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William Whewell, natural theology and the philosophy of science in mid nineteenth century Britain

William Whewell, natural theology and the philosophy of science in mid nineteenth century Britain Summary This article aims to reveal the moral and theological dimensions of William Whewell's philosophy of science. It suggests that, in addition to an internalist account of Whewell's method and epistemology, there is a need to view his philosophy of science (and knowledge) within the intellectual context constituted by the assumptions of natural theology. It argues that writers of natural theology saw man's ability to know the world as an indication of his special place in nature, and that epistemological theories were therefore invested with moral and theological significance. Whewell's work is interpreted as an attempt to dissociate natural science from Utilitarianism and empiricist philosophy: he sought to promote a philosophy of science which guaranteed the principles of natural theology and the values of Christianity. But the idealist epistemology which he proposed was criticized by both scientists and theologians. In 1853 (in his book Of the plurality of worlds), again within the framework of natural theology, Whewell attempted to justify this epistemology by affirming the metaphysics of a Christian Platonism. From this position, Whewell defended natural theology against the metaphysical scepticism of both Henry Mansel and the positivists. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Annals of Science Taylor & Francis

William Whewell, natural theology and the philosophy of science in mid nineteenth century Britain

Annals of Science , Volume 36 (5): 24 – Sep 1, 1979

William Whewell, natural theology and the philosophy of science in mid nineteenth century Britain

Annals of Science , Volume 36 (5): 24 – Sep 1, 1979

Abstract

Summary This article aims to reveal the moral and theological dimensions of William Whewell's philosophy of science. It suggests that, in addition to an internalist account of Whewell's method and epistemology, there is a need to view his philosophy of science (and knowledge) within the intellectual context constituted by the assumptions of natural theology. It argues that writers of natural theology saw man's ability to know the world as an indication of his special place in nature, and that epistemological theories were therefore invested with moral and theological significance. Whewell's work is interpreted as an attempt to dissociate natural science from Utilitarianism and empiricist philosophy: he sought to promote a philosophy of science which guaranteed the principles of natural theology and the values of Christianity. But the idealist epistemology which he proposed was criticized by both scientists and theologians. In 1853 (in his book Of the plurality of worlds), again within the framework of natural theology, Whewell attempted to justify this epistemology by affirming the metaphysics of a Christian Platonism. From this position, Whewell defended natural theology against the metaphysical scepticism of both Henry Mansel and the positivists.

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References (28)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN
1464-505X
eISSN
0003-3790
DOI
10.1080/00033797900200341
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Summary This article aims to reveal the moral and theological dimensions of William Whewell's philosophy of science. It suggests that, in addition to an internalist account of Whewell's method and epistemology, there is a need to view his philosophy of science (and knowledge) within the intellectual context constituted by the assumptions of natural theology. It argues that writers of natural theology saw man's ability to know the world as an indication of his special place in nature, and that epistemological theories were therefore invested with moral and theological significance. Whewell's work is interpreted as an attempt to dissociate natural science from Utilitarianism and empiricist philosophy: he sought to promote a philosophy of science which guaranteed the principles of natural theology and the values of Christianity. But the idealist epistemology which he proposed was criticized by both scientists and theologians. In 1853 (in his book Of the plurality of worlds), again within the framework of natural theology, Whewell attempted to justify this epistemology by affirming the metaphysics of a Christian Platonism. From this position, Whewell defended natural theology against the metaphysical scepticism of both Henry Mansel and the positivists.

Journal

Annals of ScienceTaylor & Francis

Published: Sep 1, 1979

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