Thomas Reid's Newtonian Theism: his differences with the classical arguments of Richard Bentley and William Whiston

Reid was a Newtonian and a Theist, but did he found his Theism on Newton’s physics? In opposition to commonplace assumptions about the role of Theism in Reid’s philosophy, my answer is no. Reid prefers to found his Theism on a priori reasons, rather than on physics. Reid’s understanding of physics as an empirical science stops it from contributing in any clear and efficient way to issues of natural theology. In addition, Reid is highly sceptical of our ability to discover the efficient and final causes of natural phenomena, knowledge of which is essential for natural theology. To bring out Reid’s differences with classical Newtonian Theists Richard Bentley and William Whiston, I examine their use of the law and force of general gravitation, and reconstruct what would be Reidian objections.Keywords: Thomas Reid; William Whiston; Richard Bentley; Physics; Theism; Isaac Newton
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2010.03.009
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Thomas Reid (2010). Essays on the Active Powers of Man. Edinburgh University Press / Pennsylvania State University Press.

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