Butler, Joseph


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Butler, Joseph,

1692–1752, English bishop and exponent of natural theology. Butler held a series of church offices, ending his career as bishop of Durham. His principle writings are Fifteen Sermons (1726), in which he set forth his moral philosophy, and The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature (1736), aimed at combating the influence of deismdeists
, term commonly applied to those thinkers in the 17th and 18th cent. who held that the course of nature sufficiently demonstrates the existence of God. For them formal religion was superfluous, and they scorned as spurious claims of supernatural revelation.
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 in England. Both works became standard references in the education of Anglican and other clergy until the late 19th cent. In ethics, Butler was part of the 17th and 18th cent. attempt to find a foundation for morals without appeal to the divine will; he insisted on the complexity of human nature against one-sided accounts by Thomas HobbesHobbes, Thomas
, 1588–1679, English philosopher, grad. Magdalen College, Oxford, 1608. For many years a tutor in the Cavendish family, Hobbes took great interest in mathematics, physics, and the contemporary rationalism.
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 and Anthony Ashley Cooper (see Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3d earl ofShaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3d earl of,
1671–1713, English philosopher. The philosopher John Locke, adviser to the 1st earl, his grandfather, was in charge of Shaftesbury's education, which was largely
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). In his natural theology he attempted to show that revealed religion was no less probable than the limited affirmations made of God by the deistsdeists
, term commonly applied to those thinkers in the 17th and 18th cent. who held that the course of nature sufficiently demonstrates the existence of God. For them formal religion was superfluous, and they scorned as spurious claims of supernatural revelation.
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.

Bibliography

See studies by E. C. Mossner (1936, repr. 1971), A. E. Duncan-Jones (1952), and P. A. Carlson (1964).

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Playing forward were Ball, Butler, Joseph, and Callie Millet.