Neither could have imagined that eventually it would be necessary to construct a new Christian religiosity based in large measure upon mechanical assumptions. Yet that was precisely the synthesis developed in the second half of the seventeenth century by English Protestants forced under the impact of the English Revolution to rethink the relationship between the natural order, society and religion. Eventually all progressive Christians from Leibniz to pere Malebranche would be forced to restructure the philosophical foundations of Christianity to conform to one or another version of the new science.
English scientists of the mid-seventeenth century like Robert Boyle attacked Aristotelianism because they believed that the religion it was used to support went hand-in-hand with absolutism. They also believed that scholastic arguments about the inherent tendencies within bodies encouraged an indigenous naturalism among the masses.
According to Boyle scholasticism leads people to believe there is an anima mundi which watches over the safety of the universe and that following from this they might believe that water, for example, has a tendency to move up in a hollow reed because such motion is natural to it. With ideas like that, Boyle believed, you could justify magic as well as transubstantiation; both were a threat from. As Christopher Hill has shown, popular beliefs, including materialism and the power they gave to lay preachers or to the spirit within each individual had indeed threatened to undermine the entire system of social order in revolutionary England.
Out of the fears provoked by that experience Boyle and his friends in the Royal Society, coincidentally with Protestant theologians in Cambridge, worked out a synthesis between science and religion which was to have European-wide impact from the 's onward.source url
It provided an alternative to the militant and purely Biblical Calvinism of the Puritan sectaries as well as to the doctrinal rigidity of Catholicism. Briefly stated, this new natural religion postulated a mechanical universe providentially controlled by God but operated according to laws, which were ordered, harmonious and comprehensible. In Restorian England, as well as in the republic of letters, this liberal Christianity was immensely appealing. Newton was taught it as a young Cambridge student, Locke and Furly embraced versions of it and it permitted Furly to retain certain of his mystical beliefs , the French refugee and important journalist of Amsterdam, Jean Le Clerc, used his journals in the 's to promote it, while in the 's a young French poet named Voltaire learned his first lessons in metaphysics from reading the liberal theologian, Samuel Clarke, who in his Boyle Lectures of offered a solution out of the crisis which was based upon the science of Boyle and Newton.
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What must be stressed about this liberal Christianity, whether it is found among the Cambridge Platonists of the 's, the Dutch Arminians of the 's, or liberal Italian Catholics of the 's, is the via media it provided through a thicket of religious beliefs which had been of immense political significance throughout much of the seventeenth century.
It was seen to undermine scholasticism, hence to attack the ultramontane clergy the Jesuits, for example , as well as to challenge absolutism. It repudiated popular religiosity with its radical associations; and it offered a moderate Protestant alternative to that radical Calvinism whose millenarianism and emphasis upon the separate power of the clergy had proved so divisive. And not least, it permitted, indeed encouraged, scientific observation and experimentation.
Hence it fostered a revival of both the Baconian dream and the Cartesian proclamation that science would provide mastery over nature. One of the first European responses to French militancy, both political and religious, had been to advocate a sort of European-wide invisible college whose purpose would be to encourage applied science and the establishment of an ecumenical Christianity. The German Protestant scientist, Leibniz, had advocated that utopian scheme in the 's but it came to nothing. Yet a mere decade later liberal English Protestantism based upon Newtonian science provided a more realistic foundation for a cosmopolitan consensus.
Natural religion appealed to the laity outside of Germany far more than did the abstract and highly metaphysical natural philosophy proposed by Leibniz.
The Crisis of the European Mind: 1680-1715
After liberal or latitudinarian Christianity became associated in the minds of Europeans with two extraordinary developments. The first was a successful and bloodless English revolution which removed. The second innovation was Newtonian science. In the early 's latitudinarian Anglican clergymen championed both the political settlement of and the Newtonian synthesis, and related one to the other. Suddenly a new consensus had been forged in England: a viable national church remained amid limited religious toleration, clergymen offered justification for revolution and constitutional government, and experimental science had uncovered previously unknown and universal laws.
The Newtonian system of the world could be championed as the model for the stable, harmonious, moderately Christian polity ruled by law, not by an arbitrary and capricious will. This was a scientific and political synthesis that repudiated the materialism of Hobbes, ignored the republicanism of Harrington, and labelled radical sectaries, Levellers, Diggers, Quakers, etc.
It justified political revolution without social upheaval. That new natural religion permitted Locke to argue for the reasonableness of Christianity against the deism of Toland, and it also permitted this guardian of respectable contract theory to lobby among his parliamentary friends for the abolition of the censorship laws. Partly as a result of Locke's efforts parliament permitted the Licensing Act to lapse in , and the printing press in England acquired a freedom only rivalled by the French language press in the Dutch Republic.
With liberal, Newtonian Christianity as its centerpiece the English model of society and government captured the imagination of thousands of educated, largely urban, Europeans who frequently heard about it in the first instance from French language journals - or translations of English texts - undertaken by Huguenot refugees or Dutch scientists such as 's-Gravesande. By the second decade of the eighteenth century a new form of social gathering had been invented to celebrate this God of Newtonian science, the Grand Architect as he was called, to extend informally the limits of toleration, and to celebrate English empiricism with its passion to classify and collect.
In a formal sense Freemasonry began in London in and it was led by Newtonians and Whigs, but its roots stretch back to the 's, rather predictably to freethinking circles found within the Whig party. As early as Huguenot refugees in The Hague with the assistance of Toland had discovered a version of the masonic gathering, the earliest Continental lodge was probably in Rotterdam in , and by the 's freemasonry could be found in Paris, much to the distress of the authorities.
Its official appearance in The Netherlands was not until , and by then masons formed the core of the Anglo-Dutch lobby. Italian aristocrats in Naples set up lodges in the 's, and despite persecution in Catholic countries, Freemansonry flourished well into the age of democratic revolutions. Indeed in a social sense it became one of the most important links between the liberal solution to la crise and the Continental breeding ground for the visionaries and the disillusioned of the later period.
Despite the enormous success of liberal Christianity both at home and abroad it never entirely obliterated the radicalism of the revolution that had given birth to it. The English freethinkers, Toland, Collins. Yet just as the science of Newton wedded to liberal Protestantism, - a new natural religion - offered one resolution of la crise , the new mechanical philosophy of the early seventeenth century had been one of its causes. In the Discourse on Method he argued that all enquiry begins within the mind of the individual and not in the prescriptions or dogmas offered by the clergy, so easily subjected as they had been to the mockery of the sceptics.
According to Descartes science sprang from the individual's assumption that God would not deceive and systematically distort our perception of nature. The goal of science became the mathematical expression of mechanical laws that genuinely conform to physical reality. Descartes constructed a cosmic picture of the mechanical universe based upon logical formulations and hypotheses, and with that achievement he left problematic the exact role of continuing experimentation.
Cartesianism offered no solace to the scholastics, and it separated matter from spirit so drastically as to render irrelevant that anima mundi also attacked by Boyle. Indeed this separation was the great danger in Cartesianism: how to reunite matter and spirit in such a way as to guarantee the dominance of spirit over matter, of God over nature, of Christianity over pagan naturalism? Descartes and his immediate French followers such as Malebranche thought they had found an answer in fideism coupled with occasionalism, that is, with the belief in constant divine intervention.
European Protestants in both England and The Netherlands during the 's and well beyond also thought that Cartesianism refuted the scholastics while permitting a Christian science to flourish.
Indeed on the Continent that Protestant Cartesianism, of which Bekker is one of the most elegant representatives, flourished among the laity and their clerical allies in the universities. Biblicist Protestants like the Calvinist minister of Utrecht, Voet, attacked Cartesianism as atheism and enthusiasm, and tried to rally the populace against the lay magistrates who supported the teaching of Descartes within the university. Voet warned the people that their elders would desert their obligations to the Reformation in a world governed solely by impersonal mechanical laws. The controversies that erupted over the implications of Cartesianism from the 's onwards foreshadow la crise.
These were particularly intense in the Dutch cities, but there by the late 's at the University of Leiden and elsewhere, Cartesianism had become accepted. Calvinist rationalists saw it as a more than adequate explanation for the laws that govern the material order, and the necessity for constant experimentation in a world made comfortable by the fruits of merchant capitalism seemed hardly a priority.
When Leiden established a laboratory it was used solely to illustrate the laws of Cartesian science. Only in England during the 's did the linkage between Cartesia nism and atheism seem clearly apparant. The English flirtation with Descartes, led in the first instance by the Cambridge Platonists, turned sour for reasons that were local and unique to their experience of social revolution. When the English scientists and philosophers turned on Descartes they did so within the context of the materialist and mortalist heresies thrown up by Hobbes and the radical sectaries.
Nowhere else in Protestant Europe at this time did such a complete repudiation occur within scientific circles. One of its not-incidental by-products came in the ease with which a young Cambridge undergraduate like Newton, could turn his back on Descartes precisely in the 's because as he put it, his philosophy leads directly to atheism. Newton was no more or less a devout Christian than Bekker or the natural philosophers at Leiden, but his social universe had been far less stable than the one governed by the burgermeesters and regenten.
Above all else, the Cartesian material order is rigidly stable; indeed its God possesses many absolutist qualities, and the laws of nature hang largely upon his perceived honesty. Not surprisingly, Cartesianism made slow but steady inroads within the bastion of anti-Christ, the kingdom of Louis XIV. While the schools and universities of France continued relentlessly to teach Aristotle, by the 's Parisian theorists brought Cartesianism to the society of the salons; it became both aristocratic and bourgeois, as well as polite. Cartesianism provided arguments for absolutism as well as for the domination over society by those same groups capable of mastering the new science.
The book went through dozens of French editions, as well as foreign translations. While Cartesianism may have shaken the foundations of scholasticism and hence provoked secular vs. Yet there was a dark side to Cartesianism that continued to disturb even its most enthusiastic and absolutist supporters.
Were there not difficulties in reconciling spirit with matter when material vortices whirled through space in constant collision only with other material bodies? The danger in the new mechanical philosophy had always been its potential for turning into materialism. In the first half of the century Hobbes had demonstrated the danger much to the horror of all his Christian opponents. By the 's it was clear that the greatest philosopher of the preceding generation had begun by reading Descartes and ended up with a new and extraordinary form of materialism. Benedictus Spinoza cut the gordian knot of the spirit-matter dichotomy by arguing that there is only one substance and it is both.
Out of the Jewish community in Amsterdam with its Cabalistic traditions of learning, Spinoza worked his way into metaphysical definitions that he himself labelled political Tractatus Theologico-Politicus , If our spirit and body are one, then necessity rules our fate, and to live out one's destiny requires freedom, not only to trade but also to believe and read, to participate in civic institutions, to worship as one pleases provided political tranquility is maintained. Contemporaries labelled this philosophy of freedom, atheism; spinozism or pantheism were less pejorative contemporary descriptions, the latter term invented by a supporter, John Toland in Spinozism is central to la crise.
It was what you might embrace after you had left scholasticism if you had ever belonged , dabbled in the new scientific literature, discovered Descartes and found him compelling for a time, but then became disillusioned with the absolutist tendencies of the French Cartesians. You might have been prepared for it by Hobbes' materialism, although not by his politics, and you were probably a doctor, or a lawyer, or a journalist - a layman of professional status and some university training - who did not much like clergymen telling you what to think.
Spinozism appealed to freethinkers, or created them, within every segment of the literate classes, first in The Netherlands, then in England and finally in France. By the 's Spinoza's ideas had been translated out of Latin into English or made available in various clandestine manuscripts written in simple French in the Dutch Republic. We still have an imperfect understanding of the sources of this early spinozism, of its actual believers and transmittors, but we now know it to have been widespread. By the 's pantheism was everywhere, its growth an unintended byproduct of the new science.
Without Descartes there would have been no Spinoza; without Spinoza, no pantheism; however many other intellectual traditions, including the writings of Giordano Bruno, we can legitimately point to as sources for this most virulent heresy of the early Enlightenment. The new science in all its forms pried open minds that might otherwise have been content to explain nature by reference to its inherent properties, to what one sees on a daily basis.
It also provided an alternative to seventeenth century scepticism which was itself one civilized response to the endemic religious wars of the early modern period. Science also elevated God's work to the status of his word, and in the process made a literal reading of the Bible less necessary if not also, when it came to heliocentricity, simply impossible. To that extent it downgraded Biblical language and muted the message of sectarian groups with their special readings of the Bible.
The new science was the single most important source of arguments against witches, miracles, and special illuminations. One of the most visible symptoms of la crise in the 's was the European-wide assault on what contemporaries called enthusiasm. This was mysticism in one's religious piety; the appeal to the inner light in the hands of sectaries. When the French prophets, a group of Huguenots from the Savoy, rose in rebellion against Louis XIV during the early years of the War of Spanish Succession , English and Dutch Protestants praised their heroism and the most millenarian among them took the.
When the prophets actually turned up on the streets of London assisted by Isaac Newton's close friend, Fatio de Duillier, the authorities arrested them, the doctors denounced them as mad, and the freethinkers labelled them as deluded by superstition. Liberal Anglicans argued that the new science provided the foundation for natural religion, for a social cement which rendered the disciplined public experience of divinity infinitely preferable to the private illuminations of the saint.
The exiled French prophets took to wandering England, Scotland and finally The Netherlands and Germany in a lonely search for converts. When Benjamin Furly saw them preach in Rotterdam he was appalled by their enthusiasm. It should be emphasized that the use of science to repudiate magic was frequently not the work of the scientists themselves. Both Boyle and Newton accepted some sort of apocalypse; Boyle believed in magical cures while denouncing the pretensions of the alchemists; Newton secretly practiced alchemy all his life.
In Germany Leibniz dabbled in astrology. Their clerical friends worried that if one stopped prosecuting witches in the courts, religion might suffer. Yet by the late seventeenth century English magistrates did stop prosecuting witches while in the Netherlands by the early 's the Calvinist clergy engaged in violent persecution of libertines and homosexuals, witches having all but disappeared from their list of concerns.
It was the new science as interpreted by the educated laity of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries that forever banished the superstitions as they saw them of the people from polite discourse. It was what individuals made of the natural philosophies of Descartes, Spinoza, Boyle and Newton that provoked la crise ; what resolved it was the creation of an elite and enlightened culture, one that might still in many cases be Christian but that recoiled from any form of personal illumination or magical power.
Hazard and also many of the post-war historians of the Enlightenment wrote in a tradition of literary or philosophical history that for all of its achievements nevertheless rendered la crise and its resolution into a series of ideas to be tested, accepted or rejected. More recent historiography, influenced by the writings of Franco Venturi, among others, has attempted to place ideas in their social milieu, to concentrate attention on individuals and groups, their interests, their social organization, political affiliations and aspirations, as well as their intellectual heritage.
With this approach the early Enlightenment acquires a texture and complexity and so too does la crise. We now see the earliest supporters of religious toleration in England as political men - indeed the English Whigs first used the word politician to describe themselves - who supported a limited toleration for all Protestants as the only way to form a coalition which could both defeat absolutism and insure social stability and the maintenance of elite hegemony. Those in the 's who went further than this toleration permitted and attacked Christianity itself, possessed strongly republican leanings.
They saw churches and clergymen as the primary obstacles to the creation of a civil religion suitable for both country squires and city merchants. Once we are aware. Yet all these disparate groups in the late seventeenth century were also responding to the growth of a market society. When clergymen preached Newton's system of the world they called it a model for a stable society where self-interest could be both Christian and lead to success.
When European journalists or minor government officials privately embraced pantheism they sometimes did so because they saw the providential God of the Christians - in the words of an early pantheist - as the God of the lazy. For deists and pantheists also favored the market and they juxtaposed its freedom to the monopolistic powers sought by monarchs and churches. We must see the increasing prosperity of Western elites, and possibly large segments of the European population in the late seventeenth century - the English apparently achieved an agricultural surplus by - as an important contributing factor to the intellectual crisis.
The anti-clericalism that united so many of the leaders of the early Enlightenment was a complex phenomenon to be sure, yet it easily appealed to prosperous laymen who resented the elite status and privilege of the clergy. The travel literature with its keen eye for religious ceremony was of course also a direct byproduct of the expansion of Western commercial capitalism, as was the market at home for books and journals.
Market transactions required an increasing literacy and numeracy, and by the late 's teaching books for English artisans and mechanics had begun to include the basic laws of Newtonian science. Indeed from the mid-seventeenth century onward the new science became identified with the interests and activities of the leaders of commercial society. When the Zwolle apothecary, Hendrik Smeeks, invented his European voyager stranded in the mythical kingdom of Krinke Kesmes he had him teach Descartes to the natives, while the author's characterization of the origin and purpose of religion is remarkable for its Hobbesian elements.
The new natural philosophies offered universal principles independent of any particular doctrinal creed that helped to explain the new and mysterious. The lectures concentrated on weights, levers, pulleys, the measurement of force, the extraction of water from mines, on mechanisms of every kind. One way of characterizing the scientific aspect of la crise which resulted in displacement of Cartesianism by Newtonianism, might be to see the latter in its popularized form as a science much better suited to a more industrial version of commercial capitalism.
By the early eighteenth century commercial capitalism, at least in the Netherlands, had created a class of urban aristocrats and renteniers grown fat from the profits of trade in goods and slaves.
Crisis of the European Mind | Weeds
And it is precisely in that place, at that moment when the new literature of enlighted, cosmopolitan society took a particularly vicious turn. At its origin spectatorial literature was an invention of English Whigs comfortable in the city, not adverse to the pleasures of the country, but primarily enamoured of their new found freedom to publish, to. The Spectator cast a sardonic, never a really vicious eye, at the comings and goings of the rich and well-born, their deals and speculations, habits and search for refinement.
Its Whig editors were never too critical on the subject of commerce and its practitioners; they were simply too fascinated. That genre quickly crossed the Channel, predictably to the Dutch cities where it was seized upon by French and Dutch journalists alike. Doubtless it would have had a bright future in Paris as well, but censorship made that sort of periodical literature a commodity for importation rather than home production. For as the spectatorial style crossed the Channel to the heartland of commercial capitalism, its mood changed.
There the merchants were the aristocrats; no regent would ever refer to himself as a bourgeois. While it is true that Dutch capitalism had always rewarded the earnest and plain spoken, however rich he might become, something had changed by the early eighteenth century. In the 's English visitors could still hear wanton republican expressions being shouted on the floor of the Amsterdam stock exchange - one suspects the morals of the French court got a particularly rough going over - but by the 's there is a growing sense among the observers of polite society that something was rotten in the republic.
It is that social context that shifts the mood of the spectatorial press; the gossip turns vicious and the Enlightenment acquires the ability to be socially dangerous. In the important spectatorial journals of the Dutch writer, Jacob Campo Weyerman, that viciousness predominates. There is an element of hatred in his gossip and his irreligion barely stays beneath the surface. His Rotterdamsche Hermes published during the 's was also aggressively libertine, with the clergy bearing the brunt of his sexual sarcasm.
In the style of La Rochefoucauld he catalogued the amour propre of his age; but there is malice in his humour. His approach to religion resembles that of Hobbes, and over and over again he speaks of interestand avidity; his pastors are all rich and content, his merchants buy books to decorate their homes, never to be read.
By comparison his Persians are more interesting; they are relatively honest and uncorrupted. The travel literature made possible by the expansion of commercial capitalism had turned on the culture that spawned it. By the second decade of the eighteenth century the examples of paganism used to disabuse Europeans of their superstitions have given way to fascination for these same pagans, at moments even envy.
Bernard with his associate, the refugee engraver, Bernard Picart, initiated in the multi-volumed first encyclopedia of all the religions of the world. In this instance cynicism and alienation led to the creation of anthropology. Throughout the eighteenth century pagan religiosity would frighten both the godly and the enlightened; yet for those who contrasted pagan societies with even the most enlightened European regimes, there was.
For some decades the philosophers believed that the alternative lay across the Channel in the social and political order sanctioned by Newton and the Revolution Settlement. That at least was what Voltaire preached, and the French Protestant press did everything in its power to preserve the illusion. Given the light that had once shone from that direction it was an illusion with considerable merit. In deze tijd veranderde de visie op mens en natuur, staat en godsdienst; aldus werd de weg vrijgemaakt voor de franse revolutie.
Hazards werk uit was decennia lang te verenigen met alle nieuw onderzoek, en de resultaten daarvan. In het politieke hadden drie engelse stromingen invloed. Er waren de denkers uit het Commonwealth van de jaren '50, die een republikeins principe huldigden. Deze vrij-denkers kregen in de Nederlanden kontakt met de voor het franse absolutisme gevluchte hugenoten.
Amsterdam De contrapropaganda kwam voornamelijk vanuit de bedreigde republiek. De republiek was in zekere zin de hoofdstad van Europa: hier ligt het begin van de groei van het vrije denken, de groei van de opiniepers, de strijd tegen de tirannie. Hier ook vond de eerste verzoening met het commercieel kapitalisme plaats. Radicalisme bleef echter uitzondering. De hoofdstroom werd een soort calvinistisch rationalisme, waarin God de beheerser werd van de wetten in het heelal.
Mensen als Bayle, Bekker passen hierin. Overigens kon men van alles zijn: pantheist, empirist, vrijmetselaar, aristokraat, millenniarist, radikaal. Er ontwikkelt zich een soort liberaal christendom, van verlichte zijde uitgedacht als een soort compromis tussen wetenschap en religie. Tegelijk was het een wapen tegen het absolutisme, en tegen de verouderde scholastiek der jezuieten.
Met voorliefde dacht men aan een europa-breed, oecumenisch christendom. De nieuwe wetenschap was tevens het arsenaal waaruit men kon putten voor aanvallen op allerlei soorten mysticisme. De handel eiste allerlei kennis en eruditie; en die kennis was in toenemende mate newtoniaans in een verhaal als de Krinke Kesmes wordt in het Zuidland de inboorlingen ook een soort kennis onderwezen, zij het nog in de sfeer van het cartesianisme.
Precies op dat moment start de literatuur van een verlichte, kosmopolitische gemeenschap. De spectatoriale literatuur past daarin. In de Republiek blijft het zelfs niet beperkt tot een expressie van tevredenheid met zichzelf: de geschriften geven blijk van een zekere afkeer van het heersende bewind Bernard, Weyerman.
Vandaar dat in de eerste decennia van de 18e eeuw Engeland gezien werd als de model-staat. Mededelingen van de Stichting Jacob Campo Weyerman. Jaargang 7 meer over deze tekst. Vorige Volgende. Margaret C.
Jacob The crisis of the European mind: Hazard revisited 1. The Political Origins of the Crisis Three traditions of political discourse emerged from the English Revolution, and by the late seventeenth century all were antipathetic to Continental absolutism. The Transcendence of Protestantism The legacy of the English Revolution would have remained a largely British and American matter had it not been for the agressive policies initiated in the 's by Louis XIV and his government.
The New Science and the development of Liberal Christianaty By the 's it could be said that the European elite had been badly served by the guardians of religious orthodoxy. Science and Heterodoxy Yet just as the science of Newton wedded to liberal Protestantism, - a new natural religion - offered one resolution of la crise , the new mechanical philosophy of the early seventeenth century had been one of its causes. The Social and Economic Foundations of La Crise Hazard and also many of the post-war historians of the Enlightenment wrote in a tradition of literary or philosophical history that for all of its achievements nevertheless rendered la crise and its resolution into a series of ideas to be tested, accepted or rejected.
Bibliography 1. Paris, Boivin, Hazard followed this work by an examination of the resolution of the crisis. Paris; Boivin, To begin with the most recent attempt to restate the crisis, in this case in Marxist terms, there is Erica Harth: Ideology and Culture in Seventeenth Century France. In English culture recent revisions of this problem, especially as it relates to science, can be found in James R.
Jacob: Robert Boyle and the English Revolution. Jacob: The Newtonians and the English Revolution , Mondo Newtoniano et cultura italiana nel primo settecento. Naples Princeton; Princeton University Press, For the political traditions of the English Revolution consult George H. Sabine: A History of Political Theory. London; Harrap, ; C. London The relationship between science and the English Revolution is explored in James R. Jacob and Margaret C. In: Isis 71 , pp. Bologna; Il Mulino, New York; Atheneum, Ian Kershaw.
Mary Beard. The Celts. Alice Roberts. First to Fight. Roger Moorhouse. Paddy Ashdown. In the Shadow of Vesuvius. Daisy Dunn. The Cut Out Girl. Bart van Es. Brendan Simms. Big Week. James Holland. Your review has been submitted successfully. Not registered?
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