The European Legacy 12 (3):277-292 (2007)

This paper compares and contrasts the main metaphysical and religious ideas of the eighteenth-century political theorist and chemist Joseph Priestley (1733?1804) with those of his correspondent Ruder Boscovic (1711?1787), astronomer, poet, mathematician, diplomat and Jesuit priest. It points out the theological differences between the two thinkers resulting from the divergent ontological and metaphysical implications of the theory of point atomism that they shared. This theory they placed in a wider context, considering both its limits and its value as a contribution to ongoing speculations concerning the nature of space and time, theological conundrums such as free will and the mind-body problem. Where they differed, however, was that Priestley, a chemist rather than a mathematician, used point atomism mainly to support his campaign to further materialism and discredit Christianity. Boscovic, on the other hand, carefully distinguished the truths of faith and reason and was therefore indignant at Priestley's misuse of his speculations. Boscovic's protest was probably motivated in part by the materialism of atheists such as the Baron d?Holbach (1723?1789). Priestley was no atheist, however. Interestingly, François Arouet de Voltaire (1698?1778), unaware of the works of either Boscovic or Priestley, devised a theistic materialism in his last years that in many respects resembled Priestley's. I begin with brief biographies of the two thinkers, and outline their intermittent relationship
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DOI 10.1080/10848770701286919
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Hume on Infinite Divisibility and the Negative Idea of a Vacuum.Dale Jacquette - 2002 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 10 (3):413 – 435.
Space and Relativity in Newton and Leibniz.Richard Arthur - 1994 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45 (1):219-240.
On the Metaphysics of Leibnizian Space and Time.A. T. Winterbourne - 1982 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 13 (3):201.

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