Rob Iliffe: “The rational religion of Isaac Newton”

Rob Iliffe, de l’Université du Sussex, présentera sa communication “The rational religion of Isaac Newton” le 23 octobre, de 17h30 à 19h30.

Maison de la Recherche de l’université Paris IV-Sorbonne (28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e), salle D421. Le séminaire est ouvert aux étudiants de Master et doctorat, ainsi qu’à toutes les personnes intéressées.

For two centuries Isaac Newton has been viewed through a bifurcated lens that divided up his ‘scientific’ from his ‘non-scientific’ work. The inaccessibility of his voluminous religious writings has meant that it has been impossible to give an empirically-grounded account of how the different domains of his work might be related to one another. However, the recent online publication of these works means that historians can now see more clearly the ethical and religious values that Newton believed to underpin all of his intellectual activity.
In this paper I examine the intellectual and religious sources for his exaltation of the intellect, including his engagement with Cartesianism, and his religious conviction that he had been granted a special vocation as a learned Christian. In the second case, it is clear that he believed that the cultivation of the understanding was a fundamental duty for all Christians, a procedure that was to be accompanied by the disciplining of the will and the imagination. I discuss Newton’s remarkable writings on the dangers of the imagination, which led to lust, legendary sacred histories, and hypotheses. Finally, I show that the baneful effects of the imagination in both the care of the godly self and in natural philosophy could be controlled by hard work, experience and reason.