Category Archives: Reason

Item of the Day: Philosophical Works of Francis Bacon (1733)

Full Title: The Philosophical Works of Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Albans, and Lord High-Chancellor of England; Methodized, and made English, from the Originals. With Occasional Notes, To explain what is obscure; and shew how far the several Plans of the Author, for the Advancement of all the Parts of Knowledge, have been executes to the Present Time. Vol. I. By Peter Shaw, M.D. London: Printed for J. J. and P. Knapton; D. Midwinter and A. Ward; A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch; J. Pemberton; J. Osborn and T. Longman; C. Rivington; F. Clay; J. Batley; R. Hett; and T. Hatchett, M.DCC.XXXIII. [1733].




Delivered in the Way of Fiction.


THE present Piece has, perhaps, been esteemed a greater Fiction than it is: The Form fo the History is purely imaginary; but the Things mentioned in it seem purely Philosophical; and, if Men would exert themselves, probably practical. But whilst our Minds labour under a kind of Despondency and Dejection, with regard to operative Philosophy; and refuse to put forth their strength; the Wings of Hope are clipped. And, in this situation, the mind seems scarce accessible but by Fiction. For plain Reason will here prove dull and languid; and even Works themselves rather stupefy than rouze and inform. Whence the prudent and seasonable use of Invention and Imagery, is a great Secret for winning over the Affections to Philosophy. We have here, as in miniature, a Summary of Universal Knowledge; Examples, Precepts and Models for improving the Mind in History, Geography, Chronology, Military Discipline, Civil Conversation, Morality, Policy, Physicks, &c whence it appears like a kind of Epitome, and farther Improvement of the Scheme of the Augmentis Scientiarum. The dignity and utility of the Design may appear from hence; that not only Mr. Cowley endeavoured to imitate it, in his Plan of a Philosophical Society; but even the Royal Society of London, and the Royal Academy of Paris, have, from their first Institution, employed themselves, and still continue employed, in its execution.


1.  After a twelvemonth’s stay at Peru, we sailed from thence for China and Japan, by the South-Sea; and had fair Winds from the East, tho’ soft and gentle, for above five Months: then the Wind changed and settled in the West, for several days; so that we made little way, and sometimes purposed to sail back. But now there arose strong Winds from the South, one point to the East, which carried us to the North: by which time our Provisions failed us. And being thus amidst the greatest wilderness of Waters in the World, we gave ourselves for lost. Yet lifting up our hearts to God, who sheweth his wonders in the Deep; we besought him that as in the beginning he disclosed the face of the Deep, and made dry Land appear; so we might now discover Land, and not perish. The next day about Evening, we saw before us, towards the North, the appearance of thick Clouds, which gave us some hopes for as that part of the South-Sea was utterly unkown; we judged it migh have Islands or Continents, hitherto undiscovered. We, therefore, shaped our Course towards them, and in the dawn of the next day plainly discerned Land.

2.  After sailing an hour longer, we entered the Port of a fair city; not large, but well built, and affording an agreeable Prospect from the Sea. Upon offering to go on shore, we saw People with Wands in their hands, as it were forbidding us; yet without any Cry or Fierceness; but only warning us off by Signs. Whereupon we advised among ourselves what to do: when a small Boat presently made out to us, with about eight Persons in it; one whereof held in his hand a short, yellow Cane, tipped at both ends with blue; who made on board our Ship, without any shew of distrust. And seeing one of our number present himself somewhat at the head of the rest, he drew out, and delivered to him, a little Scroll of yellow polish’d Parchment, wherein were written in ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, Latin of the School, and in Spanish, these Words: Land ye not, and provide to be gone within sixteen days; except ye have farther time given you: but if ye want fresh Water, Provision, Help for your Sick, or Repair for your Ship, write down your Wants, and ye shall have what belongs to Mercy. The Scroll was sealed with Cherubims Wings, and a Cross.

3.  This being deliver’d, the Officer return’d, and left only a Servant to receive our Answer. Our Answer was, in Spanish, That our Ship wanted no Repair; for we had rather met with Calms and contrary Winds, than Tempests: but our Sick were many; so that if not permitted to land, their Lives were in danger. Our other Wants we set down in particualr; adding, that we had some little store of Merchandize; which, if they pleased to traffick for, might supply our Wants, without being burdensome to them. We offered Money to the Servant; and a Piece of Crimson Velvet to be presented the Officer: but the Servant took them not; and would scarce look upon them: so left us, and retun’d in another little Boat that was went for him.

4.  About three Hours after our Answer was dispatch’d, there came to us a Person of Figure. He had on a Gown with wide Sleeves, a kind of Water-Camblet, of an excellent and bright Azure; his under Garment was green, so was his Hat, being in the form of a Turban, curiously made; his Hair hanging below the Brims of it. He came in a boat, some part of it gilt, along with four other Persons; and was follow’d by another Boat, wherein were twenty. When he was come within bow-shot of our Ship, Signals were made to us, that we should send out our boat to meet him; which we presently did, manned with the principal Person amongst us but one, and four of our number with him. When we came within six Yards of their Boat, they bid us approach no farther: we obeyed; and thereupon the Person of Figure, before described, stood up and, with a loud Voice, in Spanish, asked, Are ye Christians? We answered, yes; fearing the less, because of the Cross we had seen in the Signet. At which Answer, the said Person lift up his right Hand towards Heaven, and drew it softly to his Mouth; a Gesture they use when they thank God, and then said; If ye will swear by the Merits of the Saviour, that ye are no Pirates; nor have shed Blood, lawfully or unlawfully, within forty Days past; ye have Licence to come on shore. We said, we were all ready to take the Oath. Whereupon, one of those that were with him, being, as it appear’d, a Notary, made an entry of this Act. Which done, another of the Attendants in the same Boat, after his Lord had spoke to him, said aloud; My Lord would have ye know, that it is not out of Pride, or Greatness, that he does not come on board your Ship; but as in your Answer, you declare you have many sick among you, he was warned by the City-Conservator of Health to keep at a distance. We bowed ourselves, and answered, we accounted what was already done a great Honour, and singular Humanity; but hoped, that the Sickness of our Men was not infectious. Then he returned. . . .



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Filed under 1600's, 1700's, Culture, Eighteenth century, Enlightenment, Fiction, Modern Language Translations, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Reason

Item of the Day: Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695, 1777)

Full Title:

The Works of John Locke, in Four Volumes.  The Eighth Edition.  Volume the Third.  London:  Printed for W. Strahan, J. F. and C. Rivington, L. Davis, W. Owen, S. Baker and G. Leigh, T. Payne and Son, T. Caslon, S. Crowder, T. Longman, B. Law, C. Rivington, E. and C. Dilly, J. Wilkie, T. Cadell, N. Conant, T. Beecroft, T. Lowndes, G. Robinson, Jos. Johnson, J. Robson, J. Knox, T. Becket, and T. Evans. 1777.

The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures [originally, 1695]

It is obvious to any one, who reads the new testament, that the doctrine of redemption, and consequently of the gospel, is founded upon the supposition of Adam’s fall.  To understand therefore, what we are restored to by Jesus Christ, we must consider what the scriptures shew [sic] we lost by Adam.  This I thought worthy of a diligent and unbiassed [sic] search: since I found the two extremes, that men run into on this point, either on the one hand shook the foundations of all religion, or, on the other, made christianity almost nothing: for whilst some men would have all Adam’s posterity doomed to eternal, infinite punishment, of the transgression of Adam, whom millions had never heard of, and no one had authorised to transact for him, or be his representative; this seemed to others so little consistent with the justice or goodness of the great and infinite God, that they thought there was no redemption necessary, and consequently, that there was none; rather than admit of it upon a supposition so derogatory to the honour and attributes of that infinite Being; and so made Jesus Christ nothing but the restorer and preacher of pure natural religion; thereby doing violence to the whole tenor of the new testament.  And, indeed, both sides will be suspected to have trespassed this way, against the written word of God, by any one, who does but take it to be a collection of writings, designed by God, for the instruction of the illiterate bulk of mankind, in the way to salvation; and therefore, generally, and in necessary points, to be understood in the plain direct meaning of the words and phrases; such as they may be supposed to have had in the mouths of the speakers, who used them according to the language of that time and country wherein they lived; without such learned, artificial, and forced senses of them, as are fought out, and put upon them, in most of the systems of divinity, according to the notions that each one has been bred up in. 

To one that, thus unbiassed, reads the scriptures, what Adam fell from (is visible), was the state of perfect obedience, which is called justice in the new testament; though the word, which in the original signifies justice, be translated righteousness: and, by this fall, be lost paradise, wherein was tranquility and the tree of life; i.e. he lost bliss and immortality.  The penalty annexed to the breach of the law, with the sentence pronounced by God upon it, shew this. The penalty stands thus, Gen. ii. 17. “In the day, that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”  How was this executed?  He did eat: but, in the day he did eat, he did not actually die; but was turned out of paradise from the tree of life, and shut out for ever from it, lest he shoul take thereof, and live for ever.  This shews, that the state of paradise was a state of immortality, of life without end; which he lost that very day that he eat: his life began from thence to shorten, and waste, and to have an end; and from thence, to his actual death, was but like the time of a prisoner, between the sentence passed and the execution, which was in view and certain.  Death then entered, and shewed his face which before was shut out, and not known.  So St. Paul, Rom. v. 12. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” i.e. a state of death and mortality: and, 1 Cor. xv. 22.  In Adam all die; i.e. by reason of his transgression, all men are mortal, and come to die.    

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Filed under 1690's, 1770's, Church of England, Eighteenth century, Philosophy, Posted by Matthew Williams, Reason, Religion

Item of the Day: Philosophy of Natural History (1790)

Full Title: The Philosophy of Natural History. By Willieam Smellie, Member of the Antiquarian and Royal Societies of Edinburgh. Edinburgh: Printed for the Heirs of Charles Elliot; and C. Elliot and T. Kay, T. Cadell, and G. G. J. & J. Robinson, London, MDCCXC.


Of the Docility of Animals.

OF all animals capable of culture, man is the most ductile. By instruction, imitation, and habit, his mind may be moulded into any form. It may be exalted by science and art to a degree of knowledge, if which the vulgar and uninformed have not the most distant conception. The reverse is melancholy. When the human mind is left to its own operations, and deprived of almost every opportunity of social information, it sinks so low, that it is nearly rivaled by the most sagacious brutes. The natural superiority of man over the other animals, as formerly remarked is a necessary result of the great number of instincts with which is mind is endowed. These instincts are gradually unfolded, and produce, after a mature age, reason, abstraction, invention, science. To confirm this truth, it would be fruitless to have recourse to metaphysical arguments, which generally mislead and bewilder human reason. A diligent attention to the actual operations of Nature is sufficient to convince any mind that is not warped and deceived by popular prejudice, the fetters of authorities, as they are called, whether ancient or modern, or by the vanity of supporting preconceived opinions and favourite theories. Let any man reflect on the progress of children from birth to manhood. At first, their instincts are limited to obscure sensations, and to the performance of a few corporeal actions, to which they are prompted, or rather compelled, by certain stimulating impulses unnecessary to be mentioned. In a few months, their sensations are perceived to be more distinct, their bodily actions are better directed, new instincts are unfolded, and they assume a greater appearance of rationality and of mental capacity. When still farther advanced, and after they have acquired some use of language, ans some knowlege of natural objects, they beginto reason; but their reasonings are feeble, and often prposterous. In this manner they uniformly proceed in improvement till they are actuated by the last instinct, at or near the age of puberty. After this period, they reason with some degree of perpicuity and justness. But, though their whole instincts are now unfolded and in action, every power of their minds requires, previous to its utmost exertions, to be agitated and polished by an examination of a thousand natural and artificial objects, by the experience and observations of those with whom they associate, by public or private instruction, by studying the writings of their predecessors and contemporaries, and by their own reflections, till they arrive at the age of thirty-five. Previous to that period, much learning may have been acquired, much genius may have been exerted; but,  before that time of life, judgment, abstraction, and the reasoning faculty, are not fully matured. This progress is the genuine operation of Nature, and the gradual source of human sagacity and mental powers. The same progress is to be observed in the powers of the body. It arrives, indeed, sooner at perfection than the mind. But, if the progress of the mind greatly preceded that of the body, what a miserable and aukward [sic] figure would human beings, at an early period of their existence, exhibit? Active and vigourous minds, stimulated to command what the organs of their bodies were unable to obey, would produce peevishness, anger, regret, and every distressing passion.

The bodies of men, though not so ductile as their minds, are capable, when properly managed by early culture, of wonderful exertions. Men, accustomed to live in polished societies, have little or no idea of the activity, the courage, the patience and the persevering industry of savages, when simply occupied in hunting wild animals for food for themselves and their families. The hunger, the fatique, the hardships, which they not only endure, but despise with fortitude, would amaze and terrify the imagination of any civilized Euopean. . . .


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Filed under 1790's, Natural Science, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Reason

Item of the Day: An Examination of the Age of Reason (1794)

Full Title: An Examination of the Age of Reason or an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology, by Thomas Paine. By Gilbert Wakefield. London: Printed; New York: Re-printed by G. Forman, No. 156, Front-Street, for J. Fellows, no. 131 Water-Street, 1794.



THAT the former writings of Thomas Paine abound with indications of original conception and profound thought, of comprehension and sagacity, far beyond the vigour of vulgar minds, no man, I presume, of character for intelligence and integrity will venture to deny. To the authority of venal sycophants, and all the retainers of corrupt and wicked systems, whether in politics or religion, no competency can be allowed in a decision upon this subject: but, on the contrary, the virulence of their abuse is in itself no unequivocal symptom of extraordinary merit: just as the screams and tumult of the feathered tribe prove some bird of nobler presence and more ample pinion to be approaching. The work, which I have undertaken to examine, is entitled to particular respect from the circumstances of it’s composition. It is the effusion of a pregnant intellect, sobered by the meditations of a solitary prison, not unatttended probably by some apprehensions of such a catastrophe, as a crisis of things so novel and eventful, may daily and hourly be expected to produce. The reflections therefore of such a season, from so popular a name, on a subject of such universal interest, is secure, we may presume, of considerable attention in this country, from those who are occupied in the discussion of their civil and religious creed: a number which has certainly increased of late with surprising rapidity, and will, I hope and believe, go on encreasing with an accelerated progress. On this account, I conceived myself not unlikely to serve the cause of revealed truth by an examination of a deistical pamphlet, which seemed so fair a candidate for extensive circulation: and I felt the more inclination to this task, not from an arrogant persuasion of superior knowledge and abilities, but from a clear conviction, that Christianity CANNOT be vindicated adequately and consistently against Deism by any slave of systems and establishments; well aware in the mean time, that all my zeal for Christianity will not screen me from the malice of those, who love church-emoluments better than scripture-truth; because an opportunity will arise of exposing the trumpery and nonsense of ecclesiastics.

The time is come, when all our opinions must be tried at the touchstone of severe enquiry; and, if the Jewish and Christian revelations cannot support themselves against the batteries of their assailants, in the estimation of capable and disinterested judges, the outposts must be abandoned; and a retreat secured to the fortresses of deism, already occupied by the patriarchs of old, and the illustrious philosophers of later times. The sway of creeds and councils, of hierarchies and churches, whether Protestant or Popish, over the bodies and consciences of men, is diminishing apace: and the temple of revelation, deprived of the mouldering props, which priestcraft, and tyranny, and superstition had framed for it’s support, must repose solely in it’s proper basis, the adamant TRUTH. . . .



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Filed under 1790's, Eighteenth century, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Reason, Religion

Item of the Day: The Age of Reason, Part II. (1796)

Full Title: The Age of Reason. Part the Second. Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology: by Thomas Paine. London: Printed and sold by Daniel Isaac Eaton, Printer and Bookseller to the Supreme Majesty of the People, at the Cock and Swine, No. 74, Newgate-Street, 1796.






IT has often beens said that any thing may be proved from the Bible; but before any thing can be admitted as proved by Bible, the Bible itself must be proved to be true; for if the Bible be not true, or the truth of it be doubtful, it ceases to have authority, and cannot be admitted as proof of any thing.

It has been the practice of all Christian commentators on the Bible, and of all Christian priests and preachers, to impose the Bible on the world as a mass of truth, and as the word of God; they have disputed and wrangled, and have anathematized each other about the supposeable meaning of particular parts and passages therein; one said and insisted that such a passage meant such a thing; another, that it meant directly the contrary; and a third, that it meant neither one nor the other, but something different from both; and this they have called understanding the Bible.

It has happened that all the answers that I have seen to the former part of the Age of Reason have been written by priests; and these pious men, like their predecessors, contend and wrangle, and understand the Bible; each understands it differently, but each understands it best; and they have agreed in nothing, but in telling their readers, that Thomas Paine understands it not.

Now, instead of wasting their time, and heating themselves in fractious disputations about doctrinal points drawn from the Bible, these men ought to know, and if they do not, it is civility to inform them, that the first thing to be understood is, whether there is sufficient authority for believing the Bible to be the word of God, or whether there is not?

There are matters in that book, said to be done by the express command of God, that are as shocking to humanity, and to every idea we have of moral justice, as any thing done by Robespierre, by Carrier, by Joseph le Bon, in France; by the English government in the East Indies; or by any other assassin in modern times. When we read the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, &c. that they (the Israelites) came by stealth upon whole nations of people, who, as the history itself shews, had given them no offence; that they put all those nations to the sword; that they spared neither age nor infancy; that they utterly destroyed men, women, and children; that they left not a soul to breathe; expressions that are repeated over and over again in those books, and that too with exulting ferocity; are we sure these things are facts? are we sure that the Creator of man commissioned these things to be done? are we sure that the books that tell us so, were written by his authority.

It is not the antiquity of a tale, that is any evidence of its truth; on the contrary, it is a symptom of its being fabulous; for the more ancient any history pretends to be, the more it has the resemblance of a fable. The origin of every nation is buried in fabulous tradition, and that of the Jews is as much to be suspected as any other.

To charge the commission of things upon the Almighty, which, in their own nature, and by every rule of moral justice, are crimes, as all assassination is, and more especially the assassination of infants, is matter of serious concern. The Bible tells us, that those assassinations were done by the express command of God. To believe therefore the Bible to be true, we must unbelieve all our belief in the moral justice of God; for wherein could crying or smiling infants offend? And to read the Bible without horror, we must undo every thing that is tender, sympathising, and benevolent in the heart of man. Speaking for myself if I had no other evidence that the Bible is fabulous, than the sacrifice I must make to believe it to be true, that alone would be sufficient to determine my choice.

But in addition to all the moral evidence against the Bible, I will, in the progress of this work, produce such other evidence, as even a priest cannot deny; and shew from that evidence, that the Bible is not entitled to credit, as being the word of God. . . .

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Filed under 1790's, Eighteenth century, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Reason, Religion

Item of the Day: Paine’s Age of Reason, Part I. (1796)

Full Title: The Age of Reason. Part the First. Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology. By Thomas Paine. London: Printed for and sold by Daniel Isaac Eaton, Printer and Bookseller to the Supreme Majesty of the People, at the Cock and Swine, No. 74, Newgate-Street, 1796.







It has been my intention, for several years past, to publish my thoughts upon religion. I am well aware of the difficulties that attend the subject; and from that consideration, had reserved it to a more advanced period of life. I intended it to be the last offering I should make to my fellow-citizens of all nations: and that at a time when the purity of the motive that induced me to it, could not admit of a question, even by those who might disapprove the work.

The circumstance that has now taken place in France, of the total abolition of the whole national order of priesthood, and of every thing appertaining to compulsive systems of religion, and compulsive articles of faith, has not only precipitated my intention, but rendered a work of this kind exceedingly necessary; lest, in the general wreck of superstition, of false systems of government, and false theology, we lose sight of morality, of humanity, and of the theology that is true.

As several of my colleagues, and others of my fellow-citizens of France, have given me the example of making their voluntary and individual profession of faith, I also will make mine; and I do this with all the sincerity and frankness with which the mind of man communicates with itself.

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

But lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

I do not meant by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise. They have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or disbelieving: it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury, Can we conceive any thing more destructive to morality than this!

Soon after I had published the pamphlet, COMMON SENSE, in America, I saw with exceeding probability that a revolution in the System of Government would be followed by a revolution in the System of Religion. The adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it had taken place, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, had so effectually prohibited, by pains and penalties, every discussion upon established creeds, and upon first principles of religion, until the system of government should be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before the world: but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the system of religion would follow. Human inventions and preistcraft would be detect: and man wold return to the pure, unmixed and unadulterated belief of one God, and no more.


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Filed under 1700's, Eighteenth century, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Reason, Religion