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The Theorist: Thomas Burnet and his sacred history of the earth

ROSSETTER, THOMAS (2019) The Theorist: Thomas Burnet and his sacred history of the earth. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Thomas Burnet’s Telluris theoria sacra and its English translation the Theory of the earth, published in two volumes between 1681 and 1690, was one of the most widely-discussed and controversial philosophical and theological works of late-seventeenth-century England. In it, Burnet attempted to trace the earth’s history from the Creation, through the Deluge, Conflagration, and Millennium, to the final consummation. Despite its notoriety, a full, in-depth study of this work has yet to be produced in English. This thesis is a first step to providing such a study. The thesis is composed of six chapters. The first offers a detailed overview of the Theory’s two volumes and their historical context. Chapter two examines its philosophical, theological, scriptural, and antiquarian foundations. The third chapter looks at two early responses to the work, Burnet’s replies to these responses, and his hugely controversial supplement to the Theory, the Archaeologiae philosophicae, published in 1692. Chapter four examines the so-called “Burnet controversy”, a proliferation of writings which emerged following the publication of the Archaeologiae and which attacked the Theory and proposed alternative philosophical accounts of the earth’s history. The final two chapters explore the relationship between Burnet and two important Newtonians who were involved in the controversy, chapter five discussing William Whiston’s 1696 New theory of the earth and the sixth and final chapter analysing John Keill’s attack on and subsequent debate with Burnet.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Thomas Burnet; theories of the earth; cosmogony; science and religion; seventeenth-century; Latitudinarianism; Cambridge Platonism; Cartesianism; Newtonianism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:17 May 2019 10:59

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