The Full Wiki

William Paley: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Paley

William Paley (1743-1805)
Born July 1743
Peterborough, England
Died 25 May 1805
Bishopwearmouth, England
Residence England
Nationality English
Fields Theology, philosophy, natural history
Institutions Giggleswick Grammar School, Christ's College (Cambridge University), Giggleswick Parish, Carlisle Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral, Durham Cathedral
Alma mater Christ's College, Cambridge
Known for Contributions to political philosophy, ethics and philosophy of religion
Notable awards Members' Prize, Cambridge, 1765. "Six" Preacher at Whitehall. Doctor of Divinity, Cambridge, 1795

William Paley (July 1743 – 25 May 1805) was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology, which made use of the watchmaker analogy (also see natural theology).

Contents

Life

Born in Peterborough, England, Paley was educated at Giggleswick School, of which his father was headmaster, and at Christ's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1763 as senior wrangler, became fellow in 1766, and in 1768 tutor of his college.[1] He lectured on Samuel Clarke, Joseph Butler and John Locke in his systematic course on moral philosophy, which subsequently formed the basis of his Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy; and on the New Testament, his own annotated copy of which is in the British Library. The subscription controversy was then agitating the university, and Paley published an anonymous defence of a pamphlet in which the Master of Peterhouse and Bishop of Carlisle Edmund Law had advocated the retrenchment and simplification of the Thirty-nine Articles; he did not, however, sign the petition (called the "Feathers Tavern" petition, from being drawn up at a meeting at the Feathers Tavern) for a relaxation of the terms of subscription. He was also a strong supporter of the American colonies during the revolutionary war, partly because he thought it would lead to the destruction of slavery.

In 1776 Paley was presented to the rectory of Musgrave in Westmorland, which was exchanged soon after for Appleby. He was subsequently made vicar of Dalston in 1780, near the bishop's palace at Rose Castle. In 1782 he became the Archdeacon of Carlisle. Paley was intimate with the Law family throughout his life, and the Bishop and his son John Law (who was later an Irish bishop) were instrumental during the decade after he left Cambridge in pressing him to publish his revised lectures and in negotiating with the publisher. In 1782 Edmund Law, otherwise the mildest of men, was most particular that Paley should add a book on political philosophy to the moral philosophy, which Paley was reluctant to write. The book was published in 1785 under the title of The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, and was made a part of the examinations at the University of Cambridge the next year. It passed through fifteen editions in the author's lifetime. Paley's famous, and controversial, fable of the pigeons, which has a strong criticism of the greed that can co-exist with property ownership - the Bloody Code - is found in Book III of his Moral and Political Philosophy. John Law tried to get Paley to remove the passage, because it would prevent him becoming a bishop. Paley refused.

Paley strenuously supported the abolition of the slave trade, and in 1789 his speech on the subject was published.

His political views are said to have debarred him from the highest positions in the Church, the King, George III, at one point saying, Pigeon Paley? Not sound, not sound. Even so, he was offered the Mastership of Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1789, by the Bishop of Ely, but he turned it down, being content with his life in Carlisle, and not wishing to disrupt his children's education. John Law observed at this time that "Paley has missed a mitre".

The Principles was followed in 1790 by his first essay in the field of Christian apologetics, Horae Paulinae, or the Truth of the Scripture History of St Paul which compared the Paul's epistles with the Acts of the Apostles, making use of "undesigned concidences" to argue that these documents mutually supported each other's authenticity. Some have said this book was the most original of Paley's works. It was followed in 1794 by the celebrated View of the Evidences of Christianity, which was also added to the examinations at Cambridge, remaining on the syllabus until the 1920s.

For his services in defence of the faith, with the publication of the Evidences, the Bishop of London gave him a stall in St Paul's; the Bishop of Lincoln made him subdean of that cathedral, and the Bishop of Durham conferred upon him the rectory of Bishopwearmouth. He wrote to his sister at this time that he thought the bishop had "all gone mad". The world has indeed gone mad on Paley. The King now wondered why he never saw Paley at Court (Paley persistently refused to attend, despite his former pupil Henry Majendie repeatedly asking him to meet the King), and "would not be without" a copy of the Evidences, of which he kept copies in all of his residences. During the remainder of Paley's life his time was divided between Bishopwearmouth and Lincoln, during which time he wrote Natural Theology, despite his increasingly debilitating illness. He died on 25 May 1805.

Thought

Paley's Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy was one of the most influential philosophical texts in late Enlightenment Britain. It was cited in several Parliamentary debates over the corn laws in Britain, and in debates in the US Congress. The book remained a set textbook at Cambridge well into the Victorian era. Indeed, even Darwin was required to read it when he studied at Christ's College. But it was Natural Theology that Darwin was most impressed with, though it was not a book undergraduates were required to read.

Paley is also remembered for his contributions to the philosophy of religion, utilitarian ethics and Christian apologetics. In 1802 he published Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, his last book. As he states in the preface, he saw the book as a preamble to his other philosophical and theological books; in fact, he suggests that Natural Theology should be read first, so as to build a systematic understanding of his arguments. The main thrust of his argument was that God's design of the whole creation could be seen in the general happiness, or well-being, that was evident in the physical and social order of things. Such a book fell within the broad tradition of natural theology works written during the Enlightenment; and this explains why Paley based much of his thought on Ray (1691) and Derham (1711) and Nieuwentyt (1750).

Although Paley devotes a chapter of Natural Theology to astronomy, written by his old friend John Law and the Dublin Astronomer Royal John Brinkley, but they did not consider astronomy to provide sound evidence of "designedness". Paley's argument is built mainly around anatomy and natural history. "For my part," he says, "I take my stand in human anatomy"; elsewhere he insists upon "the necessity, in each particular case, of an intelligent designing mind for the contriving and determining of the forms which organized bodies bear." In making his argument, Paley employed a wide variety of metaphors and analogies. Perhaps the most famous is his analogy between a watch and the world. Historians, philosophers and theologians often call this the Watchmaker analogy. The germ of the idea is to be found in ancient writers who used sundials and prolemiac epicycles to illustrate the divine order of the world. These types of examples can be seen in the work of the ancient philosopher Cicero, especially in his De natura deorum, ii. 87 and 97 (see Hallam, Literature of Europe, ii. 385, note.). The watch analogy was widely used in the Enlightenment, by deists and Christians alike. Thus, Paley's use of the watch (and other mechanical objects like it) continued a long and fruitful tradition of analogical reasoning that was well received by those who read Natural Theology when it was published in 1802.

Relevance

Since Paley is often read in university courses that address the philosophy of religion, the timing of his design argument has sometimes perplexed modern philosophers. Earlier in the century David Hume had argued against notions of design with counter examples drawn from monstrosity, imperfect forms of testimony and probability, and it has been assumed that Paley could not have read Hume. However, in both published works and in manuscript letters, we find that Paley was engaged directly with Hume from his time as an undergraduate to his last works. Hume's examples ring true with many twenty-first century readers, and they appealed to some of Paley's eighteenth-century contemporaries as well. Indeed, Paley adopted a number of Hume's points, although he rejected most (but not all) of those aspects of his arguments which were considered to be inconsistent with Christian theology. Notably, Paley and Hume both rejected Scottish moral sense theory, on the grounds that one could not know with certainty that there was such a thing as a moral sense. Both based their philosophical hermeneutic in probability theory. Notions of evidence and probability were different then, being based in legal thought rather than statistics. Hume was trained as a lawyer, and Paley was regarded by his peers, some of whom were prominent lawyers themselves, as having one of the most acute legal minds of his age. Hume's arguments were only accepted gradually by the reading public, and his philosophical works sold poorly until agnostics like T H Huxley championed Hume's philosophy in the nineteenth century.

Scientific norms have changed greatly since Paley's day, and we are inclined to do less than justice to his arguments and ways of reasoning. But his style is lucid and he was willing to present transparently the evidence against his own case. His subject matter was central to Victorian anxieties, which might be one reason Natural Theology continued to appeal to the reading public, making his book a best seller for most of the nineteenth century, even after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. Natural Theology and the Evidences of Christianity appealed to Victorian Evangelicals, although not so much to adherents of the Oxford Movement - and both found his utilitarianism objectionable. Paley's views influenced (both positively and negatively) theologians, philosophers and scientists, then and since.

In addition to Moral and Political Philosophy and the Evidences Charles Darwin read Natural Theology during his student years and later stated in his autobiography that he was initially convinced by the argument. His views, of course, changed with time. By the 1820s and 1830s, well-known liberals like Thomas Wakley and other radical editors of The Lancet were using Paley's aging examples to attack the establishment's control over medical and scientific education in Durham, London, Oxford and Cambridge. It also inspired the Earl of Bridgewater to commission the Bridgewater Treatises and the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge to issue cheap reprints for the rising middle class.

Today Paley's name evokes both reverence and revulsion and his work is cited accordingly by authors seeking to frame the history of human thought. Even Richard Dawkins, an opponent of the design argument, described himself as a neo-paleyan in The Blind Watchmaker. Today, as in his own time (though for different reasons) Paley is a controversial figure, as a lightening rod for both sides in the contemporary "war between science and religion". Consequently, it is well to bear in mind that it is difficult to read him with objectivity. His writings reflect the thought of his time, but, as Dawkins observed, his was a strong and logical approach to evidence, whether human or natural. And it is not without significance that the Oxford constitutional theorist A.V. Dicey had his pupils read the Evidences to teach them about legal reasoning. It is for such reasons that Paley's writings, Natural Theology included, stand as a notable body of work in the canon of Western thought.

References

  1. ^ Paley, William in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.

Further reading

  • Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind, Paternoster, Exeter UK/William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1984.
  • Brooke, John H. Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991.
  • Clarke, M.L., Paley: Evidences for the Man, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1974.
  • Dodds, G. L. Paley, Wearside and Natural Theology, Sunderland, 2003.
  • Eddy, Matthew D., 'The Science and Rhetoric of Paley's Natural Theology', Literature and Theology, 18 (2004), 1-22.
  • Fyfe, A. 'Publishing and the classics: Paley's Natural Theology and the nineteenth-century scientific canon', Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 33 (2002), 433-55.
  • Gascoigne, J., 'Rise and Fall of British Newtonian Natural Theology', Science in Context, 2 (1988), 219-256.
  • Gillespie, N. C. 'Divine Design and the Industrial Revolution. William Paley's Abortive Reform of Natural Theology', Isis, 81 (1990), 214-229.
  • Gilson, E., From Aristotle to Darwin and Back again: A Journey in Final Causality, Species, and Evolution, John Lyon (trans), Notre Dame University Press, London 1984.
  • Knight, David. Science and Spirituality: The Volatile Connection, Routledge, London, 2004.
  • LeMahieu, D.L. The Mind of William Paley, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1976.
  • McAdoo, H. R., The Spirit of Anglicanism: A Survey of Anglican Theological Method in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1965).
  • McGrath, A. E., A Scientific Theology: Volume I, Nature, Continuum, Edinburgh, 2001.
  • Meadley, G. W. Memoirs of William Paley, to which is Added an Appendix, London, 1809.
  • Ospovat, D. The Development of Darwin's Theory: Natural History, Natural Theology and Natural Selection, 1838-1859, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995.
  • Paley, E. An Account of the Life and Writings of William Paley, [1825], Farnborough: Gregg, 1970; originally, this was the first volume of The Works of William Paley, London, 1825.
  • Paley, William, Natural Theology, with an introduction and notes by Matthew D. Eddy and David M. Knight, Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Pelikan, J. Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1993.
  • Philipp, W. 'Physicotheology in the Age of Enlightenment: Appearance and History', Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 57 (1967), 1233-1267.
  • Porter, R. 'Creation and Credence', in Barry Barnes and Steven Shapin (eds), Natural Order: Historical Studies of Scientific Culture, Sage Press, Beverly Hills, 1979.
  • Raven, C. Natural Religion and Christian Theology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1953.
  • Richards, R. J. The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe, Chicago University Press, Chicago, 2002.
  • Rose, J. The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2002.
  • Rosen, Frederick, Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill (Routledge Studies in Ethics & Moral Theory), 2003. ISBN 0415220947
  • Rousseau, G. S. and Roy Porter (eds), The Ferment of Knowledge – Studies in the Historiography of Eighteenth Century Science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1980.
  • St Clair, W. The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004.
  • Topham, J. R. 'Science, natural theology, and evangelicalism in the early nineteenth century: Thomas Chalmers and the evidence controversy', in D. N. Livingstone, D. G. Hart and M. A. Knoll, Evangelicals and Science in Historical Perspective (Oxford: 1999), 142-174.
  • Topham, J. R. 'Beyond the "Common Context": the Production and Reading of the Bridgewater Treatises', Isis, 89 (1998), 233-62.
  • Viner, J. The Role of Providence in the Social Order, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1972.
  • Von Sydow, M. 'Charles Darwin: A Christian undermining Christianity?', in David M. Knight and Matthew D. Eddy, Science and Beliefs: From Natural Philosophy to Natural Science, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2005

External links

Advertisements

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Virtue is infinitely various.

William Paley (July 174325 May 1805) was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian.

Sourced

The infidelity of the Gentile world, and that more especially of men of rank and learning in it, is resolved into a principle which, in my judgment, will account for the inefficacy of any argument, or any evidence whatever, viz. contempt prior to investigation.
  • God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness; and made for them the provision which he has made, with that view and for that purpose.
    • Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (1785)
  • The infidelity of the Gentile world, and that more especially of men of rank and learning in it, is resolved into a principle which, in my judgment, will account for the inefficacy of any argument, or any evidence whatever, viz. contempt prior to investigation.
    • A View of the Evidences of Christianity (1794)
    • Variant: There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to examination.
      • As quoted or paraphrased in Anglo-Israel or, The British Nation: The Lost Tribes of Israel (1879) by Rev. William H. Poole
      • A similar statement apparently derived from this version has become widely attributed to Herbert Spencer, but there are no records of Spencer ever saying or writing it, the first known attributions to him occurring in 1931: "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

Natural Theology (1802)

The inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker — that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer...
The contrivances of nature surpass the contrivances of art, in the complexity, subtlety, and curiosity of the mechanism...
The hinges in the wings of an earwig, and the joints of its antennae, are as highly wrought, as if the Creator had nothing else to finish. We see no signs of dimunition of care by multiplicity of objects, or of distraction of thought by variety. We have no reason to fear, therefore, our being forgotten, or overlooked, or neglected.
It is a step to have it proved, that there must be something in the world more than what we see. It is a further step to know, that, amongst the invisible things of nature, there must be an intelligent mind, concerned in its production, order, and support.
The true theist will be the first to listen to any credible communication of Divine knowledge. Nothing which he has learned from Natural Theology, will diminish his desire of further instruction, or his disposition to receive it with humility and thankfulness.
Natural Theology : or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature (1802)
  • In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had given, that for anything I knew the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone; why is it not admissible in that second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive — what we could not discover in the stone — that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed in any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.
    This mechanism being observed ... the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker — that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.
    Nor would it, I apprehend, weaken the conclusion, that we had never seen a watch made; that we had never known an artist capable of making one; that we were altogether incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of understanding in what manner it was performed; all this being no more than what is true of some exquisite remains of ancient art, of some lost arts, and, to the generality of mankind, of the more curious productions of modern manufacture.
    • Ch. 1 : State of the Argument
  • The contrivances of nature surpass the contrivances of art, in the complexity, subtlety, and curiosity of the mechanism; and still more, if possible, do they go beyond them in number and variety; yet in a multitude of cases, are not less evidently mechanical, not less evidently contrivances, not less evidently accommodated to their end, or suited to their office than are the most perfect production of human ingenuity.
    • Ch. 3 : Application of the Argument
  • It is one of the advantages of the revelations which we acknowledge, that whilst they reject idolatry with its many pernicious accompaniments, they introduce the Deity to human apprehension, under an idea more personal, more determinate, more within its compass, than the theology of nature can do. And this they do by representing him exclusively under the relation in which he stands to ourselves; and, for the most part, under some precise character, resulting from that relation, or from the history of his providences. Which method suits the span of our intellects much better than the universality which enters into the idea of God, as deduced from the views of nature.
    • Ch. 24 : Of the Natural Attributes of the Deity
  • It is at any rate evident, that a large and ample province remains for the exercise of Providence, without its being naturally perceptible by us; because obscurity, when applied to the interruption of laws, bears a necessary proportion to the imperfection of our knowledge when applied to the laws themselves, or rather to the effects which these laws, under their various and incalculable combinations, would of their own accord produce. And if it be said, that the doctrine of Divine Providence, by reason of the ambiguity under which its exertions present themselves, can be attended with no practical influenceupon our conduct; that, although we believe ever so firmly that there is a Providence, we must prepare, and provide, and act, as if there were none; I answer, that this is admitted: and that we further allege, that so to prepare, and so to provide, is consistent with the most perfect assurance of the reality of a Providence; and not only so, but that it is probably one advantage of the present state of our information, that our provisions and preparations are not disturbed by it. Or if it be still asked, Of what use at all then is the doctrine, if it neither alter our measures nor regulate our conduct? I answer again, that it is of the greatest use, but that it is a doctrine of sentiment and piety, not (immediately at least) of action or conduct; that it applies to the consolation of men's minds, to their devotions, to the excitement of gratitude, the support of patience, the keeping alive and the strengthening of every motive for endeavouring to please our Maker; and that these are great uses.
    • Ch. 26 : The Goodness of the Deity
  • Virtue is infinitely various. There is no situation in which a rational being is placed, from that of the best instructed Christian down to the condition of the rudest barbarian, which affords not room for moral agency; for the acquisition, exercise, and display of voluntary qualities, good and bad. Health and sickness, enjoyment and suffering, riches and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, power and subjection, liberty and bondage, civilisation and barbarity, have all their offices and duties, all serve for the formation of character: for when we speak of a state of trial, it must be remembered, that characters are not only tried, or proved, or detected, but that they are generated also, and formed, by circumstances. The best dispositions may subsist under the most depressed, the most afflicted fortunes.
    • Ch. 26 : The Goodness of the Deity
  • In all cases, wherein the mind feels itself in danger of being confounded by variety, it is sure to rest upon a few strong points, or perhaps upon a single instance. Amongst a multitude of proofs, it is one that does the business. If we observe in any argument, that hardly two minds fix upon the same instance, the diversity of choice shows the strength of the argument, because it shows the number and competition of the examples. There is no subject in which the tendency to dwell upon select or single topics is so usual, because there is no subject, of which, in its full extent, the latitude is so great, as that of natural history applied to the proof of an intelligent Creator.
    • Ch. 27 : Conclusion
  • In every nature, and in every portion of nature, which we can descry, we find attention bestowed upon even the minutest parts. The hinges in the wings of an earwig, and the joints of its antennae, are as highly wrought, as if the Creator had nothing else to finish. We see no signs of dimunition of care by multiplicity of objects, or of distraction of thought by variety. We have no reason to fear, therefore, our being forgotten, or overlooked, or neglected.
    • Ch. 27 : Conclusion
  • It is a step to have it proved, that there must be something in the world more than what we see. It is a further step to know, that, amongst the invisible things of nature, there must be an intelligent mind, concerned in its production, order, and support. These points being assured to us by Natural Theology, we may well leave to Revelation the disclosure of many particulars, which our researches cannot reach, respecting either the nature of this Being as the original cause of all things, or his character and designs as a moral governor ; and not only so, but the more full confirmation of other particulars, of which, though they do not lie altogether beyond our reasonings and our probabilities, the certainty is by no means equal to the importance. The true theist will be the first to listen to any credible communication of Divine knowledge. Nothing which he has learned from Natural Theology, will diminish his desire of further instruction, or his disposition to receive it with humility and thankfulness. He wishes for light: he rejoices in light. His inward veneration of this great Being, will incline him to attend with the utmost seriousness, not only to all that can be discovered concerning him by researches into nature, but to all that is taught by a revelation, which gives reasonable proof of having proceeded from him.
    • Ch. 27 : Conclusion

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WILLIAM PALEY (1743-1805), English divine and philosopher, was born at Peterborough. He was educated at Giggleswick school, of which his father was head master, and at Christ's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1763 as senior wrangler, became fellow in 1766, and in 1768 tutor of his college. He lectured on Clarke, Butler and Locke, and also delivered a systematic course on moral philosophy, which subsequently formed the basis of his well-known treatise. The subscription controversy was then agitating the university, and Paley published an anonymous Defence of a pamphlet in which Bishop Law had advocated the retrenchment and simplification of the Thirty-nine Articles; he did not, however, sign the petition (called the "Feathers" petition from being drawn up at a meeting at the Feathers tavern) for a relaxation of the terms of subscription. In 1776 Paley was presented to the rectory of Musgrave in Westmorland, supplemented at the end of the year by the vicarage of Dalston, and presently exchanged for that of Appleby. In 1782 he became archdeacon of Carlisle. At the suggestion of his friend John Law (son of Edward Law, bishop of Carlisle and formerly his colleague at Cambridge), Paley published (1785) his lectures, revised and enlarged, under the title of The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. The book at once became the ethical text-book of the University of Cambridge, and passed through fifteen editions in the author's lifetime. He strenuously supported the abolition of the slave trade, and in 1789 wrote a paper on the subject. The Principles was followed in 1790 by his first essay in the field of Christian apologetics, Horae Paulinae, or the Truth of the Scripture History of St Paul evinced by a Comparison of the Epistles which bear his Name with the Acts of the Apostles and with one another, probably the most original of its author's works. It was followed in 1 794 by the celebrated View of the Evidences of Christianity. Paley's latitudinarian views are said to have debarred him from the highest positions in the Church. But for his services in defence of the faith the bishop of London gave him a stall in St Paul's; the bishop of Lincoln made him subdean of that cathedral, and the bishop of Durham conferred upon him the rectory of Bishopwearmouth. During the remainder of his life his time was divided between Bishopwearmouth and Lincoln. In 1802 he published Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity collected from the Appearances of Nature, his last, and, in some respects, his most remarkable book. In this he endeavoured, as he says in the dedication to the bishop of Durham, to repair in the study his deficiencies in the church. He died on the 25th of May 1805.

In the dedication just referred to, Paley claims a systematic unity for his works. It is true that "they have been written in an order the very reverse of that in which they ought to be read"; nevertheless the Natural Theology forms "the completion of a regular and comprehensive design." The truth of this will be apparent if it is considered that the Moral and Political Philosophy admittedly embodies two presuppositions: (I) that "God Almighty wills and wishes the happiness of His creatures," and (2) that adequate motives must be supplied to virtue by a system of future rewards and punishments. Now the second presupposition depends, according to Paley, on the credibility of the Christian religion (which he treats almost exclusively as the revelation of these "new sanctions" of morality). The Evidences and the Horae Paulinae were intended as a demonstration of this credibility. The argument of these books, however, depends in turn upon the assumption of a benevolent Creator desirous of communicating with His creatures for their good; and the Natural Theology, by applying the argument from design to prove the existence of such a Deity, becomes the foundation of the argumentative edifice.

In his Natural Theology Paley has adapted with consummate skill the argument which Ray (1691) and Derham (1711) and Nieuwentyt 1 (1730) had already made familiar to Englishmen. "For my part," he says, "I take my stand in human anatomy"; and what he everywhere insists upon is "the necessity, in each particular case, of an intelligent designing mind for the contriving and determining of the forms which organized bodies bear." This is the whole argument, and the book consists of a mass of well 1 Bernard Nieuwentyt (1654-1718) was a Dutch disciple of Descartes, whose work, Regt gebruik der Werelt Beschouwingen, published in 1716, was translated into English in 1730 by J. Chamberlayne under the title of The Religious Philosopher. A charge of wholesale plagiarism from this book was brought against Paley in the Athenaeum for 1848. Paley refers several times to Nieuwentyt, who uses the famous illustration of the watch. But the illustration is not peculiar to Nieuwentyt, and had been appropriated by many others before Paley. The germ of the idea is to be found in Cicero, De natura deorum, ii. 34 (see Hallam, Literature of Europe, ii. 385, note.) In the case of a writer whose chief merit is the way in which he has worked up existing material, a general charge of plagiarism is almost irrelevant.

chosen instances marshalled in support of it. But by placing Paley's facts in a new light, the theory of evolution has deprived his argument of its force, so far as it applies the idea of special contrivance to individual organs or to species.

The Evidences of Christianity is mainly a condensation of Bishop Douglas's Criterion and Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel History. But the task is so judiciously performed that it would probably be difficult to get a more effective statement of the external evidences of Christianity than Paley has here presented. His idea of revelation depends upon the same mechanical conception of the relation of God to the world which dominates his Natural Theology; and he seeks to prove the divine origin of Christianity by isolating it from the general history of mankind, whereas later writers find their chief argument in the continuity of the process of revelation.

The face of the world has changed so greatly since Paley's day that we are apt to do less than justice to his undoubted merits. He is nowhere original, and nowhere profound, but his strong reasoning power, his faculty of clear arrangement and forcible statement, place him in the first rank of expositors and advocates. He masses his arguments, it has been said, with a general's eye. His style is perfectly perspicuous, and its "strong home-touch" compensates for what is lacking in elasticity and grace. Paley displays little or no spirituality of feeling; but this is a matter in which one age is apt to misjudge another, and Paley was at least practically benevolent and conscientiously attentive to his parish duties. The active part he took in advocating the abolition of the slave-trade is evidence of a wider power of sympathy. His unconquerable cheerfulness becomes itself almost religious in the last chapters of the Natural Theology, considering that they were written during the intervals of relief from the painful complaint which finally proved fatal to him.

For his life, see Public Characters(1802);Aikin's General Biography, vii. (1808); Lives, by G. W. Meadley (1809) and his son Edmund Paley, prefixed to the 1825 edition of his works; Leslie Stephen in Dictionary of National Biography; Quarterly Review, ii. (Aug. 1809), ix. (July 1813). On Paley as a theologian and philosopher, see Leslie Stephen, English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, i. 405 seq., 11.121 seq.; R. Buddensieg, in Herzog-Hauck's Realencyklopiidie fiir protestantische Theologie, xiv. (1904). See also Ethics.


<< Frederick Apthorp Paley

John Gorham Palfrey >>


Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message