edwards, Miscellany ff (c. 1723), 13: 184.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

245

causation, because it ruled out the divine and providential government of the world. Instead of “Hobbes’ notion” that “all substance is matter,”48 Edwards objected, “the world exists only mentally.”49 Therefore “those beings which have knowledge and consciousness are the only proper and real and substantial beings . . . [hence] spirits only are properly substance.”50 In his reaction to materialism, Edwards formulated his own idealistic phenomenalism, the thesis that physical objects exist only in the mind or cannot exist unless they are perceived: “the world, i. e. the material universe, exists nowhere but in the mind,” and given that “all material existence is only idea,” the “world therefore is an ideal one.”51 Edwards’s conversion experience dictated a program of work that required, in part, an interpretation of nature in harmony with his profound new theological convictions. “The very thing I now want,” he wrote in his “Diary” in 1725, is to get “a clearer and more immediate view of the perfections and glory of God,” both in regard of “the manner of God’s exerting himself, with respect to Spirits and Mind,” and of the Deity’s “operations concerning Matter and Bodies.”52 With such a mission in hand, Edwards found that the contemporary dominant scientific understanding of the nature of reality was incompatible with his religious persuasions. Accordingly, aiming to redefine natural phenomena in order to prove God’s sovereign majesty within the created world, he attacked mechanical philosophy, claiming in 1722 “there is no such thing as mechanism, if that word” meant that “bodies act each upon other, purely and properly by themselves,”53 because “the very being, and the manner of being, and the whole of bodies depends immediately on the divine power.”54

3. Mechanical Philosophy’s Disenchantment of the World
The mechanistic conception of nature was responsible for the emergence of a new culture of time and space which played a great part in
48

Edwards, “Things to be Considered an[d] Written fully about” (c. 1722–24), 6: 235. Edwards, Miscellany 247 (c. 1726), 13: 360. 50 Edwards, “Of Being,” 6: 207. 51 Edwards, “The Mind,” pp. 350–6. 52 Edwards, “Diary,” Feb. 12, 1725, 16: 787. 53 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” 6: 216. 54 Edwards, “Things to be Considered,” p. 235.
49

246

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

the desacralization of the world. In the face of this process of the desacralization of the world, the English churchman John Edwards complained in the 1690s that the new scientific theories were leading to the exclusion of religion considerations: “Learned Enquirers are apt to give Encouragement to Atheism by an obstinate endeavouring to solve all the Phenomena in the world by mere Natural and Corporeal Causes, and by their averseness to admit of the aid and concurrence of a Supernatural and Immaterial Principle for the production of them.”55 In a similar vein the nonjuror George Hicks claimed: “It is their Newtonian philosophy which hath Made Not only so many Arians but Theists, and that Not only among the laity but I fear among the divines.”56 By the early eighteenth century, then, “many guardians of theological orthodoxy” found “the danger in mechanical philosophy,” and “Newtonians like Samuel Clarke were pilloried for abetting the growth of heretical ideas.”57 The emergence of new scientific ideas thus radically influenced the relationship between reason and revelation, between the light of nature and God’s Word. From the early eighteenth century, “the concept of nature as an inherently active substance was developed explicitly in opposition to the Newtonian concept of nature.” In contrast to “Newton’s doctrine that all causal activity in nature was imposed by God’s power and will,” a new “theory of nature” emerged “in which activity was considered as immanent in the structure of nature”; hence “nature was endowed with intrinsic active forces or powers.”58 Further, according to the mechanistic interpretation, after God created the world he set it in motion and regulated it by laws of nature which may be formulated in mathematical terms, and these laws can be discerned by the light of nature and not solely through God’s Word.59 The mechanistic image of nature evidently has nothing to do with divine revelation, but rather everything with reason: “reason now becomes” the “first ground of all knowledge and the guideline of the

Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, p. 170. Gascoigne, Cambridge in the Age of the Enlightenment, p. 164. 57 Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, p. 187 58 P. M. Heimann, “Voluntarism and Immanence: Conceptions of Nature in Eighteenth-Century Thought,” Journal of the History of Ideas 39 (1978), pp. 275–6. 59 For an important discussion of the shift in philosophical and theological perspective regarding the concept of the laws of nature, see Francis Oakley, “Christian Theology and the Newtonian Science: The Rise of the Concept of the Laws of Nature,” Church History 30 (1961), pp. 433–57.
56

55

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

247

determination of the things.”60 Revelation, as the mechanical philosopher and the “great father figure of British natural philosophy in his time,”61 Robert Boyle wrote, is “a foreign principle in this philosophical enquiry” of natural philosophy, therefore the latter should be based only upon “the light of reason.”62 Mechanical philosophy was founded upon rationalism, that is, the view that “nature operates according to mechanical principles, the regularity of which can be described in the form of natural laws, ideally formulated in mathematical terms.”63 This was indeed what Newton attempted to do in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), 1687, writing that he offered “this work as the mathematical principle” of natural “philosophy, for the whole burden of philosophy seems to consist in this—from the phenomena of motion to investigate the forces of nature, and then from these forces to demonstrate the other phenomena.”64 Accordingly, continued Newton, “I wish we could derive the rest of the phenomena of Nature by the same kind of reasoning from mechanical principles.”65 In the new scientific thought, knowledge of the mysteries of world phenomena was gradually divorced from divine revelation; instead, “an independent and original truth of nature” emerged. “This truth is revealed not in God’s word but in his works; it is not based on the testimony of Scripture or traditions but is visible to us all the time. But it is understandable only to those who know nature’s handwriting and can decipher her text.”66 Newton argued that a true understanding of the phenomena of nature is based upon “rational mechanics,” or “reasoning from mechanical principles” on all “the phenomena of Nature” which are formulated according to “mathematical principles.”67 Contrary to revelation, in the realm of nature “the whole plan of the
60 Heidegger, “Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics,” in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, ed. David F. Krell (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 304. 61 McGuire, “Boyle’s Conception of Nature,” p. 524. 62 Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature, 1686, p. 189. 63 Brooke, Science and Religion, Some Historical Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), p. 119. 64 Newton, “Newton’s Preface to the First Edition,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1934), I, p. xvii. 65 Newton, “Newton’s Preface to the First Edition of the Principia,” in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings, ed., Thayer, (New York: Hafner, 1974), p. 9. 66 Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962 [1932]), pp. 42–3. 67 Newton, “Newton’s Preface to the First Edition,” pp. xvii–xviii.

248

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

universe lies before us in its undivided and inviolable unity, evidently, waiting for the human mind to recognize and express it.”68 Here lay the sources, in part, of the Enlightenment belief in human autonomy. The “Enlightenment,” wrote Paul Tillich, “was one of the greatest of all revolutions.” It was “the revolution of man’s autonomous potentialities over against heteronomous powers which were no longer convincing.”69 Included among such powers was the “authority of the Christian church and of its dogma and ultimately the objective authority of Scripture and of transcendent revelation itself.”70 In sum, with the new scientific ideas and the Enlightenment’s new modes of thinking regarding human beings’ ability to understand the world of nature in which their lives are placed, the capacity of religious faith and belief to provide objective truths about the essential nature of reality underwent a crucial transformation.

4. Atomic Doctrine
Edwards launched his critique of the metaphysical and theological premises of the mechanical philosophy of nature with a discussion of atoms, because an atom is a “minimum physicum,”71 that is, the smallest physical particle in the universe; understanding it may lead to a better knowledge of the mysteries of the whole material world. He began with the issue of the atomic doctrine because by the end of the seventeenth century “atomism as a mechanical philosophy was, in England, the conservative view.”72 Indeed, in his determination to establish God’s sovereignty and activity in the world, Edwards appropriated the prevailing atomic doctrine, given that it was the available scientific language of his time, but he radically Christianized it in his desire to show how closely and intimately God’s divine activity controls and directs even the smallest particles of atoms. “All bodies whatsoever,” he wrote, in accordance with contemporary atomic doctrine, “must of
Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, p. 43. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought: From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism, ed. Carl. E. Braaten (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), p. 323. 70 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, 5 vols. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971–89), V: Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700), p. 60. 71 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” p. 212. 72 Robert H. Kargon, Atomism in England from Hariot to Newton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 133; Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, p. 173.
69 68

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

249

absolute necessity be composed of atoms, or bodies that are indiscerpible [sic], that can not be made less, or whose parts cannot by any finite power whatsoever, be separated one from another.”73 Edwards’s purpose was not only to define the “ontological status of bodies and their immediate dependence upon God’s power and will,”74 but also to demonstrate the infinite power of divine activity in the world through the agency of the very smallest physical particle of nature, and thus to show that it is “God himself, or the immediate exercise of his power, which keeps the parts of atoms” or bodies “together.”75 Believing in the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty in the moral and spiritual world, Edwards transposed this spiritual experience into the physical world, claiming that in the material world “all body” or matter “is nothing but what immediately results from the exercise of divine power.” Hence the ontological status of tangible material bodies is radically dependent on God, and “the constant exercise of the infinite power of God is necessary to preserve bodies in being.”76 His radical claim that every “atom in the universe is managed by Christ”77 should also be understood in this wider metaphysical and theological context. Given that the being and existence of everything in creation stands under the constant and immediate absolute power and will of God, the whole world of nature is imbued with God’s redemptive activity. Hence, argued Edwards, “It is exceeding evident in natural philosophy, that all the operations of the creatures are the immediate influence of the divine being.”78 The argument of God’s immediate influence in controlling and regulating every atom, and hence the operation of all tangible, material bodies in the universe, enabled Edwards to reject mechanical philosophy’s claim that natural phenomena can be explained by the mere mechanics of matter and its motion, or that, as Boyle wrote, “the phenomena of the world” are “physically produced by the mechanical affections of the part of matter, and what they operate upon one another according to mechanical laws.”79 Against this, Edwards argued that because atoms are totally and absolutely dependent on God’s infinite power, the very framework of the material universe is evidence
73 74

Edwards, “Of Atoms,” p. 208. Anderson, “Introduction,” p. 68. 75 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” p. 214. 76 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” pp. 215, 214. 77 Edwards, Miscellany ff (c. 1723), 13: 184. 78 Edwards, Miscellany 178 (1725), 13: 327. 79 Boyle, About the Excellency and Grounds of the Mechanical Hypothesis, 1674, p. 139.

250

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

of God’s omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniactivity: “the very being, and the manner of being, and the whole of bodies depends immediately on the divine power.”80 In Original Sin (1758) Edwards reiterated these views, claiming that “the existence of created substance” is “the effect of God’s immediate power, in that moment, without any dependence on prior existence, as much as the first creation out of nothing.”81 The understanding of the physical, material world thus abandoned the scientific, mechanistic image of a huge machine, set going by a perfect watchmaker and regulated by mere natural laws, for the sake of a universe pervaded with divine activity where God’s infinite power is manifested in creating and sustaining the world anew at every moment through the agency of atoms. Edwards’s interpretation of the essential nature of reality contradicted some important implications that mechanical philosophers had drawn from the atomic doctrine. Hobbes said that all “gross bodies are composed of small invisible subtle bodies” or atoms “whose varieties of motion accounted for the various physical qualities to be found in nature.” Because “motion cannot be understood to have any other cause besides motion,” all natural phenomena have no “other cause than motion.”82 Edwards, however, asserted that “it is God himself,” through “the immediate exercise of his power, that keeps the parts of atoms together” and preserves “bodies in being.” Hence “all body is nothing but what immediately results from the exercise of divine power in such a particular manner,” and thus, ultimately, all “motion” of bodies “is from the immediate exercise of divine power.”83 Striving to proclaim divine activity in the world, Edwards declared that only “infinite power,” or God himself, “keeps the parts of atoms together.”84 A similar view can be found in Newton’s Opticks, 1704, where he wrote concerning “Particles” of matter, or atoms, that “no ordinary Power” is able “to divide what God himself” made “in the first Creation.”85 The difference between them, however, is crucial; for Newton atoms were made in creation, while for Edwards God continues to keep, control, and continuously regulate the atoms “throughout all eternity.”86 Thus,

80 81

Edwards, “Things to be Considered,” p. 235. Edwards, Original Sin, 3: 402. 82 Kargon, Atomism in England, pp. 57, 59. 83 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” pp. 214–16. 84 Ibid., p. 214. 85 Newton, Opticks, p. 400. 86 Edwards, “Things to be Considered,” p. 231.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

251

Edwards can say that “the universe is created out of nothing every moment.”87 Edwards’s atom, or that smallest particle which is indivisible and “whose parts cannot by any finite power” be “separated one from another,”88 serves an important metaphysical and theological purpose: it is the agent by which God exercises his infinite power and the medium through which his immanence is realized within creation. Edwards went further than Newton. He asserted that the “nature of atoms” is “an infinite power,” so that “all the nature of them that is not absolutely themselves must be God exerting his power upon them.”89 God not only created atoms during the moment of creation, but continuously and immediately exerts his influence on them: “‘Tis certain that when God first created matter or the various chaoses of atoms . . . he designed the figures and shapes of every atom, and likewise their place.” Hence, to avoid a situation where “the least wrong step in a mote may, in eternity, subvert the order of the universe,” Edwards praised “the great wisdom of God” in disposing “every atom at first, as that they should go for the best throughout all eternity.”90 What arises, then, from his concept of atoms as a metaphysical-theological principle, is a universe structured according to a grand teleological and theological order in which God becomes the sole foundation of all natural phenomena: through the agency of the atom, his absolute sovereignty is established; and divine omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience are affirmed by the smallest particle in the universe, thus securing divine immanence in creation. The world of nature could not be regarded as founded upon mechanistic causes and effects but was totally dependent on God’s power and will. The attempt to establish God’s sovereignty through the agency of atoms was not Edwards’s alone. Such a doctrine was first formulated by the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), according to whom “God becomes the source of all change in nature, as well as the source of its existence” via the agency of the atom.91 Both Bruno and Edwards used the atomic doctrine to enhance nature’s dependence on God’s will and power. Yet there are many differences between Bruno’s
Ibid., p. 241. Edwards, “Of Atoms,” p. 208. 89 Ibid., p. 214. 90 Edwards, “Things to be Considered,” pp. 265, 231. A similar contention can be found in modern chaos theory regarding the ‘butterfly effect.” 91 Robert H. Kargon, “Atomism in the Seventeenth Century,” Dictionary of the History of Ideas, ed. Philip P. Wiener, 5 vols. (New York: Scribner, 1973), I, p. 133.
88 87

252

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

conception of the atom and that of Edwards. In Bruno’s thought the number of atoms is infinite because “matter is infinite” and the world as a whole is infinite, whereas Edwards believed that the number of atoms is finite because they are part of a finite and closed universe. (In order to secure God’s absolute sovereignty in creation, and the created order’s total dependence on God, Edwards rejected the notion of an infinite universe, saying that only in “the ecstasy of the imagination” could one “pronounce the world infinite.”92) Bruno argued that the “source of atom’s motion is not to be sought in another atom,” but rather the “atom is a center of life, a point in which the soul of the universe is inserted. Co-eternal with God, matter is not a pre-existent chaos” nor “was it created in time,” hence “it is located outside the temporal.” And although matter can not be “identified with God,” it is nevertheless “‘close to God’.”93 Edwards, of course, would not accept the co-eternality of matter with God or that matter exists outside the temporal dimension of time. For his atoms are created and not eternal, hence their essence and being are entirely dependent on God. Despite these differences, however, there are many similarities between Bruno and Edwards. Both argued that through the agency of atoms God is the source of all natural phenomena, and they both believed that the atom’s motion stemmed from God and not from natural, mechanistic causes. Thus, in Edwards the cause of “motion” is “from the immediate exercise of divine power.”94 Edwards’s views on atomism have many affinities as well with the ideas of the French philosopher and mathematician Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655), who attempted to Christianize the classical atomist doctrine of Epicurus and Lucretius by arguing that God directs the atoms.95
Edwards, “Of the Prejudices of Imagination” (1722), 6: 197. Paul H. Michel, The Cosmology of Giordano Bruno, trans. R. E. W. Madison (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1973), pp. 147–9. On Bruno’s life and thought, see Dorothea W. Singer, Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought (New York: Greenwood, 1968.) This book contains a translation of Bruno’s work On the Infinite Universe and World, 1584. See also Giordano Bruno, Cause, Principle, and Unity: Five Dialogues by Giordano Bruno, trans. Jack Lindsay (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1962). On Bruno’s materialism see Frederick A. Lange, The History of Materialism: And Criticism of its Present Importance (London: Paul Kegan, 1925), pp. 232–6. 94 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” pp. 214–16. 95 Edwards read Gassendi’s Institutio Astronomica (London, 1653), and Gassendi’s attack on Descartes in the Disquisitio metaphysica anti-Cartesianas [Metaphysical Colloquy, or Doubts and Rebuttals concerning the Metaphysics of René Descartes], 1644, during his senior year at Yale. See Anderson, “Introduction,” pp. 12–13, 21–2. It is not clear however whether Edwards indeed read the Syntagma Philosophicum [A Philosophical Compendium]
93 92

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

253

The resemblance between Gassendi’s and Edwards’s views regarding God’s direct control of the atom is striking; both hold that atoms are created rather than eternal as in Epicurus or in Bruno; both argued that atoms are not infinite in number, as Bruno thought, but rather part of a finite universe, and, finally, both believed that atoms are an integral part of the created universe constructed by God to fulfill His redemptive purposes. Moreover, against the mechanical philosophers’ concept of motion inherent in matter, Gassendi, and later Edwards, asserted that the motion of atoms was instilled in them by God at creation. The “individual atoms,” said Gassendi, “received from God as he created them their corpulence, or dimensions, however small, and their shapes in ineffable variety, and likewise they received the capacity (vis) requisite to moving, to imparting motion to others, to rolling about . . . to leap away, to knock against other atoms,” etc.96 In Edwards, not only “the exercising of the infinite power of God is necessary to keep the parts of atoms together,” but “motion also, which is the communication of body, solidity, or this resistance from one part of space to another successively . . . is from the immediate exercise of divine power.”97 Edwards departed from even Gassendi’s views when he went on to claim that it is in fact Christ who directs all the atoms in the universe—“Every atom in the universe is managed by Christ so as to be most to the advantage of the Christian”98—thus completely Christianizing the atomic doctrine of mechanical philosophy. In his reaction against mechanical philosophy, Edwards used the atomic doctrine to advance his fundamental theological convictions, and by Christianizing atomism he sought to present it as evidence of the created order’s dependence on God. The mechanistic atomic doctrine thus underwent a radical transformation. Whereas the “ancient atomists had made motion an inherent property of matter; hence, a
of 1658 where Gassendi elaborated his modernized atomic theory. On Gassendi’s life and thought, see Osler, Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy: Gassendi and Descartes on Contingency and Necessity in the Created World (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998); Lynn Sumida Joy, Gassendi the Atomist: Advocate of History in an Age of Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987); Barry Brundell, Pierre Gassendi: From Arisotelianism to a New Natural Philosophy (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1987), and Lisa T. Sarasohn, Gassendi’s Ethics: Freedom in a Mechanistic Universe (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1996). 96 Pierre Gassendi, “The Syntagma: Physics,” 1658, in The Selected Works of Pierre Gassendi, ed. and trans. Graig B. Brush (New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1972), p. 400. An excellent discussion of Gassendi’s atomism can be found in Osler, Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy, pp. 180–200. 97 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” pp. 214–16. 98 Edwards, Miscellany ff (1722), 13: 184.

254

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Godless universe could exist and subsist,”99 Edwards denied any inherent qualities to matter except solidity, and through the agency of the atom he claimed divine immanence in creation.

5. The Laws of Nature
Opposition to the metaphysical and theological premises that often accompanied the atomic doctrine constituted only part of Edwards’s general antagonism to mechanical philosophy, especially with regard to the mechanistic image of the world as a huge machine, and the concepts of “laws of nature” and of God’s relation with his creation. The mechanization of the natural world was of course an important feature of late seventeenth-century science. Its basic postulate was that nature operates according to mechanical principles, “the regularity of which can be expressed in the form of natural laws.”100 Mechanical philosophers conceived of the world as a machine, “a world machine,” which runs like a clockwork according to the mechanical laws of nature. The view that nature is operated by secondary causes or natural laws, setting an intermediate realm between God and the created order, was unacceptable to Edwards because it radically reduced divine immanence and redemptive activity and placed severe limitations on God’s sovereignty. He argued that there is “no such thing as mechanism,”101 because the phenomena of the world can not be explained by the mechanics of matter and motion alone, but should be understood in the light of higher ends. The mechanistic image of the world should be totally rejected because “if the highest end of every part of a clock is only mutually to assist the other parts in their motions, that clock is good for nothing at all.” The analogy from this to the world is not hard to discern; however “useful all the parts of the world are to each other, if that be their highest end, the world in
99 Robert Kargon, “Introduction,” in Physiologia Epicuro-Gassendo-Charltoniana: Or A Fabric of Science Natural, upon the Hypothesis of Atoms . . . by Walter Charleton, 1654, ed. Robert H. Kargon (New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1966), p. xiii. 100 Brooke, Science and Religion, pp. 117, 119. On mechanical philosophy of nature, see also Richard S. Westfall, The Construction of Modern Science: Mechanisms and Mechanics (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977 [1971]); Force in Newton Physics: The Science of Dynamics in the Seventeenth Century (London: Macdonald, 1971); and Margaret C. Jacob, The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1988). 101 Edwards, “Of Atoms,” p. 216.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

255

general is altogether useless.” In contrast to Bacon and Descartes who banished the search for final causes, Edwards like Leibniz believed in final causes, or in God’s intentions and the Deity’s governing bodies for His glory. Accordingly, the mechanistic concept of the world as a vast machine has no warrant whatsoever: “it is nonsense to say of a machine whose highest end is to have one part move another; for the whole is useless, and so every part, however they correspond.”102 Instead “the corporeal world is to no advantage but to the spiritual.”103 Religion, therefore, should be the main interpreter of world phenomena: “The Book of Scripture is the interpreter of the book of nature,” by illuminating “those spiritual mysteries” that are “signified or typified in the constitution of the natural world.”104 Believing that the main function of the world of matter and motion, being ontologically inferior and subordinated to a higher divine reality, is to reflect the images and shadows of spiritual reality beyond and above it, Edwards claimed that the “whole outward creation, which is but the shadows of beings, is so made to represent spiritual things,”105 or, conversely, that “the things of the world are ordered [and] designed to shadow forth spiritual things.”106 Here lay the ultimate role he assigned to religion in explaining the world of nature: where the “glories of astronomy and natural philosophy consist in the harmony of the parts of the corporeal shadow of a world; the glories of religion consist in the sweet harmony of the greater and more real worlds with themselves, with one another and with the infinite fountain and original of them.”107 Rejecting the mechanization of the world was part of Edwards’s strong reaction against the mechanical conception of “natural laws.” By rejecting the classical and medieval notion of nature as an organic being, or an organism of active bodies, and denying the created order any contribution to or participation in God’s providential plan, mechanical philosophy denied the possibility of divine immanence in nature. The divine presence in mechanistic philosophy was thus confined to the construction of a system of external, abstract laws which could be formulated in mathematical terms, such as the laws of motion or the laws of gravity, which govern the world’s phenomena. God, argued Boyle, “established rules of motion, and that order amongst
102 103

Edwards, Miscellany tt (1723), 13: 190. Edwards, “The Mind,” pp. 353–5. 104 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things” 156 (1743), 11: 106. 105 Edwards, Miscellany 362 (c. 1728), 13: 434. 106 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things” 7 (1728), p. 53. 107 Edwards, Miscellany 42 (1723), 13: 224.

256

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

things corporal, which we are wont to call the laws of nature.”108 Boyle stressed the clockwork picture of the universe, in which God is seen more and more in the overall design, as the source of properties and powers given to matter by the creator, than as the ongoing cause of all that exists. The mechanization of the natural world led therefore to the mechanization of God’s providential activity in the world. Once set going by God, the course of nature and the phenomena of the world are the product of mere mechanical laws and no longer manifest the divine immanence. God’s providential scheme, then, was confined mainly to the establishment and maintaining of the general, external laws of nature which regulate the world phenomena. Thus, for example, Newton’s God is a cosmic legislator, “a Universal Ruler,”109 who, as he wrote in a letter to Richard Bentley in 1693, is “an agent acting constantly according to certain laws.”110 Exactly on this point Leibniz “chides Newton and his followers for reducing God to the status of an inferior maker/repairman” of the universe.111 Edwards could not accept such a radical reduction of divine power which obviously tended to diminish God’s absolute sovereignty. Against the mechanical philosophers’ assertion that “divine operation” is “limited by what we call laws of nature,” he declared that it is unwarranted to use such a concept to describe God’s relation with the order of creation. For what is implied in such a mechanistic view is that God “himself in common with his creatures” is “subject in his acting to the same laws with inferior beings” and thus ultimately deprived of his place as “the head of the universe” and as “the foundation & first spring of all.”112 Instead, believing the “material world, and all things pertaining to it, is by the Creator wholly subordinated to the spiritual and moral world,” Edwards thought nature’s role lay ultimately in “showing forth and resembling spiritual things.” Further, divine activity in the world is not limited by natural laws, for “God in some instances seems
Boyle, About the Excellency and Grounds of the Mechanical Hypothesis, p. 139. Newton, “General Scholium,” p. 544. 110 Newton, “Four Letters to Richard Bentley,” Letter III, February 25, 1693, in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings, ed., Thayer, p. 54. See also Richard S. Westfall, “The Rise of Science and the Decline of Orthodox Christianity: A Study of Kepler, Descartes, and Newton,” in God and Nature, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1986), p. 233. 111 Force, “Newton’s God of Dominion: The Unity of Newton’s Theological, Scientific, and Political Thought,” in Essays on the Context, Nature, and Influence of Isaac Newton’s Theology, eds. Force and Popkin (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990), p. 86. 112 Edwards, Miscellany 1263, 23: 204, 212.
109 108

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

257

to have gone quite beside the ordinary laws of nature.” For example, “God in some things in providence, has set aside the ordinary course of things in the material world to subserve to the purposes of the moral and spiritual, as in miracles.” And in order “to show that all things in heaven and earth, the whole universe, is wholly subservient” to divine power and will, “God has once or twice interrupted” the course of nature “as when the sun stood still in Joshua’s time.”113 This was of course also the view of Boyle, and of Newton and his closest followers such as Samuel Clarke and William Whiston. Indeed in the Opticks Newton claimed that his conception of nature affirmed the voluntarist doctrine of divine omnipotence—everything in the world is “subordinate to him, and subservient to his will.” And given God’s will was “the only causally efficacious agency in nature,” God “may vary the Laws of Nature, and make worlds of several sorts in several parts of the universe.”114 Yet, it should be noted that “Newton and Whiston prefer not to demonstrate the specially provident aspect of God’s dominion over nature by recourse to miracles, if at all”; for without “God first creating and then sustaining the generally regular operations of nature, there could be no ordinary concourse of natural law to describe with mathematical principles.”115 Edwards therefore strongly opposed the mechanistic interpretation of “natural laws” because these laws—setting up a mediating sphere between God and his creation and thus signifying that God governs the world only through secondary causes—severely restricted God’s power and limited the divine immanence. Instead of detaching God from the world, Edwards rather attempted to heal the growing breach between the order of grace and the order of nature by re-stating, as in classical and medieval theology, the natural world as a special mode of reality ontologically subordinated and inferior to a higher divine reality. He therefore defined the created order’s function in God’s overall redemptive plan as consisting mainly in reflecting images and shadows of divine reality: God “makes the inferior [world] in imitation of the superior, the material of the spiritual, on purpose to have a resemblance and shadow of them.”116
Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 43 (c. 1735), p. 61. Heimann, “Voluntarism and Immanence,” p. 273; Oakley, “Christian Theology and the Newtonian Science,” p. 436; Gascoigne, “From Bentley to the Victorians,” pp. 226–7. 115 Force, “Newton’s God of Dominion,” pp. 87–8. For Boyle’s views on miracles, see McGuire, “Boyle’s Conception of Nature,” p. 526. 116 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things” 8 (1728), p. 53.
114 113

258

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Edwards refused to allow secondary causes an exclusive role in the regulation and operation of the world. To accord nature intrinsic qualities and powers of its own, and to admit that world phenomena are regulated by secondary causes or natural laws, would signify that God is “making use” of “means that operate by their own power and natural forces,” which might lead to the conclusion that he is using “mediate causes” and “second causes” in ordering the world.117 Most important, to admit that world phenomena are regulated only by the laws of nature would mean that God is “limiting himself by such invariable laws, fixed from the beginning of the creation,” thus seriously undermining his power. Edwards spoke therefore “in opposition” to the mechanistic concept that God’s activity is “confined to and limited by those fixed establishments and laws commonly called the laws of nature.”118 And he emphasized time and again, “God’s providence over the world consists” only “partly in his governing the natural world according to the course and laws of nature.”119 He denounced the mechanistic view that divine activity within the created order is restricted to God’s imposition of the laws of nature from infinite space above, and he was unwilling to accept that God’s relationship with the natural world should be confined to that of a cosmic lawgiver operating from some undefined place. Such a view of the Deity as a mechanic became more and more widespread during the eighteenth century. Increasingly Newton’s achievements were associated with “revealing the watchmaker God,” the image of “a Creator-Mechanic,” or with the concept of “a God of order rather than with an interventionist Deity.”120 Benjamin Franklin, for example, argued that in America “God Almighty is himself a mechanic” and “he is respected and admired more for the variety, ingenuity, and the utility of his handiworks.”121 In mechanical philosophy the only conceivable way for God to express himself in nature was through external laws, such as the laws of motion. Indeed, following Newton, “celestial mechanics seemed to many to suggest that the world was a self-sustaining mechanism which had no need for divine governance or sustenance for its day-to-day
117 Edwards, “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” 1734, in Jonathan Edwards: Basic Writings, ed. Ola E. Winslow (New York: New American Library, 1966), p. 131. 118 Edwards, Miscellany 1263, 23: 202 119 Edwards, “Notes on Scripture,” 389 (1739), 15: 373. 120 Gascoigne, “From Bentley to the Victorians,” p. 230. 121 Benjamin Franklin, “Information to Those who would Remove to America,” 1782, as quoted in Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1992), p. 408.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

259

operation.”122 Defining God’s relation with the world in mechanical terms, the new scientific culture of space and time led increasingly to the detachment of God from the processes of nature. God still firmly held dominion over creation, but his redemptive activity was not considered as inextricably immanent. Rather, it was defined as external to nature and expressed more and more in terms of the laws of mechanics: no longer immanent in creation, the divine activity was assigned the role of ordering world phenomena according to mechanical laws or general abstract rules which could be expressed in terms of the mechanics of matter and motion. “The image of God as a ‘clockmaker’ ” was “thus seen as potentially leading to a purely naturalist understanding of the universe, in which God had no continuing role to play.” God thus was “excluded from the mechanics of the world.”123

6. God and the World
With the mechanization of the natural world, the notion of God’s relationship to it changed radically. The same can be said about Newton: “Newton’s God was first and foremost the kosmokrator, ruler over everything,”124 or “a ‘universal ruler’ (pantokrator),”125 and not, as in classical and medieval thought, a God whose symbolic presence was manifested in the nature and harmony of creation. For him “only a God of true and supreme dominion is a supreme and true God” and this “at the expense of God’s love and, apparently, God’s intellect.”126 It has been argued that the source for Newton’s God of Dominion, as articulated in the General Scholium, may be found in his Arianism.127 Newton’s Arianism precluded him from giving a significant role to Christ in the creation; “even Jesus Christ, falls under the dominion of God.”128
McGrath, Science & Religion: An Introduction, (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999), p. 19. Ibid., p. 20. 124 Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986), p. 90. 125 J. E. McGuire, “The Fate of the Date: The Theology of Newton’s Principia Revisited,” in Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, ed. Osler (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), p. 276. 126 Force, “Newton’s God of Dominion,” pp. 79, 83. 127 Richard S. Westfall, “Newton’s Theological Manuscript,” in Contemporary Newtonian Research, ed. Zev Bechler (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1987), p. 130; Force, “Newton’s God of Dominion,” pp. 75–102. For the transformation in Newton’s thought concerning God’s relation to His creation, see McGuire, “The Fate of the Date,” pp. 271–96. 128 Force, “Newton’s God of Dominion,” p. 80.
123 122

260

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

Thus, “the Son receiving all things from the Father, being subject to his executing his will, sitting in his throne and calling him his God . . . For the word God relates not to the metaphysical nature of God but to dominion.”129 Newton’s disciples Clarke and Whiston adopted similar view regarding the nature of God’s dominion, along with its necessary consequence that Christ is not divine in his metaphysical nature. Obviously, this conception of the God of Dominion was opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity. Edwards’s theology, on the contrary, is Trinitarian, according Christ a crucial role in ordering and managing the created order. To safeguard the divine nature of Christ and His role in creation from Arian tendencies, Edwards argued “that God three in one, all that he is, and all that he has” does “possess all things” in creation. Christ, therefore, does “possess all things.” Indeed, the “universe is [his]” or God’s, “only he has not the trouble of managing of it; but Christ, to whom it is no trouble, manages it for his.”130 Things in the world then “are left to his ordering and government” so that “the Father reigns by the Son.”131 It is in this grand teleological and theological context that Edwards declared that Christ managed every “atom in the universe” to the “advantage of the Christian.”132 Not only that “the Son of God created the world”133 and “all things” in the world “will be managed so as shall be most agreeable to his will,”134 but the whole “works of creation and the laws of nature, and that course of nature that God established in creation, is subordinated” to Christ’s “work of redemption.”135 Evidently, for Edwards the center-point in his philosophical theology is God’s great act of redemption in Jesus Christ.136 In sum, Edwards’s “understanding of nature was finally determined by a Christocentric construction of the world.”137 This was also the view of Pascal who believed like Edwards that the “whole conduct of things ought to aim at the establishment

129 Newton, Yahuda MS 15.1, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, as cited in Force, “Newton’s God of Dominion,” p. 79. 130 Edwards, Miscellany ff (c. 1723), p. 184. 131 Edwards, Miscellany 609 (c. 1733), 18: 144. 132 Edwards, Miscellany ff (c. 1723), p. 184. 133 Edwards, Miscellany 108, 18: 279. 134 Edwards, Miscellany ff (c. 1723), pp. 183–4. 135 Edwards, Miscellany 702 (c. 1737), 18: 290–1. 136 Edwards’s focus on redemption in Jesus Christ is analyzed most recently in Ann Taves, Fits, Trances & Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999). 137 John F. Wilson, “Introduction,” 9: 47–8.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

261

and the greatness of religion.” Religion “ought to be so truly the object and centre towards which all things lean.” Hence, “whoever knows” the principles of religion “should be able to explain both human nature in particular, and the whole conduct of the world in general.”138 Likewise, as was the case with Edwards, Pascal too argued that knowledge of “the order of the world,” or the created order, depended upon Christ: “Jesus Christ is the object of everything, and the centre to which everything tends. Whoever knows him knows the reason for everything.” Any attempt therefore “to prove by reason from nature” the “existence of God” is “useless and sterile” because it is done “without Jesus Christ” who is “the reason for everything.”139 The “mechanists’ God” was “a God of general providence and only rarely, in the case of miracles, a God of special providence.”140 The classical and medieval God intimately present in creation was thus transformed in mechanical philosophy into a cosmic lawgiver God who exercises his dominion over the created order from an infinite space above. No longer intrinsically related to the very essence of material bodies, the divine activity was conceived rather as external to tangible, created beings. The world of nature was thus excluded from any role in the affairs of divine providence. God himself, removed from the inner development of natural phenomena, could only exercise his dominion over nature by external laws expressed in terms of the mechanics of matter and motion. The mechanical philosophers therefore radically transformed the traditional Christian dialectic of God’s utter transcendence and divine immanence; divine activity was restricted mainly to maintaining and preserving world phenomena. As Newton wrote in the Opticks, 1704: “the Wisdom and Skill of a powerful ever-living Agent” is revealed in his ability “to form and reform the Parts of the Universe.”141 The mechanistic conception of God as a cosmic legislator indeed posed a grave question regarding God’s relationship to the world: What role could be left for God to play in a universe which runs like a clockwork. For Edwards the danger in the Newtonian scientific system was that it placed so much emphasis on the regular working of natural
Pascal, Pensées and Other Writings, trans. Honor Levi (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999), fragment 690, p. 170. 139 Ibid., fragment 690, p. 171. 140 Deason, “Reformation Theology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature,” in God and Nature, eds. Lindberg and Numbers (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1986), p. 187. 141 Newton, Opticks, p. 403.
138

262

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

laws, which led to the undermining of God’s redemptive role in creation. Such a prospect, which might lead to materialism and to endorsing fate in the regulation of the world, alarmed Edwards profoundly. Since God exercises an “absolute and universal dominion” over his creation, he argued, “it is fit” that his supremacy “should appear” in “those things by which he makes himself known, or by his word and works; i. e. in what he says, and in what he does.” It is God’s intention, “that his works should exhibit an image of himself their author,” and “what manner of being he is, and afford a proper representation of his divine excellencies.”142 Pervaded by divine meaning and significance, nature is not divorced from God’s providential plan, but is rather accorded a singular role to play in reflecting images and shadows of the ontologically superior divine reality beyond it:
The Book of Scripture is the interpreter of the book of nature in two ways: viz. by declaring to us those spiritual mysteries that are indeed signified or typified in the constitution of the natural world; and secondly, in actually making application of the signs and types in the book of nature as representations of those spiritual mysteries in many instances.143

The desire to establish God’s absolute sovereignty led to the re-enchantment of the world, or the deification of the order of creation. However, Edwards’s God is not the Deus Absconditus of Martin Luther or of Pascal who hides himself and is unknown in creation, but rather Deus Revelatus, the God who reveals himself constantly in the world: “’Tis very fit and becoming of God, who is infinitely wise, so to order things that there should be a voice of his in his work instructing those that behold them, and pointing forth and showing divine mysteries and things more immediately appertaining to himself, and his spiritual kingdom.”144 The deification of nature means that God constantly reveals himself in creation: “the works of nature are intended and contrived of God to signify and indigitate [represent] spiritual things.”145 Hence the natural world constitutes a special dimension of reality, revealing continuously the “voice or language” of God: “The works of God are but a kind of voice or language of God, to instruct intelligent beings in things pertaining to himself.”146
142 143

Edwards, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, 8: 424, 422. Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 156 (1743), p. 106. 144 Ibid., “Images of Divine Things,” 57 (1737), p. 67. 145 Ibid., “Images of Divine Things,” 55 (1737), p. 66. 146 Ibid., “Images of Divine Things,” 57 (1737), p. 67.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

263

Edwards’s theology of nature, which proclaims the immediate presence of divine power and activity in the whole fabric of the universe, clearly has more affinity with medieval theology, which was based upon a “sense of God’s symbolic presence in his creation, and the sense of a universe replete with transcendent meaning and hints,”147 than with the mechanistic conception of nature which accorded God the role of a “cosmic legislator,”148 or a “Universal Ruler” who governs the world of nature merely according to abstract and general natural laws.149

7. The Nature of the Created Order
For Edwards the New Philosophy’s disenchantment of the world was totally unwarranted. To re-assert God’s power and will within creation, he returned to the classical and medieval notion that God authored two books, Scripture and nature, arguing that nature reflects the transcendent meanings and symbols of divine things. Scripture therefore is the “interpreter of the book of nature,” because only God’s revelation can illuminate “those spiritual mysteries that are indeed signified or typified in the constitution of the natural world.”150 Not only did Edwards reject the mechanical vision of a one-dimensional world of nature, but he denounced the consequences of such a view, which implies the exclusion of value concepts from the order of creation. One of the main results of the mechanical view of the universe was the “discarding by scientific thought of all considerations based upon value-concepts, such as perfection, harmony, meaning and aim, and finally the utter devalorization of being, the divorce of the world of value and the world of fact.”151 This transformation, affecting the whole fabric of the universe, was of course unacceptable. In his theology of nature Edwards returned to the classical (Platonic) and medieval (Neo-Platonic) notion of the great chain of being, or, as he called it “the order of creation,” and strove to show that the fabric of the universe is indeed essentially founded upon a theological teleology of values which in turn defines the ontological status of beings in creation. Attempting to save God’s presence and redemptive activity in
Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination, p. 116. Deason, “Reformation Theology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature,” p. 186. 149 Newton, “General Scholium,” p. 544. 150 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things”156 (c. 1743), p. 106. 151 Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, p. 4.
148 147

264

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

the world, Edwards invoked the notion of a hierarchically ordered universe, declaring that the whole created order is characterized by “communication between one degree of being and the next degree of being.”152 This view was developed previously by the Cambridge Platonists, a group of seventeenth-century philosopher-theologians including Henry More (1614–1687), Ralph Cudworth (1617–1688), and John Smith (1616–1652), who “adhered to the ancient doctrine of microcosm and macrocosm which they related to the great chain of being. Thus various levels of reality emanated from God in an ordered hierarchical structure.”153 Furthermore, Edwards turned as well to Calvin’s notion of Theatrum Dei Gloria, or the view that the natural world and its beauty was the theater of God’s glory––a special space-time designed from eternity to reveal the glory of God. Edwards’s belief that the created world reflects divine things stood in clear contrast to the views of Bacon, Descartes, and other forerunners of the New Philosophy. Calvin argued:
In order that no one might be excluded from the means of obtaining happiness, God has been pleased, not only to place in our minds the seeds of religion of which we have already spoken, but to make known his perfection in the whole structure of the universe, and daily place himself in our view, in such a manner that we cannot open our eyes without being compelled to observe him . . . To prove his remarkable wisdom, both the heavens and the earth present us with countless proofs—not just those more advanced proofs which astronomy, medicine and all other natural sciences are designed to illustrate, but proofs which force themselves on the attention of the most illiterate peasant, who cannot open his eyes without seeing them.154

Calvin believed that the Theatrum Mundi was created by the Deity to be the mirror of divinity: “The whole world is a theatre for the display of the Divine goodness, wisdom, justice and power.”155 His theology of nature conceived of the world as a grand theater for the contemplation of divine beauty. The natural world and its beauty was thus a theater of God’s glory—Theatrum Dei Gloria—a special space-time
Edwards, Miscellany tt (c. 1723), p. 190. McGuire, “Boyle’s Conception of Nature,” p. 542. See also Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England, p. 182; and C. A. Patrides, ed. The Cambridge Platonists (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980). 154 Calvin as cited in McGrath, Science & Religion: An Introduction, p. 10. 155 Calvin, Commentary on Psalm, 135: 13, as quoted in Belden C. Lane, “Spirituality as the Performance of Desire: Calvin on the World as a Theatre of God’s Glory,” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 1 (2001), p. 24.
153 152

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

265

designed from eternity to reveal the glory of God. Calvin’s then is a theology of divine glory:
Correctly this world called the mirror of divinity . . . the faithful, to whom he gives eyes, see spark of his glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The World was no doubt made, that it might be the theatre of divine glory.156

“Astronomy may justly be called the alphabet of theology,” continued Calvin, claiming that the stars “contribute much towards exciting in the hearts of men a high reverence for God.”157 Seen in this context, the “human adoration of God, and its extension throughout the rest of creation, was, in fact, the stated purpose toward which Calvin originally directed his Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Calvin’s masterpiece therefore “might best be read as a summa pietatis rather than as a summa theologica.”158 On the other hand, Calvin believed as well that the Theatrum Dei Gloria is also designed for the playing out of the drama of human salvation and redemption:
In the vast theatre of heaven and earth, the divine playwright stages the ongoing drama of creation, alienation, return, and forgiveness for the teeming audience of humanity itself.159

Indeed, Calvin was unremitting in his insistence that “the enjoyment of God’s glory is the chief end of creation.”160 Or in Calvin’s words: “The end for which we are created is that the divine name may be celebrated by us on the earth.”161 The same views were also expressed in the Confession Belgica (1561), the oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church. Article 2 of this Belgic Confession stated that we know God by two means: “First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the
156 Calvin, Commentary on Hebrew, 11: 3, as quoted in Lane, “Spirituality as the Performance of Desire,” p. 13. 157 Ibid., p. 13. 158 Ibid., p. 3. 159 Ford L. Battles, “God Was Accommodating Himself to Human Capacity,” Interpretation 31 (1977), pp. 2–3. 160 Ibid., p. 8. 161 Calvin, Commentary on Psalm, 104: 33, as cited in Battles, “God Was Accommodating Himself to Human Capacity,” p. 24.

266

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

apostle Paul says in Romans 1.20. All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse. Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.”162 In sum, Edwards’s quest was to rescue creation which was in danger of gradual detachment from the affairs of divine providence by the New Philosophy of nature and to reconstitute the essence of natural phenomena as radically and immediately dependent on God’s power and will. Although he was not able to maintain the classical and medieval notion of the union between the order of grace and the order of nature, Edwards nevertheless was not willing to see their extreme separation or disunion in mechanical philosophy. For him nature played an important function in divine providence, being a medium that exhibited and illuminated the images and shadows of the divine reality beyond and above it. Envisioning the whole universe as imbued with God’s symbolic meanings and signs, he said that “spiritual beauties are infinitely the greatest, and bodies . . . but the shadow of beings” because the role of tangible, material bodies is indeed to “shadow forth spiritual beauties.”163

8. Idealism
According to Edwards, “that which truly is the substance of all bodies is the infinite exact and precise and perfectly stable idea in God’s mind.”164 This is the source of Edwards’s idealism, or his view that the universe “exists nowhere but in the divine mind,” and therefore “those beings which have knowledge and consciousness are the only proper and real and substantial beings, inasmuch as the being of other things is only by these.”165 He denounced the view that human beings can “actually perceive by their senses” a true and objective picture of the world: “I hardly know of any other prejudices that are more powerful against truth of any kind than . . . those of imagination.” For example, “the ecstasy” of imagination could lead one even “to pronounce the world infinite,”166 something he could not accept because it undermines
162 For the Belgic Confession, 1561, see http://www.reformed.org/documents/index. html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/BelgicConfession.html. 163 Edwards, “Beauty of the World” (c. 1726), 6: 305. 164 Edwards, “The Mind,” p. 344. 165 Edwards, “Of Being,” p. 206. 166 Edwards, “Of the Prejudices of Imagination,” p. 197.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

267

God’s sovereignty; if the material world is infinite, it neither needs nor even admits God’s creative and redemptive action. He rejected the Copernican Revolution because God “contrived the diurnal revolution of the sun around the earth in perpetual successions” in order to avoid “the fatal inconvenience that would have arisen from the sun’s always standing over one side of the earth.”167 Likewise, he denied “the mechanical cause of gravity,” and argued rather that it should be “attributed to the immediate operation of God.”168 “Divine power,” he declared, “is every moment exerted to the upholding of the world.”169 To replace the mechanical explanation, Edwards formulated his own idealism: “all existence is mental,” hence “the existence of all exterior things is ideal. Therefore, it is a necessary being only as it is a necessary idea.”170 Since “the substance of all bodies is the infinitely exact and precise and perfectly stable idea in God’s mind,”171 the “world is therefore an ideal one.”172 He thus denied creation any independent ontological status and the phenomena of the world any intrinsic teleological qualities and powers, in order to argue for the created order’s absolute contingency. The realm of nature is radically dependent upon God’s will and power, because “the existence of the whole material universe is absolutely dependent on idea.”173 God’s absolute sovereignty in the world was thus reaffirmed and rescued from the limitations placed on it by mechanical philosophy. Edwards could conclude that “all arts and sciences, the more they are perfected, the more they issue in divinity, and coincide with it, and appear part of it.”174 Although Berkeley and Edwards developed independently their idealism and immaterialism, there are many affinities between their views. In A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 1710, Berkeley strove to expose the “the Chief Causes of Error and Difficulty in the Sciences.”175 There he developed his idealist and immaterialist position, claiming in his famous dictum esse est percipi (“to be is to be perceived”). As regard “unthinking things,” wrote Berkeley, their
167 168

Edwards, “God’s All-Sufficient for the Supply of Our Wants” (1729), 14: 477–8. Edwards, “Things to be Considered,” p. 234 169 Ibid., p. 241. 170 Edwards, “The Mind,” p. 341. 171 Ibid., p. 344. 172 Ibid., p. 351. 173 Ibid., p. 353. 174 Edwards, “Outline of ‘A Rational Account’ ” (c. 1740), 6: 397. 175 Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 1701, p. 61.

268

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

“esse is percipi,” namely, their existence is based on their being perceived.176 To exist is to be perceived. Ordinary objects are only collections of ideas, which are mind-dependent. Being and existence is thus inextricable from knowledge. In contrast to mechanical philosophy based on matter and motion, reality for Berkeley consists exclusively of minds and their ideas; the world consists of nothing but minds and ideas. In other words, everything that exists is either a mind or depends for its existence upon a mind. Berkeley therefore denounced the Cartesian and Lockean dualism of mind and body, as well as Hobbes’s view that only material things exist. With this idealist, immaterialist position Berkeley sought “to refute irreligion” and to reconcile “orthodox Christianity with the methodology and findings of the New Science.”177 The same endeavor is apparent in Edwards’s “The Mind” where the New England theologian strove to construe an idealist philosophy. Materialism, Berkeley believed, leads to skepticism and hence to atheism and irreligion. The view that “unthinking things are thought to have a natural subsistence of their own, distinct from being perceived by spirits,” argued Berkeley, is “the very root of scepticism; for so long as men thought that real things subsisted without the mind, and that their knowledge was only so far forth real as it was conformable to real things, it follows, they could not be certain that they had any knowledge at all.” Materialism promotes skepticism since it implied that our senses mislead us because we “see only the appearance, and not the real qualities of things,” or the “real things, existing in rerun natura.” In response, Berkeley argued that matter does not exist. Further, materialism leads not only to skepticism but also to atheism and irreligion: “For as we have shown the doctrine of matter or corporeal substance, to have been the main pillar and support of scepticism, so likewise upon the same foundation have been raised all the impious schemes of atheism and irreligion.”178 The reason is clear: the material world, as appeared the thought of “the Epicureans” and “Hobbists,” could be expected to run of itself without the assistance of God.179 Berkeleyan immaterialism was a clear response to New Philosophy of nature which stressed that “the animating principles of natural operations were being attributed to powers internal to nature.” Berkeley
Ibid., p. 78. Michael Prince, Philosophical dialogue in the British Enlightenment: Theology, aesthetics, and the novel (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), p. 78. 178 Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, pp. 103–5. 179 Ibid., p. 106.
177 176

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

269

was afraid that “if one allowed of any of God’s animating work to be delegated to even the smaller part of nature, soon all of God’s handiwork would be attributed to a mundane mechanistic power.”180 Those who believe in materialism, “the Epicureans” and “Hobbists,” wrote Berkeley, “exclude all freedom, intelligence, and design from the formation of things, and instead thereof make a self-existent, stupid, unthinking substance the root and origin of all being.” Further, they “deny a providence, or inspection of a superior mind over the affairs of the world, attributing the whole series of events either to blind chance of fatal necessity, arising from the impulse of one body on another.” These, continued Berkeley, are the views of irreligious people, of the “atheists and fatalists,” who mingled “with the articles of our faith” such as “the resurrection.”181 Against the autonomy and integrity of the world of nature, as well as against the separation of the order of grace and the order of nature, Berkeley wrote: “To me, I say, it is evident that the being of a spirit infinite wise, good, and powerful is abundantly sufficient to explain all the appearances of Nature.”182 These of course were also Edwards’s views. Berkeley’s immaterialism was thus based on an extreme philosophical position; he denied the existence of anything outside our own ideas. His refutation of materialism was based, first, on the complete destruction of matter, or the view that matter is a substance as Hobbes believed, and, second, on the rejection of “the belief in any active agency belonging to nature distinct from the mind.”183 This position is closely related to Berkeley’s notion of the laws of nature: “Now the set rules of establishing methods, wherein the mind we depend on excites in us the ideas of sense, are called the Laws of Nature: and these we learn by experience, which teaches us that such and such ideas are attend with such and such other ideas, in the ordinary course of things.”184 Instead of the New Philosophy’s mechanical laws of nature, based on matter and motion, in Berkeleyan idealism the laws of nature signified rather a coherent, well-ordered world of ideas. These ideas, imprinted in the mind by God as part of the rerum natura, appear in regular patterns—laws of nature—in order that we may experience the world.
180 181

Prince, Philosophical dialogue in the British Enlightenment, pp. 78–9. Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, pp. 105–6. 182 Ibid., p. 99. 183 Prince, Philosophical dialogue in the British Enlightenment, pp. 78–9. 184 Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, pp. 85–6.

270

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

No wonder that according to Berkeley’s idealism, Newton’s concepts of absolute time and absolute space have no validity whatsoever: “Whenever I attempt to frame a simple idea of time, abstracted from the succession of ideas in my mind . . . I am lost and embrangled in inextricable difficulties.”185 Likewise, if for Galileo and Newton mathematics was the key to unveil the mysteries of nature, or the means to understand the labyrinth of the world, then for Berkeley, who banished all abstractions, mathematics is reduced only to a system of signs. Hence Berkeley rejected as a whole the new “natural philosophy,” claiming it “depreciated our faculties, and make mankind appear ignorant and low.” The reason is that the new philosophers of nature placed us “under an invincible blindness as to the true and real nature of things. This they exaggerate, and love to enlarge on. We are miserably bantered, say they, by our senses, and amused only with the outside and shew of things. The real essence, the internal qualities and constitution of even the meanest object, is hid from our view; something there is in every drop of water, every grain of sand, which is beyond the power of human understanding to fathom or comprehend.”186 In another work, Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher . . . Containing an Apology for the Christian Religion, against those who are called Free-Thinkers (1732), Berkeley posed a challenge and alternative to the machine model of nature put forward by Descartes and Newton. His aim in this work was “to consider the Free-thinker in various lights of atheist, libertine, enthusiast, scorner, critic, meta-physician, fatalist and sceptic.”187 The Free-Thinkers Berkeley referred to are the critics of Christianity such as the deists. There are many affinities between Berkeley’s and Edwards’s idealism; both claimed that what we perceived are ideas which God created in our mind and established among them continuous logical connection— laws of nature—so that we may experience the world. But there are also essential differences between them. One of Berkeley’s main targets was abstract ideas, namely the view that existence is distinct from being perceived. Edwards, on the other hand, accepted, following Locke, abstract ideas; they are created in the mind hence they have existence in terms of being creatures of the mind. Different attitudes toward
Ibid., p. 107. Ibid., p. 108. 187 Berkeley, Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher . . . Containing an Apology for the Christian Religion, against those who are called Free-Thinkers (London, 1732), in George Berkeley: Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher in focus, ed. David Berman (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 17.
186 185

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

271

abstract ideas revealed the different role each accorded to idealism in his system: Berkeley developed his idealism against materialism, skepticism, and atheism, while Edwards constructed his idealism against mechanical philosophy’s disenchantment of the world and the mechanization of the world of nature. In constructing his theology of nature, Edwards strove to provide a whole new philosophical and theological alternative to mechanical philosophy, which would take into account his profound religious and theological persuasions regarding God’s sovereignty and the divine presence in the world. To do this he adopted a three-fold strategy based on typology, the great chain of being and idealism. First, he claimed that God created the world so that “things natural” would “livelily represent things divine and spiritual.”188 Instead of understanding natural phenomena in terms of the mechanics of matter and motion, he argued “all body is nothing but what immediately results from the exercise of divine power.”189 Since divine agency is the source of all being and existence, God’s redemptive activity is secured and his immanence affirmed within the whole fabric of the universe. Conceiving the realm of nature as a specific though inferior mode of reality, ontologically subordinated to a higher divine reality, Edwards could then assert that “the works of nature are intended and contrived of God to signify and indigitate [represent] spiritual things.”190 In this cosmological vision, the created order was infused with transcendent meaning, and the existence of every being in the world was endowed with theological and teleological significance. Second, Edwards invoked the classical and medieval notion of a hierarchical universe structured according to a theological teleology of a great chain of being, or in his words an “order of being.” In the order of “the creation,” he said, “there is an immediate communication between one degree of being and the next degree of being” according “to the order of being [emphasis added].”191 Yet, because in Edwards’s idealism the natural order was deprived of any contribution to and participation in the affairs of divine providence, and since “nothing else has a proper being but spirits,”192 therefore “in the various ranks of beings, those that are nearest to the first being should
188 189

Edwards, Miscellany 118 (c. 1724), p. 284. Edwards, “Of Atoms,” p. 215. 190 Edwards, “Images of Divine Things,” 55 (1737), p. 66. 191 Edwards, Miscellany tt (c. 1722), p. 190. 192 Edwards, “The Mind,” p. 337.

272

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

most evidently and variously partake of his influence,” or “be influenced by the operation of the Spirit of God.”193 Hence in “the order of beings” the “most noble of all, and that which is most akin to the nature of God” is “the soul of man.”194 The concept of a hierarchical chain of existence included all beings, material as well as spiritual, from the lowest in nature to the highest in heaven, and the place and value of every being in the universe was determined by “the greater or lesser distance which separate it from the First Cause.”195 However, Edwards was after all affected by the scientific thought which denied the created order any participation in divine providence. His hierarchical ladder of being, therefore, consisted of spirits only, because “perceiving being only is properly being,”196 and not of material, tangible things which cannot be involved in or contribute to divine providence. Accordingly, the principle underlying his theological teleology of the order inherent in the structure of the universe was “excellency” which defines the gradations within the hierarchy of spirits according to their consent to the supreme being, or God. Thus, in “the order of beings in the natural world, the more excellent and noble any being is, the more visible and immediate hand of God is there in bringing them into being; and the most noble of all” is “the soul of man.”197 Since “so far as a thing consents to being in general, so far it consents to his” or God, hence “the more perfect created spirits are, the nearer do they come to their creator in this regard.”198 In other words, God determines the ontological status of beings according to the place he accords them in the cosmological hierarchy of the chain of beings: “The nearer in nature beings are to God, so much the more properly are they beings, and more substantial . . . spirits are much more properly beings, and more substantial, than bodies.”199 Third, in order to replace mechanical causality, Edwards formulated his idealism, claiming “all existence is mental.” And given that “the existence of all exterior things is ideal,”200 the whole physical “world is

193 194

Edwards, Miscellany 178 (c. 1725), p. 327. Edwards, Miscellany 541, 18: 89. 195 Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, p. 39. 196 Edwards, “The Mind,” p. 363. 197 Edwards, Miscellany 541, p. 89. 198 Edwards, “The Mind,” p. 337. 199 Edwards, “Things to be Considered,” p. 238. 200 Edwards, “The Mind,” p. 341.

Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature

273

therefore an ideal one.”201 Unwilling to accord the created order any independent ontological status of its own, Edwards argued for the created order’s absolute contingency. By claiming nature is radically dependent upon God’s will and power, God’s absolute sovereignty in the world was thus reaffirmed and rescued from the limitations placed on it by mechanical philosophy. Hence Edwards could conclude, as was the case with Leibniz, that the physical world cannot be sufficiently explained in mechanistic terms but everything can be explained in terms of God’s intentions, or “through final causes, through God, governing bodies for his glory, like an architect.”202 Divine causation replaced the mechanical. Constructing the created order’s ontological status as inferior and thus subordinated to the divine reality beyond it, conceiving the universe as structured according to a grand scheme of a hierarchical chain of beings, or spirits, and arguing that the true substance of all bodies is a stable idea in God’s mind, was Edwards’s main strategy in combating mechanistic natural philosophy. Through it he sought to close the growing gap between the order of grace and the order of nature and to combat the increasing disenchantment of the world caused by the New Philosophy. His return to the classical and medieval notion of the great chain of being signified a radical departure from current scientific thought. The notion of the hierarchical order of the universe as a chain of created spirits, based upon the concept of “excellency,” which defined these spirits’ relation to God, enabled him to claim that “God created the world for the shining forth of his excellency,”203 thus establishing world phenomena as a mode of reality in which “the beauties of nature are really emanations, or shadows, of the excellence of the Son of God.”204 Believing thus that the whole creation is the overflowing of divine being, continuity in the course of nature depends moment by moment on God’s immanent activity. This re-enchantment of the world was the solution to the problem of God’s transcendence and immanence.

Ibid., p. 351. Leibniz as quoted in Garber, “Physics and Foundations,” in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. III: Early Modern Period, eds. Park and Daston (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), p. 65. 203 Edwards, Miscellany 332 (c. 1728), 13: 410; Concerning the End for which God Created the World, pp. 526–36. 204 Edwards, Miscellany 108 (c. 1727), p. 279; Concerning the End for which God Created the World, pp. 530–1.
202

201

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Primary Sources
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, trans. D. W. Robertson, Jr. (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958). Bacon, Francis, The New Organon (1620). ----, The Advancement of Learning (1605). ----, Francis Bacon: The Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002). ----, The Praise of Knowledge (1592). Bacon, Roger, The Opus majus (1267). —, The Opus majus of Roger Bacon, ed. J. H. Bridges, 3 vols. (London: William and Norgate, 1900). Bayle, Pierre, Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697). Bentley, Richard, A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin and Frame of the World (1692). ----, Eight Sermons Preached at the Honorable Robert Boyle’s Lectures . . . by Richard Bentley, sixth edition (Cambridge, 1735). Berkeley, George, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1701). ----, Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher (London, 1732). ----, Berkeley: Philosophical Works, ed. M. R. Ayers (London: Dent, 1975). Blake, William, The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman (New York: Anchor, 1988). ----, “Milton” 1804–8, in Blake: Complete Writings, ed. Geoffrey, Keynes (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969), pp. 480–535. Boyle, Robert, The Excellency of Theology Compared with Natural Philosophy (1665). ----, About the Excellency and Grounds of the Mechanical Hypothesis (1674). ----, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature (1686).

274

Bibliography

275

----, Selected Philosophical Papers of Robert Boyle, ed. M. A. Stewart (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1991). Bruno, Giordano, On the Infinite Universe and World (1584). ----, Cause, Principle, and Unity: Five Dialogues by Giordano Bruno, trans. Jack Lindsay (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1962). Charleton, Robert. Physiologia Epicuro-Gassendo-Charltoniana: Or A Fabric of Science Natural,upon the Hypothesis of Atoms (1654). Clarke, Samuel, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (London, 1705). ----, Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity (1712). ----, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (1715–16) in The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, ed. H. G. Alexander (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1956). Collins, Anthony, A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (London, 1724). Copernicus, Nicolas, On the Revolutions (1543). —, Copernicus: On the Revolutions, trans. Edwards Rosen (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1978). ----, On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, trans. Charles G. Wallis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995). Copper, Anthony Ashley, Lord Shaftesbury, An Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit (1699). ----, Characteristic of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711). Cotes, Roger, “Cotes’s Preface to the Second Edition,” in Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1934), I, pp. xx–xxi. Dante, The Divine Comedy, trans. Peter Dale (London: Anvil Press, 1996). ----, Paradiso, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (New York: Bantam, 1986). Derham, William, Physico-theology: or, A demonstration of the being and attributes of God from His works of Creation (1711–2). Descartes, René, Rules for the Direction of the Mind (c. 1628). ----, The World (1629–33). ----, Discourse on the Method (1637). ----, Meditations on First Philosophy (1641). ----, Principles of Philosophy (1644). ----, “The Laws of Nature of This World,” in The World, 1664, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I. ----, The Search after Truth by Means of the Natural Light (1701).

276

Bibliography

----, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham et al., 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985). Donne, John, An Anatomie of the World: The First Anniversary (1611). —, The First Anniversary (1611). ----, Ignatius His Conclave (1611). ----, The Second Anniversary (1612). ----, The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne, ed. Charles M. Coffin (New York: Modern Library, 2001). ----, The Poems of John Donne, ed. Herbert J. C. Grierson, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1951). Dryden, John, Annus Mirabilis (1667). ----, Of Dramatic Poesie (1668). ----, John Dryden, ed. Keith Walker (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987). ----, Dryden: Poetry, Prose and Play, ed. Douglas Grant (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1952). Edwards, John, Some Brief Critical Remarks on Dr. Clarke’s Last Papers (London, 1714). ----, Some New Discoveries of the Uncertainty, Deficiency, and Corruptions of Human Knowledge and Learning (London, 1714). Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press) ----, Vol. 1: Freedom of the Will, ed. Paul Ramsey. ----, Vol. 2: Religious Affections, ed. John E. Smith. ----, Vol. 3: Original Sin, ed. Clyde A. Holbrook. ----, Vol. 4: The Great Awakening, ed. C. C. Goen. ----, Vol. 5: Apocalyptic Writings, ed. Stephen Stein. ----, Vol. 6: Scientific and Philosophical Writings, ed. Wallace E. Anderson. ----, Vol. 7: The Life of David Brainerd, ed. Norman Pettit. ----, Vol. 8: Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey. ----, Vol. 9: A History of the Work of Redemption, ed. John F. Wilson. ----, Vol. 10: Sermons and Discourses, 1720–1723, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach. ----, Vol. 11: Typological Writings, eds. Wallace E. Anderson and Mason I. Lowance, Jr. ----, Vol. 12: Ecclesiastical Writings, ed. David Hall. ----, Vol. 13: The “Miscellanies”: a-500, ed. Thomas A Schafer. ----, Vol. 14: Sermons and Discourses, 1723–1729, ed. Kenneth P. Minkema. ----, Vol. 15: Notes on Scriptures, ed. Stephen J. Stein. ----, Vol. 16: Letters and Personal Writings, ed. George S. Claghorn. ----, Vol. 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730–1733, ed. Mark Valeri. ----, Vol. 18: The “Miscellanies”: 501–832, ed. Ava Chamberlain. ----, Vol. 19: Sermons and Discourses, 1734–1738, ed. M. X. Lesser.

Bibliography

277

----, Vol. 20: The “Miscellanies”: 833–1152, ed. Amy Plantinga. ----, Vol. 21: Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith, ed. Sang H. Lee. ----, Vol. 22: Sermons and Discourses, 1739–1742, eds. Harry S. Stout and Nathan O. Hatch. ----, Vol. 23: The “Miscellanies”: 1153–1360, ed. Douglas A. Sweeney. ----, Vol. 24: The “Blank Bible,” ed. Stephen J. Stein. ----, Vol. 25: Sermons and Discourses, 1743–1758, ed. Wilson Kimnach. ----, Vol. 26: Catalogues of Books, ed. Peter J. Thuesen. ----, “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” 1734, in Jonathan Edwards: Basic Writings, ed. Ola E. Winslow (New York: New American Library, 1966). —, The Mind, in Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 6: Scientific and Philosophical Writings, ed. Wallace E. Anderson (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 311–400. —, “Of Atoms,” in Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 6: Scientific and Philosophical Writings, ed. Wallace E. Anderson (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 208–18. ----, Concerning the End for which God Created the World, in Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 8: Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1989). ----, “Images of Divine Things,” in Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 11: Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1993). ----, “Letter to the Trustees of the College of New Jersey,” 1757, in Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 16: Letters and Personal Writings, ed. George S. Claghorn (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, pp. 727–32. ----, Images or Shadows of Divine Things, ed. Perry Miller (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1972). Erasmus, Desiderius, Collecteana Adagiorum (Paris, 1500). —, Desiderii Erasmi, Roterodami opera omnia, ed. Jean Lclerc (Leiden, 1703–1706). Galilei, Galileo, The Starry Messenger (1610). ----, Letters on the Sunspots (1613). ----, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615). ----, The Assayer (1623) ----, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems – Ptolemaic & Copernican (1632). ----, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, trans. Stillman Drake (New York: Anchor Books, 1957). Gassendi, Pierre, Disquisitio Metaphysica Anti-Cartesianas [Metaphysical Colloquy, or Doubts and Rebuttals concerning the Metaphysics of René Descartes], (1644).

278

Bibliography

----, Institutio Astronomica (London, 1653). ----, Syntagma Philosophicum [A Philosophical Compendium], (1658). ----, The Syntagma: Physics (1658). ----, The Selected Works of Pierre Gassendi, ed. and trans. Graig B. Brush (New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1972). Greene, Robert, The Principles of Natural Philosophy (Cambridge, 1712). ----, The Principles of the Philosophy of the Expansive and Contractive Forces (Cambridge, 1727). Herbert, Lord of Cherbury, Antient Religion of the Gentiles (London, 1711). Hooke, Robert, Micrographia: Or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minutes Bodied Made by Magnifying Glasses (London, 1665). Hume, David, Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding (1748). ----, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751). ----, Essays, Moral Political and Literary, ed. T. H. Green, 2 vols. (London, 1882). ----, “Of Parties in General,” 1741, in David Hume: Essays Moral, Political and Literary, ed. Eugene F. Miller (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Classics, 1985), pp. 62–3. ----, “History as Guide,” in The Portable Enlightenment Reader, ed. Isaac Kramnick (New York: Penguin, 1995). Hutcheson, Francis, An Inquiry Concerning the Original of Our Ideas of Virtue or Moral Good (1725). ----, An Inquiry Concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, Design (1725). ----, Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections (1728). ----, Essay on the Passions (London, 1742). ----, Francis Hutcheson: Philosophical Writings, ed. R. S. Donwie (London: J. M. Dent, 1994). ----, Francis Hutcheson: On Human Nature, ed. Thomas Mautner (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995). Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Pure Reason (1781). ----, Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786). ----, Kant: Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, ed. and trans. Michael Friedman (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004). ----, “What is Enlightenment” (1784), in What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions, ed. James Schmidt, pp. 58–64. Keats, John, “Lamia,” in John Keats: The Complete Poems, ed. John Bernard (London: Penguin, 2006), pp. 414–432.

Bibliography

279

Kepler, Johannes, New Astronomy (1609). ----, Epitome of Copernican Astronomy (1618–21). ----, Harmonies of the World (1619). —, Kepler: Epitome of Copernican Astronomy & Harmonies of the World, trans. Charles G. Wallis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995). Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (1715–16), in The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, ed. H. G. Alexander (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1956). Mather, Cotton, The Christian Philosophers: A Collection of the Best Discoveries in Nature, with Religious Improvements (London, 1721). Montaigne, An Apology or Raymond Sebond (London: Penguin Classics, 1993). Newton, Isaac, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687). ----, Opticks (1704). ----, “An Account of the Book Entitled Commercium Epistolicum” (1715). ----, Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, ed. Florian Cajori, 2 vols. (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1934). ----, Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings, ed. Andrew Janiak (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004). ----, Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings, ed. H. S. Thayer (New York: Hafner, 1974). Nieuwentijdt, Bernard, The Religious Philosopher: Or, the Right Use of Contemplating the Works of the Creator (1724). Paley, William, Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature (1802). Paracelsus, Selected Writings, ed. Jolande Jacobi (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1979). Pascal, Blaise, Pensées and Other Writings, trans. Honor Levi (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999). ----, Pensées, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (London: Penguin, 1995). ----, Pensées, trans. W. F. Trotter (New York: Modern Library, 1941). Pope, Alexander, A Critical Edition of the Major Works, ed. Pat Rogers (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993). ----, Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope, ed. Aubrey William (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969). Pufendorf, Samuel, An Introduction to the History of the Principal Kingdoms and States of Europe (1702). Ray, John, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691).

280

Bibliography

----, Three Physico-Theological Discourses (1692). Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Discourse, 1750, in Rousseau, The First and Second Discourses, ed. Roger D. Master (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964). St. John, Henry, Lord Bolingbroke, The Works of . . . Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, 8 vols. (London, 1809). ----, Lord Bolingbroke: Historical Writings, ed. Isaac Kramnick (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1972). Swift, Jonathan, “To the Athenian Society” (1691). ----, A Tale of a Tub (1704). ----, Gulliver’s Travels (1726). ----, Jonathan Swift: The Major Works, eds. Ross and Woolley (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003). ----, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Claude Rawson (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008). Taylor, John, The Scripture-Doctrine of Original Sin (London, 1740). Tindal, Matthew, Christianity as Old as the Creation (London, 1730). Toland, John, Christianity not Mysterious (London, 1696). Turnbull, George, Principles of Moral Philosophy (London, 1740). Voltaire, Letters on England (1733). Woolston, Thomas, A Discourse on the Miracles of Our Savior (London, 1727).

Secondary Sources
Albanese, Denis, New Science, New World (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1996). Alexander, H. G., ed. The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1956). Antognazza, Maria Rosa, Leibniz on the Trinity and the Incarnation: Reason and Revelation in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 2007). ----, Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009). Ariew, Roger and Gabby, Alan, “The Scholastic Background,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 425–53. ----, “Descartes and scholasticism: the intellectual background to Descartes’ thought,” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. Cottingham, pp. 58–90.

Bibliography

281

Ashworth, William B., “Catholicism and Early Modern Science,” in God & Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, pp. 136–66. Baigrie, Brian, “The New Science: Kepler, Galileo, Mersenne,” in A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Nadler, pp. 45–59. Baird, A. W. S., “Pascal’s Idea of Nature,” Isis 61 (Autumn 1970), 296–320. Battles, Ford L., “God Was Accommodating Himself to Human Capacity,” Interpretation 31 (1977), 19–38. Baumgardt, Carola, Johannes Kepler: Life and Letters (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951). Ben-Chaim, Michael, “The Discovery of Natural Goods: Newton’s Vocation as an ‘Experimental Philosopher,’ ” British Journal for the History of Science 34 (Dec. 2001), 395–416. Bennett, Jonathan, “Leibniz’s Two Realms,” in Leibniz: Nature and Freedom, eds. Rutherford and Cover, pp. 135–55. Beyssade, Jean Marie, “The Idea of God and the Proof of His Existence,” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. Cottingham, pp. 175–99. Blair, Ann, “Natural Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. III: Early Modern Period, eds. Park and Daston, pp. 364–406. Bloom, Harold, ed. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (New York: Chelsea House, 1986). Blumenberg, Hans, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983 [1966]). Bono, James J., The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine (Madison, WI: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1995). Borges, Jorge Luis, “Pascal’s Sphere,” 1951, in Other Inquisitions, 1937–1952 (Austin, TX: Univ. of Texas Press, 1964), pp. 6–9. Boyle, Frank, Swift as Nemesis: Modernity and Its Satirist (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2000). Briggs, John C., Francis Bacon and the Rhetoric of Nature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1989). Broman, Thomas H., “Matter, Force, and the Christian Worldview in the Enlightenment,” in When Science & Christianity Meet, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, pp. 85–110. Brooke, John H., Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991). ----, and Maclaer, Ian eds. Heterodoxy in Early Modern Science and Religion (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005).

282

Bibliography

Broughton, J., and Carriero, J. eds. A Companion to Descartes, (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008). Brown, Deborah J., Descartes and the Passionate Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006). Brown, Stuart, Leibniz (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1984). Brundell, Barry, Pierre Gassendi: From Arisotelianism to a New Natural Philosophy (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1987). Burke, John G., ed. The Use of Science in the Age of Newton (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1983). Burton, Robert, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). Burtt, Edwin A., The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay (New York: Dover, 2003 [1924]). Butler, Jon, Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1775 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2000). Butterfield, Herbert, The Origins of Modern Science (New York: The Free Press, 1965 [1957]). Cage, John, “Blake’s Newton,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 34 (1971), pp. 372–7. Cajori, Florian, ed. Sir Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, 2 vols. (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1934). Carlin, Laurence, “Leibniz on Final Causes,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 44 (2006), pp. 217–33. Cassirer, Ernst, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962 [1932]). ----, “Newton and Leibniz,” Philosophical Review 52 (4) (Jul. 1943), pp. 366–91. Champion, Justin, Republican Learning: John Toland and the Crisis of Christian Culture, 1696–1722 (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 2003). Clarke, Desmond M., “Descartes’ Philosophy of Science and the Scientific Revolution,” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. John Cottingham (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992). ----, Descartes: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006). ----, “Pascal’s Philosophy of Science and the Scientific Revolution,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Hammond, pp. 102–21. Coffin, Charles M., John Donne and the New Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1958). ----, ed. The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne (New York: Modern Library, 2001).

Bibliography

283

Cohen, H. Floris, The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994). Cohen, I. Bernard, Revolution in Science (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1985). ----, and Smith, George E., eds. The Cambridge Companion to Newton (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002). Cole, John R., Pascal: The Man and His Two Loves (New York: NYU Press, 1995). Coleman, Francis, Neither Angel Nor Beast: The Life and Work of Blaise Pascal (New York: Routledge, 1986). Collingwood, R. G., The Idea of Nature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965). Conforti, Joseph A., Jonathan Edwards, Religious Tradition & American Culture (Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1995). Copenhaver, Brian P., and Schmitt, Charles B., Renaissance Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991). ----, “The Occultist Tradition and Its Critics,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 454–512. Cottingham, John, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995). ----, et al. trans. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985). ----, “The Role of God in Descartes’s Philosophy,” in A Companion to Descartes, eds. Broughton and Carriero, pp. 288–301. ----, A Descartes Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993). Cressy, David, “Early Modern Space Travel and the English Man on the Moon,” American Historical Review 111 (October 2006), pp. 961–82. Crisp, Oliver, “How Occasional Was Edwards’ Occasionalism?” in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian, eds. Helm and Crisp, pp. 61–77. ----, “Jonathan Edwards on the Divine Nature,” Journal of Reformed Theology 2 (2009), pp. 175–201. Daston, Lorraine, and Vidal, Fernando, eds. The Moral Authority of Nature (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 2004). Davis, Edwards B., and Winship, Michael P. “Early Modern Protestantism,” in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Ferngren, pp. 117–29. Dear, Peter, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500–1700, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001).

284

Bibliography

----, “The Meaning of Experience,” in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. III: Early Modern Period, eds. Park and Daston, pp. 106–31. ----, “Method and the Study of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 147–77. ----, “A Mechanical Microcosms: Bodily Passions, Good Manners, and Cartesian Mechanism,” in Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Knowledge, eds. Lawrence and Shapin, pp. 51–82. ----, “Miracles, Experiments, and the Ordinary Course of Nature,” Isis (Dec. 1990), pp. 663–83. Deason, Gary B., “Reformation Theology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature,” in God and Nature, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, pp. 167–91. Debus, Allen G., Man and Nature in the Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978). De Hart, Paul, “The Ambiguous Infinite: Jüngel, Marion, and the God of Descartes,” Journal of Religion 82 (Jan. 2002), pp. 75–96. Della Rocca, Michael, “Causation Without Intelligibility and Causation Without God in Descartes,” in A Companion to Descartes, eds. Broughton and Carriero, pp. 235–50. Des Chene, Dennis, “From Natural Philosophy to Natural Science,” in The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Rutherford, pp. 67–96. Dimock, Wai Chee, “Nonbiological Clock: Literary History against Newtonian Mechanics,” South Atlantic Quarterly 102 (Winter 2003), pp. 53–77. Dobbs, B. J. T., “Newton as Final Cause and First Mover,” in Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, ed. Osler, pp. 25–40. Drake, Stillman, trans. Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (New York: Anchor Books, 1957). Dupré, Louis, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1993). ----, “The Dissolution of the Union of Nature and Grace at the Dawn of the Modern Age,” in The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg, eds. Carl E. Braaten and Philip Clayton (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), pp. 95–121. ----, “Nature and Grace: Fateful Separation and Attempted Reunion,” in Catholicism and Secularization in America, ed. David L. Schindler (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1990), pp. 52–73.

Bibliography

285

Edwards, A. W. F., “Is the Frontispiece of Gulliver’s Travels A Likeness of Newton?” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 50 (Jul. 1996), pp. 191–4. Eliot, T. S., “The Pensées of Pascal,” in Collected Essays (London: Faber and Faber, 1969), pp. 402–16. Empson, William, William Empson: Essays on Renaissance Literature, ed. John Haffenden (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995). ----, “Donne the Space Man,” in William Empson: Essays on Renaissance Literature, 78–128. ----, “Godwin’s Voyage to the Moon,” in William Empson: Essays on Renaissance Literature, pp. 220–54. ----, “Thomas Digges His Infinite Universe,” in William Empson: Essays on Renaissance Literature, pp. 216–19. English, John C., “John Hutchinson’s Critique of Newtonian Heterodoxy,” Church History 68 (Sep. 1999), pp. 581–97. Favretti, Rema Rossini, et al. eds. Incommensurability and Translation: Kuhnian Perspectives on Scientific Communication and Theory Change (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1999). Ferngren, Gary B., ed. Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2002). Ficht, Georg, “God of the Philosophers,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion XLVIII (1) (Mar. 1980), pp. 61–79. Fiering, Norman, Moral Philosophy at Seventeenth-Century Harvard (Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1981). —, Jonathan Edwards’s Moral Thought and Its British Context (Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1981). Flower, Elizabeth, and Murphey, Murray G., A History of Philosophy in America, 2 vols. (New York: Capricorn Books, 1977). Fontana, Ernest, “Patmore, Pascal, and Astronomy,” Victorian Poetry 41.2 (2003), pp. 277–86. Force, James E., “Providence and Newton’s Pantokrator: Natural Law, Miracles, and Newtonian Science,” in Newton and Newtonianism: New Studies, eds. Force and Hutton, pp. 65–92. ----, “Newton’s God of Dominion: The Unity of Newton’s Theological, Scientific, and Political Thought,” in Essays on the Context, Nature, and Influence of Isaac Newton’s Theology, eds. Force and Popkin, pp. 75–102. ----, and Hutton, Sarah, eds. Newton and Newtonianism: New Studies, (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2004). ----, and Popkin, Richard H. eds. Essays on the Context, Nature, and Influence of Isaac Newton’s Theology (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990).

286

Bibliography

Force, Pierre, “Innovation and Spiritual Exercise: Montaigne and Pascal,” Journal of the History of Ideas 66 (1) (Jan. 2005), pp. 17–35. Foucault, Michel, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage, 1994 [1966]). Fox, Christopher, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003). Frankfurt, Harry, “Descartes on the Creation of the Eternal Truths,” Philosophical Review 86 (1) (Jan. 1977), pp. 36–57. Friedman, Michael. ed. and trans. Kant: Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004). Funkenstein, Amos, Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986). Garber, Daniel, and Ayers, M. eds. The Cambridge History of SeventeenthCentury Philosophy, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998). ----, Descartes Embodied: Reading Cartesian Philosophy through Cartesian Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001). ----, Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1992). ----, “Physics and Foundations,” in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. III: Early Modern Period, eds. Park and Daston, pp. 21–69. ----, et al. “New Doctrines of Body and Its Power, Place, and Space,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 553–623. ----, “Descartes’ Physics,” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. Cottingham, pp. 286–334. ----, “Leibniz: Physics and Philosophy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz, ed. Jolley, pp. 270–352. Gascoigne, John, Cambridge in the Age of the Enlightenment: Science, Religion and Politics from the Restoration to the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989). ----, “From Bentley to the Victorians: The Rise and Fall of British Newtonian Natural Theology,” Science in Context 2 (1988), pp. 219–56. Gaukroger, Stephen, The Emergence of Scientific Culture: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1210–1685 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. press, 2006). ----, Descartes: An Intellectual Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995). Gay, Peter, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (New York: Norton, 1977 [1969]). ----, The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (New York: Norton, 1977).

Bibliography

287

Gilson, Etienne, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New York: Charles Scribner, 1938). Gingerich, Owen, “The Copernican Revolution,” in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Ferngren, pp. 95–104. Gleick, James, Isaac Newton (New York: Vintage, 2003). Goldman, Lucien, The Hidden God: A Study of Tragic Vision in the Pensées of Pascal and the Tragedies of Racine (London: Routledge, 1977). Gragg, Gerald R., The Church and the Age of Reason (London: Penguin, 1990). Granada, Miguel A., “New visions of the cosmos,” in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Hankins, pp. 270–86. Grant, Douglas, ed. Dryden: Poetry, Prose and Play (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1952). Grant, Edward, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998). ----, Physical Science in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993 [1971]). ----, History of Natural Philosophy: From Ancient World to the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press 2007). ----, Science and Religion, 400 B. C. to A. D. 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2004). ----, God & Reason in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001). Greenfeld, Liah, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1992). Grierson, Herbert J. C., ed. The Poems of John Donne, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1951). Guelzo, Allen C., “Learning is the Handmaid of the Lord: Jonathan Edwards, Reason, and the Life of the Mind,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 28 (2004), pp. 1–18. ----, “Freedom of the Will,” in The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Sang H. Lee (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 115–29. Guibbory, Achsah, ed. The Cambridge Companion to John Donne (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006). Habermas, Jürgen, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993 [1985]). Hammond, Nicolas, The Cambridge Companion to Pascal (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003).

288

Bibliography

----, “Pascal’s Pensées and the art of persuasion,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Hammond, pp. 235–52. Hankins, James, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007). Harris, Victor, All Coherence Gone (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1949). Harrison, Peter, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998). ----, “Religion” and the Religions in the English Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990). ----, “Philosophy and the crisis of religion,” in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Hankins, pp. 234–49. ----, “Miracles, Early Modern Science, and Rational Religion,” Church History 75 (3) (Sep. 2006), pp. 493–510. ----, “Original Sin and the Problem of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe,” Journal of the History of Ideas 63 (Apr. 2002), pp. 239–59. ----, ‘“Science’ and ‘Religion’: Constructing the Boundaries,” The Journal of Religion 86 (2006), pp. 81–106. ----, “The Bible and the Emergence of Modern Science,” Science and Christian Belief, 18 (2006), pp. 115–32. Hassel, R. Chris, “Donne’s Ignatius His Conclave and the New Astronomy,” Modern Philology 68 (May 1971), pp. 329–37. Hatch, Nathan O., and Stout, Harry S. eds. Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988). Hazelton, Roger, Blaise Pascal: The Genius of his Thought (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1974). Heidegger, Martin, “Modern Science, Metaphysics, and Mathematics,” in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, ed. David F. Krell (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), pp. 267–306. Heimann, P. M., “Voluntarism and Immanence: Conceptions of Nature in Eighteenth-Century Thought,” Journal of the History of Ideas 39 (1978), pp. 271–83. Hellegers, Desiree E., “The Politics of Redemption: Science, Conscience, and the Crisis of Authority in John Donne’s ‘Anniversaries,’ ” The New Orleans Review 18 (1991), pp. 9–18. Helm, Paul, and Crisp, Oliver, eds. Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian (Ashgate: Farnham, Surrey, 2003). Henry, John, The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (Palgrave: New York, 2002). ----, “Causation,” in Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Gary B. Ferngren, pp. 130–42.

Bibliography

289

Hicks, Philip, Neoclassical History and English Culture: From Clarendon to Hume (London: Macmillan Press, 1996). Holton, Gerald, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1988). Hoopes, James, “Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Psychology,” The Journal of American History 69 (1983), pp. 849–65. Horkheimer, Max, and Adorno, Theodor W. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2002). Howell, Kenneth J. God’s Two Books: Copernican Cosmology and Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern Science (Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2002). Hunt, Frank, “Introduction,” in On Modern Origins: Essays in Early Modern Philosophy, eds. P. Kraus and F. Hunt (New York: Lexington Books, 2004), pp. ix–xvi. Hunter, Graeme, “Blaise Pascal,” in A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Nadler, pp. 96–112. Hunter, J. Paul, “Gulliver’s Travels and the later writings,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift, ed. Fox, pp. 216–40. Hunter, Michael, Science and Society in Restoration England (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981). Ingegno, Alfonso, “The New Philosophy of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, eds. Schmitt and Skinner, pp. 236–63. Israel, Jonathan, The Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001). Jacob, Margaret C., The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689–1720 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1976). ----, The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1988). James, William, Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, ed. Fredrick H.Burkhardt et al. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1979). Janiak, Andrew, Newton as Philosopher (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008). ----, ed. Isaac Newton: Philosophical Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004). Jardine, Lisa, Francis Bacon: Discovery and the Art of Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974). ----, ed. The New Organon (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000). Jeske, Jeffrey, “Cotton Mather: Physico-Theologian,” Journal of the History of Ideas 47 (Oct.–Dec. 1986), pp. 583–94.

290

Bibliography

Jolley, Nicholas, “The Relationship between Theology and Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 363–92. ----, “The Reception of Descartes’ Philosophy,” in Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. Cottingham, pp. 393–423. ----, “Leibniz and Occasionalism,” in Leibniz: Nature and Freedom, eds. Rutherford and Cover, pp. 21–34. ----, “Leibniz on Locke and Socinianism,” Journal of the History of Ideas 39 (Apr.–Jun 1978), pp. 233–50. ----, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995). Jones, Matthew L., The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution: Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, and the Cultivation of Virtue (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2006). Joy, Lynn Sumida, Gassendi the Atomist: Advocate of History in an Age of Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987). Kaiser, Christopher, Creation & the History of Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991). Kargon, Robert H. Atomism in England from Hariot to Newton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966). Keynes, Geoffrey, ed. Blake: Complete Writings (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969). Khalfa, Jean, “Pascal’s Theory of Knowledge,” in Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Hammond, pp. 122–43. Kiernan, Collin, “Swift and Science,” Historical Journal 14 (1971), pp. 709–22. Kimnach, Wilson H., “Jonathan Edwards’s Pursuit of Reality,” in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience, eds. Hatch and Stout, pp. 102–17. Kirby, W. J., Torrance, Richard Hooker, Reformer and Platonist (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005). ----, “Richard Hooker’s Discourse on Natural Law in the Context of the Magisterial Reformation,” at http://www.mun.ca/animus/ 1998vol3/kirby3.htm. Knight, Janice, “Typology,” in The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Lee, pp. 190–209. Koselleck, Reinhart, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985). Koyré, Alexandre, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968). Krailsheimer, A. J., Pascal (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980).

Bibliography

291

Kramnick, Isaac, ed. Lord Bolingbroke: Historical Writings (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1972). Kraus, P., and Hunt F., eds. On Modern Origins: Essays in Early Modern Philosophy (New York: Lexington Books, 2004). Krell, David F., ed. Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings (New York: Harper Collins, 1993). Kuhn, Albert T., “Glory or Gravity: Hutchinson vs. Newton,” Journal of the History of Ideas 22 (Jul.–Sep. 1961), pp. 303–22. ----, “Nature Spiritualized: Aspects of Anti-Newtonianism,” English literary History 41 (Autumn 1974), pp. 400–12. Kuklick, Bruce, History of Philosophy in America, 1720–2000 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003). ----, “Jonathan Edwards and American Philosophy,” in Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience, eds. Hatch and Stout, pp. 246–59. Lane, Belden C., “Spirituality as the Performance of Desire: Calvin on the World as a Theatre of God’s Glory,” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 1 (2001), pp. 1–30. Lange, Frederick A., The History of Materialism and Criticism of its Present Importance (London: Paul Kegan, 1925). Lawrence, C., and Shapin, S. eds. Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Knowledge (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1998). Lee, Sang, ed. The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005). Lee, Sukjae, “Leibniz on Divine Concurrence,” Philosophical Review 113 (April 2004), pp. 203–48. Lefcowitz, Barbara F., “Blake and the Natural World,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 89 (Jan. 1974), pp. 121–31. Leff, Gordon, The Dissolution of the Medieval Outlook (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1976). Lennon, Thomas M., “The Cartesian Dialectic of Creation,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 331–62. Levine, Joseph M., Dr. Woodward’s Shield: History, Science, and Satire in Augustan England (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1991). Lewalski, Barbara K., Donne’s Anniversaries and the Poetry of Praise: The Creation of a Symbolic Mode (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1973). Lilla, Mark, The Stillborn God: Religion and Politics, and the Modern West (New York: Knopf, 2007). Lindberg, David C., The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in the Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B. C to A. D. 1450 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992).

292

Bibliography

----, “Science as Handmaiden: Roger Bacon and the Patristic Tradition,” Isis 87 (1987), pp. 518–36. ----, “Science and the Early Church,” in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, pp. 19–48. ----, and Numbers, Ronald L. eds. God & Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1986). ----, and Numbers, Ronald, L. eds. When Science & Christianity Meet (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2003). Lodge, Paul, ed., Leibniz and His Correspondents (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004). Losonsky, Michael, Enlightenment and Action from Descartes to Kant: Passionate Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001). Lovejoy, Arthur O., The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2001 [1936]). Machamer, Peter, “Galileo’s Machines, His Mathematics, and His Experiments,” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, ed. Machamer, pp. 53–79. ----, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Galileo (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998). Maclean, Ian, “White Crows, Graving Hair, and Eyelashes: Problems for Natural Historian in the Reception of Aristotelian Logic and Biology from Pomponazzi to Bacon,” in Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe, eds. Pomata and Siraisi, pp. 147–80. Maguire, Matthew W., The Conversion of Imagination: From Pascal through Rousseau to Tocqueville (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2006). Mahoney, Michael, “The Mathematical Realm of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 703–55. Malherbe, Michael, “Bacon’s Method of Science,” in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, ed. Peltonen, pp. 75–98. Mandelbrote, Scott, “Eighteenth-Century Reaction to Newton’s AntiTrinitarianism,” in Newton and Newtonianism: New Studies, eds. Force and Hutton, pp. 93–112. ----, “Newton and Eighteenth-century Christianity,” in The Cambridge Companion to Newton, eds. Cohen and Smith, pp. 409–30. Marion, Jean-Luc, “The Idea of God,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 265–304.

Bibliography

293

Martin, Catherine G., “The Advancement of Learning and the Decay of the World: A New Reading in Donne’s First Anniversary,” John Donne Journal 19 (2000), pp. 163–92. May, Henry F., The Enlightenment in America (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1976). Mayr, Otto, Authority, Liberty & Automatic Machinery in Early Modern Europe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1986). McDermott, Gerald, Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods: Christian Theology, Enlightenment Religion, and Non-Christian Faiths (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000). ----, Understanding Jonathan Edwards: Introducing America’s Theologian (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009). ----, “Franklin, Jefferson and Edwards on Religion and the Religions,” in Jonathan Edwards at 300, eds. Minkema and Stout, pp. 65–85. ----, “The Eighteenth-century Culture War: Thomas Jefferson and Jonathan Edwards on Religion and the Religions,” Litteraria Pragensia 15.29 (2005), pp. 48–63. ----, “Jonathan Edwards Responds to Deism,” Theology Matters 9.6 (Nov.–Dec. 2003), pp. 9–12. ----, “Jonathan Edwards, Deism, and the Mystery of Revelation,” Journal of Presbyterian History 77.4 (Winter 1999), pp. 211–24. ----, “Edwards and Islam: The Deist Connection,” in Jonathan Edwards’s Writings: Text, Context, Interpretation, ed. Stephen J. Stein (Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 39–51. McDermott, Timothy, “Two Models of the Overlap of the Sciences: Modern Reductionism and Medieval Type of Abstraction,” in Incommensurability and Translation, eds. Favretti et al. pp. 69–85. McGrath, Alister E., A Scientific Theology: Volume I: Nature (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001). ----, Science & Religion: An Introduction (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999). McGuire, J. E., “Boyle’s Conception of Nature,” Journal of the History of Ideas 33 (1972), pp. 523–42. ----, “The Fate of the Date: The Theology of Newton’s Principia Revisited,” in Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, ed. Osler, pp. 271–98. McKenna, Anthony, “The Reception of Pascal’s Pensées in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Hammond, pp. 253–63. McMullin, Ernan, “Galileo on Science and Scripture,” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, ed. Machamer, pp. 271–347.

294

Bibliography

Meli, D. Bertoloni, “Caroline, Leibniz, and Clarke,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Jul. 1999), pp. 469–86. Meskin, Jacob, “Secular Self-Confidence, Postmodernism, and Beyond: Recovering the Religious Dimension of Pascal’s Pensées,” Journal of Religion (Oct. 1995), pp. 487–508. Michel, Paul H., The Cosmology of Giordano Bruno, trans. R. E. W. Madison (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1973). Miel, Jam, Pascal and Theology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1969). Miller, Perry. Jonathan Edwards (New York: Delta, 1949). Milner, Earl, “The Poets and Science in Seventeenth Century England,” in The Use of Science in the Age of Newton, ed. John G. Burke (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1983), pp. 1–20. Milton, J. R., “Laws of Nature,” in The Cambridge History of SeventeenthCentury Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 680–701. Minkema, Kenneth, “Jonathan Edwards: A Theological Life,” in The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Lee (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), 1–15. ----, et al. eds. A Jonathan Edwards Reader (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1995). ----, and Stout, Harry S. eds., Jonathan Edwards at 300: Essays on the Tercentenary of His Birth (Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America, 2005). Moody, Josh., Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Knowing the Presence of God (Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America, 2005). Moriarty, Michael, Early Modern French Thought: The Age of Suspicion (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003). ----, Fallen Nature, Fallen Selves: Early Modern French Thought (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006). Mullan, John, “Swift, Defoe, and Narrative Forms,” in The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, ed. Zwicker, pp. 250–75. Muller, Judith C., “A Tale of the Tub and early prose,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift, ed. Fox, pp. 202–15. Murphy, Nancy, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990). Nadler, Steven, “Arnauld, Descartes, and the Transubstantiation: Reconciling Cartesian Metaphysics and Real Presence,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Apr.–Jun. 1988), pp. 229–46. ----, “Doctrines of Explanation in Late Scholasticism and Mechanical Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, eds. Garber and Ayers, I, pp. 513–52.

Bibliography

295

----, ed. Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Pre-Established Harmony (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1993). ----, ed. A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002). Nebelsick, Harold P., The Renaissance, the Reformation and the Rise of Science (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992). Nicolson, Marjorie, Science and Imagination (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1956). ----, The Breaking of the Circle: Studies in the Effect of the “New Science” on Seventeenth-Century Poetry (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1960). ----, Newton Demands the Muse: Newton’s Opticks and the Eighteenth Century Poets (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1946). ----, “Newton’s Opticks and Eighteenth-century Imagination,” in Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 5 Vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974), III, pp. 397–8. ----, and Mohler, Mora M. “The Scientific Background of Swift’s Voyage to Laputa,” in Science and Imagination, ed. Nicolson, pp. 110–54. Niebuhr, H. Richard, The Kingdom of God in America (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959 [1937]). Oakley, Francis, “Christian Theology and the Newtonian Science: The Rise of the Concept of the Laws of Nature,” Church History 30 (1961), pp. 433–57. O’Brien, Karen, Narratives of Enlightenment: Cosmopolitan History from Voltaire to Gibbon (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997). O’Connell, Marvine R., Blaise Pascal: Reasons of the Heart (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997). Ogilvie, Brian W., “Natural History, Ethics, and Physico-Theology,” in Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe, eds. Pomata and Siraisi, pp. 75–104. Osler, Margaret J., Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy: Gassendi and Descartes on Contingency and Necessity in the Created World (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998). ----, “The Canonical Imperative: Rethinking the Scientific Revolution,” in Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, ed. Osler, pp. 3–24. ----, “Descartes and Charleton on Nature and God,” Journal of the History of Ideas 40 (Jul.–Sep. 1979), pp. 445–56. ----, “Eternal Truths and the Laws of Nature: The Theological Foundations of Descartes’ Philosophy of Nature,” Journal of the History of Ideas 46 (3) (Jul.–Sep. 1985), pp. 349–62

296

Bibliography

----, “The New Newtonian Scholarship and the Fate of Scientific Revolution,” in Newton and Newtonianism: New Studies, eds. Force and Hutton, pp. 1–14. ----, ed. Rethinking the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000). Olson, Richard G., “Tory-High Church Opposition to Science and Scientism in the Eighteenth Century: The Works of John Arbuthnot, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Johnson,” The Use of Science in the Age of Newton, ed. Burke, pp. 171–204. Oster, Malcolm, ed., Science in Europe, 1500–1800 (New York: Palgrave, 2002). Palomo, Dolores T., “The Dutch Connection: The University of Leiden and Swift’s Academy of Lagado,” Huntington Library Quarterly 41 (Nov. 1977), pp. 27–35. Park, Katharine, “Nature in Person: Medieval and Renaissance Allegories and Emblems,” in The Moral Authority of Nature, eds. Daston and Vidal, pp. 50–73. ----, and Daston, Lorraine, eds. The Cambridge History of Science, vol. III: Early Modern Period (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006). Patey, Douglas L., “Swift’s Satires on ‘Science’ and the Structure of Gulliver’s Travels,” ELH 58 (Winter, 1991), pp. 809–39. Patrides, C. A., ed. The Cambridge Platonists (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980). Peltonen, Markku, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Bacon (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996). Perl, Margula R., “Physics and Metaphysics in Newton, Leibniz, and Clarke,” Journal of the History of Ideas 30 (Oct.–Dec. 1969), pp. 507–26. Pesic, Peter, “Wrestling with Proteus: Francis Bacon and the ‘Tortue’ of Nature,” Isis 90 (Mar. 1999), pp. 81–94. Phemister, Pauline, The Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz (Cambridge: Polity, 2006). ----, and Brown, Stuart, eds. Leibniz and the English Speaking World (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007). Phiddian, Robert, Swift’s Parody (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. 1995). Phillips, Henry, “Pascal’s Reading and Inheritance of Montaigne and Descartes,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Hammond, pp. 20–39.

Bibliography

297

Pocock, J. G. A., The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republic Tradition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1975). ----, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 1: The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737–1764 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999). ----, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 2: Narratives of Civil Government (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999). ----, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 3: The First Decline and Fall (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003). ----, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 4: Barbarism: Savages and Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005). ----, “Modes of Action and Their Pasts in Tudor and Stuart England,” in National Consciousness, History and Political Culture in Early Modern Europe, ed. Orest Ranum (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1975), pp. 98–117. Pollard, Sidney, The Idea of Progress (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971). Pomata, Gianna, and Siraisi, Nancy G., eds. Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005). Post, Jonathan F. S., “Donne’s Life: A Sketch,” in The Cambridge Companion to John Donne, ed. Guibbory, pp. 1–22. Prince, Michael, Philosophical Dialogue in the British Enlightenment: Theology, Aesthetics, and the Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996). Quinton, Anthony, Francis Bacon (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980). Raspa, Anthony, “Theology and Poetry in Donne’s Conclave,” English Literary History 32 (Dec. 1965), pp. 478–89. Redondi, Pietro, “From Galileo to Augustine,” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, ed. Machamer, pp. 175–210. Reill, Peter Hans, Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2005). Renaker, David, “Swift’s Laputians as a Caricature of the Cartesians,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 94 (Oct. 1979), pp. 936–44. Rivers, Isabel, Reason, Grace, and Sentiment: A Study of the Language of Religion and Ethics in England 1660–1780, 2 vols; II: Shaftesbury to Hume (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000). Ross, Angus, and Woolley, David., eds. Jonathan Swift: The Major Works (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003).

298

Bibliography

Rossi, Paolo, Francis Bacon: From Magic to Science (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978). ----, “Bacon’s Idea of Science,” in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, ed. Peltonen, pp. 25–46. Rutherford, Donald, Leibniz and the Rational Order of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998). ----, “Nature, Laws, and Miracles: The Root of Leibniz’s Critique of Occasionalism,” in Causation in Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Nadler, pp. 135–58. ----, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006). ----, and Cover, J. A. eds., Leibniz: Nature and Freedom (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005). Sarasohn, Lisa, T. Gassendi’s Ethics: Freedom in a Mechanistic Universe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1996). Schmidt, James, ed. What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1996). Schmitt, Charles B., and Skinner, Quentin, eds. The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007 [1988]). Schrödinger, Erwin, What is Life? With Mind and Matter & Autobiographical Sketches (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006 [1967]). Seidel, Michael, “Satire, Lampoon, Libel, Slander,” in The Cambridge Companion to English Literature: 1650–1740, ed. Zwicker, pp. 33–57. Selby-Bigge, L. A., ed. British Moralists: Selection from Writers Principally of the Eighteenth Century, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897). Shapin, Steven, The Scientific Revolution (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996). Shea, William, “Galileo’s Copernicanism: The Science and the Rhetoric,” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, ed. Machamer, pp. 211–43. Silverman, Kenneth, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather (New York: Harper & Row, 1984). Simpson, Evelyn M., A Study of the Prose Works of John Donne (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948). Singer, Dorothea W., Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought (New York: Greenwood, 1968). Smith, John F., “Christian Morality and Common Morality,” in The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Lee, pp. 147–66.

Bibliography

299

Smith, Mark, “Knowing Things Inside Out: The Scientific Revolution from a Medieval Perspective,” American Historical Review 95 (June, 1990), pp. 726–44. Snobelen, Stephen D., “ ‘God of Gods, and Lord of Lords’: The Theology of Newton’s General Scholium to the Principia,” Osiris 16 (2001), pp. 169–208. ----, “Isaac Newton Heretic: The Strategies of a Nicodemite,” British Journal for the History of Science 32 (Dec. 1999), pp. 381–419. Spiller, Michael R. G., “The Idol and the Stove: The Background to Swift’s Criticism of Descartes,” Review of English Studies 25 (Feb. 1974), pp. 15–24. Stewart, Larry, “Samuel Clarke, Newtonianism, and the Factions of Post-Revolutionary England,” Journal of the History of Ideas 42 (Jan.–Mar. 1981), pp. 53–72. ----, “The Trouble with Newton in the Eighteenth Century,” in Newton and Newtonianism, eds. Force and Hutton, pp. 221–38. Stewart, M. A., ed. Selected Philosophical Papers of Robert Boyle (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1991). Stoever, William K. B., “The Calvinist Theological Tradition,” in Encyclopedia of American Religious Experience, eds. C. H. Lippy and P. W. Williams, 3 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1988), II. Stone, M. W., “Aristotelianism and Scholasticism in Early Modern Philosophy,” in A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Nadler, pp. 7–24. Strong, E. W., “Newton and God,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Apr. 1952), pp. 147–67. Stubbs, John, Donne: The Reformed Soul (London: Penguin, 2007). Suarez, Michael F., “Swift’s Satire and Parody,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift, ed. Fox, pp. 112–27 Syfret, R. H., “Some Early Critics of the Royal Society,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 8 (Oct. 1956), pp. 20–64. Taves, Ann, Fits, Trances & Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999). Thayer, H. S., ed. Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings (New York: Hafner 1974). Thompson, E. P., Witness against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Laws (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993). Thompson, Keith, Before Darwin: Reconciling God and Nature (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 2005).

300

Bibliography

Thuesen, Peter J., “Edwards’ Intellectual Background,” in The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Lee, pp. 16–33. Tillich, Paul, A History of Christian Thought: From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism, ed. Carl. E. Braaten (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968). Toumlin, Stephen, Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1992). Van Ruler, Han, The Crisis of Causality: Voetius and Descartes on God, Nature and Change (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995). ----, “Minds, Forms, and Spirit: The Nature of Cartesian Disenchantment,” Journal of the History of Ideas 61 (July 2000), pp. 381–95. Vasoli, Cesare, “The Renaissance Concept of Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, eds. Schmitt and Skinner, pp. 55–74. Vickers, Brian, ed. Francis Bacon: The Major Works (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002). ----, “Bacon and the Progress of Knowledge,” Journal of the History of Ideas 53 (Jul.–Sep. 1992), pp. 495–518. Wallace, William A., “Traditional Natural Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, eds. Schmitt and Skinner, pp. 201–35. Waller, G. F., “John Donne’s Changing Attitudes to Time,” in Studies in English Literature, Vol. 14–1: The English Renaissance (Winter 1974), pp. 79–89. Weber, Donald, Rhetoric and History in Revolutionary New England (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988) . Weber, Max, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London: Routledge, 1995 [1904]). Wedel, T. O., “On the Philosophical Background of Gulliver’s Travels,” Studies in Philology 23 (1926), pp. 434–50. Westfall, Richard S., The Construction of Modern Science: Mechanisms and Mechanics (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977 [1971]). ----, Force in Newton Physics: The Science of Dynamics in the Seventeenth Century (London: Macdonald, 1971). ----, “The Rise of Science and the Decline of Orthodox Christianity: A Study of Kepler, Descartes, and Newton,” in God and Nature, eds. Lindberg and Numbers, pp. 218–37. ----, “The Scientific Revolution Reassessed,” in Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, ed. Osler, pp. 41–58. ----, “Newton’s Theological Manuscript,” in Contemporary Newtonian Research, ed. Zev Bechler (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1987).

Bibliography

301

Wetsel, David, “Pascal and Holy Writ,” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, ed. Hammond, pp. 162–81. Whitehead, A. N., Science and the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1953). Whitney, Charles, “Francis Bacon’s Instauratio: Dominion of and over Humanity,” Journal of the History of Ideas 50 (Jul.–Sep. 1989), pp. 371–90. Williamson, George, “The Design in Donne’s ‘Anniversaries’,” Modern Philology 3 (Feb. 1963), pp. 183–91. Wootton, David, “John Donne’s Religion of Love,” in Heterodoxy in Early Modern Science and Religion, eds. Brooke and Maclear, pp. 31–58. Zagorin, Perez, Francis Bacon (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999). Zakai, Avihu, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History: The Re-Enchantment of the World in the Age of Enlightenment, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003. Reprint: Paperback edition, 2009. ----, “Jonathan Edwards and the Language of Nature: The Re-Enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning,” The Journal of Religious History 26 (February 2002), pp. 15–41. ----, “Jonathan Edwards,” The New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 60 vols. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004), XVII, pp. 944–9. ----, “The Ideological Context of Edwards’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Fides et Historia 36 (Summer/Fall 2004), pp. 1–18. ----, “Jonathan Edwards, the Enlightenment, and the Formation of Protestant Tradition in America,” in The Creation of the British Atlantic World, eds. Elizabeth Mancke and Carole Shammas (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 182–208. ----, “The Age of Enlightenment,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards, ed. Stephen Stein (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), pp. 80–99. ----, “The Rise of Modern Science and the Decline of Theology as the ‘Queen of Sciences,’ ” Renaissance and Reformation Review 9.2 (2009), pp. 125–51. ----, “The Theological Origins of Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 60 (2009), pp. 1–17. ----, “John Calvin,” Encyclopedia of Community: From the Village to the Virtual World, eds. Karen Christensen and David Levinson, 4 vols. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003), I, pp. 113–15. ----, “The Poetics of History and the Destiny of Israel: The Role of the Jews in English Apocalyptic thought during the Sixteenth and

302

Bibliography

Seventeenth Centuries,” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 5 (1996), pp. 313–50. ----, and Mali, A. “Time, History and Eschatology: Ecclesiastical History from Eusebius to Augustine,” The Journal of Religious History 17 (Dec. 1993), pp. 393–417. ----, and Ramati, A. “The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Scientific Imagination,” in Science and Religion Together, ed. R. L. Herrmann (Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Press, 2001), pp. 41–51. Zwicker, Steven N., ed. The Cambridge Companion to English Literature: 1650–1740, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998).

INDEX
Note: The entry “astronomy” is divided into two sections -- a) subject-listing relating to astronomy, and b) people-listing dealing with astronomy. The same division has been followed in the entries on “cosmos,” “final cause,” “matter,” “nature,” “new philosophy” and “universe.” Abaddon 112 absolute space 199, 270 absolute time 199, 270 Academy of Lagado 199–200 Adam 228 Addison, Joseph 178–9 New Philosophy 178–9 advancement of learning 14–17, 38, 107, 110, 116 Age of the apostles 223 Age of criticism 207–8 Age of Enlightenment 16, 53, 207–30 Age of scientific reasoning 231–73 alchemy 54 the black art 54 Alexander the Great 229 alienation 126, 129, 131, 265 America 103, 106, 230–1, 233, 241, 258 American Protestant culture 229 Anderson, Wallace 12, 25, 44 Anglican Church 168–9, 171 and Newtonians 169–73 Anima mundi 173 Animal Rational 200–1 Animal Rationis Capax 200–1 Animism 22 anthropocentric teleology 3, 6, 38, 87 anthropocentrism 38 Antichristian Heroes 111–12 anti-Newtonians 194–206 Berkeley 220, 266–71 Blake 202–6 Edwards, John 181–5 Edwards, Jonathan 216–20, 231–73 Greene 185–8 Hutchinson 220 Leibniz 189–94, 220 Swift 194–202 Antipodes 63, 72 Augustine 63, 72 Lactantius 63 antitype 17–27 Apology for the Christian Religion 125–62, 207–30, 266–73 Berkeley 266–71 Edwards 207–30, 266–73 Pascal 125–62 Arbuthnot, John 142, 194–5 Archimedes of Syracuse 56, 82 Arianism 8, 30–1, 42, 163–83, 208, 239, 259–60 Arians 8, 30–1, 42, 163–83, 246 Aristophanes 197 Clouds 197 Aristotelianism 94, 179, 195, 239 Aristotle 27, 54–5, 58, 61, 66–8, 74–7, 85, 90, 94–5, 100, 109, 136, 144, 157–8, 188, 235 cosmology 27, 64, 75–6, 165, 235 essentialism 68–9 final causes 94, 157 heavens 65–7, 75–6 natural philosophy 55, 85, 90, 109 ontology 68, 136

303

304

Index
mechanical philosophy 248–54 metaphysical-theological principle 248–54 Minimum Physicum 248 motion 250–4 Newton 250–1 atomic doctrine (Atomism) 3, 9, 46–7, 99, 219, 248–54 Bruno 251–2 Edwards 46–7, 248–54 Gassendi 252–3 Newton 250–1 Attic Language 216 Augustine, St. 16, 57–8, 63, 72, 152, 236 Antipodes 63, 72 and Pascal 236 philosophy as handmaiden of religion 57–8 Automaton 21, 217 Awakening(s) 230 Babylon 205 Bacon, Francis 1, 7, 18, 38, 50, 54, 81, 86–107, 110–11, 114, 116–19, 136–7, 164, 189, 203–6, 234–8, 255, 264 advancement of learning 87–107, 114, 116 apocalypse 89, 104 and Aristotle 90, 92, 235–6 augmentation of the sciences 87–107 Book of Nature 87–107, 234–40 as Columbus 88–9, 106–7, 119 and Copernicus 88, 94 and Dante 117 and Descartes 91–3, 136, 236–7 discovery 87–107, 117–18 disenchantment of the world 87–107, 235–6 and Donne 87–107 and Edwards 255 eschatology 89 experimental philosophy 90–102, 235–6 father of experimental philosophy 90, 93 finalism 92–4, 101, 157, 235–6, 255 forest of experience 107

Aristotle (Cont’d) Organon 92 science 5, 74, 85 universe 64–5, 75, 157 Arminianism 163–93, 208, 227 arts and sciences 14–15, 48, 222, 267 astronomers 59–85 priests of God 65 astronomical revolution 59–85 astronomy 59–85, 90–107, 126–33 alphabet of theology 60 “handmaiden to theology” (philosophia ancilla theologiae) 51–9 reduction to physical causation 59–85, 90–107 astronomy 51–85, 87–124, 255, 265 Calvin 60, 265 Copernicus 59–63 Donne 86–124 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 Luther 60 Newton 163–77 astronomy and Scripture 59–85 Athanasian Creed 170–1 Clarke 170–1 Athanasius of Alexandria 170–1 Atheism 33, 36–7, 43–5, 49, 147, 149, 161, 186, 204–5, 239–40, 243, 260–70 Atheists 40–1, 186, 204, 229, 239–40, 260–70 atom(s) 46–7, 68, 121, 131, 136, 198, 244, 248–54, 260 Bruno 251–3 and Christ 46, 219, 244, 249, 253, 260 Classical doctrine 252–3 created 251–3 Edwards 46–7, 244, 248–54, 260 eternal 252 finite 252 Gassendi 252–3 and God 46–7, 219, 248–54 and God’s absolute sovereignty 219, 248–54 and God’s redemptive purposes 219, 248–54 Hobbes 250 infinite 248–54

Index
and Galileo 88, 94 goal of sciences 87–107, 136–7 God 98–101, 235–6 induction 92 innovation and discovery 117–18, 136–7 Janus face of science 86–107 and Kant 94 and Kepler 88 knowledge and sovereignty 98 method 91–3, 101 nature 90–107, 136–7, 234–40 New Philosophy 86–107, 234–40 and Newton 166 oracles of nature 89 project 97 renewal of sciences 87–107, 114, 116 Sabbath 99, 104 scholastic natural philosophy 90–102 and Scholasticism 91, 235–6 scientific enlightenment 114 separation of science and religion 107, 234–40 ship of learning 103–4, 116 Solomon’s Temple 89, 103 syllogism 91–2 taming of nature 90–107 teleological and theological explanation 93–4, 234–40 trumpet and herald 96 utopian thought 88, 90–107, 110, 116 and Voltaire 92 waves of experience 92 Bacon, Francis, works Advancement of Learning 38, 107, 116–18 The Great Instauration (Instauratio Magna) 103 New Atlantis 106, 116 New Organon 86, 88, 90, 92, 106–7, 114, 116–19 Praise of Knowledge 86, 118 Bacon, Roger 16, 51, 58 Opus maius 51, 58 Baconian project 156 Baconian science 236–7 Barbarism 210 Baronius, Cardinal 80

305

Bayle, Pierre 223 Historical and Critical Dictionary 223 Bedford, Arthur 31, 185 Bedlam 198 Being 45, 47, 215, 219, 226–30, 266–73 and existence 45, 266–71 in general (God) 215, 219, 226–30, 272 and knowledge 45, 266–71 supreme 47, 219, 272 Bellarmine, Robert 22, 61, 112 and Galileo 61, 112, Belzebub 112 benevolence 224–30 Edwards 226–30 Hutcheson 225–6 benevolence to Being in General 215, 226, 228–9 Bentley, Richard 37, 40–1, 45, 169, 172, 175, 196, 256 A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin and Frame of the World 37, 40, 45 Berkeley, George 1–2, 10, 45, 87, 169, 213, 220, 232, 240, 266–73, 243, 266–71 anti-Newtonians 270 apology 270 and Descartes 268, 270 and Edwards 45, 232, 240, 266–73 and Epicurus 268–9 esse est percipi 240, 267 fatalism 268–70 fear of New Philosophy 240, 266–71 and Galileo 270 and Hobbes 268–9 idealism 45, 240, 266–71 immaterialism 240, 266–71 irreligion 240, 266–71 laws of nature 269 materialism 240, 266–71 and Newton 270 and Newtonian science 1, 270 skepticism 240, 268, 270 Berkeley, George, works Alciphron, or The Minute Philosopher . . . Containing an Apology for the Christian Religion, against those who are called Free-Thinkers 270 A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge 45, 267

306

Index
typology 11–50, 231–73 written in the language of mathematics 73–85 Book of Revelation 114, 119 Book of Scripture 16, 19, 72, 255 bookish culture 95 Borges, Jorge Luis 125, 132 and Pascal 125, 132 Boyle, Robert 16, 19, 21, 33, 191, 194, 216–17, 247, 249, 255–6 clockwork universe 21, 249, 255–6 laws of nature 249, 255–6 mathematics 19 mechanical philosophy 21, 247, 249, 255–6 nature 21, 249, 255–6 nature as compounded machine 21, 249 and Newton 191 revelation 247 universe as Automaton 21 world as engine 21, 249 Boyle, Robert, works The Christian Virtuoso 41 Brahe, Tycho 60–1, 66, 103, 107–8, 115 and Copernicus 60–1 and Donne 107 British Empire 8, 208 British School of Moral Sense 208, 224–30 Hume 224–6 Hutcheson 224–6 Shaftesbury 224–6 Bruno, Giordano 103, 132, 232, 251–2 atomic doctrine 251–2 and Edwards 232, 251–2 God 251–2 matter 251–2 Burton, Robert 51, 66, 115 Anatomy of Melancholy 51, 66, 115 Butterfield, Herbert 22 Caesar, Julius 221 Calvin, John 13, 17, 60, 217, 237, 263–6 alienation 265 astronomy 60 drama of salvation 265

Bertling, Johannes 136 Bible (New Testament, Old Testament, Scriptures) 1, 8, 59–85 authority 8, 59–85, 211–16 Biblical hermeneutics 59–85 Biblical literalism 59–85 credibility of prophecies 8, 211–16 detachment from history 220–4 reliability of miracles 8, 211–16 and study of history 220–4 Bible and scientific truths 59–85 Copernicus 59–63 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 Biblical historical narrative 220–4 Blake, William 1, 8, 50, 117, 163, 180, 202–6, 213 apocalyptic, prophetic vision 203–6 Atheism 180, 203–6 and Bacon 203–4 and Descartes 205 and Galileo 205 Janus face of science 203–6 and Locke 203–6 New Philosophy 203–6 and Newton 117, 202–6 Newton as Satan 8, 163, 204, 206 Newtonian philosophy 1, 202–6 and Pascal 206 re-enchantment of the world 203–6 revelation 205 Satan 8, 163, 206 Blake, William, works Jerusalem 203 Milton 206 Boethius (Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius) 56, 82 Bolingbroke, see Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke, Bonaventure, St. 58 Boniface III 113 book(s) 90–102 authority 90–102 culture 90–102 Book of Creatures 52 Book of Nature 16, 18–19, 38, 52, 72–85, 255

Index
and Edwards 237, 263–6 end of creation 265 nature 13, 60, 237, 264–5 science 60 summa pietatis 265 theatre of heaven and earth 264–6 Theatrum Dei Gloria (theatre of God’s glory) 13, 233, 263–6 Theatrum Mundi 13, 264–6 theology of nature 264–6 Calvin, John, works Institutes of the Christian Religion 265 Calvinism 229 Cambridge Platonists 28, 264 Campanella, Tommaso 97, 103 Caroline, Princess of Wales 191–3 and Clarke 191–3 and Leibniz 191–3 and Newton 191–3 Cartesian philosophy 5, 14, 127–62, 205 see also Descartes Cartesian science 125–62, 236–40 nature 125–62, 236–40 religion 125–62 see also Descartes Cartesian theater of nature 27, 153–62, 236–40 see also Descartes categories of experience and experiment 90 causation 63–73, 110, 127–62, 164–93, 235, 238, 245, 231–73 divine 67, 110, 127, 161, 189–90, 238, 231–73 finalist theories 156–7, 189–90, 235, 273 immanent 93 mechanical 127–62, 163–93, 238, 245, 254–9, 273 non-finalistic theories 156–7, 190, 235 cause-based conception of science 190, 238, 255 see also Law-based conception of science cause(s) 20, 40, 93–4, 101, 127–62, 164–93, 245, 254–9

307

efficient 93, 190 final 20, 40, 93–4, 101, 127, 137, 156–7, 173, 189–90, 235, 255, 273 mechanical 93–4, 101, 127–62, 164–93, 245, 254–9 physical 93–4, 101, 164–93, 238, 245 secondary 93–4, 254–9 celestial world 59–85 as clockwork 21, 42–3, 59–85 as machine 3, 21, 42–3, 59–85 as physical machine 3, 21, 42–3, 59–85 Charleton, Walter 36 Christ 14–15, 33–4, 46, 145–53, 165–77, 219, 221, 242, 248–54, 259–60 and atomism 46, 219, 248–54 creator of the world 33–4 divinity 165–77, 259–60 first coming 14 inferior God 184–5 Kingdom 14–15, 221 lord of history 220–4 work of redemption 56–7, 242 Christian identities 3, 6, 87, 102, 110, 126, 164 Christian mathematicians 193 Christian revelation 211–16 Christian scholasticism 155 Christina, Grand Duchess of Tuscany 77–85 Christocentric 260 Church 84, 121 Catholic 84 of England 168–93 Triumphant 121 Clarke, Samuel 31, 34, 42–3, 191–3, 200, 246, 257, 260 Arianism 31, 163–93 Athanasian Creed 170–1 and Caroline, Princess of Wales 191 concept of God 31, 170–2 and Leibniz 191–3 and Newton 31, 163–93, 246, 260 Trinity 31, 170–93 Clarke, Samuel, works Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity 170, 172, 182

308

Index
destruction 24, 56–85, 101, 126–33 finite 3, 6, 21, 99, 126–33 infinite 3, 24, 31, 99, 126–33 Medieval 56–85, 126–33 Scholastic 55–85, 126–33 cosmos 59–63, 64–5, 73–85, 125–33 Aristotle 64–5 Copernicus 59–63 Donne 120–1 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 Newton 163–93 Pascal 125–33 Cotes, Roger 26, 30, 40, 57, 175 Cragg, Gerald R. 207 The Church and the Age of Reason 207 created order 21–2, 28, 47, 64, 102, 249, 255, 257, 262–3, 267, 271–3 inferior mode of reality 11, 21–2, 47, 255, 257, 271, 273 ontological status 21–2, 28, 47, 64, 102, 249, 255, 257, 262–3, 267, 271–3 crisis of Christian culture 97, 109, 211 Cudworth, Ralph 28, 264 Cusa, Nicholas 54 Daniel 104, 106 Dante 11, 28, 66, 117, 126, 178 Dante, works Inferno 117 Paradiso 11, 28, 66 Darwin, Charles 49 Day of Judgment 89, 104 de-Christianization of history 220–4 de-Divinization of the world 51–85, 207–30 decentering of the earth 3, 99, 109, 129 decline of the world 107–24 decline of theology as “Queen of Sciences” 51–85 deification of nature 216–20, 271–3 deification of the world 11–50, 218–20, 243–73 Deism 33, 43, 145–54, 173, 186, 201, 207–16, 227, 229, 239, 270 authority of the Bible 208, 211

clock 42, 192–3, 254 clockwork universe 42, 254–9 Collins, Anthony 212–13 A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion 212–13 Columbus, Christopher 88–9, 103, 106–7, 112–13, 119, 198 and Bacon 88–9, 106–7, 119 discoveries 88–9, 106–7, 119 and Galileo 103 Common Sense theory 224–6 see also Sensus communis Confession Belgica 265 Contemptus mundi 89, 122 contingency 227, 267, 273 conversion 127–8, 243–5 Descartes 127–8 Edwards 243–5 Pascal 127–8, 145 Copernican Revolution 59–63, 59–85, 108, 240 Copernicus, Nicolaus 1, 5, 7, 22, 53–63, 69–71, 77–8, 85, 94–5, 99, 103, 107–9, 111–23, 126–9, 132, 164, 198 astronomy and Scripture 5, 59–63 “Astronomy is Written for Astronomers” 59–63, 69 and Brahe 60 and Calvin 60 heliocentric revolution 53, 59–63 Janus face of science 59–63 and Kepler 60 and Lactantius 62 and Luther 60–1 and Melanchthon 60 revolution 59–63 Scholasticism 59–63 Scripture 59–63 theology 5, 59–63 theology not queen of sciences 5, 59, 63 Copernicus, Nicolaus, works On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres 59 corporealism 68–9 cosmos 51–95, 120–1, 126–33, 163–93 classical 51–85, 126–33

Index
Christian revelation 208, 211 crisis of Christian culture 211 Enlightenment philosophy of religion 211 general providence 211–12 God 145–54, 211–16 goodness and justice of God 207–16 light of reason 148, 211–12 moral life 201, 214–15, 227 natural light 211–16 natural religion 211–16 prophecies 211–16 rational religion 211–16 reason 145–54, 201 reason and God 145–54, 211–16 religion is not mystery 211–16 revealed religion 211–16 religion of nature 211–16 religion of reason 211–16 revelation 208–6 scandal of particularity 213, 216 Deists 212–13, 270 Collins 212–13 Herbert 213 Tindal 211–12 Toland 211–12 Woolston 212–13 demonstrable knowledge 96 demystifying of nature 3, 6, 17–27, 90–102, 125–62, 164–93, 203–6, 234–40, 242 Derham, William 37, 41, 47, 196 Derham, William, works Astro-Theology 37, 41 Physico-Theology, or A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God from His Works of Creation 37, 41 desacralisation of the world 51–85, 87–107, 133–45, 163–81, 208–10, 245–8 Descartes, René 1, 6–7, 16, 18–20, 24–25, 31–3, 50, 54, 65, 81, 91, 93, 95, 97, 101, 125–62, 164–5, 189, 196, 198, 205, 234–40, 255, 264, 268, 270 absolute certainty 141–1 and Aristotle 136

309
and Bacon 91, 136–7, 236–7 book of nature 18, 20, 81, 91, 93, 95, 133–62, 234–40 bookish culture 93–5 cogito 145–6 conversion experience 127–8 de reductione scientia ad mathematicam 128, 154–62, 238–9 disenchantment of the world 31–3, 101, 138–62 divorce between physics and philosophy 133–45, 153–62 dualism 143, 268 and Edwards 20, 255 epiphany 127–8 father of modern mathematics 127 final causes 20, 127–33, 156–62, 235, 255 first principles 141–2 and Galileo 238 God 19–20, 31–3, 101, 128, 134, 141, 145–62, 235, 237–8 God’s end in creation 20, 137, 156–62, 235 innovation and discovery 136–62 Janus face of science 31–3, 133–62 laws of nature 133–45, 153–62 logic of Schools 91, 95, 127, 135 mathematical cosmology 159 mathematics 19, 141, 149, 238 mathematicization of physics 127–62, 238 Mathesis universalis 127–62 mechanical causality 127–62 mechanical philosophy 1, 127–62 mechanist God 31, 33, 145–54 method 92–3 miracles 127, 151, 157 natura naturans 153–62 natura naturata 153–62 nature 18–20, 24, 101, 127–62, 234–40 New Philosophy 127–62, 234–40 and Newton 238–9 and Pascal 31, 33, 126–62 Pascal’s reaction to 31, 33, 127–62 Scholasticism 25, 91, 93, 95, 127–62 syllogism 91–2, 158–9

310
Descartes, René (Cont’d) teleological explanation 20, 24, 127–62, 154–62, 234–5 theater of nature 133–62 universe 154–62 void 198 vortex 198 Descartes, René, works Discourse on the Method 91–2, 136, 158 Le Monde 150 Meditations on First Philosophy 135 Principles of Philosophy 135, 141 The Search after Truth 135 design argument 36–50 Deus Absconditus 126–54, 262 Luther 262 Pascal 126–54, 262 Deus Revelatus 237–8, 262 Edwards 237–8, 262 see also created order Deus sive natura 55 Devil 106 see also Antichrist Dewey, John 231 dialectic of God’s transcendence and immanence 3, 9, 49, 218, 261 Diderot, Denis 29 discovery 53–85, 88–9, 102–7 astronomy 53–85 Columbus 88–9, 102–7 geography 102–7 discovery of America 106 disenchantment of the world 3, 6, 9–10, 51–85, 90–107, 125–62, 178–89, 125–62, 202–3, 208–10, 231–73 Bacon 90–107 Copernicus 59–63 Descartes 125–62 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 New Philosophy 59–85, 90–107, 133–62, 165–80, 231–73 Newton 163–80, 202–3 disinterested benevolence 225–7 dispensations of providence 224 divine activity 35, 46, 157, 248–50, 256, 258–9, 261–2

Index
divine agency 147–8, 222–4, 230, 271 divine causality 110, 189–94, 266–73 Berkeley 266–71 Edwards 266–73 Leibniz 189–94 Pascal 133–62 divine immanence 3, 9, 20, 46, 49, 188, 217–19, 241, 251, 254–7, 261 divorce between natural philosophy and theology 3, 7, 10, 27, 72–3, 167, 176–77, 242, 247, 262–3 divorce between physics and philosophy 3, 7, 10, 27, 72–3, 133–45, 153–62, 165–81, 216–20, 242, 247, 262–3 Don Quixote 159 Donne, John 1–2, 4, 6, 10, 50, 67, 86–94, 136, 159, 161, 180, 189, 198, 210, 238 apocalypse 89 and Bacon 1, 86–7, 114 and Brahe 107–8, 115 Catholicism 111 and Columbus 112–13, 198 contemptus mundi 89 and Copernicus 1, 87–8, 105–6, 107–9, 112–13, 115–16 “doubts and anxieties” 6, 67, 86–124 decay of the world 109–24 decentering the earth 3, 67, 109 decline of the world 107–24 dissolution of the world 67, 107–24 and Edwards 238–9 and Elizabeth Drury 119, 122–3 and Robert Drury 119 English Elijah 89, 119 eternity 109–10 fear and anxiety 3, 6, 67, 86–124 fear of New Philosophy 3, 6, 67, 86–124, 238–9 and Galileo 1, 6, 107–8, 111–15 and Gilbert 108 geography of Hell 107–18 heliocentric revolution 6, 86–110 herald of the world’s decay and ruin 89, 109–24 innovation and discovery 107–24 Janus face of science 6, 86–24 and Kepler 1, 6, 67, 107–8, 115

Index
and Loyola 110–18 and Machiavelli 106, 112–13 as Moses 119 new astronomy 1, 6, 67, 86–124 New Philosophy 1, 6, 67, 86–124 and Paracelsus 112–19 Physica Coelestis 67, 107–24 prophecy 89, 109–24 prophet 89, 109–24 syllogism 91–2, 159 Tower of Babel 116–17 as trumpet 89, 109–24 Donne, John, works Devotions 110 Elegie on Prince Henry 124 Epithalamions, or Marriage Songs 124 Feats and Revells 124 First Anniversary: Anatomie of the World 67, 86, 88, 104, 118–24 Ignatius His Conclave 86, 88, 106, 110–20 Pseudo-Martyr 111 Second Anniversary: Of the Progress of the Soule 118–24 A Valediction: Forbidding mourning 108 Dragon 205 Drury, Elizabeth 119, 122–3 Drury, Robert 119 Dryden, John 166, 213 New Philosophy 166 scandal of particularity 213 Religio Laici 213 dualism 143, 268 eclipse of Biblical narrative 220–4 economy 204, 209 Edwards, John 1, 8, 30, 42, 87, 163, 174, 181–5, 213, 239, 246 Arianism 181–5 Arminianism 181–5 and Clarke 182 God of Dominion 181–5 heresy of New Philosophy 181–5, 246 Janus face of science 181–5 and New Philosophy 181–5, 239, 246 and Newton 8, 30, 174, 181–5 Newtonians 1, 181–5 and Socinianism 181–5

311

Edwards, John, works The Socinian Creed 181 Socinianism Unmasked 181 Some Brief Critical Remarks on Dr. Clarke’s Last Papers 183 Some New Discoveries of the Uncertainty . . . of Human Knowledge and Learning 181 Edwards, Jonathan 1–10, 11–50, 207–73 advancement of learning 14–17 and Age of Enlightenment 8, 207–30 and American culture 229 and American philosophy 8, 207–8, 231–2 and American Protestant tradition 229 apocalypse 15 Arminians 227 arts and sciences 14–15, 48, 222, 267 astronomy 255 atomic doctrine 9, 46–7, 219, 244, 248–54, 260 and Augustine 16 awakenings 223–4 and Bacon 255, 264 being and knowing 45, 266–73 Being in General (God) 215, 219, 226–30, 272, 215, 272 and Bellarmine 22 Benevolence to Being in general 215, 226, 228–9 and Berkeley 45, 232, 240, 243, 266–71 Book of Nature 16, 255, 262 Book of Scripture 16, 255, 262 and Boyle 216 and British School of Moral Sense 8, 210, 233–4 and Bruno 232, 251–2 and Calvin 13, 17, 237, 263–6 Christian revelation 214–16 Christianization of atomic doctrine 248–54 Christocentric view 260 classical learning and philosophy 14, 48, 257, 263, 273 classical and medieval thought 12–50, 257, 263, 273

312

Index
God’s end in creation 20, 234, 248–73 God’s glory and sovereignty 219, 248–73 God’s redemptive activity 248–73 God’s self-glorification 224, 248–73 God’s two books 27, 263 God and the World 219, 220–4, 248–73 gravity 16, 47, 255, 267 great chain of being (scala naturae) 4, 13, 27–30, 263–6, 270–3 and Greene 239 history 220–4 history of the work of redemption 220–4 historical thought 220–4 and Hobbes 45, 250 and Hume 229 and Hutcheson 229 and Hutchinson 243 idealism 9–10, 29, 45, 238, 240, 245, 266–73 idealistic phenomenalism 219, 245 immaterialism 266–73 increase of learning 14–17 infinite universe 267 Janus face of science 1–50, 216–20, 231–73 language of God 11–50 language of nature 35, 46 laws of nature 219, 254–9 and Leibniz 35, 232, 234–5, 238, 255, 273 “‘little revival” 15 and Locke 4, 12, 229, 239, 270 and Luther 17 and Malebranche 30, 219 materialist thought 11–50, 244–5, 262 mechanical natural philosophy 1, 9–10, 216–20 mechanical philosophy 1, 12–50, 218–20, 231–73 mens Dei 30, 233 millennium 15 miracles 36, 257 modern scientific thought 4, 12–50 moral beauty 214–15, 229

Edwards, Jonathan (Cont’d) conversion 243–5 conversion and development of thought 240–4 Copernican Revolution 267 cosmological vision 22 and Dante 28 deification of nature 12–50, 231–73 Deism 8, 49, 208, 211–16, 227, 229, 239 demystifying nature 17–50, 216–20, 231–73 and Descartes 20, 255 Deus Revelatus 237–38, 262 disenchantment of the world 1–50, 203–30, 241–5, 266–73 dispensations of providence 223–4 divine causality 214–16, 238 and Donne 232, 238–9 as early modern philosopher 1, 10, 231–4, 248–73 emblematic view 4, 17–27, 231–73 and Enlightened Age 8, 207–30, 232–73 Enlightenment debate on moral philosophy 8, 224–30, 233–4 Enlightenment narratives of history 8, 220–4 errors of his time 4, 48, 207–30 eschatology 15 esse est percipi 240, 266–73 ethical writings 224–30 ethics 224–30 evangelical historiography 223–4, 230 Excellency 21, 29, 219–20, 243, 270–73 experience of conversion 240–5 experimental philosophy 1, 231–73 final causes 20, 255 freedom of the will 227–8 and Gassendi 232, 252–3 genesis of philosophy of nature 240–5 God’s absolute sovereignty 35, 243, 248–73 God’s design in history 220–4

Index
moral perfections 214–15 moral sense theory 224–30 moral thought 224–30 morals 224–30 natural philosophy 1, 216–20 nature 11–50, 218–20, 243–5 nature as shadow of spiritual things 17–50, 216–20, 231–73 nature of created order 10–50, 218–20, 231–73 nature of true virtue 224–30 New Divinity School 229 New Philosophy 11–50, 207–73 and Newton 12, 46, 216, 229, 232–3, 250–1, 261–2 omnia videmus in deo 4, 8, 30, 189, 208, 210, 226, 233–4, 238 order of beings 219 order of creation 27–30, 219, 263 order of grace 219–20, 233, 242, 257, 270–3 order of nature 16, 220, 233, 242, 257, 270–3 order of time 220, 242 order of the world 16 original sin 227–8 and Paracelsus 23 and Pascal 16–17, 31, 35, 232, 234–5, 239, 260–1 Philosophia ancilla theologiae 11–27 philosophy of nature 1, 11–50, 218–20, 231–73 philosophy of salvation history 220–4 Physico-theologians 36–43 Physico-theology 4, 36–50 pouring of the Spirit 223–4 poverty of mechanical philosophy 9–10, 218–20 Prisca theologia 216 ranks of creatures 28 re-enchantment of the world 11–50, 216–20, 231–73 revelation and morality 207–16 revivals 223–4 scale of existence 28 and Scholastic, and Renaissance thought 4, 12–50

313

School of Physico-Theology 4, 36–43 scientific thought 231–73 scientific writings 231–73 self-determining will 227–30 superiority of religion over science 16, 22, 48 symbolic and allegorical reading of nature 17–27, 231–73 and Taylor 228 telescope 15 theatre of nature 263–6 Theatrum Dei Gloria 4, 13, 18, 216, 233 Theatrum Mundi 4, 13, 18, 216, 233, 238 Theatrum Mundi as mirror of divinity 4, 17–27, 216, 231–73 theological origins of philosophy of nature 11–50, 216–20 theology and science 11–50, 231–73 theology of nature 11–50, 218–20 theology queen of sciences 11–50 and Tindal 214 true system of morality 214 true virtue 215, 226–30 typological order 17–27 typology 9–10, 17–50, 218–20, 231–73 universe 210, 226 wisdom of God in creation 14, 36–50 work of redemption 223–34, 260 world as mirror of divinity 231–73 Edwards, Jonathan, works Of Atoms 12, 46, 216, 231 Of Being 12, 45, 216 Beauty of the World 47 Charity and Its Fruits; Or, Christian Love as Manifested in Heart and Life 224, 226 Concerning the End for Which God Created the World 20, 30, 224, 231, 234 Diary 245 Freedom of the Will 227 A History of the Work of Redemption 223–30

314

Index
debate on moral philosophy 207, 224–30 Deism 211–16 desacralisation 207–30, 248 disenchantment of the world 207–30, 248 ethics and moral 224–30 Historia Humana 220–4 historical view 220–4 human autonomy 209–10, 220–4, 248 human goodness 220–30, 248 human power and ability 209–10, 220–30, 248 Kant’s interpretation 209 miracles 208–10 moral sense theory 224–30 moral theories 224–30 narratives of history 220–4 natural religion 211–16 new modes of historical thought 220–4 new science of morals 224–30 progress 210, 220–4 project 22–30 and prophecy 208–10 reasonable approach to Scripture 210 role of reason 208–10 and revelation 208–10, 248 Scriptures 208–10, 248 secular, historical time 220–4 sensus communis 224–6 Enlightenment debate on moral philosophy 224–30 Enlightenment narratives of history 208 Enoch (Enos) 115 Ensemble de phénomènes 154–62 Enthusiasm 196 Epicurus (Epicureans) 20, 32, 117, 149, 198, 205, 252, 268–9 epistemological revolution 11–50, 52–85, 90–102 Erasmus, Desiderius 51–2 eschatological cosmology 115 eternity 47, 109–10, 143, 172, 204, 216, 224, 250–1, 264–5 see also Time

Edwards, Jonathan, works (Cont’d) Images of Divine Things 231 Of Insects 44 Letter to the Trustees of the College of New Jersey 207 The Mind 11, 45, 48, 216, 219 Miscellanies 44 Nature of True Virtue 228–9 Original Sin 227–8, 250 Outline of ‘A rational Account’ 48 Scientific and Philosophical Writings 11–50 Spider Letter 44 Things to be Considered an[d] Written fully about 47 Wisdom in the Contrivance of the World 44, 48 Edwards, Thomas 181 effusion of the Spirit 224 Egypt 119 Elijah 89, 115 Eliot, T. S. 162 emblematic understanding of the world 17–27, 216–20, 231–73 emblematic worldview 17–27, 216–20, 231–73 emptying the world of theological considerations 3, 7, 136, 162, 242 end of the world 89, 105 end of time 89 engine 3, 21, 43, 179, 217, 242 England 8–9, 30, 34, 39, 42, 102–3, 111, 120, 164, 168–9, 174, 181, 183, 185, 189, 191, 194–6, 203, 205, 208, 210–11, 213, 223, 232, 239, 248 apostasy 8–9, 208 Arianism 8–9, 208 Arminianism 8–9 Church of 8, 181, 185, 196 heresies 8–9, 208, 239 principal kingdom of the Reformation 8, 208 Socinianism 8–9, 208 Enlightened Age 207–10 Enlightenment 200–1, 207–30, 234, 245, 248 authority of Bible 207 Christian interpretation of history 220–4

Index
ethics 156, 201, 224–30 divine and religious foundations 226–30 and freedom of will 226–30 and religion 201, 226–30 secular and naturalistic 201, 224–6 Euclid 83 Evangelical historiography 230 Evangelicalism 145, 230 Excellency 21, 29, 219–20, 244, 272–3 exile 125–6, 129, 132 experimental philosophy 1, 11–50, 57, 86–107, 163–81 experimental science 11–50, 73–85, 87–107, 163–81 Galileo 86–107 Newton 163–81 fatalism 252, 268–9 fatalists 269 fate 34, 252, 268–9 Ficino, Marsillo 54 final cause 20, 33, 40, 46, 92–4, 101, 125, 127, 137, 141, 156–7, 177, 189–90, 195, 235–6, 251–2, 254–5, 257–8, 272–3 efficient 93, 190 first 141, 177, 272 mechanistic 251–2 occult 195 secondary 46, 254, 257–8 final cause 33, 92–4, 125, 127, 137, 141, 156–7, 189–90, 235, 255, 273 Aristotle 94, 235 Bacon 92–4, 255 Descartes 125, 127, 137, 141, 156–7, 235, 255 Edwards 255, 273 Leibniz 189–90, 255, 273 Newton 33 finalism 101, 235 first principles 135–45 Foucault, Michel 23 Franklin, Benjamin 45, 233, 258 freedom of the will 227 Galen (Aelius Galenus) 56, 109, 113 Galilei, Galileo 1, 5–7, 15–16, 18–19, 24, 51, 53–6, 65, 73–85, 87, 94–5,

315

99–101, 103, 107–8, 111–13, 115, 126–7, 129, 164–5, 176, 178, 205, 235, 238, 270 and Aristotle 73–85 astronomy and Scripture 5, 73–85 and Bacon 81 book of nature 19, 73–85 and Columbus 103 Copernican Revolution 73–85 and Copernicus 73, 75, 78 and Descartes 81, 238 experimental science 73–85 Holy Ghost 79–80 Janus face of science 77–85 and Kepler 73–5, 77–8 knowledge of nature 73–85 mathematicization of physics 73–85, 238, 270 mechanical explanation 73–85 mens Dei 73, 78, 80 modern science 5, 73–85 nature 24, 73–85 nature “is Written in the language of mathematics” 83–4, 238 and New Philosophy 73–85 and Newton 238 and Scholasticism 73–85 science and religion 77–85 Scripture 5, 73–85 separation of science from theology 73–87 sunspots 75–6 telescope (spyglass) 15, 74–5 theology 5, 73–85 theology not queen of sciences 5, 73–85 universe 19, 73–85 world as mathematical machine 83–4 Galilei, Galileo, works Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems 80, 99–100 History and Demonstration Concerning Sunspots 76 Letter to the Grand Duchess 51, 70, 77–85 Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger) 74, 111

316

Index
dominus deus pantokrato ˉ r (Lord God) 173 end in creation 20, 229, 234 Excellency 21, 29, 248–73 finger 19, 33 foreknowledge 227–8 general providence 30, 151, 211–12 guarantor of knowledge 128, 149 head of the universe 219, 256 history 220–4 immanence 3, 9, 20, 46, 49, 188, 217–19, 241, 251, 254–7, 261 immutability and uniformity 157 impersonal 30 inferior mechanic 193, 256 of Israel 173 Kingdom 117 Kosmokrator 163–93, 218, 259 language of 262 laws of nature 35, 46, 254–9 light of reason 145–54 lord of history 220–4 mathematical certainty 133–54, 237–8 mathematical truths, author of 20, 31, 149, 237–8 as matter 203 mechanic 128, 145–54, 211, 254–9, 261 of mechanical philosophers 30–6, 145–54, 217–18, 237–8 mechanization of 30–6, 217–18, 255–6 mechanization of providence 30–6 mind (mens Dei) 4, 52, 73, 78, 80, 90, 156, 186, 233 miracle(s) 127, 151, 157 mirrored by created order 17–27, 216–20, 248–73 moral beauty 214, 229 moral government 35, 227 moral kingdom 214–15, 227, 229 monster 228 moral perfections 214–15 and nature 3, 17–27, 51–85, 231–73 of nature 4, 39 and New Philosophy 30–6, 79–85, 125–62, 231–73 omniactivity 193, 219

Gassendi, Pierre 232, 252–3 atomic doctrine 252–3 and Edwards 232, 252–3 God 252–3 matter 252–3 Gauss, Carl Friedrich 85 Gay, Peter 180 Gibbon, Edward 221 Gilbert, William 108 Glasgow 225 God 1, 9, 14–15, 17–27, 30–6, 125, 128, 145–54, 163–93, 217–18, 231–73 of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob 32, 125, 128, 145–54 absolute sovereignty 1, 9, 35, 55, 243, 248–54 absolute and universal dominion 35, 226, 248–54, 266–73 advancement of learning 14–15 anti-Trinitarian conception of 163–72 atoms 46, 219, 248–54 Being in General 215, 219, 226–30, 272 body 174 body of universe 174, 184 clockmaker 34, 43, 259 corporeal being 184, 191 cosmic lawgiver 30, 217–18, 256, 261, 263 cosmic legislator 217–18, 256, 258, 261, 263 creator-mechanic 163–93, 258 Deist concept 145–54 Deitas est Dominatio Dei 130 design in history 220–4 detachment from nature 11–50, 163–93, 259 dethroning of 30–6, 117, 180 Deus Absconditus 79, 129–54, 237–8, 262 Deus est vox Relativa 183–4 Deus Revelatus 79, 237–8, 262 Deus sive natura 55 Dialectic of divine transcendence and immanence 3, 9, 49, 218, 261 Dominus Deus 7, 30–1, 173, 183–5, 206, 218

Index
omnipotence 193, 219 omnipresence 193, 219 omniscient 193, 219 of order 4, 258 Pantokrator 185, 206, 218, 259 of philosophers 30–6, 145–54, 163–93, 237–8, 254–9 physical 174, 184 prescience, unlimited 227 proof from nature 33, 148–9, 152 radical sovereignty 55 rational 145–54 repairman of universe 256 revelation 207–16 self-glorification 224 signature 17–27, 259 “Skilled in Mechanics and Geometry” 172–7 skillful craftsman 193 special providence 211–12, 215 subjection to laws of nature 254–9 Summus Deus 30, 163–93, 259 symbolic presence 17–27, 248–73 transcendence and immanence 248–73 Two Books 19, 27, 52, 72, 263 universal ruler 173, 206, 217, 261, 263 universorum dominus (Lord over all) 173, 218, 259 unmirrored by created order 3, 18, 101, 156, 236–7 unskilled workman 192–3 voice of 52, 262 voluntarist 173 watchmaker 250, 258 wisdom in creation 36–50 wisdom in work of redemption 36–50 and the world 9, 259–63 wrathful 131 gravitational attraction 177, 195 gravity 16, 47, 175, 177, 190, 255, 267 Great Chain of Being (scala naturae) 4, 27–30, 270–3 Greene, Robert 8, 163, 185–8, 213 atomism 187 and Edwards 239 Epicureanism 188 and Galileo 188

317

and Halley 187 and Hobbes 187 homogeneous matter 186–8 and Locke 187 materialism 187–8 mathematization of nature 185–8 mechanical philosophy 187–8, 239 fear of New Philosophy 185–8, 239 and Newton 8, 187–8, 239 Newtonian science 8, 185–8 and Spinoza 187 Greene, Robert, works The Principles of Natural Philosophy 186–8 The Principles of the Philosophy of the Expansive and Contractive Forces 187 Gregory of Nyssa 22 Halley, Edmund 57, 187 Ode Dedicated to Isaac Newton 57 Harvard 240 heavenly machine 56, 63, 66–8 Kepler 56, 63, 66–8 as clockwork 56 heavens 51–85, 87, 100, 107–24, 125–33 Aristotle 54–5, 58, 61, 66–8, 74–6 Copernicus 59–63 de-divination 59–85, 87–124 Galileo 73–85, 100 Kepler 63–73 New Philosophy 59–84, 86–124 Heidegger, Martin 68 heliocentric revolution 6, 53, 59–85, 106 Bellarmine 61 Calvin 60 Copernicus 59–63 Donne 6, 86–110 Edwards 267 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 Luther 60 Melanchthon 60 heliocentric system 59–83 Hell 87–124, 198 Columbus 88, 106–7, 107–8, 198 Copernicus 88, 106–7, 107–8, 198

318

Index
salvation and redemption beyond 222 salvation and redemption in 220–4 secular 104–7, 220–4 space of experience 104–7 teleological considerations 222–4 temporalization 104–7 theistic considerations 222–4 theological considerations 222–4 Hobbes, Thomas 45, 201, 244–5, 250, 268–9 atomic doctrine 250 and Berkeley 268–9 and Edwards 45, 244–5, 250 materialism 45, 244–5, 250, 268–9 Hooke, Robert 25 horizon of expectations 105–7 Hugh of St. Victor 19 human beings 97, 125–45, 224–30 existential condition 97, 125–45, 228 sovereignty 97, 224–30 human condition 97, 125–45, 228 Pascal 125–45 Swift 194–202 human depravity 125–45 human dualism 143 human reason 14, 125–45 Humanism 52 Hume, David 201, 207, 221–6, 229 sensus communis 225–6 separation of morals and religion 225–6 virtue 225–6 Hume, David, works An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 226 Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals 226 Essays Moral, Political and Literary 223 Of Parties in General 207 A Treatise on Human Nature 226 Hutcheson, Francis 201, 220, 225–6, 233–4 benevolence 220, 225–6 disinterested motives 225–6

Hell (Cont’d) Dante 117 Donne 88, 107–8 Galileo 107–8 geography 107–8 Kepler 107–8 Lucifer 107–8 Machiavelli 107–8 Muhammad 107–8 New Philosophy 88, 107–8 Paracelsus 107–8 Henry IV (king of France) 111 Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke 22, 221 Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke, works Letters on the Study and Use of History 223 Remarks on the History of England 223 Herbert, Edward 213 scandal of particularity 213 Hicks, John 169–70, 246 Historia Humana 104–7, 220–4 historical thought 104–7, 220–4 redemptive 104–7, 220–4 sacred 104–7, 220–4 secular 104–7, 220–4 historical time 104–7, 220–4 disenchantment 104–7, 220–4 legitimacy and validity 104–7, 220–4 history 104–7, 153–4 civil 220–4 Christian interpretation 104–7, 220–4 de-Christianization 104–7, 220–4 de-divination 104–7, 220–4 enlightened age 220–4 end 105, 224 Enlightenment interpretation 220–4 of expectations 104–7 as God’s own self-glorification 222–4 Historia Humana 104–7, 220–4 horizon of expectations 104–7 progress 104–7, 220–4 redemption 104–7, 220–4 sacred 220–4 sacred, redemptive time 220–4

Index
sensus communis 225–6 separation of morals and religion 225–6 virtue 225–6 Hutcheson, Francis, works An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections 226 An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue 225–6 Hutchinson, John 203, 220, 243 and Edwards 243 and Newton 203, 220 and Newtonians 203, 220 Hutchinsonians 203 idealism 9–10, 29, 219, 245, 266–73 Berkeley 266–71 Edwards 9–10, 29, 219, 245, 266–73 Imago Dei 6, 87, 94–5, 102, 126, 236, 238, 266–73 Imago mundi 6, 87, 94–5, 102, 126 immaterialism 267–71 induction 92, 176 inertia 74 Inferno 117 innovation 107–24, 136–62 progress of knowledge 114 as sin 107–24 Inquisition 72 Instauratio Magna (The Great Instauration) 103 integrity 6, 8, 21, 55, 72, 87, 90, 106, 120, 179, 208, 211, 269 irreligion 186, 239–40, 268 Jack of Leyden 196 James, William 38, 43, 49, 231 Jansenists 136 Janus face of New Philosophy 2, 51–83, 85–124, 238 Bacon 86–107 Blake 202–6 Copernicus 59–63 Descartes 31–3, 133–62 Donne 86–124 Edwards 231–73 Galileo 73–85 Greene 185–9 Kepler 63–73 Leibniz 189–94 Newton 163–206 Pascal 7, 31–3, 125–62 Swift 194–202 Jesuits 110–18 Jews 149 John of Patmos 114, 166 Johnson, Samuel 142, 145, 202 New Philosophy 142 Joshua 36, 256

319

Kant, Immanuel 29, 38, 52, 93, 155, 207–8 age of criticism 207–8 and Bacon 93 definition of Enlightenment 52 Kant, Immanuel, works Critique of Pure Reason 38, 93, 207–8 What is Enlightenment? 52 Keats, John 163, 202–3 and Newton 202–3 Kepler, Johannes 1, 5–7, 51, 53–6, 60, 63–75, 77–8, 85, 87, 94–5, 99, 103, 107–8, 111, 115, 126–7, 129, 132, 164, 176, 178, 240 and Aristotle 66–8 astronomers as priests of God 65, 72 astronomy and Scripture 63–73 and Augustine 72 biblical interpretations 70–2 causality 63–73 and Copernicus 63, 69, 71–2 and Dante 66 and Galileo 65, 68, 74–5, 77–8 clockwork universe 67–8 and God 63–73 heaven and laws of physics 63–73 Janus face of science 63–73 and Lactantius 72 and New Philosophy 63–73 new physics of heaven 63–73 and Newton 176, 178 Physica Coelestis 63–73 and Ptolemy 69 reform of astronomy 63–73

320

Index
and God 35, 46, 254–9 Kepler 63–73 Leibniz 190 Newton 163–93, 217 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 1–2, 8, 10, 34, 50, 57, 87, 97, 174, 176, 184, 189–94, 220, 232, 235, 238, 255–6, 273 and Bacon 189 and Caroline, Princess of Wales 191–3 and Clarke 191–3 and Donne 189 and Descartes 189 divine causality 189 and Edwards 232, 255 final causes 189–90, 273 God 192–3 Janus face of science 189–94 and Locke 34 and Malebranche 189 materialism 193 mechanical philosophy 34, 189–94 fear of New Philosophy 34, 189–94 Newton 8, 34, 174, 176, 189–94 Newtonian science 1, 34, 189–94, 256 Newtonians 8, 34, 189–94, 256 and Pascal 189 rationalism 190–1 renewal of sciences 97 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, works The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence 191 Leibnitzes 49 Leland, John 213 View of the Principle Deistical Writers 213 Leviathan 112 Libri Naturales 38, 90–102, 136–62 Liber creaturarum 18, 52, 90–102 Locke, John 4, 12, 169, 171, 174, 187, 200–1, 203–6, 210, 229, 233, 240 dualism 268 logic of Schools 91, 95, 127, 135 Los 206 Loyola, Ignatius 110–18 Lucifer 106 Lucretius 112–18, 132, 252–3

Kepler, Johannes (Cont’d) revolution 63–73 Scholasticism 63–73 Scripture 63–73 separation of science from theology 72–3 and theology 5, 63–73 theology not queen of sciences 5, 63–73 three laws of planetary motion 67 universe as temple of God 65, 72 Kepler, Johannes, works Astronomia Nova 51, 63, 66, 70, 74 De Stella in Cygno 111 knowledge 25, 73–84, 90–107, 125–62 codification 96 demonstrable 73–85, 95–6 disenchantment of the world 51–75, 86–106, 98, 125–62 divine 73–84, 90–102 and existence 134 experimental 73–84, 90–107 and first principles 144–5 mechanic 25 print-bound 90–102 and sovereignty 98 text-bound 90–102 Kosmokrator 163–93, 218 Lactantius 62, 72 ladder of being 272 see also Great Chain of Being language of God 262 law-based conception of science 74, 19, 238 see also cause-based conception of science law(s) 21, 255, 258 abstract 21 of gravity 255 mechanical 217, 258 of motion 255, 258 of nature 151, 163–93, 254–9 laws of nature 3–4, 9, 35, 46, 63–73, 84, 151–62, 163–93, 195, 209, 211, 217–20, 242, 254–9 Boyle 216–17, 254–9 Edwards 35, 46, 254–9

Index
Luther, Martin 17, 58–61, 217, 262 astronomy 58, 60–1 and Aristotle 58 and Copernicus 60–1 Deus Absconditus 262 science 60 Machiavelli, Niccolò 106, 112–13 machine 4, 21, 34, 43, 56, 61, 63, 66–8, 74, 84, 150–1, 159–60, 171, 176, 179, 192, 216–18, 242, 250, 254–5, 270 celestial 59–85 world 59–85 Malebranche, Nicolas 30, 189, 210 omnia videmus in deo (we see all things in God) 30, 189 Marlborough, Duke of 221 materialism 9, 34, 38, 43–5, 49, 68, 186, 193, 244–5, 262, 266–71 and atheism 268 and irreligion 268 poverty of 266–71 and skepticism 268 mathematical cosmology 159, 125–60, 163–93 mathematical demonstrations 57–8, 125–60, 163–93 mathematical materialism 68–9, 125–60, 163–93 mathematical physics 18, 51–85, 125–60, 163–93, 270 mathematical project 83, 85 mathematical sciences 18, 51–85, 125–60, 163–93 mathematics 18–19, 51–85, 197, 270 language of 63–85 language of nature 18–19, 66–8 “queen of sciences” (Königin der Wissenschaften) 85 mathematicization of nature 3, 18, 51–85, 125–60, 163–93, 270 Copernicus 59–63 Descartes 125–62 disenchantment of the world 18, 59–85, 125–62 Galileo 73–85, 270 Kepler 63–73

321

Newton 163–93, 270 mathematicization of physics 51–85, 125–62, 270 Mather, Cotton 37, 41–2 Christian Philosopher 37, 41–2 matter 1, 9, 17–27, 244–5, 251–4 co-eternality with God 252 homogenous 18–19 inanimate and brute 165 and motion 9, 248–54 nonhierarchical 18–19 one-dimensional 18 passive 186–88 uniform 18–19, 168–88 universal 21 matter 249–54 Bruno 251–2 Edwards 248–54 Hobbes 250 mechanical causation 93–4, 101, 127–62, 164–93, 217, 245, 254–9 mechanical laws 84, 217, 249, 254, 256, 259, 269 mechanical Philosophy 1, 3, 6–7, 9–10, 12–50, 125–62, 164–93, 216–20, 231–73, 245–63 desacralization of nature 18, 63–85, 90–107, 125–62, 164–93, 245–63 disenchantment of the world 3, 18, 125–60, 164–93, 216–20, 231–73 God 3, 30–36, 125–62, 216–20, 231–73 impersonal God 248–63 mathematization of the world 3, 18, 164–93, 216–20, 245–63 matter and motion 13, 154–62, 164–93, 245–63 mechanization of the world 3, 17–27, 154–62, 164–93, 216–20 natural laws 3, 21, 125–60, 164–93, 245–63 nature 18, 125–62, 164–93, 216–20, 263–66 poverty of 125–62, 231–73 reaction to 11–50, 125–62, 231–73 Mechanick Theists 150

322

Index
moral philosophy 224–30 religion 224–30 theological considerations 224–30 Moral Sense (sensus communis) 201, 214, 224–6 Moral Sense theory, British School of 201, 224–6, 233–4 Hume 224–6 Hutcheson 224–6 Shaftesbury 224–6 moral theory 224–30 moral virtue 224–30 faith 226–30 religion 226–30 More, Henry 28, 264 Moses 119, 166, 216 Muhammad 113, 115 Münster 196 Natura Naturans 153–5 Natura Naturata 153–5 natural laws see Laws of nature natural religion 34 natural theology 36–7, 39, 46, 173 nature 3, 17–49, 51–85, 87–107, 125–62, 163–206, 216–20, 231–73 active and developing 153–62 authority to explain 59–85, 87–102, 269 book of God 17–50 Classical and Medieval conception 17–50, 125–62, 188 clockwork 21, 179, 216–17, 242 compounded machine 21, 242 contingency 227, 267, 273 deification 11–50, 218–20, 243–73 demystified 3, 6, 17–27, 90–102, 125–62, 164–93, 203–6, 234–40, 242, 248–63 de-sacralization 17–27, 90–102, 125–62, 164–93, 216–18, 234–40, 242, 248–63 detachment from revelation 83, 125–62, 164–93, 216–18, 234–40, 242, 248–63 disenchantment 3, 6, 9–10, 51–85, 90–107, 125–62, 178–89, 125–62, 202–3, 234–40, 248–63

mechanistic interpretation of nature 125–62, 216–20, 231–73 mechanization 154–62, 216–20, 231–73 of divine providence 231–73 of nature 154–62, 216–20, 231–73 of universe 154–62, 216–20, 231–73 of the world 154–62, 216–20, 231–73 Medieval cosmos 90–102, 125–62, 237–38 destruction of 90–102, 125–62 Medieval world picture 90–102, 154–62, 237–38 Melanchthon, Philip 60 and Copernicus 60 Menippean satire 111 Mennippus of Gadara 111 Mens Dei (mind of God in creation) 4, 52, 73, 78, 80, 96, 156, 233 Messianism 152 metaphysical revolution 69 method 90–102 Bacon 90–102 Descartes 92–3 empirical 90–102 experimental 90–102 Methodism 228 methodological turn 93 Methodus 96 microscope 25 Milky Way 15 Miller, Perry 12, 25, 44 Milton, John 178 minimum physicum 178 see also atomic doctrine miracle(s) 127, 151–2, 157, 192, 205, 209, 211–13, 257, 261 Enlightenment attitude toward 211–16 modern age 23, 105–7 Montaigne, Michael de 120, 133 moon 15, 22, 75, 113 Galileo 15, 75 moral beauty 214, 229 moral government 35, 227 moral kingdom 214–15, 227, 229

Index
emblematic and typological understanding 11–50, 218–20, 243–5, 248–73 emptied of theological and teleological consideration 3, 7, 136, 162, 242 engine 3, 11, 179, 217, 248–63 ensemble de phénomènes 154–62 God 59–85, 231–73 gross and horrible 196 homogenous 3, 18–27, 154–62, 218, 237–8, 242 huge machine 21, 216–17, 248–63 images and shadows of divine things 17–50, 188, 204, 218–20, 255–9 imago Dei 6, 87, 94–5, 102, 126, 236, 238, 266–73 inferior mode of reality 11, 21–2, 35, 47, 255, 257, 266–73 inscrutable 129–33 integrity 6, 8, 21, 55, 72, 87, 90, 106, 120, 179, 208, 211, 269 intelligibility 130 laboratory 97, 130 labyrinth 83–4, 126–33, 194 laws 3–4, 9, 35, 46, 63–73, 84, 151–62, 163–93, 195, 209, 211, 217–20, 242, 254–9 legitimacy to explore 51–85, 90–102 machine 4, 145–54, 216–17, 242, 248–63 manifestation of God 11–50, 188, 218–20, 231–73 mathematical machine 83–4, 145–62, 216–17, 242 mathematics 11–50, 59–85, 145–62, 164–93, 242 mechanical philosophy 3, 145–62, 164–93, 216–17, 242 mirror of divinity 11–50, 216–20, 231–73 natura naturans 153–62 natura naturata 153–62 new Scientia Naturalis 51–85, 90–102 non-hierarchical 18–19, 17–27, 188, 218, 237–8, 242, 263

323

one-dimensional 3, 18–27, 188, 218, 237–8, 242 ontological status 22, 257, 266–73 order of 17–50 organic being 154–62, 255 organism of active bodies 154–62, 255 passive 154–62 as Revelation 187–8, 231–73 shadows of spiritual things 17–50, 231–73 special mode of reality 257, 266–73 stripped of theological significance 3, 17–50, 52–85, 90–102, 125–62, 188, 204, 234–40, 242, 248–63 symbolic and allegorical perception 20, 204, 231–73 symbolic divine text 17–50, 188, 204, 231–73 symmetrical 3, 17–27, 188, 218, 237–8, 242 taming of 55, 60, 90–102 teleological and theological considerations 17–50, 90–102, 231–73 testimony of God 17–50, 188, 231–73 typology 11–50, 231–73 uniform 18–19, 18–27, 154–62, 186–88, 218, 237–8, 242 unintelligibility 145–62 written in language of mathematics 83, 155, 159, 205 see also Typology nature 3, 17–49, 51–85, 87–107, 125–62, 216–20 Bacon 86–106 Calvin 13, 60, 237, 264–5 Copernicus 59–63 Descartes 125–62 Edwards 11–50, 216–20, 231–73 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 Newton 163–93 Pascal 126–32 nature of created order 263–6 nature’s God 212

324

Index
against typological, emblematic view of nature 18, 51–85, 90–102, 234–40 New Philosophy 59–84, 86–124, 126–60, 163–206 Bacon 86–107 Berkeley 266–71 Blake 200–6 Copernicus 59–63 Donne 86–120 John Edwards 181–5 Edwards 207–73 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 Leibniz 189–94 Newton 163–93 Pascal 125–62 Pope 117, 142, 144, 148, 179–80, 199, 211 Swift 194–202 new Physica Coelestis 63–73, 107–24 Newton, Sir Isaac 4, 7–8, 12, 16, 20, 24–6, 30–3, 35, 37, 40–2, 101, 117, 163–206, 210, 216–17, 229, 232–40, 242, 246–51, 256–61, 270 absolute space 199, 270 absolute time 199, 270 anti-Trinitarian 30, 164–93 Arianism 8, 30–31, 42, 164–93, 259 Arminianism 8, 164–93 Atheism 203–6 atomic doctrine 250–1 and Bentley 169, 172, 256 and Boyle 191–2, 247 and Clarke 163–80, 246, 260 demons 169 demystifying of nature 163–80, 203–6, 238–9, 245–8 and Descartes 165–6, 238–9 disenchantment of the world 7, 163–80, 203–6, 238–9, 245–8 divorce between physics and philosophy 7, 163–80, 239, 242, 245–8 and Edwards 250–1 and Epicureanism 180, 188, 205 experimental philosophy 7–8, 26, 163–80, 245–8 final cause 173, 234–5

new cosmology 53–85 Copernicus 53–63 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 New Divinity School 230 New England 240–5 New Philosophy 1, 10, 17–50, 52–85, 87–124, 126–62, 164–93, 207–30 decay of the world 107–24 demystifying of the world 3, 18–50, 52–84, 86–124, 163–93, 203–6, 216–20, 234–40 detachment of God from creation 11–50, 52–8, 86–124, 163–93, 216–20, 234–40 disenchantment of the world 3, 18–50, 52–84, 86–124, 163–93, 203–6, 216–20, 234–40 divorce of physics from philosophy 3, 52–84, 86–124, 163–93 epistemological revolution 11–50, 52–85, 90–102 fears, doubts and anxieties 59–84, 86–124, 125–62, 164–93, 216–20 God 3, 18, 30–36, 59–85, 145–54, 163–206, 216–20 God author of mathematical truths 145–54 Hell 88 as heresy 181–206 hubris 133–45, 179–80 innovation 107–24, 136–62 irreligion 186, 239–40, 268 Janus face 2, 17–50, 52–85, 87–124, 126–62, 164–06, 216–20 and Protestant Reformation 54–5 religion, undermining of 3, 18, 51–85, 90–102, 216–20, 234–40 religious response to 5, 51–85, 87–124, 181–93, 216–20 separation from order of grace 3, 51–85, 90–102, 163–93, 216–20, 234–40 teleological and theological considerations 18, 51–85, 90–102, 163–93, 234–40 theology queen of sciences 5–6, 51–85

Index
and Galileo 7, 238 God 30–33, 163–206, 217–18, 235–9, 256–61 God cosmic legislator 31–3, 163–93, 217–18, 256 God of Dominion (Dominus Deus) 7, 30–1, 35, 163–93, 257, 259–61 God kosmokrator 33, 163–93, 206, 218, 259 God Pantokrator 31–3, 163–93, 218, 259 God “Skilled in Mechanics and Geometry” 172–7, 261 God Universal Ruler 163–80, 256 heretical theology 163–206, 238–9 Janus face of science 163–206, 238–9 and Kepler 176, 178 and Leibniz 8, 34 materialist 34, 168 mathematical principles of natural philosophy 163–206, 234–40, 245–8, 270 mechanical God 31–3, 163–80, 217, 238 mechanical philosophy 7–8, 26, 31–3, 163–80, 217, 238–9, 245–8 mechanization of the world 31–3, 163–80, 238–9, 245–8 ocean of truth 190 Perpetual Dictator 37 rational mechanics 247 as Satan 8, 163, 204, 206 sect of (sectateurs) 193 Socinianism 8, 163–80 souls 169 and Spinoza 184 Trinity 163–80 unraveled the rainbow 202 and Voltaire 164, 166, 168, 171, 178 and Whiston 163–80, 260 Newton, Sir Isaac, works General Scholium 163–93, 206 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (Prinicipa) 7–8, 24, 163–80, 183, 185 197, 202–3, 206, 247 Optics 166, 175–6, 185, 202, 257, 261

325

Newtonians 1, 31, 117, 195, 203, 232, 242, 246 Clarke 165–93 Whiston 165–93 Nicholas of Cusa 54 Nieuwentijdt, Bernard 37 nihilism 131 North, Roger 170 and Clarke 170 and Newton 170 Nullius in Verba 96 Numenius of Apamea 216 Occult qualities 47, 165 Omnia videmus in deo (we see all things in God) 4, 8, 30, 189, 208, 210, 233–4, 238 Edwards 4, 8, 30, 208, 210, 233–4, 238 Leibniz 189 Malebranche 30, 189, 210 ontology 68, 136 Aristotelian 68, 136 Optical Glasses 25 order of being see Great Chain of Being order of creation 270–3 deification 270–3 Order of Grace 123, 219–20, 233, 241–2, 266, 269, 273 order of the heart 144–6 order of the mind 145–6 order of nature 16, 123, 145–54, 220, 233, 241–2, 266, 269, 273 and God 145–54, 231–73 order of salvation 144 order of time 242 see also time order of the world 16, 261 Ordo scientiarium 90 Original Sin 224–30 Edwards 224–30 Enlightenment view 224–30 Ovid 53 Metamorphoses 53 Pagan philosophy 57–8 Pagans 20, 31, 58 Paley, William 37, 196

326

Index
infinite universe 31, 125–53 Janus face of science 7, 31–3, 125–62 and Kepler 159 knowledge and existence 134 knowledge of first principles 133–45 knowledge of God 143–53 mechanical God 31–3, 125–62 mechanical philosophy 6–7, 17, 31–3, 125–62, 239 mathematicization of nature 125–62, 239 and Montaigne 120, 133 natura naturans 153–62 natura naturata 153–62 and nature 7, 125–62, 196 new astronomy 31, 126–33 New Philosophy 6, 16–17, 31–3, 125–62 fear of 6–7, 31–3, 125–62 order of the heart 144–6 order of the mind 145–6 order of the world 261 “philosophers and scholars” 31–3, 125–62 Physica Coelestis 126–45 psychology 144–5 rationalist philosophers 133–54 reason 31–3, 133 reasons of the heart 144–6 religion as superior over science 16–32, 161 silence of universe 128–33 skepticism 153, 159 soul 145 and Swift 196 theater of nature 153–62 Tower of Babel 142 unintelligible and inscrutable world 136–45, 234–5 universe labyrinth and abyss 125–45, 234–5 Voltaire 133–4 Pascal, Blaise, works Disproportion of man 138–9, 147 The Memorial 145 Pensées (Apologie de la religion Chrétienne) 4, 7, 16–17, 125–62

Paracelsus 23, 112–13 Paradise 122 Pascal, Blaise 1–4, 6, 10, 16–17, 19–20, 31–4, 50, 87, 125–62, 180, 189, 196, 200–1, 205, 232, 235–9, 260–2 alienation 125–45, 210 anxiety 125–62 apologetic project 125–62 astronomy 126–33 attitude toward philosophers 125–62 and Augustine 138, 152, 236 Cartesian philosophy 133–62, 205 fear of 6–7, 133–62 Christocentric view 145–54, 260–1 conversion experience 127–8, 145 and Dante 126 Deism 145–54 demystifying nature 7, 125–62 and Descartes 1, 6–7, 17, 32–3, 133–62 Deus Absconditus 126–54, 129–62, 237–8, 262 disenchantment of the world 31–3, 125–62 divine causation 133–62 and Donne 126 ecstatic revelation 128 and Edwards 16–17, 31, 232, 234–5, 239, 260–1 epistemology 125–63 exile and alienation 126–62 fear and anxiety 31–3, 125–62 and Galileo 159 God 19–20, 31–3, 125–62, 235–6 God of Abraham 31–3, 128, 145–52 God of philosophers 31–3, 128, 145–53 heart 144–5 history 7, 152–3 human condition 125–53 human dualistic nature 143 human existence 125–53 human hubris 125–53 human reason 125–53 human weakness and inability 125–53 infinite space 31, 125–53

Index
Peirce, Charles S. 231 Philosophia ancilla theologiae (science handmaiden to theology) 4, 11–50 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 197 Physica Coelestis 3, 63–73, 87, 107–24, 126–45 Physico-theologians 4, 36–43, 196, 203 Bentley 37, 196 Charleton 36 Derham 37, 196 Edwards 37–50 Hutchinson 203 Mather 37 Nieuwentijdt 37 Paley 37, 196 Ray 37 Physico-theology 4, 36–50, 196 Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni 54, 141 Of All that Can be Known 141 Pillars of Hercules 103 Plato 216 Platonists 57 plurality of the worlds 102 pourings out of the Spirit 223–4 Pope, Alexander 29, 117, 142, 144, 148, 179–80, 199, 211 Deism 148, 211 and Newton 117, 179–80 and Swift 199 Pope, Alexander, works The Dunciad 211 An Essay on Man 117, 142, 180 Port-Royal 136 print-bound knowledge 101 Prisca theologia 216 Protestant Reformation 8, 17, 54–5, 60, 103, 208, 223 new astronomy 58, 60–1 New Philosophy 54–5, 60–1 Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus) 56, 61, 69, 77, 82, 109, 115, 122 Pufendorf, Samuel 223 An Introduction to the History of the Principal Kingdoms and States of Europe 223 queen of sciences (Königin der Wissenschaften) 85 Queen of Sciences 4, 11–27, 52–9, 81, 85 mathematics 85 theology 4, 11–27, 52–9, 81

327

rationalist natural philosophers 125–62 rationalist philosophers 125–62 rationalist philosophy of nature 125–62 Ravaillac, François 111 Ray, John 37–41, 47, 137, 150, 196 and Boyle 39–40 Descartes 37–41, 47, 137, 150 Ray, John, works Three Physico-Theological Discourses 37 Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation 37, 39–40, 196 re-enchantment of the World 1–50, 204–6, 231–73 Regina Scientiarum (theology “Queen of Sciences”) 4, 11–27, 56–9 religious awakenings 223–4 religion and learning 14–15 religious identities 3, 6, 87, 102, 110, 126 religion and Newtonian universe 163–205 Renaissance 54–5 Renaissance humanism 54–5 Renaissance philosophy 54–5, 90–102, 154–62 Renaissance thought 13–50, 154–62 rerun natura 268–9 revivals 230 rise of modern science 51–85 Rousseau, Jean Jacques 8, 163, 200, 202 Discourse 163, 202 Royal Society 96, 165–6, 196 Nullius in Verba 96 Royce, Josiah 231 Sabbath 89 Sacy, Le Maistre de 136–7 Sapientia religionis 52 Satan 8, 106, 107–18, 204, 206 and Newton 8, 163, 294, 206

328

Index
scientia scientiarum (theology the science of sciences) 4 scientific culture 90–102 scientific enlightenment 114 scientific ideology 90–102 scientific reasoning 11–50, 90–102 scientific revolution 24–5, 90–102 disenchantment of the world 24–5, 90–102 philosophy of 24, 90–102 Sensus communis (common sense) 201, 224–6 Hume 201, 224–6 Hutcheson 201, 224–6 Shaftesbury 224–6 Shaftesbury, Lord (Anthony Ashley Cooper), works An Inquiry Concerning Virtue 224–5 Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times 225–6, 233–4 Shaftesbury-Hutcheson gospel 233–4 Shakespeare, William 108 ship of learning 103–4 Skelton, Philip 213 Deism revealed 213 skepticism 205, 240, 270 Smith, Elisha 213 The Cure Of Deism 213 Smith, John 28, 264 Snobelen, Stephen 168–9 Society of Jesus (Societas Jesu) 110–18 Socinianism 8, 163–86, 208, 239 Socrates 202 Sola Scriptura 17 Solomon 61, 89 Solomon’s Temple 89. 103 soteriology 17, 61 space of experience 105–7 spider 44 Spinoza, Baruch 55, 174, 187 and Newton 174 spyglass see telescope Standish, John 168 star(s) 15, 59–85 fixed stars (stellae fixae) 15, 64 nebulous stars 15 wandering stars 64

satire(s) 110–18, 194–202 Donne 110–18 Swift 194–202 Scala naturae see Great Chain of Being scandal of particularity 213, 216 Deists 213 Dryden 213 Herbert 213 Scholastic philosophy 5, 73–85, 90–102, 113, 127–8, 135, 150, 154–62, 177–9 theology queen of sciences 73–85, 127 School of Physico-Theology see Physico-theologians Schrödinger, Erwin 132, 161 science 51–85, 125–62, 165–80 cause-based conception of 74 disenchantment of the world 51–83 experience 73–85, 165–80 experiment 73–85, 165–80 handmaiden to theology (philosophia ancilla theologiae) 1–50, 52–85 law-based conception of 74 and mathematics 59–85, 125–62, 165–80 method 73–85, 125–62, 165–80 methodological turn 51–83, 165–80 rise of 51–85, 125–62, 165–80 as servant to theology 52–85 undermining of religion 51–85, 125–62, 165–80 science and religion 12–50, 52–85, 87–124, 126–60, 165–80, 231–73 Bacon 86–107 Berkeley 266–71 Blake 202–6 Copernicus 59–63 Descartes 125–62 Donne 86–124 Edwards 11–50, 231–73 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–85 Newton 163–80 Pascal 125–62 Swift 194–202 Scientia naturalis 90–102

Index
Stoicism 149 Strait of Gibraltar 103 sun 36, 59–85, 75–7, 99, 102, 107–9, 121 sunspots 75–76, 100 Swift, Jonathan 1–2, 10, 50, 87, 117, 142, 163, 194–202, 213, 239 Academy of Lagado 199–200 and Alexander the Great 196 Animal Rational 200–1 Animal Rationis Capax 200–1 anti-modernist perspective 142, 194–202 antiscientist sentiment 142, 194–202 Balnibarians 197 Bedlam 198 defense of Temple and Descartes 196, 198 and Epicurus 198 and Hobbes 201 Houyhnhnms 201 human condition 200–1 and Jack of Leyden 196 Janus face of science 194–202 Laputa 197–9 Laputans 197–9 misanthropy 200 modern learning 195–202 modernism 197 New Philosophy 117, 194–202, 239 and Newton 194–202 Newtonian science 1, 8, 195–202 and Pascal 196, 200–1 and Pope 199 and Ray 196 and Rousseau 200, 202 Royal Society 196 satires 194–202 and Temple 195, 197 Yahoos 201 Swift, Jonathan, works To the Athenian Society 195 Gulliver’s Travels 117, 196–200 A Tale of a Tub 196–7 syllogism 91–2, 158–9 Bacon 91–2, 159 Descartes 158–9 syllogistic reasoning 91–2, 158–9

329

Taylor, John 228 The Scripture-Doctrine of Original Sin 228 telescope (spyglass) 15, 25, 74–5, 100 Temple, William 194–5, 197 Essay on Ancient and Modern Learning 197 modern learning 195, 197 and Swift 195, 197 Tertullian 80 text-bound knowledge 90 Theatrum Dei Gloria 13, 216–20, 233, 263–6 Calvin 263–6 Edwards 216–20, 233, 263–6 Theatrum Mundi 13, 46, 64, 216–20, 233, 263–6 Calvin 233, 263–6 Descartes 154–62 Edwards 216–20, 263–6 Pascal 154–62 theocentric history 220–4 theocracy 196 theodicy 36, 49 theology 4–50, 52–85 decline as “Queen of Sciences” 4, 51–85, 97 natural 37 queen of sciences 5, 11–50, 51–85 Regina Scientiarum (Queen of Sciences) 4, 11–50, 52–9, 90–102 scientia scientiarum (Science of Sciences) 4, 11–50, 52–9, 90–102 superior to all other sciences 11–50, 52–9, 87–8 theology “Queen of Sciences” 4, 11–27, 52–9, 81, 87–8, 97 Augustine 16, 57–8 Bonaventure 16, 58 Edwards 12–50 Erasmus 51–2 Kant 53 Roger Bacon 58 Thomas Aquinas 16, 59 Thomas Aquinas 16, 55, 59 Thomism 17 Thompson, E. P. 165, 204 Tillich, Paul 248

330

Index
Great Chain of Being 4, 27–30, 270–3 hierarchical 27–30, 64–5, 101–2, 270–1 indefinite 24, 99 independent of God 34 infinite 3, 24, 31, 99, 126–45 inscrutable 126–33, 234 intelligibility 65 labyrinth 19, 126–33 (huge) machine 21, 63–73, 83–4, 216–17, 254–9 mechanical 20, 33, 42, 56, 63, 66–8, 63–85, 150, 163–93, 204, 254–9 mechanization 18, 56, 63, 66–8, 63–85, 150, 163–93, 254–9 mirror of divinity 231–73 physical machine 63–85, 150, 163–93, 216–17, 254–9 purposeless 66, 126–33 restored 120–4 ruined 120–4 silent 126–33 soul of 252 temple of God 59, 65 theocentric 210, 226, 243–5, 266–73 theocratic 210, 226, 243–5, 266–73 transcendent meanings 35–6, 210, 243–5, 266–73 unintelligible 126–33 written in language of mathematics 19, 73–85, 155, 159, 205, 238 see also World universe 3, 59–83, 87, 100–7, 109–24, 126–33, 150, 248–54 Aristotle 64–5, 74–6 Boyle 249–50 Calvin 263–6 Copernicus 59–63 Descartes 150 Donne 120–1 Edwards 263–6 Galileo 73–85, 87 Kepler 63–73, 87 Newton 56, 63, 66–8, 163–93 Pascal 126–33, 234 utopia 97, 106 Bacon 90–102, 106

time 104–7, 117 Christian 104–7, 220–4 empty 104–7 end of 104–7 eternity 47, 109–10, 143, 172, 204, 216, 224, 250–51, 264–45 historical 8, 104–7, 208, 220–24 homogenous 104–7 order of 242 sacred 220–4 secular 8, 104–7, 208, 220–24 Tindal, Matthew 211–14 Christianity as Old as the Creation 211 religion of nature 211–12 Toland, John 212–13 Christianity not Mysterious 212 Tower of Babel 116–17, 142 Donne 116–17, 142 Pascal 142 Trapp, Joseph 31, 185 true virtue 215, 224–30 religion 224–30 two books of God 19, 27, 52, 72, 263 typological order 17–27 typology 9–10, 17–27 Edwards 17–27 and modern science 17–27 of nature 17–27, 231–73 typological understanding of the world 17–50, 231–73 universal matter 21, 217 universe 3, 17–50, 52–84, 86–124, 99, 101–2, 120–4, 126–33, 178–80, 204, 210, 216–20, 226, 243–5, 254–66, 271–3 abyss 126–33 alien 126–33 Automaton 21, 217 book 265 classical and medieval conception 20–1, 24, 64–7, 101–2, 126–33 clockwork 21, 42–43, 56, 66–8, 204, 216–17, 261 engine 3, 21, 42–3, 204, 216–17, 254 finite 3, 6, 87, 99, 126–33, 248–54 Godless 254 grand book 84

Index
Vespucci, Amerigo 103 vestigial Dei in mundo 152, 236 virtue 224–30 Edwards 224–30 Hume 224–6 Hutcheson 224–6 and love to God 226–30 nature of 224–30 Shaftesbury 224–6 Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) 84, 92, 133–4, 164, 166, 168, 171, 178, 221 and Bacon 90, 92 and Clarke 171 and Descartes 178 and Galileo 178 and Kepler 178 and Newton 164, 166, 168, 171, 178 and Pascal 133–4 Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), works Letters on England 161, 164 vortex 198 Wesley, John 145, 228 The Doctrine of Original Sin 228 Whiston, William 31, 164–93, 257, 260 and Newton 31, 164–93, 260 Trinity 171 Whitefield, George 145 wisdom of God in creation 14, 11–50 wisdom of God in the contrivance of the world 11–50, 196 Wodrow, Robert 31, 185 Woolston, Thomas 212–13 Discourses on the Miracles of Our Saviour 212–13 world 3, 17–50, 74–6, 90–107, 109, 121–2, 125–62, 172–7, 216–20, 254–9 Aristotle 27, 64–7, 74–6 Automaton 21, 217 clockwork 42–43, 56, 66, 216–17, 254–9 closed 24, 125–33 demythologization of 55, 90–107, 125–62, 164–93 desacralisation 18, 63–85, 90–107, 125–62, 164–93, 254–8 destruction 90–107, 125–33

331

emptied of theological and teleological consideration 3, 7, 136, 162, 242 engine 42–3, 63–73 finite 24 hierarchical 24, 64–5 homogeneous 18–19 imago Dei 94, 236 infinite 3, 24, 31, 125–33, 266–7 inscrutable 125–33 intelligibility 65 laboratory 130 machine 56, 63, 66–8, 172, 180, 216–17, 254–9 mathematization 18, 172–7, 216–20, 254–9 mechanical 63–74, 150, 172–7, 216–20, 254–9 mechanization 18, 63–74, 150, 172–7, 216–20, 254–9 mirror of divinity 231–73 nonhierarchical 18–19, 63–73 ontological status 22, 64 physical machine 63–72, 74–5, 254–9 plurality of 102 re-enchantment 1–50, 231–73 self-moving engine 242, 254–59 self-sustaining mechanism 59–85, 242, 254–59 sick 119, 121–2 theocentric 231–73 uniform 18–19 watch 192 written in mathematical letters 19, 73–85 see also Universe world machine 61, 63–85, 145–54, 254–9 Boyle 21, 249 Copernicus 59–63 Descartes 145–54 Galileo 73–85 Kepler 63–73 Wotton, William 205 Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning 205 Yale 240 Young, Arthur 42