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Paley, William: science and rhetoric in his natural theology

Eddy, Matthew Daniel Eddy (1999) Paley, William: science and rhetoric in his natural theology. Masters thesis, Durham University.



William Paley's Natural Theology is probably the nineteenth century's most well- known design argument. As such an influential book, it is almost expected that twentieth century intellectual historians should at least pay a footnote to it. In midst of all these studies about the impact of Natural Theology upon the nineteenth century, one key fact is forgotten: Natural Theology and its sources were written in the eighteenth century. It is the goal of this thesis to demonstrate that Paley's design argument must be compared to the intellectual climate of that time period. Chapters 1 and 2 outline the rhetorical argument and the tools that Paley used to persuade his polite eighteenth century audience. The majority of scientific sources and examples he used were well-known names and therefore implicitly contributed to the believability of his argument. Accordingly, chapters 3 and 4 investigate why Paley's scientific sources added credibility to Natural Theology. Chapters 5 and 6 examine the actual scientific data that Paley turned into examples for his design argument. Setting the rhetoric aside, what was the actual scientific picture communicated by his examples? In these chapters, we find that even though Paley argues against random change, he does support a morphological telic change—the development of a supplemental part based on a pre-existing, fixed body part. As every chapter of this thesis unfolds, it will become more apparent that Paley was an intellectual heir to the eighteenth century. He wrote in a polite manner and employed a body of standard eighteenth century natural philosophical knowledge. It is this context that must be addressed and seriously considered when studying the nineteenth century intellectual legacy of Natural Theology.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1999
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Sep 2012 15:48

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