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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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Conclusion: radical no more

Conclusion: radical no more

(p.204) Conclusion: radical no more
Deism in Enlightenment England

Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth

Manchester University Press

Steven Shapin described the interlocking spheres of intellectual enquiry in early modern England as theology, politics and natural philosophy. These overlapped because they were connected in legitimations, justifications and criticisms, especially in the use of conceptions of God and nature to comment upon political order. This chapter presents these relationships by reconstructing the intertwined erudite endeavours of John Toland, Anthony Collins, Matthew Tindal, Thomas Chubb and Thomas Morgan. At this point the perceived threat of deism is acknowledged to have declined in Britain. Furthermore, this chapter explores the generally held view of English deists. The deists were not modern. Nonetheless, generations of Enlightenment historians have positioned them as the founding fathers of the movement leading to the French Revolution and modernity. If the portrait of deism is accepted, then a reassessment of deism in England is necessary, especially in light of the characterizations of the English Enlightenment as clerical and strongly religious.

Keywords:   Enlightenment, Britain, French Revolution, deism, modernity

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