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Priestley, Joseph

(251 words)

Author(s): Walters, Kerry S.
[German Version] (Mar 13, 1733, Yorkshire, England – Feb 6, 1804, Northumberland, PA, USA), British scientist and religious Nonconformist. From 1751 Priestley, a Presbyterian, studied at the Dissenters’ Academy in Daventry. Before the age of 20 he had already mastered several languages, including Arabic and Syriac. He also devoted himself to the study of chemistry. His active interest in both these areas lasted throughout his life (in science he became famous for his research into the composition …

Franklin, Benjamin

(179 words)

Author(s): Walters, Kerry S.
[German Version] (Jan 17, 1706, Boston – Apr 17, 1790, Philadelphia), American scientist, statesman, and philosopher. Although typically styled a deist (Deism), largely because of his early treatise A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain (1725), Franklin in fact defended a sophisticated “theistic perspectivism,” which combined belief in the deistic First Cause with the perspectival claim that different faith traditions symbolically express institutions about the First Cause in various and equally legitimate way…

Paine, Thomas

(216 words)

Author(s): Walters, Kerry S.
[German Version] ( Jan 29, 1737, Norfolk, England – Jun 8, 1809, NY), deist (Deism) and political agitator. His parents were Quakers. In 1774 he sailed for the American colonies, leaving behind him an unhappy marriage, unpaid debts, and a dubious reputation. In the New World his luck changed dramatically: his pamphlet Common Sense (1776), the first public cry for American independence, was an instant success. He continued his work as a political polemicist with the Crisis papers, written during the War of Independence, and The Rights of Man (1792), an uncompromising defense of the…

Morgan, Thomas

(173 words)

Author(s): Walters, Kerry S.
[German Version] (1680, near Bridgwater, Somerset – Jan 17, 1743, London), first a Presbyterian preacher, then a doctor and minor English deist (Deism); author of The Moral Philosopher, a Dialogue between Philalethes, Christian Deist, and Theophane, a Christian Jew (3 vols., 1737–1740). In the tradition of J. Toland and M. Tindal, Morgan argued that the lex naturae, the deist assertion that there is a God who created a rational universe governed by laws, is the core of revelation religions such as Judaism and Christianity. His own contribution to thi…

Herbert

(493 words)

Author(s): Walters, Kerry S. | Ray, Robert H.
[German Version] 1. Herbert of Cherbury, Edward (Mar 3, 1583, Eyton-on-Severn – Aug 20, 1648, London), British Deist, historian, diplomat, and the elder brother of George Herbert (see below), is often called the father of British Deism. He defended a natural religion based on his doctrine of “common notions” ( notiones communes). According to Herbert, “common notions” are the innate possibilities of human knowledge, which constitute the universal basis of all religious knowledge as well. In his treatises De veritate (1645), De religione gentilium (1663), and De religione laici (164…

Deism

(4,554 words)

Author(s): Byrne, Peter | Hornig, Gottfried | Pailin, David Arthur | Walters, Kerry S.
[German Version] I. Philosophy of Religion – II. Dogmatics – III. Europe – IV. North America I. Philosophy of Religion Deism has a current and a historical sense in theology and philosophy of religion. Its current sense, dating from the end of the 18th century, denotes belief in a first cause who made the world but no longer exercises any providential control over it. In its historical sense it refers…