R. Boyle vs. H. More on Acquiring Knowledge. Religious Concerns of the Seventeenth-Century Philosophy in England

Dariusz Kucharski

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/szhf.2017.032


The second half of the seventeenth century witnessed in England some fundamental differences of opinion over the nature and sources of knowledge. Historians of philosophy interpret discussions ensuing from that differences stressing importance of the whole intellectual picture of that period and pointing out to some particular reasons that were to drive philosophers in taking their epistemological and metaphysical stances. The present paper is an attempt to stress

the importance of religious context in evolving of philosophical thought of that period. In the case of dispute between R. Boyle and H. More about the status and possible usage of knowledge gained through the experimental method, the starting point of controversy is the differing views on some theological issues. The issue of God’s omnipotence, which Boyle interpreted in the framework of voluntarist, and More of intellectualist theology, proved to be one of the most important of them. Consequently, Boyle believed that human knowledge may be only probabilistic, and the results of experiments cannot be used to formulate theses that would be absolute in character. More, in turn, maintained that human knowledge can be a reflection of God’s absolute knowledge, and the results of experiments can be used to justify metaphysical theses, above all of the existence of God.


Experiment; God; voluntarism; intellectualism; natural philosophy; absolute knowledge; probable knowledge

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