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Natural philosophy

A forerunner of 'modern' science, natural philosophy sought to illustrate from the order of nature the attributes of God and to explain the secondary causes of natural phenomena. John Wesley's major statement on this subject is his Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation (2 vols, 1763; 3rd edition, 5 vols., 1777). He was comfortable with a natural philosophy based upon description and classification. Parts of the Survey are reminiscent of Aristotle's History of Animals. His attitude towards Sir Isaac Newton was ambiguous. Wesley praised him, but was worried about a natural philosophy stated in mathematical terms, perhaps because he associated mathematics with the rejection of particular Providence. At times, therefore, he was attracted to the 'Mosaic physics' of the anti-Newtonian John Hutchinson. While Hutchinson based his natural philosophy upon the unpointed Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1-18, he was heavily indebted to Descartes.

Entry written by: JCE
Category: Subject

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