Will and artifice: the impact of voluntarist theology on early-modern science

History of European Ideas 45 (6):767-784 (2019)

ABSTRACTThis article is in part an intervention in the ongoing debate inaugurated by Peter Harrison in 2002 when he called into question the validity of what had come by then to be called ‘the voluntarism and science thesis.’ Though it subsequently drew support from such historians of science as J.E. McGuire, Margaret Osler, Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs and, more recently, John Henry, the origins of the thesis are usually traced back to articles published in 1934–1936 and 1961 respectively by the philosopher Michael Foster and the historian of ideas Francis Oakley. While classifying Foster’s work as pertaining to the ecology of ideas rather than their history, the article argues for the complementarity of the two approaches and seeks, not only to vindicate the voluntarism and science thesis itself but also to locate it within the broader constellation of ideas embracing legal and political as well as natural philosophy that the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott characterized as pertaining to a fundamental tradition of European thinking dominated by the master conceptions of Will and Artifice.
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DOI 10.1080/01916599.2019.1628583
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