4

JOHN TOLAND AND THE ASCENDANCY OF REASON

In a letter to John Locke on 16 March 1697, William Molyneux refers in passing to an essay entitled Christianity not Mysterious and identifies the author simply as 'Toland'. It is obvious that Molyneux at this point has only hearsay knowledge of this newly controversial author. He describes him as 'a stranger in these parts', adding that 'if he belongs to this kingdom, he must have been a good while out of it, for I have not heard of any such remarkable man amongst us' (Locke 1794:404). It is an indication of the urgency of John Toland's self-propelled rise to fame and notoriety that Molyneux, in a follow-up letter to Locke a few weeks later, is able to report that he has just had a visit from Toland. The impression Molyneux has of his visitor at this point is largely positive, though he appears to be alarmed at his penchant for controversy. He is impressed by the fact that Toland has travelled to Europe and studied under 'the great Le Clerc' (about whom Molyneux and Locke have much to say in their correspondence), and even more so by the fact that his well-travelled visitor has expressed admiration for Locke. He is pleased too with Toland's conversation, finding him to be 'a candid free-thinker, and a good scholar' (405). He adds, however, that 'there is a violent sort of spirit that reigns here, which begins already to show itself against him' (405). Subsequent letters confirm that Toland has indeed drawn upon himself 'the clamours of all parties', not just because of the disagreeableness of his point of view but because of 'his unreasonable

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A History of Irish Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • 1 - Interpreting Marvels 1
  • 2 - The Philosophy of Creation 18
  • 3 - Nature Observed 45
  • 4 - John Toland and the Ascendancy of Reason 82
  • 5 - Wonderfully Mending the World 124
  • 6 - Against the Selfish Philosophers 168
  • 7 - Peripheral Visions (1) 214
  • 8 - Peripheral Visions (2) 241
  • 9 - Between Extremities 285
  • Bibliography 321
  • Index 348
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