Hume, Newton, and the Design Argument

Hume, Newton, and the Design Argument

Hume, Newton, and the Design Argument

Hume, Newton, and the Design Argument

Excerpt

The period in Europe spanning the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was an exciting and formative one.This is true for not only those whose actions, high and low, graced or disgraced its stage, but for its admiring observers also. Its intellectual life, so drab a subject in other periods as to be of interest only to specialized scholars, displays a dynamic and dramatic ferment, perhaps because the twentieth-century onlooker realizes that the tapestry whose warp and woof contain so many of his own ideas, attitudes, and institutions was woven during these times.

This book concerns the interrelationships of two main threads in this tapestry—science and theology—in particular as they are epitomized in the work of two of the period's great figures, Isaac Newton and David Hume.And while it is impossible to avoid selection and abstraction in the treatment of these materials, it should nevertheless be remembered that the eighteenth century was a period of great political and religious upheaval. During the lives of Newton and Hume, the old conception of the divine right of kings gasped out its life on the battlefields of England. While Newton and other scientists were peering through their microscopes and telescopes, or looking at the pretty colors thrown on walls by prisms, or formulating new mathematical theorems, kings were killed or deposed, and generals ruled Britain for a time.While Hume and other philosophers fretted over the laws which govern human experience and thought, or analyzed causation and substance, or criticized religion, the foundations of parliamentary government and religious freedom were laid.

Our subject is less spectacular, but not without its own drama. Newton's work in physics and mathematics formed the ground from which modern science and engineering developed.Hume's philosophical ideas and arguments are the proximate source of a significant part of modern critical and analytical philosophy.Thus the works of Newton and Hume have been of profound and increasing interest to philosophers and historians in recent years.

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