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Deism in Enlightenment EnglandTheology, Politics, and Newtonian Public Science$
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Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780719078729

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719078729.001.0001

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Introduction: the importance of deist theology

Introduction: the importance of deist theology

(p.1) Introduction: the importance of deist theology
Deism in Enlightenment England

Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth

Manchester University Press

The two episodes of the Tinkler Ducket trial illustrate the contemporary and frequent modern perception of deism and deists in England. The deists seemed to be godless, enemies of Newtonian philosophy, and a disruptive force in society. This chapter explores the question of who they really were. Any study of deism must be sensitive to conceptions of eighteenth-century intellectual thought, known as Enlightenment. The monarchy, the Church of England, and Newtonian natural philosophy, endorsed the institutions that characterise the establishment of the five deists in England. The chapter also explores the changing meaning of ‘Enlightenment’ in England changing its meaning, and revisits what it meant to be deist in this environment. It explains that deists in England absolutely believed in a particular view of God and this led to a deist theology. This theology supported both their political and their natural philosophical writings. Furthermore, the chapter presents a portrait of deism in England by examining the writings of five specific deists: John Toland, Anthony Collins, Matthew Tindal, Thomas Morgan and Thomas Chubb and aims to demonstrate the crucial importance of theology to their work.

Keywords:   Enlightenment, deists, theology, England, Newtonian philosophy

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